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Beneath what midnight skies, whose constellations Light up the spacious avenues between
This world and the unseen !
Amid what friendly greetings and caresses,
What households, though not alien, yet not mine,
What bowers of rest divine ;
To what temptations in lone wildernesses,
What famine of the heart, what pain and loss,
The bearing of what cross !
I do not know; nor will I vainly question
Those pages of the mystic book which hold
The story still untold,
But without rash conjecture or suggestion
Turn its last leaves in reverence and good heed,
Until “ The End ” I read.
THE BRIDGE OF CLOUD.
BURN, O evening hearth, and waken
Pleasant visions, as of old !
Though the house by winds be shaken,
Safe I keep this room of gold !
Ah, no longer wizard Fancy
Builds her castles in the air,
Luring me by necromancy
Up the never-ending stair!
But, instead, she builds me bridges
Over many a dark ravine,
Where beneath the gusty ridges
Cataracts dash and roar unseen.
And I cross them, little heeding
Blast of wind or torrent's roar,
As I follow the receding
Footsteps that have gone before.
Naught avails the imploring gesture,
Naught avails the cry of pain !
When I touch the flying vesture,
'Tis the grey robe of the rain.
Bafiled I return, and leaning
O'er the parapets of cloud,
Watch the mist that intervening
Wraps the valley in its shroud.
And the sounds of life ascending
Faintly, vaguely, meet the ear,
Murmur of bells and voices blending
With the rush of waters near.
Well I know what there lies hidden,
Every tower and town and farm,
And again the land forbidden
Reassumes its vanished charm.
Well I know the secret places,
And the nests in hedge and tree;
At what doors are friendly faces,
In what hearts are thoughts of me.
Through the mist and darkness sinking,
Blown by wind and beaten by shower,
Down I fling the thought I'm thinking,
Down I toss this Alpine flower.
MAY 23, 1864.
How beautiful it was, that one bright day
In the long week of rain !
Though all its splendour could not chase away
The omnipresent pain.
The lovely town was white with apple-blooms,
And the great elms o’erhead
Dark shadows wove on their aerial looms,
Shot through with golden thread.
Across the meadows, by the grey old manse,
The historic river flowed;
I was as one who wanders in a trance,
Unconscious of his road.
The faces of familiar friends seemed strange :
Their voices I could hear,
And yet the words they uttered seemed to change
Their meaning to my ear.
For the one face I looked for was not there,
The one low voice was mute;
Only an unseen presence filled the air,
And baffled my pursuit.
Now I look back, and meadow, manse, and stream
Dimly my thought defines ;
I only see-a dream within a dream-
The hill-top hearsed with pines.
I only hear above his place of rest
Their tender undertone,
The infinite longings of a troubled breast,
The voice so like his own.
There seclusion and remote from men
The wizard hand lies cold,
Which at its topmost speed let fall the pen,
And left the tale half told.
Ah! who shall lift that wand of magic power,
And the lost clew regain ?
The unfinished window in Aladd n's tower
Unfinished must remain !
I JIEARD the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men !
And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men !
Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men !
Then from each black, accursèd mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-wiil to men !
It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearthstones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households horn
of peace on earth. good-will to men !
And in despair I bowed my head ;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“ For hate is strong
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men !"
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead ; nor doth He sleep !
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men !"
Into the city of Kambalu,
By the road that leadeth to Ispahan,
At the head of his dusty caravan,
Laden with treasure from realms afar,
Baldacca and Kelat and Kandahar,
Rode the great captain Aläu.
The Khan from his palace-window gazed,
And saw in the thronging street beneath,
In the light of the setting sun that blazed
Through the clouds of dust by the caravan raised,
The flash of harness and jewelled sheath,
And the shining scimitars of the guard,
And the weary camels that bared
As they passed and passed through the gates unbarred
Into the shade of the palace-yard.
Thus into the city of Kambalu
Rode the great captain Aläu;
And he stood before the Khan, and said :
“ The enemies of my lord are dead ;
All the Kalifs of all the West
Bow and obey thy least behest;
The plains are dark with the mulberry trees,
The weavers are busy in Samarcand,
The miners are sifting the golden sand,
The divers plunging for pearls in the seas,
And peace and plenty are in the land.
“ Baldacca's Kalif, and he alone,
Rose in revolt against thy throne :
His treasures are at thy palace-door,
With the swords and the shawls and the jewels he wore;
His body is dust o'er the desert blown.
“ A mile outside of Baldacca's gate
I left my forces to lie in wait,
Concealed by forests and hillocks of sand,
And forward dashed with a handful of men
To lure the old tiger from his den
Into the ambush I had planned.
Ere we reached the town the alarm was spread,
For we heard the sound of gongs from within ;
And with clash of cymbals and warlike din
The gates swung wide ; and we turned and fled,
And the garrison sallied forth and pursued,
With the grey old Kalif at their head,
And above them the banner of Mohammed :
So we snared them all, and the town was subdued,
“ As in at the gate we rode, behold,
A tower that was called the Tower of Gold !
For there the Kalif had hidden his wealth,
Heaped and hoarded and piled on high,
Like sacks of wheat in a granary ;
And thither the miser crept by stealth
To feel of the gold that gave him health,
And to gaze and gloat with his hungry eye
On jewels that gleamed like a glow-worm's spark,
Or the eyes of a panther in the dark.
“I said to the Kalif: Thou art old,
Thou hast no need of so much gold.
Thou shouldst not have heaped and hidden it here,
Till the breath of battle was hot and near,
But have sown through the land these useless hoards
To spring into shining blades of swords,
And keep thine honour sweet and clear.
These grains of gold are not grains of wheat;
These bars of silver thou canst not eat;
These jewels and pearls and precious stones
Cannot cure the aches in thy bones,
Nor keep the feet of Death one hour
From climbing the stairways of thy tower !!
*Then into his dungeon I locked the drone,
And left him to feed there all alone
In the honey-cells of his golden hive :
Never a prayer nor a cry nor a groan
Was heard from those massive walls of stone,
Nor again was the Kalif seen alive!
“ When at last we unlocked the door,
We found him dead upon the floor;
The rings had dropped from his withered hands,
His teeth were like bones in the desert sands;