The Poems of Henry Kendall

In Memoriam—Alice Fane Gunn Stenhouse

Daughter of Nicol Drysdale Stenhouse.

Henry Kendall

THE GRAND, authentic songs that roll
    Across grey widths of wild-faced sea,
The lordly anthems of the Pole,
    Are loud upon the lea.

Yea, deep and full the South Wind sings
    The mighty symphonies that make
A thunder at the mountain springs—
    A whiteness on the lake.

And where the hermit hornet hums,
    When Summer fires his wings with gold,
The hollow voice of August comes,
    Across the rain and cold.

Now on the misty mountain tops,
    Where gleams the crag and glares the fell,
Wild Winter, like one hunted, stops
    And shouts a fierce farewell.

Keen fitful gusts shoot past the shore
    And hiss by moor and moody mere—
The heralds bleak that come before
    The turning of the year.

A sobbing spirit wanders where
    By fits and starts the wild-fire shines;
Like one who walks in deep despair,
    With Death amongst the pines.

And ah! the fine, majestic grief
    Which fills the heart of forests lone,
And makes a lute of limb and leaf
    Is human in its tone.

Too human for the thought to slip—
    How every song that sorrow sings
Betrays the broad relationship
    Of all created things.

Man’s mournful speech, the wail of tree,
    The words the winds and waters say,
Make up that general elegy,
    Whose burden is decay.

To-night my soul looks back and sees,
    Across wind-broken wastes of wave,
A widow on her bended knees
    Beside a new-made grave.

A sufferer with a touching face
    By love and grief made beautiful;
Whose rapt religion lights the place
    Where death holds awful rule.

The fair, tired soul whose twofold grief
    For child and father lends a tone
Of pathos to the pallid leaf
    That sighs above the stone.

The large beloved heart whereon
    She used to lean, lies still and cold,
Where, like a seraph, shines the sun
    On flowerful green and gold.

I knew him well—the grand, the sweet,
    Pure nature past all human praise;
The dear Gamaliel at whose feet
    I sat in other days.

He, glorified by god-like lore,
    First showed my soul Life’s highest aim;
When, like one winged, I breathed—before
    The years of sin and shame.

God called him Home. And, in the calm
    Beyond our best possessions priced,
He passed, as floats a faultless psalm,
    To his fair Father, Christ.

But left as solace for the hours
    Of sorrow and the loss thereof;
A sister of the birds and flowers,
    The daughter of his love.

She, like a stray sweet seraph, shed
    A healing spirit, that flamed and flowed
As if about her bright young head
    A crown of saintship glowed.

Suppressing, with sublime self-slight,
    The awful face of that distress
Which fell upon her youth like blight,
    She shone like happiness.

And, in the home so sanctified
    By death in its most noble guise,
She kissed the lips of love, and dried
    The tears in sorrow’s eyes.

And helped the widowed heart to lean,
    So broken up with human cares,
On one who must be felt and seen
    By such pure souls as hers.

Moreover, having lived, and learned
    The taste of Life’s most bitter spring,
For all the sick this sister yearned—
    The poor and suffering.

But though she had for every one
    The phrase of comfort and the smile,
This shining daughter of the sun
    Was dying all the while.

Yet self-withdrawn—held out of reach
    Was grief; except when music blent
Its deep, divine, prophetic speech
    With voice and instrument.

Then sometimes would escape a cry
    From that dark other life of hers—
The half of her humanity—
    And sob through sound and verse.

At last there came the holy touch,
    With psalms from higher homes and hours;
And she who loved the flowers so much
    Now sleeps amongst the flowers.

By hearse-like yews and grey-haired moss,
    Where wails the wind in starts and fits,
Twice bowed and broken down with loss,
    The wife, the mother sits.

God help her soul! She cannot see,
    For very trouble, anything
Beyond this wild Gethsemane
    Of swift, black suffering;

Except it be that faltering faith
    Which leads the lips of life to say:
“There must be something past this death—
    Lord, teach me how to pray!”

Ah, teach her, Lord! And shed through grief
    The clear full light, the undefiled,
The blessing of the bright belief
    Which sanctified her child.

Let me, a son of sin and doubt,
    Whose feet are set in ways amiss—
Who cannot read Thy riddle out,
    Just plead, and ask Thee this;

Give her the eyes to see the things—
    The Life and Love I cannot see;
And lift her with the helping wings
    Thou hast denied to me.

Yea, shining from the highest blue
    On those that sing by Beulah’s streams,
Shake on her thirsty soul the dew
    Which brings immortal dreams.

So that her heart may find the great,
    Pure faith for which it looks so long;
And learn the noble way to wait,
    To suffer, and be strong.

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