LATE, my grandson! half the morning have I paced these sandy tracts,
Watch’d again the hollow ridges roaring into cataracts,
Wander’d back to living boyhood while I heard the curlews call,
So—your happy suit was blasted—she the faultless, the divine;
I myself have often babbled doubtless of a foolish past;
‘Curse him!’ curse your fellow-victim? call him dotard in your rage?
Jilted for a wealthier! wealthier? yet perhaps she was not wise;
In the hall there hangs a painting—Amy’s arms about my neck—
In my life there was a picture, she that clasp’d my neck had flown;
Yours has been a slighter ailment, will you sicken for her sake?
Amy loved me, Amy fail’d me, Amy was a timid child;
She that holds the diamond necklace dearer than the golden ring,
She that in her heart is brooding on his briefer lease of life,
She the worldling born of worldlings—father, mother—be content,
Yonder in that chapel, slowly sinking now into the ground,
Cross’d! for once he sail’d the sea to crush the Moslem in his pride;
Yet how often I and Amy in the mouldering aisle have stood,
There again I stood to-day, and where of old we knelt in prayer,
All in white Italian marble, looking still as if she smiled,
Dead—and sixty years ago, and dead her aged husband now—
Gone the fires of youth, the follies, furies, curses, passionate tears,
Fires that shook me once, but now to silent ashes fall’n away.
Gone the tyrant of my youth, and mute below the chancel stones,
Gone the comrades of my bivouac, some in fight against the foe,
Gone with whom for forty years my life in golden sequence ran,
Strong in will and rich in wisdom, Edith, yet so lowly-sweet,
Very woman of very woman, nurse of ailing body and mind,
Here to-day was Amy with me, while I wander’d down the coast,
Gone our sailor son thy father, Leonard early lost at sea;
Gone thy tender-natured mother, wearying to be left alone,
Truth, for Truth is Truth, he worshipt, being true as he was brave;
Wiser there than you, that crowning barren Death as lord of all,
Beautiful was death in him, who saw the death, but kept the deck,
Gone for ever! Ever? no—for since our dying race began,
Those that in barbarian burials kill’d the slave, and slew the wife
Indian warriors dream of ampler hunting grounds beyond the night;
Truth for truth, and good for good! The Good, the True, the Pure, the Just—
Gone the cry of ‘Forward, Forward,’ lost within a growing gloom;
Half the marvels of my morning, triumphs over time and space,
‘Forward’ rang the voices then, and of the many mine was one.
Far among the vanish’d races, old Assyrian kings would flay
Ages after, while in Asia, he that led the wild Moguls,
Then, and here in Edward’s time, an age of noblest English names,
Love your enemy, bless your haters, said the Greatest of the great;
From the golden alms of Blessing man had coin’d himself a curse:
France had shown a light to all men, preach’d a Gospel, all men’s good;
Hope was ever on her mountain, watching till the day begun—
Have we grown at last beyond the passions of the primal clan?
Have we sunk below them? peasants maim the helpless horse, and drive
Brutes, the brutes are not your wrongers—burnt at midnight, found at morn,
Clinging to the silent mother! Are we devils? are we men?
He that in his Catholic wholeness used to call the very flowers
Chaos, Cosmos! Cosmos, Chaos! who can tell how all will end?
Hope the best, but hold the Present fatal daughter of the Past,
Ay, if dynamite and revolver leave you courage to be wise:
Envy wears the mask of Love, and, laughing sober fact to scorn,
Equal-born? O yes, if yonder hill be level with the flat.
Till the Cat thro’ that mirage of overheated language loom
Russia bursts our Indian barrier, shall we fight her? shall we yield?
Those three hundred millions under one Imperial sceptre now,
Nay, but these would feel and follow Truth if only you and you,
Plowmen, Shepherds, have I found, and more than once, and still could find,
Truthful, trustful, looking upward to the practised hustings-liar;
Here and there a cotter’s babe is royal-born by right divine;
Chaos, Cosmos! Cosmos, Chaos! once again the sickening game;
Step by step we gain’d a freedom known to Europe, known to all;
You that woo the Voices—tell them ‘old experience is a fool,’
Pluck the mighty from their seat, but set no meek ones in their place;
Tumble Nature heel o’er head, and, yelling with the yelling street,
Bring the old dark ages back without the faith, without the hope,
Authors—essayist, atheist, novelist, realist, rhymester, play your part,
Rip your brothers’ vices open, strip your own foul passions bare;
Feed the budding rose of boyhood with the drainage of your sewer;
Set the maiden fancies wallowing in the troughs of Zolaism,—
Do your best to charm the worst, to lower the rising race of men;
Only ‘dust to dust’ for me that sicken at your lawless din,
Heated am I? you—you wonder—well, it scarce becomes mine age—
Cries of unprogressive dotage ere the dotard fall asleep?
Ay, for doubtless I am old, and think gray thoughts, for I am gray:
After madness, after massacre, Jacobinism and Jacquerie,
When the schemes and all the systems, Kingdoms and Republics fall,
All the full-brain, half-brain races, led by Justice, Love, and Truth;
All diseases quench’d by Science, no man halt, or deaf or blind;
Earth at last a warless world, a single race, a single tongue—
Every tiger madness muzzled, every serpent passion kill’d,
Robed in universal harvest up to either pole she smiles,
Warless? when her tens are thousands, and her thousands millions, then—
Warless? war will die out late then. Will it ever? late or soon?
Dead the new astronomy calls her. . . . On this day and at this hour,
Here we met, our latest meeting—Amy—sixty years ago—
Just above the gateway tower, and even where you see her now—
Dead, but how her living glory lights the hall, the dune, the grass!
Venus near her! smiling downward at this earthlier earth of ours,
Hesper, whom the poet call’d the Bringer home of all good things.
Hesper—Venus—were we native to that splendour or in Mars,
Could we dream of wars and carnage, craft and madness, lust and spite,
Might we not in glancing heavenward on a star so silver-fair,
Forward, backward, backward, forward, in the immeasurable sea,
All the suns—are these but symbols of innumerable man,
Is there evil but on earth? or pain in every peopled sphere?
Evolution ever climbing after some ideal good,
What are men that He should heed us? cried the king of sacred song;
While the silent Heavens roll, and Suns along their fiery way,
Many an Æon moulded earth before her highest, man, was born,
Earth so huge, and yet so bounded—pools of salt, and plots of land—
Only That which made us, meant us to be mightier by and by,
Sent the shadow of Himself, the boundless, thro’ the human soul;
. . . . .
Not to-night in Locksley Hall—to-morrow—you, you come so late.
Wreck’d—your train—or all but wreck’d? a shatter’d wheel? a vicious boy!
Is it well that while we range with Science, glorying in the Time,
There among the glooming alleys Progress halts on palsied feet,
There the Master scrimps his haggard sempstress of her daily bread,
There the smouldering fire of fever creeps across the rotted floor,
Nay, your pardon, cry your ‘forward,’ yours are hope and youth, but I—
Lame and old, and past his time, and passing now into the night;
Light the fading gleam of Even? light the glimmer of the dawn?
Far away beyond her myriad coming changes earth will be
Earth may reach her earthly-worst, or if she gain her earthly-best,
Forward then, but still remember how the course of Time will swerve,
Not the Hall to-night, my grandson! Death and Silence hold their own.
Worthier soul was he than I am, sound and honest, rustic Squire,
Cast the poison from your bosom, oust the madness from your brain.
Youthful! youth and age are scholars yet but in the lower school,
Yonder lies our young sea-village—Art and Grace are less and less:
There is one old Hostel left us where they swing the Locksley shield,
Poor old Heraldry, poor old History, poor old Poetry, passing hence,
Poor old voice of eighty crying after voices that have fled!
All the world is ghost to me, and as the phantom disappears,
. . . . .
Like a clown—by chance he met me—I refused the hand he gave.
From that casement where the trailer mantles all the mouldering bricks—
While I shelter’d in this archway from a day of driving showers—
Here to-night! the Hall to-morrow, when they toll the Chapel bell!
Then a peal that shakes the portal—one has come to claim his bride,
Silent echoes! You, my Leonard, use and not abuse your day,
Strove for sixty widow’d years to help his homelier brother men,
Hears he now the Voice that wrong’d him? who shall swear it cannot be?
Ere she gain her Heavenly-best, a God must mingle with the game:
Felt within us as ourselves, the Powers of Good, the Powers of Ill,
Follow you the Star that lights a desert pathway, yours or mine.
Follow Light, and do the Right—for man can half-control his doom—
Forward, let the stormy moment fly and mingle with the Past.
Gone at eighty, mine own age, and I and you will bear the pall;