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The White Bees, Continued



MOTHER of all the high-strung poets and singers departed,
Mother of all the grass that weaves over their graves the glory of the field,
Mother of all the manifold forms of life, deep-bosomed, patient, impassive,
Silent brooder and nurse of lyrical joys and sorrows!
Out of thee, yea, surely out of the fertile depth below thy breast,
Issued in some strange way, thou lying motionless, voiceless,
All these songs of nature, rhythmical, passionate, yearning,
Coming in music from earth, but not unto earth returning.

Dust are the blood-red hearts that beat in time to these measures,
Thou hast taken them back to thyself, secretly, irresistibly
Drawing the crimson currents of life down, down, down
Deep into thy bosom again, as a river is lost in the sand.
But the souls of the singers have entered into the songs that revealed them, --
Passionate songs, immortal songs of joy and grief and love and longing:
Floating from heart to heart of thy children, they echo above thee:
Do they not utter thy heart, the voices of those that love thee?

Long hadst thou lain like a queen transformed by some old enchantment
Into an alien shape, mysterious, beautiful, speechless,
Knowing not who thou wert, till the touch of thy Lord and Lover
Working within thee awakened the man-child to breathe thy secret.
All of thy flowers and birds and forests and flowing waters
Are but enchanted forms to embody the life of the spirit;
Thou thyself, earth-mother, in mountain and meadow and ocean,
Holdest the poem of God, eternal thought and emotion.



LOVER of beauty, walking on the height
     Of pure philosophy and tranquil song;
     Born to behold the visions that belong
To those who dwell in melody and light;
Milton, thou spirit delicate and bright!
     What drew thee down to join the Roundhead throng
     Of iron-sided warriors, rude and strong,
Fighting for freedom in a world half night?

Lover of Liberty at heart wast thou,
     Above all beauty bright, all music clear:
To thee she bared her bosom and her brow,
     Breathing her virgin promise in thine ear,
And bound thee to her with a double vow, --
     Exquisite Puritan, grave Cavalier!


The cause, the cause for which thy soul resigned
     Her singing robes to battle on the plain,
     Was won, O poet, and was lost again;
And lost the labour of thy lonely mind
On weary tasks of prose. What wilt thou find
     To comfort thee for all the toil and pain?
     What solace, now thy sacrifice is vain
And thou art left forsaken, poor, and blind?

Like organ-music comes the deep reply:
     "The cause of truth looks lost, but shall be won.
For God hath given to mine inward eye
     Vision of England soaring to the sun.
And granted me great peace before I die,
     In thoughts of lowly duty bravely done."


O bend again above thine organ-board,
     Thou blind old poet longing for repose!
     Thy Master claims thy service not with those
Who only stand and wait for his reward.
He pours the heavenly gift of song restored
     Into thy breast, and bids thee nobly close
     A noble life, with poetry that flows
In mighty music of the major chord.

Where hast thou learned this deep, majestic strain,
     Surpassing all thy youthful lyric grace,
To sing of Paradise? Ah, not in vain
     The griefs that won at Dante's side thy place,
And made thee, Milton, by thy years of pain,
     The loftiest poet of the Saxon race!


WORDSWORTH, thy music like a river rolls
     Among the mountains, and thy song is fed
     By living springs far up the watershed;
No whirling flood nor parching drought controls
The crystal current: even on the shoals
     It murmurs clear and sweet; and when its bed
     Darkens below mysterious cliffs of dread,
Thy voice of peace grows deeper in our souls.

But thou in youth hast known the breaking stress
     Of passion, and hast trod despair's dry ground
          Beneath black thoughts that wither and destroy.
Ah, wanderer, led by human tenderness
     Home to the heart of Nature, thou hast found
          The hidden Fountain of Recovered Joy.


THE melancholy gift Aurora gained
     From Jove, that her sad lover should not see
     The face of death, no goddess asked for thee,
My Keats! But when the crimson blood-drop stained
Thy pillow, thou didst read the fate ordained, --
     Brief life, wild love, a flight of poesy!
     And then, -- a shadow fell on Italy:
Thy star went down before its brightness waned,

Yet thou hast won the gift Tithonus missed:
     Never to feel the pain of growing old,
     Nor lose the blissful sight of beauty's truth,
But with the ardent lips that music kissed
     To breathe thy song, and, ere thy heart grew cold,
     Become the Poet of Immortal Youth.


KNIGHT-ERRANT of the Never-ending Quest,
     And Minstrel of the Unfulfilled Desire;
     For ever tuning thy frail earthly lyre
To some unearthly music, and possessed
With painful passionate longing to invest
     The golden dream of Love's immortal fire
     In mortal robes of beautiful attire,
And fold perfection to thy throbbing breast!

What wonder, Shelley, if the restless wave
   Should claim thee and the leaping flame consume
      Thy drifted form on Viareggio's beach?
Fate to thy body gave a fitting grave,
   And bade thy soul ride on with fiery plume,
      Thy wild song ring in ocean's yearning speech!


HOW blind the toil that burrows like the mole,
     In winding graveyard pathways underground,
     For Browning's lineage! What if men have found
Poor footmen or rich merchants on the roll
Of his forbears? Did they beget his soul?
     Nay, for he came of ancestry renowned
     Through all the world, -- the poets laurel-crowned
With wreaths from which the autumn takes no toll.

The blazons on his coat-of-arms are these:
    The flaming sign of Shelley's heart on fire,
        The golden globe of Shakespeare's human stage,
        The staff and scrip of Chaucer's pilgrimage,
    The rose of Dante's deep, divine desire,
The tragic mask of wise Euripides.


IN a great land, a new land, a land full of labour
     and riches and confusion,
Where there were many running to and fro, and
     shouting, and striving together,
In the midst of the hurry and the troubled noise,
     I heard the voice of one singing.

"What are you doing there, O man, singing
     quietly amid all this tumult?
This is the time for new inventions, mighty
     shoutings, and blowings of the trumpet."
But he answered, "I am only shepherding my
     sheep with music."

So he went along his chosen way, keeping his
     little flock around him;
And he paused to listen, now and then, beside
     the antique fountains,
Where the faces of forgotten gods were refreshed
     with musically falling waters;

Or he sat for a while at the blacksmith's door,
     and heard the cling-clang of the anvils;
Or he rested beneath old steeples full of bells,
     that showered their chimes upon him;
Or he walked along the border of the sea,
     drinking in the long roar of the billows;

Or he sunned himself in the pine-scented ship-
     yard, amid the tattoo of the mallets;
Or he leaned on the rail of the bridge, letting
     his thoughts flow with the whispering river;
He hearkened also to ancient tales, and made
     them young again with his singing.

Then a flaming arrow of death fell on his flock,
     and pierced the heart of his dearest!
Silent the music now, as the shepherd entered
     the mystical temple of sorrow:
Long he tarried in darkness there: but when he
     came out he was singing.

And I saw the faces of men and women and
     children silently turning toward him;
The youth setting out on the journey of life, and
     the old man waiting beside the last mile-stone;
The toiler sweating beneath his load; and the
     happy mother rocking her cradle;

The lonely sailor on far-off seas; and the grey-
     minded scholar in his book-room;
The mill-hand bound to a clacking machine; and
     the hunter in the forest;
And the solitary soul hiding friendless in the
     wilderness of the city;

Many human faces, full of care and longing, were
     drawn irresistibly toward him,
By the charm of something known to every heart,
     yet very strange and lovely,
And at the sound of that singing wonderfully
     all their faces were lightened.

"Why do you listen, O you people, to this old
     and world-worn music?
This is not for you, in the splendour of a new
     age, in the democratic triumph!
Listen to the clashing cymbals, the big drums, the
     brazen trumpets of your poets."

But the people made no answer, following in
     their hearts the simpler music:
For it seemed to them, noise-weary, nothing
     could be better worth the hearing
Than the melodies which brought sweet order
     into life's confusion.

So the shepherd sang his way along, until he
     came unto a mountain:
And I know not surely whether it was called
But he climbed it out of sight, and still I heard
     the voice of one singing.




DEAR Aldrich, now November's mellow days
     Have brought another Festa round to you,
You can't refuse a loving-cup of praise
     From friends the fleeting years have bound to you.

Here come your Marjorie Daw, your dear Bad Boy,
     Prudence, and Judith the Bethulian,
And many more, to wish you birthday joy,
     And sunny hours, and sky caerulean!

Your children all, they hurry to your den,
     With wreaths of honour they have won for you,
To merry-make your threescore years and ten.
     You, old? Why, life has just begun for you!

There's many a reader whom your silver songs
     And crystal stories cheer in loneliness.
What though the newer writers come in throngs?
     You're sure to keep your charm of only-ness.

You do your work with careful, loving touch, --
     An artist to the very core of you, --
You know the magic spell of "not-too-much ":
     We read, -- and wish that there was more of you.

And more there is: for while we love your books
      Because their subtle skill is part of you;
We love you better, for our friendship looks
      Behind them to the human heart of you.

                                              November 24, 1906.



THIS is the house where little Aldrich read
     The early pages of Life's wonder-book:
With boyish pleasure, in this ingle-nook
     He watched the drift-wood fire of Fancy spread
Bright colours on the pictures, blue and red:
     Boy-like he skipped the longer words, and took
His happy way, with searching, dreamful look
     Among the deeper things more simply said.

Then, came his turn to write: and still the flame
     Of Fancy played through all the tales he told,
And still he won the laurelled poet's fame
     With simple words wrought into rhymes of gold.
Look, here's the face to which this house is frame, --
     A man too wise to let his heart grow old!

(Dedication of the Aldrich Memorial
at Portsmouth, June 11, 1908.)


OH, quick to feel the lightest touch
     Of beauty or of truth,
Rich in the thoughtfulness of age,
     The hopefulness of youth,
The courage of the gentle heart,
     The wisdom of the pure,
The strength of finely tempered souls
     To labour and endure!

The blue of springtime in your eyes
     Was never quenched by pain;
And winter brought your head the crown
     Of snow without a stain.
The poet's mind, the prince's heart,
     You kept until the end,
Nor ever faltered in your work,
     Nor ever failed a friend.

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