Midsummer Idylls. Canto III.
I take my goosequill for some recreation,
I'll have a pleasurable time to-night,
A little change without the perturbation
Of nitro-glycerine and dynamite:
Just now I'm somewhat weary of the sight
Of dark disclosures in the morning news
Which tell of crimes now daily brought to light,
Of troublesome investigated clues
And horrifying details of the murderer's noose.
These are the days when each successive paper
Unfolds a tale which can but make it sell
(More usually the latest Irish caper)
And vendors should indeed be doing well;
When columns upon columns as they tell
Of blood-red things of horror and of shame
Resemble much a penny horrible,
And which, in fact, they are, except in name,
Altho' of course proprietors are not to blame.
Who would not wear the ermine-robe of Power,
Who would not have the majesty of kings
When tremble thrones and courts and nations cower,
And strange alarms await all royal things--
When armd horsemen guard their wanderings
And palaces are silenced with affright,
When morn discovers with her gleaming wings
The dark and direful mysteries of the night,
And men alternate weep and shudder at the sight?
Of such things as I've said I'm getting weary,
Such themes I leave to those who such-like choose,
Some people's prospects must be somewhat dreary,
I shouldn't care to step within their shoes:
However, time I can't afford to lose,
I merely say I'm wanting something new,
At least my little self I must amuse,
If I, my reader, can't enliven you,
So take my pen and ink determined what to do.
I will proceed with that which I have writ
And tell what came of Dora and her lover,
And let me ask you now I think of it
To pardon faults if such you should discover,
I mean not that I'm anxious you should cover
The follies incidental to my case,
We must essay to understand each other,
And look each other boldly in the face
If in each other's sympathy we seek a place.
Their days had hurried past as doth a dream
(This is the favourite simile with us)
And taking all together it would seem
The dream had not implied an incubus;
For my part I am somewhat dubious
If days like those before they all had known,
Tho' Dora's state had been precarious
For some three weeks or more I that must own,
But she'd recovered now. Oh how those days had flown!
Yes, as I say, their time ere then was up--
The harvest in--yet still they seemed to tarry,
They'd quaffed the measure of their sparkling cup,
They'd done their tithe of mischief like Old Harry,
And so the days went on with dilly-dally,
The Pater seemed unable to decide,
At which their expectations seemed to rally,
They hoped he'd stay another month beside,
While in this doubtful state the days did onward glide.
And as for Rowland, there he might be seen
Beside his cherished Dora day by day,
For regularly as a new machine
Across to Elleston Farm he bent his way:
There as the daylight softly stole away
Would they together sing some little air,
She in the gloaming hour would sit and play
Some little movement that he liked to hear,
Which circumstances made it doubly, trebly dear.
And there they sat while he, leaf after leaf,
O'erturned her music as her bosom rose
With words of fondness, ah, so low and brief,
That tender softness only woman knows:
While even o'er them wound that still repose,
That hush of spirit and that soul of prayer,
That something which is only known to those
Who love and are beloved, who inly share
That sacred bliss with which no other can compare.
They sang of love, while in each other's eye
Beamed that rich fulness of the throbbing breast,
While on their lips there hung the deep-drawn sigh
Which told the form it deemed the loveliest:
Ah, in those evening moments both were blest,
They read each other's bosom, oh, how well!
And each to each their paradise confessed--
That paradise that lovers love to tell,
Which round and round each bosom twined its fairy-spell.
Now sunset fell upon her gilded hair
And tinged her brow with an angelic light,
As tho' a heaven-born being lingered there,
And Beauty, shamed, were weeping at the sight;
Then out they strolled to meet the starlit night,
He breathed Love's message on to rosy lips,
While each partook that holy calm delight,
Those sweetnesses alone a lover sips,
And which all other earthly sweetnesses eclipse.
Oh, Love! Oh, Woman! What are ye that shine
Man's ruling planet o'er this tossing sea,
Who are the sculptors of his lot condign,
Who form the page of each man's destiny?
Oh, Love, the greatest of the great of thee
Have said, thou sacrificest all to bless,
That in thee is a gloom, and are not we
Designed for thee, and born but to caress?
And those--they know thee not--who can thy joys express.
"Disguise can't long hide love," 'tis even so:
We'll shake hands over that at any rate,
Let me refer to our friend Rochefoucauld,
He knows a lot concerning Love and Hate.
But still we wont these paths perambulate,
What others say I merely here repeat
So as my story I can illustrate,
And hand you my authority complete;
To give my own experience would be indiscreet.
Considering I'm but a youngster still,
That is to say I'm only just of age,
And I, as you will say, should leave it till
I'm past my "salad days" and can look sage;
Till o'er Life's road I've passed another stage,
And learned to smoke the pipe of common sense,
Which, you will gather from the present page,
I havn't learnt to yet at all events,
Of which the present folly is a consequence.
But I was saying something about Dora
But cannot recollect precisely what--
Ah yes!--I now remember--her adorer--
And all about his most delightful lot,
That he had popped the question on the spot
(As I'd have done myself had I been he,
Yes, no mistake about it, like a shot)
While chatting in the arbor vis-a-vis
Enjoying love-like sweet nonsensicality.
'Twas often that they did together sing,
And somehow music's fuel to the fire,
The thirsty flame of Love, and to it cling,
Those sadnesses which speak the heart's desire;
There's in it that which doth the soul inspire.
You'll recollect the words of Mirabeau,
The very last he spoke,--"Let me expire
To the delicious sounds of music"--so
He gave a last long sigh and left this world of woe.
The greatest deeds this world has ever known
Were wrought beneath Euterpe's mystic spell.
When War's deep thunders boom and nations groan
And rolling thunders tales of terror tell,
Then--then the heart rebounds within its cell,
As th' charger halts to sniff the gory fray
And, with the fiery mettle nought can quell,
Bounds o'er the dead and dying on his way
To plunge amid the foe and meet the dreadful day.
Give me the sound of martial music while
Ten times ten thousand close in clash of war,
And, dashing o'er the red and mangled pile,
Each man determines "Now or nevermore!"
While unsheathed sabres flash and cannons roar,
And Fury, blindfold, hisses in its hate,
While Valour's shouts resound from shore to shore
And nations strive their sons to vindicate
And sovereigns bow the knee to t' inexorable Fate.
Give me the note which did the true-born pride--
That pride of will in all its strength awake,
Inflamed the hearts that for it sank and died,
Those British hearts that burned for Glory's sake;
That song which bids insurgent nations shake
Unto their deep foundations, and the world
From orient to occident to quake,
While battle's blood-red banner is unfurled,
And haughty thrones are to their own destruction hurled.
Give me the notes that hush the raging seas,
That urge the horseman and his charger on,
Make foes disarm and fall upon their knees,
And garlands fade where Victory once had shone,
And vigorous Youth to glitter as the sun,
And frenzied Prowess with her tossing plume
From off the gore-drenched field that she has won
To bear the trophies of a nation's doom,
While millions weep above an ignominious tomb.
There lies the stalwart form in Death's last sleep,
There rest the foamy lip, the bloodshot eye,
The noble brow o'er which some heart doth weep,
Whose only elegy--the buried sigh.
There kneels the friend and comrade who would die
Beside the form he loved, alas, so well,
Now in his last expiring agony,
When every breath is as a funeral knell,
And the soul bleeds with thoughts that Friendship cannot tell.
The last long clasp, the hushed and trembling kiss,
The mother weeping at her beauty's side,
And Death's last look and stiffening clutch--is this,
Is this the outcome of a nation's pride?
There lie the clammy corpses far and wide,
And locks bedabbled and the princely cheek,
Son, father, brother, husband, side by side--
Oh, such a tale of horror who can speak!
Together heaped the dead and dying, strong and weak.
But to our text, my friends, as parsons say,
This is soliloquy, I quite neglect
My tale, from which I've wandered far away,
But what, from such as I, can you expect?
I wished your kind attention to direct
Some stanzas back--I think 'twas eight or nine--
To Music's wondrous power you'll recollect,
But somehow left my subject line by line,
To which no doubt you'll say I should myself confine.
I am no minstrel, and I'd have you know it,
Altho' that is the title of these pages,
Nor do I yet pretend to be a poet,
Those things that should be kept in wire cages,
That move to Colney Hatch by easy stages,
And keep good company upon the road,
Consisting of some dozen or two sages,
Who, like our tins of dynamite, explode,
And really are most dangerous things to be abroad.
Now Pater surely something had in view,
Beyond his time he stayed so many days,
Of this his daughters evidently knew
And all their expectations were ablaze;
But their excitement soon became a craze
Since he had made a grand resolve--in short
He had--and be it spoken to his praise--
The villa, furnished, with its meadows bought;
With much rejoicing this intelligence was fraught.
Arrangements had been made. The early train
He took to town to settle matters there,
Intending shortly to return again
If all his town arrangements turned out fair.
He'd travelled up on three occasions ere
His wife's idea had met with his consent,
No doubt about some business affair
O'er which in town a day or two he'd spent,
Now for the self-same reason there he pitched his tent.
He did not tarry long but home did fly,
His daughters went to meet him at the station,
And at the news they were in spirits high
As was apparent by their conversation;
He was, of course, the very consummation
Of all that was "delicious" and "divine,"
A home at Elleston pleased their contemplation,
And as the sun each countenance did shine,
The very cocks and hens beamed with a look benign.
The London residence was given o'er,
The furniture that was not sold was sent,
As it had been arranged it should before,
To Elleston, and much labour too they spent
In fixing all things to their hearts' content,
And cook, of course, was busy down there too,
While Pater often up to London went,
He had, as you may guess, a lot to do,
And had his City business also to pursue.
So all was settled that he should divide
The time the City and his home between,
For farm indeed he could, and well--for wide
His earlier experience had been.
The farm, tho' small, was large enough I ween,
In fact it was a nice convenient size,
A prettier little spot was never seen
Than Elleston Farm, I'm sure, by human eyes,
And all seemed very happy in the enterprise.
Some weeks elapsed e'er everything was straight;
The shorter days were slowly coming round,
And all things told the year was getting late,
And evening mists fell heavy to the ground.
The distant woods were getting seared and browned,
And Autumn seemed abandoning her reign,
While leaf by leaf fell with a rustling sound,
That elegy of all the spreading plain,
And Winter, with his glistering crown, was near again.
The groves were still, save when the startled breeze,
Like a sad smile which comes then fades away,
Swept faintly o'er the amber of the trees,
And Nature's wheels moved slow and Life was gray:
Sadly and surely, like the darkening day,
Came dreary tokens of th' impending gloom;
Fainter and fainter waned the solar ray
And all was heavy as the slumbering tomb,
Far thro' the hazy air did th' distant woodlands loom.
The lonesome, lingering rose was drenched with dew,
With hanging head aggrieving for its mate,
It wept above the ground on which it grew,
With smiles all past and life disconsolate:
There was the flower that clambered o'er the gate
Shrunk like the furrows of an old man's tear,
Each leaf had fallen at the touch of fate
And sunk to die upon its autumn bier,
And every breeze was sighing for the death-dealt year.
Be still, O heart, for Death steps noiseless nigh,
Hist to the dirges o'er the sleeping sea!
Dim funeral trains pass melancholy by
And monotone their mournful minstrelsy.
It is the grave that opes by Heav'n's decree,
And steeps each thing in its sepulchral breath,
The self-same grave that soon must yawn for thee,
The grave wherein all darkness slumbereth,
While all around is fastened in the fangs of Death.
The garments of the arbour fell to earth,
The arbour was deserted and the lawn
Knew no repast of eve, no song of mirth,
No noonday lounge, for summer days were gone.
The villa of its mantle all was shorn,
No blinking puppy stretched upon the grass
Enjoying sleepily the sunny morn,
No sportive kitten frolicked there--alas!
No gaudy-tinted butterfly that way did pass.
When strolling through the dew-bespangled lane,
We pause, and, thoughtful, gaze upon the scene,
Within there speaks a something as of pain--
Some sort of still lament for what hath been.
A few short days ago and festoons green
Clustered upon the bank in deepened shade
With graceful negligence, while close between
The thorny twigs the autumn flowers played,
And the broad leaves swung lazily beside the glade.
Now all was silence--like a palace hushed,
Or hush of a deserted banquet-hall
Where wine so lately like a fountain gushed
And Grandeur stalked with mein imperial;
Where death-like stillness doth the breast appal,
Where revelry is changed to slumber sound
And echoes only answer to the call,
Save when along the corridors resound
Departing footfalls, while in mystery all is bound.
Like some strange chamber--dimly lighted--vast--
Where but an hour ago did Splendour tread,
Where royal feet swept on and Beauty passed,
Where now the chaplet lies--forsaken--dead;
Where Pleasure's palsied and the music fled,
Where peers the painted figure from the frame,
With dusky mantle and with hanging head,
As tho' it felt the pang of inward shame
For an imperial ancient line and tarnished name.
Yes, autumn sped away and with it passed
Its ruddy rich delights, and winds blew high,
And shriveled Winter, limping, came at last,
And leaden clouds flew o'er the dreary sky;
Yet still our cheerful heroines did defy,
As all of them accustomed were to do,
The weather's threatening inclemency,
And long their old enjoyments did pursue,
They walked as they had done the happy summer through.
Now Rowland and his brothers' home lay near
Across the fields, it was a farmhouse too,
No parents had they and from year to year
They'd given their bailiff orders what to do.
There side by side in harmony they grew,
Their days were pleasant and their income kind,
And each his occupation did pursue
With happy smiles and a contented mind,
And hitherto to home their joys had been confined.
But now abroad did Rowland daily roam,
And of him little did his brothers see,
He knew no pleasure in the gates of home,
But pensive strolled beside the surging sea,
Delighting in its vast sublimity,
And in the thunders of its mighty roll,
While all his love flowed forth in poesy,
That love that fed the fountain of the soul:
In her his youthful hopes were folded like a scroll.
* * * * *
The scene is changed and years have onward sped;
Dora and Rowland had been long since one;
She'd wept above her parents lying dead,
She--whose sole murmur was "Thy will be done."
Yet life was happy as it had begun,
For tears but sweetened what was all so fair,
Their days were golden as the sinking sun;
The calm pervading all the soundless air,
And heavenly smiles descended on that happy pair.
Flora and Rose ('twas strange that such should be)
Were single still, nor on the way to marriage,
Deeming a wife's responsibility
Perhaps a trifle more than they could manage;
By no means am I tending to disparage
By my last line those who would wear the ring,
Repeat each phrase and step within their carriage,
By all means let them do the happy thing,
Yet such a matter's worthy of considering.
At least, whate'er the truth may be, they tell
(And little folks will always have their say)
That Rose was once engaged to Lionel
Who swore to love for ever and a day;
But matters (and they often chance that way)
Abruptly turned and took a fitful start,
'Twas whispered too, but be that as it may.
That Rose with pestle and mortar broke his heart;
So now it's up for auction in an auction-mart.
And also, to the best of my belief,
To Flora Gilbert fell upon his knees,
But somehow matters seemed extremely brief,
He rose, I fancy, somewhat ill at ease,
Then cursed his stars and hers for their decrees
(I wouldn't swear I'm telling you the truth),
And so the clerk and parson lost their fees,
Decidedly their stars were most uncouth,
For Flora was as gunpowder to Gilbert's youth.
So Lionel and Gilbert went abroad--
As youngsters do with circumstances thus--
They left behind them all that they adored,
And said "Good morning" with no further fuss;
Their resignation was miraculous,
Indeed what could they be but be resigned
Beyond a tear upon their exodus,
A muttered oath or two when so inclined,
Which served in some degree to soothe their state of mind.
Rowland and Dora, as before I said,
Located were three furlongs from the sand,
Three furlongs 'twas exactly from the head
Where sweeping views stretched wide on every hand,
Far, far the eye could reach, o'er sea and land,
And in the glories of a summer's day
Their children, by the ocean breezes fanned,
Would gambol long beneath the noontide ray,
And with bright laughter wile the long, long hours away.
O God, could I so feel that young delight--
That young delight that knows no thought of pain,
Where all is now the ceaseless gloom of night,
O give me but my childhood back again;
O let me wander o'er that flowery plain
And once more pluck the sweets of other days,
Few, few of childhood's joys for me remain,
And life is bent o'er sterner, stonier ways
Whose solitary solace is a backward gaze.
Still by the sands live Rowland and his wife,
And now the old house rings with boyhood's glee,
For truly both are getting on in life,
Their sturdy youngsters number two or three;
So they are quite a happy family
With Rose and Flora and their blithesome fun,
With circumstances thus they ought to be,
Their lot is good enough for anyone.
And now, my indulgent readers all, my tale is done.
My tale is done--'tis even so--I fear
That very few have borne with me till now,
For laurels are exorbitantly dear,
And so I can't expect a laureled brow;
Permit me then to make my humble bow,
My title-page must bid me blush for shame;
O reader, stay, ere you my Muse allow,
And add thy pity to the meagre name,
Forsooth no solitary laurel can it claim.
I really can't excuse myself--and more,
I'm certain that I can't excuse my rhyme,
But now 'tis simply useless to deplore,
I may do better though another time;
My tedious numbers are, I know, a crime,
An outrage on the world of common sense,
'Tis certain I've not yet contrived to climb
The literary pole, at all events,
Or scale Olympus where the Muses pitch their tents.
My reader, 'tis with feelings as of sorrow
I lay aside my paper and my pen,
I've half a mind to drown myself to-morrow
And will myself to Hell, like other men,
For writing such a thing of rhyme--but then,
As someone wrote, "There's good in everything,"
So we must both have faith, you see, and when
We meet again I hope that I may sing
A song that's much more worthy of the publishing.