Henry Alford Poems >>
The School Of The Heart. Lesson The Fifth.

From the great sun light flows upon the earth;
 And every thing that lives this summer morn
 Looks joyous; all along the hills that stretch
 Far southward, slowly sail the dazzling heaps
 Of whitest vapour; but the upper heaven
 Is deep and clear;--above the yellow fields,
 Some thick with grain, and some with pointed sheaves
 Spread as with tents, and some but yesterday
 Joyed over with loud shouts of harvest joy,
 The dizzy air swims onward:--in thick groups
 Over the slopes, and in the cottaged dells,
 Gathered in undistinguishable mass
 Of dark luxuriance, elm, and solemn oak,
 And tender ash, sleep in the lavish light.

 Come, let us forth, my best beloved, and roam
 Along the bowered lanes that thread the vales;
 For on the bank beneath the arching shade
 Hung purple strawberries, and interchange
 Of leafy arbour, and field--path, and hill,
 And the far sea, and undying dells,
 Will prompt sweet themes of never--failing talk.

 Oft have I seen, when on the mighty hills
 That curve around our bay, in a close nook
 Upon the westward slope, a village tower:
 And I have stood and gazed upon its top
 That looks above the trees, and thought my life
 Would pass full pleasantly beneath its crest;
 So quiet is it, so without pretence
 Most lovely, that the throng of restless hopes
 That ever leap unquiet in the soul
 Might well be charmed, in such a presence, down
 To sweet contentment; and the mellowed voice
 Of the past hour hath come upon my ear
 So sweetly, that I waited where I stood
 To hear its sound again, rather than risk
 Echoes less gentle on a near approach.
 Bend we our journey thither; for the day
 Is all our own, for ramble or for talk,
 Or seat by the cool mountain stream, or hour
 Of meditation by that modest church;
 For, if I guess aright, there should be there
 Ancient stone monument of honest men,
 Or mouldering cross; and from that arboured nook
 Yon hills will show most proudly. 'Tis not far:
 Thou art a denizen of mountain air;
 And the fresh breezes from the sea will fan
Our brows as we mount upward. Gentlest Girl,
 Thou wert a bright creation of my thought
 In earliest childhood, and my seeking soul
 Wandered ill--satisfied, till one blest day
 Thine image passed athwart it. Thou wert then
 A young and happy child, sprightly as life;
 Yet not so bright or beautiful as that
 Mine inward vision. But a whispering voice
 Said softly, This is she whom thou didst choose;
 And thenceforth ever, through the morn of life,
 Thou wert my playmate, thou my only joy,
 Thou my chief sorrow when I saw thee not:
 And when my daily consciousness of life
 Was born and died, thy name the last went up,
 Thy name the first, before our Heavenly Guide,
 For favour and protection. All the flowers
 Whose buds I cherished, and in summer heats
 Fed with mock showers, and proudly showed their bloom,
 For thee I reared, because all beautiful
 And gentle things reminded me of thee:
 Yea, and the morning, and the rise of sun,
 And fall of evening, and the starry host,
 If aught I loved, I loved because thy name
 Sounded about me when I looked on them.
 So that the love of thee brought up my soul
 To universal love; and I have learned
 That there are voices in the silent earth
 That speak unto the heart; that there is power
 Granted from Heaven unto the humblest things;
 And that not he who strives to gather up
 Into his self--arranged and stubborn thoughts
 The parables of Nature, meets with joy;
 But he who patiently submits his soul
 To God's unwritten teaching; who goes forth
 Amidst the majesty of earth and sky
 Humble, as in a mighty Presence; waits
 For influence to descend; and murmurs not
 If in his present consciousness no trace
 Of admiration or of lofty thought
 Be shown; in patience tarrying the full time,
 Till the Beauty that hath passed into his soul
Shine out upon his thoughts. Therefore I love
 All calm and silent things; all things that bear
 Least show of motion or unnatural force:
 Therefore I love to mark the slow decay
 Of ancient building, or of churchyard cross,
 Or mouldering abbey; and as formerly
 I mourned when I remembered how of old,
 Where crumbling arches ivy--prop their shafts,
 The proud aisle stood, and the full choir of praise
 Rolled solemn from an hundred tongues;--so now
 I seem to see that mighty Providence
 Is justified; that more hath been revealed
  On which the human soul hath lived and grown
  In the departure of old glories; more
  In cherished memories that keep at home
  Within our breasts, than in the maintenance
  Of busy action, which hath wrought their charm.

  But we are drawing near. This bowered lane,
  With glimpses of the southern bank of hills,
  And ever through the bents the blessed sea
  Far to the west, might stir a heavier heart
  Than thine and mine to leap with childish joy.
  Thanks to the arching boughs for stir of breeze
  Scarce sensible but in their rustling leaves,
  Yet even thus most cooling; thanks for shade
  Dark and continuous as we further climb,
  Like magic corridor deep down in earth,
  Thickening to perfect black; whence, in the glare
  Of sickly noon upon the autumn fields,
  I have scared night--birds, and have watched the bat
  Pass and repass alternate. How the sense
  Hails the dense gloom, and hastens to the cool:--
  Now rest thee here, where scarce the sun may see
  Our pleasant refuge; where we scarce can tell
  There is an outward universe, so close
  And hallowed is the shade; save where, through length
  Of dark perspective, yonder shine a group
  Of sunny tombstones, and one window--pane,
  Lit with the noon, is glittering like a star
Down even unto us. I heard one say,--
  It was an aged dame, whose humble cot
  Fronted our churchyard wall,--she loved to look
  When from the windows of the hallowed pile
  The sunbeam came reflected; she could think
  Fondly, she said, that there were those within
  Whose robes were shining, thronging the deep aisles,
  And the promised glory of the latter house
Would crowd upon her vision. Think we thus:
  And in yon vista of uncertain light
  If we behold in fancy this our life
  Chequered with dark and bright, and at its head
  The emblem of our end,--let yonder gleam
  Tell us of glory fetched by angel--hands
  To spread upon us: be to us a spark
  Lit at the altar of the Holy One,
  Over the majesty of patient Death
  Hovering, and waiting its appointed time
To kindle all to life. But fabling thus
  I've led thee from thy rest; and now at once
  Opens upon our sight a goodly range
  Of fretted buttresses, and the low porch
  Invites us, with its antique seat of stone,
  And cool religious shade. But as we climb
  The churchyard steps, look back and see arise
  As if in show, far o'er the bowering leaves,
  The southern mountains: see o'er half the sky
  Spread out, a mixture wild of hill and cloud.

  Stand by me here, belov