The fields and lanes show fresh and fain
Pranked in the jewels of the rain;
And the scent that breathes from the grateful earth
At rest and faint from the after-birth
Of the yet green year, is a breath more meet
Than the roses own in the languorous heat.
The wayside freshets gaily glance
And twisting in and out the rushes
Over the sun-lit pebbles dance,
Or sing from underneath the bushes
A song of triumph that the rain
Has helped them to their own again.
The iron gates of the Great House rise,
You may stand beneath them and see the skies
Through the round of the gilded coronet
Over the woven letters set.
The iron gates of the Great House rise,
They seem to shut in Paradise;
The line of the beechen avenue
Slopes up the hill through the rich domain
Till, shadowed and softened to eyes profane,
The old stone peristyled house breaks through.
Here slant above the branching fern
The sprouting antlers of the deer,
And here, declined beside an urn,
The peacock finds a fitting sphere;
Swans preen themselves upon the lake,
And yearling colts their pleasure take
In sheltered pastures;-all is fair
And stately, calm and debonnair.
Through the whispering leaves of the ancient trees
The tale of the ten bells floats on the breeze,
Soft and muffled, as is meet,
Low and broken, and discreet.
The peacock lends an ear supine
And turns about his haughty crest,
Then thrills through every feather fine,
And slow descending from his rest,
Flings open all his hundred eyes
To dazzle with the gay surprise
The blue orbs of a lady bright,
The keen grey glances of her knight,
Who, looking o’er its crested head,
Descend the steps with careless tread
To saunter through the sweep away
Where the beeches keep the sun at bay.
Haply a beechen avenue
May pall upon too frequent view,
And a park may seem a frame too large
To fairly fill from marge to marge.
The twain looked neither east nor west
Till they past the iron gates, beneath
The mouldering Phonix on his nest;
Then, fanned as by a fresher breath,
They came into the light of day
And stood upon the broad highway.
The scent of stocks and southernwood
On the moistened summer air is good;
The gillyflower aflame in the sun
Is welcome to eyes that are overdone
With flaring midnights, and the rose
Most sweet in the cottage garden shows
When the passing storm has bent its head,
And of the rose-leaves some are shed
To glorify, to raise, and bless
Its neighbours in their homeliness.
So stood and looked the young Lord Claud,
So looked the blue-eyed Lady Maud,
On a half-drowned rose that had not disdained
To rest on a leaf all ivory-veined,
Touched with a bloom as soft and deep
As if the infant Night in sleep
Had breathed upon its native gloss
And left it fairer for the loss.
And over the bloom and the ivory hung
The diamond tears of the rain, unstrung
As a broken rosary: was it strange
That eyes, well weary of beauty and change,
Should brighten as they gazed on such;
That listless hands should pass the bars
As greedy for a cooling touch,
With a nearer view of the liquid stars
Melting like quicksilver each in each
Or falling, lost beyond hope or reach?
In fine they dallied, and he gazed-
An artist, proud of his content,
As, if he made not that he praised,
He more than half its sweetness lent;
And when he dropped it, something grazed,
Its tears all shed, its beauty shent;
He thought how he one while had raised
It o’er its peers, and smiling went;
And had it chanced that some recoil
Of sentiment had asked assoil
Of calmer judgment, that relief
Was easy to be found,-in brief
He knew the thing a cabbage-leaf.
As the Lady Maud went shimmering
In her laces, gauzes, and gossamers
Adown the road, and the silver ring
Of the ten bells entered her jewelled ears,
Quelling the sound of the bangles that break
With a cadence like to the rattle-snake
As she glode on her way, and the fierce sun smote
Her brazen hair to a fiery mote;
As the young lord, athlete and idealist,
With his mighty limbs and his sauntering pace,
His champion’s thews, and his languid grace,
Strode by his sister’s side, he wist
Of a cheek that would blossom beneath his gaze
As a flower i’ the morning’s eye; of a brow
That was bent with the weight of the heavy days
Of a pensionless soldier of the plough;
Of a pair who had come from over the lea
At the call of the bells, and lingeringly
Their way by the green to the churchyard take
In my lord and my lady’s shining wake.
The iron gates of the Great House rise,
And the girl looks in with her wondering eyes;-
If the gates are the gates of Paradise,
They sometimes let the glory through;
So thought the girl with the great brown eyes,
With the lord and lady well in view.
The lady lived in a sphere so bright,
It haply somewhat troubled her sight;
Her gaze had past through Quarterman’s Grace
As it might have passed through empty space;
But the eyes of the young Lord Claud were keen,
And of Lord Claud’s eyes she was not unseen,
Though he rode in scarlet, or drove in lace
And bullion, as once had been the cas?
To a gathering of his glittering peers
Somewhere beneath the starry spheres.
The eyes of the young Lord Claud were keen,
They seemed to brighten her with their sheen
As they looked her over, and made her ‘ware
That she was a woman young and fair.
And now to the sound of the bells she went
With her eyelids dropped on her new content;
And lo, on her path there lay a flower
That never was freshened by falling shower
Or sunned by the sun of our naked skies-
A flower that seemed of Paradise.
No ghost of a blossom wan and white,
But its waxen corpse it seemed to sight
As it lay on the fresh brown earth from whence
She raised it, and knew of the strange, intense,
Of the subtle-sweet and fragrant breath
Of its prodigal life that had mocked at death.
She carried the blossom superfine
In her gloveless clasp, withdrawn from view,
And underneath the swinging sign
Of the village ale-house past the two;
The blazon on the sign was new,
And much had tasked the craftsman’s powers:
A hand with tulips, fierce of hue,-
Its legend was ‘The Hand and Flowers.’
The man, whose eyes were brown and clear,
Patient withal as the eyes of a steer,
Looked on the sign as he past below;
And into the gaze, so quiet and slow,
Came a sombre flame, and the words he said
Were touched with its fire, tho’ his meek, bowed head
Let fall his speech on the stony earth,
Where it seemed to perish as nothing worth.
‘Accurst for ever the poisoned root
That bears these flowers of deadly fruit!-
These flowers that are the devil’s gage,-
shose fruits of death that are his wage.’
Grace heard, and pressed in vague affright
Her fallen blossom of Paradise,
With trembling fingers twined so tight
The air grew heavy with its sighs.
But the bells were pealing overhead
And scattered the sighs as they were shed,
Sweeping them off on the clamorous waves
Of sound, to faint among nameless graves,
As the pair past on through the ranks of the dead.
In the church is many a sculptured tomb
With a long device ‘neath the canopied gloom;
And those slumbering shapes of belted knight
And of pall?d lady are all stone-white.
But the graves of the poor,-of the rank and file
Of the soldiers of life,-of the poor who fight
With the spade and the plough,-still catch the smile
Of the blessed sun; and the breast so hard
Of the foster-mother who sold their right
To her commonest good so dear erewhile,
Now covers their dust with her greenest sward.
Ay, the graves of the poor are green, Great God!
So let them be, for green is still
The colour of hope, and they who have trod
As in evil dream in the world’s harsh mill,
Who have died, and are buried as we have seen,
But who never have lived-let their graves be green!
As Quarterman, true to his daughter Grace,
Followed her into the ancient place,
He turned to look on the Bethel, where
His voice had oftentimes risen in prayer,
While the chant of the choristers, low and sweet,
From over the way came to break at his feet.
The organ burst with a fuller tone,
The organ made a tenderer moan,
Had a tearfuller stop and a nobler strain,
More rapture of hope, more hope in pain,-
A voice for the heart of man more fit
Then ever before had been heard of it,
That evensong when against the font
The silent Quarterman found his place,
And-sweetest singer and fairest face-
Behind the harping angels in front
Of the organ-loft sat Quarterman’s Grace.
That evensong when the organ throbbed
Touched by a hand of rarer art-
When below the voices it wailed or sobbed
Or broke of itself like a bursting heart;-
When the dark battalions of gathering cloud
Pressed on the rear of the westering sun
Till its lines were cleft by his chariot wheels
And the glorious field of light was won;-
And his conquering beams flowed in through the west
Ere the conqueror took himself to rest,
And the organ-loft, and aisle, and nave
Were drowned in the rainbow-coloured wave;-
While fainter and fainter the thunder roll
Died like a troubled organ-soul,
And they who stood in that radiance bright,
They who the deep vibrations heard,
Were touched by music and by light,
Were lightly touched and deeply stirred,-
Many a heart that was then made soft
Had loved in keen sweet song to melt,
But only the girl in the organ-loft
Had grace to render the touch she felt.
She stood at the head of the village quire,
She glowed in a shaft of the westering sun,
Her song was alive with his strengthening fire
Which smote on her heart’s unknown desire;
Her words were of battles lost or won,-
The words of the kingly Israelite,-
Of a hope consumed, of a life undone,
Of the cry of a soul for the quench?d light;
And her voice as it rose on the resonant air
Seemed all fulfilled with the dumb despair
Of the mourners inept who for ages long
Had sheltered their silence in David’s song.
There was many a sorrow to-day in that place
More sore than the sorrow of Quarterman’s Grace,
Yet the church o’erflowed with the vague unrest,
The passion and pain of her untamed breast;
And her soul as it rose in melodious strife
Beating the bars of her narrow life,
Of the deeper mourners who bowed the head
Told the voiceless woe in their own heart’s stead.
There were angels harping too on the screen
Of the organ-loft; with eyes serene
And patient hands they sat on a row
And seemed to harp both high and low.
But the girl who stood at the head of the quire
Aglow in a shaft of the westering fire,
Though her voice was true, and her face as fair
As any, the youngest angel there,
Was far and away in her soul’s young might,
Far and away from an angel of light.
No angel then, but an instrument
So fair to hand, so rare to learn,
Good angels had played her with content,
Though bad, alas! had ta’en their turn
If the keys had been left without care or touch
In the dark and the silence overmuch;-
Safe at the last to be caught and driven
Away by some wandering wind of heaven.
And to-day there were wandering spirits many
Who played on her soul unseen of any:
Spirits that rode on the golden light,
Shame-faced spirits that shrank from sight,
Some that spoke in a voice unknown,
One that seemed to use her own,
And another that owned so sweet a breath
It might have balmed a chamber of death-
The waxen flower that shook in her hand
At the organ’s resolute command;
With the thunder afar, and the voices near,
And the western window shining clear,-
As a blazoned banner the conquering sun
Had glorified when the fight was won.
When the many-throated music ceased,
And the quavering pipe of the ancient priest
In the empty field whence the sounds had flown
Troubled the vaulted echoes alone,-
Then worn with passion and weary with song
And the early days that seemed all too long,
Silent and sad in her shining place
Back in her corner sank Quarterman’s Grace.
For the great ones near the chancel wall
They had felt the radiance not at all;
They sat so still mid the gathering glooms
Over against the place of tombs,
That my lady’s head on her cushion reclined,
Cold and pale and clearly-defined,
From the organ-loft you had hardly known
From the lady who lay at her side in stone,
With the clinquant coronet and crest
Over the head of her marble rest:-
The Phonix ripe for the quickening heat
Of the flames, and the hound at her marble feet.
The sun that was lingering golden-rayed
And warm on the untaught singing-maid,
Had no single gleam of his light to spare
For the languid lady with too-bright hair,-
For her or her marble effigy,-
For the sun knows nothing of degree.
But Grace was lost to the sunshine too
Though it played about her, and through and through;
For her the light as the darkness was not,
She knew no cloud, she the sun forgot;
Passion and wearihead all foregone,
She slept the sleep of a soul indrawn,
While the strong, calm forces, the angels of rest,
The courts of the house of her life possessed,
And set them in order, all fair and fain
For the time she should come to illume them again.
The girls anigh her beheld her cast
I’ the face of the world, and the eye of the sun,
With the carven doors of her lips made fast,
And the fring?d blinds of her eyes let down;
And they motioned and whispered each other aghast,
Then with furtive touch and with warning frown
They had brought her back ere the angels had done
From the still Nirv?na her soul had won-
If the hand that had held discourse so fit
With the organ-keys had not hindered it.
That hand was the hand of a white-haired man
Whose life had measured the wonted span,
But whose gaze had the love, the trust, and truth
That make up the triune soul of youth.
With ravishment and glad surprise
As Grace had sung so angel-wise,-
So like a soul that pled with God
For all men fallen beneath His rod,-
That man had listened, and had felt
She was a God-made instrument
Of compass rare; and his the part
To ope for her the doors of art,
And show her of its inner shrine
The worship and the love divine.
But the girl was lost to art and life
As lost to weariness and strife;
She lay back in her youthful grace
So seemly that upon her face
You would have dared to fix a gaze
As lingering and as unrebuked
By fear of wrong, as if you looked
Upon an infant breathing deep
In sweet abandonment of sleep.
With softer beam and mellower glow,
As the sun sank lower and more low,
The light through the western window came
In purple azure, gold and flame.
The vision it floated through was all
Of a fair sweet woman dressed in pall;
Her golden hair loosed from its braid,
She sate at her organ-board and played
With melting touch and listening eyes
Uplifted to the veil?d skies,
Playing sweetly, playing soft
In fear to drown the voices aloft
Of singers the saint could sometimes see
In the light of her lucid ecstasy.
Through a window at Saint C?cilia’s side
The heaven looked in uncanopied;
And beneath the open heaven, a high
Fair mountain kissing the bended sky,-
Its paths all clear at the rugged base
But lost at the crown in the cloud’s embrace.
An angel behind the organ knelt
Blowing his breath in the instrument
Whereto the woman lent her soul,
While God, who listened, received the whole
Pure stream in the hollow of His hand
And sprinkled therewith the thirsty land.
The girl whose spirit had lain so deep
In the dim recesses of holy sleep
Moved and sighed in the vague sweet pain
Of returning sense, as she heard again
The organ’s breath, though its chastened throes
Like a murmurous hymn to sleep now rose,
And only half her life set free
In the border-land, the fair countrie
Of dreams, whereto she had declined,-
To dreams so golden all resigned,-
Saint C?cile’s roses, red and white,
Bathing her brow with various light.
She thought that lady with golden hair
Had led her out in that landscape fair,
The landscape fair, the landscape wide
That showed through the window by her side;
And her heart was so lifted with content
She knew not whether they flew or went
Over the thorns and among the bowers
Dusting their skirts with the pollen of flowers,
Until they stopped a breathing space,
And she looked on the lady’s saintly face.
The lady’s face was as freshly fair
As the faces of happy childhood are;
But the dreamer knew that such beauty burst
Not so from the sheath?d bud at first;
So much she learned, for things are shown
In dream that waking are unknown,
But knew not that the face moon-white,
The eyes of hyacinthine blue,
The burnished locks, the garments bright,
Were like those flowers of deepest hue
That flourish but at Alpine height;
Only she saw her kindling eyes,
And knew her place was near the light,
As within hearing of the skies;-
That all that sovereign grace and might
Had not been won by airy flight,
And that within some highest zone
Of thought the woman dwelt alone.
Some light of vision like to this,
But wordless as a vision is,
Stole o’er the untaught mind of Grace
Irradiate from that saintly face.
And when the lady from her crown
Of roses, reared in Paradise,
Took one, full-hearted though half-blown,
And smiling on her with her eyes
Twined it with gentle hands as fair
Firm in her bands of nut-brown hair,
Though happy only in a dream,
The blessed tears, a grateful stream,
Came trickling o’er the fair, flushed face
And drooping hands of sleeping Grace;
While the waxen flower her feet anigh,
So like to death, seemed like to die.
Then away from the dreamer the lady turned
And set her steps to the rude ascent,
As she left her alone, with a heart that yearned
To follow,-alone with the discontent
Which wrapped her again as an evil cloud;
When she lifted her voice and called aloud
The radiant lady looked back as she went;
When her pleading knees on the rock were bowed,
The bright one beckoned and smiled consent.
So she who had sighed in the morn of her days
For the end of the world and its level ways,
She who had felt that the day was long
For dreams and waiting, and mere bird’s song;
Long to be rooting herself in her place
Fair as a lily and weaving lace,-
She who had seen love’s shadow fall
Where love might reach her never at all,-
Strained with her gladly-toiling feet
Up the mountain path, and was ‘ware how fleet
Were the morning hours and full-pulsed day
For the strong delight of the rugged way
To those uplands fair that were lost to sight
In the sweep of the fring?d skirts of light.
Wider and wider the prospect spread
Beneath her steps; and over her head
High and higher, for ever higher,
The goal of her unappeased desire.
Her feet are chafed with the burning sands,
She stumbles over the rolling stones,
Sharp thorns and briars abuse her hands,
She is faint and weary, blood and bones;
But the mountain winds in her unbound hair,
Swept from the viewless summit down,
Purge her brow and bosom of care,
While the blossom from Saint Cecilia’s crown
They softly kiss, or sweetly spare;
And she knows in the hottest moment of strife
That her path lies upward,-and this is life.
She falls, as faint with a breath too rare,
Falls from the height with a wildered gasp,
Stretches her hands for a drowning clasp
Of the thorns, and finds the mountain bare,
Herself at the mountain’s foot, awake
With the angel beside her, who seems to take
Her hand in his; and her father near.
If their whispered speech is low for her ear,
Its mirrored meaning clearly lies
Before her thought in their glistening eyes.
The angel who wears the gentle face-
Touched with a pale and lunar grace-
Of him who had blown such tender breath
In the organ-pipes of the crown?d saint,
She knows will save her soul from death.
And as she gazes, glad and faint
A little, o’ercome with the too-much light
Of joyful vision, her sense grows clear:
The angel with hair all silver-white,
Talking of her deliverance near,
Has come through those gates of Paradise
That held such wonders from her eyes:
A Doctor of musical degree,
Eager and pure as a child is he,
With a heart to will, and a will that can,-
The will of a woman and ways of a man,-
And the hand that is holding her hand will guide
Her unused feet on the mountain side.
From this true song of Grace it well may seem
That there is hope for maids that fall in dream.
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Based on Keywords: cas, moon-white, sauntering, anigh, pled, israelite, shent, motioned, lingeringly, colts, irradiate