Poetical works of Mathilde Blind/Sonnets
Love-cradling Night, lit by the lucent moon.
Most pitiful and mother-hearted Night!
Blest armistice in life's tumultuous fight,
Resolving discords to a spheral tune!
When tired with heat and strenuous toil of noon,
With ceaseless conflict betwixt might and right,
With ebb and flow of sorrow and delight.
Our panting hearts beneath their burdens swoon
To thee, O star-eyed comforter, we creep,
Earth's ill-used step-children to thee make moan.
As hiding in thy dark skirts' ample sweep;
—Poor debtors whose brief life is not their own;
For dunned by Death, to whom we owe its loan,
Give us, Night, the interest paid in sleep.
Mother of the unfortunate, mystic form,
Who calm, immutable, like oldest fate,
Sittest, where through the sombre swinging gate
Moans immemorial life's encircling storm.
My heart, sore stricken by grief's leaden arm,
Lags like a weary pilgrim knocking late,
And sigheth—toward thee staggering with its weight—
Behold Love conquered by thy son, the worm!
He stung him mid the roses' purple bloom,
The Rose of roses, yea, a thing so sweet,
Haply to stay blind Change's flying feet,
And stir with pity the unpitying tomb.
Here, take him, cold, cold, heavy and void of breath!
Nor me refuse, Mother almighty, death.
Thy wings swoop darkening round my soul, Despair
And on my brain thy shadow seems to brood
And hem me round with stifling solitude.
With chasms of vacuous gloom which are thy lair.
No light of human joy, no song or prayer.
Breaks ever on his chaos, all imbrued
With heart's-blood trickling from the multitude
Of sweet hopes slain, or agonising there.
Lo, wilt thou yield thyself to grief, and roll
Vanquished from thy high seat, imperial brain.
And abdicating turbulent life's control,
Be dragged a captive bound in sorrow's chain?
Nay! though my heart is breaking with its pain.
No pain on earth has power to crush my soul.
CLEAVE THOU THE WAVES.
Cleave thou the waves that weltering to and fro
Surge multitudinous. The eternal Powers
Of sun, moon, stars, the air, the hurrying hours,
The winged winds, the still dissolving show
Of clouds in calm or storm, for ever flow
Above thee; while the abysmal sea devours
The untold dead insatiate, where it lowers
O'er glooms unfathomed, limitless, below.
No longer on the golden-fretted sands,
Where many a shallow tide abortive chafes,
Mayst thou delay; life onward sweeping blends
With far-off heaven: the dauntless one who braves
The perilous flood with calm unswerving hands,
The elements sustain; cleave thou the waves.
The dead abide with us! Though stark and cold
Earth seems to grip them, they are with us still:
They have forged our chains of being for good or ill
And their invisible hands these hands yet hold.
Our perishable bodies are the mould
In which their strong imperishable will—
Mortality's deep yearning to fulfil—
Hath grown incorporate through dim time untold.
Vibrations infinite of life in death,
As a star's travelling light survives its star!
So may we hold our lives, that when we are
The fate of those who then will draw this breath,
They shall not drag us to their judgment bar,
And curse the heritage which we bequeath.
All treasures of the earth and opulent seas,
Metals and odorous woods and cunning gold,
Fowls of the air and furry beasts untold.
Vineyards and harvest fields and fruitful trees
Nature gave unto Man; and last her keys
Vouched passage to her secret ways of old
Whence knowledge should be wrung, nay power to mould,
Out of the rough, his occult destinies.
But tired of these he craved a wider scope:
Then fair as Pallas from the brain of Jove
From his deep wish there sprang, full-armed to cope
With all life's ills, even very death in love,
The only thing man never wearies of —
His own creation—visionary Hope.
Oh ye, all ye, who suffer here below,
Schooled in the baffling mystery of pain.
Who on life's anvil bear the fateful strain.
Wrung as forged iron, hammered blow on blow,
Take counsel with your grief, in that you know
That he who suffers suffers not in vain,
Nay, that it shall be for the whole world's gain,
And wisdom prove the priceless price of woe.
Thus in some new-found land where no man's feet
Have trod a path, bold voyagers astray,
May fall foredone by torturing thirst and heat:
But from the impotent body of defeat
The winners spring who carve a conquering way—
Measured by milestones of their perished clay.
Like a great rock which looming o'er the deep
Casts his eternal shadow on the strands,
And veiled in cloud inexorably stands.
While vaulting round his adamantine steep
Embattled breakers clamorously leap,
Sun-garlanded and hope-uplifted bands.
But soon with waters shattered in the sands
Slowly recoiling back to ocean creep;
So sternly dost thou tower above us. Fate!
For still our eager hearts exultant beat,
Borne in the hurrying tide of life elate.
And dashing break against thy marble feet,
But would Hope's rainbow-aureole round us fleet,
Without these hurtling shocks of man's estate?
Oh in this dearth and winter of the soul,
When even Hope, still wont to soar and sing,
Droopeth, a starveling bird whose downy wing
Stiffens ere dead through the dank drift it fall—
Yea, ere Hope perish utterly, I call
On thee, fond Memory, that thou haste and bring
One leaf, one blossom from that far-off spring
When love's auroral light lay over all.
Bring but one pansy: haply so the thrill
Of poignant yearning for those glad dead years
May, like the gusty south, breathe o'er the chill
Of frozen grief, dissolving it in tears,
Till numb Hope, stirred by that warm dropping rain,
Will deem, perchance. Love's springtide come again.
It is a solemn evening, golden-clear—
The Alpine summits flame with rose-lit snow
And headlands purpling on wide seas below.
And clouds and woods and arid rocks appear
Dissolving in the sun's own atmosphere
And vast circumference of light, whose slow
Transfiguration —glow and after-glow—
Turns twilight earth to a more luminous sphere.
Oh heart, I ask, seeing that the orb of day
Has sunk below, yet left to sky and sea
His glory's spiritual after-shine :
I ask if Love, whose sun hath set for thee,
May not touch grief with his memorial ray,
And lend to loss itself a joy divine ?
Transported out of self by Youth's sweet madness,
Emulous of love, to Love's empyrean height,
Where I beheld you aureoled in light,
My soul upsprang on wings of angel-gladness.
Far, far below, the earth and all earth's badness—
A speck of dust—slipped darkling into night.
As suns of fairer planets flamed in sight,
Pure orbs of bliss unstained by gloom or sadness.
Lo, as I soared ethereally on high.
You vanished, from my swimming eyes aloof,
Alone, alone, within the empty sky,
I reached out giddily, and reeling fell
From starriest heaven, to plunge in lowest hell.
My proud heart broken on Earth's humblest roof.
ON GUIDO'S AURORA.
Glorious, in saffron robes and veil unfurled,
Borne on the wind of her ecstatic flight,
Aurora floats before the Lord of Light,
And showers her roses on a jubilant world.
Lo. where he beams, ambrosial, yellow curled,
The God of Day, with unapparent might,
Checking his fiery steeds, that plunge and bite
As if from heaven his Chariot should be hurled.
And on the Clouds a many-tinted band
Of Hours dance round their Leader, grave or gay
As glowing near or in his wake they sway;
While poised above the sun-awakened land
The Morning Star, fair herald of the day,
Hovers, a Cupid, back-blown torch in hand.
The voices of the whispering woods are still;
No truant brook runs chattering to the stream;
Like heaven's own likeness mirrored in a dream.
The sea coils round each jutting rock and hill.
Nay, hark! what faint aerial harpings thrill
The lonely bay; vrhat choral voices seem
To float around and melt like rolling steam
On air as quiet as a windless mill.
No holy chant in hushei cathedral naves
Had ever such unearthly harmony.
As these mysterious chords ineffable
That peal from organ-pipes of fluted caves.
Reverberate in hollow mountan shell,
The music of the everlasting sea.
I.— ANNE HATHAWAY'S COTTAGE.
Is this the Cottage, ivy-girt and crowned.
And this the path down which our Shakespeare ran
When, in the April of his love, sweet Anne
Made all his mighty pulses throb and bound;
Where, mid coy buds and winking flowers around.
She blushed a rarer rose than roses can,
To greet her Will—even Him, fair Avon's Swan—
Whose name has turned this plot to holy ground?
To these dear walls, once dear to Shakespeare's eyes,
Time's Vandal hand itself has done no wrong;
This nestling lattice opened to his song.
When, with the lark, he bade his love arise
In words whose strong enchantment never dies—
Old as these flowers, and, like them, ever young.
II.— ANNE HATHAWAY.
His Eve of Women! She, whose mortal lot
Was linked to an Immortal's unaware.
With Love's lost Eden in her blissful air.
Perchance would greet him in this blissful spot.
No shadow of the coming days durst blot,
The flower-like face, so innocently fair,
As lip met lip, and lily arms, all bare,
Clung round him in a perfect lover's knot.
Was not this Anne the flame-like daffodil
Of Shakespeare's March, whose maiden beauty took
His senses captive? Thus the stripling brook
Mirrors a wild flower nodding by the mill,
Then grows a river in which proud cities look.
And with a land's load widens seaward still.
Sweet Avon glides where clinging rushes seem
To stay his course, and, in his flattering glass,
Meadows and hills and mellow woodlands pass,
A fairer world as imaged in a dream.
And sometimes, in a visionary gleam,
From out the secret covert's tangled mass.
The fisher-bird starts from the rustling grass,
A jewelled shuttle shot along the stream.
Even here, methinks, when moon-lapped shallows smiled
Round isles no bigger than a baby's cot,
Titania found a glowworm-lighted child,
Led far astray, and, with anointing hand
Sprinklmg clear dew from a forget-me-not,
Hailed him the Laureate of her Fairyland.
IV.— LOST TREASURE.
The autumn day steals, pallid as a ghost,
Along these fields and man-forsaken ways;
And o'er the hedgerows' bramble-knotted maze
The whitening locks of Old Man's Beard are tost.
Here, shrunk by centuries of fire and frost,
A crab tree stands where—lingering gossip says—
In ocean-moated England's golden days,
Great treasure, in a frolic, once was lost.
Here—fresh from fumes of some Falstaffian bout,
When famous champions, fired by many a bet,
Had drained huge bumpers while the stars would set-
Beneath its reeling branches by the way.
Till twice twelve hours of April bloom were out—
Locked in oblivion—Shakespeare lost a day.
V.— THE AVON.
What are the Willows whispering in a row.
Nodding their old heads o'er the river's edge?
What does the West wind whisper to the sedge
And to the shame-faced purples drooping low?
Why sobs the water, in its broken flow
Lapping against the grey weir's ruined ledge?
And, in the thorny shelter of the hedge,
What birds unloads his little heart of woe?
Green Avon's haunted! Look, from yonder bank
The willow leans, that hath not ceased to weep,
Whence, hanging garlands, fair Ophelia sank;
Since Jacques moped here the trees have had a tongue;
And all these streams and whispering willows keep
The moan of Desdemona's dying song.
(HOLY TRINITY CHURCH.)
The hectic autumn's dilatory fire
Has turned this lime tree to a sevenfold brand,
Which, self-consuming, lights the sunless land,
A death to which all poet souls aspire.
Above the graves, where all men's vain desire
Is hushed at last as by a Mother's hand.
And, Time confounded, Love's blank records stand,
The Evensong swells from the pulsing choir.
What incommunicable presence clings
To this grey church and willowy twilight stream?
Am I the dupe of some delusive dream?
Or, like faint fluid phosphorescent rings
On refluent seas, doth Shakespeare's spirit gleam
Pervasive round these old familiar things?
Yearning to know herself for all she was.
Her passionate clash of warring good and ill,
Her new life ever ground in Death's old mill,
With every delicate detail and en masse, —
Blind Nature strove. Lo, then it came to pass,
That Time, to work out her unconscious Will,
Once wrought the Mind which she had groped for still,
And she beheld herself as in a glass.
The world of men, unrolled before our sight.
Showed like a map, where stream and waterfall
And village-cradling vale and cloud-capped height
Stand faithfully recorded, great and small;
For Shakespeare was, and at his touch, with light
Impartial as the Sun's, revealed the All.
VIII.— CEDARS OF LEBANON AT WARWICK CASTLE.
Cedars of Lebanon! Labyrinths of Shade,
Making a mystery of open day;
With layers of gloom keeping the Sun at bay.
And solemn boughs which never bloom or fade.
Contemporaries of that great Crusade,
When militant Christendom leaped up one day
Fired by the Cross, and, rushing to the fray,
Poured Eastward as oracular Peter bade.
Borne hither when Christ's Sepulchre was won,
And planted by hoar Warwick's feudal walls,
You grew, o'ershadowing every rival stem.
When English woods don May's fresh coronals,
Say,—Mourn ye still for lost Jerusalem,
Funereal trees—beloved of Lebanon?
TO THE OBELISK
DURING THE GREAT FROST, 1881.
Thou sign-post of the Desert! Obelisk,
Once fronting in thy monumental pride
Egypt's fierce sun, that blazing far and wide,
Sheared her of tree and herb, till like a disk
Her waste stretched shadowless, and fought with risk
To those who with their beasts of burden hied
Across the seas of sand until they spied
Tliy pillar, and their flagging hearts grew brisk:
Now reared beside our Thames so wintry gray,
Where blocks of ice drift with the drifting stream,
Thou risest o'er the alien prospect! Say,
Yon dull, blear, rayless orb whose lurid gleam
Tinges the snow-draped ships and writhing steam,
Is this the sun which fired thine orient day?
MANCHESTER BY NIGHT.
O'er this huge town, rife with intestine wars,
Whence as from monstrous sacrificial shrines
Pillars of smoke climb heavenward, Night inclines
Black brows majestical with gllmmering stars.
Her dewy silence soothes life's angry jars:
And like a mother's wan white face, who pines
Above her children's turbulent ways, so shines
The moon athwart the narrow cloudy bars.
Now toiling multitudes that hustling crush
Each other in the fateful strife for breath,
And, hounded on by divers hungers, rush
Across the prostrate ones that groan beneath,
Are swathed within the universal hush.
As life exchanges semblances with death.
MYSTERY OF MYSTERIES.
Before the abyss of the unanswering grave
Each mortal stands at last aloof, alone,
With his beloved one turned as deaf as stone,
However rebel love may storm and rave.
No will, however strong, avails to save
The wrecked identity knit to our own;
We may not hoard one treasured look or tone,
Dissolved in foam on Death's dissolving wave.
Is this the End? This handful of brown earth
For all releasing elements to take
And free for ever from the bonds of birth?
Or will true life from Life's disguises break,
Called to that vast confederacy of minds
Which casts all flesh as chaff to all the winds?
Not in the hour of peril, thronged with foes.
Panting to set their heel upon my head,
Or when alone from many wounds I bled
Unflinching beneath Fortune's random blows;
Nor when my shuddering hands were doomed to close
The unshrinking eyelids of the stony dead;—
Not then I missed my God, not then—but said:
"Let me not burden God with all men's woes!"
But when resurgent from the womb of night
Spring's Oriflamme of flowers waves from the Sod;
When peak on flashing Alpine peak is trod
By sunbeams on their missionary flight;
When heaven-kissed Earth laughs, garmented in light;
That is the hour in which I miss my God.
As opiates to the sick on wakeful nights,
As light to flowers, as flowers in poor men's rooms,
As to the fisher when the tempest glooms
The cheerful twinkling of his village lights;
As emerald isles to flagging swallow flights,
As roses garlanding with tendrilled blooms
The unweeded hillocks of forgotten tombs,
As singing birds on cypress-shadowed heights,
Thou art to me—a comfort past compare—
For thy joy-kindling presence, sweet as May,
Sets all my nerves to music, makes away
With sorrow and the numbing frost of care,
Until the influence of thine eyes' bright sway
Has made life's glass go up from foul to fair.
Peace, throbbing heart, nor let us shed one tear
O'er this late love's unseasonable glow;
Sweet as a violet blooming in the snow.
The posthumous offspring of the widowed year
That smells of March when all the world is sere,
And, while around the hurtling sea-winds blow—
Which twist the oak and lay the pine tree low-
Stands childlike in the storm and has no fear.
Poor helpless blossom orphaned of the sun,
How could it thus brave winter's rude estate?
Oh love, more helpless love, why bloom so late,
Now that the flower-time of the year is done?
Since thy dear course must end when scarce begun,
Nipped by the cold touch of relentless fate.
Lo, happily walking in some clattering street—
Where throngs of men and women dumbly pass,
Like shifting pictures seen within a glass
Which leave no trace behind—one seems to meet.
In roads once trodden by our mutual feet,
A face projected from that shadowy mass
Of faces, quite familiar as it was.
Which beaming on us stands out clear and sweet.
The face of faces we again behold
That lit our life when life was very fair,
And leaps our heart towards eyes and mouth and hair;
Oblivious of the undying love grown cold,
Or body sheeted in the churchyard mould.
We stretch out yearning hands and grasp—the air.
Alone—with one fair star for company,
The loveliest star among the hosts of night,
While the grey tide ebbs mth the ebbing light—
I pace along the darkening wintry sea.
Now romid the yule-log and the glittering tree
Twinklmg with festive tapers, eyes as bright
Sparkle vith Christmas joys and young delight,
As each one gathers to his family.
But I—a waif on earth where'er I roam—
Uprooted with life's bleeding hopes and fears
From that one heart that was my heart's sole home
Feel the old pang pierce through the severing years,
And as I think upon the years to come
That fair star trembles through my fallmg tears.
THE EVENING OF THE YEAR.
Wan mists enwrap the still-born day;
The harebell withers on the heath;
And all the moorland seems to breathe
The hectic beauty of decay.
Within the open grave of May
Dishevelled trees drop wreath on wreath;
Wind-wrung and ravelled underneath
Waste leaves choke up the woodland way.
The grief of many partings near
Wails like an echo in the wind:
The days of love lie far behind,
The days of loss lie shuddering near,
Life's morning-glory who shall bind?
It is the evening of the year.
NEW YEAR'S EVE.
Another full-orbed year hath waned to-day
And set in the irrevocable past,
And headlong whirled along Time's winged blast
My fluttering rose of youth is borne away:
Ah rose once crimson with the blood of May,
A honeyed haunt where bees would break their fast
I watch thy scattering petals flee aghast,
And all the flickering rose-lights turning grey.
Poor fool of life! plagued ever with thy vain
Regrets of futile longings! were the years
Not cups o'erbrimming still with gall and tears?
Let go thy puny personal joy and pain!
If youth with all its brief hope disappears,
To deathless hope we must be born again.