Frederick Faber (1814-1863)

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A Dream of Blue Eyes

I left thee when the midnight bell had tolled,
Full of fresh hopes and feelings: in thine eyes
All night perpetual meanings did unfold
Quick turns of thought and kindling sympathies,
Still those blue eyes looked at me through my sleep,
Changed by the power of dreams to fearful things.
They bore me far away, where evening flings
Her gorgeous blue on Atlas: they did sweep
Into the bluer sky, where comets blaze
And golden creatures live in starry rays.
Onward they went where filmy mist-wreaths creep
About the rolling moon; and fell with me
Into the sunless caverns of the sea,
Where spirits all of blue into my soul did gaze!

The After-state

A spirit came upon me in the night
And led me gently down a rocky stair
Unto a peopled garden, green and fair,
Where all the day there was an evening light.
Trees out of every nation blended there.
The citron shrub its golden fruit did train
Against an English elm: it was like a dream
Because there was no wind; and things did seem
All near and big, like mountains before rain,
Far in those twilight bowers beside a stream
The soul of one who had but lately died
Hung listening, with a brother at his side;
And no one spoke in all that haunted place
But looked quietly into each other's face.

The Rothay

Come now and see yon orient vale outspread,
And mark the windings of my favourite rill;
For the wan olive-lights are on the hill,
Dear autumn's choicest boon; and there is shed
A most surpassing glory on the stream,
Kindled just now by evening's purple gleam.
Yon lake with shady islands gave it birth,
To it yon English village doth belong,
And many a night the joyousness and mirth
Of its dear flow hath been my vesper song.
See how it peeps in meadows fringed with flowers,
Or nestles jealously mid leafy bowers,
As if it almost felt, and shunned to show
The gracefulness that makes men love it so.

Keswick, August 3, 1838

Some fall in love with voices, some with eyes,
Some men are linked together by a tear;
Others by smiles; many who cannot tell
What time the angel passed who left the spell.
It comes to us among the winds that rise
Scattering their gifts on all things far and near.
The fields of unripe corn, the mountain lake,
And the great-hearted sea--all things do take
Their glory and their witchery from winds:
All save the few black pools the woodman finds
Far in the depths of some unsunny place,
Which stand, albeit the happy winds are out
In all the tossing branches round about,
As silent and as fearful as a dead man's face.

Old-fashioned Houses, for a Lady Fond of Old Furniture

Sweet are old courts with dates above the doors,
And yew-trees clipped in shapes, and cedar walks,
And lawns whereon a quiet peacock stalks,
And leaden casements, and black shining floors,
And arm-chairs carved like good cathedral stalls,
And huge French clocks, and bedsteads most inviting,
And stiff old ladies hung upon the walls,
Famed in the days of English memoir-writing:--
Places whose very look kind thoughts might draw
Even to Anne Stuart or William of Nassau.
Sweeter than Tudor-stricken shrines are they,
With pleasant grounds and rivers lingering by,--
Quaint homes, that shed a pure, domestic ray
Over the dull time of English history.

Aged Cities

I have known cities with the strong-armed Rhine
Clasping their mouldered quays in lordly sweep;
And lingered where the Maine's low waters shine
Through Tyrian Frankfort; and been fain to weep
Mid the green cliffs where pale Mosella laves
That Roman sepulchre, imperial Trèves.
Ghent boasts her steet, and Bruges her moonlight square;
And holy Mechlin, Rome of Flanders, stands
Like a queen-mother on her spacious lands;
And Antwerp shoots her glowing spire in air.
Yet have I seen no place, by inland brook,
Hill-top, or plain, or trim arcaded bowers,
That carries age so nobly in its look
As Oxford with the sun upon her towers.

Sonnet-writing: To Himself

Young men should not write sonnets, if they dream
Some day to reach the bright bare seats of fame:
To such, sweet thoughts and mighty feelings seem
As though, like foreign things, they rarely came.
Eager as men when haply they have heard
Of some new songster, some gay-feathered bird,
That hath over blue seas strayed in hope to find
In our thin foliage here a summer home
Fain would they catch the bright things in their mind,
And cage them into sonnets as they come.
No; they should serve their wants most sparingly,
Till the ripe time of song, when young thoughts fail,
Then their sad sonnets, like old bards, might be
Merry as youth, and yet grey-haired and hale.

Favourite Books

Here, in thy choice old city, do I dwell
At thy dread feet, most honoured Clarendon!
Catching the precious words, that one by one
Fall from thy lips; because I love full well
Thy good and stately sadness: and I prize,
As warnings for this land, the auguries
Wherewith like fatal seeds thy pages swell.
From these hot thoughts and tears too oft I fly
To the gay Froissart and those wondrous men
Who dreamed of honour and had heart to die
For their own brave and glorious dream; and then,
Albeit with boyish lingerings, again
I turn to graver books where by my side
Lies Origen, my dear and perilous guide.

The Menai Bridge

Fairest of rocky England's channel-gates!
With what a blessed calm to the main ocean
The ebbing tide with silent under-motion
Upward is drawn along thy weedy Straits!
The glossy water, shot with blue and green,
Throws off the sunlight like the restless throat
Of some vain dove; and ships, methinks, might float,
Trusting the deep in places so serene.
Thus wreathed in folds of summer billow, who
Would deem old tales of wreck and tempest true,
Where yon vast marvel, like an albatross
Still springing upward, as it seems, in air,
Spreads in light grandeur his huge wings across,
Self-poised in momentary balance there?

The Four Religious Heathens


"Converse in fear, during the time of your sojourning here."

He was a mild old man, and cherished much
The weight dark Egypt on his spirit laid;
And with a sinuous eloquence would touch
For ever at that haven of the dead.
Single romantic words by him were thrown,
As types, on men and places, with a power
Like that of shifting sunlight after shower
Kindling the cones of hills and journeying on.
He feared the gods and heroes, and spake low,
That Echo might not hear in her light room:
He was a dweller underground; for gloom
Fitted old heathen goodness more than glow;
And, where love was not, faith might gather mirth
From ore that glistened in pale beds of earth.


"In all these things Job sinned not by his lips, nor spoke he any foolish things against God."

Nursling of heathen fear! thy woful being,
Was steeped in gentleness by long disease,
Though round thine awestruck mind were ever fleeing
Omens, and signs, and direful presages.
One might believe in frames so gently stern
Some Christian thoughts before their time did burn.
Sadness was unto thee for love; thy spirit
Rose loftily like some hard-featured stone,
Which summer sunbeam never makes its throne,
E'en while it fills the skirts of vapour near it.
One wert thou, Nicias! of the few who urge
Their stricken souls where far-seen Death doth hover
In vision on them, nor may they diverge
From the black line his chilling shadows cover.


"Of making many books there is no end; and much study is an affliction of the flesh."

Thou, mighty Heathen, wert not so bereft
Of heavenly helps to thy great-hearted deeds,
That thou shouldst dig for truths in broken creeds,
'Mid the loose sands of four old empires left.
Motions and shadows dimly glowing fell
On thy broad soul from forms invisible.
With its plain grandeur, simple, calm, and free,
What wonder was it that thy life should merit
Sparkles of grace, and angel ministry,
With jealous glimpses of the world of spirit?
Greatest and best in this--that thy pure mind,
Upon its saving mission all intent,
Scorned the untruth of leaving books behind,
To claim for thine what through thy lips was sent.


"When Peter came, his shadow at the least might overshadow any of them."

Oft in the crowd and crossings of old Rome
The Christ-like shadow of the gifted Paul,
As he looked forth betimes from his hired home,
Might at this Gentile's hurrying footsteps fall,
When, from his mournings in the Caesar's hall,
Spurred by great thoughts, the troubled sage might come.
Some balmy truths most surely did he borrow
From the sweet neighbourhood of Christ, to bring
The harsh, hard waters of his heathen spring
In softening ducts o'er wastes of pagan sorrow.
As slips of green from fertile confines shoot
Into the tracts of sand, so heathen duty
Caught from his guided pen a cold, bright beauty,
Where flowers might all but blossom into fruit.