Henry Clarence Kendall (1839-1882)


I purposed once to take my pen and write,
Not songs, like some, tormented and awry
With passion, but a cunning harmony
Of words and music caught from glen and height,
And lucid colours born of woodland light
And shining places where the sea-streams lie.
But this was when the heat of youth glowed white,
And since I've put the faded purpose by.
I have no faultless fruits to offer you
Who read this book; but certain syllables
Herein are borrowed from unfooted dells
And secret hollows dear to noontide dew;
And these at least, though far between and few,
May catch the sense like subtle forest spells.


So take these kindly, even though there be
Some notes that unto jother lyres belong,
Stray echoes from the elder sons of song;
And think how from its neighbouring native sea
The pensive shell doth borrow melody.
I would not do the lordly masters wrong
By filching fair words from the shining throng
Whose music haunts me, as the wind a tree.
Lo, when a stranger in soft Syrian glooms
Shot through with sunset treads the cedar dells,
And hears the breezy ring of elfin bells
Far down by where the white-haired cataract booms,
He, faint with sweetness caught from forest smells,
Bears thence, unwitting, plunder of perfumes.

A Mountain Spring

Peace hath an altar there. The sounding feet
Of thunder and the wildering wings of rain
Against fire-rifted summits flash and beat,
And through grey upper gorges swoop and strain;
But round that hallowed mountain-spring remain,
Year after year, the days of tender heat,
And gracious nights whose lips with flowers are sweet,
And filtered lights, and lutes of soft refrain.
A still, bright pool. To men I may not tell
The secrets that its heart of water knows,
The story of a loved and lost repose;
Yet this I say to cliff and close-leaved dell:
A fitful spirit haunts yon limpid well,
Whose likeness is the faithless face of Rose.

News of War

Today, while yet the rumour filled the street,
I left your faces troubled with the thought
Of brothers to a bodeful fury wrought;
And, hurrying past a thousand twinkling feet,
With clouded heart a solitude I sought,
The haunt of many leaves--a cool retreat--
And mused of strife with untold interest fraught;
Of homes; of bloody battles to be fought;
Nor stirred till night rose stormy, and the deep
Moaned like some monster shaken in its sleep.
Then doleful sounds came up from lea and lynn
Where rain fell heavy on the gloomy deep,
As if the world, so old and sick of sin,
Had turned her face into the dark to weep.