W. C. Scully
Good and Evil
Methought I saw an angel on the sun
Sit thronéd, whilst around the planets swayed,
Each with its guiding spirit, that obeyed
In duteous wise that lofty-visaged one;
But on this earth it seemed two spirits fought
A deadly combat, struggling hand to hand--
The GOOD and EVIL, over sea and land
Locked in a strife with dreadful issues fraught.
For as the calm-eyed ruler of each sphere
Bore slowly past the battle-riven world,
Firm in his mighty hand he held a spear
Poised o'er his head, and ready to be hurled--
To dash this globe to fragments as it whirled,
Should Evil's brow the wreath of victory wear.
I Leant My Breast
I Leant my breast against the golden gate
That bars the body from the land of dreams,
But lets the soul to roam in lawns where wait,
Or wander down the banks of shining streams,
The dead and living, holding strange debate
Of things that yet should happen 'neath the beams
Of suns as yet unrisen, whilst listless Fate
Paused, and the stars unyoked their tired teams.
And as my hand the latch sought, for I fain
Had followed one who bore a white rose-wreath,
Sleep touched mine eyes with darkness, and the pain
Of longing ceased; and when I next drew breath
I heard a voice low whisper, "It is vain
To enter here--thou first must drink of death!"
A land of deathful sleep, where fitful dreams
Of hurrying spring scarce wake swift fading flowers;
A land of fleckless sky, and sheer-shed beams
Of sun and stars through day's and dark's slow hours,
A land where sand has choked once fluent streams--
Where grassless plains lie girt by granite towers
That fright the swift and heaven-nurtured teams
Of winds that bear afar the sea-gleaned showers.
The wild Atlantic, fretted by the breath
Of fiery gales o'er leagues of desert sped,
Rolls back, and wreaks in surf its thunderous wrath
On rocks that down the wan, wide shore are spread;
The waves for ever roar a song of death,
The shore they roar to is for ever dead.
Talk not of prayers that fail; the prayers unheard
Are not the askings Paul meant when he said:
"Pray without ceasing." Be thou well assured,
The true petition, not of barren word,
But plumed of deed, scales Heaven overhead,
Where souls and suns from God's high throne are shed.
Pray without ceasing, let good deeds unfold
Like petals of a rose, until, complete,
The flower of asking, full and fair and sweet,
Is fit for God's right hand to take and hold.
False prayers are barren breath, like vapour rolled
Between men and the stars; they hide the feet
Of angels. But the true prayer, wise and meet,
From chiming sphere to sphere on high is told.
A mountain sometimes stands in silent state
And outward stillness, whilst its fiery heart
Throbs with doom's potency and pent-up fate.
So KANT stood, brooding for twelve years apart
From men, whilst his strong soul did dominate
Amid the shades whose realm was its resort.
Then on the mind's illimitable sea
He sailed, undaunted, till he found an isle
Where Truth sat, like a Sybil, 'neath a tree
Whose fruit was knowledge, and he felt her smile
Smite on the veils of sense that utterly
Cloud the soul's eyes and so sad men beguile.
And in his trembling hand she laid the key
That solves the secrets of all things that be.
How often is it that our onward path
Divides in twain, whilst, at the junction, stand
Two fates, and each a garland proffereth,
Of buds of promise twined, with outstretched hand.
The one is Duty called, her visage hath
The clearer light, and of her promised land
She tells high tidings, whilst, with stern command,
She points to roads that lead, perchance, to death!
The other is more beautiful; her face
Glows in the sunlight, and her lovelit eyes
Shew in their limpid wells the deeps of space,
Star-strewn with hopes, and fairest prophecies.
Her name is Inclination; but no peace
Dwells in her smile, nor on her pathway lies.
Oft would my soul sing, but the heart, her lyre,
Tear-wet and warped by mine and other's woe,
Lies in the dust unstrung, whilst flicker slow
The embers of its faint and fading fire;
So here I sit and watch the moments flow
As into past-times' realm the years retire,
With scant gleaned grain within my hands to show,--
Scant grain of deed or song, my soul's desire
If now God's messenger, pale Death, should ask:--
"What good hast thou to show for these thy years?
Hast thou made thy life real, or but a masque?"
What answer could I give? Of which one task,
By grace whereof men's smiles were lit or tears
Dried, could I say: "My scroll the record bears?"
To all men Nature speaketh in this wise:--
"Read in my book, or straightway shall ye die;
Its leaves are open to the readers' eyes;
Its living lore was thought and written by
The God whose truths to you are mysteries,
And in whose hollow hand alike we lie.
Read in my book and in your reading live;
I ask ye many questions day by day:
To those that answer rightly, I will give
A guerdon rich and full. If one shall say,
"Alas, I know not!" I may not reprieve;
If one shall answer wrongly, I must slay;
I know not mercy, and may not forgive;
And none can my strong mandate disobey."
When I behold the pearl-encinctured moon
Gaze on the night with seeming ardour warm,
And mark on hill and dale her soft smiles strewn,
Till darkness dies before her white wand's charm,
I feel that what to earth so fair is shewn
Is false and fleeting as her changing form.
For in her heart is death; and on her breast
She bears the impress of her life's decay;
And that sweet light wherewith her throne is drest,
Is but the reflex of the quick'ning ray
Lent by the sun, that fain would see her blest
With living verdure filling every grey,
Dead plain and formless mountain's arid crest.
Yet, cold and dead, she wends through night and day.
Sonnets from the German
Love came to me full oft, and shwed his face
And smiled and fled, Love whispered in the spring--
Called from his far-off secret dwelling-place--
And oft before mine eyes his gleaming wing
Fluttered an instant. Oft so high he sate
On peaks of snow, that all my breath was gone
Before I reached him, and dispassionate
Desire lay dead, and love of Love alone
My heart held; yet, when Love did farthest seem,
He silent stood beside me, and his form
Was veiled; then, as awaking from a dream,
I knew him suddenly, and, as the storm
Shrouding the sun may break and disappear,
The veil was rent, and lo! himself was here.
The sea is as a garden that the wind
Biddeth break forth in lily-buds, the sky
A picture with all Fairyland designed--
By day the clouds, by night the stars sweep by
Nor question, nor reveal Love's horoscope.
Life is a maiden with a garland crowned;
Space is a palace built by hands of Hope;
Time is a melody that doth resound
From star to distant star, and only heard
In passing on its transit from afar.
Death the inevitable, is deferred
To such most distant futures, that his car,
Whose thundering wheels so often sound a-nigh,
Is silent as his shadow passing by.
Is Love, then, happiness? Ah, yes, the best!
Is he not pain? Oh, bitter! Doth he smile?
As smiles the morning? Doth he weep? Yea, lest
His smile might lose its savour! Hath he guile?
As hath the red rose that beguiles the bee!
What doth his voice discourse of? Lo! herein
Lieth Love's potency; his keen eyes see
And smite upon each secret-hoarded sin,
And then he saith: Whilst this with thee doth dwell,
Must thou and I for ever be at strife,
And in thine ear my tongue must hourly tell
Dispraise, till thou dost cast it from thy life?
And most he raileth at the darling vice
That doth each soul so cunningly entice.
Be thou the bow, and, like the arrow, I
Will cleave the golden apple of endeavour;
The errant knight of Truth, I'll slay each lie,
And Error's web with thought's keen sword-blade sever.
The earth is but a clod, until the sun
Draw beauty from its breast in tree and flower,
The years are but a waste of sands that run,
Till high achievement crown one noble hour.
The great word's rocky ribs are thinly veined
With gold, that none but strongest seekers' find,
And many a combat by the warrior gained
Before his brow with bays may be entwined.
Alone, my spirit faints upon the way,
Be thou its guide, be thou its saving stay.
The night is still, the silent frost hangs thick
On leaf and grass, the jewel's coming day
Will light to softened splendour. Bright and quick
The starbeams through the crisp air thrill. Away
Swifter than these a thought has southward sped,
And back returned on faithful, homing wing,
Bearing the picture of a golden head
Pressed on a snowy pillow. Slumbering
My darling lies; each eyelid, silken-fringed,
Droops like a dove's breast-feather tremulously--
The lips, a petalled casket half unhinged,
Show pearls more bright than holds the silver sea.
For now a stray dream-spirit at her ear
Tells to the child some tale she smiles to hear.
A rosebud mouth, sealed fount of words unspoken,
Thy kiss is as a sacrament. Soft hands
That hold my heart, each dimple is a token
Of conquest o'er the Future's widening lands!
Bright smile, that from the sundawn seems to borrow
Its rarest light, I dare not even pray
That thou escape the shades of pain and sorrow,
For flowers fade in every cloudless day.
But, when the storm comes, mayst thou find sure haven
Or strength to stand until its rage hath past,
And, in the dark, may God's strong help be given,
Though long the night, the day must come at last,
And if my own death first be not decreed,
Oh, may my breast thy shield be, at thy need!