The Rainbow and the Rose

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The Rainbow and the Rose

I

THE THINGS THAT MATTER
 
  NOW that I've nearly done my days,
  And grown too stiff to sweep or sew,
  I sit and think, till I'm amaze,
  About what lots of things I know:
  Things as I've found out one by one—
  And when I'm fast down in the clay,
  My knowing things and how they're done
  Will all be lost and thrown away.
 
 
  There's things, I know, as won't be lost,
  Things as folks write and talk about:
  The way to keep your roots from frost,
  And how to get your ink spots out.
  What medicine's good for sores and sprains,
  What way to salt your butter down,
  What charms will cure your different pains,
  And what will bright your faded gown.
 
 
  But more important things than these,
  They can't be written in a book:
  How fast to boil your greens and peas,
  And how good bacon ought to look;
  The feel of real good wearing stuff,
  The kind of apple as will keep,
  The look of bread that's rose enough,
  And how to get a child asleep.
 
 
  Whether the jam is fit to pot,
  Whether the milk is going to turn,
  Whether a hen will lay or not,
  Is things as some folks never learn.
  I know the weather by the sky,
  I know what herbs grow in what lane;
  And if sick men are going to die,
  Or if they'll get about again.
 
 
  Young wives come in, a-smiling, grave,
  With secrets that they itch to tell:
  I know what sort of times they'll have,
  And if they'll have a boy or gell.
  And if a lad is ill to bind,
  Or some young maid is hard to lead,
  I know when you should speak 'em kind,
  And when it's scolding as they need.
 
 
  I used to know where birds ud set,
  And likely spots for trout or hare,
  And God may want me to forget
  The way to set a line or snare;
  But not the way to truss a chick,
  To fry a fish, or baste a roast,
  Nor how to tell, when folks are sick,
  What kind of herb will ease them most!
 
 
  Forgetting seems such silly waste!
  I know so many little things,
  And now the Angels will make haste
  To dust it all away with wings!
  O God, you made me like to know,
  You kept the things straight in my head,
  Please God, if you can make it so,
  Let me know something when I'm dead.
 
THE CONFESSION
 
  I HAVEN'T always acted good:
  I've taken things not meant for me;
  Not other people's drink and food,
  But things they never seemed to see.
  I haven't done the way I ought
  If all they say in church is true,
  But all I've had I've fairly bought,
  And paid for pretty heavy too.
 
 
  For days and weeks are very long
  If you get nothing new and bright,
  And if you never do no wrong
  Somehow you never do no right.
  The chap that daresent go a yard
  For fear the path should lead astray
  May be a saint—though that seems hard,
  But he's no traveller, any way.
 
 
  Some things I can't be sorry for,
  The things that silly people hate:
  But some I did I do deplore,
  I knew, inside, they wasn't straight.
  And when my last account is filed,
  And stuck-up angels stop their song,
  I'll ask God's pardon like a child
  For what I really knew was wrong.
 
 
  If you've a child, you'd rather see
  A bit of temper, off and on,
  A greedy grab, a silly spree—
  And then a brave thing said or done
  Than hear your boy whine all day long
  About the things he musn't do:
  Just doing nothing, right or wrong:
  And God may feel the same as you.
 
 
  For God's our Father, so they say,
  He made His laws and He made me;
  He'll understand about the way
  Me and His laws could not agree.
  He might say, "You're worth more, My son,
  Than all My laws since law began.
  Take good with bad—here's something done—
  And I'm your God, and you're My man."
 
WORK
 
  WHEN I am busying about,
  Sewing on buttons, tapes, and strings,
  Hanging the week's wet washing out
  Or ironing the children's things,
  Sweeping and dusting, cleaning grates,
  Scrubbing the dresser or the floors,
  Washing the greasy dinner plates,
  Scouring the brasses on the doors—
 
 
  I wonder what it's all about,
  And when did people first begin
  To keep the dirt and wornness out
  And keep the wholesome comfort in:
  How long it is since women bore
  This round of wash and make and mend,
  And what God makes us do it for
  And whether it will ever end!
 
 
  When God began to do His work
  He made a new thing every day—
  Even now He is not one to shirk,
  But makes things, always some new way
  He made the earth, and sky, and sun,
  The creatures of the sea and wood,
  And when his first week's work was done
  He saw that it was very good.
 
 
  But He—for all He worked so fast
  To finish air, and wave, and shore,
  Knew that this work of His would last
  For ever and for evermore.
  On Saturday night He was content,
  He knew that Monday would not bring
  Need for another firmament,
  Another set of everything.
 
 
  But though my work is easier far
  Than making sky and sea and sun,
  It's harder than God's labours are,
  Because my work is never done.
  I sweep and churn, save and contrive,
  I bake and brew, I don't complain,
  But every Monday morning I've
  Last Monday's work to do again.
 
 
  I'm good at work—I work away;
  Always the same my work must go;
  The flowers grow different every day,
  That's why I like to see them grow.
  If, up in Heaven, God understood
  He'd let me for my Paradise
  Make all things new and very good
  And never make the same thing twice!
 
THE JILTED LOVER TO HIS MOTHER
 
  You needn't pray for me, old lady, I don't want no one's prayer,
  I'm fit and jolly as ever I was—you needn't think I care.
  When I go whistling down the road, when the warm night is falling,
  She needn't think I'm whistling her, it's another girl I'm calling.
 
 
  If I pass her house a dozen times, or fifty times a day,
  She needn't think I think of her, my work lies out that way.
  If they should tell her I've grown thin (for that is what they've told me)
  This cursed weather counts for that, and not the girl who sold me.
 
 
  And if they say I'm off my feed I still can tip a can;
  If I get drunk what's that to her? I am not her young man.
  I know I've had a lucky let-off—she ain't no class, she ain't,
  For all she looked like a bush o' roses and talked like a story book saint.
 
 
  I never give a thought to her. Don't worry your old head,
  I've quite forgot her pretty ways and the cruel things she said,
  There's lots of other gals to be had as any chap can see,
  So you cheer up, you've got no call to go and pray for me.
  But all the same, if you want to pray, you'd best pray God take care of them,
  For if I catch them two together, by hell! I'll swing for the pair of them.
 
THE WILL TO LIVE
 
  SINCE Faith is a veil that has nothing behind it,
  And Hope wanders lost where no mortal can find it,
  Since Love is a mirror we break in a minute
  In snatching the image our soul has cast in it,
  What is the use of the Summers and Springs,
  The wave of the woods and the waft of the wings—
  Since all means nothing, and good things and ill
  Make madness,—a mirage tormenting us still?
 
 
  Since all the fighting, the ardent endeavour,
  The heart cast bleeding to feed the Ideal,
  Are vain, vain, vain, and the one thing real
  Is that all's vain, for ever and ever;
  Why then, be a man and stand back from the strife,
  Fall by the sword, but keep out of the snare;
  Will but to be—and be willing to bear
  All that the gods may lay on your of life!
 
 
  In the far East, where light ever dawns first,
  There has man learned how the Fates may be cheated,
  How by our craft may their strength be defeated,
  Though all our best be no match for their worst!
  Kill the desire that they set in your bosom,
  Long not for fruit when you gaze on the blossom,
  Dream not of flowers when you gaze on the bud,
  Kill all the rebels that shout in your blood.
  Sorrow and sickness, disease and decay—
  These toll the hours of Life's desolate day;
  Hopes unfulfilled and forbidden delight
  These are the dreams of Life's treacherous night.
  So let me image an infinite peace
  Touched with no joy but the ease of release.
  Out of the eddies I climb and I cease
  Keeping, in change for this man's soul of me,
  Something which, by the eternal decree,
  Is as like Nothing as Something can be!
 
 
  Not to desire, to admit, to adore,
  Casting the robe of the soul that you wore
  Just as the soul casts the body's robe down.
  This is man's destiny, this is man's crown.
  This is the splendour, the end of the feast;
  This is the light of the Star in the East.
 
 
  So, Silence reconciles Life's jarring phrases
  Far in the future, austere and august:
  Meanwhile, the buds of the poplars are falling,
  Spring's on the lawn, and a little voice calling:
  "Daddy, come out! Daddy darling, you must!
  Daddy come out and help Molly pick daisies!"
  And, since one's here, and the Spring's in the garden
  (How many lives hence will that thought earn pardon?)
  Since one's a man and man's heart is insistent,
  And, since Nirvana is doubtful and distant,
  Though life's a hard road and thorny to travel—
  Stones in the borders and grass on the gravel,
  Still there's the wisdom that wise men call folly,
  Still one can go and pick daisies with Molly!
 
THE BEATIFIC VISION
 
  OH God! if I do my duty
  And walk in the thorny way,
  Will you pay me with heavens of beauty,
  Millions of lives away?
  Will you give me the music of heaven,
  And the joy that none understands,
  In place of what life would have given
  If I had held out my hands?
 
 
  I have lived in a narrow prison,
  I have writhed 'neath a bitter creed,
  And I dare to say that no heaven can pay
  The renounced dream and deed,
  But when my life's portal closes,
  If you have no heaven to spare
  God! give me a garden of roses,
  And some one to walk with there.
 

II

MUMMY WHEAT
 
  LAID close to Death, these many thousand years,
  In this small seed Life hid herself and smiled;
  So well she hid, Death was at least beguiled,
  Set free the grain—and lo! the sevenfold ears!
 
 
  Warmed by the sun, wooed by the wind's soft word,
  Under blue canopy they hold their state:
  For this, ah, was it not worth while to wait
  Through all the centuries of hope deferred?
 
 
  What could they know who laid the seed with Death
  Of this Divine fruition fixed and planned?
  Love—since Life parts us—lend my hand your hand
  And look with me into the eyes of faith.
 
 
  For here between your hand and mine there lies
  A little seed we trust to Death to keep
  Through unimagined centuries of sleep
  Until the day when Life shall bid it rise.
 
 
  Our harvest waits us. Who knows where or how,
  What worlds away, wrapped in what coil of pain?
  But Life shall bid us pluck gold sevenfold grain
  Grown from the love she bids us bury now.
 
THE BEECH TREE
 
  MY beautiful beech, your smooth grey coat is trimmed
  With letters. Once, each stood for all things dear
  To foolish lovers, dead this many a year,
  Whose lamp of lighted love so soon was dimmed.
  You have seen them come and go,
  And heard their kisses and vows
  Under your boughs,
  The pitiful vows they swore,
  Have seen their poor tears flow,
  Have seen them part; to meet, and to return, no more!
 
 
  And in old winters, through your branches bare,
  The north wind drove the blue home-scented smoke
  That on the glowing Christmas hearth awoke
  Where the old logs, with eager flicker and flare,
  Sang their low crackling song
  Of peace and of good will.
  The old song is still,
  The old voices have died away,
  The hearth has been cold so long,
  And the bright faces dimmed and covered up with clay.
 
 
  And summer after summer wakes to glow
  The ordered pleasance with the clipped box-hedge,
  The drooping lilac by the old moat's edge,
  The roses, that throw you kisses from below,
  The orchard pink and white,
  The sedge's whispered words,
  The nesting birds,
  All these return to revel round your feet.
  And in the untroubled night
  The nightingale still sings, the jasmine still is sweet.
 
 
  My beautiful beech, I carve upon you here
  The master-letter which begins her name
  Through whom, to me, the royal summer came,
  And nightingale and rose, and all things dear.
  And, in some far-off time,
  I shall come here, weary and old,
  When the hearth in my heart is cold
  And the birds that nest there flown;
  I will remember this summer in all its prime
  And say, "There was a day—
  Thank God, the Giver, an unforgotten day,
  When I walked here, not alone,
  —O God of pity and sorrow, not alone!"
 
IN ABSENCE
 
  WAKE, do you wake in the dark in the strange far place,
  Window and door not set like the ones we knew,
  Leaning your face through the dark for another face,
  Stretching your arms to the arms that are far from you,
  Even as I, through the depth of this darkness, do?
 
 
  Sleep, do you sleep in the house in the lonely land?
  In the lonely room do you hear no steps draw near?
  Do you miss in the darkness the hand that implores your hand,
  See through the darkness your last dream disappear,
  And weep, as I weep, in the outer darkness here?
 
 
  Dream, do you dream? Nay, never a dream will stay,
  Never a phantom is fond, or a vision kind.
  Your dreams elude you and fly through the dark my way,
  My dreams fly forth to you whom they may not find;
  And we in the darkness weep, we weep and are left behind.
 
SILENCE
 
  So silent is the world to-night
  The lamp gives silence out like light,
  The latticed windows open wide
  Show silence, like the night, outside:
  The nightingale's faint song draws near
  Like musical silence to mine ear.
 
 
  The empty house calls not to me,
  "Here, but for fate, were thou and she—"
  Its gibe for once is checked. To-night
  Silence is queen in grief's despite,
  And even the longing of my soul
  Is silent 'neath this hour's control.
 
RAISON D'ETRE
 
  O WEARY night, O weary day,
  When heart's delight is far away!
 
 
  What is the day? A frame of blue
  The vacant-glaring sun grins through.
  What is the night? A sable veil
  Through which the moon peers tired and pale.
 
 
  O weary day! O weary night!
  How far away is heart's delight!
 
 
  Love hung the sun in his high place
  To give me light to see her face,
  And love spread out the veil of night
  To hide us two from all men's sight.
 
 
  O kindly night, O pleasant day,
  Your use is gone—why should ye stay?
  My heart's delight is far away,
  O weary night, O weary day.
 
THE ONLOOKER
 
  If I could make a pillow for your head,
  Soft, pleasant, filled with every pretty thought;
  If I could lay a carpet where you tread
  Of all my life's most radiant fancies wrought,
  And spread my love as canopy above you,
  Your sleep, your steps should know how much I love you.
 
 
  But—as life goes, to the old sorry tune—
  I stand apart, I see thorns wound your feet,
  Your sleeping eyes resenting sun and moon,
  Your head lie restless on a breast unmeet—
  And say no word, and suffer without moan,
  Lest you should guess how much you are alone.
 
THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE
 
  I PLUCKED the blossoms of delight
  In many a wood and many a field,
  I made a garland fair and bright
  As any gardens yield.
 
 
  But when I sought the living tree
  To make new earth and Heaven new,
  I found—alas for you and me—
  Its roots were set in you.
 
 
  Oh, dear my garden, where the fruit
  Of lovely knowledge sweetly springs,
  How jealously you guard the root
  Of all enlightening things!
 
AT PARTING
 
  AND you could leave me now—
  After the first remembered whispered vow
  Which sings for ever and ever in my ears—
  The vow which God among His Angels hears—
  After the long-drawn years,
  The slow hard tears,
  Could break new ground, and wake
  A new strange garden to blossom for your sake,
  And leave me here alone,
  In the old garden that was once our own?
 
 
  How should I learn to bear
  Our garden's pleasant ways and pleasant air,
  Her flowers, her fruits, her lily, her rose and thorn,
  When only in a picture these appear—
  These, once alive, and always over-dear?
  Ah—think again: the rose you used to wear
  Must still be more than other roses be
  The flower of flowers. Ah, pity, pity me!
 
 
  For in my acres is no plot of ground
  Whereon could any garden site be found,
  I have but little skill
  To water weed and till
  And make the desert blossom like the rose;
  Yet our old garden knows
  If I have loved its ways and walks and kept
  The garden watered, and the pleasance swept.
 
 
  Yet—if you must—go now:
  Go, with my blessing filling both your hands,
  And, mid the desert sands
  Which life drifts deep round every garden wall,
  Make your new festival
 
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