Alexander Anderson

(1845-1909 / Scotland)

Grasmere


From hill-encircled Windermere,
And all through happy Ambleside,
Where every nook and spot were dear,
A gentle Spirit was my guide.


He put his hand within my own,
I felt his footsteps keep with mine;
He spoke and in his voice's tone
Were whispers that were half-divine.


He spoke of one—an early friend—
Who led me into perfect calm,
And brought me to that noble end
Where all this earth is like a psalm.


He showed me wisdom in the touch
Of mute things which we daily pass;
I blushed with shame to find how much
Was in a single blade of grass.


He took me to the grand old hills
That bare their foreheads to the sky;
We wandered by the singing rills
And felt their inmost melody.


And when he found that I could see
In his own light, stream, hill, and glen,
He touched my breast and said to me,
'Now share thy love for these with men.'


Then walked I forth in quiet wise,
Communing as I went along,
Nor heard, far off, the breakers rise
And dash on rocks of other song.


But as I wandered on, and youth
Shot the full pulses into play,
Alas! I lost the higher truth,
And bent the knee to other sway.


Then faded from the hills a calm,
A splendour from the sunset's gleam;
A simple note from some grand psalm
Was heard no more within the stream.


I could not look behind the flower,
Nor see deft fingers weaving there
The name of that mysterious power
That breathes in earth and sky and air.


I lost that music, soft and clear,
The inner harmony of things
Which sea and sky and winds can hear,
And know that it divinely sings.


I lost that love of calm, the bliss
Of quiet things that cannot fail,
And, in my heart, instead of this,
Were ever echoes of the rail.


I heard on either side the clang
Of engines clad in smoke and glare—
The rush of wheels, the wires that sang
And quivered in the heedless air.


What wonder that within this strife,
Along this narrow land of steam,
I could not keep my double life,
But lost, alas! my higher dream;


That daily dimming with the years,
And fading from beyond my reach,
I saw through mists of hidden tears
Its dying sunset without speech:


That only in some gleams of calm
I heard, as from a distant hill,
An echo of the Master's psalm,
A sound of that old worship still.


And now the Master came again;
He put his hand within my own;
He spoke: his voice was one of pain,
And there was sadness in its tone.


He laid his finger on my heart,
And at its touch the pulses stood—
'Ah, thou and I are far apart,
For thou hast fever in thy blood.


'It beats not as of old when wed
To that sweet calm of early prime;
Thou strugglest, with no lights ahead,
And in the currents of thy time.


'I feel the throb of wilder deeds,
Of thoughts that, like the knights of old,
Strike the hung shields of all the creeds,
Lay lance in rest and, over bold,


'Fight, only to be overcome;
And, stricken, hear their death-doom knelled,
And know each bitter wound was from
The splinters of the lance they held.


'All this has been, and may be still;
But in thy vain and blinded dream
Was there no meaning in the hill,
No liquid glory in the stream?


'No converse with the humbler things
To soothe thee into quiet rest,
When nature, like a mother, sings
And lays thee kindly to her breast?'


'Yea, master,' thus I made reply,
'I come, for having stood without
The pale of thy sweet worship, I
Am stronger, having had my doubt.


'For like to him who still will yearn
The face of some old friend to see,
So from false lights that sank I turn
And joy to find no change in thee.


'And thus am I like one who sees
Some instruments he fain would try;
He runs his fingers o'er the keys
To waken some old melody.


'But finding as he touches still
That all are mute save only one,
He strikes that chord with simple skill,
And wonders why it keeps its tone.


'Thus in my heart, though mute and dim,
Was still that worship of the past,
To waken into one grand hymn
When lifted up and touched at last.


'And thou once more art by my side;
I fling the storms of youth away,
And turn my back upon that pride
Which led my eager feet astray.


'I catch the visions of those years;
They yet are mine. My bosom fills,
And in my heart are joys and tears
Like lights and shadows on the hills.


'And that new meaning—ever old—
Again is on the waving tree;
It breathes from sunset's dying gold,
And touches everything I see.


'What joy for me to walk once more
And hear thy gentle footsteps fall,
To pass with thee through Nature's door,
And see the Father of us all.


'To know and feel in some dim wise,
That is not clear to mortal ken,
The calm yet splendid destinies
The ages slowly shape for men;


'And, best of all, to understand
That death, who makes this life to cease,
But takes that other by the hand,
And leads it into perfect peace:


'To know the purpose of the leaves
That come with spring to clothe the trees,
And why the grass in silence weaves
A deeper green on graves like these.'


For now we stood among the dead,
And each green mound beside my feet
Seemed unto some high purpose wed,
And that high purpose, as was meet,


Mingled with everything I saw,
Stream, lake, and tree, and distant hill;
The sunshine had a tender law
It was a pleasure to fulfil.


And ever, as the truth of this
Grew up within me, I could hear
The Spirit whisper words of bliss
And comfort in my eager ear.


His hand was firmer on my own,
His voice grew sweet and sweeter still;
A something in its very tone
Made stronger all my weaker will.


It ceased, like summer winds that pass,
And I was left alone to stand,
Watching the sunshine on the grass,
And yearning for that Spirit's hand.


The Rothay sang; there came to me
One murmur of its gentlest wave;
The sunshine fell on grass and tree,
And at my feet was Wordsworth's grave.

Submitted: Tuesday, March 04, 2014
Edited: Tuesday, March 04, 2014

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