Jean Ingelow

(17 March 1820 - 20 July 1897 / Boston, Lincolnshire)

Speranza - Poem by Jean Ingelow

Her younger sister, that Speranza hight.

England puts on her purple, and pale, pale
With too much light, the primrose doth but wait
To meet the hyacinth; then bower and dale
Shall lose her and each fairy woodland mate.
April forgets them, for their utmost sum
Of gift was silent, and the birds are come.

The world is stirring, many voices blend,
The English are at work in field and way;
All the good finches on their wives attend,
And emmets their new towns lay out in clay;
Only the cuckoo-bird only doth say
Her beautiful name, and float at large all day.

Everywhere ring sweet clamours, chirrupping,
Chirping, that comes before the grasshopper;
The wide woods, flurried with the pulse of spring,
Shake out their wrinkled buds with tremor and stir;
Small noises, little cries, the ear receives
Light as a rustling foot on last year's leaves.

All in deep dew the satisfied deep grass
Looking straight upward stars itself with white,
Like ships in heaven full-sailed do long clouds pass
Slowly o'er this great peace, and wide sweet light.
While through moist meads draws down yon rushy mere
Influent waters, sobbing, shining, clear.

Almost is rapture poignant; somewhat ails
The heart and mocks the morning; somewhat sighs,
And those sweet foreigners, the nightingales,
Made restless with their love, pay down its price,
Even the pain; then all the story unfold
Over and over again—yet 't is not told.

The mystery of the world whose name is life
(One of the names of God) all-conquering wends
And works for aye with rest and cold at strife.
Its pedigree goes up to Him and ends.
For it the lucent heavens are clear o'erhead,
And all the meads are made its natal bed.

Dear is the light, and eye-sight ever sweet,
What see they all fair lower things that nurse,
No wonder, and no doubt? Truly their meat,
Their kind, their field, their foes; man's eyes are more;
Sight is man's having of the universe,
His pass to the majestical far shore.

But it is not enough, ah! not enough
To look upon it and be held away,
And to be sure that, while we tread the rough,
Remote, dull paths of this dull world, no ray
Shall pierce to us from the inner soul of things,
Nor voice thrill out from its deep master-strings.

'To show the skies, and tether to the sod!
A daunting gift!' we mourn in our long strife.
And God is more than all our thought of God;
E'en life itself more than our thought of life,
And that is all we know—and it is noon,
Our little day will soon be done—how soon!

O let us to ourselves be dutiful:
We are not satisfied, we have wanted all,
Not alone beauty, but that Beautiful;
A lifted veil, an answering mystical.
Ever men plead, and plain, admire, implore,
'Why gavest Thou so much—and yet—not more?

We are but let to look, and Hope is weighed.'
Yet, say the Indian words of sweet renown,
'The doom?tree withholdeth not her shade
From him that bears the axe to cut her down;'
Is hope cut down, dead, doomed, all is vain:
The third day dawns, she too has risen again

(For Faith is ours by gift, but Hope by right),
And walks among us whispering as of yore:
'Glory and grace are thrown thee with the light;
Search, if not yet thou touch the mystic shore;
Immanent beauty and good are nigh at hand,
For infants laugh and snowdrops bloom in the land.

Thou shalt have more anon.' What more? in sooth,
The mother of to-morrow is to-day,
And brings forth after her kind. There is no ruth
On the heart's sigh, that 'more' is hidden away,
And man's to-morrow yet shall pine and yearn;
He shall surmise, and he shall not discern,

But list the lark, and want the rapturous cries
And passioning of morning stars that sing
Together; mark the meadow-orchis rise
And think it freckled after an angel's wing;
Absent desire his land, and feel this, one
With the great drawing of the central sun.

But not to all such dower, for there be eyes
Are colour-blind, and souls are spirit-blind.
Those never saw the blush in sunset skies,
Nor the others caught a sense not made of words
As if were spirits about, that sailed the wind
And sank and settled on the boughs like birds.

Yet such for aye divided from us are
As other galaxies that seem no more
Than a little golden millet-seed afar.
Divided; swarming down some flat lee shore,
Then risen, while all the air that takes no word
Tingles, and trembles as with cries not heard.

For they can come no nearer. There is found
No meeting point. We have pierced the lodging-place
Of stars that cluster'd with their peers lie bound,
Embedded thick, sunk in the seas of space,
Fortunate orbs that know not night, for all
Are suns;—but we have never heard that call,

Nor learned it in our world, our citadel
With outworks of a Power about it traced;
Nor why we needs must sin who would do well,
Nor why the want of love, nor why its waste,
Nor how by dying of One should all be sped,
Nor where, O Lord, thou hast laid up our dead.

But Hope is ours by right, and Faith by gift.
Though Time be as a moon upon the wane,
Who walk with Faith far up the azure lift
Oft hear her talk of lights to wax again.
'If man be lost,' she cries, 'in this vast sea
Of being,—lost—he would be lost with Thee

Who for his sake once, as he hears, lost all.
For Thou wilt find him at the end of the days:
Then shall the flocking souls that thicker fall
Than snowflakes on the everlasting ways
Be counted, gathered, claimed.—Will it be long?
Earth has begun already her swan-song.

Who, even that might, would dwell for ever pent
In this fair frame that doth the spirit inhearse,
Nor at the last grow weary and content,
Die, and break forth into the universe,
And yet man would not all things—all—were new.'
Then saith the other, that one robed in blue:

'What if with subtle change God touch their eyes
When he awakes them,—not far off, but here
In a new earth, this: not in any wise
Strange, but more homely sweet, more heavenly dear,
Or if He roll away, as clouds disperse
Somewhat, and lo, that other universe.

O how 't were sweet new waked in some good hour,
Long time to sit on a hillside green and high
There like a honeybee domed in a flower
To feed unneath the azure bell o' the sky,
Feed in the midmost home and fount of light
Sown thick with stars at noonday as by night

To watch the flying faultless ones wheel down,
Alight, and run along some ridged peak,
Their feet adust from orbs of old renown,
Procyon or Mazzaroth, haply;—when they speak
Other-world errands wondrous, all discern
That would be strange, there would be much to learn.

Ay, and it would be sweet to share unblamed
Love's shining truths that tell themselves in tears,
Or to confess and be no more ashamed
The wrongs that none can right through earthly years;
And seldom laugh, because the tenderness
Calm, perfect, would be more than joy—would bless.

I tell you it were sweet to have enough,
And be enough. Among the souls forgiven
In presence of all worlds, without rebuff
To move, and feel the excellent safety leaven
With peace that awe must loss and the grave survive—
But palpitating moons that are alive

Nor shining fogs swept up together afar,
Vast as a thought of God, in the firmament;
No, and to dart as light from star to star
Would not long time man's yearning soul content:
Albeit were no more ships and no more sea,
He would desire his new earth presently.

Leisure to learn it. Peoples would be here;
They would come on in troops, and take at will
The forms, the faces they did use to wear
With life's first splendours—raiment rich with skill
Of broidery, carved adornments, crowns of gold;
Still would be sweet to them the life of old.

Then might be gatherings under golden shade,
Where dust of water drifts from some sheer fall,
Cooling day's ardour. There be utterance made
Of comforted love, dear freedom after thrall,
Large longings of the Seer, through earthly years
An everlasting burden, but no tears.

Egypt's adopted child might tell of lore
They taught him underground in shrines all dim,
And of the live tame reptile gods that wore
Gold anklets on their feet. And after him,
With fairest eyes ere met of mortal ken,
Glorious, forgiven, might speak the mother of men.

Talk of her apples gather'd by the marge
Of lapsing Gihon. 'Thus one spoke, I stood,
I ate.' Or next the mariner-saint enlarge
Right quaintly on his ark of gopher wood
To wandering men through high grass meads that ran
Or sailed the sea Mediterranean.

It might be common—earth afforested
Newly, to follow her great ones to the sun,
When from transcendent aisles of gloom they sped
Some work august (there would be work) now done.
And list, and their high matters strive to scan
The seekers after God, and lovers of man,

Sitting together in amity on a hill,
The Saint of Visions from Greek Patmos come—
Aurelius, lordly, calm-eyed, as of will
Austere, yet having rue on lost, lost Rome,
And with them One who drank a fateful bowl,
And to the unknown God trusted his soul.

The mitred Cranmer pitied even there
(But could it be?) for that false hand which signed
O, all pathetic—no. But it might bear
To soothe him marks of fire—and gladsome kind
The man, as all of joy him well beseemed
Who 'lighted on a certain place and dreamed.'

And fair with the meaning of life their divine brows,
The daughters of well-doing famed in song;
But what! could old-world love for child, for spouse,
For land, content through lapsing eons long?
Oh for a watchword strong to bridge the deep
And satisfy of fulness after sleep.

What know we? Whispers fall, 'And the last first,
And the first last.' The child before the king?
The slave before that man a master erst?
The woman before her lord? Shall glory fling
The rolls aside—time raze out triumphs past?
They sigh, 'And the last first, and the first last.'

Answers that other, 'Lady, sister, friend,
It is enough, for I have worshipped Life;
With Him that is the Life man's life shall blend,
E'en now the sacred heavens do help his strife.
There do they knead his bread and mix his cup,
And all the stars have leave to bear him up.

Yet must he sink and fall away to a sleep,
As did his Lord. This Life his worshipped
Religion, Life. The silence may be deep,
Life listening, watching, waiting by His dead,
Till at the end of days they wake full fain
Because their King, the Life, doth love and reign.

I know the King shall come to that new earth,
And His feet stand again as once they stood,
In His man's eyes will shine Time's end and worth
The chiefest beauty and the chiefest good,
And all shall have the all and in it bide,
And every soul of man be satisfied.


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Poem Submitted: Monday, May 14, 2012



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