Charles Mackay

(1814-1889 / Scotland)

The Lump Of Gold - Poem by Charles Mackay

'Where shall I hide myself?-
Lost and undone!-
A beggar-an outcast-
Insulting the Sun!
Oh! Yesterday vanished!
How lovely wert thou;-
The hope in my spirit,
The pride on my brow,
The firm self-reliance
My guardian and friend,
The courage unyielding
That Fate could not bend;
Were mine to support me;-
Oh! Yesterday fair!
Come back, oh come back to me,
Free from despair!
To-day is relentless,
My judge and my foe;-
And misery tracks me,
Wherever I go.
My temples are throbbing
With sin unforgiven;
Men shall not pity me!
Pity me, Heaven!'


II.

Down came the drenching rain,
Beating the window-pane.
Hoarsely the rusty vane,
Groan'd to the blast;-
Few in the dreary street.
Plodded with weary feet;-
He, through the piercing sleet
Shadow-like passed.
The lamps shook and stagger'd,
And creak'd to the wind;
And each on the pavement
Threw trailing behind,
A flickering beam,
As of fire on a stream,
Or torch of the Sprite,
That dances o'er stagnant pools
Cheating belated fools,
Roaming at night.


III.

Under the doorways.
Screened from the weather,
Desolate women stood
Crouching together;
They, as he passed them.
Wondered, and gazed;-
Said one to the other,
'He raves, he is crazed!-
Something has troubled him,-
Hark how he moans!
But why should we pity him
Here on the stones?
And yet who can help it?
Do you-if you can;-
I'd trample on Sorrow
If I were a man.
Men have no misery
Equal to ours!'
He saw not-he heard not-
Poor way-trodden flowers,
Your pity escaped him!
His world was within;-
A world-or a chaos-
Of anguish and sin.
The rain and the tempest
Were cool to his cheek,
Balm to his throbbing brow,-
Hark! did he speak?
'Madness broods over me!
Kind-hearted Death-
Canst thou not shelter me?
Vain is my breath!
Take it and welcome-
And low let me lie;
Low in the quiet grave;
Deep in the doleful wave;
Weary of living,
Unworthy to die.'


IV.

Down came the drenching rain,
Bubbling and swelling-
Fierce blew the gusty wind,
Roaring and yelling.
The senate was silent,
Its orators fled,
The ball-room was empty,
Its roses were dead.
Listless or half awake
Through the dull town,
Fashion rode homewards
In ermine and down;-
Fashion and Beauty
All jaded and wan;
Fast through the tempest
The steeds gallop'd on.
Fire from their clanging hoofs
Heavily shod
'Mid the black rain pools
Flashed where they trod.
Indolent Fashion,
Weary and warm.
Saw from its chariot
That desolate form.
Beating its rapid way
Deaf to the storm:
'Mad!' said the Countess,
'Of drink!' said the Earl;-
'Or love!'said his daughter fair-
Twisting her flaxen hair
Back into curl.


V.

Pass, sleepy Luxury!
Pass on your way!-
You know not the wretchedness
Born every day.
High on life's summit
In sunshine and snow,
You hear not the torrents
That thunder helow.
Pass! he regards you not!
Sees not, nor hears;
The roar of your burning wheels
Frets not his ears.
His senses are absent
In worlds of his own-
In deserts of agony
Lost and alone.


VI.

Calm sleep the citizens;-
Loud the wind blows;-
If its wild moaning
Break their repose,
They dream as they hear it,
Or turn where they lie.
Conscious of happiness,
Knowing not why,
Except that the flush of morn
Lights not the sky.
Sleep! happy citizens!
Sleep every one!
'Tis Misery only
Wakes ere the Sun.
Rest! Pain and Poverty!
Sleep! Toil and Care!
Heaven, though it gave you
Burdens to bear,
Lightens the heavy load,
Shortens the weary road.
Breathes on your brain.
The balm and the solace
And healing of pain.
Slumber ye millions
Calmly till day!
Luxury! Beggary!
Sleep, while ye may!


VII.

Onwards, still onwards!
But whither? who knows?
Where the lights quiver
By the black river.
Thither he goes!
Frenzy goes with him.
His counsel and guide,
A phantom, a spectre;
She stalks by his side.
'Idiot,' she whispers,
'See'st thou the end?
Self-respect flies from thee,
Death is thy friend;
Nothing is left thee!'
Deep from his heart
Came a denial,-
'O tempter depart;
She may remain to me!'
'Fool that thou art!
Hast thou a truth to give
Pure as of yore?
What shall her broken trust
Ever restore?
Live, and she'll hate thee;-
Die;-she'll deplore.
Angel that loved thee once.
Lost evermore!'


VIII.

Ceas'd the wind, sunk the rain.
Shone out the starlight;
Calm o'er the silent stream
Glitter'd each far light.
Lonely in gloomy mood,
On the bleak bridge he stood,
Midway above the flood,
Looking down wistfully
To the dark waters,
Grave of the young and fair.
Passion's lost daughters.


IX.

Oh, the pale faces
Surging and sailing!
Oh, the long garments
Lapping and trailing!
In the moon-shimmer
Pallid and wan,
Vapour-like, woman-like,
Gleaming and gone!
Gleaming a moment,
Then fading away;
Tombed in the ripple.
Bom in the ray;
Ever he saw their ghosts,
Changeful and mournful hosts,
Through the waves peering,
Pointing their misty hands,
Gibing and jeering;-
Then to the starry maze
Turned his weak human gaze,
Blinded by tears;
Felt on the stormy sea
Of his soul's agony.
Dew-like serenity.
dropp from the spheres.


X.

Ship-like, full-breasted,
Travelled the moon,
Swift as a gondola
In a lagoon,
Through the cloud-highlands
In silvery glow,
Through the white islands
Of turretted snow.
Beautiful! Beautiful!
How could he dare
Ruffle with Passion
The placid night air?
Or gaze on the moonlight
With his despair?
Lovely, most lovely!
How could he stand
There, in the sight of Heaven,
Clenching his hand;
Fuming and fretting
At Fate's iron bars,
An atom! a grain of dust!
Chiding the stars?
Beautiful! Beautiful!
Peace on its beams,
Slid like a seraph
Into his dreams.
The mists of his spirit
Were rent and withdrawn,
Beautiful! Beautiful!
Welcome the dawn!


XI.

In gold and in purple,
In amber and grey.
Under the steeple vanes,
Eastward away,
Over the house-tops
Blushed the new day.
Filling not wholly
Heaven's azure cup,
But faintly and slowly
Mom travelled up.
The moonlight received it,
And died in a swound;
Hesperus saw it
And vanished, discrowned-
Steeple and pinnacle,
Turret and spire,
Crowded and countless
As flames in a fire;-
All the great city,
As far as the sight,
Emerged into morning
And glimmer'd in light.


XII.

Smokeless-and voiceless-
Majestic and fair-
No roar of its whirlpool
Of struggle and care,
Broke the sweet silence
Enfolding the air.
Peace might have made it
A palace and dome,
Could our wild passions
Allow it a home.
Peace! no; it cannot rest
On the earth's teeming breast;-
War is our life!
Sleep is the truce of God
Plucked from the strife!
To-morrow, that comes not,
Shall Peace have her throne
Low in the sleepy air
Trumpets are blown.
Wake thee, great city.
To-day is thine own.


XIII.

Whence came the tremor,
The flush and the start?
What sent the dancing blood
Back to his heart?
He saw as if mirror'd,
That he might behold.
Phantoms of Pride and Hope,
Glory and Gold;
Phantoms that dazzled him
All his life long,
Leading him, tempting him,
Luring him wrong.


XIV.

He saw his dark scroll of life
Bared to his sight,
Spreading before him
In darkness or light,
All his heart's history,
All his thought's mystery;
Back through the years
To the dim distance
Of his first tears;
Back to the early days,
When a fair boy,
Spotless and artless
He carolled in joy.
Plaiting green rushes,
And gathering flowers,
Full of wild fancies
As April of showers;
Back to the happy time,
Crowned with his youth.
When his heart's visions
Were Beauty and Truth;
Back to his moonlights.
His yearnings and sighs,
When the best Heaven he sought
Lay in a maiden's thought,
Or her blue eyes;
Back to the darkness
Clouding his morn;
Darkness and discord.
And longings forlorn,
Errors and frailties
And sufferings keen,
With flashes of gladness
And glory between.


XV.

Moodily, sullenly
Watching the tide,
Still the bad angel
Stood at his side;
Black o'er his path
Fell her shadow of fear,
Angrily whispered
Her voice in his ear;
Her voice of reproaches
Too dreadful to bear.
'Look in thy heart,' she said,
'Fool! and despair!
Fool-that would'st live
With such guilt on thy head-
Grief is for living men
Peace for the dead.'


XVI.

Out from the sunshine
An answer there went,-
'Hush thee, false spirit.
The man shall repent,
God's mercy shall save him!'
Dear angel of love!
He looked through the morning,
And saw thee above:
The light of thy garment's hem
Dazzled the day;
Soft through the purple air
Borne far away
Voices ecstatic
Seemed mingling to say,
'The man shall not perish!'
Shine brighter, bright dream!
O'er his dark memory,
Sparkle and beam;
Linger to charm him!
The struggle shall cease,
The spirit of evil
Shall leave him to peace.
The passions that rack him
Shall dwindle and die,
Hope points above him,
Sole star in the sky.
Shine vision of Beauty
His heart to allume,
Good angels be with him,
Day dawns on his gloom!



Part the Second

I.

Embowered amid the Surrey Hills
The quiet village lay,
Two rows of ancient cottages
Beside the public way,
A modest church, with ivied tower,
And spire with mosses grey.


II.

Beneath the elm's o'erarching boughs
The little children ran;
The self-same shadows flecked the sward
In days of good Queen Anne;
And then, as now, the children sang
Beneath its branches tall-
They grew, they loved, they sinned, they died-
The tree outlived them all.
But still the human flow'rets grew,
And still the children played,
And ne'er the tree lacked youthful feet
To frolic in its shade,
The ploughboy's whistle in the spring.
Or chant of happy maid.


III.

Oh, pleasant green of Micklethorpe!
From far Australian shore,
From deep Canadian wilderness
That hears St. Lawrence roar,
From ships in the Pacific seas,
Or coast of Labrador,
Comes back to thee the tender thought.
With dear remembrance crowned;
Thy wandering children love thee well,
And all the landscape round.
And dream of thee in lonely nights,
And think thee holy ground.


IV.

And so thou art; and so shalt be,
Where'er thy loved ones roam;
The vision of thine ancient tree
Shall speak to them of home;
The ancient tree, the lone churchyard,
The monitory spire,
And smoke upcurling through the wood,
From distant cottage fire-
The scene of many a mother's kiss,
Or blessing of a sire.


V.

'Twas Sunday morn, and Parson Vale,
Beloved of high and low,
With smiles for all men's happiness,
And heart for every woe,
Walked meekly to the parish church,
With hair as white as snow-
Walked meekly to the parish church,
Amid his daughters three-
There were more angels at his side
Than mortal eyes could see-
The four were seven-for with them went
Faith, Hope, and Charity.


VI.

Faith, Hope, and heavenly Charity-
Whate'er the good man taught,
Whate'er his text, these hlessed three
Were present to his thought;
He never scorned his fellow men.
Or held the humhlest nought.
He warned the strong, he raised the weak,
And, like his Master mild.
He helped and comforted the poor,
And loved each little child.
And, 'mid the moil and dust of life,
Went forward undefiled.


VII.

His eldest daughter, matron fair,
In beauty's perfect noon.
Mature, and redolent of sweets,
And pleasant as a tune,
Walked at his side; his life's best charm,
Since one perchance more dear,
Had gone before him to the grave.
In summer of her year,
And leff him memories and regrets.
And three fond hearts to cheer.


VIII.

Sweet Lilian Vale! if some denied
The splendours of her face.
Not one denied her perfect charm
Of gentleness and grace.
No dazzling beauty fired her eyes,
But on her brow serene,
Enthroned upon that ivory seat,
Sat Goodness, like a queen.


IX.

The quiet ripple of her smile
Revealed the peaceful mind,
The mellow moonlight of her eyes
Her sympathies refined;
And when she spoke, the audible charm
Was Beauty for the blind.
Her gentle heart was wooed and won.
But he whose name she bore,
Adventurous for the sake of wealth
Had sought the Australian shore;
And delved the mines of Ballarat
For undiscovered ore.


X.

But not for sake of gold alone
Went Aubrey from his bride,
'Twas restless youth, 'twas love of change,
'Twas old ancestral pride,
'Twas hope to raise a fallen house
From penury's disgrace-
To purchase back from usurers
The birthright of his race;
And dwell respected like his sires
In Aubrey Park and Place.


XI.

So Lilian kept her father's house,
Beloved-and loving duty-
A youthful matron-fairest sight
In all the realm of Beauty.
No dream had she of sudden wealth
From all her lord's endeavour-
She only prayed his safe return-
Resigned;-but hopeful ever.


XII.

The four-the seven, went into church-
So meek, so calm, and holy;-
But one unseen had gone before
With downcast eyes and lowly.
Pallid and faint, and travel-worn.
Like one sick-hearted and forlorn;
He shunned the inquiring look.
And sat with chin upon his hand
And eyes upon the Book.


XIII.

The parson preached on Vanity,
And taught his simple flock
How lust of gold would cheat the hope
Till the very fiends did mock,-
The vanity of vanities-
The lesson new and old-
That virtue was the only wealth
Whose sum was never told;
That love of money chilled the heart
And made the free a slave,
And took away from life and soul
More bounties than it gave;
That all the gold was ever coined
Was impotent to buy
Departed youth, lost peace of mind,
A sunbeam in the sky.
Or half a minute from the grave
In life's last agony.


XIV.

'Behold!' he said, 'the honest man
Who earns his daily bread,
And, unabashed, lifts up to Heaven
His independent head;
And taking blessings when they come,
Enjoys them while they last;
And waits the future day with hope,
While thankful for the past.
And look at Croesus, old and sad,
With millions in his store-
With parks and farms, and mines and mills,
And fisheries on the shore:-
His money is his bane of life,
He dreads the workhouse door.


XV.

'He dreams his wife, his child, his friends,
His servants, all mankind.
Are leagued to plunder and deceive-
He trembles at the wind:
He shakes with palsy and distrust-
He fares like beggar hind.
He grudges nature half the crust
That hungry need demands,
And sees in visions of the day
The auction of his lands;
His body in the pauper's grave,
His gold in robber hands.'


XVI.

A sigh, deep-drawn, betrayed some heart
That felt compunctious wrong;-
The preacher heard; oh, lonely heart!
Take courage and be strong!-
'Behold again, how Sporus lived
From youth till past his prime-
From morn of manhood to its eve-
He toiled for future time,
His forehead turned from Heaven to Earth,
In picking gold from slime;
Gold for his need, to keep and breed,
That ere his life's last hour.
Among the mighty of the land.
The Lord of hall and bower,
He might be worshipped for his wealth.
And float in seas of power.


XVII.

'Unhappy prisoner,-self-immured!
Poor hunter of a shade!
The o'er-laboured brain refused its work-
The fire of life decayed;
Amid the ruins of his mind,
Enthroned in darkness grim,
Lord of his life, there sat a fiend
Would tear him limb from limb;
Oh Death, that pitiest all below.
Look down and pity him!'


XVIII.

Again an audible sigh escaped
A sinner in the crowd;-
None knew the heart that thus betrayed
Its agonies aloud:
But the preacher looked with eyes benign;-
'Come! hear an olden tale,
Culled from the storehouse of the Past-
A truth within the veil.'


XIX.

The murmurous river of breath was hushed,-
Like the ripple of a brook,
When the sudden frost comes flashing down
And fixes it with a look;-
So vast the silence as he spoke,
You might have heard the grass
Rustle and wave to the fitful winds,
And the bee, in haste to pass,
Sounding a trump like a martial call
On a clarion of brass.


XX.

You might have heard the sparrow cheep
Mid the yew-berries juicy red,
And the long rank nettles singing a dirge
Over the nameless dead,
Where they lay as calmly as the 'squire
With the 'scutcheons o'er his head-
Calmly, calmly, pauper and 'squire,
Each in his narrow hed!



The Builder.

'What art thou huilding, building.
So lofty to behold,
With the silver and the gilding
The ivory and the gold.
And porphry columns rising
Like trees in the forest old?

'Why place thy marble basements
So deep in the cold earth's veins,
And thy towers and window casements
So high o'er the steeple fanes,
And why those ponderous portals
With iron bolts and chains?

'And why those guards and warders
With horn and signal calls,
And far on thy furthest borders
The moats and brazen walls,
Dost fear invading robbers.
Or the foeman in thy halls?'

'I build a house of splendour
Where in the world's despite,
I may force the hours to render
Their tribute of delight;
A house on the hill-top shining
Far seen like a star at night.

'I dread nor thief, nor foeman;-
My board shall teem with cheer,
When hunger bids, shall no man.
Be scorned or stinted here.
But I raise these gates and turrets
To guard me from a fear.

'To guard me safe-enfolden
Like a seed at the apple-core;
Oh bolts and barriers golden,
Keep well the outer door,
That SORROW may not enter
To sting me as of yore.'

'Oh fool, in thy lordly palace!
Oh fool, with bolts and bars!
Thou'lt find her in thy chalice.
She'll float in the wild-wind cars!
She'll glide in the air thou breathest.
She'll smite thee from the stars!

'She'll come to thee in the morning
When the light of day streams in,
She'll sit with thee in the evening,-
Thou fool, and child of sin!-
And whisper at thy pillow.
And claim thee of her kin.

'In spite of all thy building,
And all thy warders stout,
And all thy gold and gilding,
She'll hedge thee round about:-
Heart-purity, and goodness,
Alone shall keep her out.'


XXI.

The little flock went cheerily forth.
That sunny summer morn,
The poor man, at his humble feast.
Looked out on the growing corn.
And blessed the Providence of Heaven,
And the hour that he was born.
And the rich man owned that wealth alone
Was a boon of little worth,
If it brought not happy peace of mind.
And the glow of innocent mirth,
And the will to cheer and sanctify
The bye-ways of the earth.


XXII.

'Twas Monday mom at Micklethorpe,
And all its little world
Was up and stirring-out or in,
The mill resumed its click and din,
And the mill-wheel spun and swirl' d,
And the mill-stream danced in the morning light,
And all its eddies curl'd.


XXIII.

The mealy miller sniffed the breeze,
And boded pleasant weather;
The sturdy blacksmith bared his arm.
And donned his apron-leather;
While the jangling bells of the waggoner's team
They all kept time together.
The hostler whistled a poaching tune;
And the landlord of the 'Crown,'
Ruddy and round, came out to greet
The coach from the distant town-
For the railway spared this nook of hills,
By leagues of park and down.


XXIV.

The gardener's lad, who pruned the trees
That grew hy the rectory wall,
Sang as he wrought, with wandering thought,
And a heart at peace with all.
Merry the lay, and clear as day;
The parson heard the words
Come in at the open window-sill.
With the twitter of the hirds.
And smiled to himself a quiet smile,
'An honest lad and free,
If he believe in the song he sings-
And a song well sung!' quoth he.

Earl Norman and John Truman

'Through great Earl Norman's acres wide,
A prosperous and a good land,
'Twill take you fifty miles to ride,
O'er grass, and corn, and woodland.
His age is sixty-nine, or near-
And I'm scarce twenty-two, man.
And have but fifty pounds a-year-
Poor John Truman!
But would I change? I'faith! not I!
Oh no, not I, says Truman!

'Earl Norman dwells in halls of state.
The grandest in the county;
Has forty cousins at his gate.
To feed upon his bounty.
But then he's deaf; the doctor's care-
While I in whispers woo, man,
And find my physic in the air-
Stout John Truman!
D'ye think I'd change for thrice his gold?
Oh no, not I, says Truman!

'Earl Norman boasts a garter'd knee-
A proof of royal graces;
I wear, by Nelly wrought for me,
A silken pair of braces.
He sports a star upon his breast.
And I a violet blue, man-
The gift of her who loves me best-
Proud John Truman!
I'd be myself-and not the Earl-
Oh that would I, says Truman!'


XXV.

There were more listeners to the song
Than the jocund gardener knew,
The parson, and his daughters fair,
With their eyes of merry blue.-
And one without, by the hawthorn-hedge,
Who roamed the green lanes through,
Who roamed the green lanes up and down,
But stopped as the gardener sang;
And heard the sound of his careless voice
As clear on the breeze it rang;
'Ah me!' he said, with bitter thought,
'For the days for ever gone.
When I could sing in the morning light
With the whole world's benison.
And fear no fiend in my own heart's core
Goading me ever on!'


XXVI.

Tumultuous discord filled his soul-
How could he stand to hear,
The jarring joy, the taunting mirth
That sprang from a conscience clear?
Away! away! for the shadow fell,
And the darkness gathered near!


XXVII.

One glance at Lilian through the leaves,
As she stood mid the lattice flowers,
Looking abroad like a ray of light
On this darkening world of ours,
And he was gone; he knew not whither-
Into the wild-wood bowers;-
Into the wild-wood's deepest bowers
Where none might see his pain.
And where the pitying trees might shield
The sunshine from his brain;
Where he might weep; if tears would come
With their showers of blessed rain:
Not yet! not yet! his barren eyes
Implored the dews in vain.


XXVIII.

O'er Meikleham Down the evening star
Shone radiant as the moon,
The balancing, floating, twinkling lark
As blithe as it were noon,-
Received the twilight with a song;-
More free than the nightingale,
Who keeps her fancies for the stars
And chants to the moonlight pale,
But lets the daylight glow unsung;-
Not so the liberal lark.
Familiar as the fragrant air
Who hails both dawn and dark;
Like a cheerful heart, too busy with joy
To dream the world goes wrong.
But thankful ever, complaining never.
Buoys itself up with song.


XXIX.

Across the Down went Lucy Gore,
The farmer's only daughter,
But nine years old-with glowing cheeks
And smiles like wimpling water.
Three miles she sped to Micklethorpe,
By shady lane and alley.
Across the stiles and through the copse.
And the corn-fields in the valley;
As brave as childish innocence
That fears nor foe nor stranger,
She never stopped or looked behind,
Or thought of toil or danger.


XXX.

With little hand she gently tapped
At the open Rectory door;
To Parson Yale, and him alone,
Her earnest bode she bore;
And Lilian gave her welcome kind,
But wondered what could bring
So young a carrier dove as this
So late upon the wing.


XXXI.

The simple tale was briefly told-
A man in evil plight,
A stranger in her father's house,
Lay suffering in their sight:
Self-tortured-wandering in his speech-
With fancies dark and wild-
And unintelligible all,
'Except,' said the little child,
'When he calls on Parson Vale to come,
For God's and pity's sake.
And hear the sorrows of his heart
Before his heart shall break;-
And I,' said Lucy Gore, 'am come
For Christ's and pity's sake.'


XXXII.

The Parson's face, a morning sky
Suffused with light from Heaven,
Grew radiant with his meek resolve;-
'Be all our sins forgiven-
I'll go, and cheer the soul-sick man.'-
He kissed his children three
Lovingly on the cheek and brow-
And Lucy Gore and he
Went hand-in-hand across the down,
In the light of Charity.



Part the Third

I.

'Thou'rt better, Edward,' said, in gentle tone,
Aubrey's own Lilian, o'er his pillow bending;
'The fever and the agony are gone.
And peace is with thee.' One warm tear descending,
Fell on his hand. 'Oh, piteous dew,' he said,
'That shows she loves me; would the healing flow
If I could tell her all that she must know
When the cold grass waves dankly o'er my head!'

II.

'Aye! Edward! I am thine: whate'er thou art!'
His pale face shone with ecstacy of gladness-
A moment only: looming from his heart
Came the dark shadow of unsolaced sadness.
'Few are mine hours,' he said, 'and full of sorrow,
But if thou'lt pity and forgive my guilt
I could die happier; from thy face I borrow
Mine only joy:-Thou'lt pity me?-Thou wilt?'


III.

'Aye! from my heart's deep heart, and inmost soul!
How could I love thee, if I did not share
All thou endurest; all but thy despair?
Look up repenting: Faith shall make thee whole;
And if this human love, so frail and fond,
Shall lead thee to it, rise from thy despond.
And know it thine; thine only, as of yore.
And thine, thine only-now and evermore.


IV.

True love bears all but treason to itself;
In sorrow, comforting; in loss of pelf
Coining its looks to treasure; kindly words
To fortunes and estates; in guilt and pain
Looking up hopefully through Sorrow's rain
To sunshine and the chant of heavenly birds!'


V.

'Let me die happy!' said the feeble man;-
The parson entered, all his visage bright
With inward glory,-'No! thou shalt not die-
Lily brings comfort, all that true love can,
But I bring greater; on thy soul's dim night
Impetuous morning rushes from the sky.
And shows thee hope on earth as well as heaven.'
He looked up doubtful,-'I am unforgiven!'


VI.

'Nay!' said the parson, 'Darest thou define
The infinite height and depth of love divine
Or scope of mercy? Leave us for a space,
Lily, my child.' She glided from the place
Like a fair sunbeam from the lingering gloom.
And Aubrey felt a chilness in the room;
And darkness where so late pure light had shone.
'Why didst thou bid my star of peace be gone?
Without her presence life forgets to burn-
Let me not die until the light return!'


VII.

Three hours beside his bed the good man sat,
Watchful, benign, and patient. Their discourse
Lilian nor knew, nor guessed;-but hoped and prayed
That on her lord's sad soul long-vanished peace
Might fall like moonlight on a troubled sea,
Or choral music in cathedral aisles.
That stills all worldly passion where it breathes,
And wafts the willing fancy straight to heaven
Amid the seraphim that know and love,
And milder cherubim that love and know;-
Their whispers, melodies, their converse high,
Eternal harmonies unheard of men,
Imagined only by the ecstatic few
Who catch far off faint echoes of their song,
And tell to none the mysteries they dream.


VIII.

Was her hope vain? She thought not, when she saw
Her father's face; and when he spoke, the hope
Flushed into certainty. 'Let him repose-
He hath heard news that will revive his soul.
No evil dreams shall vex him;-let him rest.
Watch thou beside him, Lily, if thou wilt,
And when he wakes, make known that I am here.
Say nothing more of me, but of thyself
All that thy love may dictate. He is healed.'


IX.

And so it happened. 'Lily,' said her lord,
Ere passed the week, as, leaning on her arm.
He walked in sunshine through the leafy lanes,
And caught the odorous breezes on his cheeks-
'I feel new life; all joys that I had lost
Have come back greater, fairer than before;
To thee I owe them, and thy saintly sire.
When I am stronger, as I soon shall be,
I'll tell thee all the evil I have done
Since last I left thee for the golden land;
And all the good, I hope, full blessed with thee.
To do hereafter. Courage fails me yet-
But no, not courage;-only strength;-that comes
Daily and hourly. Meanwhile, the blue sky.
The wind that wantons 'mid the beechen boughs,
And sports amid thy hair, dear love, and mine;
The sunshine, and the wild flow'rs by the way,
The innocent carol of the heartsome birds.
Fill me with joy so deep, I dread to tell
How blest I am, lest telling it should mar.
And seem to invite the lurking fiends that watch
To strike the goblet from our thirsty lips.
And punish happiness that boasts too soon;-
As if they said-'since happiness can be
The fault is ours;-out with it from the world!''


X.

'Be glad and fear not!' was the prompt reply,
'Innocent joy is piety to God,
A joy diffusive, like the light of heaven.
Fair in itself, and making all things fair,
Even in its shadow!' Thus they walked and spoke;
And thus came splendour to his fading eye,
Thus came the crimson to his pallid cheek.
The hopeful courage to his youthful heart
That Sorrow had not dulled with apathy.
Or punctured with the poisonous gall of hate.


XI.

'Thy father knows my secret-so must thou,'
Said Aubrey to his wife one summer morn,
Sitting upon the green sward 'mid the flowers;
'I've strength to tell it, and from thee, sweet heart,
I may hide nothing-of thy love secure;-
Dreading to lose thy love, I might conceal
Aught that would rob me of the meanest mite
Of an affection which is more than life;-
That which upholds it, chastens and adorns.


XII.

'The shadow is past: the storm-bent tree, unscathed,
Stands in its place and lifts its boughs to heaven,
And if I've suffered-suffering nerves the strong.
The placid river, flowing throTigh the mead,
Shows not its strength; but when its pathway slopes
Downwards 'mid jagged rocks, and chasms austere,
It knows the task necessity decreed,
And awes the world with spectacle of power.
Such course I've run; and now, grown calm once more,
I can reflect the starlight of thine eyes.
And mirror in clear heart the things of heaven.
Come place thy hand in mine, and hear the tale.'



Part the Fourth

I.

Two years ago, five hundred souls,
We sailed in the good ship 'Anne,'
Some to trade, and many to dig.
And some under Fortune's ban;
But all intent on the bright red gold.
That gladdens the heart of man.


II.

No tears were shed, as our vessel sped
Where the free fresh breezes bore;
We thought of the wealth our hands should win,
And cared not to deplore
A land unmotherly to us.
Who drove us from her shore,
Wherever we would, for evil or good,
To wipe away the stain
That poverty burns on the breast and brow,
With a brand like that of Cain;-
To rub it off with the virtue of gold,
And the potency of gain.


III.

There were but two-and I was one-
Regretful to depart;
And we were friends, we knew not why,
Except for the hidden sympathy
That acts from heart to heart
Magnetic, ere the tongue can say
'My friend! I feel thou art!'


IV.

Like one awaking from a dream,
Ere the mist of slumber clears,
I wondered whether I slept or wak'd.
And what made tarry my tears;
Asking myself- 'And can it be
That I've done my heart such wrong
As to leave my Lily-my Queen of flowers-
That bloomed in my bosom long,
And join, for the sake of the dreary dross,
This miserable throng?'


V.

But Hope went with me; thou wert safe,
And I thought of a coming day.
When my Lily should bloom in a lordly bower,
The Queen of my life's glad May;
And built high palaces of cloud.
To gleam in the morning ray.
Palace and tower of changing form;-
Ever they fell and rose.
But ever amid their purple halls.
And corridors of snows,
I saw the gleam of thy spangled robes.
And thy feet like twinkling stars;
And heard thy voice, and saw thy face
Peering through golden bars.


VI.

At evening, when the sun went down,
All heaven for his attire.
We watched the glory of his face-
The old Imperial Sire-
Sinking to rest in the regal west,
In robes of crimson fire.


VII.

Five hundred souls on good ship board,
And only two to bless
The splendour of the closing day.
And the twilight loveliness!
Five hundred souls, and only two
To look into the night,
In its ineffable majesty.
And wonder at the sight.
With love no language could express,
And yearnings infinite!


VIII.

We saw communion in our eyes,
The voiceless thought of each;
The frozen founts of sympathy
Were loosened into speech.
The lighthouse glittered faint and far.
But ere we lost its flame,
Each knew the other's hopes and fears,
His kindred and his name;
The uneasy spirit that urged him forth,
And the country whence he came.


IX.

Four weary months on the wide wide sea,
We paced the deck together;
Dreading no foe but the treacherous berg
And the breezeless summer weather,
When the idle topsail hung on the mast
As useless as a feather.


X.

The sailors glancing to the south
Discoursed of mist and snow,
'Heaven grant!' they said, 'deliverance
From the iceberg and the floe!'
Far as our wondering eyes could reach
Uprose their summits clear;-
Like cities on a distant shore
We saw them floating near;
Cathedrals, pinnacles, and towers,
And palaces of cold,
Rose-tinted, amber, opal blue.
Alight with living gold.


XI.

Fair Ocean Alps! we could but gaze
With wonder and delight,
Though still the wary seaman spoke
Of perils in the night:-
'Heaven be our hope! and guide us safe
Through perils of the night!'


XII.

And were our eyes and ears deceived,
And were we near a town?
Far from the ship, beyond the ice
A league or more, adown,
We heard the sound of pealing bells,
One! two! and three! and four!
'Rejoice!' we cried, 'the land! the land!
They're ringing on the shore!'


XIII.

Oh, cheating dream! oh, credulous hope!
We could have wept, each one;-
'Twas but our own ship's bell that rung
At setting of the sun.
The echoes, muffled in the cold,
Came back forlorn and lost,
Dim shadows of departed sounds,
From the caverns of the frost-
And we were alone on the wide wide sea
With the icebergs and the frost.


XIV.

Three days and nights they hemmed us in,
An adamantine wall,
We saw their peaks and battlements,
We heard them crack and fall.
The fourth day when we rose at morn
The favouring breezes blew.
The dwindling icebergs far behind
Had left us passage through;
The good ship sped, our sails were spread
Full breasted to the sky,
And for aid in peril and distress
We praised the Lord on High.
XV.

At length, impatient of the ship,
We reached the golden land.
And Heseltine and I took leave
Upon its desolate strand,
And breathed the hope to meet again
Fervently, hand in hand.
And I went out to the wilderness
With earnest heart and high.
To put my manhood to the test
All danger to defy,
And gather store of the burning gold
That all men deify.


XVI.

Day by day I toiled and dug;
I was the veriest slave,
Who ever sold himself to chains-
I wrought with fool and knave.
With the selfsame toil for the selfsame end;
I hated them one and all,
So stubborn of heart-so coarse of tongue,
Such bondsmen under thrall,
So mean and grasping-pity me Heaven!
I hated them one and all.


XVII.

All the deeper my hatred grew,
Because from day to day
I feared and felt I might become
As grovelling as they.
I saw their vices in my own,
And turned my eyes away.


XVIII.

One was a peer of ancient blood,
The lord of acres-none;
And one a wrangler from the Cam
In purse and name undone.
And one could speak in choicest Greek,
And one was a bishop's son.


XIX.

And they dug, and dug, and so did I,
And many a hundred more,
Who claimed me of their brotherhood
For the greed of the golden ore.
But I loathed them from my haughty heart,
And kept myself aside,
A moody man but little esteemed,
With armour strong and tried,
Armour of proof and coat of mail,-
Unconquerable pride.


XX.

One morn, apart and unobserved,
I roamed beyond the bound,
And saw a streak of glittering gold
An inch above the ground;
I could not lift it with my hands;-
I dug, and none was near;-
I scraped the earth with greedy haste
In a pang of joy and fear.


XXI.

And oh! the lustful agony,
I sought not to control-
The avarice greedy as Hell's own fire,
That stirred me body and soul,
As I bared it forth-and inch hy inch
Measured it-part, and whole!


XXII.

The gold was long, and hroad, and thick,
As the statue of a man;-
I felt a fever in my blood
That through my pulses ran,
As I looked and wondered at the wealth
All mine to have and hold!
Alas! not so; I could not move
This thing so heavy and cold;-
Nor I nor twenty men could stir
The fiendish lump of gold.


XXIII.

I sat and gazed with savage eyes
Till joy gave place to dread;
I felt the fate of Tantalus;-
I smote my aching head.
A coward terror blenched my face,
The rustle of a leaf
Filled me with fear, lest it should tell
The footsteps of a thief.
I trembled at the waving grass
And the whisper of the wind;
While the cry of the parrot, hoarse and rough,
In the thicket houghs behind.
Made my cheeks burn, it seemed so like
The voice of human kind.


XXIV.

In haste and dread I covered it up-
I covered it up with sand;
With sand, and clay, and clods of earth;-
I wrought with foot and hand,
I flattened the earth, and made it firm,
Then strewed it o'er with leaves.
As if the wild autumnal winds.
Through melancholy eves.
Had blown their dead to moulder there;
And then I went my way;-
And with me went a burning heart,
That hoped, but could not pray.


XXV.

But oh! the dreams-the joyous dreams-
Like sunbeams on a sea,
That sparkled on my restless mind,
When I thought of my gold and thee!
And oh! the overcrowding hopes
That looked in my face and smiled,
As I lay awake through the feverish night,
And heard the laughter wild
Of the roystering diggers singing their songs
To the small hours of the morn-
Hopes, and plans, and changeful dreams,
Of pride and avarice born:-
Ah no! not so-I wrong my heart.
When I listen to my scorn!


XXVI.

Heaven be my witness-love for thee
Through all my frenzy wrought;-
And from the splendour of thine eyes
My sordid passion caught
A reflex of the generous fire
That sanctifies thy thought.
I prized not gold to hide and hoard,
Like miserable dirt;
I sought it not for evil ends,
Or my fellow-creatures' hurt;
But for sake of luxury and power-
To spend it like a king;
To herd no more among the mean,
Who crawl for want of wing;
But to soar aloft in the morning light.
And revel in the spring.


XXVII.

Oh glorious dream! I sowed-I reaped-
Rebuilt my feudal tower;
And through my old paternal groves.
My avenue and bower,
I walked the monarch of the place
In affluence of power.


XXVIII.

I built a dome for ancient art.
The master-works of Time,
For Titian, Guido, Tintoret,
And Rubens the sublime;
For living art that charms the world
As potently as they,
Our English Raphaels-great perchance
As Raphaels passed away.
And none the less because they work
O'ershadowed by To-day.


XXIX.

I built a palace for my books,
So vast that kings themselves
Might marvel at the wealth of wit
I treasured on my shelves.
All art-all luxury and state,
The waifs of peace and war,
Choice pictures, vases, bronzes, gems,
I gathered from afar,
And all for thee my Love, my Queen-
My life-my polar star!


XXX.

Foils to the splendour of thy charms
I scattered at thy feet-
As breezes in the early June
Strew earth with blossoms sweet-
A shower of rubies, emeralds, pearls,
And diamonds for thy hair;
So that the proudest woman born
Might own thee past compare;
And say, 'She's happy-she's beloved.
As rich as she is fair.'
While I might whisper to myself,
'Her smiles are purer gems;
Her loving looks are greater wealth
Than regal diadems;
Her words the treasures of my soul,
And she, if forced to part,
With all things but her pomp of youth
And purity of heart,
Would be a paragon of wealth,
And pauperize the mart.'


XXXI.

But not alone for thee and me
Were all my hurrying dreams,
For I poured my wealth as Alpine peaks
Pour down the April streams.
To Kate thy sister, merry of laugh,
Amid her gay compeers.
But shy as a berry 'mid the leaves
To the eyes of cavaliers;
I gave a dowry for an Earl;
For Margery bright as she,
But changeful as the clouds of even
When the sun upon the rim of Heaven
Is sinking to the sea,
I counted out the jingling gold;
The coins fell fast and free;-
Into her lap as many I told
As leaves on the tall oak tree.


XXXII.

At morn, with hot, o'erwatchful eyes,
I rose ere twilight fair,
And walked abroad with stealthy tread,
Suspicious of the air,
And jealous lest the brabbling stones
My footsteps should declare.


XXXIII.

I sought the place where my treasure slept;
The dews were on the ground,
Each silvery dropp on the crinkled leaves
Lay, like a jewel, round.
No human foot had passed that way
Since the setting of the sun,
And the thought that weighed on ray heavy heart
Was a secret known to none.


XXXIV.

What should I do? 'Twere hard to say!
I could not move my wealth;
I could not bruise it into lumps,
And carry it off by stealth.
I could not tell the men I scorned,
Till my inmost heart did ache,
How great a treasure I had found,
And ask them to partake;
To come with the crowbar and the pike
To lift my ponderous gold,
And help me for an equal share-
Fully and fairly told,
For I knew they'd break the holiest oath,
And murder me for gold.


XXXV.

I waked in fear-I slept in dread-
I was afraid of day.
Lest its heedless light to human eyes
My secret should hetray;
And when I visited the spot
I walked another way-
Miles about like a dodging fox,
Keen-eyed and strong of limb,
Lest men should follow and mark the place
Where slept mine idol grim;
And slay the worshipper at the shrine
For the sake of the saint below;
The fiendish saint-the Golden god-
My comforter-my foe!


XXXVI.

But mostly in the dull dark night,
Armed to the teeth, I prowled,
Stem as the wolves on the granite crags
That stared at me and howled.
I lost the fellowship of man,
My heart grew hard as stone;
Nay, harder far, and heavy as gold;-
I stood in the world alone.
And Reason quaffed a poison cup,
And staggered on her throne.


XXXVII.

One luckless morn, with axe and gun,
I wandered to my lair;
My lair and haunt-my resting-place,
And saw to my despair.
The marks of feet-the earth upturned,
My treasure lying bare.
I stood aghast-I looked around-
I listened for a breath;
There was a devil in mine eyes.
And my fingers clutched at Death.


XXXVIII.

The drops that thickened on my brow
Fell earthward like the rain,
As with eager haste, and angry dread,
I covered it up again,
With stones and clods, and a burning strength
Intangible by pain.


XXXIX.

There burst on the air a scornful laugh.
And a hand was laid on mine;
I started back as from a snake,
And saw 'twas Heseltine.
'So greedy, Aubrey! Nay, be just,
The treasure's mine and thine;
I've watched thee in thy moody walks.
And seen thy ramble ends:
Too much for one, enough for two,
We'll share it, and be friends.'


XL.

'Friend of a robber who dogs my path!'
I answered him in scorn;
I uttered words that stung his pride,
Too bitter to be borne.
Taunt followed taunt-he drove me mad-
He struck me on the face;
And quick as thought-but thoughtless all,
Except of the disgrace-
I raised the mallet in my hand
And fell'd him on the place.


XLI.

His forehead bled-he lay as dead-
I wiped his streaming cheek;
I would have given my heart's last dropp
If I could hear him speak.
I called him by the dearest names,
His senseless lips I kissed;
I sought for water; I prayed to Heaven;
I chafed his pulseless wrist,
And cursed, in my deep, deep agony,
The gold for which I'd slain
A life that all the gold in the world
Could ne'er bring back again.


XLII.

I wandered forth to search for help;
I left him on the ground:
I could not bury my dead myself;
I wander'd round and round,
And lost my way in the weary night.
All night long I strayed,
Or sat upon the barren crags
Alone, and not afraid,
Except of a phantom blacker than night,
That grew in my heart dismayed.


XLIII.

I found the place at the dawn of day.
But not the murder'd man;
Had strangers come and buried my dead,
With heart-wrung pity and ban?
Or had the seeming dead revived
From a blow that failed to kill,
And lived for the sake of the dear, dear gold,
And the vengeance dearer still?


XLIV.

A sudden frenzy raised my hair-
I knew not what I did;
But I thought the golden fiend arose
From the ground where it lay hid,
And chased me with convulsive steps
Over the land and sea.
Sitting beside me when I slept,
Eating its bread with me;
Mocking me with its yawning eyes,
Raising its yellow hand.
And driving, driving, driving me on.
Over the sea and land.


XLV.

I fled-it followed; and though I knew
'Twas the creature of my brain,
Born of the agony of guilt,
I strove with it in vain:
Ever it followed, and ever I fled,
Over the land and sea,
Mocking me with its yellow hand,
Eating its bread with me;
And would have goaded me to the death,
Except for the love of thee,


XLVI.

A hideous likeness of myself,
A torture to behold;
Part was throbbing flesh and blood,
Part was senseless gold.
It stood between me and the sun-
It fouled the healthy air-
I looked to heaven, to fly its face,
And lo! the fiend was there.
I looked to earth, and at its feet
I saw a yawning pit;
It grinned, and pointed with its hand.
And said 'Thy bones will fit.'


XLVII.

And in the ship, as I hurried home,
I saw it in the shrouds;
It came and went from ship to wave,
From billow to the clouds;
It poisoned earth, it tainted heaven,
And dared, when sleep drew near,
To grasp me in its ghastly arms,
And whisper in my ear-
And say, 'I've bought thee, body and soul;
Look in my face, and fear!'


XLVIII.

Long wandering brought me home at last-
Oh! blessed be the hour!
I saw thee in the parish church-
I felt the preacher's power,
And hoped that I might die forgiven,
And make my peace with thee and Heaven.
And hour, more blessed still,
Thy father came to my sorrowful bed,
And ministered to mine ill.
He raised and comforted my heart-
He heard the tale I told-
And laid with the unction of his words
The haunting spirit of gold;
Repentance banished it from my sight,
And I prayed and was consoled.


XLIX.

'Twas he who taught me how to die,
And better, oh! better far;
He taught me how to live for thee,
My joy and guiding star!
He found the living friend again,
And brought me from his hand.
The visible proofs-the written words-
That he lived in his native land.
And had forgiven the wrong I did.
When I smote him with my hand.


L.

Henceforth I'm thine, and only thine!
Content with little store,
I'll let the red gold sleep in peace,
And sell my soul no more.
I'm happy-as mortal heart can hope-
Since my sin has been removed;
I envy no man's wealth or power,
I love-and am beloved.
Spin round, big world!-thou'lt trouble me not!
Flare Pomp! thou'rt nought to me!
And strive Ambition;-there's joy in the world
Unknown to thine and thee!



Epilogue

Such was the tale; and witness of its truth
Came, ere the winter, Heseltine himself;
A fresh, full-bearded, brawny shouldered man,
Browned by the sun, and radiant with the strength
Of travel and pure breezes;- a glad face
Where guile or falsehood could not find a pore
To hide or harbour in; so clear it shone
In candour and simplicity of mind.

The friends long parted met like day and night,
And there was sunrise in the hearts of both,
And they were friends again, their friendship tried,
Like iron in the furnace, turned to steel.
'How of the gold?' said Heseltine one night,
When round the fire the little household met,
And the wind whistled through the outer door
And boomed and thundered down the chimney gorge.
'If there it lies,' said Aubrey, with a smile,
'There let it lie for me! I yield my right
Of first discovery. If Columbus I,
Amerigo Vespuccio thou shalt be,
And take the glory and the recompence.'

'The nugget lies untouched,' said Heseltine.
After you sailed, I heard that you had gone.
And not to leave the gold for alien eyes,
I visited the scene of our mishap,
And there beheld the treasure covered up.
I knew your hand, and put the final touch
To the great work. Aye, you may laugh or doubt.
But thus I did. I covered up the soil
Above the treasure; shaped it like a mound
Over a village grave. Forgive the deed;
In clerical presence it appears profane.
And so I deem it now, and do not boast.
But tell the truth, although against myself.
And at the end I placed a little cross
Of rudest workmanship, on which I graved
Deep with my bowie knife this epitaph:

'Here lies a sinner-trouble not his bones''.

The parson shook his head, but yet he smiled.
'If there be body-snatchers in the south,
They'll find a prize,' said Aubrey. 'Let them find!
Their monstrous nugget shall not vex my soul.'

''Twill not be troubled,' answered Heseltine,
'Till I return to dig it into light.
I've made my pact. I've chosen all my men,
You not gainsaying, stout of heart and hand;
And we shall sail to Melbourne as we may,
And draw the treasure from the earth's good Bank
Into the daylight, which it shall adorn;
Half shall be yours, and with the other half
I'11 pay my diggers, and all cost beside,
And have sufficient to be more than rich.

'A welcome and a bed in Aubrey Place,
And a week's shooting o'er your forest lands
Once in a year is all that I shall ask
To pay me back with usury all you owe.
If you hate money much as once you loved,
Learn wisdom from a simple-minded man.
Why should we love or hate it, and not serve
Great needs with it? If sailors love the wind,
And cooks the fire, and millers the full stream,
Not for the sake of wind, or fire, or flood,
But for great purpose, useful to mankind,
So should the wise love Gold;-but not too well.
Such my philosophy-and why not yours?'


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Poem Submitted: Thursday, October 18, 2012



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