SELECTIONS FROM THE LITERARY REMAINS OF ELLIS AND ACTON BELL.
BY CURRER BELL.
SELECTIONS FROM POEMS BY ELLIS BELL.
It would not have been difficult to compile a volume out of the
papers left by my sisters, had I, in making the selection,
dismissed from my consideration the scruples and the wishes of
those whose written thoughts these papers held. But this was
impossible: an influence, stronger than could be exercised by any
motive of expediency, necessarily regulated the selection. I
have, then, culled from the mass only a little poem here and
there. The whole makes but a tiny nosegay, and the colour and
perfume of the flowers are not such as fit them for festal uses.
It has been already said that my sisters wrote much in childhood
and girlhood. Usually, it seems a sort of injustice to expose in
print the crude thoughts of the unripe mind, the rude efforts of
the unpractised hand; yet I venture to give three little poems of
my sister Emily's, written in her sixteenth year, because they
illustrate a point in her character.
At that period she was sent to school. Her previous life, with
the exception of a single half-year, had been passed in the
absolute retirement of a village parsonage, amongst the hills
bordering Yorkshire and Lancashire. The scenery of these hills is
not grand--it is not romantic it is scarcely striking. Long low
moors, dark with heath, shut in little valleys, where a stream
waters, here and there, a fringe of stunted copse. Mills and
scattered cottages chase romance from these valleys; it is only
higher up, deep in amongst the ridges of the moors, that
Imagination can find rest for the sole of her foot: and even if
she finds it there, she must be a solitude-loving raven--no
gentle dove. If she demand beauty to inspire her, she must bring
it inborn: these moors are too stern to yield any product so
delicate. The eye of the gazer must ITSELF brim with a "purple
light," intense enough to perpetuate the brief flower-flush of
August on the heather, or the rare sunset-smile of June; out of
his heart must well the freshness, that in latter spring and
early summer brightens the bracken, nurtures the moss, and
cherishes the starry flowers that spangle for a few weeks the
pasture of the moor-sheep. Unless that light and freshness are
innate and self-sustained, the drear prospect of a Yorkshire moor
will be found as barren of poetic as of agricultural interest:
where the love of wild nature is strong, the locality will
perhaps be clung to with the more passionate constancy, because
from the hill-lover's self comes half its charm.
My sister Emily loved the moors. Flowers brighter than the rose
bloomed in the blackest of the heath for her; out of a sullen
hollow in a livid hill-side her mind could make an Eden. She
found in the bleak solitude many and dear delights; and not the
least and best loved was--liberty.
Liberty was the breath of Emily's nostrils; without it, she
perished. The change from her own home to a school, and from her
own very noiseless, very secluded, but unrestricted and
inartificial mode of life, to one of disciplined routine (though
under the kindliest auspices), was what she failed in enduring.
Her nature proved here too strong for her fortitude. Every
morning when she woke, the vision of home and the moors rushed on
her, and darkened and saddened the day that lay before her.
Nobody knew what ailed her but me--I knew only too well. In this
struggle her health was quickly broken: her white face,
attenuated form, and failing strength, threatened rapid decline.
I felt in my heart she would die, if she did not go home, and
with this conviction obtained her recall. She had only been three
months at school; and it was some years before the experiment of
sending her from home was again ventured on. After the age of
twenty, having meantime studied alone with diligence and
perseverance, she went with me to an establishment on the
Continent: the same suffering and conflict ensued, heightened by
the strong recoil of her upright, heretic and English spirit from
the gentle Jesuitry of the foreign and Romish system. Once more
she seemed sinking, but this time she rallied through the mere
force of resolution: with inward remorse and shame she looked
back on her former failure, and resolved to conquer in this
second ordeal. She did conquer: but the victory cost her dear.
She was never happy till she carried her hard-won knowledge back
to the remote English village, the old parsonage-house, and
desolate Yorkshire hills. A very few years more, and she looked
her last on those hills, and breathed her last in that house, and
under the aisle of that obscure village church found her last
lowly resting-place. Merciful was the decree that spared her when
she was a stranger in a strange land, and guarded her dying bed
with kindred love and congenial constancy.
The following pieces were composed at twilight, in the school-
room, when the leisure of the evening play-hour brought back in
full tide the thoughts of home.
A LITTLE while, a little while,
The weary task is put away,
And I can sing and I can smile,
Alike, while I have holiday.
Where wilt thou go, my harassed heart--
What thought, what scene invites thee now
What spot, or near or far apart,
Has rest for thee, my weary brow?
There is a spot, 'mid barren hills,
Where winter howls, and driving rain;
But, if the dreary tempest chills,
There is a light that warms again.
The house is old, the trees are bare,
Moonless above bends twilight's dome;
But what on earth is half so dear--
So longed for--as the hearth of home?
The mute bird sitting on the stone,
The dank moss dripping from the wall,
The thorn-trees gaunt, the walks o'ergrown,
I love them--how I love them all!
Still, as I mused, the naked room,
The alien firelight died away;
And from the midst of cheerless gloom,
I passed to bright, unclouded day.
A little and a lone green lane
That opened on a common wide;
A distant, dreamy, dim blue chain
Of mountains circling every side.
A heaven so clear, an earth so calm,
So sweet, so soft, so hushed an air;
And, deepening still the dream-like charm,
Wild moor-sheep feeding everywhere.
THAT was the scene, I knew it well;
I knew the turfy pathway's sweep,
That, winding o'er each billowy swell,
Marked out the tracks of wandering sheep.
Could I have lingered but an hour,
It well had paid a week of toil;
But Truth has banished Fancy's power:
Restraint and heavy task recoil.
Even as I stood with raptured eye,
Absorbed in bliss so deep and dear,
My hour of rest had fleeted by,
And back came labour, bondage, care.
II. THE BLUEBELL.
The Bluebell is the sweetest flower
That waves in summer air:
Its blossoms have the mightiest power
To soothe my spirit's care.
There is a spell in purple heath
Too wildly, sadly dear;
The violet has a fragrant breath,
But fragrance will not cheer,
The trees are bare, the sun is cold,
And seldom, seldom seen;
The heavens have lost their zone of gold,
And earth her robe of green.
And ice upon the glancing stream
Has cast its sombre shade;
And distant hills and valleys seem
In frozen mist arrayed.
The Bluebell cannot charm me now,
The heath has lost its bloom;
The violets in the glen below,
They yield no sweet perfume.
But, though I mourn the sweet Bluebell,
'Tis better far away;
I know how fast my tears would swell
To see it smile to-day.
For, oh! when chill the sunbeams fall
Adown that dreary sky,
And gild yon dank and darkened wall
With transient brilliancy;
How do I weep, how do I pine
For the time of flowers to come,
And turn me from that fading shine,
To mourn the fields of home!
Loud without the wind was roaring
Through th'autumnal sky;
Drenching wet, the cold rain pouring,
Spoke of winter nigh.
All too like that dreary eve,
Did my exiled spirit grieve.
Grieved at first, but grieved not long,
Sweet--how softly sweet!--it came;
Wild words of an ancient song,
Undefined, without a name.
"It was spring, and the skylark was singing:"
Those words they awakened a spell;
They unlocked a deep fountain, whose springing,
Nor absence, nor distance can quell.
In the gloom of a cloudy November
They uttered the music of May ;
They kindled the perishing ember
Into fervour that could not decay.
Awaken, o'er all my dear moorland,
West-wind, in thy glory and pride!
Oh! call me from valley and lowland,
To walk by the hill-torrent's side!
It is swelled with the first snowy weather;
The rocks they are icy and hoar,
And sullenly waves the long heather,
And the fern leaves are sunny no more.
There are no yellow stars on the mountain
The bluebells have long died away
From the brink of the moss-bedded fountain--
From the side of the wintry brae.
But lovelier than corn-fields all waving
In emerald, and vermeil, and gold,
Are the heights where the north-wind is raving,
And the crags where I wandered of old.
It was morning: the bright sun was beaming;
How sweetly it brought back to me
The time when nor labour nor dreaming
Broke the sleep of the happy and free!
But blithely we rose as the dawn-heaven
Was melting to amber and blue,
And swift were the wings to our feet given,
As we traversed the meadows of dew.
For the moors! For the moors, where the short grass
Like velvet beneath us should lie!
For the moors! For the moors, where each high pass
Rose sunny against the clear sky!
For the moors, where the linnet was trilling
Its song on the old granite stone;
Where the lark, the wild sky-lark, was filling
Every breast with delight like its own!
What language can utter the feeling
Which rose, when in exile afar,
On the brow of a lonely hill kneeling,
I saw the brown heath growing there?
It was scattered and stunted, and told me
That soon even that would be gone:
It whispered, "The grim walls enfold me,
I have bloomed in my last summer's sun."
But not the loved music, whose waking
Makes the soul of the Swiss die away,
Has a spell more adored and heartbreaking
Than, for me, in that blighted heath lay.
The spirit which bent 'neath its power,
How it longed--how it burned to be free!
If I could have wept in that hour,
Those tears had been heaven to me.
Well--well; the sad minutes are moving,
Though loaded with trouble and pain;
And some time the loved and the loving
Shall meet on the mountains again!
The following little piece has no title; but in it the Genius of
a solitary region seems to address his wandering and wayward
votary, and to recall within his influence the proud mind which
rebelled at times even against what it most loved.
Shall earth no more inspire thee,
Thou lonely dreamer now?
Since passion may not fire thee,
Shall nature cease to bow?
Thy mind is ever moving,
In regions dark to thee;
Recall its useless roving,
Come back, and dwell with me.
I know my mountain breezes
Enchant and soothe thee still,
I know my sunshine pleases,
Despite thy wayward will.
When day with evening blending,
Sinks from the summer sky,
I've seen thy spirit bending
In fond idolatry.
I've watched thee every hour;
I know my mighty sway:
I know my magic power
To drive thy griefs away.
Few hearts to mortals given,
On earth so wildly pine;
Yet few would ask a heaven
More like this earth than thine.
Then let my winds caress thee
Thy comrade let me be:
Since nought beside can bless thee,
Return--and dwell with me.
Here again is the same mind in converse with a like abstraction.
"The Night-Wind," breathing through an open window, has visited
an ear which discerned language in its whispers.
In summer's mellow midnight,
A cloudless moon shone through
Our open parlour window,
And rose-trees wet with dew.
I sat in silent musing;
The soft wind waved my hair;
It told me heaven was glorious,
And sleeping earth was fair.
I needed not its breathing
To bring such thoughts to me;
But still it whispered lowly,
How dark the woods will be!
"The thick leaves in my murmur
Are rustling like a dream,
And all their myriad voices
Instinct with spirit seem."
I said, "Go, gentle singer,
Thy wooing voice is kind:
But do not think its music
Has power to reach my mind.
"Play with the scented flower,
The young tree's supple bough,
And leave my human feelings
In their own course to flow."
The wanderer would not heed me;
Its kiss grew warmer still.
"O come!" it sighed so sweetly;
"I'll win thee 'gainst thy will.
"Were we not friends from childhood?
Have I not loved thee long?
As long as thou, the solemn night,
Whose silence wakes my song.
"And when thy heart is resting
Beneath the church-aisle stone,
I shall have time for mourning,
And THOU for being alone."
In these stanzas a louder gale has roused the sleeper on her
pillow: the wakened soul struggles to blend with the storm by
which it is swayed:--
Ay--there it is! it wakes to-night
Deep feelings I thought dead;
Strong in the blast--quick gathering light--
The heart's flame kindles red.
"Now I can tell by thine altered cheek,
And by thine eyes' full gaze,
And by the words thou scarce dost speak,
How wildly fancy plays.
"Yes--I could swear that glorious wind
Has swept the world aside,
Has dashed its memory from thy mind
Like foam-bells from the tide:
"And thou art now a spirit pouring
Thy presence into all:
The thunder of the tempest's roaring,
The whisper of its fall:
"An universal influence,
From thine own influence free;
A principle of life--intense--
Lost to mortality.
"Thus truly, when that breast is cold,
Thy prisoned soul shall rise;
The dungeon mingle with the mould--
The captive with the skies.
Nature's deep being, thine shall hold,
Her spirit all thy spirit fold,
Her breath absorb thy sighs.
Mortal! though soon life's tale is told;
Who once lives, never dies!"
LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP.
Love is like the wild rose-briar;
Friendship like the holly-tree.
The holly is dark when the rose-briar blooms,
But which will bloom most constantly?
The wild rose-briar is sweet in spring,
Its summer blossoms scent the air;
Yet wait till winter comes again,
And who will call the wild-briar fair?
Then, scorn the silly rose-wreath now,
And deck thee with the holly's sheen,
That, when December blights thy brow,
He still may leave thy garland green.
THE ELDER'S REBUKE.
"Listen! When your hair, like mine,
Takes a tint of silver gray;
When your eyes, with dimmer shine,
Watch life's bubbles float away:
When you, young man, have borne like me
The weary weight of sixty-three,
Then shall penance sore be paid
For those hours so wildly squandered;
And the words that now fall dead
On your ear, be deeply pondered--
Pondered and approved at last:
But their virtue will be past!
"Glorious is the prize of Duty,
Though she be 'a serious power';
Treacherous all the lures of Beauty,
Thorny bud and poisonous flower!
"Mirth is but a mad beguiling
Of the golden-gifted time;
Love--a demon-meteor, wiling
Heedless feet to gulfs of crime.
"Those who follow earthly pleasure,
Heavenly knowledge will not lead;
Wisdom hides from them her treasure,
Virtue bids them evil-speed!
"Vainly may their hearts repenting.
Seek for aid in future years;
Wisdom, scorned, knows no relenting;
Virtue is not won by fears."
Thus spake the ice-blooded elder gray;
The young man scoffed as he turned away,
Turned to the call of a sweet lute's measure,
Waked by the lightsome touch of pleasure:
Had he ne'er met a gentler teacher,
Woe had been wrought by that pitiless preacher.
THE WANDERER FROM THE FOLD.
How few, of all the hearts that loved,
Are grieving for thee now;
And why should mine to-night be moved
With such a sense of woe?
Too often thus, when left alone,
Where none my thoughts can see,
Comes back a word, a passing tone
From thy strange history.
Sometimes I seem to see thee rise,
A glorious child again;
All virtues beaming from thine eyes
That ever honoured men:
Courage and truth, a generous breast
Where sinless sunshine lay:
A being whose very presence blest
Like gladsome summer-day.
O, fairly spread thy early sail,
And fresh, and pure, and free,
Was the first impulse of the gale
Which urged life's wave for thee!
Why did the pilot, too confiding,
Dream o'er that ocean's foam,
And trust in Pleasure's careless guiding
To bring his vessel home?
For well he knew what dangers frowned,
What mists would gather, dim;
What rocks and shelves, and sands lay round
Between his port and him.
The very brightness of the sun
The splendour of the main,
The wind which bore him wildly on
Should not have warned in vain.
An anxious gazer from the shore--
I marked the whitening wave,
And wept above thy fate the more
Because--I could not save.
It recks not now, when all is over:
But yet my heart will be
A mourner still, though friend and lover
Have both forgotten thee!
WARNING AND REPLY.
In the earth--the earth--thou shalt be laid,
A grey stone standing over thee;
Black mould beneath thee spread,
And black mould to cover thee.
"Well--there is rest there,
So fast come thy prophecy;
The time when my sunny hair
Shall with grass roots entwined be."
But cold--cold is that resting-place,
Shut out from joy and liberty,
And all who loved thy living face
Will shrink from it shudderingly,
"Not so. HERE the world is chill,
And sworn friends fall from me:
But THERE--they will own me still,
And prize my memory."
Farewell, then, all that love,
All that deep sympathy:
Sleep on: Heaven laughs above,
Earth never misses thee.
Turf-sod and tombstone drear
Part human company;
One heart breaks only--here,
But that heart was worthy thee!
I knew not 'twas so dire a crime
To say the word, "Adieu;"
But this shall be the only time
My lips or heart shall sue.
That wild hill-side, the winter morn,
The gnarled and ancient tree,
If in your breast they waken scorn,
Shall wake the same in me.
I can forget black eyes and brows,
And lips of falsest charm,
If you forget the sacred vows
Those faithless lips could form.
If hard commands can tame your love,
Or strongest walls can hold,
I would not wish to grieve above
A thing so false and cold.
And there are bosoms bound to mine
With links both tried and strong:
And there are eyes whose lightning shine
Has warmed and blest me long:
Those eyes shall make my only day,
Shall set my spirit free,
And chase the foolish thoughts away
That mourn your memory.
THE LADY TO HER GUITAR.
For him who struck thy foreign string,
I ween this heart has ceased to care;
Then why dost thou such feelings bring
To my sad spirit--old Guitar?
It is as if the warm sunlight
In some deep glen should lingering stay,
When clouds of storm, or shades of night,
Have wrapt the parent orb away.
It is as if the glassy brook
Should image still its willows fair,
Though years ago the woodman's stroke
Laid low in dust their Dryad-hair.
Even so, Guitar, thy magic tone
Hath moved the tear and waked the sigh:
Hath bid the ancient torrent moan,
Although its very source is dry.
THE TWO CHILDREN.
Heavy hangs the rain-drop
From the burdened spray;
Heavy broods the damp mist
On uplands far away.
Heavy looms the dull sky,
Heavy rolls the sea;
And heavy throbs the young heart
Beneath that lonely tree.
Never has a blue streak
Cleft the clouds since morn;
Never has his grim fate
Smiled since he was born.
Frowning on the infant,
Shadowing childhood's joy
Guardian-angel knows not
That melancholy boy.
Day is passing swiftly
Its sad and sombre prime;
Boyhood sad is merging
In sadder manhood's time:
All the flowers are praying
For sun, before they close,
And he prays too--unconscious--
That sunless human rose.
Blossom--that the west-wind
Has never wooed to blow,
Scentless are thy petals,
Thy dew is cold as snow!
Soul--where kindred kindness,
No early promise woke,
Barren is thy beauty,
As weed upon a rock.
Wither--soul and blossom!
You both were vainly given;
Earth reserves no blessing
For the unblest of heaven!
Child of delight, with sun-bright hair,
And sea-blue, sea-deep eyes!
Spirit of bliss! What brings thee here
Beneath these sullen skies?
Thou shouldst live in eternal spring,
Where endless day is never dim;
Why, Seraph, has thine erring wing
Wafted thee down to weep with him?
"Ah! not from heaven am I descended,
Nor do I come to mingle tears;
But sweet is day, though with shadows blended;
And, though clouded, sweet are youthful years.
"I--the image of light and gladness--
Saw and pitied that mournful boy,
And I vowed--if need were--to share his sadness,
And give to him my sunny joy.
"Heavy and dark the night is closing;
Heavy and dark may its biding be:
Better for all from grief reposing,
And better for all who watch like me--
"Watch in love by a fevered pillow,
Cooling the fever with pity's balm
Safe as the petrel on tossing billow,
Safe in mine own soul's golden calm!
"Guardian-angel he lacks no longer;
Evil fortune he need not fear:
Fate is strong, but love is stronger;
And MY love is truer than angel-care."
Silent is the house: all are laid asleep:
One alone looks out o'er the snow-wreaths deep,
Watching every cloud, dreading every breeze
That whirls the wildering drift, and bends the groaning trees.
Cheerful is the hearth, soft the matted floor;
Not one shivering gust creeps through pane or door;
The little lamp burns straight, its rays shoot strong and far:
I trim it well, to be the wanderer's guiding-star.
Frown, my haughty sire! chide, my angry dame!
Set your slaves to spy; threaten me with shame:
But neither sire nor dame, nor prying serf shall know,
What angel nightly tracks that waste of frozen snow.
What I love shall come like visitant of air,
Safe in secret power from lurking human snare;
What loves me, no word of mine shall e'er betray,
Though for faith unstained my life must forfeit pay
Burn, then, little lamp; glimmer straight and clear--
Hush! a rustling wing stirs, methinks, the air:
He for whom I wait, thus ever comes to me;
Strange Power! I trust thy might; trust thou my constancy.
I do not weep; I would not weep;
Our mother needs no tears:
Dry thine eyes, too; 'tis vain to keep
This causeless grief for years.
What though her brow be changed and cold,
Her sweet eyes closed for ever?
What though the stone--the darksome mould
Our mortal bodies sever?
What though her hand smooth ne'er again
Those silken locks of thine?
Nor, through long hours of future pain,
Her kind face o'er thee shine?
Remember still, she is not dead;
She sees us, sister, now;
Laid, where her angel spirit fled,
'Mid heath and frozen snow.
And from that world of heavenly light
Will she not always bend
To guide us in our lifetime's night,
And guard us to the end?
Thou knowest she will; and thou mayst mourn
That WE are left below:
But not that she can ne'er return
To share our earthly woe.
Often rebuked, yet always back returning
To those first feelings that were born with me,
And leaving busy chase of wealth and learning
For idle dreams of things which cannot be:
To-day, I will seek not the shadowy region;
Its unsustaining vastness waxes drear;
And visions rising, legion after legion,
Bring the unreal world too strangely near.
I'll walk, but not in old heroic traces,
And not in paths of high morality,
And not among the half-distinguished faces,
The clouded forms of long-past history.
I'll walk where my own nature would be leading:
It vexes me to choose another guide:
Where the grey flocks in ferny glens are feeding;
Where the wild wind blows on the mountain side.
What have those lonely mountains worth revealing?
More glory and more grief than I can tell:
The earth that wakes one human heart to feeling
Can centre both the worlds of Heaven and Hell.
The following are the last lines my sister Emily ever wrote:-
No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the world's storm-troubled sphere:
I see Heaven's glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear.
O God within my breast,
Almighty, ever-present Deity!
Life--that in me has rest,
As I--undying Life--have power in thee!
Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men's hearts: unutterably vain;
Worthless as withered weeds,
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main,
To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by thine infinity;
So surely anchored on
The stedfast rock of immortality.
With wide-embracing love
Thy spirit animates eternal years,
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates, and rears.
Though earth and man were gone,
And suns and universes ceased to be,
And Thou were left alone,
Every existence would exist in Thee.
There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou--THOU art Being and Breath,
And what THOU art may never be destroyed.
SELECTIONS FROM POEMS BY ACTON BELL.
In looking over my sister Anne's papers, I find mournful evidence
that religious feeling had been to her but too much like what it
was to Cowper; I mean, of course, in a far milder form. Without
rendering her a prey to those horrors that defy concealment, it
subdued her mood and bearing to a perpetual pensiveness; the
pillar of a cloud glided constantly before her eyes; she ever
waited at the foot of a secret Sinai, listening in her heart to
the voice of a trumpet sounding long and waxing louder. Some,
perhaps, would rejoice over these tokens of sincere though
sorrowing piety in a deceased relative: I own, to me they seem
sad, as if her whole innocent life had been passed under the
martyrdom of an unconfessed physical pain: their effect, indeed,
would be too distressing, were it not combated by the certain
knowledge that in her last moments this tyranny of a too tender
conscience was overcome; this pomp of terrors broke up, and
passing away, left her dying hour unclouded. Her belief in God
did not then bring to her dread, as of a stern Judge,--but hope,
as in a Creator and Saviour: and no faltering hope was it, but a
sure and stedfast conviction, on which, in the rude passage from
Time to Eternity, she threw the weight of her human weakness, and
by which she was enabled to bear what was to be borne, patiently
I have gone backward in the work;
The labour has not sped;
Drowsy and dark my spirit lies,
Heavy and dull as lead.
How can I rouse my sinking soul
From such a lethargy?
How can I break these iron chains
And set my spirit free?
There have been times when I have mourned!
In anguish o'er the past,
And raised my suppliant hands on high,
While tears fell thick and fast;
And prayed to have my sins forgiven,
With such a fervent zeal,
An earnest grief, a strong desire
As now I cannot feel.
And I have felt so full of love,
So strong in spirit then,
As if my heart would never cool,
Or wander back again.
And yet, alas! how many times
My feet have gone astray!
How oft have I forgot my God!
How greatly fallen away!
My sins increase--my love grows cold,
And Hope within me dies:
Even Faith itself is wavering now;
Oh, how shall I arise?
I cannot weep, but I can pray,
Then let me not despair:
Lord Jesus, save me, lest I die!
Christ, hear my humble prayer!
My God (oh, let me call Thee mine,
Weak, wretched sinner though I be),
My trembling soul would fain be Thine;
My feeble faith still clings to Thee.
Not only for the Past I grieve,
The Future fills me with dismay;
Unless Thou hasten to relieve,
Thy suppliant is a castaway.
I cannot say my faith is strong,
I dare not hope my love is great;
But strength and love to Thee belong;
Oh, do not leave me desolate!
I know I owe my all to Thee;
Oh, TAKE the heart I cannot give!
Do Thou my strength--my Saviour be,
And MAKE me to Thy glory live.
IN MEMORY OF A HAPPY DAY IN FEBRUARY.
Blessed be Thou for all the joy
My soul has felt to-day!
Oh, let its memory stay with me,
And never pass away!
I was alone, for those I loved
Were far away from me;
The sun shone on the withered grass,
The wind blew fresh and free.
Was it the smile of early spring
That made my bosom glow?
'Twas sweet; but neither sun nor wind
Could cheer my spirit so.
Was it some feeling of delight
All vague and undefined?
No; 'twas a rapture deep and strong,
Expanding in the mind.
Was it a sanguine view of life,
And all its transient bliss,
A hope of bright prosperity?
Oh, no! it was not this.
It was a glimpse of truth divine
Unto my spirit given,
Illumined by a ray of light
That shone direct from heaven.
I felt there was a God on high,
By whom all things were made;
I saw His wisdom and His power
In all his works displayed.
But most throughout the moral world,
I saw his glory shine;
I saw His wisdom infinite,
His mercy all divine.
Deep secrets of His providence,
In darkness long concealed,
Unto the vision of my soul
Were graciously revealed.
But while I wondered and adored
His Majesty divine,
I did not tremble at His power:
I felt that God was mine;
I knew that my Redeemer lived;
I did not fear to die;
Full sure that I should rise again
I longed to view that bliss divine,
Which eye hath never seen;
Like Moses, I would see His face
Without the veil between.
Oppressed with sin and woe,
A burdened heart I bear,
Opposed by many a mighty foe;
But I will not despair.
With this polluted heart,
I dare to come to Thee,
Holy and mighty as Thou art,
For Thou wilt pardon me.
I feel that I am weak,
And prone to every sin;
But Thou who giv'st to those who seek,
Wilt give me strength within.
Far as this earth may be
From yonder starry skies;
Remoter still am I from Thee:
Yet Thou wilt not despise.
I need not fear my foes,
I deed not yield to care;
I need not sink beneath my woes,
For Thou wilt answer prayer.
In my Redeemer's name,
I give myself to Thee;
And, all unworthy as I am,
My God will cherish me.
My sister Anne had to taste the cup of life as it is mixed for
the class termed "Governesses."
The following are some of the thoughts that now and then solace a
LINES WRITTEN FROM HOME.
Though bleak these woods, and damp the ground,
With fallen leaves so thickly strewn,
And cold the wind that wanders round
With wild and melancholy moan;
There is a friendly roof I know,
Might shield me from the wintry blast;
There is a fire whose ruddy glow
Will cheer me for my wanderings past.
And so, though still where'er I go
Cold stranger glances meet my eye;
Though, when my spirit sinks in woe,
Unheeded swells the unbidden sigh;
Though solitude, endured too long,
Bids youthful joys too soon decay,
Makes mirth a stranger to my tongue,
And overclouds my noon of day;
When kindly thoughts that would have way
Flow back, discouraged, to my breast,
I know there is, though far away,
A home where heart and soul may rest.
Warm hands are there, that, clasped in mine,
The warmer heart will not belie;
While mirth and truth, and friendship shine
In smiling lip and earnest eye.
The ice that gathers round my heart
May there be thawed; and sweetly, then,
The joys of youth, that now depart,
Will come to cheer my soul again.
Though far I roam, that thought shall be
My hope, my comfort everywhere;
While such a home remains to me,
My heart shall never know despair.
THE NARROW WAY.
Believe not those who say
The upward path is smooth,
Lest thou shouldst stumble in the way,
And faint before the truth.
It is the only road
Unto the realms of joy;
But he who seeks that blest abode
Must all his powers employ.
Bright hopes and pure delight
Upon his course may beam,
And there, amid the sternest heights,
The sweetest flowerets gleam.
On all her breezes borne,
Earth yields no scents like those;
But he that dares not gasp the thorn
Should never crave the rose.
Arm--arm thee for the fight!
Cast useless loads away;
Watch through the darkest hours of night;
Toil through the hottest day.
Crush pride into the dust,
Or thou must needs be slack;
And trample down rebellious lust,
Or it will hold thee back.
Seek not thy honour here;
Waive pleasure and renown;
The world's dread scoff undaunted bear,
And face its deadliest frown.
To labour and to love,
To pardon and endure,
To lift thy heart to God above,
And keep thy conscience pure;
Be this thy constant aim,
Thy hope, thy chief delight;
What matter who should whisper blame
Or who should scorn or slight?
What matter, if thy God approve,
And if, within thy breast,
Thou feel the comfort of His love,
The earnest of His rest?
Why should such gloomy silence reign,
And why is all the house so drear,
When neither danger, sickness, pain,
Nor death, nor want, have entered here?
We are as many as we were
That other night, when all were gay
And full of hope, and free from care;
Yet is there something gone away.
The moon without, as pure and calm,
Is shining as that night she shone;
But now, to us, she brings no balm,
For something from our hearts is gone.
Something whose absence leaves a void--
A cheerless want in every heart;
Each feels the bliss of all destroyed,
And mourns the change--but each apart.
The fire is burning in the grate
As redly as it used to burn;
But still the hearth is desolate,
Till mirth, and love, and PEACE return.
'Twas PEACE that flowed from heart to heart,
With looks and smiles that spoke of heaven,
And gave us language to impart
The blissful thoughts itself had given.
Domestic peace! best joy of earth,
When shall we all thy value learn?
White angel, to our sorrowing hearth,
Return--oh, graciously return!
THE THREE GUIDES. [First published in FRASER'S MAGAZINE.]
Spirit of Earth! thy hand is chill:
I've felt its icy clasp;
And, shuddering, I remember still
That stony-hearted grasp.
Thine eye bids love and joy depart:
Oh, turn its gaze from me!
It presses down my shrinking heart;
I will not walk with thee!
"Wisdom is mine," I've heard thee say:
"Beneath my searching eye
All mist and darkness melt away,
Phantoms and fables fly.
Before me truth can stand alone,
The naked, solid truth;
And man matured by worth will own,
If I am shunned by youth.
"Firm is my tread, and sure though slow;
My footsteps never slide;
And he that follows me shall know
I am the surest guide."
Thy boast is vain; but were it true
That thou couldst safely steer
Life's rough and devious pathway through,
Such guidance I should fear.
How could I bear to walk for aye,
With eyes to earthward prone,
O'er trampled weeds and miry clay,
And sand and flinty stone;
Never the glorious view to greet
Of hill and dale, and sky;
To see that Nature's charms are sweet,
Or feel that Heaven is nigh?
If in my heart arose a spring,
A gush of thought divine,
At once stagnation thou wouldst bring
With that cold touch of thine.
If, glancing up, I sought to snatch
But one glimpse of the sky,
My baffled gaze would only catch
Thy heartless, cold grey eye.
If to the breezes wandering near,
I listened eagerly,
And deemed an angel's tongue to hear
That whispered hope to me,
That heavenly music would be drowned
In thy harsh, droning voice;
Nor inward thought, nor sight, nor sound,
Might my sad soul rejoice.
Dull is thine ear, unheard by thee
The still, small voice of Heaven;
Thine eyes are dim and cannot see
The helps that God has given.
There is a bridge o'er every flood
Which thou canst not perceive;
A path through every tangled wood,
But thou wilt not believe.
Striving to make thy way by force,
Toil-spent and bramble-torn,
Thou'lt fell the tree that checks thy course,
And burst through brier and thorn:
And, pausing by the river's side,
Poor reasoner! thou wilt deem,
By casting pebbles in its tide,
To cross the swelling stream.
Right through the flinty rock thou'lt try
Thy toilsome way to bore,
Regardless of the pathway nigh
That would conduct thee o'er
Not only art thou, then, unkind,
And freezing cold to me,
But unbelieving, deaf, and blind:
I will not walk with thee!
Spirit of Pride! thy wings are strong,
Thine eyes like lightning shine;
Ecstatic joys to thee belong,
And powers almost divine.
But 'tis a false, destructive blaze
Within those eyes I see;
Turn hence their fascinating gaze;
I will not follow thee.
"Coward and fool!" thou mayst reply,
Walk on the common sod;
Go, trace with timid foot and eye
The steps by others trod.
'Tis best the beaten path to keep,
The ancient faith to hold;
To pasture with thy fellow-sheep,
And lie within the fold.
"Cling to the earth, poor grovelling worm;
'Tis not for thee to soar
Against the fury of the storm,
Amid the thunder's roar!
There's glory in that daring strife
Unknown, undreamt by thee;
There's speechless rapture in the life
Of those who follow me.
Yes, I have seen thy votaries oft,
Upheld by thee their guide,
In strength and courage mount aloft
The steepy mountain-side;
I've seen them stand against the sky,
And gazing from below,
Beheld thy lightning in their eye
Thy triumph on their brow.
Oh, I have felt what glory then,
What transport must be theirs!
So far above their fellow-men,
Above their toils and cares;
Inhaling Nature's purest breath,
Her riches round them spread,
The wide expanse of earth beneath,
Heaven's glories overhead!
But I have seen them helpless, dash'd
Down to a bloody grave,
And still thy ruthless eye has flash'd,
Thy strong hand did not save;
I've seen some o'er the mountain's brow
Sustain'd awhile by thee,
O'er rocks of ice and hills of snow
Bound fearless, wild, and free.
Bold and exultant was their mien,
While thou didst cheer them on;
But evening fell,--and then, I ween,
Their faithless guide was gone.
Alas! how fared thy favourites then,--
Lone, helpless, weary, cold?
Did ever wanderer find again
The path he left of old?
Where is their glory, where the pride
That swelled their hearts before?
Where now the courage that defied
The mightiest tempest's roar?
What shall they do when night grows black,
When angry storms arise?
Who now will lead them to the track
Thou taught'st them to despise?
Spirit of Pride, it needs not this
To make me shun thy wiles,
Renounce thy triumph and thy bliss,
Thy honours and thy smiles!
Bright as thou art, and bold, and strong,
That fierce glance wins not me,
And I abhor thy scoffing tongue--
I will not follow thee!
Spirit of Faith! be thou my guide,
O clasp my hand in thine,
And let me never quit thy side;
Thy comforts are divine!
Earth calls thee blind, misguided one,--
But who can shew like thee
Forgotten things that have been done,
And things that are to be?
Secrets conceal'd from Nature's ken,
Who like thee can declare?
Or who like thee to erring men
God's holy will can bear?
Pride scorns thee for thy lowly mien,--
But who like thee can rise
Above this toilsome, sordid scene,
Beyond the holy skies?
Meek is thine eye and soft thy voice,
But wondrous is thy might,
To make the wretched soul rejoice,
To give the simple light!
And still to all that seek thy way
This magic power is given,--
E'en while their footsteps press the clay,
Their souls ascend to heaven.
Danger surrounds them,--pain and woe
Their portion here must be,
But only they that trust thee know
What comfort dwells with thee;
Strength to sustain their drooping pow'rs,
And vigour to defend,--
Thou pole-star of my darkest hours
Affliction's firmest friend!
Day does not always mark our way,
Night's shadows oft appal,
But lead me, and I cannot stray,--
Hold me, I shall not fall;
Sustain me, I shall never faint,
How rough soe'er may be
My upward road,--nor moan, nor plaint
Shall mar my trust in thee.
Narrow the path by which we go,
And oft it turns aside
From pleasant meads where roses blow,
And peaceful waters glide;
Where flowery turf lies green and soft,
And gentle gales are sweet,
To where dark mountains frown aloft,
Hard rocks distress the feet,--
Deserts beyond lie bleak and bare,
And keen winds round us blow;
But if thy hand conducts me there,
The way is right, I know.
I have no wish to turn away;
My spirit does not quail,--
How can it while I hear thee say,
"Press forward and prevail!"
Even above the tempest's swell
I hear thy voice of love,--
Of hope and peace, I hear thee tell,
And that blest home above;
Through pain and death I can rejoice.
If but thy strength be mine,--
Earth hath no music like thy voice,
Life owns no joy like thine!
Spirit of Faith, I'll go with thee!
Thou, if I hold thee fast,
Wilt guide, defend, and strengthen me,
And bear me home at last;
By thy help all things I can do,
In thy strength all things bear,--
Teach me, for thou art just and true,
Smile on me, thou art fair!
I have given the last memento of my sister Emily; this is the last
of my sister Anne:--
I hoped, that with the brave and strong,
My portioned task might lie;
To toil amid the busy throng,
With purpose pure and high.
But God has fixed another part,
And He has fixed it well;
I said so with my bleeding heart,
When first the anguish fell.
Thou, God, hast taken our delight,
Our treasured hope away:
Thou bid'st us now weep through the night
And sorrow through the day.
These weary hours will not be lost,
These days of misery,
These nights of darkness, anguish-tost,
Can I but turn to Thee.
With secret labour to sustain
In humble patience every blow;
To gather fortitude from pain,
And hope and holiness from woe.
Thus let me serve Thee from my heart,
Whate'er may be my written fate:
Whether thus early to depart,
Or yet a while to wait.
If Thou shouldst bring me back to life,
More humbled I should be;
More wise--more strengthened for the strife--
More apt to lean on Thee.
Should death be standing at the gate,
Thus should I keep my vow:
But, Lord! whatever be my fate,
Oh, let me serve Thee now!
These lines written, the desk was closed, the pen laid aside--
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