Mathilde Blind (1841-1896)
From The Prophecy of St. Oran and Other Poems (1881)
From Songs and Sonnets (1893)
Mother of the unfortunate, mystic form,
Who calm, immutable, like oldest fate,
Sittest, where through the sombre swinging gate
Moans immemorial life's encircling storm.
My heart, sore stricken by grief's leaden arm,
Lags like a weary pilgrim knocking late,
And sigheth--toward thee staggering with its weight--
Behold Love conquered by thy son, the worm!
He stung him mid the roses' purple bloom,
The Rose of roses, yea, a thing so sweet,
Haply to stay blind Change's flying feet,
And stir with pity the unpitying tomb.
Here, take him, cold, cold, heavy and void of breath!
Nor me refuse, O Mother almighty, death.
Cleave Thou the Waves
Cleave thou the waves that weltering to and fro
Surge multitudinous. The eternal Powers
Of sun, moon, stars, the air, the hurrying hours,
The winged winds, the still dissolving show
Of clouds in calm or storm, for ever flow
Above thee; while the abysmal sea devours
The untold dead insatiate, where it lowers
O'er glooms unfathomed, limitless, below.
No longer on the golden-fretted sands,
Where many a shallow tide abortive chafes,
Mayst thou delay; life onward sweeping blends
With far-off heaven: the dauntless one who braves
The perilous flood with calm unswerving hands,
The elements sustain: cleave thou the waves.
Manchester by Night
O'er this huge town, rife with intestine wars,
Whence as from monstrous sacrificial shrines
Pillars of smoke climb heavenward, Night inclines
Black brows majestical with glimmering stars.
Her dewy silence soothes life's angry jars:
And like a mother's wan white face, who pines
Above her children's turbulent ways, so shines
The moon athwart the narrow cloudy bars.
Now toiling multitudes that hustling crush
Each other in the fateful strife for breath
And, hounded on by diverse hungers, rush
Across the prostrate ones that groan beneath,
Are swathed within the universal hush,
As life exchanges semblances with death.
To the Obelisk during the Great Frost, 1881
Thou sign-post of the Desert! Obelisk,
Once fronting in thy monumental pride
Egypt's fierce sun, that blazing far and wide,
Sheared her of tree and herb, till like a disk
Her waste stretched shadowless, and fraught with risk
To those who with their beasts of burden hied
Across the seas of sand until they spied
Thy pillar, and their flagging hearts grew brisk:
Now reared beside our Thames so wintry gray,
Where blocks of ice drift with the drifting stream,
Thou risest o'er the alien prospect! Say,
Yon dull, blear, rayless orb whose lurid gleam
Tinges the snow-draped ships and writhing steam,
Is this the sun which fired thine orient day?
Oh in this dearth and winter of the soul,
When even Hope, still wont to soar and sing,
Droopeth, a starveling bird whose downy wing
Stiffens ere dead through the dank drift it fall--
Yea, ere Hope perish utterly, I call
On thee, fond Memory, that thou haste and bring
One leaf, one blossom from that far-off spring
When love's auroral light lay over all.
Bring but one pansy: haply so the thrill
Of poignant yearning for those glad dead years
May, like the gutsy south, breathe o'er the chill
Of frozen grief, dissolving it in tears,
Till numb Hope, stirred by that warm dropping rain,
Will deem, perchance, Love's springtide come again.
Thy wings swoop darkening round my soul, Despair!
And on my brain thy shadow seems to brood
And hem me round with stifling solitude,
With chasms of vacuous gloom which are thy lair.
No light of human joy, no song or prayer,
Breaks ever on this chaos, all imbrued
With heart's-blood trickling from the multitude
Of sweet hopes slain, or agonizing there.
Lo, wilt thou yield thyself to grief, and roll
Vanquished from thy high seat, imperial brain;
And abdicating turbulent life's control,
Be dragged a captive bound in sorrow's chain?
Nay! though my heart is breaking with its pain,
No pain on earth has power to crush my soul.
Love-cradling Night, lit by the lucent moon,
Most pitiful and mother-hearted Night!
Blest armistice in life's tumultuous fight,
Resolving discords to a spheral tune!
When tired with heat and strenuous toil of noon,
With ceaseless conflict betwixt might and right,
With ebb and flow of sorrow and delight,
Our panting hearts beneath their burdens swoon,
To thee, O star-eyed comforter, we creep,
Earth's ill-used step-children to thee make moan,
As hiding in thy dark skirts' ample sweep;
--Poor debtors whose brief life is not their own;
For dunned by Death, to whom we owe its loan,
Give us, O Night, the interest paid in sleep.
All treasures of the earth and opulent seas,
Metals and odorous woods and cunning gold,
Fowls of the air and furry beasts untold,
Vineyards and harvest fields and fruitful trees
Nature gave unto Man; and last her keys
Vouched passage to her secret ways of old
Whence knowledge should be wrung, nay power to mould
Out of the rough, his occult destinies.
But tired of these he craved a wider scope:
Then fair as Pallas from the brain of Jove
From his deep wish there sprang, full-armed, to cope
With all life's ills, even very death in love,
The only thing man never wearies of--
His own creation--visionary Hope.
The dead abide with us! Though stark and cold
Earth seems to grip them, they are with us still:
They have forged our chains of being for good or ill;
And their invisible hands these hands yet hold.
Our perishable bodies are the mould
In which their strong imperishable will--
Mortality's deep yearning to fulfil--
Hath grown incorporate through dim time untold.
Vibrations infinite of life in death,
As a star's travelling light survives its star!
So may we hold our lives, that when we are
The fate of those who then will draw this breath,
They shall not drag us to their judgment bar,
And curse the heritage which we bequeath.
Thy life, O Man, in this brief moment lies:
Time's narrow bridge whereon we darkling stand,
With an infinitude on either hand
Receding luminously from our eyes.
Lo, there thy Past's forsaken Paradise
Subsideth like some visionary strand,
While glimmering faint, the Future's promised land,
Illusive from the abyss, seems fain to rise.
This hour alone Hope's broken pledges mar,
And joy now gleams before, now in our rear,
Like mirage mocking in some waste afar,
Dissolving into air as we draw near.
Beyond our steps the path is sunny-clear,
The shadow lying only where we are.
Hurrying for ever in their restless flight
The generations of earth's teeming womb
Rise into being and lapse into the tomb
Like transient bubbles sparkling in the light;
They sink in quick succession out of sight
Into the thick insuperable gloom
Our futile lives in flashing by illume--
Lightning which mocks the darkness of the night.
Nay--but consider, though we change and die,
If men must pass shall Man not still remain?
As the unnumbered drops of summer rain
Whose changing particles unchanged on high,
Fixed, in perpetual motion, yet maintain
The mystic bow emblazoned on the sky.
Oh ye, all ye, who suffer here below,
Schooled in the baffling mystery of pain,
Who on life's anvil bear the fateful strain,
Wrong as forged iron, hammered blow on blow.
Take counsel with your grief, in that you know,
That he who suffers suffers not in vain,
Nay, that it shall be for the whole world's gain,
And wisdom prove the priceless price of woe.
Thus in some new-found land where no man's feet
Have trod a path, bold voyagers astray,
May fall foredone by torturing thirst and heat:
But from the impotent body of defeat--
The winners spring who carve a conquering way--
Measured by milestones of their perished clay.
Like a great rock which looming o'er the deep
Casts his eternal shadow on the strands,
And veiled in cloud inexorably stands,
While vaulting round his adamantine steep
Embattled breakers clamorously leap,
Sun-garlanded and hope-uplifted bands,
But soon with waters shattered in the sands
Slowly recoiling back to ocean creep:
So sternly dost thou tower above us, Fate!
For still our eager hearts exultant beat,
Borne in the hurrying tide of life elate,
And dashing break against thy marble feet
But would Hope's rainbow-aureole round us fleet,
Without these hurtling shocks of man's estate?
Would we but love what will not pass away!
The sun that on each morning shines as clear
As when it rose first on the world's first year;
The fresh green leaves that rustle on the spray.
The sun will shine, the leaves will be as gay
When graves are full of all our hearts held dear,
When not a soul of those who loved us here,
Not one, is left us--creatures of decay.
Yea, love the Abiding in the Universe
Which was before, and will be after us.
Nor yet for ever hanker and vainly cry
For human love--the beings that change or die;
Die--change--forget: to care so is a curse,
Yet cursed we'll be rather than not care thus.
Lo, haply walking in some clattering street--
Where throngs of men and women dumbly pass,
Like shifting pictures seen within a glass
Which leave no trace behind--one seems to meet,
In roads once trodden by our mutual feet,
A face projected from that shadowy mass
Of faces, quite familiar as it was,
Which beaming on us stands out clear and sweet.
The face of faces we again behold
That lit our life when life was very fair,
And leaps our heart toward eyes and mouth and hair:
Oblivious of the undying love grown cold,
Or body sheeted in the churchyard mould,
We stretch out yearning hands and grasp--the air.
From out the front of being, undefiled,
A life hath been upheaved with struggle and pain;
Safe in her arms a mother holds again
That dearest miracle--a new-born child.
To moans of anguish terrible and wild--
As shrieks the night-wind through an ill-shut pane--
Pure heaven succeeds; and after fiery strain
Victorious woman smiles serenely mild.
Yea, shall she not rejoice, shall not her frame
Thrill with a mystic rapture! At this birth,
The soul now kindled by her vital flame
May it not prove a gift of priceless worth?
Some saviour of his kind whose starry fame
Shall bring a brightness to the darkened earth.
It is a solemn evening, golden-clear--
The Alpine summits flame with rose-lit snow
And headlands purpling on wide seas below,
And clouds and woods and arid rocks appear
Dissolving in the sun's own atmosphere
And vast circumference of light, whose slow
Transfiguration--glow and after-glow--
Turns twilight earth to a more luminous sphere.
Oh heart, I ask, seeing that the orb of day
Has sunk below, yet left to sky and sea
His glory's spiritual after-shine:
I ask if Love, whose sun hath set for thee,
May not touch grief with his memorial ray,
And lend to loss itself a joy divine?
(See Wordsworth's It Is a Beauteous Evening, Calm and Free.)
The Red Sunsets, 1883 (1)
The twilight heavens are flushed with gathering light,
And o'er wet roofs and huddling streets below
Hang with a strange Apocalyptic glow
On the black fringes of the wintry night.
Such bursts of glory may have rapt the sight
Of him to whom on Patmos long ago
The visionary angel came to show
That heavenly city built of chrysolite.
And lo, three factory hands begrimed with soot,
Aflame with the red splendour, marvelling stand,
And gaze with lifted faces awed and mute.
Starved of earth's beauty by Man's grudging hand,
O toilers, robbed of labour's golden fruit,
Ye, too, may feast in Nature's fairyland.