Dinah Maria Mulock Craik (1826-1887)
"Eighteen Sonnets" from Poems (1866)
See the complete text of Poems (Indiana University).
"Poor heart, what bitter words we speak
When God speaks of resigning!"
Children, that lay their pretty garlands by
So piteously, yet with a humble mind;
Sailors, who, when their ship rocks in the wind,
Cast out her freight with half-averted eye,
Riches for life exchanging solemnly,
Lest they should never gain the wished-for shore;--
Thus we, O Father, standing Thee before,
Do lay down at Thy feet without a sigh
Each after each our precious things and rare,
Our dear heart-jewels and our garlands fair.
Perhaps Thou knewest that the flowers would die,
And the long-voyaged boards be found but dust:
So took'st them, while unchanged. To Thee we trust
For incorruptible treasure: Thou art just.
Saint Elizabeth of Bohemia
"Would that we two were lying
Beneath the churchyard sod,
With our limbs at rest in the green earth's breast,
And our souls at home with God."
--Kingsley's Saint's Tragedy.
I never lay me down to sleep at night
But in my heart I sing that little song:
The angels hear it as, a pitying throng,
They touch my burning lids with fingers bright
As moonbeams, pale, impalpable, and light:
And when my daily pious tasks are done,
And all my patient prayers said one by one,
God hears it. Seems it sinful in His sight
That round my slow burnt-offering of quenched will
One quivering human sigh creeps wind-like still?
That when my orisons celestial fail
Rises one note of natural human wail?
Dear lord, spouse, hero, martyr, saint! erelong,
I trust, God will forgive my singing that poor song.
A year ago I bade my little son
Bear upon pilgrimage a heavy load
Of alms; he cried, half-fainting on the road,
"Mother, O mother, would the day were done!"
Him I reproved with tears, and said, "Go on!
Nor pause nor murmur till thy task be o'er."--
Would not God say to me the same, and more?
I will not sing that song. Thou, dearest one,
Husband--no, brother!--stretch thy steadfast hand
And let mine grasp it. Now, I also stand,
My woman weakness nerved to strength like thine;
We'll quaff life's aloe-cup as if 't were wine
Each to the other; journeying on apart,
Till at heaven's golden doors we two leap heart to heart.
W. H. L. and F. R.
There was a marriage-table where One sate,
Haply, unnoticed, till they craved His aid:
Thenceforward does it seem that He has made
All virtuous marriage-tables consecrate:
And so, at this, where without pomp or state
We sit, and only say, or mute, are fain
To wish the simple words "God bless these twain!"
I think that He who "in the midst" doth wait
Oft-times, would not abjure our prayerful cheer,
But, as at Cana, list with gracious ear
To us, beseeching, that the Love divine
May ever at their household table sit,
Make all His servants who encompass it,
And change life's bitterest waters into wine.
Michael the Archangel: A Statuette
My white archangel, with thy steadfast eyes
Beholding all this empty ghost-filled room,
Thy clasped hands resting on the sword of doom,
Thy firm, close lips, not made for human sighs
Or smiles, or kisses sweet, or bitter cries,
But for divine exhorting, holy song
And righteous counsel, bold from seraph tongue.
Beautiful angel, strong as thou art wise,
Would that the sight of thee made wise and strong!
Would that this sheathed sword of thine, which lies
Stonily idle, could gleam out among
The spiritual hosts of enemies
That tempting shriek--"Requite thou wrong with wrong."
Lama Sabachthani,--How long, how long.
Michael, the leader of the hosts of God,
Who warred with Satan for the body of him
Whom, living, God had loved--If cherubim
With cherubim contended for one clod
Of human dust, for forty years that trod
The gloomy desert of Heaven's chastisement,
Are there not ministering angels sent
To battle with the devils that roam abroad,
Clutching our living souls? "The living, still
The living, they shall praise Thee!"--Let some great
Invisible spirit enter in and fill
The howling chambers of hearts desolate;
With looks like thine, O Michael, strong and wise,
My white archangel with the steadfast eyes.
Beatrice to Dante
"Guardami ben. Ben son, ben son." [*]
Regard me well: I am thy love, thy love;
Thy blessing, thy delight, thy hope, thy peace:
Thy joy above all joys that break and cease
When their full waves in widest circles move:
Thy bird of comfort, thine eternal dove,
Whom thou didst send out of thy mournful breast
To flutter back and point thee to thy rest:
Thine angel, who forgets her crown star-wove
To come to thee with folded woman-hands
Pleading,--"look on me, Beatrice, who stands
Before thee; by the Triune Light divine
Undazzled, still beholds thy human face,
And is more happy in this happy place
That thou alone art hers and she is thine."
Dante to Beatrice
I see thee, gliding towards me with slow pace
Across the azure fields of Paradise,
Where thine each footstep makes a star arise.
So from this heart's once void but infinite space
Each strange sweet touch of thy celestial grace
In the old mortal life, struck out some spark
To light the world, though all my heaven lay dark.
O Beatrice, cypresses enlace
My laurels: none have grown save tear-bedewed--
Salt tears that sank into the earth unviewed,
And sprang up green to form a crown of bays.
Take it! At thy dear feet I lay my all,
What men my honors, virtues, glories, call:
I lived, loved, suffered, sung--for thy sole praise.
Soul, spirit, genius--which thou art--that whence
I know not, rose upon this mortal frame
Like the sun o'er the mountains, all aflame,
Seen large through mists of childish innocence,
And year by year with me uptravelling thence,
As hour by hour the day-star, madest aspire
My nature, interpenetrate with fire
It felt but understood not--strong, intense,
Wisdom with folly mixed, and gold with clay;--
Soul, thou hast journeyed with me all this way.
Oft hidden and o'erclouded, oft arrayed
In scorching splendors that my earth-life burned,
Yet ever unto thee my true life turned,
For, dim, or clear, 't was thou my daylight made.
Soul, dwelling oft in God's infinitude,
And sometimes seeming no more part of me--
This me, worms' heritage--than that sun can be
Part of the earth he has with warmth imbued,--
Whence camest thou? whither goest thou? I, subdued
With awe of mine own being--thus sit still,
Dumb, on the summit of this lonely hill,
Whose dry November-grasses dew-bestrewed
Mirror a million suns--That sun, so bright,
Passes, as thou must pass, Soul, into night:
Art thou afraid, who solitary hast trod
A path I know not, from a source to a bourne,
Both which I know not? fear'st thou to return
Alone, even as thou camest, alone, to God?
"And with the dawn those angel faces smile
That I have loved long since, and lost awhile."
I shall not paint them. God them sees, and I:
No other can, nor need. They have no form,
I may not close with human kisses warm
Their eyes which shine afar or from on high,
But never will shine nearer till I die.
How long, how long! See, I am growing old;
I have quite ceased to note in my hair's fold
The silver threads that there in ambush lie;
Some angel faces bent from heaven would pine
To trace the sharp lines graven upon mine;
What matter? in the wrinkles ploughed by care
Let age tread after, sowing immortal seeds;
All this life's harvest yielded, wheat or weeds,
Is reaped, methinks: at my little field lies bare.
But in the night time, 'twixt it and the stars,
The angel faces still come glimmering by;
No death-pale shadow, no averted eye
Marking the inevitable doom that bars
Me from them. Not a cloud their aspect mars;
And my sick spirit walks with them hand in hand
By the cool waters of a pleasant land:
Sings with them o'er again, without its jars,
The psalm of life, that ceased, as one by one
Their voices, dropping off, left mine alone
With dull monotonous wail to grieve the air.
O solitary love, that art so strong,
I think God will have pity on thee erelong,
And take thee where thou'lt find those angel faces fair.
Sunday Morning Bells
From the near city comes the clang of bells:
Their hundred jarring diverse tones combine
In one faint misty harmony, as fine
As the soft note yon winter robin swells.--
What if to Thee in Thine Infinity
These multiform and many-colored creeds
Seem but the robe man wraps as masquers' weeds
Round the one living truth Thou givest him--Thee?
What if these varied forms that worship prove,
Being heart-worship, reach Thy perfect ear
But as a monotone, complete and clear,
Of which the music is, through Christ's name, Love?
Forever rising in sublime increase
To "Glory in the Highest,--on earth peace?"
Coeur de Lion
Marochetti's Statue in the Great Exhibition of 1851.
Richard the Lion-hearted, crowned serene
With the true royalty of perfect man;
Seated in stone above the praise or ban
Of these mixed crowds who come gaping lean
As if to see what the word "king" might mean
In those old times. Behold! what need that rim
Of crown 'gainst this blue sky, to signal him
A monarch, of the monarchs that have been,
And, perhaps, are not?--Read his destinies
In the full brow o'er-arching kingly eyes,
In the strong hands, grasping both rein and sword,
In the close mouth, so sternly beautiful:--
Surely, a man who his own spirit can rule;
Lord of himself, therefore his brethren's lord.
"O Richard, O mon roi." So minstrels sighed.
The many-centuried voice dies fast away
Amidst the turmoil of our modern day.
How know we but these green-wreathed legends hide
An ugly truth that never could abide
In this our living world's far purer air?--
Nevertheless, O statue, rest thou there,
Our Richard, of all chivalry the pride;
Or if not the true Richard, still a type
Of the old regal glory, fallen, o'er-ripe,
And giving place to better blossoming:
Stand--imaging the grand heroic days;
And let our little children come and gaze,
Whispering with innocent awe--"This was a King."
Guns of Peace
Sunday Night, March 30th, 1856.
Ghosts of dead soldiers in the battle slain,
Ghosts of dead heroes dying nobler far,
In the long patience of inglorious war,
Of famine, cold, heat, pestilence, and pain,--
All ye whose loss makes our victorious gain--
This quiet night, as sounds the cannon's tongue,
Do ye look down the trembling stars among
Viewing our peace and war with like disdain?
Or wiser grown since reaching those new spheres,
Smile ye on those poor bones ye sowed as seed
For this our harvest, nor regret the deed?--
Yet lift one cry with us to Heavenly ears--
"Strike with Thy bolt the next red flag unfurled,
And make all wars to cease throughout the world."
"Is the child dead?"--And they said, "He is dead."
In face of a great sorrow like to death
How do we wrestle night and day with tears;
How do we fast and pray; how small appears
The outside world, while, hanging on some breath
Of fragile hope, the chamber where we lie
Includes all space.--But if sudden at last
The blow falls; or by incredulity
Fond led, we--never having one thought cast
Towards years where "the child" was not--see it die,
And with it all our future, all our past,--
We just look round us with a dull surprise:
For lesser pangs we had filled earth with cries
Of wild and angry grief that would be heard:--
But when the heart is broken--not a word.
A Word in Season
This is a day the Lord hath made."--Thus spake
The good religious heart, unstained, unworn,
Watching the golden glory of the morn.--
Since, on each happy day that came to break
Like sunlight o'er this silent life of mine,
Yea, on each beauteous morning I saw shine,
I have remembered these your words, rejoiced
And been glad in it. So, o'er many-voiced
Tumultuous harmonies of tropic seas,
Which chant an everlasting farewell grand
Between ourselves and you and the old land,
Receive this token: many words chance-sown
May oftentimes have taken root and grown,
To bear food fruit perennially, like these.
* Suggested by a statue of Beatrice, bearing this motto.