A Letter in Black.

A floating on the fragrant flood1
Of summer, fuller hour by hour,2
With all the sweetness of the bud,3
Crown’d by the glory of the flower,4
My spirits with the season flowed ;5
The air was all a breathing balm ;6
The lake so softly sapphire glowed ;7
The mountains lay in royal calm.8
Green leaves were lusty, roses blush’d9
For pleasure in the golden time ;10
The birds through all their feathers flush’d11
For gladness of their marriage prime.12
Languid, among the lilies I threw13
Me down, for coolness, ’mid the sheen,14
Heaven one large smile of brooding blue,15
Earth one large smile of basking green.16
A rich suspended shower of gold17
Hung o’er me, my laburnum crown !18
You look up heavenward, and behold,19
It glows, and comes in glory down !20
There, as my thoughts of greenness grew21
To fruitage of a leafy dream,22
There, friend, your letter thrilled me through,23
And all the summer day was dim.24
The world, so pleasant to the sight,25
So full of voices blithe and brave,26
With all her lamps of beauty alight27
With life ! I had forgot the grave.28
And there it opened at my feet,29
Revealing a familiar face,30
Upturned, my whitened look to meet,31
And very patient in its place.32
My poor bereaven friend, I know33
Not how to word it, but would bring34
A little solace for your woe,35
A little love for comforting.36
And yet the best that I can say37
Will only help to sum your loss,38
I can but lift my look, and pray39
God help my friend to bear his cross.40
I have felt something of your smart,41
And lost the dearest thing e’er wound42
In love about a human heart ;43
I, too, have life-roots underground.44
From out my soul hath leapt a cry45
For help, nor God himself could save ;46
And tears still run that nought will dry47
Save death’s hand with the dust o’ the grave.48
God knows, and we may some day know,49
These hidden secrets of his love ;50
But now the stillness stuns us so,51
Darkly as in a dream we move.52
The glad life-pulses come and go,53
Over our head and at our feet ;54
Soft airs are sighing something low,55
The flowers are saying something sweet,56
And ’tis a merry world ; the lark57
Is singing over the green corn ;58
Only the house and heart are dark !59
Only the human world forlorn !60
There, in her bridal-chamber, lies61
A dear bed-fellow, all in white ;62
That purple shadow under eyes63
Where star-fire swam in liquid night.64
Sweet, slippery silver of her talk,65
And music of her laugh so dear,66
Heard in home-ways and wedded walk,67
For many and many a golden year ;68
The singing soul and shining face,69
Daisy-like glad, by roughest road,70
Gone ! with a thousand dearnesses71
That hid themselves for us and glowed.72
The waiting angel, patient wife,73
All through the battle at our side,74
That smiled her sweetness on our strife75
For gain, and it was sanctified !76
When waves of trouble beat breast-high,77
And the heart sank, she poured a balm78
That stilled them, and the saddest sky79
Made clear and starry with her calm.80
And when the world, with harvest ripe,81
In all its golden fulness lay,82
And God, it seemed, saw fit to wipe,83
Even on earth, our tears away,84
The good, true heart that bravely won,85
Must smile up in our face, and fall :86
And all our happy days are done,87
And this the end ! And is this all ?88
The bloom of bliss, the secret glow,89
That clothed without, and inly curled,—90
All gone. We are left shivering now,91
Naked to the wide open world.92
A shrivelled, withered world it is,93
And sad, and miserably cold :94
Where be its vaunted braveries ?95
’Tis grey, at miserably old.96
Our joy was all a drunken dream :97
This is the truth at waking. We98
Ave swept out rootless by the stream99
And current of calamity,100
Out on some lone, and shoreless sea101
Of solitude, so vast and deep,102
As in a wrong Eternity,103
Where God is not, or gone to sleep.104
My friend, I see you with your cup105
Of tears and trembling, see you sit,106
And long to help you drink it up,107
With useless longings infinite108
Sit, rocking the old mournful thought,109
That on the heart’s blood will be nurs’d,110
Unless the blessed tears be brought,111
Unless the cloudy sorrows burst.112
The little ones are gone to rest,113
And for a while they will not miss114
The mother-wings above the nest,115
But down a dream they feel her kiss ;116
And in their sleep will sometimes start,117
And toss wild arms for her caress,118
With moanings that must thrill a heart119
In heaven with divine distress.120
And Sorrow on your threshold stands,121
The Dark Ladye in glooming pall ;122
I see her take you by the hands,123
I feel her shadow over all.124
Hers is no warm and tender clasp :125
With silence solemn as the night’s,126
And veiled face, and mighty grasp,127
She leads her chosen up the heights.128
The cloudy crags are cold and grey,129
You cannot scale them without scars130
A many martyrs, by the way,131
Who never reach’d her tower of stars !132
But there her beauty shall be seen,133
Her glittering face so proudly pure,134
And all her majesty of mien,135
And all her guerdon shall be sure.136
Well. ’Tis not written God will give137
To his beloved only rest ;138
The hard life of the Cross they live,—139
They strive, and suffer, and are blessed.140
The feet must bleed to reach their throne ;141
The brow will burn before it bear142
One of the crowns that may be won143
By workers for immortal wear.144
Dear friend, life beats, though buried ’neath145
Its long black vault of night ; and see,146
There trembles, through this dark of death,147
Starlight of immortality.148
And yet shall dawn the eternal day,149
To kiss the eyes of them that sleep ;150
And He shall wipe all tears away151
From tired eyes of them that weep.152
’Tis something for the poor bereaven,153
In such a weary world of care,154
To feel that we have friends in heaven :155
Who helped us here, may aid us there.156
These yearnings for them set our arc157
Of being widening more and more,158
In circling sweep, through outer dark,159
To day more perfect than before.160
So much was left unsaid, the soul161
Must live in other worlds to be ;162
On earth we cannot grasp the whole,163
For that Love has eternity.164
Love deep as death, and rich as rest ;165
Love that was love with all Love’s might ;166
Level to needs the lowliest,167
Will not be less love at full-height.168
Though earthly forms be far apart,169
Spirit to spirit may be nigher ;170
The music chord the same at heart,171
Though one should range an octave higher.172
Eyes watch us that we cannot see ;173
Lips warn us which we may not kiss ;174
They wait for us, and starrily175
Lean towards us from heaven’s lattices.176
We cannot see them face to face ;177
But Love is nearness, and they love178
Us yet, nor change with change of place,179
In their more human world above,180
Where love, once leal, hath never ceased,181
And dear eyes never lose their shine,182
And there shall be a marriage feast183
Where Christ shall once more make the wine.184