Mabel’s Holy Day.

In a Garden.

He came, saw, and was conquered. Lady mine,1
You cannot choose but conquer ; in mere sport2
You triumph, and your prize a human heart ;3
Where others strive, you take your ease and win,—4
Win for you must ; and so our friend was won,—5
Tamed to the rose-chain which I’ve worn so long.6
Was never victory more swift and sure !7
A week, day, hour—nay, not so much ;8
He came, he saw, was conquered. Victory !9
Glory to you and me !
Take all the glory.10
No—though ’twas I that dragged him from his books,11
’Twas you that tamed him. Bent o’er dusty books12
There was my friend, my Ralph, my dear sworn brother,13
After some hundred years or so turned—poet,14
Spoiling his eyes—the boy has pleasant eyes—15
Gnawing a weighty tome, grub, scholar, mole,16
Philosopher of dusk and dust—and poet.17
I found him, and I dragged him forth to light.18
To gaslight.
Yes, to gaslight—best of lights,19
There he sat blinking—’twas the rarest sport—20
The innocent had never seen a play,21
Never !  He knew his Shakspeare, loved the book ;22
But not the boards ; they said the modern stage23
Was all unworthy ; so he only came24
Because I prayed him, and we had been friends.25
You had been friends ?
Friends ?  Yes, the closest friends.26
Oh but to see the change !  There he sat dazed,27
Puzzled, disdainful ; and the play began.28
What’s this ? The dazed eyes open round and bright.29
What’s this ? Black-letter ? parchment ? manuscript ?30
A Student’s prize ?  Newest old-fashioned verse,31
Or old verse new the fashion ?  Yes, by Love,32
By the great little master !  Such a scroll33
As not all libraries on earth can match,34
Parchment of living words, live manuscript,35
Most old, most new, the very fount of song,36
The world writ small in poetry—a woman.37
He did not know the kind.
And does he know it ?38
He learns his lesson daily at your feet.39
What shall you do ?  Where do you go to-day ?40
I am to go ?  I weary you ?
Not much.41
I cannot comprehend you.42
I hope not.43
I can but leave you.
You are very kind.44
Sphinx though you be, you make your meaning clear.45
Adieu, most potent lady : Queen, farewell,46
Give my respects to Master Ralph ; farewell,47
Most arbitrary lady, queen of hearts,48
Queen of the stage——
Don’t speak about the stage :49
I would forget—this is my holiday—50
Let me forget the actress—so good-bye !51
Good-bye. The gate grates on the gravel-walk ;52
He comes, I go—all pass ; he goes, I come ;53
We are two buckets at one well. Good-bye.54
You’ll educate my friend.
Your friend !  And mine ?55
[ Arthur goes away. Presently Ralph comes through
the shrubbery ; as Mabel gives him her hand,
he begins to speak quickly.
Oh what a day !  Are you at last content ?56
My lady, did you ever see such a day ?57
I have seen many days.
But none like this.58
Why, all the land to-day is fairyland.59
I came by the upland common all ablaze60
With gorse from end to end, and met the breeze61
Full in the face, and the grey morning clouds62
Rolled northward rent, and the great sun shone through :63
But that was nothing. Where the road dips down64
Steep from rough common to the wide grass-lands,65
I found a world of blossom ; by my side66
The May-trees stood so thick with bloom, methought67
No space was there for song o’ the thrush, that shook68
The heart o’ the bush with rhapsodies of love :69
But that was nothing ; for each blade of grass70
Had its rain-jewel ; short-lived buttercups—71
Wealth of the meadow, fairy merchants’ gold—72
Thronged to my feet ; then field and hedgerow, elms73
All newly green, and golden youth of oaks,74
And great horse-chestnut with imperial plumes ;75
Far trees, and farther in the farther fields,76
Till I saw dimly the fair silver coils,77
Where the full Thames lay dreaming. All the land78
Was one broad flood of blossom, all the air79
Was scent of blossom. Down the road I came,80
Like a winged creature who but walks for whim,81
Half stifled by the songs I could not sing :82
But that was less than nothing ; for I came83
Under your garden-wall, the old red wall,84
Rough stained and beautiful ; and there I stood,85
Delaying my delight, and looking up86
I looked close in and through laburnum bloom,87
And through the bloom light slanted to my eyes,88
Sunshine and blossom dazzling, golden shower,89
Quivering, with beauty breathless : but that’s nothing,90
For when I pushed your gate, my dusty feet91
Were ankle-deep in daisies ; nothing still,92
For round the o’erflowing lilac-bush I stole93
Breathless, and here are you.
Yes, here am I ;—94
And is that something ?
Crown o’ the day to me,95
Music that makes all music’s meaning clear,96
The master-touch interpreting all lights,97
Colour of colours, heart o’ the living rose——98
Enough !  Enough !  Would you too flatter ?
I pray you pardon me, I am mad to-day :100
Drunken with spring : this morning on the road101
I could not sing, for all the world was poem,102
The world was poet, I was dumb ; but now103
Beholding you I speak I know not what,104
The pent stream flows, and I am rhapsodist.105
I pray you pardon me.
You need no pardon :106
I think your liking for these things is real.107
You really like the country.
Really like it !108
To-day I love it.
Arthur loves the town.109
Arthur ?  Where is he ?  Will he come to-day ?110
Yes, he is here ; he’s somewhere in the house—111
Helping my maid perhaps to plan a gown112
For the next part I play.—
Don’t talk of plays.113
Is not this better than the playhouse ?
Yes :114
Oh so much better !  This is holiday,115
My holiday amid the birds and bloom,116
My holiday with flowers.
You love flowers.117
I hate them.
What ?
I hate them. So would you118
If they were hurled at you, each on its wire,119
Falling with a thud on the boards, stirring the dust,120
Formal and scentless, dull, inevitable121
As gloves or fans—a bouquet !
Bloom is bloom.122
May I not choose some flowers for my lady ?123
No, let them live ; I am so modest, I,124
One daisy shall suffice me ; thanks, my poet.125
Your poet !  If I dared—that was my dream126
The night when I first saw you ; on that night127
I was so full of poetry, or verse128
Which would be poetry, so full of song,129
That, as I walked home through the London crowd—130
Crowd that was but a murmur in my ears,131
A shadow world,—I heard no single word132
Of Arthur’s talk, who will be critical.133
The moon shone fair above base yellow lights,134
And my lips babbled song ; the moon shone fair135
And touched my lips with madness, till I thought136
That I was poet, fit to be your poet :137
I broke from Arthur, and ran home ; my brain138
Was burning ; “ It is the god,” I cried,139
The god inspires me :” so I seized my pen140
And wrote :— and by the morning light I read141
Page after page of broken scribbled verse,142
Poor verse—Yes, you may laugh.
I do not laugh.143
Show me this verse.
Then you love poetry ?144
I hate it. Verses have been flung at me145
To fall with a thud like flowers : poetry146
Is but cheap flowers, jewellery that’s cheap,147
Cheap as my life.
Why will you talk like that ?148
I talk as I feel. I am not good, you know ;149
Not good,—and somewhat weary of my life ;150
At least I can be honest—bad but true,—151
Show me your verse.
My lady, speak no more152
These cruel words against yourself. You know153
I can’t believe them—even if I would.154
You would believe them then ?
I wished to once ;155
Once ; long ago.
We have been friends one week.156
I was a fool, a prejudiced poor fool,157
And I knew nothing.
A week ago ! Poor boy !158
I am a boy no longer. As a boy159
I lived with boys, and loved my friends, my dreams,160
And did not hate my books ; I worked and played,161
Glad both of work and play. Then I saw you :162
Now I see nought but you.
Nought but each cloud,163
Each summer cloud, each tree, each blade of grass.164
I saw all these because I came to you,165
Because I came to you, all beautiful ;166
They had but mocked me else.
As they mock me.167
Would I could see their beauty ; for this land,168
Your dainty land of spring, is laid in flats ;169
The carpenters are barely out of sight ;170
Smell o’ the lamp, glare o’ the gas ; and soon171
Not without jolt and creak the play’s next scene172
Will be presented. I foresee the scene.173
What is that scene ?
A dainty scene enough ;174
A room, a bijou, boudoir, lady’s bower ;175
A wall of satin, save where Cupids leer176
From panels ; two long windows draped in lace177
Through which the rose-coloured pale sunlight faints178
To die on flowered carpet ; all things there179
Which women love, for which—Let’s hear your verse.180
There are tears in your eyes.
No, no. My eyes are dazed181
By too much lime-light. Let me hear your verse.182
There are tears in your eyes : why do you cry ?  Poor child !183
Child !  I am laughing now ; are you content ?184
Child !  I suppose that I was once a child,185
Knowing no harm i’ the world, a little child,186
I must have been—but it was long ago.187
Tell me about yourself.
With pleasure, sir ;188
The subject interests me : I was born189
Some five-and-twenty years ago, or more—190
I think that I was born before the flood :191
I lived in a farm :— Now mark the pretty scene !192
To Right a cottage porch o’ergrown with roses,193
Right Centre—pump or pigeon-house on pole,194
Then practicable gate o’ the old pasture,195
And Left a bit of barn-door. On this scene196
Enter a young girl singing ; that was I.197
Dost like the picture ? ” as they ask i’ the play.198
But come, recite !  You did not tear them all,199
Not all your pretty verses ?
All, I think :200
There’s something I remember—but I will not,201
You are so strange to-day.
You like me not :202
You like me not to-day ; and that is well ;203
You must not like me.
Stop ; don’t tell me that ;204
It is too late.
Poor boy !
Not poor but rich,205
Rich with a kingdom that I would not yield206
To be an Emperor.
And that’s not much.207
Don’t talk like a young lover on the stage !208
This my garden, this my holiday ;209
Keep the stage lover from me :— Be my Siebel,210
Cull me some flowers.
Let the flowers live ;211
Is not the whole world nosegay for my lady ?212
Pestilent vapours.
Disperse them then ;213
Come, let me have my hour ; come, if you love me ;214
Sit by my feet and speak your verse to me ;215
Here at my feet !  That’s right ; and now the verses !216
They are so weak.
The better !  Who am I217
That I should make men poets ?  Quires of verse218
Have been discharged at me ; they were all weak.219
Begin !
I cannot.
If you love me, Ralph.220
I must. I can remember but few lines,221
Night’s flower, child of night and perfumed air222
Star o’ the night, lone star as pure as pale223
Night’s bird whose mere discourse is music rare224
Bird, star and flower, lovelorn nightingale225
Lightning of wrath, O passion fierce and frail226
Heart o’ the rose, O heart of love’s own heart227
Air, fire, life, death—and woman too thow art.228
I have obeyed you, lady.
Thanks, my poet.229
And when I played, you saw all this in, me ?230
You were so much to me.
And it was real ?231
Was this play real to you ?  Did you believe ?232
The woman that you played was real to me,233
Now shadow of a shade, since you are real,234
Since I am by your feet, and this is you.235
Shadow of a shade, ay, shadow of shade is play236
And woman too.
Then nought be real to me237
But this dear shade.
No ; have no faith in me.238
I have no choice.
Poor boy !
Nay, not so poor !239
Now, when I felt your hand light on my hair,240
A blessing fell on me : Oh to sit here241
For ever, that this moment might be time,242
Dream with no waking after ! dreamful sleep,243
Or death of all thought save that you are near.244
Yes, dream ; you are safe in dreams—but never wake.245
Dream, and I dream this day will ne’er be done.246
The butterfly outlives it, but not love.247
One night falls dark, dark night on love and life.248
Oh this is poetry, folly, player’s rant ;249
You dream and wake to-morrow. A week ago250
We two were strangers ; let some few days pass251
And we are strangers.
But a week ago252
I had not lived.
Stage fever is not life ;253
Stage fever’s quick.
Yes, quick to cure or kill.254
You must not talk like that.
What need to talk ?255
Let the air talk in the lilac ; you and I256
Sit silent breathing spring-time—you and I.257
And are you happy ?
I am rich with joy,258
And yet not wholly happy.
Lover’s mood !259
O lover’s luxury of sighs long-drawn !260
Immortal—dead at sundown !  Is’t not sweet261
To taste the day’s delight, and sorrow too,262
Sorrow in the thought that you and I must part ?263
Why must we part ?
Why !  Wake and see the world,264
The world on which I make my player’s round,265
A star—how runs it !— star that’s pale and pure,266
Star o’ the troupe, a comet with faint tail,267
With somewhat musty followers—not with you.268
Child, would you journey round this dusty world269
Tied to my apron-string ?
Yes, that would I.270
No, be a man and burst these idle bonds,271
These apron-strings.
Who tied me here but you ?272
You bound me, and I will not loose the bonds.273
You bid me be a man ; be woman you274
To pity me : “ I would I were thy bird.”275
Don’t quote from plays.
’Tis real enough to me.276
I’ve seen so many love-sick Montagues ;277
I’ve stepped from windows with no house behind,278
Leaned from sham balconies to lisp sham love ;—279
The powder’s thick on the child Juliet’s cheek ;280
She’s dead i’ the first scene, dead, stark, analysed,281
Dissected—Now I shock you !  You see now282
How dull to feel I am, how cold, how bad,283
How tired of life !  A live warm-blooded man284
Had better crash his heart against a stone285
Than look for love in me. Be warned in time.286
All is cold here at my heart, all is cold here.287
See me, not Juliet in me : push her back,288
This Juliet of your fancy, to the tomb ;289
To the tomb with her, if you love me, Ralph.290
If I love !
Child, poor child, you must not love,291
You shall not love me.
I am not a child,—292
I love you, Mabel.
Hush ! you shall not love me.293
You will not : do you mark me ?  Arthur ! here !294
Where is my loving playmate ?  Ho, boy, ho !295
Come to me, Arthur.296
(coming to them).
I salute you both.297
Good morning, Ralph, a happy day to you !298
Is it not happy, man ?
Oh, much too happy !299
I triumph, Arthur !
May I kiss your hand ?300
My lips if you will ; I am right royal to-day.301
(to her).
What are you saying ?  You will spoil it all.302
Look how the boy stares, boy who dares not think303
Of woman’s lip, who dares no¢ lift his eye304
When trembling sore he takes her finger-tips,—305
Boy ! child ! a woman’s wine is made of grapes,306
Virtue ! a fig’s end !— oh, how runs the stuff ?—307
Iago knew us.
Good !  Brava ! brava !308
Was ever such an actress !  Ralph, applaud !309
I’ll swear he half believes her. What an actress !310
(to her).
And is this acting ?
No. I tell you, no.311
(Be silent, Arthur, do not cross my whim.)312
I have been acting, acting for a week,313
A long dull week, seven days of sentiment—314
Heaven bless us all !— of sentiment and song,315
Sighing like furnace,” of young grass and lambs,316
Young grass, young lambs, young love, love of a boy.317
But now good-bye, ingenuous charm of youth,318
Good-bye to love, good-bye to love and lamb,319
And back to town !  I am free, I am true, myself,320
I am myself again. Good-bye, dear boy ;321
We meet in town ?  No. Then good-bye again.322
[ Ralph goes away. Mabel will not look at him.
When he is out of sight, and Mabel still
stands and looks the other way, Arthur
comes to her doubtfully
What means this, Mabel ?  Won’t you speak ?323
What have I done ?  I’ve done nothing wrong.324
Nothing but torture me !  Go !
Very well !325
I never yet have crossed a lady’s whim.326
[ Arthur goes away.
I am alone : this is my holiday.327