BETA

A dinner scene with several people gathered around a table in historical dress. A kneeling man sings while playing the harp. Spilled wine on the table and two dogs below. Full-page illustration.

God’s Singer.


He bore a harp within his hand,1
And on his breast outspread2
The flower that from the dawn to dusk,3
For love of one o’erhead,4
Still follows on a look, till all5
Its golden leaves are shed ;6
Ye had not called him grave or gay7
For old, nor yet for young8
Ye had not known him : so he seem’d9
To be them all in one,10
And only in his smile ye knew11
The Singer ere he sung.12
A Name, a Name is in my heart,13
It bideth, hidden long,14
Because my hand hath not a chord15
That would not do it wrong ;16
So pure is it, so sweet, unmeet17
For rounding of a song,18
Yet in the cleft, its honey left19
Hath made my spirit strong.”20
A thought, a thought is in my heart21
Though seldom on the string ;22
I keep it round all other thoughts,23
Its sweetnesses to fling :24
Yea ! were it not within my soul25
Methinks I could not sing26
Nor ever raise my voice in praise27
Of any other thing.”28
So sang he sweet, so sang he clear, and lift his
look above,
29
They said that listened, “ Now he thinks of her
his ladye love ;”
30
But through the wood, where, in the calm of
summer’s noon, hung still
31
And motionless each little leaf, there ran a sud-
den thrill.
32
He stood within a Castle’s keep,33
A Castle that could wear,34
Stern looming o’er its rocky steep,35
As dark a frown as care.36
Yet now it smiled, as one beguiled37
Of ruggedness through sleep,38
So sweet a sunshine on from tower39
To tower did flash and leap,40
And all the summer’s noon did swoon41
About it, breathing deep.42
On Coigne and Gurgoyle little heads43
In carven stone did seem44
To wink and peep as they did creep45
From out some evil dream ;46
And over each, on leaf and scroll,47
Strange words were writ, that seem’d to flit48
Within each mask, and be to it49
Interpreter of soul :50
Sans Roi, sans Loi, sans Foi ;” and there,51
Above the gate, a time-gnawed wreath52
And legend mouldered half away,53
Spoke fair to passer underneath :54
Entres dans la Chateau des delices, et fais ce
que voudray.”
55
A fountain warbled, more it seemed56
In weariness than play ;57
The birds sang loud, but not as in58
The forest depths sing they.59
Yet ringing clear above them all,60
Up rose the minstrel’s lay,61
As freshly shook as when the brook62
Sang with him on his way.63
The soft air lifted it on high,64
Through pleasant bower and hall,65
And ladies o’er the balcony66
Leant, holden in its thrall ;67
It floated in above the din68
That rose within the Court,—69
The grey-beards paused above the cup,70
The gallants ’mid their sport ;71
“Ha !” spake the Baron, “bring him in,72
The merry Torigleur ! to the strings73
The wine will move, and dance within74
Our beakers while he sings.”75
As come the minstrel in the hell,76
He bore him high and free,77
Yet lowly bowed, as one long vowed78
To gentle courtesy.79
Then o’er his harp, with thought to claim80
A silence ere he sung,81
He passed his hand, as if to tame82
Each bounding chord that sprung83
Beneath it ; as a loving heart,84
Now fretted, and now wrung,85
Must rise and fall unto the thrall86
That over it is flung ;87
Then soft and low, as is the flow88
Of waters, to whose drip89
A child hath danced, his finger fine90
From string to string did slip,91
Till, gathered in a sudden shower,92
The spray-drops glanced and flew93
As light as when, ’mid thick-wove boughs,94
The sunbeams trickle. through.95
And then, with firmer, bolder touch, he struck a
deeper strain,
96
And high amid the cloven hills, by thunder rift
in twain,
97
The swollen torrents leapt and sprang, and down
the flashing rain
98
Poured in through ghastly rents, while swift,
from giant hand to hand,
99
Like arrows torn from fiery sheaf, the lightning’s
jagged brand,
100
Flung careless on from peak to peak, lit up the
startled land ;
101
And then a swell, a rush as of broad rivers in
their flow,
102
Ran through it, and the forest shook with rust-
lings light and low,
103
Smooth-sweeping winds, till underneath you
heard the grasses grow.
104
And as the stormy waves withdrew,105
Disparting here and there,106
The flood rolled backward, and to view ,107
The mountain summits bare,108
Pierced upwards, till a world swept out109
Green, jubilant, and fair ;110
Then clear the singer’s voice arose111
Upon the freshened air.112
He sang an old and simple tale,113
A sad and earnest song,114
Of things most frail that did prevail,115
Of weakest things made strong ;116
Of tender Truth, that did not fail117
For time, or change, and long,118
Long suffered, rather than to give119
Content to suffer wrong ;120
A song that hath been oft-times sung,121
A tale that hath been told122
Since first this world of ours was young,123
Nor with it groweth old ;124
While human eyes keep tears to weep,125
And hearts have love to hold,126
Your friend or lover under sun,127
Or underneath the mould.128
The matron on her Dais high,129
That held her place of pride,130
Turned, with a trouble in her eye,131
Her stately head aside ;132
For through the music little feet133
Went moving, and the child134
That One who loveth souls, took back135
Unaltered, unbeguiled,136
With sweet voice small did seem to call137
Upon her name, and smiled.138
The Gallant drew his plumèd cap139
Across his brow, and sighed ;140
A hand was clasped within his own,141
A step was by his side,142
A soft, low voice he seemed to meet,143
Each whispered tone he knew ;144
None since had ever been so sweet,145
Nor any since so true,146
For like a child, unto the hill147
Whence springs the rainbow, driven,148
His mind on many a glittering guest149
Since then had toiled and striven,150
Yet never had he touched again151
The point where earth meets heaven.152
The grey-haired Seneschal, that leant153
Upon his staff apart,154
Felt somewhat trembling on his lip,155
And tightening round his heart,—156
A ruined shrine, that had not seen157
Its angels all depart ;158
For now he felt his mother’s kiss159
Upon his cheek, and heard160
Oh ! sound approved from lips beloved,161
Her fond and praiseful word.162
And as each aged fibre shook,163
And trembled to the strain,164
He heard the cawing of the rook,—165
He was a boy again !166
With glad feet plashing in the brook167
That wimpled onwards, fain168
Its shining boundary to trace,169
And clip his little world within170
Too small a space, to leave a place171
For sorrow and for sin.172
And through each heart a pang shot strong,173
And on it darkly bore174
A sense of somewhat that had long175
Been lost, unmissed before ;176
But now, to reach a guiding Hand,177
The Spirit groped and felt178
Along the void, and for the land179
It yearned, where once it dwelt ;180
It longed to knit some broken troth,181
And then, as if it knew182
All good below is but the show183
And shadow of the true ;184
Each thirsted sore to claim once more185
His birth-right, and renew186
A higher ’l egiance, whence the soul187
Had lapsed and fallen through.188
And there was Silence, such as falls189
On one that, musing lone190
At midnight on a city’s walls,191
Sees moonlight round him thrown192
So heavenly fair, ere he is ware,193
His inner sense hath grown194
More pure, and may not well endure195
To think on Pain and Sin ;196
On all that shines so fair without,197
That works so foul within198
Our mortal state, and ill can wait.199
Those clearer Heights to win,200
Where never goodly thing goes out,201
Nor evil cometh in !202
At length the Baron broke the spell203
Sir Minstrel ! sorry cheer204
For all thou playest deft and well,205
Methinks thou bringest here ;206
So now, that ye have made us grave,207
Your penance I will choose208
To troll us out a joyous stave,209
As merry trouveurs use,—210
A song of jest and gailliardise211
To wreathe about the cup,212
That, while we drain it, ladies’ eyes213
May glisten from it up.”214
Fain is my harp,” the minstrel spake,215
To bring you joy and ease,216
Yet would it break if I should take217
A strain on it like these :”218
Its only skill is such to wake219
As may my Master please.”220
Thy Master !” then the Baron smiled221
A scornful smile and proud,222
I did not deem ye brethren free223
To other service vowed224
Than flowing of the Malvoisie225
And largesse clinking loud.”226
Yea,” said the Minstrel, “ I am free,227
And yet a Lord is mine228
A Service that is liberty,229
A Master who is Thine.”230
Then sprang the Baron from his seat,231
A priest without the frock !232
Now bind him, varlets, hands and feet,233
And fling him down the rock ;234
For I have sworn no hireling shorn235
Among their tribe should cross236
My threshold, but have cause to mourn237
His boldness to his loss.”238
They bar against thy priest the gate,239
Thy singer passeth free,240
So hold me ever consecrate241
Thy Witness still to be.”242
So looking up, the minstrel spake,243
And, turning, went his way244
From out them all, and none did seek245
To hinder him or stay ;246
And as he passed beneath the gate,247
A bird was singing free,248
And from the chapel in the wood249
Rose vespers solemnly ;250
And as upon the air serene251
His song ascended calm,252
Methought it filled the space between253
The Carol and the Psalm !254