BETA

A woman sits to the left of a window as she cradles a child on her lap. A dark curtain partially covers the window. 1/2-page illustration contained within a circular border.

The Two Margarets.

I.—Margaret by the Mere Side.

Lying imbedded in the green champaigne1
That gives no shadow to thy silvery face,2
Open to all the heavens, and all their train,3
The marshall’d clouds that cross with stately pace,4
No steadfast hills on thee reflected rest,5
Nor waver with the dimpling of thy breast.6
O, silent Mere !  about whose marges spring7
Thick bulrushes to hide the reed-bird’s nest ;8
Where the shy ousel dips her glossy wing,9
And balanced in the water takes her rest :10
While under bending leaves, all gem-arrayed,11
Blue dragon-flies sit panting in the shade :12
Warm, stilly place, the sundew loves thee well,13
And the green sward comes creeping to thy brink,14
And golden saxifrage and pimpernel15
Lean down to thee their perfumed heads to drink ;16
And heavy with the weight of bees doth bend17
White clover, and beneath thy wave descend :18
While the sweet scent of bean-fields, floated wide19
On a long eddy of the lightsome air20
Over the level mead to thy lone side,21
Doth lose itself among thy zephyrs rare,22
With wafts from hawthorn bowers and new-cut hay,23
And blooming orchards lying far away.24
Thou hast thy Sabbaths, when a deeper calm25
Descends upon thee, quiet Mere, and then26
There is a sound of bells, a far-off psalm27
From grey church towers, that swims across the fen ;28
And the light sigh where grass and waters meet,29
Is thy meek welcome to the visit sweet.30
Thou hast thy lovers. Though the angler’s rod31
Dimple thy surface seldom ; though the oar32
Fill not with silvery globes thy fringing sod,33
Nor send long ripples to thy lonely shore ;34
Though few, as in a glass, have cared to trace35
The smile of nature moving on thy face ;36
Thou hast thy lovers truly. ’M id the cold37
Of northern tarns the wild-fowl dream of thee,38
And, keeping thee in mind, their wings unfold,39
And shape their course, high soaring, till they see40
Down in the world, like molten silver, rest41
Their goal, and screaming plunge them in thy breast.42
A woman sits under a tree beside a body of water and gazes into the distance. Reeds protrude from the water and birds and insects fly in the distance. 1/2-page illustration contained within a single-ruled border.
Fair Margaret, who sittest all day long43
On the grey stone beneath the sycamore,44
The bowering tree with branches lithe and strong,45
The only one to grace the level shore,46
Why dost thou wait ?  for whom with patient cheer47
Gaze yet so wistfully adown the Mere ?48
Thou canst not tell, thou dost not know, alas !49
Long watchings leave behind them little trace ;50
And yet how sweetly must the mornings pass,51
That bring that dreamy calmness to thy face !52
How quickly must the evenings come that find53
Thee still regret to leave the Mere behind !54
Thy cheek is resting on thy hand ; thine eyes55
Are like twin violets but half unclosed,56
And quiet as the deeps in yonder skies.57
Never more peacefully in love reposed58
A mother’s gaze upon her offspring dear,59
Than thine upon the long far-stretching Mere.60
Sweet innocent !  Thy yellow hair floats low61
In rippling undulations on thy breast,62
Then stealing down the parted love-locks flow,63
Bathed in a sunbeam on thy knees to rest,64
And touch those idle hands that folded lie,65
Having from sport and toil a like immunity.66
Through thy life’s dream with what a touching grace67
Childhood attends thee, nearly woman grown ;68
Her dimples linger yet upen thy face,69
Like dews upon a lily this day blown ;70
Thy sighs are born of peace, unruffled, deep ;71
So the babe sighs on mother’s breast asleep.72
It sighs, and wakes,—but thou !  thy dream is all,73
And thou wert born for it, and it for thee ;74
Morn doth not take thy heart, nor evenfall75
Charm out its sorrowful fidelity,76
Nor noon beguile thee from the pastoral shore,77
And thy long watch beneath the sycamore.78
No, down the Mere as far as eye can see,79
Where its long reaches fade into the sky,80
Thy constant gaze, fair child, rests lovingly ;81
But neither thou nor any can descry82
Aught but the grassy banks, the rustling sedge,83
And flocks of wild-fowl splashing at their edge.84
And yet ’tis not with expectation hushed85
That thy mute rosy mouth doth pouting close ;86
No fluttering hope to thy young heart e’er rushed,87
Nor disappointment troubled its repose ;88
All satisfied with gazing evermore89
Along the sunny Mere and reedy shore.90
The brooding wren flies pertly near thy seat,91
Thou wilt not move to mark her glancing wing ;92
The timid sheep browse close before thy feet,93
And heedless at thy side do thrushes sing.94
So long amongst them thou hast spent thy days,95
They know that harmless hand thou wilt not raise.96
Thou wilt not lift it up—not e’en to take97
The foxglove bells that flourish in the shade,98
And put them in thy bosom ;  not to make99
A posy of wild hyacinth inlaid100
Like bright mosaic in the mossy grass,101
With freckled orchis and pale sassafras.102
Gaze on ;— take in the voices of the Mere,103
The break of shallow water at thy feet,104
Its plash among long weeds and grasses sere,105
And its weird sobbing,—hollow music meet106
For ears like thine ; listen and take thy fill,107
And dream on it by night, when all is still.108
Full sixteen years have slowly pass’d away,109
Young Margaret, since thy fond mother here110
Came down, a six months’ wife, one April day,111
To see her husband’s boat go down the Mere,112
Ard track its course, till, last in distance blue,113
In mellow light it faded from her view.114
It faded, and she never saw it more ;—115
Nor any human eye ;— oh, grief !  oh, woe !116
It faded,—and return’d rot to the shore ;117
But far above it still the waters flow118
And none beheld it sink, and none could tell119
Where coldly slept the form she loved so well !120
But that sad dey, unknowing of her fate,121
She homeward turn’d her still reluctant feet ;122
And at her wheel she spun, till dark and late,123
The evening fell ;— the time when they should meet ;—124
Till the stars paled that at deep midnight burn’d125
And morning dawn’d, and he was not return’d.126
And the bright sun came up—she thought too soon,127
And seed his ruddy light along the Mere ;128
And day wore on too quickly, and at noon129
She came and wept beside the waters clear.130
How could he be so late ?” —and then hope fled ;131
And disappointment darken’d into dread.132
He never came, and she with weepings sore133
Peered in the water-flags unceasingly ;134
Through all the undulations of the shore,135
Looking for that which most she feared to see.136
And then she took home sorrow to her heart,137
And brooded over its cold cruel smart.138
And after, desolate she sat alone139
And mourned, refusing to be comforted,140
On the grey stone, the moss-embroider’d stone,141
With the great sycamore above her head ;142
Till after many days a broken oar143
Hard by her seat was drifted to the shore.144
It came, a token of his fate,—the whole,145
The sum of her misfortune to reveal ;146
As if sent up in pity to her soul,147
The tidings of her widowhood to seal ;148
And put away the pining hope forlorn,149
That made her grief more bitter to be borne.150
And she was patient ; through the weary day151
She toiled ; though none was there her work to bless,152
And did not wear the sullen months away,153
Nor call on death to end her wretchedness,154
But lest the grief should overflow her breast,155
She toiled as heretofore, and would not rest.156
But, her work done, what time the evening star157
Rose over the cool water, then she came158
To the grey stone, and saw its light from far159
Drop down the misty Mere white lengths of flame,160
Arid wonder’d whether there might be the place161
Where the soft ripple wandered o’er his face.162
Unfortunate !  In solitude forlorn163
She dwelt, and thought upon her husband’s grave,164
Till when the days grew short a child was born165
To the dear father underneath the wave ;166
And it brought back a remnant of delight,167
A little sunshine to its mother’s sight ;168
A little wonder to her heart grown numb,169
And a sweet yearning pitiful and keen :170
She took it as from that poor father come,171
Her and the misery to stand between ;172
Her little maiden babe, who day by day173
Sucked at her breast and charmed her woes away.174
But years flew on ; the child was still the same,175
Nor human language she had learned to speak ;176
Her lips were mute, and seasons went and came,177
And brought fresh beauty to her tender cheek ;178
And all the day upon the sunny shore179
She sat and mused beneath the sycamore.180
Strange sympathy ! she watched and wearied not,181
Haply unconscious what it was she sought ;182
Her mother’s tale she easily forgot,183
And if she listened no warm tears it brought ;184
Though surely in the yearnings of her heart185
The unknown voyager must have had his part.186
Unknown to her ;  like all she saw unknown,187
All sights were fresh as when they first began,188
All sounds were new ;  each murmur and each tone189
And cause and consequence she could not scan,190
Forgot that night brought darkness in its train,191
Nor reasoned that the day would come again.192
There is a happiness in past regret ;193
And echoes of the harshest sound are sweet.194
The mother’s soul was struck with grief, and yet,195
Repeated in her child, ’twas not unmeet196
That echo-like the grief a tone should take197
Painless, but ever pensive for her sake.198
For her dear sake, whose patient soul was linked199
By ties so many to the babe unborn ;200
Whose hope, by slow degrees become extinct,201
For evermore had left her child forlorn,202
Yet left no consciousness of want or woe,203
Nor wonder vague that these things should be so,204
Truly her joys were limited and few,205
But they sufficed a life to satisfy,206
That neither fret nor dim foreboding knew,207
But breathed the air in a great harmony208
With its own place and part, and was at one209
With all it knew of earth and moon and sun.210
For all of them were worked into the dream,211
The husky sighs of wheat-fields in it wrought ;212
All the land-miles belonged to it ;  the stream213
That fed the Mere ran through it like a thought.214
It was a passion of peace, and loved to wait215
’Neath boughs with fair green light illuminate.216
To wait with her alone ;  always alone :217
For any that drew near she heeded not,218
Wanting them little as the lily grown219
Apart from others in a shady plot,220
Wants fellow-lilies of like fair degree,221
In her still glen to bear her company.222
Always alone :  and yet, there was a child223
Who loved this child, and from his turret towers,224
Across the lea would roam to where, inisled225
And fenced in rapturous silence, went her hours,226
And with slow footsteps drawn anear the place227
Where mute she sat, would ponder on her face,228
And wonder at her with a childish awe,229
And come again to look, and yet again,230
Till the sweet rippling of the Mere would draw231
His longing to itself ;  while in her train232
The water-hen, come forth, would bring her brood233
From slumbering in the rushy solitude ;234
Or to their young would curlews cail and clang235
Their homeless young that down the furrows creep ;236
Or the wind-hover in the blue would hang,237
Still as a rock set in the watery deep.238
Then from her presence he would break away,239
Unmarked, ungreeted yet, from day to day.240
But older grown, the Mere he haunted yet,241
And a strange joy from its sweet wildness caught ;242
Whilst careless sat alone maid Margaret,243
And “ shut the gates ” of silence on her thought,244
All through spring mornings gemmed with melted rime,245
All through hay-harvest and through gleaning time.246
O pleasure for itself that boyhood makes,247
O happiness to roam the sighing shore,248
Plough up with elfin craft the water-flakes,249
And track the nested rail with cautious oar ;250
Then floating lie and look with wonder new251
Straight up in the great dome of light and blue.252
O pleasure !  yet they took him from the wold,253
The reedy Mere, and all his pastime there,254
The place where he was born and would grow old255
If God his life so many years should spare ;256
From the loved haunts of childhood and the plain257
And pasture-lands of his own broad domain.258
And he came down when wheat was in the sheaf,259
And with her fruit the apple-branch bent low,260
While yet in August glory hung the leaf,261
And flowerless aftermath began to grow ;262
He came from his grey turrets to the shore,263
And sought the maid beneath the sycamore.264
He sought her, not because her tender eyes265
Would brighten at his coming, for he knew266
Full seldom any thought of him would rise267
In her fair breast when he had passed from view268
But for his own love’s sake, that unbeguiled269
Drew him in spirit to the silent child.270
For boyhood in its better hour is prone271
To reverence what it hath not understood ;272
And he had thought some heavenly meaning shone273
From her clear eyes, that made their watchings good ;274
While a great peacefulness of shade was shed275
Like oil of consecration on her head.276
A fishing wallet from his shoulder slung,277
With bounding foot he reached the mossy place,278
A little moment gently o’er her hung,279
Put back her hair and looked upon her face,280
Then fain from that deep dream to wake her yet,281
He “ Margaret ! ” low murmured, “ Margaret !282
Look at me once before I leave the land,283
For I am going,—going, Margaret. ”284
And then she sighed, and lifting up her hand,285
Laid it along his young fresh cheek, and set286
Upon his face those blue twin-deeps, her eyes,287
And moved it back from her in troubled wise,288
Because he came between her and her fate,289
The Mere. She sighed again as one oppressed ;290
The waters, shining clear, with delicate291
Reflections wavered on her blameless breast ;292
And through the branches dropt, like flickerings fair,293
And played upon her hands and on her hair.294
And he, withdrawn a little space to see,295
Murmured in tender ruth that was not pain,296
Farewell, I go ;  but sometimes think of me,297
Maid Margaret ;”  and there came by again298
A whispering in the reed-beds-and the sway299
Of waters :  then he turned and went his way.300
And wilt thou think on him now he is gone ?301
No ;  thou wilt gaze :  though thy young eyes grow dim,302
And thy soft cheek become all pale and wan,303
Still thou wilt gaze, and spend no thought on him ;304
There is no sweetness in his laugh for thee305
No beauty in his fresh heart’s gaiety.306
But wherefore linger in deserted haunts ?307
Why of the past, as if yet present, sing ?308
The yellow iris on the margin flaunts,309
With hyacinth the banks are blue in spring,310
And under dappled clouds the lark afloat311
Pours all the April-tide from her sweet throat,312
But Margaret—ah ! thou art there no more,313
And thick dank moss creeps over thy grey stone ;314
Thy path is lost that skirted the low shore,315
With willow-grass and speedwell overgrown ;316
Thine eye has closed for ever, and thine ear317
Drinks in no more the music of the Mere.318
The boy shall come—shall come again in spring,319
Well pleased that pastoral solitude to share,320
And some kind offering in his hand will bring321
To cast into thy lap, O maid most fair322
Some clasping gem about thy neck to rest,323
Or heave and glimmer on thy guileless breast.324
And he shall wonder why thou art not here325
The solitude with “ smiles to entertain,”326
And gaze along the reaches of the Mere ;327
But he shall never see thy face again328
Shall never see upon the reedy shore329
Maid Margaret beneath her sycamore.330
A man and woman closely face each other right of centre below a tree. The woman sits facing the man with her right hand pressed to her cheek. The man leans towards her and holds a long staff. Behind the man, there is long grass, flowers, and insects. In the background, there is a body of water, hills, and flying birds. 1/4-page illustration contained within a single-ruled border.