Cyril in his study. Evening.
The tree of Life, earth-rooted, blooms in
Where its height reaches ; our impatient faith2
Outstrips our hope, and at the base of growth3
Clamours for fruit. If here it dropped for us,4
How should it ripen in that rich Beyond5
For which we work ?  We can afford to wait,6
Being so sure. Thus have I conn’d my task ;7
Yet by long waiting surest hope grows sick ;8
What boots nice ordering of a feast for him9
Who faints upon the threshold ?  what the light10
Of far-off welcome for blind hearts that break11
Worn out with travelling homeward ?  O, I want12
The music of possession !  One It-is13
Outweighs a world of Shall-be’s. If I knew14
That I had gain’d one soul,—that I could set15
One trophy on my heart with “ This is mine—16
Mine, and no other’s !— when I see the brink17
Lean over darkness, if I could plant myself18
A wall upon the slope of that despair,19

* The first part of this poem, entitled “ Choice,” appeared
in Good Words for June, 1869.
To save one dangerous passer, seizing him20
Just as he falls, whether by will or choice,—21
If, reeling with the shock of victory,22
I, with that joyful burden on my breast,23
Could reach my Master’s feet—let it there crush me,24
What matter, so the triumph crush me there !25
But that were easy crowning. Not the toil,26
But the utter darkness of the toil appals me.27
The saints of old saw where their weapons struck—28
Ay, they endured as verily seeing Him29
Who is for us invisible : He came30
About them as Day comes about the world ;31
The comfort of His glory strengthen’d them32
When they beheld it ; for they were not left33
To wish and murmur, desolate with doubt34
(Our palmless martyrdom), they saw and felt,35
And grasped and handled their substantial hopes.36
Could he doubt heaven for whom the car of fire37
Rose, bearing from his gaze the friend beloved ?38
Or they for whom the waters split and stood39
A twofold wall—could they deny God’s power ?40
Could she mistrust the pity of God, whose arms,41
Drearily wrapt about her weeping face,42
Were sever’d into swift embrace, receiving43
Her own from the dead again ?  Was not their life44
Transparent for the Deity within45
As a vast allegory ?  I remember,46
Ten years ago, when I began to think,47
How fair the old Greek life appear’d to me,48
That creed of fairy tales which left no nook49
Of the sweet world a blank—all populous50
With superhuman fancies ; and I thought51
This, not being true, was yet more beautiful52
Than any truth, and had these fancies been53
Noble and pure as they were beautiful,54
I could have wish’d to die believing: them :55
Then sprang the thought, How was it ?  These things [were56
A Past for ever ; for we cannot pierce57
The deep of years and catch them in the fact,58
And find the living men who lived among them,59
The tale was evermore a tale ; the Greek,60
Heard from his father of the gods that were,61
Sat in the lovely leisure of the woods62
And dream’d of dryads never seen. At once63
Truth leaped upon me like an armèd man,64
And I fell down and worshipp’d. I beheld,65
And knew that God had once been in the world ;66
That old familiar Bible of my youth,67
Learned as a task and reverenced as a rule,68
Became a sudden wonder and a power,69
New from that moment—never read again70
With the same eyes. To me the universe71
Was one sublime tradition ; not a cloud72
But traced His pathway through the wilderness,73
And not a tree but breathed of Olivet.74
Why do I say this was ?  My faith is weak,75
It wavers, it is weary, but it is faith !76
Like the faint life, which in a sick man’s heart77
Persists half-quench’d, and seems about to cease78
A thousand times, and yet a thousand times79
Revives, invisible to watching eyes,80
But ever there, and growing even through swoons81
To link the former to the latter health,82
So it persists in trembling, and believes83
In unbelief, and shall be strong at last,84
Reaching to future hope across despair.85
(Enter Markham.)
O ! not to-night !
How, friend—you welcome me86
You come, like Mephistophiles,88
To touch me when I waver.
Rather say89
To help you when you stumble.
Ay, but to help me90
Into that path whereon I would not walk.91
So—you are weak, you strike before I [threaten ;92
You seem that miracle, an honest saint,93
Who, having braced his armour on, confesses94
Chat it has flaws, and that he dreads a wound.95
What has dismay’d you ?
Only solitude96
And my own soul. I perish in the calm.97
You, like a new wind, shake my sleeping sails98
Against their work ; so come, delightful shock,99
And I’ll encounter you.
Lift the metaphor100
And show the uncurtain’d fact !  You are not content.101
Is any man content ?
We men of earth,102
Who see but with our eyes, and think life short,103
for all our eyes can show us, are content.104
If your philosophy comes but by gazing,105
Make the gaze deep, and you shall learn in time106
Enough of nuble sadness ; for I think107
All men who look around them and within108
Take leave of their boy-laughter.
Say you so,109
Believing that God rules the world He made,110
And made for his own ruling ?  Infidels111
Put such a creed to shame. I hold, myself,112
A deaf Law better than a scornful God113
Who hears and heeds not. In the hollow Past114
Under the root of Time, only discern’d115
By penetrative eyes of after-thought,116
Was movement—you would say the Spirit moved,117
But I, the Matter ; germs evolving laws ;118
Nay, laws themselves, but only by their work119
Reveal’d. We, looking from these latter heights,120
Can trace them, step by step, and none astray,121
None needless, so that from the vague At-first,122
Wherein all things were possible, there grew123
(Because each moment limited the next)124
These final certainties, which cannot be125
Other than what they are. Did we know all126
(Haply we shall), we should perceive how all,127
All kinds, all shapes, all shades of difference ;128
All acts, all thoughts, all signs and modes of being,129
Are as they must be ; wheresoe’er you touch130
The interminable chain, you touch a link,131
Result and cause—a moment, which concludes132
The Past, begins the Future. Therefore Life133
Must be received in patience ; as we live134
‘We mend and mould, and hand it to our sons135
More gently than we took it from our sires.136
Where learn’d you this strange history ?
Do you ask ?137
Behold a pupil of the Universe !138
Lo, friend, you deem me credulous. You139
You, uncommission’d by a miracle,141
A mystery without proof. Your logic rests142
On likelihood ; a balance, not a base,143
Safe till disturb’d. I wait for surer witness.144
At every point and pause of your advance145
You pass an ambush, and neglect a doubt,146
And choose one path among a thousand. Nay147
’Tis a hard task to prove by circumstance,148
In all its motives and particulars,149
Merely one deed, done by one living man,150
And would you make the world by’t ?  I am sure151
It might teach angels sarcasm to behold152
These dust-born sticklers, bound by etiquette153
Never to mention God in his own world,154
Who guess through all the ages, to devise155
Gossip about creation !
This is grand !156
I love you in this humour. Let’s sit down157
And fight in peace.158
(He seats himself.Cyril re-
mains standing at the window.
That was a clat-
tering phrase,
That “ gossip of creation ”— I perceive160
You stand up like the poet’s “ man in wrath ” *161
(He should have written “ woman ”) , and proclaim162
That you “ have felt ”— not reason’d.
Reason, friend,163
Is only half the mystery of Man ;164
Till you have felt a truth, it is not yours165
Though Reason grasp it with a hand of iron.166
I have heard learn’d musicians, who by the hour167
Would stuff you with elaborate sequences168
And fretful involutions ; faultless all,169
Ingenious, satisfactory, and cold,170
Not to be answer’d—till a Master came,171
And with some sudden simple turn of sound172
Would charm you to unreasonable tears173
At his fifth note.

* In Memoriam :—
“ ‘ Like a man in wrath, the heart
Stood up and answer’d, ‘I have felt.’”
I am too plain a man :174
To follow argument by parable.175
One greater than ourselves held parable176
The fittest teaching for the plainest men.177
You pass the question.
But I touch in passing.178
Let us speak heart to heart. This creed of yours179
Is not the sole philosophy. We, who judge180
By fruits, and tracing, not too certainly,181
The backward story of the various world,182
Divine an undetected difference183
In that unknown Beginning before growth,184
I think we reason no whit worse than you,185
Who as the long lines lessen to a point,186
Believe they issued from it ; making sense187
The measure of the thing which it perceives,188
Not of its own perception. Circumstance189
Stretch’d through incalculable tracts of Time190
Life’s limit, mould, condition, is to you191
A god—to us a great Epiphany.192
We wonder—and examine—and adore ;193
You wonder—and examine—and deny.194
Which is more wise ?
Markham (rising and joining Cyril at the window).
This is the way with you,195
You run all themes to one. Our talk to-night196
Was not of origins and theories,197
But of the present evils, which I take198
For calm necessities, to be endured199
By patient sages—you——
For devil’s work200
To be annihilated by God’s men !201
Ah—did you see it pass ?
What pass’d ?  You are pale.202
That dismal, desperate, unholy thing203
Which was a child, and should be now a man—204
One of your “ calm necessities ! ”
A man ?205
No more? I thought you watch’d along the street206
Some drifting wreck of woman.
Always women !207
You are the shape and colour of your time,208
That gives you all your force. Have done with
And let your soul concern itself with men.210
We are the poison—we who are the springs—211
Lords of the heavenly heritage we waste,212
False to high charges, deaf to glorious notes,213
Which ring about us as we walk. For us214
Build refuges, and sanctify retreats,215
And open daily churches !  We were meant216
To be as tender, temperate, pure, devout,217
As the most cloister’d maiden upon earth ;218
We have our strength for this. I know you feel219
Partly with me. Shall we go down at once220
And track this monster ?
If in such a quest221
Your energies are spent, I marvel not222
I found you sorrowful. ’Tis frenzy, Cyril !223
Die if you will in watching by the sick224
While the pulse quivers and the slow eyes move ;225
But let the dead be buried out of sight,226
You cannot raise them. When you have done all,227
When your bright years, and all the happy gifts228
That might have made you famous, and the hopes229
(Wings, till you crush’d them), and the high pursuits230
Which beautified your time, and the fine hues231
Which your unshackled and deliberate hand232
Might lay, and touch, and soften, till you made233
A finish’d picture, all are sacrificed,234
And dreary toil among earth’s bitter things235
Possesses and degrades you—is there fruit ?236
How many hard hearts melted, can you show237
For your own broken ?  Cyril, is there one ?238
Man, am I Christ that I should change239
men’s hearts ?240
I have a work to do. You talk to me241
Like my temptations. Ere you came, I strove242
With some such thought. I do not feel it now.243
I am afire for work. There is a haunt244
Down yonder, where the worst and wildest souls245
(And sometimes, too, the saddest) congregate.246
There oft I go in twilight, and encounter247
Strange moments. Here and there I sow a word,248
An alms, a prayer—what do I know of fruit ?249
That shall be garner’d when the harvest comes.250
But I may save a soul by speaking there,251
Or I might lose a soul by leaving it,252
Or, lastly, I am merely at my post,253
And do this duty on my own account.254
Will you come with me ?
Ay, to study life255
In a new aspect.256
(They go down into the street.)
Is it not wonderful257
To see that gentle glory in the sky258
Behind the houses ?  Lo, how black they look,259
Knowing how foul and mean a world they hide260
From the still splendours of eternity !261
Yet is the twilight fairness spread for them,262
With all its tints profuse and delicate,263
As for the mountains and the royal woods,264
Which have a right to it. Behold the spire :265
It is not black, it enters into light266
And is transfused.  See where the river makes267
A second firmament. God still has witness268
In man’s aspirings, and in earth’s repose,269
Despite all evils !270
(A woman stops Cyril.)
O, sir, will you come271
To my poor father? It is soon to ask,272
But since the morning he has cried for you,273
And still he mutters to himself the words274
You spoke, and seems to sort them in his thoughts,275
Trying to note them all. He will not sleep276
Till he has seen your face.
Well, he shall see it ;277
I’ll give him that small comfort. Say to him,278
He may expect me in an hour.
I know279
I shall be dearly welcome for that word.280
[ Exit.
(A young girl passes.)
(stopping her).
Too late i’ the streets, my
child,—what is your errand ?
My mother sent me to buy bread.
Go home281
And say I sent you. I will bring the bread282
As I come back. Good night.283
[ Exit girl.
(laying his hand on a boy’s shoulder).
runaway !
I have you. Stand and answer !  Nay, you shall !285
Why have you fled from school ? What, not a word ?286
I’ll tell you then,—unless you are ashamed287
To hear yourself explain’d.
Please, sir——
How meek288
You are to me !  We were good friends, but now289
In the right place. Come, you shall do your duty,—290
It is a coward’s part to run away291
Because you heard some talk about your faults.292
Sir, sir, it was not that.
I well believe293
’Twas nothing. Breakfast at my house to-morrow294
And tell me all the truth.
I’ll come, sir.
Good night, and grow more wise !
[ Exit boy.
Are these your sheep ?296
O, very harmless lambs !  If these were all,297
I might be gathering daisies all the day.298
Look here!
(They stop and look in at the window of an open
house. There is a fire, and men and women of
the lowest description are gathered about it ; others
enter and go in the group. Oaths and foul language
are heard among them. In one corner of the
room a woman is stooping over a little child
evidently very ill. lt lies on the floor with a
pillow under its head
Why, there’s our ruffian !  I profess,299
In fitting company !  That downward man,300
With all the deadly sins upon his face,301
I should not like to meet i’ the dark. There’s one302
With a most feeble, voiceless countenance ;303
Merely an empty vessel, to be fill’d304
With poison if you please—and there a woman305
Brazen, hard-eyed, incredible ;— and here306
One like a beast, cunning and ravenous—307
One spiritless and haggard as a corpse.308
Fie, what a group !  Now, if I thought as you,309
That these are hasting to a certain doom,310
I could not bear——
(grasping his hand).
O, not the future,
friend ;—
The visible damnation of these souls312
Tears me to pieces !  True, the slecker sins313
Of our soft equals may appear as black314
Under that Light which penetrates and proves315
(For sin is viler than its consequence) ;316
But we have knowledge, we have looked on God,317
We choose our path. What can we say of these318
Who feed on darkness, and embrace contempt,319
And breathe pollution ?  Had they any choice ?320
When have they seen the good or heard the true ?321
O, how can they believe themselves beloved,322
Being so forsaken ?  If I stand aloof323
These sins are mine !
You are too passionate.324
The world is full of these uneven lives ;325
You did not make them, and you cannot mend ;326
You do your utmost—never man did more—327
Be satisfied !
What, here ?
(They look in silently for a little while.)
I pray you note328
In this foul place the sacred light of grief.329
Each little movement of the mother-hand330
About the pillow of her dying babe331
Speaks like a poem. We may tell from this332
Why God afflicts. There is no heart so dumb333
But in divine compulsion of great woe334
It utters transient music. I, who have335
My conversation in the griefs of men,336
Will take this for my passport.
(Cyril enters and goes up to the place where the sick
child lies. The men stare and stop for a moment
in their talk, One speaks with an oath
Who is here ?337
Another Man.
O, the mad parson. Let him be.338
He’ll go339
When he has preach’d a minute.
(They resume their uproar.)
(Cyril lifts the child tenderly in his arms. The
mother, who has been busy about it in a helpless,
bewildered way, looks up
He is restless.340
There. He seems easier now.
My pretty boy !341
Who says that he must die ?  O ! he’s too young—342
He has not even learnt to stand alone.343
He cannot die yet. And I love him so,344
God will not have the heart to take him from me.345
See—he grows white. Ah, hold him !  If he dies346
I’m sure there’s nothing good that rules the world.347
What has he done ?  What anger has he caused ?348
He has not sinn’d. I and his father sinn’d,349
Who have not even a finger-ache. Look, now350
He lies quite still—the cruel, savage pain351
Hurts him no more—his head is on your breast352
So quietly I cannot hear him breathe.353
I’m sure that you have children of your own354
Who teach you woman’s skill. I wish they did not355
Shout so loud there by the fire. I want to hear356
The pleading murmur of his baby breath,357
But their noise drowns it. You must hear it, sir,358
Having his heart so close against your own.359
Is he not sweet ?  No ; do not give him to me,360
I do not want to have him in my arms :361
If I should feel him motionless and cold,362
Though it is only sleep (I know it’s sleep),363
I am so foolish—do not laugh at me—364
I should ery out for fear it might be death,365
Which is impossible. O help me, help me,366
And keep him for me !
God shall keep him for you367
Better than I, poor mother.
One of the Men.
What’s the noise ?368
Now, parson, what’s the matter with
the child ?
(The woman utters a loud scream. One of the other
women goes to her and begins caressing and sooth-
ing her.
Cyril comes forward, the child still
in his arms
What drives you to them with such
eyes of fire ?
Let me alone. I drive against their hearts.371
(standing among them).
The child is dead.372
Brothers, the child is born !373
Look on the beauty of this sleep !  Come near—374
This tender pureness is not terrible ;375
See the shut eyes which can shed no more tears :376
What do they now behold ?  Touch the soft lips377
Through which no sound of sorrow or of sin378
Shall ever pass—be not afraid to touch them :379
They cannot be defiled. O what repose380
Dwells with this everlasting innocence !381
Can this fair sight be Death ?  Look on each other.382
From this face look to these—do you believe383
You look from Death to Life ?  If it be so,384
Who would not choose that calm, pathetic triumph385
Instead of this dark struggle ?  Little child,386
If you had lived you would have looked like these,387
Having to live among them !  Twenty years,388
A time to ripen, what would you have been ?389
Familiar with all evil and no shame,390
Harden’d by trouble, enervate with sin,391
Scarr’d with a thousand traces of despair,392
With just a wordless murmur in your heart393
Revealing that there was a far-off day394
When you look’d—thus !  O, brothers, think of it395
You have made life, God’s noblest gift, a thing396
So hideous, that the mother for her child,397
Praying her best prayer for her dearest soul,398
Can find no better cry to lift to God399
Than this, “ O snatch him from it ! ” You yourselves400
Know what you are—take but this one to-day401
Out of your lives, and think its minutes through,402
And turn to this pure face, and say with me,403
Praise God, for He hath slain another babe !404
(There is a sound of tears in the room. Cyril
gives the child to the woman, and comes into the
midst of the men with outstretched arms
Stand still, and let me talk to you of Christ !405