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 !86
How, friend—you welcome me87
You come, like Mephistophiles,89
To touch me when I waver.90
Rather say91
To help you when you stumble.92
Ay, but to help me93
Into that path whereon I would not walk.94
So—you are weak, you strike before I [threaten ;95
You seem that miracle, an honest saint,96
Who, having braced his armour on, confesses97
Chat it has flaws, and that he dreads a wound.98
What has dismay’d you ?99
Only solitude100
And my own soul. I perish in the calm.101
You, like a new wind, shake my sleeping sails102
Against their work ; so come, delightful shock,103
And I’ll encounter you.104
Lift the metaphor105
And show the uncurtain’d fact !  You are not content.106
Is any man content ?107
We men of earth,108
Who see but with our eyes, and think life short,109
for all our eyes can show us, are content.110
If your philosophy comes but by gazing,111
Make the gaze deep, and you shall learn in time112
Enough of nuble sadness ; for I think113
All men who look around them and within114
Take leave of their boy-laughter.115
Say you so,116
Believing that God rules the world He made,117
And made for his own ruling ?  Infidels118
Put such a creed to shame. I hold, myself,119
A deaf Law better than a scornful God120
Who hears and heeds not. In the hollow Past121
Under the root of Time, only discern’d122
By penetrative eyes of after-thought,123
Was movement—you would say the Spirit moved,124
But I, the Matter ; germs evolving laws ;125
Nay, laws themselves, but only by their work126
Reveal’d. We, looking from these latter heights,127
Can trace them, step by step, and none astray,128
None needless, so that from the vague At-first,129
Wherein all things were possible, there grew130
(Because each moment limited the next)131
These final certainties, which cannot be132
Other than what they are. Did we know all133
(Haply we shall), we should perceive how all,134
All kinds, all shapes, all shades of difference ;135
All acts, all thoughts, all signs and modes of being,136
Are as they must be ; wheresoe’er you touch137
The interminable chain, you touch a link,138
Result and cause—a moment, which concludes139
The Past, begins the Future. Therefore Life140
Must be received in patience ; as we live141
‘We mend and mould, and hand it to our sons142
More gently than we took it from our sires.143
Where learn’d you this strange history ?144
Do you ask ?145
Behold a pupil of the Universe !146
Lo, friend, you deem me credulous. You147
You, uncommission’d by a miracle,149
A mystery without proof. Your logic rests150
On likelihood ; a balance, not a base,151
Safe till disturb’d. I wait for surer witness.152
At every point and pause of your advance153
You pass an ambush, and neglect a doubt,154
And choose one path among a thousand. Nay155
’Tis a hard task to prove by circumstance,156
In all its motives and particulars,157
Merely one deed, done by one living man,158
And would you make the world by’t ?  I am sure159
It might teach angels sarcasm to behold160
These dust-born sticklers, bound by etiquette161
Never to mention God in his own world,162
Who guess through all the ages, to devise163
Gossip about creation !164
This is grand !165
I love you in this humour. Let’s sit down166
And fight in peace.167
(He seats himself.Cyril re-
mains standing at the window.
That was a clat-
tering phrase,
That “ gossip of creation ”— I perceive169
You stand up like the poet’s “ man in wrath ” *170
(He should have written “ woman ”) , and proclaim171
That you “ have felt ”— not reason’d.172
Reason, friend,173
Is only half the mystery of Man ;174
Till you have felt a truth, it is not yours175
Though Reason grasp it with a hand of iron.176
I have heard learn’d musicians, who by the hour177
Would stuff you with elaborate sequences178
And fretful involutions ; faultless all,179
Ingenious, satisfactory, and cold,180
Not to be answer’d—till a Master came,181
And with some sudden simple turn of sound182
Would charm you to unreasonable tears183
At his fifth note.184

* In Memoriam :—
“ ‘ Like a man in wrath, the heart
Stood up and answer’d, ‘I have felt.’”
I am too plain a man :185
To follow argument by parable.186
One greater than ourselves held parable187
The fittest teaching for the plainest men.188
You pass the question.189
But I touch in passing.190
Let us speak heart to heart. This creed of yours191
Is not the sole philosophy. We, who judge192
By fruits, and tracing, not too certainly,193
The backward story of the various world,194
Divine an undetected difference195
In that unknown Beginning before growth,196
I think we reason no whit worse than you,197
Who as the long lines lessen to a point,198
Believe they issued from it ; making sense199
The measure of the thing which it perceives,200
Not of its own perception. Circumstance201
Stretch’d through incalculable tracts of Time202
Life’s limit, mould, condition, is to you203
A god—to us a great Epiphany.204
We wonder—and examine—and adore ;205
You wonder—and examine—and deny.206
Which is more wise ?207
Markham (rising and joining Cyril at the window).
This is the way with you,208
You run all themes to one. Our talk to-night209
Was not of origins and theories,210
But of the present evils, which I take211
For calm necessities, to be endured212
By patient sages—you——213
For devil’s work214
To be annihilated by God’s men !215
Ah—did you see it pass ?216
What pass’d ?  You are pale.217
That dismal, desperate, unholy thing218
Which was a child, and should be now a man—219
One of your “ calm necessities ! ”220
A man ?221
No more? I thought you watch’d along the street222
Some drifting wreck of woman.223
Always women !224
You are the shape and colour of your time,225
That gives you all your force. Have done with
And let your soul concern itself with men.227
We are the poison—we who are the springs—228
Lords of the heavenly heritage we waste,229
False to high charges, deaf to glorious notes,230
Which ring about us as we walk. For us231
Build refuges, and sanctify retreats,232
And open daily churches !  We were meant233
To be as tender, temperate, pure, devout,234
As the most cloister’d maiden upon earth ;235
We have our strength for this. I know you feel236
Partly with me. Shall we go down at once237
And track this monster ?238
If in such a quest239
Your energies are spent, I marvel not240
I found you sorrowful. ’Tis frenzy, Cyril !241
Die if you will in watching by the sick242
While the pulse quivers and the slow eyes move ;243
But let the dead be buried out of sight,244
You cannot raise them. When you have done all,245
When your bright years, and all the happy gifts246
That might have made you famous, and the hopes247
(Wings, till you crush’d them), and the high pursuits248
Which beautified your time, and the fine hues249
Which your unshackled and deliberate hand250
Might lay, and touch, and soften, till you made251
A finish’d picture, all are sacrificed,252
And dreary toil among earth’s bitter things253
Possesses and degrades you—is there fruit ?254
How many hard hearts melted, can you show255
For your own broken ?  Cyril, is there one ?256
Man, am I Christ that I should change257
men’s hearts ?258
I have a work to do. You talk to me259
Like my temptations. Ere you came, I strove260
With some such thought. I do not feel it now.261
I am afire for work. There is a haunt262
Down yonder, where the worst and wildest souls263
(And sometimes, too, the saddest) congregate.264
There oft I go in twilight, and encounter265
Strange moments. Here and there I sow a word,266
An alms, a prayer—what do I know of fruit ?267
That shall be garner’d when the harvest comes.268
But I may save a soul by speaking there,269
Or I might lose a soul by leaving it,270
Or, lastly, I am merely at my post,271
And do this duty on my own account.272
Will you come with me ?273
Ay, to study life274
In a new aspect.275
(They go down into the street.)
Is it not wonderful276
To see that gentle glory in the sky277
Behind the houses ?  Lo, how black they look,278
Knowing how foul and mean a world they hide279
From the still splendours of eternity !280
Yet is the twilight fairness spread for them,281
With all its tints profuse and delicate,282
As for the mountains and the royal woods,283
Which have a right to it. Behold the spire :284
It is not black, it enters into light285
And is transfused.  See where the river makes286
A second firmament. God still has witness287
In man’s aspirings, and in earth’s repose,288
Despite all evils !289
(A woman stops Cyril.)
O, sir, will you come290
To my poor father? It is soon to ask,291
But since the morning he has cried for you,292
And still he mutters to himself the words293
You spoke, and seems to sort them in his thoughts,294
Trying to note them all. He will not sleep295
Till he has seen your face.296
Well, he shall see it ;297
I’ll give him that small comfort. Say to him,298
He may expect me in an hour.299
I know300
I shall be dearly welcome for that word.301
[ 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.303
Go home304
And say I sent you. I will bring the bread305
As I come back. Good night.306
[ Exit girl.
(laying his hand on a boy’s shoulder).
runaway !
I have you. Stand and answer !  Nay, you shall !308
Why have you fled from school ? What, not a word ?309
I’ll tell you then,—unless you are ashamed310
To hear yourself explain’d.311
Please, sir——312
How meek313
You are to me !  We were good friends, but now314
In the right place. Come, you shall do your duty,—315
It is a coward’s part to run away316
Because you heard some talk about your faults.317
Sir, sir, it was not that.318
I well believe319
’Twas nothing. Breakfast at my house to-morrow320
And tell me all the truth.321
I’ll come, sir.322
Good night, and grow more wise !324
[ Exit boy.
Are these your sheep ?325
O, very harmless lambs !  If these were all,326
I might be gathering daisies all the day.327
Look here!328
(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,329
In fitting company !  That downward man,330
With all the deadly sins upon his face,331
I should not like to meet i’ the dark. There’s one332
With a most feeble, voiceless countenance ;333
Merely an empty vessel, to be fill’d334
With poison if you please—and there a woman335
Brazen, hard-eyed, incredible ;— and here336
One like a beast, cunning and ravenous—337
One spiritless and haggard as a corpse.338
Fie, what a group !  Now, if I thought as you,339
That these are hasting to a certain doom,340
I could not bear——341
(grasping his hand).
O, not the future,
friend ;—
The visible damnation of these souls343
Tears me to pieces !  True, the slecker sins344
Of our soft equals may appear as black345
Under that Light which penetrates and proves346
(For sin is viler than its consequence) ;347
But we have knowledge, we have looked on God,348
We choose our path. What can we say of these349
Who feed on darkness, and embrace contempt,350
And breathe pollution ?  Had they any choice ?351
When have they seen the good or heard the true ?352
O, how can they believe themselves beloved,353
Being so forsaken ?  If I stand aloof354
These sins are mine !355
You are too passionate.356
The world is full of these uneven lives ;357
You did not make them, and you cannot mend ;358
You do your utmost—never man did more—359
Be satisfied !360
What, here ?361
(They look in silently for a little while.)
I pray you note362
In this foul place the sacred light of grief.363
Each little movement of the mother-hand364
About the pillow of her dying babe365
Speaks like a poem. We may tell from this366
Why God afflicts. There is no heart so dumb367
But in divine compulsion of great woe368
It utters transient music. I, who have369
My conversation in the griefs of men,370
Will take this for my passport.371
(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 ?372
Another Man.
O, the mad parson. Let him be.373
He’ll go374
When he has preach’d a minute.375
(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.376
There. He seems easier now.377
My pretty boy !378
Who says that he must die ?  O ! he’s too young—379
He has not even learnt to stand alone.380
He cannot die yet. And I love him so,381
God will not have the heart to take him from me.382
See—he grows white. Ah, hold him !  If he dies383
I’m sure there’s nothing good that rules the world.384
What has he done ?  What anger has he caused ?385
He has not sinn’d. I and his father sinn’d,386
Who have not even a finger-ache. Look, now387
He lies quite still—the cruel, savage pain388
Hurts him no more—his head is on your breast389
So quietly I cannot hear him breathe.390
I’m sure that you have children of your own391
Who teach you woman’s skill. I wish they did not392
Shout so loud there by the fire. I want to hear393
The pleading murmur of his baby breath,394
But their noise drowns it. You must hear it, sir,395
Having his heart so close against your own.396
Is he not sweet ?  No ; do not give him to me,397
I do not want to have him in my arms :398
If I should feel him motionless and cold,399
Though it is only sleep (I know it’s sleep),400
I am so foolish—do not laugh at me—401
I should ery out for fear it might be death,402
Which is impossible. O help me, help me,403
And keep him for me !404
God shall keep him for you405
Better than I, poor mother.406
One of the Men.
What’s the noise ?407
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.410
(standing among them).
The child is dead.411
Brothers, the child is born !412
Look on the beauty of this sleep !  Come near—413
This tender pureness is not terrible ;414
See the shut eyes which can shed no more tears :415
What do they now behold ?  Touch the soft lips416
Through which no sound of sorrow or of sin417
Shall ever pass—be not afraid to touch them :418
They cannot be defiled. O what repose419
Dwells with this everlasting innocence !420
Can this fair sight be Death ?  Look on each other.421
From this face look to these—do you believe422
You look from Death to Life ?  If it be so,423
Who would not choose that calm, pathetic triumph424
Instead of this dark struggle ?  Little child,425
If you had lived you would have looked like these,426
Having to live among them !  Twenty years,427
A time to ripen, what would you have been ?428
Familiar with all evil and no shame,429
Harden’d by trouble, enervate with sin,430
Scarr’d with a thousand traces of despair,431
With just a wordless murmur in your heart432
Revealing that there was a far-off day433
When you look’d—thus !  O, brothers, think of it434
You have made life, God’s noblest gift, a thing435
So hideous, that the mother for her child,436
Praying her best prayer for her dearest soul,437
Can find no better cry to lift to God438
Than this, “ O snatch him from it ! ” You yourselves439
Know what you are—take but this one to-day440
Out of your lives, and think its minutes through,441
And turn to this pure face, and say with me,442
Praise God, for He hath slain another babe !443
(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 !444