BETA

Edith.


Part II.—Chapter II.—Over Sea.

Who is this who roams on the quiet shore of Newhaven,1
Mid the white chalk boulders, the wreck and wear of the winter ;2
Casting wistful glances across the sea, as it whispers,3
Creeping toward his feet, and seems to lure and invite him ?4
It is Berthold Trevor.  “ Shall I go ?” he is saying.5
Go not : it is frenzy,” is the chiding of reason.6
Yet, when midnight sounded, he was away on his journey :7
Leaning over the prow, he watch’d the shadowy water.8
Soon the jingling bells, the busy quays, and the shipping.9
But he did not tarry to wander down by the shingle.10
Still, no rest : still onward, heart, so nigh to be broken.11
It is eve. It is Rouen. The stars are clouded in heaven.12
Dark the moonless night ; no placid silvery glimmer13
On the broad Seine river shines as it flows in the darkness.14
Past the ships it flows, amid the dreams of the sleepers ;15
Past the lamp-lit quays, or reedy marge, where the poplars16
Whisper, sad for day, along the gloom of the valley.17
Him no Rouennais sees, as he roams, as a phantom,18
On the banks, and shivers with chilly wind of the midnight.19
Then the night brought dreams, and bitter shame for his weakness.20
And when dawn broke fair, and he arose from his slumber,21
Fool !” he cried, “ forget her ?  Yea,” he sighed, “ I will follow,22
For awhile, for pleasure, hill and vale, and the sweetness23
Of this Norman land ; then will return, and for ever24
Banish dreams too empty, and this idiot folly.”25
Through the sunny morning, making show to be happy,26
In the tiny steamer, on, away, on his journey,27
Went the curate up the smoothly wandering river.28
And, if nature could make well the wounds of a lover,29
She had done it then, with soft aërial distance,30
With white inland cliff, and willow fringe, and the quiet31
Of the green Seine isles, and sweetly hovering beauty.32
By and by they came to a little town, on the margin33
Of the stream, and landed. Then he strolls in the market.34
In among the mills he goes, with curious glances.35
But the wheels were still : it was the morning of Easter.36
Well he liked to note the workmen’s serious faces,37
Lined with thought, and quiet.  “ Work,” he murmur’d, “ is noble.38
I, why am I idle ? Work is holiest duty.39
Yea, and bliss comes with it ; so we learn, if we try it.40
Yea,” again he asked, as if in anger, impatient,41
Why am I here idle ?” But nought he murmur’d in answer.42
And, ere noon, he wander’d, restless, far from the river,43
Over wooded hills ; until he gain’d, in the silence44
Of the vales, a hillside, where the graves, with their crosses,45
Look’d to South, but caught the fading glow of the sunset.46
Near is Louviers, and here awhile he will linger.47
In the even roaming,—it was the day, when the Master48
Rose, and angels chanted, looking down from the crystal,—49
On the air he heard the sweet Gregorian music.50
Through the street he went, and into gloom of the Minster51
Pass’d, by saints in stone, that stood in guard in the portal.52
Dim and old, the pile : it seem’d a dream and a relic53
Of the years long vanish’d. But living forms of the people, —54
Snow-white Norman caps, bare heads, and many a bonnet, —55
Fill’d each bench and aisle. And soon the holy procession56
Moved with lingering tread among the shadowy pillars,57
Worn and gray with time, and looking strange with the season.58
White-robed children pass’d, with childish wandering glance :59
Wreathed with roses, singing ; and in the light of the tapers,60
As they moved, or paused by shrine of saint or apostle,61
Flash’d, as brandish’d sword the silver gleam of the crosses.62
Rose and died the chorus ; and the refrain of the voices,63
All the antique hymn, the tender lingering cadence,64
Moved his soul to tears. What dreams he ?  Why is he melted ?65
What strange echo wakes amid the gloom of his fancy ?66
Nay, he must away : he cannot bear it: he wanders,67
Restless, on, through the night, to cool the fire of his yearning.68
As he gain’d a city, and, past the shivering poplars,69
Through the noiseless streets, crept on, footsore, to the hostel,70
Morning streak’d the east behind the silent cathedral,71
Like the gleam of truth behind the forms of religion.72
Long he heard in dreams the sweet bewildering music.73
He awoke, ere noon, and bat-wing’d care on his eyelids74
Hang ; and daylight frown’d. To him, in joy of the morning,75
Hither, thither, now, was little spirit to wander,76
Pleased with cap and kirtle, and with the cries of the hawkers.77
He, ere long, sore-footed, within the yard of the hostel,78
Slung his knapsack on. What does he say ?  Do you hear him ?79
He is muttering low, unheeding eyes of the damsels :—80
Tired are grown my feet, and I will away to the cities81
Which the sea-breeze freshens, built on hills of the granite.”82
Self-deceived, he yearns to reach the goal of his longing.83
Fast the wheels speed over the iron road of the moderns.84
On, by lingering stream, by hill and dell, and the blossom85
Of the orchards, hinting of all the guerdon of autumn :86
Past the fields made precious with easy toil of the oxen ;87
Many a nestling town, and rill, and many a ruin :88
Past Bernay, Lisieux ; and, mid your willowy meadows,89
You, grey spires of Caen, which catch the brine of the ocean.90
Now, the red-ribb’d rock, and old St. Lô, and the Minster,91
Pointing heavenward ever, above the cry of the valleys.92
Will he linger ?— See ! he stands, in wane of the sunset,93
On the hill, and watches the mists that rise in the hollow,94
There the people cower, in houses huddled together,—95
Grim, lean faces, pallid,—when the daylight is over.96
Still in misery true, as one they toil and they suffer ;97
Souls brim-full of curses, but ever kind to each other.98
Denser coils the mist with smoke of many a cottage,99
Stretch’d from hill to hill ; until the shadowy valley100
Seems a storm-spread sea. The sunset draws, for an omen,101
Wild weird blood-red streaks above the gloom of the hillside,102
Strange, it seems, unreal, as he beholds in the silence,103
Like a dream of hell, And still he gazes, and voices104
Come, at times, forlorn, as of the souls in perdition.105
All the misery, then, of this world, rose, in his vision :106
Phantom dreams of bliss, that are despair, and the crying107
Of the souls, unheard by the rulers hiding their faces :108
Sadness, none can utter: all man bears of his fellow :109
All the waste of labour, the sweat and grime of the foreheads110
Of the poor, held down, as with a stone, by the masters :111
All the needless woe, in eyes too sad to be lifted112
Upward toward the sun, in hearts o’erburden’d and broken.113
Then within him trembled a sudden pain and a passion114
To behold the sea, and hide away from his kindred.115
Nay, not here will peace come to his soul, that is wounded.116
Morning. Jingling bells. Is it for bells he is happy ?117
Crack the whip : away !Awake the horn, with its echoes.118
See, the beautiful spires of Coutances, calm on the summit119
Of the granite hill. Awake the horn, with its echoes.120
Crack the whip : away ! And, now, the silvery glitter121
Of that rock-strewn sea, and busy noise of the seaport.122