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Peace to the soul of the man on its breast
As the pale waste widens around him,
As the banks fade dimmer away,
As the stars come out, and the night-wind
Brings up the stream
Murmurs and scents of the infinite sea.
[Fraser's Magazine 1860.]
SAINT BRANDAN sails the northern main;
The brotherhoods of saints are glad.
He greets them once, he sails again;
So late!- such storms!-The Saint is mad!
He heard, across the howling seas,
Chime convent-bells on wintry nights;
He saw, on spray-swept Hebrides,
Twinkle the monastery-lights.
But north, still north, Saint Brandan steer'd-
And now no bells, no convents more!
The hurtling Polar lights are near'd,
The sea without a human shore.
At last (it was the Christmas night;
Stars shone after a day of storm)—
He sees float past an iceberg white,
And on it-Christ!-a living form.
That furtive mien, that scowling eye,
Of hair that red and tufted fell-
It is Oh, where shall Brandan fly?—
The traitor Judas, out of hell!
Palsied with terror, Brandan sate;
The moon was bright, the iceberg near.
He hears a voice sigh humbly: "Wait!
By high permission I am here.
“One moment wait, thou holy man! On earth my crime, my death, they knew; My name is under all men's ban
Ah, tell them of my respite too!
“Tell them, one blessed Christmas-night
(It was the first after I came,
Breathing self-murder, frenzy, spite,
To rue my guilt in endless flame)—
"I felt, as I in torment lay
'Mid the souls plagued by heavenly power, An angel touch mine arm, and say: Go hence and cool thyself an hour!
"Ah, whence this mercy, Lord?' I said.
The Leper recollect, said he,
Who ask'd the passers-by for aid,
In Joppa, and thy charity.
"Then I remember'd how I went,
In Joppa, through the public street,
One morn when the sirocco spent
Its storms of dust with burning heat;
"And in the street a leper sate,
Shivering with fever, naked, old;
Sand raked his sores from heel to pate,
The hot wind fever'd him five-fold.
"He gazed upon me as I pass'd,
And murmur'd: Help me, or I die!—
To the poor wretch my cloak I cast,
Saw him look eased, and hurried by.
"Oh, Brandan, think what grace divine,
What blessing must full goodness shower,
When fragment of it small, like mine,
Hath such inestimable power!
"Well-fed, well-clothed, well-friended, I
Did that chance act of good, that one!
Then went my way to kill and lie-
Forgot my good as soon as done.
"That germ of kindness, in the womb.
Of mercy caught, did not expire;
Outlives my guilt, outlives my doom,
And friends me in the pit of fire.
"Once every year, when carols wake,
On earth, the Christmas-night's repose,
Arising from the sinners' lake,
I journey to these healing snows.
"I stanch with ice my burning breast,
With silence balm my whirling brain.
O Brandan! to this hour of rest
That Joppan leper's ease was pain.”-
Tears started to Saint Brandan's eyes;
He bow'd his head, he breathed a prayer-
Then look'd, and lo, the frosty skies!
The iceberg, and no Judas there!
THE GOOD SHEPHERD WITH THE KID. [New Poems 1867.]
HE saves the sheep, the goats he doth not save. So rang Tertullian's sentence, on the side.
Of that unpitying Phrygian sect which cried:1
"Him can no fount of fresh forgiveness lave,
"Who sins, once wash'd by the baptismal wave."—
So spake the fierce Tertullian. But she sigh'd,
The infant Church! of love she felt the tide
Stream on her from her Lord's yet recent grave.
And then she smiled; and in the Catacombs,
With eye suffused but heart inspired true,
On those walls subterranean, where she hid
Her head 'mid ignominy, death, and tombs,
She her Good Shepherd's hasty image drew—
And on his shoulders, not a lamb, a kid.
[New Poems 1867.]
"TWAS August, and the fierce sun overhead
Smote on the squalid streets of Bethnal Green,
And the pale weaver, through his windows seen
In Spitalfields, look'd thrice dispirited.
I met a preacher there I knew, and said:
"Ill and o'erwork'd, how fare you in this scene?”— "Bravely!" said he; "for I of late have been Much cheer'd with thoughts of Christ, the living bread."
O human soul! as long as thou canst so
Set up a mark of everlasting light,
Above the howling senses' ebb and flow,
To cheer thee, and to right thee if thou roam-
Not with lost toil thou labourest through the night!
Thou mak'st the heaven thou hop'st indeed thy home.
1 The Montanists.
[New Poems 1867.]
CROUCH'D on the pavement, close by Belgrave Square, A tramp I saw, ill, moody, and tongue-tied.
A babe was in her arms, and at her side
A girl; their clothes were rags, their feet were bare.
Some labouring men, whose work lay somewhere there,
Pass'd opposite; she touch'd her girl, who hied
Across, and begg'd, and came back satisfied.
The rich she had let pass with frozen stare.
Thought I: "Above her state this spirit towers;
She will not ask of aliens, but of friends,
Of sharers in a common human fate.
"She turns from that cold succour, which attends The unknown little from the unknowing great, And points us to a better time than ours.'
[New Poems 1867.]
EVEN in a palace, life may be led well!
So spake the imperial sage, purest of men,
Marcus Aurelius. But the stifling den
Of common life, where, crowded up pell-mell,
Our freedom for a little bread we sell,
And drudge under some foolish master's ken
Who rates us if we peer outside our pen-
Match'd with a palace, is not this a hell?
Even in a palace! On his truth sincere,
Who spoke these words, no shadow ever came;
And when my ill-school'd spirit is aflame