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The Poems Of Henry Kendall Part 60

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On a Street

I dread that street--its haggard face I have not seen for eight long years; A mother's curse is on the place, (There's blood, my reader, in her tears).

No child of man shall ever track, Through filthy dust, the singer's feet-- A fierce old memory drags me back; I hate its name--I dread that street.

Upon the lap of green, sweet lands, Whose months are like your English Mays, I try to hide in Lethe's sands The bitter, old Bohemian days.

But sorrow speaks in singing leaf, And trouble talketh in the tide; The skirts of a stupendous grief Are trailing ever at my side.



I will not say who suffered there, 'Tis best the name aloof to keep, Because the world is very fair-- Its light should sing the dark to sleep.

But, let me whisper, in that street A woman, faint through want of bread, Has often pawned the quilt and sheet And wept upon a barren bed.

How gladly would I change my theme, Or cease the song and steal away, But on the hill and by the stream A ghost is with me night and day!

A dreadful darkness, full of wild, Chaotic visions, comes to me: I seem to hear a dying child, Its mother's face I seem to see.

Here, surely, on this bank of bloom, My verse with shine would ever flow; But ah! it comes--the rented room, With man and wife who suffered so!

From flower and leaf there is no hint-- I only see a sharp distress-- A lady in a faded print, A careworn writer for the press.

I only hear the brutal curse Of landlord clamouring for his pay; And yonder is the pauper's hearse That comes to take a child away.

Apart, and with the half-grey head Of sudden age, again I see The father writing by the dead To earn the undertaker's fee.

No tear at all is asked for him-- A drunkard well deserves his life; But voice will quiver, eyes grow dim, For her, the patient, pure young wife, The gentle girl of better days, As timid as a mountain fawn, Who used to choose untrodden ways, And place at night her rags in pawn.

She could not face the lighted square, Or show the street her poor, thin dress; In one close chamber, bleak and bare, She hid her burden of distress.

Her happy schoolmates used to drive, On gaudy wheels, the town about; The meat that keeps a dog alive She often had to go without.

I tell you, this is not a tale Conceived by me, but bitter truth; Bohemia knows it, pinched and pale, Beside the pyre of burnt-out youth: These eyes of mine have often seen The sweet girl-wife, in winters rude, Steal out at night, through courts unclean, To hunt about for chips of wood.

Have I no word at all for him Who used down fetid lanes to slink, And squat in tap-room corners grim, And drown his thoughts in dregs of drink?

This much I'll say, that when the flame Of reason reassumed its force, The hell the Christian fears to name, Was heaven to his fierce remorse.

Just think of him--beneath the ban, And steeped in sorrow to the neck, Without a friend--a feeble man, In failing health--a human wreck.

With all his sense and scholarship, How could he face his fading wife?

The devil never lifted whip With thongs like those that scourged his life.

But He in whom the dying thief Upon the Cross did place his trust, Forgets the sin and feels the grief, And lifts the sufferer from the dust.

And now, because I have a dream, The man and woman found the light; A glory burns upon the stream, With gold and green the woods are bright.

But still I hate that haggard street, Its filthy courts, its alleys wild; In dreams of it I always meet The phantom of a wailing child.

The name of it begets distress-- Ah, song, be silent! show no more The lady in the perished dress, The scholar on the tap-room floor.

Heath from the Highlands

Here, where the great hills fall away To bays of silver sea, I hold within my hand to-day A wild thing, strange to me.

Behind me is the deep green dell Where lives familiar light; The leaves and flowers I know so well Are gleaming in my sight.

And yonder is the mountain glen, Where sings in trees unstirred By breath of breeze or axe of men The shining satin-bird.

The old weird cry of plover comes Across the marshy ways, And here the hermit hornet hums, And here the wild bee strays.

No novel life or light I see, On hill, in dale beneath: All things around are known to me Except this bit of heath.

This touching growth hath made me dream-- It sends my soul afar To where the Scottish mountains gleam Against the Northern star.

It droops--this plant--like one who grieves; But, while my fancy glows, There is that glory on its leaves Which never robed the rose.

For near its wind-blown native spot Were born, by crags uphurled, The ringing songs of Walter Scott That shook the whole wide world.

There haply by the sounding streams, And where the fountains break, He saw the darling of his dreams, The Lady of the Lake.

And on the peaks where never leaf Of lowland beauty grew, Perhaps he met Clan Alpine's chief, The rugged Roderick Dhu.

Not far, perchance, this heather throve (Above fair banks of ferns), From that green place of stream and grove That knew the voice of Burns.

Against the radiant river ways Still waves the noble wood, Where in the old majestic days The Scottish poet stood.

Perhaps my heather used to beam In robes of morning frost, By dells which saw that lovely dream-- The Mary that he lost.

I hope, indeed, the singer knew The little spot of land On which the mountain beauty grew That withers in my hand.

A Highland sky my vision fills; I feel the great, strong North-- The hard grey weather of the hills That brings men-children forth.

The peaks of Scotland, where the din And flame of thunders go, Seem near me, with the masculine, Hale sons of wind and snow.

So potent is this heather here, That under skies of blue, I seem to breathe the atmosphere That William Wallace knew.

And under windy mountain wall, Where breaks the torrent loose, I fancy I can hear the call Of grand old Robert Bruce.

The Austral Months

January

The first fair month! In singing Summer's sphere She glows, the eldest daughter of the year.

All light, all warmth, all passion, breaths of myrrh, And subtle hints of rose-lands, come with her.

She is the warm, live month of lustre--she Makes glad the land and lulls the strong, sad sea.

The highest hope comes with her. In her face Of pure, clear colour lives exalted grace; Her speech is beauty, and her radiant eyes Are eloquent with splendid prophecies.

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