Silas Marner by George Eliot
4.7k
Blue Wings

Warm whisp'ring through the slender olive leaves
Came to me a gentle sound,
Whis'pring of a secret found
In the clear sunshine 'mid the golden sheaves:

Said it was sleeping for me in the morn,
Called it gladness, called it joy,
Drew me on 'Come hither, boy.'
To where the blue wings rested on the corn.

I thought the gentle sound had whispered true
Thought the little heaven mine,
Leaned to clutch the thing divine,
And saw the blue wings melt within the blue!

2.6k
Roses

You love the roses - so do I. I wish
The sky would rain down roses, as they rain
From off the shaken bush. Why will it not?
Then all the valley would be pink and white
And soft to tread on. They would fall as light
As feathers, smelling sweet; and it would be
Like sleeping and like waking, all at once!

I.

I cannot choose but think upon the time
When our two lives grew like two buds that kiss
At lightest thrill from the bee's swinging chime,
Because the one so near the other is.

He was the elder and a little man
Of forty inches, bound to show no dread,
And I the girl that puppy-like now ran,
Now lagged behind my brother's larger tread.

I held him wise, and when he talked to me
Of snakes and birds, and which God loved the best,
I thought his knowledge marked the boundary
Where men grew blind, though angels knew the rest.

If he said 'Hush!' I tried to hold my breath;
Wherever he said 'Come!' I stepped in faith.

II.

Long years have left their writing on my brow,
But yet the freshness and the dew-fed beam
Of those young mornings are about me now,
When we two wandered toward the far-off stream

With rod and line. Our basket held a store
Baked for us only, and I thought with joy
That I should have my share, though he had more,
Because he was the elder and a boy.

The firmaments of daisies since to me
Have had those mornings in their opening eyes,
The bunchèd cowslip's pale transparency
Carries that sunshine of sweet memories,

And wild-rose branches take their finest scent
From those blest hours of infantine content.

III.

Our mother bade us keep the trodden ways,
Stroked down my tippet, set my brother's frill,
Then with the benediction of her gaze
Clung to us lessening, and pursued us still

Across the homestead to the rookery elms,
Whose tall old trunks had each a grassy mound,
So rich for us, we counted them as realms
With varied products: here were earth-nuts found,

And here the Lady-fingers in deep shade;
Here sloping toward the Moat the rushes grew,
The large to split for pith, the small to braid;
While over all the dark rooks cawing flew,

And made a happy strange solemnity,
A deep-toned chant from life unknown to me.

IV.

Our meadow-path had memorable spots:
One where it bridged a tiny rivulet,
Deep hid by tangled blue Forget-me-nots;
And all along the waving grasses met

My little palm, or nodded to my cheek,
When flowers with upturned faces gazing drew
My wonder downward, seeming all to speak
With eyes of souls that dumbly heard and knew.

Then came the copse, where wild things rushed unseen,
And black-scathed grass betrayed the past abode
Of mystic gypsies, who still lurked between
Me and each hidden distance of the road.

A gypsy once had startled me at play,
Blotting with her dark smile my sunny day.

V.

Thus rambling we were schooled in deepest lore,
And learned the meanings that give words a soul,
The fear, the love, the primal passionate store,
Whose shaping impulses make manhood whole.

Those hours were seed to all my after good;
My infant gladness, through eye, ear, and touch,
Took easily as warmth a various food
To nourish the sweet skill of loving much.

For who in age shall roam the earth and find
Reasons for loving that will strike out love
With sudden rod from the hard year-pressed mind?
Were reasons sown as thick as stars above,

'Tis love must see them, as the eye sees light:
Day is but Number to the darkened sight.

VI.

Our brown canal was endless to my thought;
And on its banks I sat in dreamy peace,
Unknowing how the good I loved was wrought,
Untroubled by the fear that it would cease.

Slowly the barges floated into view
Rounding a grassy hill to me sublime
With some Unknown beyond it, whither flew
The parting cuckoo toward a fresh spring time.

The wide-arched bridge, the scented elder-flowers,
The wondrous watery rings that died too soon,
The echoes of the quarry, the still hours
With white robe sweeping-on the shadeless noon,

Were but my growing self, are part of me,
My present Past, my root of piety.

VII.

Those long days measured by my little feet
Had chronicles which yield me many a text;
Where irony still finds an image meet
Of full-grown judgments in this world perplext.

One day my brother left me in high charge,
To mind the rod, while he went seeking bait,
And bade me, when I saw a nearing barge,
Snatch out the line lest he should come too late.

Proud of the task, I watched with all my might
For one whole minute, till my eyes grew wide,
Till sky and earth took on a strange new light
And seemed a dream-world floating on some tide -

A fair pavilioned boat for me alone
Bearing me onward through the vast unknown.

VIII.

But sudden came the barge's pitch-black prow,
Nearer and angrier came my brother's cry,
And all my soul was quivering fear, when lo!
Upon the imperilled line, suspended high,

A silver perch! My guilt that won the prey,
Now turned to merit, had a guerdon rich
Of songs and praises, and made merry play,
Until my triumph reached its highest pitch

When all at home were told the wondrous feat,
And how the little sister had fished well.
In secret, though my fortune tasted sweet,
I wondered why this happiness befell.

'The little lass had luck,' the gardener said:
And so I learned, luck was with glory wed.

IX.

We had the self-same world enlarged for each
By loving difference of girl and boy:
The fruit that hung on high beyond my reach
He plucked for me, and oft he must employ

A measuring glance to guide my tiny shoe
Where lay firm stepping-stones, or call to mind
'This thing I like my sister may not do,
For she is little, and I must be kind.'

Thus boyish Will the nobler mastery learned
Where inward vision over impulse reigns,
Widening its life with separate life discerned,
A Like unlike, a Self that self restrains.

His years with others must the sweeter be
For those brief days he spent in loving me.

X.

His sorrow was my sorrow, and his joy
Sent little leaps and laughs through all my frame;
My doll seemed lifeless and no girlish toy
Had any reason when my brother came.

I knelt with him at marbles, marked his fling
Cut the ringed stem and make the apple drop,
Or watched him winding close the spiral string
That looped the orbits of the humming top.

Grasped by such fellowship my vagrant thought
Ceased with dream-fruit dream-wishes to fulfil;
My aëry-picturing fantasy was taught
Subjection to the harder, truer skill

That seeks with deeds to grave a thought-tracked line,
And by 'What is,' 'What will be' to define.

XI.

School parted us; we never found again
That childish world where our two spirits mingled
Like scents from varying roses that remain
One sweetness, nor can evermore be singled.

Yet the twin habit of that early time
Lingered for long about the heart and tongue:
We had been natives of one happy clime
And its dear accent to our utterance clung.

Till the dire years whose awful name is Change
Had grasped our souls still yearning in divorce,
And pitiless shaped them in two forms that range
Two elements which sever their life's course.

But were another childhood-world my share,
I would be born a little sister there.

If you sit down at set of sun
And count the acts that you have done,
And, counting, find
One self-denying deed, one word
That eased the heart of him who heard,
One glance most kind
That fell like sunshine where it went --
Then you may count that day well spent.

But if, through all the livelong day,
You've cheered no heart, by yea or nay --
If, through it all
You've nothing done that you can trace
That brought the sunshine to one face--
No act most small
That helped some soul and nothing cost --
Then count that day as worse than lost.

Came a pretty maid
By the moon's pure light . . .
Loved me well, she said,
Eyes with tears all bright,
A pretty maid.

But too late she strayed,
Moonlight pure was there . . .
She was nought but shade,
Hiding the more fair,
The heav'nly maid.

1.8k
Two Lovers

Two lovers by a moss-grown spring:
They leaned soft cheeks together there,
Mingled the dark and sunny hair,
And heard the wooing thrushes sing.
O budding time!
O love's blest prime!

Two wedded from the portal stept:
The bells made happy carolings,
The air was soft as fanning wings,
White petals on the pathway slept.
O pure-eyed bride!
O tender pride!

Two faces o'er a cradle bent:
Two hands above the head were locked:
These pressed each other while they rocked,
Those watched a life that love had sent.
O solemn hour!
O hidden power!

Two parents by the evening fire:
The red light fell about their knees
On heads that rose by slow degrees
Like buds upon the lily spire.
O patient life!
O tender strife!

The two still sat together there,
The red light shone about their knees;
But all the heads by slow degrees
Had gone and left that lonely pair.
O voyage fast!
O vanished past!

The red light shone upon the floor
And made the space between them wide;
They drew their chairs up side by side,
Their pale cheeks joined, and said, "Once more!"
O memories!
O past that is!

It was in the prime
Of the sweet springtime
In the linnet's throat
Trembled the love note,
And the love-stirred air
Thrilled the blossoms there.
Little shadows danced,
Each a tiny elf
Happy in large light
And the thinnest self.

It was but a minute
In a far-off spring,
But each gentle thing,
Sweetly wooing linnet,
Soft thrilled hawthorn tree,
Happy shadowy elf,
With the thinnest self,
Live on still in me.
It was in the prime
Of the past springtime!

Should I long that dark were fair? Say, O song.
Lacks my love aught that I should long?
Dark the night with breath all flow'rs
And tender broken voice that fills
With ravishment the list'ning hours.
Whis'prings, wooings,
Liquid ripples, and soft ring-dove cooings,
in low-toned rhythm that love's aching stills.

Dark the night, yet is she bright,
For in her dark she brings the mystic star,
Trembling yet strong as is the voice of love
From some unknown afar.
O radiant dark, O darkly foster'd ray,
Thou hast a joy too deep for shallow day.

Oh, may I join the choir invisible
Of those immortal dead who live again
In minds made better by their presence; live
In pulses stirred to generosity,
In deeds of daring rectitude, in scorn
For miserable aims that end with self,
In thoughts sublime that pierce the night like stars,
And with their mild persistence urge men's search
To vaster issues. So to live is heaven:
To make undying music in the world,
Breathing a beauteous order that controls
With growing sway the growing life of man.
So we inherit that sweet purity
For which we struggled, failed, and agonized
With widening retrospect that bred despair.
Rebellious flesh that would not be subdued,
A vicious parent shaming still its child,
Poor anxious penitence, is quick dissolved;
Its discords, quenched by meeting harmonies,
Die in the large and charitable air,
And all our rarer, better, truer self
That sobbed religiously in yearning song,
That watched to ease the burden of the world,
Laboriously tracing what must be,
And what may yet be better, -- saw within
A worthier image for the sanctuary,
And shaped it forth before the multitude,
Divinely human, raising worship so
To higher reverence more mixed with love, --
That better self shall live till human Time
Shall fold its eyelids, and the human sky
Be gathered like a scroll within the tomb
Unread forever. This is life to come, --
Which martyred men have made more glorious
For us who strive to follow. May I reach
That purest heaven, -- be to other souls
The cup of strength in some great agony,
Enkindle generous ardor, feed pure love,
Beget the smiles that have no cruelty,
Be the sweet presence of a good diffused,
And in diffusion ever more intense!
So shall I join the choir invisible
Whose music is the gladness of the world.

'Mid my gold-brown curls
There twined a silver hair:
I plucked it idly out
And scarcely knew 'twas there.
Coiled in my velvet sleeve it lay
And like a serpent hissed:
"Me thou canst pluck & fling away,
One hair is lightly missed;
But how on that near day
When all the wintry army muster in array?"

Maiden crowned with glossy blackness,
Lithe as panther forest-roaming,
Long-armed Naiad when she dances
On a stream of ether floating,
Bright, o bright Fedalma!

Form all curves like softness drifted,
Wave-kissed marble roundly dimpling,
Far-off music slowly wingèd,
Gently rising, gently sinking,
Bright, o bright Fedalma!

Pure as rain-tear on a rose-leaf,
Cloud high born in noonday spotless
Sudden perfect like the dew-bead,
Gem of earth and sky begotten,
Bright, o bright Fedalma!

Beauty has no mortal father,
Holy light her form engendered,
Out of tremor yearning, gladness,
Presage sweet, and joy remembered,
Child of light! Child of light!
Child of light, Fedalma!

Day is dying! Float, o song,
Down the westward river,
Requiem chanting to the Day,
Day, the mighty giver!

Pierced by shafts of Time he bleeds,
Melted rubies sending
Through the river and the sky,
Earth and heaven blending.

All the long-drawn earthy banks
Up to cloudland lifting:
Slow between them drifts the swan
'Twixt two heavens drifting,

Wings half open like a flower.
In by deeper flushing,
Neck and breast as virgin's pure
Virgin proudly blushing.

Day is dying! Float, o swan,
Down the ruby river,
Follow, song, in requiem
To the mighty Giver!

The world is great!
The birds fly from me;
The stars are golden fruit
Upon a tree
All out of reach
My little sister went and I am lonely.

The world is great!
I tried to mount the hill
Above the pines
Where the light lies so still,
But it rose higher.
Little Lisa went and I am lonely.

The world is great!
The wind comes rushing by.
I wonder where it comes from.
Sea-birds cry
And hurt my heart.
My little sister went and I am lonely.

The world is great!
The people laugh and talk,
And make loud holiday.
How fast they walk!
I'm lame, they push me.
Little Lisa went and I am lonely.

Your soul was lifted by the wings today
Hearing the master of the violin:
You praised him, praised the great Sabastian too
Who made that fine Chaconne; but did you think
Of old Antonio Stradivari? -him
Who a good century and a half ago
Put his true work in that brown instrument
And by the nice adjustment of its frame
Gave it responsive life, continuous
With the master's finger-tips and perfected
Like them by delicate rectitude of use.
That plain white-aproned man, who stood at work
Patient and accurate full fourscore years,
Cherished his sight and touch by temperance,
And since keen sense is love of perfectness
Made perfect violins, the needed paths
For inspiration and high mastery.

No simpler man than he; he never cried,
"why was I born to this monotonous task
Of making violins?" or flung them down
To suit with hurling act well-hurled curse
At labor on such perishable stuff.
Hence neighbors in Cremona held him dull,
Called him a slave, a mill-horse, a machine.

Naldo, a painter of eclectic school,
Knowing all tricks of style at thirty-one,
And weary of them, while Antonio
At sixty-nine wrought placidly his best,
Making the violin you heard today -
Naldo would tease him oft to tell his aims.
"Perhaps thou hast some pleasant vice to feed -
the love of louis d'ors in heaps of four,
Each violin a heap - I've naught to blame;
My vices waste such heaps. But then, why work
With painful nicety?"

Antonio then:
"I like the gold - well, yes - but not for meals.
And as my stomach, so my eye and hand,
And inward sense that works along with both,
Have hunger that can never feed on coin.
Who draws a line and satisfies his soul,
Making it crooked where it should be straight?
Antonio Stradivari has an eye
That winces at false work and loves the true."
Then Naldo: "'Tis a petty kind of fame
At best, that comes of making violins;
And saves no masses, either. Thou wilt go
To purgatory none the less."

But he:
"'Twere purgatory here to make them ill;
And for my fame - when any master holds
'Twixt chin and hand a violin of mine,
He will be glad that Stradivari lived,
Made violins, and made them of the best.
The masters only know whose work is good:
They will choose mine, and while God gives them skill
I give them instruments to play upon,
God choosing me to help him.

"What! Were God
at fault for violins, thou absent?"

"Yes;
He were at fault for Stradivari's work."

"Why, many hold Giuseppe's violins
As good as thine."

"May be: they are different.
His quality declines: he spoils his hand
With over-drinking. But were his the best,
He could not work for two. My work is mine,
And, heresy or not, if my hand slacked
I should rob God - since his is fullest good -
Leaving a blank instead of violins.
I say, not God himself can make man's best
Without best men to help him.

'Tis God gives skill,
But not without men's hands: he could not make
Antonio Stradivari's violins
Without Antonio. Get thee to thy easel."

"La noche buena se viene,
La noche buena se va,
Y nosotros nos iremos
Y no volveremos mas."
-- Old Villancico.

Sweet evenings come and go, love,
They came and went of yore:
This evening of our life, love,
Shall go and come no more.

When we have passed away, love,
All things will keep their name;
But yet no life on earth, love,
With ours will be the same.

The daisies will be there, love,
The stars in heaven will shine:
I shall not feel thy wish, love,
Nor thou my hand in thine.

A better time will come, love,
And better souls be born:
I would not be the best, love,
To leave thee now forlorn.

The sky is cloudy, yellowed by the smoke.
For view there are the houses opposite
Cutting the sky with one long line of wall
Like solid fog: far as the eye can stretch
Monotony of surface & of form
Without a break to hang a guess upon.
No bird can make a shadow as it flies,
For all is shadow, as in ways o'erhung
By thickest canvass, where the golden rays
Are clothed in hemp. No figure lingering
Pauses to feed the hunger of the eye
Or rest a little on the lap of life.
All hurry on & look upon the ground,
Or glance unmarking at the passers by
The wheels are hurrying too, cabs, carriages
All closed, in multiplied identity.
The world seems one huge prison-house & court
Where men are punished at the slightest cost,
With lowest rate of colour, warmth & joy.

1.3k
Ay De Mi

O bird, that used to press,
Thy head against my cheek
With touch that seem'd to speak,
And ask a tender 'yes' -
Ay de mi, my bird:
Ay de mi, my bird, my bird -
Ay de mi, my bird.

O tender downy breast,
And warmly beating heart,
That beating seem'd a part
Of me who gave it rest -
Ay de mi, my bird:
Ay de mi, my bird, my bird -
Ay de mi, my bird.

Spring comes hither
Buds the rose . . .
Roses wither
Sweet spring goes . . .
O ja là
O ja là . . .
Would she carry me.

Summer soars
Wide-wing'd day . . .
White light pours
Flies away . . .
O ja là
O ja là . . .
Would he carry me.

Soft winds blow
Westward borne . . .
Onward go
Towards the morn
O ja là
O ja là . . .
Would they carry me.

Sweet birds sing
O'er the graves
Then take wing
O'er the waves
O ja là
O ja là . . .
Would they carry me.

"I grant you ample leave
To use the hoary formula 'I am'
Naming the emptiness where thought is not;
But fill the void with definition, 'I'
Will be no more a datum than the words
You link false inference with, the 'Since' & 'so'
That, true or not, make up the atom-whirl.
Resolve your 'Ego', it is all one web
With vibrant ether clotted into worlds:
Your subject, self, or self-assertive 'I'
Turns nought but object, melts to molecules,
Is stripped from naked Being with the rest
Of those rag-garments named the Universe.
Or if, in strife to keep your 'Ego' strong
You make it weaver of the etherial light,
Space, motion, solids & the dream of Time --
Why, still 'tis Being looking from the dark,
The core, the centre of your consciousness,
That notes your bubble-world: sense, pleasure, pain,
What are they but a shifting otherness,
Phantasmal flux of moments? --"

— The End —