[from Collected Works, T.E.Brown]
WHY do I make so much of Aber Fall?
Four years ago
My little boy was with me here
He died next year:
He died just seven years old,
A very gentle child, yet bold,
Having no fear.
You have seen such?
They are not much?
No . . . no.
And yet he was a very righteous child,
Stood up for what was right,
Intolerant of wrong Pure azure light
Was cisterned in his eyes;
We thought him wise
Beyond his yearsso sweet and mild,
For justice, doing what he could
Poor little soulto make all children good.
I almost thinkand yet I am to blame
He was a different child from others ;
He had three sisters and two brothers :
He seemed a little king :
Among the childrenah I tis a common thing,
Parents are all the same
Youve seen those kingsyes, yes
Of course . . . and yet . . . the righteousness
The . . . Never mind ! he came
With me to Aber Fall
Thats all, thats all.
Just listen to the blackbirdwhat a note
The creature has ! God bless his happy throat!
He is so absolutely glad
I fear he will go mad.
Look here ! this very grit
I crush beneath my boot
His little foot
Trod crisp that day Thats it ! thats it
O, what is there to say ?
The little foot so warm and pink!
O, what is there to think?
His mother kissed it every night
When she put out the light And where?
What is it now ? a fascicle
Of crumbling bones
J ammed in with earth and stones.
You say that this is old,
A tale twice-told Say what you will:
Old, new, I swear
That it is horrible
Horrible, blackbird, howsoeer
The Spring rejoice you with its budding bloom
Yes, horrible, most horrible!
Though you should carol to the crack of doom,
Poor blackbird ! being so absolutely glad
I hope he wont go mad.
The stream is very sweet
To-day . . . Just see the swallow dart!
It sent a shiver to my heart.
If he had lived, you say
Well, wellif he had lived, what then?
Will always argueyes, I know . . . of course . .
The argument has force.
If he had lived, he might have changed
From bad to worse?
Nay, my shrewd balance-setter,
Why not from good to better ?
Why not to best ? to joy
And splendour ? O, my boy !
I did not want this argument in the least,
My soul had ceased
From doubt and questioning
That swallows wing!
What a transcendent rush!
Hush ! hush !
Or, if you talk, talk low :
For . . . do you know . . .
Just as the swallow dipt,
I felt as if a soft hand slipt
Its fingers into mine hes near
Hes with us . . . tis not right the child should hear
This jangling . . . low then, low !
Or this is better . . . go,
Go, darling ; play upon the bank,
Your hair with daisy and with buttercup,
And we will meet you higher up.
Now then . . . If he had lived ? if my sweet son
Had lived ? . . . You stare . . .
There ! there !
Tis gone, tis gone
It was the swallows dart
That sent a shiver to my heart.
We have not seen the sun for many days,
But now through East-wind haze
He makes a shift
To send a luminous drift,
To which, as to his full unclouded splendour,
The meek, contented earth makes glad surrender.
God bless the simple earth
That gave me birth!
God bless her that she looks so pleased
The soul thai is diseased
With this world's sorrow
Well, sir ? ought to look ?
Beyond, and yet beyond: not in this narrow nook of His creation
Will God make up His book.
The whole is one great scheme of compensation_
The net result
Is all . . . I too have had my dream,
As from my nonage dedicate a meustgx
Of that great cult.
I saw Lord Love upon his galley pass
Westward from Cyprus ; smooth as glass
The sea was all before him. He, as keleustgx
Stood at the stern, and piped
The rhythms ; but, ever and anon,
As worked upon
By some familiar Fury, grasping a scourge
Fastened it to his wrist . . . Loves wrist !),
He ran along the transtra, and did urge
The rowers, and striped
Their backs with blood ; whereat they leapt
Like maddened hounds, and swept
The sea until it hissed.
Then I : " Lord Love, what means this cruelty?"
But he to me
Deigned no reply:
Only I saw his face was wet with tears,
And he did look " beyond, and yet beyond."
But those men, fond
And fatuous, never turned
Their eyes from his, but yearned
With an insensate yearning, having confidence
That so it must be ; but on what pretence
I know notAh, most cruel lord!
Ah, knotted cord !
Dull plash -
Of livid tissues ! flash
Of oars that smote the waters to a hum . .
Youve had enough of this
But what I meant, and what you seemed to miss,
Was simply how the meek, contented earth,
That gave me birth,
Was pleased . .
Then you of soul diseased,
And what not . . . excellent!
But that is what I meant.
The shepherd calls
How these great niountain walls
Re-echo ! See his dog
Come limping from the bog!
How far he holds him
With that thin clamour ! Scolds him ?
Or cheers himwhich?
Say bothmost like. The pitch
Is steep, poor fellow !
And still that bellow ~ ;
Whoop tittiva t
And Echo from her niche
Shrieks challenged. Shout,
O shepherd ! flout
The irritable Echo till she raves
As man behaves,
So God apportions, doing what is best
For you, and for the rest.
As man behaves ! You do not help me much,
Nay, sir, nor touch
The central point at all
I see it. But outside all this
I miss . . . I miss . . .
Sir, know you Death ?
Permit me introduce
No? Whats the use ?
The use ! . . . One thing I can collect,
You have but scant respect
For Death. Why, sir, he made a feint
That very minute at youquaint!
The way he grins and skips Whips ! whips!
Down ! down ! good dog ! good Death!
To heel, you rogue!
Good Death ! good dog!
Youd rather not behold him?
Ive told him I faith,
Hed frighten you, would Death.
Provoked meyes, you did
The shepherd chid
His lagging hound
I had no other thought
But how mad Echo caught
Of that exasperant call,
And made it bound
Back from the mountain wall.
Ha ! snow
Upon the crags!
The winter lags
Ha, little lamb upon the crags,
How fearlessly you go!
You little woolly atom ! On and on
He goes . . . tis steep . . . Hillo!
My friend is gone,
He could not argue with a waterfall!
And here it ismy Aber . . . Stay!
Upon these stones is dripping with the spray
And now one turn, left hand,
And I shall stand
Before the very rock : not yet . . . not yet!
O let me think ! No, no ! I dont forget
(Forget !)but this is sacred . . . peace, then, peace!
From all dead things, that serve not to present
At my souls grate the lovely innocent.
He had heard some idle talk
Of how his father had great strength to walk
And climb ;
And so he thought that he must lose no time,
But instantly addressed
His little breast
To that tall cliff
Smooth, perpendicular, too stiff
For cragsman from the wildest Hebrides,
But he did bend his knees,
And spread his little arms, and laid
His body to the work, and made
Such genuine effort of ascent
As though he meant
To reach the top, of course, and had no doubt
Of what he was about
So seriousno passing whim
O, no ! Twas thus his father clomb
And he had come
To climb like him.
And is he here ?
O Braddan, are you here ?
O darling, have no fear !
Speak to me ! breathe some fond thing in my ear
But what should Braddan know
Of me, and what I am,
And what I wantthe little lamb !
What should he know,
Who four brief years ago ~
Knew only what a little child should
Should some kind angel, who doth teach my child,
Some angel with the love-deep eyes,
Some angel charged to keep him undefiled,
Hear my sad cries,
And bring him unto me,
Is my whole heart a thing for him to see?
Am I prepared that his sweet honesty
Should search it through and through?
O, eyes of honest blue!
O, fearless eyes!
O, mild surprise!
O, is there one, one chamber of my heart
For him to sit
Therein, till it is time to part?
Or could I come to him?
No matter where Swim,
Swim the dark river, and be there?
Could a deep acquiescence
Convey me to his presence?
And if it could,
What were it after all
But as a young prince stood
Upon the city wall,
And saw his foster-father at the gate,
And wondered at his mean estate,
And made no sign
Unto the warders ? But my Braddans mine!
Mine ! mine ! and nones beside!
O helpless men, has everything been tried?
Where does the secret bide?
Is it a simple thing perhaps?
Yea, after all, a very simple thing,
That through the lapse
Of all the ages any tide
Nay, every tide has brought
Up to the level of our thought?
Is the blest converse that I crave
The function of a faculty we have,
But know not how to use, being, by some dark mischance
Time-prisoned in a rooted ignorance?
A faculty which, if no God forbad it,
An accident might bring to light,
And some one, somewhere, waking in the night,
Would know he had it.
But we are cumbered with our egotisms;
A thousand prisms,
Hung round our souls, refract the single ray,
That else would show us instantly the way.
So even now, when my sad heart aspires
To height of paramount desires,
These verses mock it
With their rhyme-jangles, frustrate as a rocket,
That mounts, and breaks, and falls in coloured fading fire~
Upon the impotent verse !
Not so It may be that in these
The soul shall yet win something more than ease
For song is of the essence, and who sings
Touches the central springs
Ah, vain imaginings !
Let be! let be!
O Braddan, pity me !
Yes, yes !
I know there is another waypress, press,
And I will press, sweet Braddan.
Sink thought sink, sink
Is but to madden
Stop, heart !
You have no part ~
In thisdie, soul, :
Die, die ! it must be soon
The barriers but a film ; one gasp, and I shall swoon
Into his arms
Braddan ! why, Braddan ! see, I keep my tryst
O God! O Christ !
Is very slow
To disappear : how winter lags!
I see the darn
Upon the crags
But nowhere can I see the little lamb
The heavens are very blue
Above the western hill;
The earth is very still-
I will draw near, and view
Where he is . . . not.
But O dear cliff, O big, good-natured giant,
I think some delicate dint must still remain
On your broad surface, from the strain
Of limbs so sweetly pliant.
The lamb ! the lamb ! fallen from the very rock!
Cold ! cold!
His little head
Rests on the very block
That Braddan trod
Dear lambs ! twin lambs of God!
Old cliff, such things
Might move some stubborn questionings
But now I question not
See, see ! the waterfall
Is robed in rainbowswhat!
Our lambs ? My Braddan shall have charge
Of him, and lead him by the marge
Of some bright stream celestial.
Braddan shall be a happy shepherd boy;
No trouble shall annoy
That soft green pasture
Ab, Murillo, saint!
Kind fiiend ! that for all sorrowing hearts didst paint
John Baptist and the Lambthose arms thrown round
That neck ! Forgive me, God, that I have found
Some comfort in this little parable
It gives me strength to climb the hill,
And humbly so return
God bless the merry burn!
I have no will
But thine, O God ! I know that Thou art true
Be blue, O heavens, be blue!
Be still, O earth, be still!
April 17, 1879.