The Poems Of Henry Kendall Part 20

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"For," sayeth he, "to look for sleep is good When every sleep is as a sleep of death To men who live, yet know not why they live, Nor how they live! I have no thought to tell The people when this time of mine began; But forest after forest grows and falls, And rock by rock is wasted with the rime, While I sit on and wait the end of all; Here taking every footstep for a sign; An ancient shadow whiter than the foam!"

By the Sea

The caves of the sea have been troubled to-day With the water which whitens, and widens, and fills; And a boat with our brother was driven away By a wind that came down from the tops of the hills.

Behold I have seen on the threshold again A face in a dazzle of hair!

Do you know that she watches the rain, and the main, And the waves which are moaning there?

Ah, moaning and moaning there!

Now turn from your cas.e.m.e.nts, and fasten your doors, And cover your faces, and pray, if you can; There are wails in the wind, there are sighs on the sh.o.r.es, And alas, for the fate of a storm-beaten man!

Oh, dark falls the night on the rain-rutted verge, So sad with the sound of the foam!

Oh, wild is the sweep and the swirl of the surge; And his boat may never come home!

Ah, never and never come home!

King Saul at Gilboa

With noise of battle and the dust of fray, Half hid in fog, the gloomy mountain lay; But Succoth's watchers, from their outer fields, Saw fits of flame and gleams of clashing shields; For, where the yellow river draws its spring, The hosts of Israel travelled, thundering!

There, beating like the storm that sweeps to sea Across the reefs of chafing Galilee, The car of Abner and the sword of Saul Drave Gaza down Gilboa's southern wall; But swift and sure the spears of Ekron flew, Till peak and slope were drenched with b.l.o.o.d.y dew.

"Shout, Timnath, shout!" the blazing leaders cried, And hurled the stone and dashed the stave aside.

"Shout, Timnath, shout! Let Hazor hold the height, Bend the long bow and break the lords of fight!"

From every hand the swarthy strangers sprang, Chief leaped on chief, with buckler buckler rang!

The flower of armies! Set in Syrian heat, The ridges clamoured under labouring feet; Nor stayed the warriors till, from Salem's road, The crescent horns of Abner's squadrons glowed.

Then, like a shooting splendour on the wing, The strong-armed son of Kish came thundering; And as in Autumn's fall, when woods are bare, Two adverse tempests meet in middle air, So Saul and Achish, grim with heat and hate, Met by the brook and shook the scales of Fate.

For now the struggle swayed, and, firm as rocks Against the storm-wind of the equinox, The rallied lords of Judah stood and bore, All day, the fiery tides of fourfold war.

But he that fasted in the secret cave And called up Samuel from the quiet grave, And stood with darkness and the mantled ghosts A bitter night on shrill Samarian coasts, Knew well the end--of how the futile sword Of Israel would be broken by the Lord; How Gath would triumph, with the tawny line That bend the knee at Dagon's brittle shrine; And how the race of Kish would fall to wreck, Because of vengeance stayed at Amalek.

Yet strove the sun-like king, nor rested hand Till yellow evening filled the level land.

Then Judah reeled before a biting hail Of sudden arrows shot from Achor's vale, Where Libnah, lapped in blood from thigh to heel, Drew the tense string, and pierced the quivering steel.

There fell the sons of Saul, and, man by man, The chiefs of Israel, up to Jonathan; And while swift Achish stooped and caught the spoil, Ten chosen archers, red with sanguine toil, Sped after Saul, who, faint and sick, and sore With many wounds, had left the thick of war.

He, like a baffled bull by hunters pressed, Turned sharp about, and faced the flooded west, And saw the star-like spears and moony spokes Gleam from the rocks and lighten through the oaks-- A sea of splendour! How the chariots rolled On wheels of blinding brightness manifold!

While stumbling over spike and spine and spur Of sultry lands, escaped the son of Ner With smitten men. At this the front of Saul Grew darker than a blasted tower wall; And seeing how there crouched upon his right, Aghast with fear, a black Amalekite, He called, and said: "I pray thee, man of pain, Red from the scourge, and recent from the chain, Set thou thy face to mine, and stoutly stand With yonder b.l.o.o.d.y sword-hilt in thy hand, And fall upon me." But the faltering hind Stood trembling, like a willow in the wind.

Then further Saul: "Lest Ashdod's vaunting hosts Should bear me captive to their bleak-blown coasts, I pray thee, smite me! seeing peace has fled, And rest lies wholly with the quiet dead."

At this a flood of sunset broke, and smote Keen, blazing sapphires round a kingly throat, Touched arm and shoulder, glittered in the crest, And made swift starlights on a jewelled breast.

So, starting forward, like a loosened hound, The stranger clutched the sword and wheeled it round, And struck the Lord's Anointed. Fierce and fleet Philistia came, with shouts and clattering feet; By gaping gorges and by rough defile Dark Ashdod beat across a dusty mile; Hot Hazor's bowmen toiled from spire to spire, And Gath sprang upwards, like a gust of fire; On either side did Libnah's lords appear, And bra.s.s-clad Timnath thundered in the rear.

"Mark, Achish, mark!"--South-west and south there sped A dabbled hireling from the dreadful dead.

"Mark, Achish, mark!"--The mighty front of Saul, Great in his life and G.o.d-like in his fall!

This was the arm that broke Philistia's pride, Where Kishon chafes his seaward-going tide; This was the sword that smote till set of sun Red Gath, from Michmash unto Ajalon, Low in the dust. And Israel scattered far!

And dead the trumps and crushed the hoofs of war!

So fell the king, as it was said by him Who hid his forehead in a mantle dim At bleak Endor, what time unholy rites Vexed the long sleep of still Samarian heights; For, bowed to earth before the h.o.a.ry priest, Did he of Kish withstand the smoking feast, To fast, in darkness and in sackcloth rolled, And house with wild things in the biting cold, Because of sharpness lent to Gaza's sword, And Judah widowed by the angry Lord.

So silence came. As when the outer verge Of Carmel takes the white and whistling surge, Hoa.r.s.e, hollow noises fill the caves, and roar Along the margin of the echoing sh.o.r.e, Thus war had thundered; but as evening breaks Across the silver of a.s.syrian lakes, When reapers rest, and through the level red Of sunset, peace, like holy oil, is shed, Thus silence fell. But Israel's daughters crept Outside their thresholds, waited, watched, and wept.

Then they that dwell beyond the flats and fens Of sullen Jordan, and in gelid glens Of Jabesh-Gilead--chosen chiefs and few-- Around their loins the hasty girdle drew, And faced the forests, huddled fold on fold, And dells of glimmering greenness manifold.

What time Orion in the west did set A shining foot on hills of wind and wet; These journeyed nightly till they reached the capes Where Ashdod revelled over heated grapes; And while the feast was loud and scouts were turned, From Saul's bound body cord by cord they burned, And bore the king athwart the place of tombs, And hasted eastward through the tufted glooms; Nor broke the cake nor stayed the step till morn Shot over Debir's cones and crags forlorn.

From Jabesh then the weeping virgins came; In Jabesh then they built the funeral flame; With costly woods they piled the lordly pyre, Brought yellow oils and fed the perfect fire; While round the crescent stately elders spread The flashing armour of the mighty dead, With crown and spear, and all the trophies won From many wars by Israel's dreadful son.

Thence, when the feet of evening paused and stood On shadowy mountains and the roaring flood, (As through a rushing twilight, full of rain, The weak moon looked athwart Gadara's plain), The younger warriors bore the urn, and broke The humid turf about a wintering oak, And buried Saul; and, fasting, went their ways, And hid their faces seven nights and days.

In the Valley

Said the yellow-haired Spirit of Spring To the white-footed Spirit of Snow, "On the wings of the tempest take wing, And leave me the valleys, and go."

And, straightway, the streams were unchained, And the frost-fettered torrents broke free, And the strength of the winter-wind waned In the dawn of a light on the sea.

Then a morning-breeze followed and fell, And the woods were alive and astir With the pulse of a song in the dell, And a whisper of day in the fir.

Swift rings of sweet water were rolled Down the ways where the lily-leaves grew, And the green, and the white, and the gold, Were wedded with purple and blue.

But the lips of the flower of the rose Said, "where is the ending hereof?

Is it sweet with you, life, at the close?

Is it sad to be emptied of love?"

And the voice of the flower of the peach Was tender and touching in tone, "When each has been grafted on each, It is sorrow to live on alone."

Then the leaves of the flower of the vine Said, "what will there be in the day When the reapers are red with my wine, And the forests are yellow and grey?"

And the tremulous flower of the quince Made answer, "three seasons ago My sisters were star-like, but since, Their graves have been made in the snow."

Then the whispering flower of the fern Said, "who will be sad at the death, When Summer blows over the burn, With the fierceness of fire in her breath?"

And the mouth of the flower of the sedge Was opened to murmur and sigh, "Sweet wind-breaths that pause at the edge Of the nightfall, and falter, and die."

Twelve Sonnets--


A Mountain Spring

Peace hath an altar there. The sounding feet Of thunder and the 'wildering wings of rain Against fire-rifted summits flash and beat, And through grey upper gorges swoop and strain; But round that hallowed mountain-spring remain, Year after year, the days of tender heat, And gracious nights, whose lips with flowers are sweet, And filtered lights, and lutes of soft refrain.

A still, bright pool. To men I may not tell The secret that its heart of water knows, The story of a loved and lost repose; Yet this I say to cliff and close-leaved dell: A fitful spirit haunts yon limpid well, Whose likeness is the faithless face of Rose.

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The Poems Of Henry Kendall Part 20 summary

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