"IT is my feeling," writes the Author, "that these sonnets belong to England and the English Church: and I feel that any emphasis on the unity of Britain at this time is most valuable. If through these poems I can turn any souls to those noble names--Joseph, Ninian, Patrick, Briget, Columba, Oswald--their purpose is more than fulfilled.
"If in any small way I can counteract the present wave of materialism and the rank denial of holy and noble things, I shall be happy.
"My one desire is to serve Him who is the centre of all great and good souls before and since His Incarnation."
The Society of SS. Peter and Paul, recognizing the intrinsic merit of these poems, now offers them to English readers for the first time, by the kind permission of the Author. That there will be evinced a desire for a fuller measure of Mr. Jones' work is beyond all doubt. A critic in America (whence the poems have come) has in a few words most adequately expressed their character.
"Reading the poems consecutively, one has the feeling of withdrawing deeper and deeper into some still place; a hush is upon everything as if one entered into a Sanctuary. It is a quiet altogether mystical, as if evoked for us by one who had found the serene beauty at the heart of Life. It is the mood which comes upon one who wanders alone into a wood, dreaming in a still autumnal peace."
DIM watered vale whose clear streams seek the sea,
At gray of dawn strange gods walked in the wood
Before Saint Joseph's wattled chapel stood
Woven with green wands from some Druid tree;
The fragrance of a lost simplicity
Clings to the tomb of the white brotherhood
That wandered through wild lands, yet found it good
To linger here apart with Calvary
The feet of frost have touched you, now you wear
Autumn's rich mined splendour and soft haze--
The memory of immemorial fires;
But as you dream alone, the sea-winds bear
A whispered promise from wide starry ways
Of new songs that shall fill those fallen choirs,
II. THE FOREST
IN lonely thickets where the wood is deep
The sickles of thin gold weave to and fro,
Among the boughs of ghostly mistletoe
Beneath a night of whispering leaves they reap
And with the waning moon the Druids creep
From knoll and hollow noiseless as the snow,
Their white bulls pace about the pool and low
Through mists of magic while walled cities sleep.
But when the wakened forest moves and gleams,
They vanish at the singing of a bird
And Ninian leaves his hidden resting-place;
Still with the winged angel of his dreams
Down empty groves he leads his savage herd,
The light of dawn on his uplifted face.
III. OLD MAGIC
As light swings wide the mighty Eastern door
He comes with crozier and a silver bell
To bless the green wood where the Druids dwell
Alone with coloured winds and starry lore;
They hear his feet along the leafy floor
And tremble when he nears their wizard-well,
For shadows of a golden citadel
No longer veil its deeps with faery ore.
All forest wisdom must give way to him:
Never at evening will the speckled wren
Foretell the ages from a dewy thorn,
Nor gray priests watch until the moon grows dim
The milk-white hounds slip through a silent glen
And vanish up the flaming slopes of morn.
IV. CROAGH PATRICK
WHILE Patrick kneels upon the lonely height
The mist dissolves, the sun sends out its beams
On desolate wild moors, gray mountain streams,
And wooded hills bleak as a northern night,
Then down long water verges sinks from sight
Of mortal shores and that lost land that dreams
Within the ocean--now the sea-star gleams
Through parted trees of gold and crimson light.
But still he waits, his head in reverence bowed,
For birds of God on wings of fire and snow
Fly singing from the sunset: as he prays
They fold Croagh Aigli in a living cloud;
Their triumph song foretells to isles below
The coming of the Saints, the golden days!
V. THE POOL OF HEALING: IONA
DEW on thyme-sprinkled turf and heatherbell
And smooth sea spaces stretching lone and gray,
A quiet hill-top where a deep pool lay
Like a pale star within a rocky shell
And by the windless water of the well
A woman waited for the dawn's first ray--
Lulled by the movement of the leaping spray
She saw a vision of far Israel:
The Mother in the shadowy cattle-byre,
So meek and patient that good Briget wept,
Nor heard the gulls, nor watched the brightening sky;
But from the East there shone a path of fire,
And Mary bent above her while she slept
In the clear golden sunrise on Dun-I.
THE river meads of vanished Clonard hold
Forgotten dreams, white memories pure as dew,
Of fragrant days when scholars wandered through
The marshy grass and hearts had not grown old;
Beneath her purple hills a saint once told
A starry tale, a story strange and new
Brought from the dawn-lands--and all Eire drew
Around his moat to hear the words of gold.
There stands no cross, or tower, or ancient wall
Mellow with simple peace men used to know,
And from the fields no courtly town has sprung:
Only along green hanks the blackbirds call,
Just as they did a thousand years ago
In morning meadows when the world was young.
VII. THE BATTLE OF THE BOOK
BENEATH bronze chariot wheels the torn earth steamed
A mighty death-mist, Druids called in vain
Their forest gods, across the battle plain
The savage stallions of Diarmuid screamed
For on Columba's men a brightness streamed
Keener than whistling sword-flame or fierce rain
Of whirling brands, and high above the slain
Invisible with light mailed Michael gleamed.
The armies bowed like grass on windy weirs
Before the unknown foeman's burning shield,--
Then from the silence rose hoarse triumph cries
And brass walls wavered under rattling spears,
As wild Tyr-Conall's prince swept down the field
Led by the lone white warrior of the skies.
VIII. SAINT COLUMBA
THE murmuring tide foams slowly up the sands,
Behind a veil of gold lost Ireland lies,
And with the sunset in his yearning eyes
Alone on Colum-kill Columba stands;
He frees the white bird from his tender hands,
Beyond a changing violet sea it flies,
A streak of mist against the burnished skies
It vanishes in far green Western lands.
The tides still whisper through the waning light,
Wings still find rest along that wave-worn place,
But he will climb the cold gray rocks no more;
And yet ye know that from a fairer height
He watches across deeps of star-filled space
The well-loved outline of his Irish shore.
IX. SAINT ORAN
SAINT ORAN told them while the West grew dim
About lone islands whither he had gone,
And how he saw the orchards of the dawn
Lying beyond the green earth's burnished rim;
Upon that golden wall walked Cherubim
Whose shadows were a snow-light on the lawn,
And ere their gentle wonder was withdrawn
One pitying held a starry branch toward him.
The cowled monks listened, and at vesper bell
They left him in a quiet place to dream
By garden-ways where grasses drift like fleece;
But when they reached the central ivied cell
Across the altar moved the crimson gleam
Of that wild fruit of flame whose taste is peace.
X. THE FAREWELL
COLUMBA sat upon an ancient mound
Watching the gulls fly toward a distant sea,
Their tameless wings impatient to be free
Far from the narrow waters of the Sound
And as he dreamed alone, an old horse found
That quiet place beneath the quicken-tree,
And with his head against his master's knee
His tears fell slowly on the thymy ground.
The memory of morning's quenchless power,
Fierce Pictish kings subdued before the Cross,
Wild heathen countries white-robed monks had gained--
All were forgotten in that parting hour:
Even the angels vanished from the Ross,
And only silent human love remained.
XI. SAINT BRENDAN
IN simple days before the gods were old
A bishop left the warring forest bands,
And on the beach there grew beneath his hands
A silver coracle with oars of gold;
It bore him where the sea and sky enfold
Long dewy marges of the moon-white lands,
A mist of stars around those dreaming strands
Lifted a moment that he might behold.
Then swifter than the wind a shaft of fire
Fled from the quivering bow-strings of his heart,
To find the ever-hidden entrance there;
And now in answer to a saint's desire
The island waits, held by that flaming dart,
Upon the burnished edges of the air.
XII. THE HEAVENLY FIELD
THE dawn that woke a wild Northumbrian hill
Shone on a golden youth; the meadow-lea
Bore grim Cadwallon's flaming host, but he
Beside a wooden cross was firm and still
For holy dreams fed Oswald's heart until
His eyes looked past the kingdoms toward the sea
Whence vision came, and he was fain to free
The savage land of all its ancient ill.
Unlike the Roman lords whose ruined wall
Frowned on the field, unlike dread ocean kings
He kept lone vigil with the crimson mom;
And archangelic rang his battle call
Against mailed might and fierce dark Pagan things
From that red height where Chivalry was born.
FROM feast and song the simple cowherd crept:
Again the harp had passed him on its way
And he was mute--now in the fragrant hay
Alone with dumb and patient beasts he wept;
The oxen, ass, and timid sheep all kept
Winter's harsh cold from reaching where he lay,
Their humid breath rose like an incense gray
As on the Eve when Christ among them slept.
But ere the stars were folded in rose flame
A Voice like a great wind rang clear and high,
"Sing, Caedmon, of Creation's radiant birth
And when the first flushed light of morning came
A hymn to God upsoared into the sky,
And a new speech was given to the earth.
XIV. SAINT ALPHEGE
UPON the octave of green Easter Day
From sorrowing London came the heathen host
With their great hostage--off the Kentish coast
Black Danish warships like a storm-cloud lay
And there at feast, his head half turned away,
Unshaken by fierce taunt or furious boast,
Most resolute when he was threatened most,
Brave Alphege looked across the windy bay.
An April dusk hid sunny Greenwich town,
And cuckoos called from woods along the shore:
He heard them, though the ox-skulls whistled by,
Beholding ere the battle-axe flashed down
His country's future--Britain free once more!
Then fell the Saxon saint content to die.
XV. THE CATHEDRAL
EACH lonely haunt where vanished tribes have dwelt
Still holds a time-worn god long overthrown,
Or ruined temple where dark woods have grown,
With whose cola shrines warm earth has kindly dealt,
For through all passing ages man has felt
He has not wandered aimless or alone,
And here within these walls of hallowed stone
At last before Love's very Presence knelt.
No blood of victims round the altar clings,
Where He whose guerdon was a thorny crown
Is sacrificed for men perpetually;
And gifts of gold are dimmed by greater things,--
The Bread in pity shared, the Life laid down
That they who sit in darkness may be free.
XVI. HUGH OF SAINT VICTOR
THE sun sinks lower in the cypress-trees,
A flower of light gleams through the fountain's spray,
And down green paths a hundred lilies sway
Lifting their gold and silver to the breeze;
But he who lingers there upon his knees
Heeds not the bell that marks the closing day,
Nor prayers low chanted within walls of gray
Before an altar's holy mysteries.
To him all music merges in one tone,
All colours blend until each lovely hue,
A veil of pure transparent brightness weaves;
There on the ground he kneels, but not alone,--
Silent as star-rise or the fall of dew
God moves among bowed grass and trembling leaves.
XVII. SAINT FRANCIS
THE mossy paths that bore the patient herd
Had led him far beyond the burning town
By quiet pools where leaping sunbeams drown,
And as he passed the lambs knew him and stirred;
From out the tangled boughs each shy wild bird
Like loosened leaves came fluttering slowly down
Upon his ragged robe of dusty brown
To hear the gentle music of his word.
But when the night sighed through the cloudy pine
The green wood trembled with a seraph's wings,--
A moment flamed the Vision, then was gone!
Long, long he lay beneath the matted vine,
So still amid the song of waking things,
And on his body Christ's Wounds red as dawn.
XVIII. A WELL-SIDE
A SILVER chiming broke the tranquil spell
That broods above wide wastes of amber brown,
Then at the green edge of a shining town
Knelt ten strange camels, and each bore a bell
One after one thin topaz shadows fell,
A star shone--then a maiden wandered down
Wearing her gleaming pitcher like a crown,
And pitied them so thirsty by the well.
When she gave drink, her tender unveiled face
Was as a Spring moon in the twilight hour
Upon the earth-cooled water far below;
How little dreamed she of that unborn race--
Mother of Israel, gathered like a flower
From golden lands long centuries ago!
XIX. THE SPIRIT AND THE LAW
UPON lone mountain-sides they stood apart
One on immortal stone did roughly trace
Laws that still shape the conscience of a race
As the bright North Star shapes a seaman's chart;
Then came another, He whose tender art
Moved multitudes to seek through time and space
The brooding Love that craves a dwelling-place
Within the mystery of the human heart.
The grass that blows along the country ways,
The little leaves between the earth and sky,
The deepened lustres of an April dove
Own light the only law of their brief days
And as in light all colours folded lie,
The Prophets and the Law are lost in Love.
XX. THE THREE MOTHERS
BEHIND man silent stand the mighty three:
The great dim earth whose eager life up pressed
To live a little hour upon her breast,
Forgetful of its frail mortality;
And Eve that with the fruit of Eden's tree
Started mankind upon the weary quest
To find once more that long-lost place of rest,
The Garden gained by piteous Calvary;
Last the meek Virgin, she who wondering heard
An angel's voice low on the trancèd air
Greet her with heavenly music, "Mary, hail!"
O Holy Mother of the Incarnate Word
Who gave white Christmas to a world's despair,
We kneel to thee, the Lily of death's vale.
XXI. THE REVELATION
BELOVÈD Saint, for you on Patmos shone
The deathless One whose footsteps bright as brass
Led from far Hell to where the sea of glass
Surged without sound beneath the rainbowed throne;
You saw the stars like seeds in autumn blown,
The earth and sky fade like midsummer grass,
And down from God the Holy City pass
Radiant with gold and pearl and jasper-stone.
Amid the thunder of stupendous dooms
And burning mystery of the Spirits Seven,
Stood He whose Heart once beat beneath your head;
And through the blinding lights and awful glooms
You heard how Love unbars the Gate of Heaven
Where pain shall cease and tears be comforted.
XXII. ACCORDING TO SAINT MARK
THE way was steep and wild; we watched Him go
Through tangled thicket, over sharp-edged stone
That tore His Feet until He stood alone
Upon the summit where four great winds blow;
Fearful we knelt on the cold rocks below,
For the o'erhanging cloud had larger grown,
A strange still radiance through His Body shone
Whiter than moonlight on the mountain snow.
Then two that flamed amber and amethyst
Were either side Him, while low thunder rolled
Down to the ravens in their deep ravine;
But when we looked again, as through a mist
We saw Him near us.--Like a pearl we hold
Close to our hearts what we have heard and seen.
THE way of palms He passed in simple state
And they that hailed Him knew a breathless awe,
The lame leapt at His side, the blind eyes saw
That Heaven descended to the desolate
But where the temple rises chief priests wait--
And He in whom the Roman found no flaw,
Whose Love was greater than the ancient Law,
Rides to His death beyond the city gate.
Jerusalem, what can efface the stain!
Not full six days since He has entered in,
And now the nails of Calvary pierce Him through;
Yet wronged, forsaken, bearing mortal pain,
Immortally He pardons your dark sin:
Forgive them for they know not what they do.
XXIV. IN THE GARDEN
AT dusk of dawn the fragrant garden slept
Full of a mystery the night had known,
When Mary entered, trembling and alone,
And as she trod the grassy way she wept;
But from the place of deepest shadow crept
A light most radiant--there was no stone!
And the cold rock in which He rested shone
Where two archangels holy vigil kept.
Wondering she saw the flame-white seraphim
At that dark entrance bidding her rejoice,
Yet on the flowers her tears fell one by one;
Then turning comfortless in search of Him
She heard the quiet music of a Voice,
And Christ stood there against the rising sun.
XXV. THE ROAD TO EMMAUS
As they were hastening from Jerusalem
There came a Man whose footfall gave no sound
Nor left a trace upon the dusty ground,
And He made plain all mysteries to them:
The prophet line that led to Bethlehem
Aflame with vision, and the Love unbound
In that still dawn when life immortal crowned
The lonely death upon the dark Tree-stem.
The little town was reached at eventide,
And as He sate and blessed the food there seemed
A light upon them, though the day was dead;
They saw then Who had journeyed by their side
Only to lose Him--and each thought he dreamed:
But on the table lay the broken bread.
XXVI. THE PARTING
THAT He might better of Love's mystery tell
Into a lonely mountain they withdrew,
Day's golden fire cooled in deep wells of dew
About His Head with softened splendour fell;
And in each heart that heard the last farewell
A quickening joy and deepening sorrow grew,
And all were hushed--even the doubtful knew
His was the power of Heaven and of Hell.
When He had ceased, a mighty wind rushed by
From far beyond the sunset's cloudless rim,
And over them a glory seemed to bend
Then like a star He rose into the sky,
Sadly they watched the glowing light grow dim
And heard the echoes ring, "Until the End."