The great farm house of Malcolm Graem stood
Square shoulder'd and peak roof'd upon a hill,
With many windows looking everywhere;
So that no distant meadow might lie hid,
Nor corn-field hide its gold--nor lowing herd
Browse in far pastures, out of Malcolm's ken.
He lov'd to sit, grim, grey, and somewhat stern,
And thro' the smoke-clouds from his short clay pipe
Look out upon his riches; while his thoughts
Swung back and forth between the bleak, stern past,
And the near future, for his life had come
To that close balance, when, a pendulum,
The memory swings between me 'Then' and 'Now';
His seldom speech ran thus two diff'rent ways:
'When I was but a laddie, this I did';
Or, 'Katie, in the Fall I'll see to build
'Such fences or such sheds about the place;
'And next year, please the Lord, another barn.'
Katie's gay garden foam'd about the walls,
'Leagur'd the prim-cut modern sills, and rush'd
Up the stone walls--and broke on the peak'd roof.
And Katie's lawn was like a Poet's sward,
Velvet and sheer and di'monded with dew;
For such as win their wealth most aptly take
Smooth, urban ways and blend them with their own;
And Katie's dainty raiment was as fine
As the smooth, silken petals of the rose;
And her light feet, her nimble mind and voice,
In city schools had learn'd the city's ways,
And grafts upon the healthy, lonely vine
They shone, eternal blossoms 'mid the fruit.
For Katie had her sceptre in her hand
And wielded it right queenly there and here,
In dairy, store-room, kitchen--ev'ry spot
Where women's ways were needed on the place.
And Malcolm took her through his mighty fields,
And taught her lore about the change of crops;
And how to see a handsome furrow plough'd;
And how to choose the cattle for the mart;
And how to know a fair day's work when done;
And where to plant young orchards; for he said,
'God sent a lassie, but I need a son--
'Bethankit for His mercies all the same.'
And Katie, when he said it, thought of Max--
Who had been gone two winters and two springs,
And sigh'd, and thought, 'Would he not be your son?'
But all in silence, for she had too much
Of the firm will of Malcolm in her soul
To think of shaking that deep-rooted rock;
But hop'd the crystal current of his love
For his one child, increasing day by day,
Might fret with silver lip, until it wore
Such channels thro' the rock, that some slight stroke
Of circumstance might crumble down the stone.
The wooer, too, had come, Max prophesied;
Reputed wealthy; with the azure eyes
And Saxon-gilded locks--the fair, clear face,
And stalwart form that most women love.
And with the jewels of some virtues set
On his broad brow. With fires within his soul
He had the wizard skill to fetter down
To that mere pink, poetic, nameless glow,
That need not fright a flake of snow away--
But if unloos'd, could melt an adverse rock
Marrow'd with iron, frowning in his way.
And Malcolm balanc'd him by day and night;
And with his grey-ey'd shrewdness partly saw
He was not one for Kate; but let him come,
And in chance moments thought: 'Well, let it be--
'They make a bonnie pair--he knows the ways
'Of men and things: can hold the gear I give,
'And, if the lassie wills it, let it be.'
And then, upstarting from his midnight sleep,
With hair erect and sweat upon his brow,
Such as no labor e'er had beaded there;
Would cry aloud, wide-staring thro' the dark--
'Nay, nay; she shall not wed him--rest in peace.'
Then fully waking, grimly laugh and say:
'Why did I speak and answer when none spake?'
But still lie staring, wakeful, through the shades;
List'ning to the silence, and beating still
The ball of Alfred's merits to and fro--
Saying, between the silent arguments:
'But would the mother like it, could she know?
'I would there was a way to ring a lad
'Like silver coin, and so find out the true;
'But Kate shall say him 'Nay' or say him 'Yea'
'At her own will.' And Katie said him 'Nay,'
In all the maiden, speechless, gentle ways
A woman has. But Alfred only laugh'd
To his own soul, and said in his wall'd mind:
'O, Kate, were I a lover, I might feel
'Despair flap o'er my hopes with raven wings;
'Because thy love is giv'n to other love.
'And did I love--unless I gain'd thy love,
'I would disdain the golden hair, sweet lips,
'Air-blown form and true violet eyes;
'Nor crave the beauteous lamp without the flame;
'Which in itself would light a charnel house.
'Unlov'd and loving, I would find the cure
'Of Love's despair in nursing Love's disdain--
'Disdain of lesser treasure than the whole.
'One cares not much to place against the wheel
'A diamond lacking flame--nor loves to pluck
'A rose with all its perfume cast abroad
'To the bosom of the gale. Not I, in truth!
'If all man's days are three score years and ten,
'He needs must waste them not, but nimbly seize
'The bright consummate blossom that his will
'Calls for most loudly. Gone, long gone the days
'When Love within my soul for ever stretch'd
'Fierce hands of flame, and here and there I found
'A blossom fitted for him--all up-fill'd
'With love as with clear dew--they had their hour
'And burn'd to ashes with him, as he droop'd
'In his own ruby fires. No Phoenix he,
'To rise again because of Katie's eyes,
'On dewy wings, from ashes such as his!
'But now, another Passion bids me forth.
'To crown him with the fairest I can find,
'And makes me lover--not of Katie's face,
'But of her father's riches! O, high fool,
'Who feels the faintest pulsing of a wish
'And fails to feed it into lordly life!
'So that, when stumbling back to Mother Earth,
'His freezing lip may curl in cold disdain
'Of those poor, blighted fools who starward stare
'For that fruition, nipp'd and scanted here.
'And, while the clay, o'ermasters all his blood--
'And he can feel the dust knit with his flesh--
'He yet can say to them, 'Be ye content;
''I tasted perfect fruitage thro' my life,
''Lighted all lamps of passion, till the oil
''Fail'd from their wicks; and now, O now, I know
''There is no Immortality could give
''Such boon as this--to simply cease to be!
''_There_ lies your Heaven, O ye dreaming slaves,
''If ye would only live to make it so;
''Nor paint upon the blue skies lying shades
''Of--_what is not_. Wise, wise and strong the man
''who poisons that fond haunter of the mind,
''Craving for a hereafter with deep draughts
''Of wild delights--so fiery, fierce, and strong,
''That when their dregs are deeply, deeply drain'd,
''What once was blindly crav'd of purblind Chance,
''Life, life eternal--throbbing thro' all space
''Is strongly loath'd--and with his face in dust,
''Man loves his only Heav'n--six feet of Earth!'
'So, Katie, tho' your blue eyes say me 'Nay,'
'My pangs of love for gold must needs be fed,
'And shall be, Katie, if I know my mind.'
Events were winds close nest'ling in the sails
Of Alfred's bark, all blowing him direct
To his wish'd harbour. On a certain day,
All set about with roses and with fire;
One of three days of heat which frequent slip,
Like triple rubies, in between the sweet,
Mild, emerald days of summer, Katie went,
Drawn by a yearning for the ice-pale blooms,
Natant and shining--firing all the bay
With angel fires built up of snow and gold.
She found the bay close pack'd with groaning logs,
Prison'd between great arms of close hing'd wood.
All cut from Malcolm's forests in the west,
And floated hither to his noisy mills;
And all stamp'd with the potent 'G.' and 'M.,'
Which much he lov'd to see upon his goods,
The silent courtiers owning him their king.
Out clear beyond the rustling ricebeds sang,
And the cool lilies starr'd the shadow'd wave.
'This is a day for lily-love,' said Kate,
While she made bare the lilies of her feet;
And sang a lily song that Max had made,
That spoke of lilies--always meaning Kate.

* * * * *

'While Lady of the silver'd lakes,
Chaste Goddess of the sweet, still shrines.