Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, MARY QUAYLE; THE CURATE'S STORY, by THOMAS EDWARD BROWN

Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

MARY QUAYLE; THE CURATE'S STORY, by                     Poet's Biography
First Line: We went to climb barrule
Last Line: Walked silently----- o love! O death! O hope!
Alternate Author Name(s): Brown, T. E.
Subject(s): Isle Of Man

WE went to climb Barrule,
Wind light, air cool --
But when we reached the crest
That fronts Cornaa,
A black cloud leaned its breast
Upon the bay --
And, seeing from Ayre to Maughold Head
The long wings spread
Slumb'rous with brazen light,
Swift dropping from the height
We follow
The crags that northward shoot,
And find ourselves within the hollow
Of Gob-ny-Scuit --
Spout-mouth -- so named because
It seems as if a giant's jaws
Gaped wide --
Ent'ring, we lay down side by side.

Then Richard said --
"This is the place --
Long years have fled;
But still I see her face.
Just here where you are she was -- yes, just here --
I had long thought she loved me; but you know the fear --
Had thought, -- but now by what sweet word made bolder
I cannot tell;
Only her dear head fell
Upon my shoulder,
And she looked up into my eyes -- and this
Was our first kiss."

As Richard spoke, from out that awful cloud
The lightning leaped, and loud
The boom
Of the long thunder thrilled the deep'ning gloom
Then Richard spoke again -- "That very day
Next year I came this way,
But it was different:
Yes, God had sent
A trial that was hard to bear;
And so I went,
And took my care
Up to these hills,
Alone, alone!
And knelt, and prayed to Him who bends our wills,
And can subdue them to His own --

"For Mary . . . Mary [Oh how the lightning flashed!
Oh how the thunder crashed!]
Die? No, she did not die -- I thought you knew --
Sir, Mary was not true. . . .
Yes, sir, I will be patient -- you shall see --
Patient -- Oh certainly --
Patient -- God knows I am; God knows I've need to be.

"Mary was ruined, sir;
She bore a child that was not mine --
Nay, do not stir --
The lightning, is it? Sir, we may resign
What's ours, if so we make it happier;
But oh! to see it in the dust,
Down-trodden, broken --
Aye, and by one in whom you had full trust,
Stained and defiled,
This is the grief that never can be spoken --

"This was my grief. The father of her child
Was a young gentleman, who came to spend
A summer in the Island. Truest friend
He seemed to me -- he had such hearty ways
With men like us. It was his holidays
At Oxford College -- that's where scholars go
To learn for clergymen -- but, sir, you know --
You were at Oxford -- well, well, never mind --
I loved the lad, so gentle and so kind
He was; and fond enough he seemed of me,
And always wishing for my company.

"So he and I were friends, and took delight
In one another. Hadn't we the right?
And yet he never knew that Mary Quayle
Was anything to me. To hand the sail,
To steer, to haul, he would himself devote;
We never talked of sweethearts in the boat.
He wasn't much account when he began,
But came to be a splendid fisherman --
I taught him everything, except to swim --
He beat me there; and I was fond of him.

"The days were short, the leaves were thin and brown,
When Mr. Herbert Dynely left the town.
I rowed him to the steamer: when we fetched,
He jumped upon the paddle-box, and stretched
His hand for mine, and would not let it go --
'God bless you, Dick!' he cried; 'I hardly know
If ever I shall see your face again.'
And looked and looked. I thought the very strain
Of truth was in his eye; and so I yearned
To him, and could not speak. But, if I'd turned,
I might have seen a window where a face
As white as death was glued against the glass --
Long after, when the talk was everywhere,
Some people told me who had seen her there.
It was an early sailing, and the sun
Shot in upon her, level like a gun --
And they saw her --
God in heaven!
(Forgiven! yes, forgiven!
But saw her.)
Stupid, half-naked, so they said,
Sprung from her bed,
Her breast
All pressed,
Crushed, murdered, on the sill,
Like a woman that's not respectable.

"No, I knew nothing all the time; nor after,
For many a week -- I've sat with her, and chaffed her
Because she was more silent than she used;
And yet she never looked a bit confused,
But sweet and gentle as a girl could be,
So sweet and gentle still she was to me.
Indeed, I think that she looked happier
Than ever she had done -- I saw in her
A deeper joy; so that our love would seem
Sometimes a dream within another dream.

"And so it was: and what the dreaming meant
I had no thought, and I was quite content.
I looked into her eyes, and saw as far
As made me happy -- that's the way we are --
A swimmer tips the tangles, can he know
The depth of water that there's down below?
I don't complain. I'm sure she loved me; yes --
The greater love had swallowed up the less.

"But still she loved me. Ah, sir! who was I?
A candle, when the sun is in the sky,
Is hardly noticed -- did the night, no doubt;
But now you even forget to put it out.
He was that sun that rose in heav'n above,
And burst upon her in a blaze of love.
Poor candle! steady, burning to the snuff --
I know our love is only common stuff.
It's faithful as the mothers were that bore us;
It's just the love our fathers loved before us.
There's nothing fine about it, nothing grand,
Like fruit or flower that comes from foreign land:
A clover blossom where the bumbees cling,
And suck -- that's all; you know the sort of thing.
A blackbird to his mate pipes nothing strange,
A sweet old tune, that has not any change.
So we, when we have told our love, are fain
To take a kiss, and tell it all again.
But true it is, the love no power can sunder,
The strongest love, is love whose root is wonder.

"And Dynely was a wonder over here,
Especially with women -- far or near
You would not see his match -- so generous
And free, and then so different from us --
His talk, his clothes, his way with every limb --
We hadn't any chance at all with him.
Ah, sir! compared with such a common clod
As me, this Dynely looked a perfect god --
There's nothing like it since the world began,
The beauty of a noble Englishman.

"And Dynely was no flirt, no butterfly,
That's always on the wing: he didn't try
To get the girls to gather all around him --
But rather serious in his ways I found him.
And when she came to know that she was dear
To such a man, poor Mary had no fear,
But only wonder: so that, when the crest
Of that great wave of love rose to her breast,
She floated off her feet, and drifted out
Into love's deep-sea soundings: no faint doubt
Was in her mind; through all the depths she clung
To that strong swimmer's arm; and, as he flung
Around her all the glory of his youth,
He seemed to her the very soul of truth.

"Ah, sir! it was a way with perils fraught,
If she had thought; but love is not a thought.
What thought she had was only that he'd take her
To some bright land of joy, where he would make her
His queen, his . . . God-knows-what . . . some fruitful land,
Where happiness would grow at his command,
Like grass in fields, and none their joys should sever,
And all her soul be satisfied for ever.
I see you understand -- the reason why
Is plain -- ah, who was I, sir? who was I?

"And yet . . . there's something bothering my brain --
Just wait a bit -- I'll make my meaning plain.
You see, I've not the art you scholars learn
To find the very word for every turn
Of what you think, and feel within your heart,
Immediately -- ah, sir! that is an art!
But this is it -- you'll see it at a glance --
The man that paints a picture has a chance
To make it what he likes -- he'll paint the trees,
He'll paint a baby on its mother's knees.
He paints the things that give him most delight,
He paints the things he longs for in the night,
And things that never were, and never could be,
He paints them up to what he thinks they should be --
What's this you call -- imagination, ain't it?
Why, every yearning of his heart, he'll paint it.
He'll paint the very life, and make it start out
Straight in your face -- the man can paint his heart out.
He's safe enough; and yet he needn't brag --
It's all between him and a canvas rag.

"And so you gentlemen that write the po'ms
And stories, living in your pleasant homes --
You're not content with just the things you see
Around you, common joy and misery,
And life and death. You set yourselves to listen
To all the hearts that beat; all eyes that glisten,
No matter where, you watch, you watch the faces;
You write as if you lived in fearful places,
So that, at times, your best friends wouldn't swear
You are the steady gentlemen you are.

"All right! all right again -- no fear of you:
But only tell me what are we to do!
We also have our dreams -- be sure of that:
We also long, we hardly know for what.
God floods our hearts with all His melting snow,
And there's no sluice to take the overflow.
And so it often happens that the mill
Is swept away, or broken. You have skill
Of books and paints for what your mind contrives;
But we can only put it in our lives.
There's many a poor man's daughter born with wings
Inside, that fret upon her heart like stings,
Till some one comes at last, and stands, and breathes
Upon the wings. Then from their golden sheaths
They flash into the light: with some of us
It's very hard indeed; it's dangerous.

"But when poor Mary could not hide her shame,
And had to speak, it was her mother came
And told me all. At first, it hardened me --
But, sir, it was a common misery --
And who'd be more heart-broken than the mother?
And so we tried to comfort one another.
The father was a fine old Methodist --
They said, when he was told, he clenched his fist,
And trembled like a leaf, and bowed his head:
But, when he raised it up again, they said
It was a sad, but still a lovely sight --
The old man's face was full of heavenly light.

"Yes, real pious Methodists they were;
And that's what made it harder still to bear --
Being so much looked up to in the place --
It was a very terrible disgrace.
But, Methodists or not, we know who sends
The troubles; and, except amongst our friends,
That know us best, we have not much to say --
We suffer, and are silent -- that's our way.
The women, too, with us, are very meek --
Poor souls! it isn't for revenge they seek,
Or law, or money. Love is what they sought;
And, if that's gone, then all the world is nought.
Revenge? That's not the port for which they sailed --
For love they ventured, and for love they failed:
And so they'd like to die, if we would let them;
And all they ask is just that we'd forget them.

"But, when her time was come, the mother sent
For me, and so I forced myself, and went;
And stayed a while outside, and listened there,
And heard the preacher putting up a prayer,
And heard a long low moaning in the garret --
You know what that was, sir -- I could not bear it.
And when I saw a woman coming out
Upon the landing -- well, I turned about,
And started home. But, somewhere near the mill,
I heard a step behind me -- it was Phil,
Her oldest brother -- she had three --
Fine fellows as could be, . . .
And she . . .
Was their joy and their pride . . .
Any one of them would have died
In a minute for her. . . . They loved to see her
So good, and so sweet;
And so she was, my darling, darling dear!
She was! she was! before this awful wreck --
And Philip took me round the neck,
And kissed me on the street,
And off without a word . . .
Mary! Mary!
I feel her in my arms . . .
Her mouth warms . . .
Yes then! press then!
Where then? There then!
Mary! Mary! . . .
The very ground she trod . . .
My God!"
[Oh how the lightning flashed!
Oh how the thunder crashed!]
Richard fell back, and would have struck his head
Against the rock; but I my arms outspread,
And caught him as he fell. He could not speak,
Scarce breathe. I raised him up, and stroked his cheek,
And cherished him, till, from the viewless bourn
Of death, the anguished spirit made return.
Then Richard spoke --
"I know that you must wonder
How Mary's brothers could be patient under
Such wrong, and such disgrace: perhaps you thought
They'd kill the man; perhaps you think they ought.
Well -- that is not our way. Moreover, sir,
The lads were thinking not of him, but her.
They hadn't backed him, and they hadn't crossed him;
They hadn't loved him, and they hadn't lost him.
And now they could not hate him. He was just
A reef that they had split upon; a gust
Of strong and terrible wind, that had capsized
The ship in which they'd stored what most they prized --
Or as the lightning there, that stoops, and kills,
And passes -- vanishing behind the hills --
Who's angry with the lightning?
Even so
They never talked of Dynely as a foe,
Nor talked of him at all; but gathered round
Their sister in her sorrow -- every sound
And every sight they thought would aggravate
Her trouble they would screen her from, and wait
And watch like three big dogs, and keep a ring
Of love and peace about her. Everything
They could they did: and when they saw her tearful --
Poor chaps! they'd try to be a little cheerful:
And, when they could do nothing else, they'd sit
With her, and leave off talking for a bit,
And be a comfort to her -- three of a size,
All pitying her with those big loving eyes.

"She was the loveliest thing they'd ever known;
She was the youngest of them; she had grown
Among them like a flower among the corn --
So, from the very minute she was born
They loved their little sister. And to them
The flower that drooped, and faded on the stem,
Was still their flower: the lightning-flash had scathed it,
And scorched the tender leaves; and so they bathed it
With dews of love, and every sweet endeavour --
She was as beautiful to them as ever,
And twice more precious for her sorrow's need --
So God is gentle to the bruised reed.
Besides, they hoped for sunshine by and by,
If only they could coax her not to die.
No score but Time will wipe it with his sponge --
Too much to lose, they thought: so divers think, and plunge.

"I wandered all that night upon the shore;
But, when the day broke, I was at the door
Again; and Philip told me that her child
Was born, and Mary seemed quite reconciled
To nurse it, and they both would live. I knew
That very minute what I had to do.
The packet sailed for Liverpool that day,
And I sailed with her. Yes, sir, as you say,
To speak to Mr. Dynely, if I could,
And bring him home to Mary -- God was good
That had preserved her, and I thought he might
Do his part now, and come and make all right.

"I was most wretched, sir, aboard that craft --
Some chaps are very thoughtless; -- and they chaffed
And bothered me. They're very different now
From fishermen like us: I don't know how,
But quite another sort -- they hardly seem
Like sailors -- maybe something in the steam.
But Corlett, that was skipper of the boat
(A better seaman never was afloat),
Reproved them very sharp, and made them cease
Their stuff, and then I got a little peace.

"I landed at the Stage, and looked about,
And hailed a Runcorn flat, just clearing out,
And jumped aboard: the skipper gave a curse;
His wife looked up, and asked if I could nurse,
And handed me the baby; so I sat,
And nursed a baby on a Runcorn flat --
And glad enough -- God knows that I had need
Of something innocent; I had indeed --
Poor little things! But when the night came on,
And all the stars, the woman nursed her son,
And talked to me of heaven, and of another
That she had lost, a little baby brother --
And how the world was full of sin and care --
But God was all, and God was everywhere --
I told her nothing; but of course she knew
Far more than half my . . . Well, you know, they do --
A woman has an art you'll never shirk,
She always knows another woman's work.

"At Runcorn, when I asked for Dynely Hall,
The only bearings I could get at all
Were just south-east; and so I bore away;
And, on the morning of the second day,
I saw the place before me. Aren't they grand? --
Those big old houses rooted deep in land;
And woods and park that stretch for miles and miles,
And meadows like long lakes of grass, and stiles,
And paths -- and all so open and so free --
Ah, what's our Milntown, and our Nunnery,
Or Bishop's Court? Just think -- the room alone --
No cropping every acre to the bone,
Like us. There's money at the back -- that's it!
Yes, money: but there's more; there's noble wit,
There's ancient memories, use of generous ways,
And wholesome customs of the bygone days.

"So when I saw the glory and the strength
Of such a place, and when I saw the length
Of roofs, and spires, and gable-ends, and towers,
And high stone-windows cut in fruits and flowers --
And grass like thick-napped velvet on the lawn,
And all so quiet sleeping in the dawn --
I thought two thoughts -- What right had I to bring
My trouble there? and then -- What earthly thing
Could make it possible for Mary Quayle
To be the mistress there? -- could love prevail?
Could honesty? . . . And then I stood uncertain,
Upon the stretch, as one who holds the curtain
Of some sound sleeper, knowing that he never
Will sleep like that again. And then a shiver
Came over me -- a long dim driving scud
Of horror, and my eyes were burning blood,
And the world rose around me, and I fell
Forward . . . down to the very bottom of hell.

"Then from the pit I cried a bitter cry --
The pit indeed -- I swore to God on high
This thing was wrong, and always must be wrong --
I swore it in the darkness: then . . . ding-dong . . .
The blood-bells bubbled in my ears like rain,
And earth and sky came back to me again;
And I was on my knees upon the sod,
And praying; and I said --
'O God, my God!
Thou art the Father of all souls: from Thee
They come, as equally ordained to be
The creatures of Thy hand, Thy sovereign might,
And they are equal, Father, in Thy sight.
O God! my God! in that sweet field of morn,
Where all the souls were waiting to be born,
Were they not equal? and, if not so now,
Who makes these differences? God, not Thou!
Not Thou! not Thou, my God! and love is Thine;
Thou pourest it into our hearts like wine
In golden cups; and Love is just the same
As Thou art, God: he knows no rank, or name,
Or wealth, or place. He takes our hearts and binds them
With links of fire -- Oh, say not that he blinds them
With vain deceits! not that, O Heavenly Father!
Not that, not that! if truth is truth: say rather --
Wise Love comes opening our eyes to see
The stamp of natural equality.
O Lord, I pray Thee, let these two be one,
And as for me, O Lord, Thy will be done!
I will not say a word, a single word --
Thy will be done! Thy will be done, O Lord!
I loved her -- yes -- perhaps I loved her most --
It might have been -- O Lord, O Lord, Thou know'st.
And now be with me in this dreadful hour;
Subdue the pride of man, and give me power
To sacrifice myself right out and through --
This much I ask, O Lord, this much I do.
O Lord, I claim to have no part or lot
In her; I only ask to be forgot.
Make these two happy in their love, and then --
I'll manage -- grant it, God of love! Amen!'
[No more the lightning flashed,
No more the thunder crashed --
But from the piled jet
Gleamed sheeted violet,
Which lent such grace
To that sad face,
My voice was all to seek;
And when I tried to speak, I could not speak.
Then Richard smiled to see how absolute
The human tie that bound us -- blessed fruit
Of strong coequal manhood. Then he spoke --]

"Day strengthened [Richard said]; I saw the smoke
Rise from the roofs: the birds began their hymns,
And all the valley seemed to stretch its limbs,
And wake. It was a lovely spot; and so
I felt a great deal better, -- cheerful -- no --
But better; thinking God had heard my prayer,
And everything so pleasant and so fair.
And then, for coolness like, and also knowing
Where he would be, if there was fishing going,
I went and sat me down upon the brink
Of a fine stream, that had a merry blink,
And looked, so clear and quick the water ran,
Like our own rivers in the Isle of Man.
The sound was sweet, the wind came off the moor,
I might have been in Sulby, or Ballure.

"Then sleep came on me, and I dreamt a dream
Of Mary skipping to me 'cross the stream
Upon some stepping-stones; and I was standing
With arms stretched out to catch her at the landing;
And her sweet face was just a perfect sun
Of love and mischief. Suddenly -- 'Run, run!'
She cried, 'The child!' I looked, and all was dark,
Only I saw a little baby stark
Naked as it was born, and over it
I saw a ball of rosy flame that lit
Its little body, as it floated there --
I felt the night-wind whistling through my hair --
I saw poor Mary leap -- I sprang to hold her --
I woke -- and . . . Dynely's hand was on my shoulder.

"'Why, Richard, Richard! what on earth is this?
And what is up? and what has gone amiss?
And how in Heaven's name have you come here,
My lusty, trusty, Ancient Marineer!
Ha! Richard, you've been spreeing -- that's your line!
You've been among the landsharks, Richard mine.
You steady chaps are far the worst, they say,
When once you cut the cable.' Just his way --
Landsharks, and Ancient Marineers, and that;
And gript my arm, and held my hand, and sat
Beside me.
But I turned away my head,
And . . . 'Sir, the child is born, the child,' I said.
He dropt me, gript me, dropt and gript again --
Gript like a vice; and . . . 'Richard! Richard Craine,'
He said -- 'Look here! look straight! look straight!' and turned me
Around to look at him full front, and burned me
With eyes like coals of fire -- 'Look straight!' says he;
'there's something in your face I want to see --
You loved her, Craine!' I gave him look for look --
Ah sir, the murdering devil has a nook
In every heart -- another move, a breath --
I might have had him in the grips of death --
Die him, die me, or die the two of us --
What matters it? The thing is thus and thus --
It's come to that -- you don't know how or why --
You don't know anything----- oh d----- you! die!

"Die----- yes -- but Mary----- Mary was the thing;
And why was I at Dynely but to bring
That man to do the duty of a lover,
And come and make an honest woman of her?
And who was I to put between them? No!
Just let me see her happy, and I'd go,
And never more be heard of, never more --
You can do that. 'You loved her, Craine.' I swore
I never did . . . I had to do it . . . yes . . .
I had -- God knows the lie; but, nevertheless,
There was no other way in heaven above
Or earth beneath -- it was the lie of love.

"I said that we were friends -- that Mary's father
And mine had been old shipmates -- that they rather
Had trust in me, and thought that I could tell
Their grief to him, through knowing him so well --
So I had come; and Mary was as pure
As the unmelted snow, I said: he knew her,
I said -- she was a modest woman still,
And all her people were respectable.
I said a lot of things: but then a cloud
Came on his handsome face, and he looked proud
And cold at me: again the devil hissed
Hot murder in my heart. I held his wrist --
It felt like paper, cracking in my span --

"And -- 'Mr. Dynely, you're a gentleman,'
I said, 'and so our girls are only toys
For you to play with, slaves of lustful joys
To you, and such as you, that you may break them
For fun and fancy -- eh? that you may make them
A desolation, and a shame to utter,
And fling them on the cinders or the gutter,
As children fling their dolls; and we must stand
Patient -- we, fathers, brothers -- move no hand
To right the wrong. It is a wrong! what rule?
What law is this? who made it? God? That's cool!
What God? whose God? the God of heaven and earth?
The God that brings all creatures to the birth?
The God Eve prayed to when she suckled Cain,
And Adam saw the milk? Your god is plain,
The devil-god, that made him kill his brother,
The god that sunders us from one another
In jealousy and hate, friend torn from friend --
In murder it began, in murder it will end.'

"My grip grew tighter -- 'God, and law!' I cried;
'Your god is Moloch, and your law is pride --
Hell's pride; man's law -- man therefore can reverse it --
Stand up with me, I say, and curse it! curse it!
Curse it! it is no part of God's great plan --
A gentleman! stand up, and be a man!'

[While Richard paused, as if the passionate speech
Had overmastered utterance -- lo! a breach
Of purest sky, seaward, diagonal
From north to south; on either side, a wall
Black, feather-edged with sheen of silvery bars,
And in the interspace were many stars.
I saw it, but was silent. Richard broke
A way for prisoned words, and thus he spoke --]

"If I had not been blind with grief and passion,
I could not but have noticed how the fashion
Of Dynely's face was changing all the while --
But now I saw it -- saw the sweet bright smile
Spread out through tears; and -- 'Richard Craine,' he said,
'I come on Friday.' Then I fell stone dead --
You see, the tramping, and the want of meat,
And all -- I just fell senseless at his feet.

"He raised me though, and made me take a sup
Of brandy from a little silver cup
He had with him, and gave me food he'd brought
For fishing store: and then, like losing thought
Of all our cares, as, when a storm has passed,
Two vessels, hull to hull, and mast to mast,
Lie on the heaving calm -- just so we lay,
And talked chance talk -- of herrings in the bay,
And six-foot congers -- did I catch them often?
There's men would talk of congers in their coffin --
Chance talk, chance talk -- that's it, and very much
Like dropping stones in water . . . touch-touch-touch --
That's all -- and so I said I thought I'd hook it;
And Dynely gave me money, and I took it --
I did -- you see, I didn't want to lose
A minute getting home, and to refuse
Seemed foolish pride; and, on the other hand,
To take----- but, sir, I see you understand.

"He showed me where the railway ran aback
The hills. I said good-bye, and didn't slack
Until I reached the level -- then I stopped,
And saw him stretched upon his face arm-propped,
Arm-buried from the world of living men --
Ah sir, I could have ripped my heart out then,
And flung it back to him -- 'He's good! he's good!'
I cried, and turned, and sprang into the wood.
Thank God that that last moment I had grace
And power to see that Dynely was not base,
To feel that he was good, sound at the core --
Because . . . because . . . I never saw him more!

"How sweet the night is getting! [Then said I --
'It is a lovely night' -- whereat a sigh
Came trembling to our feet, then paused, as failing
Against the rock, then fluttered into wailing,
And wheeled adown the farthest bourn of west --
'The thunder-wind is dying in its nest,'
Said Richard: but I knew not what to think,
So human was the sorrow, to the brink
Of syllabled utterance urging awful cares --
I followed it with wishes and with prayers.
Then Richard said --]

"The boat was late, the evening air was cool,
The sun's last light was creeping up Barrule;
The place looked very happy, very sweet; --
And I was happy. Up Kirk Maughold Street
I met the brothers. Heavy with distress,
They looked at me: but all I said was 'Yes,
He's coming'; for they knew where I had gone --
I saw they did -- they nodded, and passed on,
Suspicious, whispering, or seemed to be,
And all the people stood and stared at me.

"But I went up to Mary's. Mrs. Quayle
Was standing at the door: I told my tale --
She couldn't speak, she hardly raised her head,
But fell against the door -- 'Come in,' she said.
Old Quayle had got the preacher, Mr. King,
A Bible gript between them arguing;
And, just as I was standing at the sill,
The preacher snatched the Bible from him, till
He'd find a text to pin him. Low, quite low,
Says Mrs. Quayle, 'He's seen him -- him, you know.'
The Bible straddled somewhere in their laps,
Old Quayle heaved back his head, and sighed; perhaps
It was the waking up of all the grief
Had slept awhile, perhaps it was relief
From preachers' talk, because there are, no doubt,
Some preachers that you'd rather do without,
When you're in trouble; and old Quayle was all
For peace and holy joy, like John, like Paul,
For quietness, and prayer, and meditation --
Though Paul----- I think----- but smelling provocation
Was King's delight; but still I've understood
He was a man that did a deal of good.

"And now I told them what I'd seen and heard,
How I had met with Dynely -- every word
He'd said to me; but not, of course, what I
Had said; and Mrs. Quayle began to cry.
But all the time that I was speaking there,
I saw the preacher working in his chair,
And now a sniff, and now a snuff -- 'I know,'
He seemed to say, 'what you're a coming to.'
And when I told how Dynely had agreed
To come next boat -- 'Indeed,' he said, 'indeed!' --
And sniffed. But now an argument began
Between himself and Mrs. Quayle -- What plan,
He said, should be adopted in this case --
And -- how astonishing it was to trace
The hand of Providence; how human ill
Was overruled for good; -- unsearchable,
The preacher said, it was, past finding out,
Like all God's ways. See how He'd brought about
A full conviction! see the sinner's sin
A cause of grace! but not to walk therein --
He said -- No, no! And Mary's change was deep,
He said, and highly promising -- a sheep,
He doubted not, brought home upon the shoulder
Of the Good Shepherd. Now then, if they told her
About this Dynely, where was all his wrestling?
This work would be disturbed, this lamb, a-nestling
Upon the Saviour's bosom, would give ear
To wolves without the fold; and so, one dear
To him by precious ties would fall away;
And God would question at the Judgment Day.

"Poor Mrs. Quayle had not the slightest chance
With King -- indeed, she hardly made advance
Beyond some simple words, like -- 'Surely! surely!
They're better married.' -- 'That's a point maturely
To be considered, ma'am; and on your knees.
Just think of all the pomps and vanities,
And sinful lusts. You know how Mary stands
At present -- Could she be in better hands?
A state's a state, regard it as you will --
Disturb that state, and who's responsible?'

"'Ah but,' she said, 'if Mr. Dynely come,
And want to marry her?' He looks as glum
As thunder -- 'When did Mr. Dynely say
He'd marry her at all?' and -- 'Let us pray!'
He says, and knelt. But those were words to pierce
The woman to the heart. She stood up fierce
And stiff -- she would not kneel: I got beside her,
And held her hand in mine. The old man eyed her
With sad and wondering look. The preacher frowned,
But prayed -- when . . . suddenly . . . we heard a sound,
A sweet low tune----- 'twas in the room above --
O sir, my heart filled over -- Love! love! love!
O love! O death! . . .
But, sir, the preacher stayed,
He rose; he listened -- 'Yes, it's sweet,' he said;
'It's sweet; she often sings like that, poor thing!
And hardly knows-----' I felt the mother spring,
Although she didn't move -- 'Oh, is she crying?'
I said -- 'Oh, is she, Mrs. Quayle? or dying?
Oh, dying! dying! Mrs. Quayle!' -- 'She may be,'
The woman said; 'that's singing to her baby,
At any rate,' she said. You see, she knew
The sort of sound, as if a baby drew
The song and suck at once -- Ah, trust a mother
To tell that tune of tunes! There is no other
Like that, of all the tunes -- 'She hasn't nursed
Her baby for a week: we feared the worst,'
The mother said. 'But now -- oh why, oh why
Are you so cruel? Sir, she need not die;
She need not, Mr. King!'
She stopped; the song
Continued -- All at once -- 'I think we're wrong,'
The old man said; 'this lies beyond our power,'
And all his face was like a lovely flower --
'We'll go and tell her.' Then he rose, and went;
And with him went his wife. The preacher bent
His head, and muttered something -- didn't speak;
I saw the tears were rolling down his cheek.
We left together -- 'In your prayers to-night
Remember me,' he said; 'good-night! good-night!'
They're hard on human nature, bound to be;
But still they can't get over it, you see.

"I heard next morning, when I gave a call
Up-street, that Mary wasn't pleased at all
With what I'd done -- it took her unawares --
If people just would mind their own affairs,
She said, it would be better -- mind their own;
She only wanted to be left alone!
She wanted nobody to come and see her --
It was as Death had whispered in her ear
And spat into her mouth, and sucked her breath --
There is a kind of drunkenness of death
She'd got; she'd bathed her feet in death so long
That it had lost the chill: and Death is strong,
But Hope is stronger----- bully Hope! heart's-ease!
Sweet Hope, young Hope, that climbs upon the knees
Of Death, and hangs upon his neck! and so
I knew that it would be with her. No, no!
We're not so fond of Death.
That very day
She nursed and nursed the little one, that lay
Upon her breast, a helpless snuggling bit
Of innocence. They said her face was lit
With pride, if any one could call it pride --
Poor thing! and when she laid it at her side,
And raised herself, she kissed the little foot,
And talked of flowers, and where they should be put
To make the room look nice; and kissed her mother.

"Next day was Friday; then she couldn't smother
Her longing any more; she couldn't rest
A minute with them; wanted to be drest;
Sang to the baby, danced it, held it off
At arm's-length from her, till she made it cough
And blink; and then she nursed it for a while;
And then she lay quite peaceful -- such a smile,
The mother said, and such a lovely bloom,
To see her tidying about the room!
And she would have the window open -- yes --
The window -- begged her mother with a kiss
To have the window open, so that she
Might hear the tug of paddles out at sea.

"The steamer came -- I waited till the last --
No Dynely -- no! I made the painter fast,
And jumped aboard the boat: I went below,
To see if he was there -- but -- Dynely? -- no!
He hadn't come. I went ashore again;
I saw the brothers standing at the lane;
And, when they saw me by myself, they turned,
And walked away, they did. My head sir, burned
With misery -- O God of Israel!
And then . . . and then . . . I had to go and tell.
I made it look as likely as I could;
He hadn't come; but then of course he would --
Next boat, no doubt. And so they thought it better
That Mary should be told -- No doubt, a letter
Had come by post -- they'd have it in the morning:
And so, without the smallest bit of warning,
They told her -- 'Shut the window now,' she said;
And then her mother wrapt her in the bed,
And felt her all a-tremble.
Morning came --
No letter, but the paper, and a name
That made me start -- 'Births, Marriages,' you know,
'Deaths . . . Herbert Dynely, Dynely Hall' -- just so --
And, in another place, 'Sad accident.'
It seems, soon after I had left, he went
Far up the river to a place where rocks
Run out, and make a gully: two big blocks
Lean from each side, as if inclined to meet,
One higher than the other -- fifteen feet
Of slant apart. The downward jump was hard,
The up was worse; and yet the man who dared
The one must dare the other: from the ledge
On which he stood the cliff was like a hedge
Behind him, six good fathoms, smooth as glass:
Below him, from the throttle of the pass,
Half choked with churning stones, the water slid
Into a deep black pool. The jump was called the Strid.

"They found him in the pool, and people thought
He must have had a salmon on, and brought
His fish into the narrows. Then, you see,
He couldn't play him there; so jumps to free
His running tackle; doesn't do to jerk him --
Jump back again's the only way to work him --
Jumps, misses, strikes the crags, back, front, good God!
Stunned, bleeding, helpless, still he holds the rod,
And held it when they found him -- dead enough --
Just where the water shoaled: the gear was tough;
The salmon was below him, fast as glue --
The rascal -- sulking, wondering what to do.

"So that's how Dynely died. This news was broke
To Mary very gently. No one spoke
But what they had to speak, and all combined
To be as helpful, and as good and kind
As ever they could be. But that strong love
Of Death came back upon her now, and strove
Against our kindness. Most of us, indeed,
Knew what must be the end: such strains exceed
The strength of human hearts. Before she died,
She sent for me. I stood at her bedside . . .
Bedside . . . bedside . . . O sir, the other hopes!
The other thoughts! . . . O sir, man only gropes,
At best, through darkness: here, at last, was light --
But not of this world.
'Twas a lovely sight,
But terrible . . . poor darling little bed --
Poor lamb! poor dear! But how I stooped my head
Against her lips to hear her whispering,
And what she said, that was not anything
But sweet low sighs -- and what I could not say,
No matter how I tried, and came away,
And left her, when they told me. . . . Wait a bit . . .
That is . . . that must be. . . . O sir, this is it . . .
Young Dynely lies in Dynely church; and she
Lies there!"
He pointed where above the sea
Saint Maughold's Church lay girt with cross and rune
And grave. . . . Just then forth sailed the stately moon
Full-orbed; and, from a vista of retreat
Cloud-caverned, lo! a face divinely sweet
Looked forth, and, every fold distinct with light,
Soft garments floated on the field of night.
"Behold!" I cried, "O Richard mine, behold
The robe of silver, and the crown of gold!
See, see! she smiles!" Straightway the vision passed:
But Richard spoke not, only held me fast
By hand and arm -- We rose, and down the slope
Walked silently----- O Love! O Death! O Hope!

Discover our Poem Explanations and Poet Analyses!

Other Poems of Interest...

Home: PoetryExplorer.net