Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, GOOD NIGHT IN THE PORCH, by EDWARD ROBERT BULWER-LYTTON



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GOOD NIGHT IN THE PORCH, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: A little longer in the light, love, let me be
Last Line: You know the words the scripture saith...O light, o glory!...Is this death!
Alternate Author Name(s): Meredith, Owen; Lytton, 1st Earl Of; Lytton, Robert


A LITTLE longer in the light, love, let me be. The air is warm.
I hear the cuckoo's last good-night float from the copse below the Farm.
A little longer, Sister sweet, -- your hand in mine, -- on this old seat.

In yon red gable, which the rose creeps round and o'er, your casement shines
Against the yellow west, o'er those forlorn and solitary pines.
The long, long day is nearly done. How silent all the place is grown!

The stagnant levels, one and all, are burning in the distant marsh --
Hark! 't was the bittern's parting call. The frogs are out: with murmurs harsh
The low reeds vibrate. See! the sun catches the long pools one by one.

A moment, and those orange flats will turn dead gray or lurid white.
Look up! o'erhead the winnowing bats are come and gone, eluding sight.
The little worms are out. The snails begin to move down shining trails,

With slow pink cones, and soft wet horns. The garden-bowers are dim with dew.
With sparkling drops the white-rose thorns are twinkling, where the sun slips through
Those reefs of coral buds hung free below the purple Judas-tree.

From the warm upland comes a gust made fragrant with the brown hay there.
The meek cows, with their white horns thrust above the hedge, stand still and stare.
The steaming horses from the wains droop o'er the tank their plaited manes.

And o'er yon hillside brown and barren (where you and I as children played,
Starting the rabbit to his warren), I hear the sandy, shrill cascade
Leap down upon the vale, and spill his heart out round the muffled mill.

O can it be for nothing only that God has shown his world to me?
Or but to leave the heart more lonely with loss of beauty...can it be?
O closer, closer, Sister dear...nay, I have kist away that tear.

God bless you, Dear, for that kind thought which only upon tears could rise!
God bless you for the love that sought to hide them in those drooping eyes,
Whose lids I kiss! ...poor lids, so red! but let my kiss fall there instead.

Yes, sad indeed it seems, each night, -- and sadder, Dear, for your sweet sake!
To watch the last low lingering light, and know not where the morn may break.
To-night we sit together here. To-morrow night will come...ah, where?

O child! howe'er assured be faith, to say farewell is fraught with gloom,
When, like one flower, the germs of death and genius ripen toward the tomb;
And earth each day, as some fond face at parting, gains a graver grace.

There's not a flower, there's not a tree in this old garden where we sit,
But what some fragrant memory is closed and folded up in it.
To-night the dog-rose smells as wild, as fresh, as when I was a child.

'T is eight years since (do you forget?) we set those lilies near the wall:
You were a blue-eyed child: even yet I seem to see the ringlets fall, --
The golden ringlets, blown behind your shoulders in the merry wind.

Ah, me! old times, they cling, they cling! And oft by yonder green old gate
The field shows through, in morns of spring, an eager boy, I paused elate
With all sweet fancies loosed from school. And oft, you know, when eves were cool,

In summer-time, and through the trees young gnats began to be about,
With some old book upon your knees 't was here you watched the stars come out.
While oft, to please me, you sang through some foolish song I made for you.

And there's my epic -- I began when life seemed long, though longer art --
And all the glorious deeds of man made golden riot in my heart --
Eight books...it will not number nine! I die before my heroine.

Sister! they say that drowning men in one wild moment can recall
Their whole life long, and feel again the pain -- the bliss -- that thronged it all: --
Last night those phantoms of the Past again came crowding round me fast.

Near morning, when the lamp was low, against the wall they seemed to flit;
And, as the wavering light would glow or fall, they came and went with it.
The ghost of boyhood seemed to gaze down the dark verge of vanisht days.

Once more the garden where she walked on summer eves to tend her flowers,
Once more the lawn where first we talked of future years in twilight hours
Arose; once more she seemed to pass before me in the waving grass

To that old terrace; her bright hair about her warm neck all undone,
And waving on the balmy air, with tinges of the dying sun.
Just one star kindling in the west: just one bird singing near its nest.

So lovely, so beloved! O, fair as though that sun had never set
Which stayed upon her golden hair, in dreams I seem to see her yet!
To see her in that old green place, -- the same husht, smiling, cruel face!

A little older, love, than you are now; and I was then a boy;
And wild and wayward-hearted too; to her my passion was a toy,
Soon broken! ah, a foolish thing, -- a butterfly with crumpled wing!

Her hair, too, was like yours, -- as bright, but with a warmer golden tinge:
Her eyes, -- a somewhat deeper light, and dreamed below a longer fringe:
And still that strange grave smile she had stays in my heart and keeps it sad!

There's no one knows it, truest friend, but you, for I have never breathed
To other ears the frozen end of those spring-garlands Hope once wreathed;
And death will come before again I breathe that name untouched by pain.

From little things -- a star, a flower -- that touched us with the self-same thought,
My passion deepened hour by hour, until to that fierce heat't was wrought,
Which, shrivelling over every nerve, crumbled the outworks of reserve.

I told her then, in that wild time, the love I knew she long had seen;
The accusing pain that burned like crime, yet left me nobler than I had been;
What matter with what words I wooed her? She said I had misunderstood her.

And something more -- small matter what! of friendship something -- sister's love --
She said that I was young -- knew not my own heart -- as the years would prove --
She wished me happy -- she conceived an interest in me -- and believed

I should grow up to something great -- and soon forget her -- soon forget
This fancy -- and congratulate my life she had released it, yet --
With more such words -- a lie! a lie! She broke my heart, and flung it by!

A life's libation lifted up, from her proud lip she dashed untasted:
There trampled lay love's costly cup, and in the dust the wine was wasted.
She knew I could not pour such wine again at any other shrine.

Then I remember a numb mood: mad murmurings of the words she said:
A slow shame smouldering through my blood; that surged and sung within my head:
And drunken sunlights reeling through the leaves: above, the burnisht blue

Hot on my eyes, -- a blazing shield: a noise among the waterfalls:
A free crow up the brown cornfield floating at will: faint shepherd-calls:
And reapers reaping in the shocks of gold: and girls with purple frocks:

All which the more confused my brain: and nothing could I realize
But the great fact of my own pain: I saw the fields: I heard the cries:
The crow's shade dwindled up the hill: the world went on: my heart stood still.

I thought I held in my hot hand my life crusht up: I could have tost
The crumpled riddle from me, and laughed loud to think what I had lost.
A bitter strength was in my mind: like Samson, when she scorned him -- blind,

And casting reckless arms about the props of life to hug them down, --
A madman with his eyes put out. But all my anger was my own.
I spared the worm upon my walk: I left the white rose on its stalk.

All's over long since. Was it strange that I was mad with grief and shame?
And I would cross the seas, and change my ancient home, my father's name?
In the wild hope, if that might be, to change my own identity!

I know that I was wrong: I know it was not well to be so wild.
But the scorn stung so!...Pity now could wound not!...I have seen her child:
It had the self-same eyes she had: their gazing almost made me mad.

Dark violet eyes whose glances, deep with April hints of sunny tears,
'Neath long soft lashes laid asleep, seemed all too thoughtful for her years;
As though from mine her gaze had caught the secret of some mournful thought.

But, when she spoke her father's air broke o'er her...that clear confident voice!
Some happy souls there are, that wear their nature lightly; these rejoice
The world by living; and receive from all men more than what they give.

One handful of their buoyant chaff exceeds our hoards of careful grain:
Because their love breaks through their laugh, while ours is fraught with tender pain:
The world, that knows itself too sad, is proud to keep some faces glad:

And, so it is! from such an one Misfortune softly steps aside
To let him still walk in the sun. These things must be. I cannot chide.
Had I been she I might have made the self-same choice. She shunned the shade.

To some men God hath given laughter: but tears to some men He hath given:
He bade us sow in tears, hereafter to harvest holier smiles in Heaven:
And tears and smiles, they are His gift: both good, to smite or to uplift:

He knows His sheep: the wind and showers beat not too sharply the shorn lamb:
His wisdom is more wise than ours: He knew my nature -- what I am:
He tempers smiles with tears: both good, to bear in time the Christian mood.

O yet -- in scorn of mean relief, let Sorrow bear her heavenly fruit!
Better the wildest hour of grief than the low pastime of the brute!
Better to weep, for He wept too, than laugh as every fool can do!

For sure, 't were best to bear the cross; nor lightly fling the thorns behind;
Lest we grow happy by the loss of what was noblest in the mind.
-- Here -- in the ruins of my years -- Father, I bless Thee through these tears!

It was in the far foreign lands this sickness came upon me first.
Below strange suns, 'mid alien hands, this fever of the south was nurst,
Until it reached some vital part. I die not of a broken heart.

O think not that! If I could live...there's much to live for -- worthy life.
It is not for what fame could give -- though that I scorn not -- but the strife
Were noble for its own sake too. I thought that I had much to do --

But God is wisest! Hark, again!...'t was yon black bittern, as he rose
Against the wild light o'er the fen. How red your little casement glows!
The night falls fast. How lonely, Dear, this bleak old house will look next year!

So sad a thought? ...ah, yes! I know it is not good to brood on this:
And yet -- such thoughts will come and go, unbidden. 'T is that you should miss,
My darling, one familiar tone of this weak voice when I am gone.

And, for what's past, -- I will not say in what she did that all was right,
But all's forgiven; and I pray for her heart's welfare, day and night.
All things are changed! This cheek would glow even near hers but faintly now!

Thou -- God! before whose sleepless eye not even in vain the sparrows fall,
Receive, sustain me! Sanctify my soul. Thou know'st, Thou lovest all.
Too weak to walk alone -- I see Thy hand: I falter back to Thee.

Saved from the curse of time which throws its baseness on us day by day:
Its wretched joys, and worthless woes; till all the heart is worn away.
I feel Thee near. I hold my breath, by the half-open doors of Death.

And sometimes, glimpses from within of glory (wondrous sight and sound!)
Float near me: -- faces pure from sin; strange music; saints with splendor crowned:
I seem to feel my native air blow down from some high region there,

And fan my spirit pure: I rise above the sense of loss and pain:
Faint forms that lured my childhood's eyes, long lost, I seem to find again:
I see the end of all: I feel hope, awe, no language can reveal.

Forgive me, Lord, if overmuch I loved that form Thou mad'st so fair;
I know that Thou didst make her such; and fair but as the flowers were, --
Thy work: her beauty was but Thine; the human less than the divine.

My life hath been one search for Thee 'mid thorns found red with Thy dear blood
In many a dark Gethsemane I seemed to stand where Thou hadst stood:
And, scorned in this world s Judgment-Place, at times, through tears, to catch Thy face.

Thou suffered'st here, and didst not fail: Thy bleeding feet these paths have trod:
But Thou wert strong, and I am frail: and I am man, and Thou wert God.
Be near me: keep me in Thy sight: or lay my soul asleep in light.

O to be where the meanest mind is more than Shakespeare! where one look
Shows more than here the wise can find, though toiling slow from book to book!
Where life is knowledge: love is sure: and hope's brief promise made secure.

O dying voice of human praise! the crude am bitions of my youth!
I long to pour immortal lays! great paeans of perennial Truth!
A larger work! a loftier aim!...and what are laurel-leaves, and fame?

And what are words? How little these the silence of the soul express!
Mere froth, -- the foam and flower of seas whose hungering waters heave and press
Against the planets and the sides of night, -- mute, yearning, mystic tides!

To ease the heart with song is sweet: sweet to be heard if heard by love.
And you have heard me. When we meet shall we not sing the old songs above
To grander music? Sweet, one kiss. O blest it is to die like this!

To lapse from being without pain: your hand in mine, on mine your heart:
The unshaken faith to meet again that sheathes the pang with which we part:
My head upon your bosom, sweet: your hand in mine, on this old seat!

So; closer wind that tender arm...How the hot tears fall! Do not weep,
Beloved, but let your smile stay warm about me. "In the Lord they sleep."
You know the words the Scripture saith...O light, O Glory!...is this death!





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