All thoughts all passions all delights
Whatever stirs this mortal frame
All are but ministers of love
And feed his sacred flame.
II. DAVID AND JONATHAN
III. THE MAID OF NAAMAN'S WIFE
IV. LAKE WINTER
VI. BURNING BUSH
VII. TO MY SON
NOTE.--This book is really one poem and is a
development of my sonnet sequence Persuasion.
Though black the night I know upon the sky
A little paler now if clouds were none
The stars would be. Husht now the thickets lie
And now the birds are moving one by one--
A note--and now from bush to bush it goes--
A prelude--now victorious light along
The west will come till every bramble glows
With wash of sunlit dew shaken in song.
Shaken in song; O heart be ready now
Cold in your night be ready now to sing.
Dawn as it wakes the sleeping bird on bough
Shall summon you to instant reckoning--
She is your dawn O heart--sing till the night
Of death shall come the gospel of her light.
DAVID AND JONATHAN
And Jonathan too had honour in his heart
Jonathan who with an armour-bearer went
Alone by Michmash to the Philistines
And met a spray of swords because of courage
That made him single greater than a host.
Jonathan too had known his battles dared
At any hour the coming of death because
In twilight silence he had walked with God
Read Him in blossoms and the mountain brooks
And learnt that death well known can alter nothing.
He was a brown man burnt with love of summer
His young beard curled and russet as the eyes
That looked on life and feared it yet were master
Because they knew the tyranny they feared
Measured it learnt it gazed it into nothing.
And now he watched the boy the son of Jesse
David with hair like maples in October
And skin that women loving coveted
David with eyes that often by the sheepfolds
Had looked through leaves up to the folds of heaven
And seeing them crammed with golden fleece of stars
Had known how the blood can run because of beauty.
Jonathan watched him take the armour off
Given by Saul and choose the bright smooth pebbles
And walk out from the Israelitish throng
Into the field against the Philistine giant.
Watching he snatched his sword and cried to Saul
"Bid him come back. This murder must not be."
And as he spoke he knew the words were treason
His heart alone in all the world was sure
That David was the Lord's appointed arm
To meet this bulk of dirt this giant fear
Brandishing out of the loathly camps of evil.
And before Saul could answer he put down
The sword and said "I love him. Let him go."
But the words I love him were not for his father Saul
Hardly Jonathan knowing he spake them out.
But as he looked on David love was there
Waking from that in David that he himself
A little was and always greatly shaping
Himself towards so that his name was spoken
Famously in Saul's kingdom. It was courage
The clean heart undivided in its doing
The purpose that being bodied in the brain
Thenceforth knew every trickling argument
That fell from tongues of persuading circumstance
As lures of evil ever threatening life
That Jonathan loved above all enterprise.
He knew or the rarer man within him knew
That once your yea in holy meditation
Had shaped itself in the perfect syllable
Thenceforth no nay from any other tongue
Or wise or passionate or masterful
Could be listened to without the shame of sin
Corrupting all your constancy for ever.
He knew the curse of good betraying good
Till both in bleak irresolution fall.
And all his years was Jonathan's anguish only
To keep this tillage of his wisdom clean.
Since boyhood he had known Philistia
For the black thing it was a plague opposed
Always against the loveliness of Israel
And when his father Saul was anointed king
By Samuel in Ramah then Jonathan knew
How all the lessons of his youth had been
To fit him for the striking of the men
Who profaned beauty and let the soul be blind.
And he was diligent in bronze and arms
And kept his body supple and his eye
Keen and the coming of his hooves was thunder
Wherever battle fell. He bore a flame
Zealous and pure in the heavens of his mind
To serve and to instruct. Aye to instruct--
There was the biting blemish as we shall see.
Philistia was foul and Jonathan knew
And the voice of God within him was plain and constant
To strike and strike unwearying to the end.
And then the poor precise infirmity
That loads good minds with ever seeming virtue
Until they cast their treasure to the dust
Crept on him wound about the gleaming truth
That was his one foundation. Day by day
He was resolved and then the grain of doubt
Would come to hurt the riding of his thought
And break the level balance that it had.
Was then the Philistine mere black? That day
Jonathan's arm half paused upon the blow
And evil went a little scatheless off.
Surely the worst even of adversaries
Had somewhere beams that pointed to salvation
And hasty judgment might not be the will
Of an all-seeing Lord? Then would the vengeance
Falter and stay and Jonathan's battle failed.
And always then was bitterness and reproach
In the night watches when upon his couch
He looked on the stars studding his little window
Before sleep came. Then he would speak again
The word that single was his valiance
His only truth his warrant as a man
And once again Philistia was doomed.
Then for a season clean the stroke and sure
That Jonathan drove and black was known for black
Till slowly as before would mount and mount
Scruple on scruple as was not he himself
A little black sometimes or plainly wicked?
And should the wicked man not be redeemed?
Merely destruction surely was no answer
Since yet the wickedness must wander somewhere?
How should he say I Jonathan of Israel
Am good and you the Philistine are cursed
Since in that face was something that had been
Learnt from the buds and corn and frozen hills
That he himself had known for seals of God?
And would not his power on Israel increase
Take on a loftier authority
If to his famous arms he could add a tale
Of counsel working in the hearts of men
Moving them to a finer charity
A little pity for offence? And so
Instruction like a worm was at his roots
And pride of virtue made Jonathan forget.
Then sometimes as he knew himself betrayed
He would cry upon his spirit in the night--
I Jonathan who know
The processes of God
Moving within me
Turn aside to my idols of desire.
He has taught me the ways
Of Philistine cruelty. He
Shows me the bad man toiling to the ruin
Of beauty and the free spirit on earth
And has equipped me for the establishment
Of His will in this battle and I fail.
I am a leaf spinning about the wind
Who have been shown the ways of stedfastness.
O Israel I have heard
My dedication made
To your sweet service by the voice of Him
And I betray
That wisdom that great simpleness of wisdom
Inventing in my brain
As though God's mind
Had missed the brighter pools
That I alone could visit and gaze into.
He tells me and I hear
Voices not His.
Knowing I question. And I am ashamed.
So Jonathan saw walking at his side
Always a shadow that was his own denial.
And now was April mirrored in the plumes
Of ravens and the green of the young wheat
And dusky ewes with white lambs in the sun
Lay in the valley plain between the hosts
Of Israel and Philistia. And on this day
Jonathan learnt utter reproach and love.
There on the plain Goliath stood alone
Poised in his mighty bulk with black locks flowing
A handsbreadth taller even than Saul the king
Who shouldered it above the men of Israel
And beat his words of sure defiance out
Ringing across the windless noon. And all
Israel heard and fear was on them knowing
If thus the issue how it should prevail.
And Jonathan in the tent of Saul his father
Watched and his blood was quick and in his mind
He strove against the last of doubt. And then
The young man David stood before them bidden
By Saul who heard one say "There is a boy
New come from tending sheep in Bethlehem
And seeks the king." And David stood before them
And asked no leave but said "There was a cause.
It bade me come and I will fight with him."
And Saul denied but David did not hear
Denial saying "the wild beasts of the field
I with my hand have slain at the fold's gate
And this is mine to do." And David stood
Greater than argument while Saul armed him there.
And Jonathan saw the purpose that he was not
Glowing and bodied and his love was born.
Then David flung the armour off and said
"I am David and I know not these strange arms.
I must go out as I have always been
Not girt with new occasion. It is I
David the shepherd that am David still
And I know nothing of your spears and plate.
A sheepskin have I worn and in my hand
A sling and pebbles taken from the brook.
Now shall I go content that God has watched me
So habited and armed through all my youth.
Should I pretend another David now
I should meet this man with neither honour nor hope.
If I am sent against the Philistine
Out of God's anger and I know it is so
It is not one the chosen of Saul's hosts
But I David of Bethlehem must go
The son of Jesse and keeper of his flocks."
Almost the tears were seen in Jonathan's eyes
Because of David's words of which he knew
The poor ghosts hiding somewhere in his own heart.
And then he spoke his fear and then the words
Resting his sword "I love him. Let him go."
And David stept out of the emerald light
That played up from the grass floor of the tent
Into the full flood of the April noon
And walked a little way and those two stood
Parted a hundred paces the man of terror Hewn massy and with shock of builded limbs
And David moulded like a sea boy risen
From caves of music where the water spins
Wet sand into the shapes of flowing flowers;
David with limbs all bright with the sun's tones
And ruddy locks curling with youth and light
His body all alert on steady loins
Clean spun of flesh that knew the winter snows
And mellow pools of summer and the dews
Dropping among the crocuses of dawn.
His sandle-straps bound ankles as a girl's
And fluttering to his knees the sheepskin hung
Cloaking one shoulder while the other gleamed.
And there he paused the sling in his right hand
His left hand fingering the pouch of pebbles
While Israel fearing murmured and the hosts
Of Philistine derision rocked the noon.
Then did Goliath cry "Am I a dog
For a boy's whipping? Have you not a man
That you would send a cleaner up of crumbs
From the queen's table? Come then and be broken
For birds to find you and the dogs at night."
And Jonathan heard Philistia shout again
And David like a flame unwinded stood
Quivering at the cry and laid a stone
In the sling's fold and cast his staff and ran
Fleet as the king bird gliding under leaves
Towards Goliath. And a giant spear
Swung from the Philistine hand and forty paces
Sang in the air and brushed the flying sheepskin
And sudden David's feet were planted firm
Locked on the earth and circling in the sun
The tight thong flashed and loosened and the stone
Smote the Philistine wrath above the eyes
And the day was clouded from him and he fell.
Then Israel spared not. And when night was come
Jonathan sent for David to his tent
And those two sat while the yellow torches burned
And Jonathan spoke and said "David my brother
To-day you have made a story that shall be
For ever fruitful in the heart of man.
This day is David's. But of this day I too
Share not in the honour but in the harvesting
Or the harvesting I think is wholly mine.
Shall I speak on?" And David said "Speak on."
Then Jonathan--"This morning there was a man
And it was Jonathan who many years
Had gone snared in a purpose not his own
That is not truly mine. Always I knew
Walking by that self I said was honest
Another self the true self in a shadow
Or at an angle that my eyes refused.
I was a proud man David very virtuous
Or in fairness to myself desiring virtue
Truly desiring it I may say that.
And yet even in that desire there moved
A lie for I knew the virtue of my desire
Was something tainted. No--I knew it not
But that other self walking beside me knew it
And whispered I knew a thing that I would not hear.
Always it whispered as I stood alone
I said in subtle thought among all Israel.
God had spoken to me David that the Philistine
Was evil evil that was all God said
And bade me strike as a man by God assured.
But the man to whom God spoke I put aside
The still self walking whispering in the shadow.
And I the Jonathan of daily light
Tempered the word of God I tempered it--
I who should be God's outcast doing so.
I counted evil twenty different ways
And none of them plain evil. I diced with God
And the dice fell as often to my hand
It seemed as His but falling so the whisper
Was ever shadowed at my ear unheard.
And ever as this new intelligence
This pride of thought crept over me and filled
My dawn and noon and sleep a hunger grew
A dreadful hunger for that self denied
And every word I spoke for righteousness
Turned bitter on my lips because I knew
That every word was righteousness undone.
Such was the man this morning when you came
Who from the king's tent watched you David. Then
Change and completion and I know not what
Of heavenly fulfilment fell upon me.
Not from myself nor of my own devising
But marvellously spoken in a space
Of golden light that glowed about the form
Of a boy standing in my father's tent.
Quite suddenly the thing I lacked was there
The shadow whispering at my side had gone
And stood there bodied in you David brother
O dear young shepherd from your sheepfolds called--
Nay Jonathan myself it was there standing
Or barren branches of myself in flower
My jailored thought flooded with light of song.
And in that moment nothing was between
Your soul and mine and knowing you I loved
Since love is understanding and must come
When mind looks on the presence of very mind.
I loved you David and I love and ever--
Because my mind even in one day's passing
Has learnt you as no years could better learn--
My love is fixed upon you. And moreover
Since from this hour I must for ever know
Some element of me lodged sole in you
Some certainty in you alone to be
Among my weeds the patient husbandman
I must in your love prosper or not at all.
Now therefore David let a covenant be
Between us from this day for the heart knows."
David and Jonathan under the long torches
Were silent then. And David's eyes were fixed
Long upon Jonathan as eyes may sometimes look
On eyes and see no face looking beyond
Into unimaged life into the brain
Moving behind the circumstance of flesh
Eyes that to-morrow passing might hardly know
The mere face that to-night they gaze upon.
And Jonathan having spoken waited there
While David searched him slowly with still eyes.
Then David rose and drew the tent-fold back
And looked upon the stars of Palestine
Long and a mallow moon; and Jonathan waited.
Then David came again and spoke "I too
Standing this morning in your father's tent
Knew that a life unwonted was near me there.
And now you have spoken and the love you say
I know and as your will is so is mine.
Something I am for you that none can be.
Let it be so but all is not then said.
This morning when I smote the Philistine
I was God's purpose that I must believe.
But purpose only is not all of God
Hearing you now I know it is not all.
When first I saw you I did not know it then--
Only facing the Philistine something new
A moment marked me and unnoted went
No touch of it upon my will. But now
I have heard you speak and what it was I know.
You loved me Jonathan seeing as I stood
That shadowy self of you of which you tell me
Suddenly living fearless in the sun.
That is your reaping of my field and I
Glory to give it you. But were that all
Proud to be loved I should not love again.
But now I know for me is too a reaping.
Your shadow to my living purpose leaps
And that is wonderful. But as you spoke
Some David hidden from the man that slew
Goliath listened also and is now
With us for ever. And he that wrought this life
Is you Jonathan of doubts and speculation
The man who sits there plainly now the mere
Jonathan when the shadow is forgotten.
Now do I know my purpose magnified
Sure as of old but learning in its flight