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III.-MUSIC AND THE CHILD.
AN comes rapace,
N organ-player comes rarely round
My darling at the welcome sound
Runs with laughter in his face
To the nursery window, hailing,
With melodious mirth unfailing,
The sunburnt, black-bearded man,
Who greets him in Italian.
Then he brings and sets a chair,
Humming over every air,
Feigns to turn a handle deftly,
Feigns to talk Italian swiftly,
Fair in little blouse of blue,
Sweet of heart and form and hue.
Pale, my love, with dews of anguish
From the night beneath his curls,
Lies asleep; and while we languish
In despair, behold! there purls
A rill of music from afar :
Can the favourite organ jar
So upon our hearts? We fear
Lest it waken him; yet hear
Him, waking, pray for it to come
Under the window of his room,
Asking that his friend, the player,
May have food; we grant the prayer.
Then he lists to every tune,
Growing very weary soon.
Baby lies upon the bed,
And our hearts with him lie dead.
Baby lies with fair white blossom
In his hair and hand and bosom :
Only he is lovelier far
Than earth's fairest flowers are!
And while we cower, smitten low
By our baby boy's death-blow,
Draws again the organ near . . .
Ah! Baby never more may hear.
When the little child was going,
From his lips came softly flowing,
Flowing dreamily, the tune
Of a hymn that asks a boon
In childish accents of the Saviour,
Who, by the love in his behaviour,
Showed God cherishes a child;
And whensoe'er pain made him wild,
His mother sang it; then, released,
The child himself sang on, nor ceased
On earth till he commenced in heaven.
For I think that fatal even,
While upon death's wave he drifted,
While the mist of life was lifted,
On our earth-shore he heard his mother,
And pure angels on the other;
We and they hearing the low voice of him who
Between us, darkling, a wee pilgrim who the
While his lovely eyes grew dim,
In fair former eves, while he
Loosed waifs of singing dreamily,
Till he floated into sleep.
Now it is more strange and deep.
"Jesus," he murmured, hearing the Lord call : "Fear not, My darling, on My heart to fall!"
Then in the depth of our despair,
A vision found me lying there.
She and I were cowering
Before the swoop of Death's dark wing,
That, sweeping him to nothingness,
Plunged our souls in the abyss,
Stone-eyed to stare upon the gloom,
Frantic to challenge the deaf tomb,
Beating upon its iron door
For him who shall return no more!
Death echoing from his awful vault
In ghastly mockery of our assault !
Wanderers ever, wanting only one,
Calling upon the name of our lost little son!
But I dreamt that she and I
Were gazing very mournfully
On the organ, as we deemed
Disused and broken. Then it seemed
That his dear nurse, who loved him well,
And cherished more than I can tell,
Came unaware, and on her breast
She bore him whom we laid to rest,
Our darling, glorious, health-rosed,
Whose dark, dewy eyes reposed
On some far-off enrapturing vision
Of the children's realm elysian!
Ah! with what transport we kissed him!
Not dead! not dead! howe'er we missed him!
Heaven, too, vouchsafes another token;
The little organ was not broken!
Lo! baby turns it round and round,
Rejoicing in the wonted sound,
Yea, singing in his blouse of blue,
Lovelier than we ever knew.
While he lay nightly racked with pain,
Wept and shrieked the hurricane.
Yea, on that terrible night he died,
The clamour of fell fiends, beside
Themselves with hell's blaspheming anger,
Exultant in his god-wept languor,
Seemed to hound him on to death,
Hungry for his innocent breath!
But now what raves it for, and howls
Around with moan of drifted souls!
Are ye not satiate with such
A pure white victim to your clutch,
Yielded by the Powers above,
Who yet we dare to dream are Love?
The loveliest, most heavenly-hearted
Child ever by themselves imparted
To this poor earth of ours!
In fierce despair, amid the groaning
Of those evil blasts I heard
A still small voice, as of a bird.
Nay, bird had ne'er so sweet a voice,
Nor ever bird may so rejoice;
No spring that babbles in the summer,
Nor flower-enamoured fairy hummer!
What is it, Lord? can it be human?
Song of child, or song of woman?
Some loving Ariel doth toy
In self-abandonment of joy!
Like, yet unlike our vanished angel!
I know I deem it an evangel
From my darling, hovering
In the very storm, to sing
Near my yearning soul, to tell
What seems the blasphemy of hell
Is love, to him who loveth well!
In bluest air the melody
On silver wings appears to fly;
And lo! in live germander blue
A threefold flower-cluster flew,
Child-seraphim, arrayed in white,
Fair with dewy eyes of light;
As when two swallows on the wing,
Circle each other dallying;
In playful love we hear them cleaving
Blue air with dances they are weaving;
So on tender pulsing pinion
Audibly the heaven's dominion
Many a threefold flower-band
Of children clove, while in their bland
Spirit-wreathing, when one passed,