THE POET’S MISSION ~ hall caine

 (Chambers’s Journal, Volume 5) 1846

Weaving light fancies, lay a youthful poet,
Idly extended on the sunny grass,
Listening unto the brook that ran below It,
Watching the cloudlets o’er the blue sky pass.

Sleep fell upon him, and a low voice stealing,
Breathed his own songs—vague dreams, ideal woes ;
Until in nobler strain the music pealing,
Diviner far the god-like song uprose

“Is this,” it said, “the heaven-born poet’s mission,
Ingloriously to dream away the hours?
Forgetful of his spirit’s home Elysian,
To taint its freshness, grovelling in earth’s bowers?

Behold the glorious work becomes the poet!
To scatter wide the light his soul within ;
To lift his voice for truth, that men may know it ;
Unto the pure and good all hearts to win :

To be, as was of old, the poet-preacher,
And Orpheus-like to strive ‘gainst might and wrong;
In his own life becoming a mute teacher;
Cheering the weak and suffering by his song.’

The strain died faint away in distance slowly ;
The poet rose—a dreamer now no more ;
And boldly entered on his course most holy,
To linger not, nor cease, till life be o’er.



Amid life’s busy hum and clamour hoars?,
Himself though not unseeing, yet unseen,
The Poet still pursues his placid course.
With quiet pace and upturned eye serene,
He looks regretful on the tinsel scene.
The swollen nothings on life’s witching stage:
All to his taste is profitless and mean;
Far higher thoughts his towering mind engape—
A fairer, nobler home, a worthier heritage.

For he, while others crawl along life’s road,
Scorns the base dust, and soars to fancy’s bowers—
Makes, lark-like, in the air his bright abode,
Hath his own world of sunlight, love, and flowers:
Around his heart joys fall in plenteous showers.
And add new vigour to his tireless wing.
While earth-born dullards count the weary hours,
And to their parent dust contented cling,
True to his native heaven, he still doth soar and siug.

Nature and God his animating theme.
The fields his study, and the woods his books,
He seeks the grassy dell and wimpltng stream,
And haunts the shadowy groves and rushy brooks;
Even in the meanest things reads happy looks,
Hears Joyful utterances in tongueless things,
Finds sweet companionship in loneliest nooks,
How much of Paradise to earth still clings,
Far, far beyond the world’s cold dull imaginings!

But ah, he mourns when, though, like princely feast,
Beauty lies spread o’er every hill and plain,
Man still will grovel like the brainless beast,
To Mammon’s drudgery bound with iron chain!
Shall Spring put on her beauteous dress in vain,
Nor honoured man, earth’s great high-priest, afford
A loving glance at Nature’s fair domain?
His only wealth the dross fn coffer stored—
Living alone to get, and getting but to hoard?

He grieveth too that man on man should frown,
That creed, condition, country should divide;
That blustering Might should Meekness trample down,
And bloated Wealth o’er Poverty should stride.
How long, how long shall Self be deified.
Imperious Mammon fill his wrongful throne?
By blood and sorrow are not all allied?
Oh that fair Love again would claim his own,
That each might live for all, that all might live as one!

But though for this his bosom grieveth sore.
With hopeful heart he tunes his lofty lay;
Nor deem his words mere figures on the shore,
Which the next tide shall ruthless sweep away:
No; he may die; his words shall not decay,
Nor only live to grace a lady’s bower;
But kings and senators shall own their sway.
Great ‘mong the greatest Is the Poet’s power,
He moves the wheels behind, whoe’er may strike the hour.

The venerable wrong, the hoar abuse,
The social mischief, the truth-seeming lie—
The ills that fashion, caste, and pride induce—
Full against these his sharpest arrows fly:
And now he lays his unloved thunder by;
And, as the rainbow, smiling fair above,
Embraces, gladdens all that ‘neath it sigh,
Persuasion’s mightier power he seeks to prove,
And charm a heedless world perchance to truth and love.


By J. J. O’Connell

AN idle dreamer, living in the past,
He seems to you who know not how to look;
And yet into the future, vague and vast,
He sees as though it were an open book.


2 different poems titled THE MERMAID’S SONG.
Please comment. Which one do you like the best?

The Mermaid’s Song (1836)

by Hannah Flagg Gould

Come, mariner, down in the deep with me,
And hide thee under the wave;
For I have a bed of coral for thee,
And quiet and sound shall thy slumber be
In a cell in the Mermaid’s cave!

On a pillow of pearls thine eye shall sleep,
And nothing disturb thee there;
The fishes their silent vigils shall keep;
There shall be no grass thy grave to sweep,
But the silk of the Mermaid’s hair.

And she, who is waiting with cheeks so pale,
As the tempest and the ocean roar,
And weeps when she hears the menacing gale,
Or sighs to behold her mariner’s sail
Come whitening up to the shore —

She has not long to linger for thee!
Her sorrows will soon be o’er;
For the cord shall be broken, the prisoner free;
Her eye shall close, and her dreams will be
So sweet, she will wake no more!

By Bessie Ladd Russell

In eons gone I was a maid most fair,
Wind tossed my yellow hair.
I sylph-like sought the sea’s great shore
And lingered loving there.

For I was scanning the horizon far
For one bright beaming star
And that one star to be to me
For all eternity.

I was a maiden and I loved a star
And waited for him there.
Each night I waited by the silvery sea
And lo, he fell to me.

But in the awful fall through space,
Of him I lost all trace.
I longed, I prayed his face to see
But no smile greeted me.

And then t’was morn and I could plainly tell
The stars had vanished well,
And I did mourn and tear my yellow hair,
That hair of me most fair.

But as in joy, no smile can last alway,
So sorrow passed away.
I heard in limpid depths of green and gray
A hundred creatures say,

“Come, come, fair maid, to ocean caverns sweet.
To mourn, it is not meet.”
So I descended through no will my own
To coral reefs, my home.

And that was eons gone but still I say,
I love my star to-day.
Would I could be on yon earth once more,
My gaze to heaven soar.

But I must ever with these creatures move,
Mermaid no star could love,
And so I must my lot all bravely bear;
My sobs you hear, you hear

In every wind that whistles through the mast
Of schooner drifting past;
You hear them in the sobbing of the sea,
And loud or tearfully.


After the Rain

After harsh words have been said
And you apologize
Turn your eyes toward heaven
And you will see clearing skies
After you lose someone that was
So dear to your heart
Look and see! 
That ray of sun – the clouds it breaks apart
After unexpected woes
Have drained you of your zeal
That rainbow in the distance proves to you 
That time will heal
After hard times leave you feeling tired 
And feeling weathered
Just remember that the storms of life
Won’t last forever
After all is said and done
You’ll find your strength renewed
Because after the rain has passed
It makes things fresh and new

Copyright ©2005 Jessica Williams


Hall Caine as Poet

Though the novelist has left the poet in eclipse, before he came known as a novelist Sir Hall Caine was a poet of distinction, and his poems, chiefly in sonnet form, appeared for the most part in the Athenaeum and the Academy during the 80’s; certain of his sonnets winning high praise from Dante Gabriel Rossetti. As a poet, Mr Hall Caine has published no poetry in volume form, and little enough in the magazines, but what has appeared is of undoubted beauty. I’ve been able to gather 4 of his sonnets from different books: Sonnets of this century (1893), Lyra Celtica (1896), Hall Caine: Man and Novelist (1901.) If you happen to have more poetry by Sir Hall Caine, I hope you share it with me.


WHERE LIES THE LAND? —(Wordsworth)

‘Where lies the land of which thy soul would go?’
Beyond the wearied wold, the songless dell, 
The purple grape and golden asphodel,
Beyond the zone where streams baptismal flow.
Where lies the land to which thy soul would know?’
There where the unvexed senses darkling dwell,
Where never haunting, hurrying footfall fell,
Where toil is not, nor builded hope laid low.

Rest! Rest! to thy hushed realm how one by one 
Old Earth’s tired ages steal away and weep,
Forgotten or unknown, long duty done.
Ah, God ! when death in seeming peace shall steep
Life’s loud turmoil, and Time his race hath run
Shall heart of man at length find rest and sleep ?


VOCAL yet voiceless, lingering, lambent, white
With the wide wings of evening on the fell,
The tranquil vale, the enchanted citadel,–
Another day swoons to another night.
Speak low: from bare Blencathra’s purple height
The sound o’ the ghyll falls furled; and, loath to go,
A continent of cloud its plaited snow
Wears far away athwart a lake of light.

Is it the craft of hell that while we lie
Enshaded, lulled, beneath heaven’s breezeless sky,
The garrulous clangours and assoiled shows
Of London’s burrowing mazes haunt us yet?
City, forgive me: mother of joys and woes
Thy shadow is here, and lo! our eyes are wet.



She was Joney, the rich man’s only child,
He was Juan, a son of the sea.
“Thy father hath cast me forth of his door,
But, poor as I am, to his teeth I swore
I should wed thee, O graih my chree.”

He broke a ring and gave her the half,
And she buried it close at her heart
“I must leave thee, love of my soul,” he said,
“But I vow by our troth that living or dead,
I will come back rich to thine arms and thy bed,
And fetch thee as sure as we part”

He sailed to the north, he sailed to the south,
He sailed to the foreign strand,
But whether he touched on the icy cone
Or the coral reef of the Indian zone,
It turned to a golden land.

And he cried to his crew, “Hoist sail and about
For no more do I need to roam;
I have silks and satins and lace and gold,
I have treasure as deep as my ship will hold
To win me a wife at home.”

They had not sailed but half of their course
To the haven where they would be,
When the devil beguiled their barque on a rock,
And down it sank with a woeful shock
On the banks of Italy.

Then over the roar of the clamorous waves
The skipper his voice was heard,
“I vowed by our troth that dead or alive
I should come back yet to wed and to wive,
And by t’ Lady I keep my word.

“I will come to thee still, O love of my heart,
From the arms of the envious sea;
Though the tempest should swallow my choking
In the spite of hell and the devil and death
I will come to thee, graih my chree.”


“He will come no more to thine arms, my child,
He is false or lost and dead,
Now wherefore make ye these five years’ moan,
And wherefore sit by the sea alone?”
“He will keep his vow,” she said.

She climbed the brows of the cliffs at home,
She gazed on the false, false sea.
“It comes and it goes for ever,” she cried,
“And tidings it brings to the wife and the bride,
But never a word to me.”

Then, of lovers, another came wooing the maid,
But she answered him nay and nay,
The manfullest man and her servant true,
“Give me thy hand and thou shalt not rue,”
She murmured, “Alack, the day.”

Her father arose in his pride and his wrath,
He was last of his race and name,
“Because that a daughter will peak and will pine
Must I never have child of my child to my line,
But die in my childless shame?”

They bore her a bride to the kirkyard gate,
It was a pitiful sight to see,
Her body they decked in their jewels and gold,
But the heart in her bosom sate silent and cold,
And she murmured “Ah, woe is me.”


They had not been wedded a year, a year,
A year but barely two,
When the good wife close to the hearth-stone crept
And rocked her babe while the good man slept
And the wind in the chimney blew.

Loud was the sea and fierce was the night,
Gloomy and wild and dour;
From a flying cloud came a lightning flash,
A pane of the window fell in with a crash,
And something rang on the floor.

O, was it a stone from the waste sea-beach?
O, was it an earthly thing?
She stirred the peat and stooped to the ground,
And there in the red, red light she found
The half of a broken ring.

She rose upright in a terror of fright
As one that hath sinned a sin,
And out of the dark and the wind and rain,
Through the jagged gap of the broken pane,
A man’s white face looked in.

“Oh, why didst thou stay so long, Juan?
Five years I waited for thee.”
“I vowed by our troth, that living or dead
I should come back yet to thine arms and thy bed,
And my vow I have kept, my chree.”

“But I have been false to my troth, Juan;
Falsely I swore me away.”
“I have silks and satins and lace and gold,
I have treasure as deep as my ship will hold;
And my barque lies out in the bay.”

“But I have a husband that loves me dear;
I promised him never to part”
“Through the salt sea’s foam and the earth’s hot breath,
Through the grappling* of hell and the gates of death
I have come for thee, Joney, my heart”

“But I have a child of my body so sweet—
Little Jannie that sleeps in the cot”
“By the glimpse of the moon, at the top of the tide,
Ere the crow of the cock our vessel must ride,
Or what will befall us, God wot”

“Now, ever alack, thou must kiss and go back;
My love, I am never for thee.”
“As sure as yon ship to the billows that roll,
By the plight of our troth, both body and soul
You belong to me, graih my chree.”

She followed him forth like to one in a sleep;
It was a woeful and wonderous sight
The moon on his face from a rift in a cloud
Showed it white and wan as a face in a shroud,
And his ship on the sea gleamed white.


“Now weigh and away, my merry men all.”
The crew laughed loud in their glee.
“With the rich man’s pride and his sweet daughter,
In the spite of wind and the wild water—
To the banks of Italy l”

The anchor was weighed, the canvas was spread,
All in the storm and the dark,
With never a reef in a stitch of sail,
But standing about to burst the gale
Merrily sped the barque.

The first night out there was fear on the ship,
For the lady lay in a swoon;
The second night out she woke from her trance,
And the skipper did laugh and his men would dance,
But she made a piteous moan.

“O, where is my home and my sweet baby—
My Jannie I nursed on my knee?
He will wake in his cot by the cold hearth-stone
And cry for his mother who left him alone;
My Jannie, I’m wae for thee.”

The skipper he shouted for music and song,
And his crew they answered his call.
He clothed her in silk and satin and lace,
But still through the rout and riot her face
Showed fit for a funeral.

And ever at night they sailed by the moon,
Through the wild white foam so fleet,
And ever again at the coming of day,
When the sun rose out of the sea they lay
In a mist like a winding sheet.

And still the skipper he kissed her and cried,
“Be merry and let-a-be.”
And still to soothe her he sat through the nights
With his hand in her hand, till they opened the lights
By the banks of Italy.

Then his face shone green as with ghostly sheen,
And the moon began to dip.
“O, think not you, I am the lover ye knew;
I am a ghostly man with a ghostly crew,
And this is a ghostly ship.”

Then he rose upright to a fearsome height,
And stamped his foot on the deck;
He smote the mast at the topsail yards,
And the rigging fell like a house of cards,
And the hulk was a splitting wreck.

O, then as she sank in the water’s womb,
In the churn of the choking sea,
She knew that his arms were about her breast,
As close as his arms might be.
And he cried o’er the tramp of the champing tide
On the banks of Italy,
“By the plight of our troth, by the power of our bond,
If not in this world in the world beyond,
Thou art mine, O graih my chree.”


Over the peaks of huge crags uncreate, 
Across the stricken stars’ usurped demesne,
Through mutinous vapours to her realms terrene—
Behold she comes, the morn inviolate.
Girdled with fire, radiant of face, elate, 
Leaping the lit waves of the steep ravine—
Here first since eldest time the earth hath seen 
Her vesture’s trail, in heaven articulate.

Say not the world grows old: Behold ere long 
Forth from the mountains come the swift and strong
Who scale the heights to greet the deathless day; 
And in the abysmal plains the sick and sore
Following their feet shall see the imminent grey 
Glad dawn has never breathed o’er earth or shore.


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