A Lark's Flight

In the quiet City park,
Between the dawn and the dark,
Loud and clear,
That all may hear,
Sings the Lark.

Beyond the low black line
Of trees the dawn peeps red, —
Clouds blow woolly and fine
In the ether overhead,
Out of the air is shaken
A fresh and glistening dew,
And the City begins to awaken
And tremble thro' and thro';
See! (while thro' street and lane
The people pour again,
And lane and alley and street
Grow hoarse to a sound of feet,)
Here and there
A human Shape comes, dark
Against the cool white air,
Flitting across the park —
While over the dew-drench'd green,
Singing his " Hark! Oh, hark!"
Hovering, hovering, dimly seen,
Rises the Lark.

" Mystery! Oh, mystery!"
Clear he lilts to lightening day.
" Mystery! Oh, mystery!
Up into the air with me,
Come away, come away!"

Who is she that, wan and white,
Shivering in the chilly light,
Shadeth weary eyes to see
Him who makes the melody?
She is nameless, she is dull,
She has ne'er been beautiful,
She is stain'd in brain and blood,
Gross with mire, and foul with mud, —
Thing of sorrow, what knows she
Of the mighty mystery?

The Lark sings sad and low, —
" The City is dull and mean —
There is woe! there is woe!
Never a soul is clean;
The City is dark, the wrong is deep;
Too late to moan, too late to weep!
Tired, tired! sleep, sleep!"

Who is he, the stooping one,
Smiling coldly in the sun,
Arms behind him lightly thrown,
Pacing up and down alone?
'Tis the great Philosopher,
Smoothly wrapt in coat of fur,
Soothly pondering, man-wit wise,
At his morning exercise.

He has weigh'd the winds and floods,
He is rich in gather'd goods,
He is crafty, and can prove
God is Brahma, Christ, nor Jove;
He is mighty, and his soul
Flits about from pole to pole,
Chasing signs of God about,
In a pleasant kind of doubt; —
What, to help the mystery,
Sings the Lark to such as he?

The Lark cries:
" Praise to Nature's plan!
Year on year she plies
Her toil of sun and skies,
Till the beast flowers up in Man,
Lord of effect and cause,
Proud as a King can be;
But a Voice in the cloud cries, " Pause! "
And he pauses, even he,
On the verge of the Mystery."

Oh, loud and clear, that all may hear,
Rising higher, with " Hark! Oh, hark!"
Higher, higher, higher, higher,
Quivering as the dull red fire
Of dawn grows brighter, cries the Lark:
And they who listen there while he
Singeth loud of Mystery.
Interpret him in under-tone
With a meaning of their own,
Measuring his melody
By their own soul's quality.

Tall and stately, fair and sweet,
Walketh maiden Marguerite,
Musing there on maid and man,
In her mood patrician;
To all she sees her eyes impart
The colour of a maiden heart;
Heart's chastity is on her face,
She scents the air with nameless grace,
And where she goes with heart astir,
Colour and motion follow her.

What should the Singer sing
Unto so sweet a thing,
But, " Oh, my love loves me!
And the love I love best is guarding the nest,
While I cheer her merrily, —
Come up high! come up high! to a cloud in the sky!
And sing of your love with me!"
Elbows on the grassy green,
Scowling face his palms between,
Yonder gaunt Thief meditates
Treason deep against his mates;
For his great hands itch to hold
Both the pardon and the gold.
Still he listens unaware,
Scowling round with sullen stare,
Gnawing at his under-lip,
Pond'ring friends and fellowship,
Thinking of a friendly thing
Done to him in suffering,
And of happy days and free
Spent in that rough companie:
Till he seeks the bait no more, —
And the Lark is conqueror.

For the Lark says plain,
" Who sells his pal is mean:
Better hang than gain
Blood-money to save one's skin —
A whip for the rogue who'd tell,"
He hears the Singer say, —
" Better the rope and the cell —
Better the devils of Hell!
Come away! come away!"

O Lark! O Lark!
Up, up, for it is light —
The Souls stream out of the dark,
And the City's spires gleam bright;
The living world is awake again,
Each wanders on his way,
The wonderful waters break again
In the white and perfect Day.
Nay! nay! descend not yet,
But higher, higher, higher!
Up thro' the air, and wet
Thy wings in the solar fire!
There , hovering in ecstacy,
Sing, " Mystery! Oh, mystery!"

O Lark! O Lark! hadst thou the might
Beyond the cloud to wing thy way,
To sing and soar in ceaseless flight,
It might be well for men this day.
Beyond that cloud there is a zone,
And in that zone there is a land,
And in that land, upon a throne,
A mighty Spirit sits alone,
With musing cheek upon His hand.
And all is still and all is sweet
Around the silence of His seat, —
Beneath, the waves of wonder flow, —
And melted on His shining feet
The years flash down as falling snow.

O Lark! O Lark!
Up! for thy wings are strong;
While the Day is breaking,
And the City is waking,
Sing a song of wrong —
Sing of the weak man's tears,
Of the strong man's agony;
The passion, the hopes, the fears,
The heaped-up pain of the years,
The human mystery.
O Lark! we might rejoice,
Could'st reach that distant land,
For we cannot hear His voice,
And we often miss His hand!
And the lips of each are ice
To the kiss of sister and brother;
And we see that one man's vice
Is the virtue of another.
Yea, each that hears thee sing
Translates thy song to speech,
And, lo! the rendering
Is so different with each!
The gentle are oppress'd,
The foul man fareth best;
Wherever we seek, our gain
Is full of a poisonous pain.
In one soft note and long
Gather our sense of wrong;
Rise up, O Lark! from the sod,
Up, up, with soundless wings, —
Rise up to God! rise up, rise up, to God!
Tell Him these things!
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