I. Apart

One place—one roof—one name—their daily bread
In daily sacrament they break
Together, and together take
Perpetual counsel, such as use has fed
The habit of, in words which make
No lie. For courtesy’s sweet sake
And pity’s, one brave heart whose joy is dead,
Smiles ever, answering words which wake
But weariness; hides all its ache,—
Its hopeless ache, its longing and its dread;
Strong as a martyr at the stake
Renouncing self; striving to slake
The pangs of thirst on bitter hyssop red
With vinegar! O brave, strong heart!
God sets all days, all hours apart,
Joy cometh at his hour appointed.

II. Together

No touch—no sight—no sound—wide continents
And seas clasp hands to separate
Them from each other now. Too late!
Triumphant Love has leagued the elements
To do their will. Hath light a mate
For swiftness? Can it overweight
The air? Or doth the sun know accidents?
The light, the air, the sun, inviolate
For them, do constant keep and state
Message of their ineffable contents
And raptures, each in each. So great
Their bliss of loving, even fate
In parting them, hath found no instruments
Whose bitter pain insatiate
Doth kill it, or their faith abate
In presence of Love’s hourly sacraments.

More by Helen Hunt Jackson

New Year's Morning

Only a night from old to new!
Only a night, and so much wrought!
The Old Year's heart all weary grew,
But said: "The New Year rest has brought."
The Old Year's hopes its heart laid down,
As in a grave; but, trusting, said:
"The blossoms of the New Year's crown
Bloom from the ashes of the dead."
The Old Year's heart was full of greed;
With selfishness it longed and ached,
And cried: "I have not half I need.
My thirst is bitter and unslaked.
But to the New Year's generous hand
All gifts in plenty shall return;
True love it shall understand;
By all my failures it shall learn.
I have been reckless; it shall be
Quiet and calm and pure of life.
I was a slave; it shall go free,
And find sweet peace where I leave strife."
Only a night from old to new!
Never a night such changes brought.
The Old Year had its work to do;
No New Year miracles are wrought.

Always a night from old to new!
Night and the healing balm of sleep!
Each morn is New Year's morn come true,
Morn of a festival to keep.
All nights are sacred nights to make
Confession and resolve and prayer;
All days are sacred days to wake
New gladness in the sunny air.
Only a night from old to new;
Only a sleep from night to morn.
The new is but the old come true;
Each sunrise sees a new year born.

November

This is the treacherous month when autumn days
With summer’s voice come bearing summer’s gifts.
Beguiled, the pale down-trodden aster lifts
Her head and blooms again. The soft, warm haze
Makes moist once more the sere and dusty ways,
And, creeping through where dead leaves lie in drifts,
The violet returns. Snow noiseless sifts
Ere night, an icy shroud, which morning’s rays
Will idly shine upon and slowly melt,
Too late to bid the violet live again.
The treachery, at last, too late, is plain;
Bare are the places where the sweet flowers dwelt.
What joy sufficient hath November felt?
What profit from the violet’s day of pain?

October

Bending above the spicy woods which blaze,
Arch skies so blue they flash, and hold the sun
Immeasurably far; the waters run
Too slow, so freighted are the river-ways
With gold of elms and birches from the maze
Of forests. Chestnuts, clicking one by one,
Escape from satin burs; her fringes done,
The gentian spreads them out in sunny days,
And, like late revelers at dawn, the chance
Of one sweet, mad, last hour, all things assail,
And conquering, flush and spin; while, to enhance
The spell, by sunset door, wrapped in a veil
Of red and purple mists, the summer, pale,
Steals back alone for one more song and dance.

Related Poems

Sonnet XLIV [For Thee the Sun Doth Daily Rise, and Set]

For thee the sun doth daily rise, and set
Behind the curtain of the hills of sleep, 
And my soul, passing through the nether deep, 
Broods on thy love, and never can forget. 
For thee the garlands of the wood are wet, 
For thee the daisies up the meadow’s sweep
Stir in the sidelong light, and for thee weep
The drooping ferns above the violet. 
For thee the labour of my studious ease
I ply with hope, for thee all pleasures please, 
Thy sweetness doth the bread of sorrow leaven; 
And from thy noble lips and heart of gold
I drink the comfort of the faiths of old, 
Any thy perfection is my proof of heaven. 

What Will You Do?

Translated by B. Deutsch and A. Yarmolinsky

What will you do, God, when I die?
I am your jar (if cracked, I lie?)
Your well-spring (if the well go dry?)
I am your craft, your vesture I—
You lose your purport, losing me.

When I go, your cold house will be
Empty of words that made it sweet.
I am the sandals your bare feet
Will seek and long for, wearily.

Your cloak will fall from aching bones.
Your glance, that my warm cheeks have cheered
As with a cushion long endeared,
Will wonder at a loss so weird;
And, when the sun has disappeared,
Lie in the lap of alien stones.

What will you do, God? I am feared.

Pilate's Wife's Dream

I've quench'd my lamp, I struck it in that start
Which every limb convulsed, I heard it fall—
The crash blent with my sleep, I saw depart
Its light, even as I woke, on yonder wall;
Over against my bed, there shone a gleam
Strange, faint, and mingling also with my dream.

It sank, and I am wrapt in utter gloom;
How far is night advanced, and when will day
Retinge the dusk and livid air with bloom,
And fill this void with warm, creative ray?
Would I could sleep again till, clear and red,
Morning shall on the mountain-tops be spread!

I'd call my women, but to break their sleep,
Because my own is broken, were unjust;
They've wrought all day, and well-earn'd slumbers steep
Their labours in forgetfulness, I trust;
Let me my feverish watch with patience bear,
Thankful that none with me its sufferings share.

Yet, oh, for light! one ray would tranquillize
My nerves, my pulses, more than effort can;
I'll draw my curtain and consult the skies:
These trembling stars at dead of night look wan,
Wild, restless, strange, yet cannot be more drear
Than this my couch, shared by a nameless fear.

All black—one great cloud, drawn from east to west,
Conceals the heavens, but there are lights below;
Torches burn in Jerusalem, and cast
On yonder stony mount a lurid glow.
I see men station'd there, and gleaming spears;
A sound, too, from afar, invades my ears.

Dull, measured strokes of axe and hammer ring
From street to street, not loud, but through the night
Distinctly heard—and some strange spectral thing
Is now uprear'd—and, fix'd against the light
Of the pale lamps, defined upon that sky,
It stands up like a column, straight and high.

I see it all—I know the dusky sign—
A cross on Calvary, which Jews uprear
While Romans watch; and when the dawn shall shine
Pilate, to judge the victim, will appear—
Pass sentence-yield Him up to crucify;
And on that cross the spotless Christ must die.

Dreams, then, are true—for thus my vision ran;
Surely some oracle has been with me,
The gods have chosen me to reveal their plan,
To warn an unjust judge of destiny:
I, slumbering, heard and saw; awake I know,
Christ's coming death, and Pilate's life of woe.

I do not weep for Pilate—who could prove
Regret for him whose cold and crushing sway
No prayer can soften, no appeal can move:
Who tramples hearts as others trample clay,
Yet with a faltering, an uncertain tread,
That might stir up reprisal in the dead.

Forced to sit by his side and see his deeds;
Forced to behold that visage, hour by hour,
In whose gaunt lines the abhorrent gazer reads
A triple lust of gold, and blood, and power;
A soul whom motives fierce, yet abject, urge—
Rome's servile slave, and Judah's tyrant scourge.

How can I love, or mourn, or pity him?
I, who so long my fetter'd hands have wrung;
I, who for grief have wept my eyesight dim ;
Because, while life for me was bright and young,
He robb'd my youth—he quench'd my life's fair ray—
He crush'd my mind, and did my freedom slay.

And at this hour—although I be his wife—
He has no more of tenderness from me
Than any other wretch of guilty life ;
Less, for I know his household privacy—
I see him as he is—without a screen;
And, by the gods, my soul abhors his mien!

Has he not sought my presence, dyed in blood—
Innocent, righteous blood, shed shamelessly?
And have I not his red salute withstood?
Ay, when, as erst, he plunged all Galilee
In dark bereavement—in affliction sore,
Mingling their very offerings with their gore.

Then came he—in his eyes a serpent-smile,
Upon his lips some false, endearing word,
And through the streets of Salem clang'd the while
His slaughtering, hacking, sacrilegious sword—
And I, to see a man cause men such woe,
Trembled with ire—I did not fear to show.

And now, the envious Jewish priests have brought
Jesus—whom they in mock'ry call their king—
To have, by this grim power, their vengeance wrought;
By this mean reptile, innocence to sting.
Oh! could I but the purposed doom avert,
And shield the blameless head from cruel hurt!

Accessible is Pilate's heart to fear,
Omens will shake his soul, like autumn leaf;
Could he this night's appalling vision hear,
This just man's bonds were loosed, his life were safe,
Unless that bitter priesthood should prevail,
And make even terror to their malice quail.

Yet if I tell the dream—but let me pause.
What dream? Erewhile the characters were clear,
Graved on my brain—at once some unknown cause
Has dimm'd and razed the thoughts, which now appear,
Like a vague remnant of some by-past scene;—
Not what will be, but what, long since, has been.

I suffer'd many things—I heard foretold
A dreadful doom for Pilate,—lingering woes,
In far, barbarian climes, where mountains cold
Built up a solitude of trackless snows,
There he and grisly wolves prowl'd side by side,
There he lived famish'd—there, methought, he died;

But not of hunger, nor by malady;
I saw the snow around him, stain'd with gore;
I said I had no tears for such as he,
And, lo! my cheek is wet—mine eyes run o'er;
I weep for mortal suffering, mortal guilt,
I weep the impious deed, the blood self-spilt.

More I recall not, yet the vision spread
Into a world remote, an age to come—
And still the illumined name of Jesus shed
A light, a clearness, through the unfolding gloom—
And still I saw that sign, which now I see,
That cross on yonder brow of Calvary.

What is this Hebrew Christ? to me unknown
His lineage—doctrine—mission; yet how clear
Is God-like goodness in his actions shown,
How straight and stainless is his life's career!
The ray of Deity that rests on him,
In my eyes makes Olympian glory dim.

The world advances; Greek or Roman rite
Suffices not the inquiring mind to stay;
The searching soul demands a purer light
To guide it on its upward, onward way;
Ashamed of sculptured gods, Religion turns
To where the unseen Jehovah's altar burns.

Our faith is rotten, all our rites defiled,
Our temples sullied, and, methinks, this man,
With his new ordinance, so wise and mild,
Is come, even as He says, the chaff to fan
And sever from the wheat; but will his faith
Survive the terrors of to-morrow's death ?

* * * * * * *

I feel a firmer trust—a higher hope
Rise in my soul—it dawns with dawning day;
Lo! on the Temple's roof—on Moriah's slope
Appears at length that clear and crimson ray
Which I so wished for when shut in by night;
Oh, opening skies, I hail, I bless pour light!

Part, clouds and shadows! Glorious Sun appear!
Part, mental gloom! Come insight from on high!
Dusk dawn in heaven still strives with daylight clear
The longing soul doth still uncertain sigh.
Oh! to behold the truth—that sun divine,
How doth my bosom pant, my spirit pine!

This day, Time travails with a mighty birth;
This day, Truth stoops from heaven and visits earth;
Ere night descends I shall more surely know
What guide to follow, in what path to go;
I wait in hope—I wait in solemn fear,
The oracle of God—the sole—true God—to hear.