Aber Stations

Thomas Edward Brown



WHY do I make so much of Aber Fall?
Four years ago
My little boy was with me here—
That’s all—
He died next year:
He died just seven years old,
A very gentle child, yet bold,
Having no fear.
You have seen such?
They are not much?
No... no.
And yet he was a very righteous child,
Stood up for what was right,
Intolerant of wrong— Pure azure light
Was cisterned in his eyes;
We thought him wise
Beyond his years—so sweet and mild,
But strong
For justice, doing what he could—
Poor little soul—to make all children good.
I almost think—and yet I am to blame—
He was a different child from others ;
He had three sisters and two brothers:
He seemed a little king:
Among the children—ah I ‘tis a common thing,—
Parents are all the same—
You’ve seen those kings—yes, yes—
Of course... and yet... the righteousness
The... Never mind! he came
With me to Aber Fall—
That’s all, that’s all.


Just listen to the blackbird—what a note
The creature has! God bless his happy throat!
He is so absolutely glad
I fear he will go mad.
Look here! this very grit
I crush beneath my boot
His little foot
Trod crisp that day— That’s it ! that’s it
O, what is there to say?
The little foot so warm and pink!
O, what is there to think?
His mother kissed it every night
When she put out the light— And where?
What is it now? a fascicle
Of crumbling bones
Jammed in with earth and stones.
You say that this is old,
A tale twice-told— Say what you will:
Old, new, I swear
That it is horrible—
Horrible, blackbird, howsoe’er
The Spring rejoice you with its budding bloom—
Yes, horrible, most horrible!
Though you should carol to the crack of doom,
Poor blackbird ! being so absolutely glad—
I hope he won’t go mad.


The stream is very sweet
To-day... Just see the swallow dart!
How fleet!
It sent a shiver to my heart.
If he had lived, you say—
Well, well—if he had lived, what then?
Some men
Will always argue—yes, I know... of course ..
The argument has force.
If he had lived, he might have changed—
From bad to worse?
Nay, my shrewd balance-setter,
Why not from good to better?
Why not to best? to joy
And splendour? O, my boy!
I did not want this argument in the least,
My soul had ceased
From doubt and questioning—
That swallow’s wing!
What a transcendent rush!
Hush! hush!
Or, if you talk, talk low:
For... do you know...
Just as the swallow dipt,
I felt as if a soft hand slipt
Its fingers into mine he’s near
He’s with us... ‘tis not right the child should hear
This jangling... low then, low!
Or this is better... go,
Go, darling; play upon the bank,
And prank
Your hair with daisy and with buttercup,
And we will meet you higher up.
Now then... If he had lived? if my sweet son
Had lived?... You stare...
There! there!
‘Tis gone, ‘tis gone—
It was the swallow’s dart
That sent a shiver to my heart.


We have not seen the sun for many days,
But now through East-wind haze
He makes a shift
To send a luminous drift,
To which, as to his full unclouded splendour,
The meek, contented earth makes glad surrender.
God bless the simple earth
That gave me birth!
God bless her that she looks so pleased—
The soul thai is diseased
With this world's sorrow—
Well, sir? ought to look?
Beyond, and yet beyond: not in this narrow nook of His creation
Will God make up His book.
The whole is one great scheme of compensation_
The net result
Is all
... I too have had my dream,
As from my nonage dedicate a meustgx
Of that great cult.
I saw Lord Love upon his galley pass
Westward from Cyprus; smooth as glass
The sea was all before him. He, as keleustgx
Stood at the stern, and piped
The rhythms; but, ever and anon,
As worked upon
By some familiar Fury, grasping a scourge
(An amethyst
Fastened it to his wrist... Love’s wrist!),
He ran along the transtra, and did urge
The rowers, and striped
Their backs with blood; whereat they leapt
Like maddened hounds, and swept
The sea until it hissed.
Then I: "Lord Love, what means this cruelty?"
But he to me
Deigned no reply:
Only I saw his face was wet with tears,
And he did look "beyond, and yet beyond."
But those men, fond
And fatuous, never turned
Their eyes from his, but yearned
With an insensate yearning, having confidence
That so it must be; but on what pretence
I know not—Ah, most cruel lord!
Ah, knotted cord!
Dull plash -
Of livid tissues ! flash
Of oars that smote the waters to a hum ..
Come, come!
You’ve had enough of this—
But what I meant, and what you seemed to miss,
Was simply how the meek, contented earth,
That gave me birth,
Was pleased...
Then you of soul diseased,
And what not . . . excellent!
But that is what I meant.


The shepherd calls—
How these great niountain walls
Re-echo! See his dog
Come limping from the bog!
How far he holds him
With that thin clamour! Scolds him?
Or cheers him—which?
Say both—most like. The pitch
Is steep, poor fellow!
And still that bellow;
Ya, ya!
Whoop tittiva t
And Echo from her niche
Shrieks challenged. Shout,
O shepherd! flout
The irritable Echo till she raves
As man behaves,
So God apportions, doing what is best
For you, and for the rest.
As man behaves!
You do not help me much,
Nay, sir, nor touch
The central point at all—
Retributive, mechanical—
I see it. But outside all this
I miss... I miss...
Sir, know you Death?
Permit me introduce
No? What’s the use?
The use!... One thing I can collect,
You have but scant respect
For Death. Why, sir, he made a feint
That very minute at you—quaint!
The way he grins and skips— Whips! whips!
Down! down ! good dog ! good Death!
To heel, you rogue!
Good Death ! good dog!
You’d rather not behold him?
I’ve told him— I’ faith,
He’d frighten you, would Death.
Provoked me—yes, you did—
The shepherd chid
His lagging hound—
I had no other thought
But how mad Echo caught
The sound
Of that exasperant call,
And made it bound
Back from the mountain wall.


Ha! snow
Upon the crags!
How slow
The winter lags
Ha, little lamb upon the crags,
How fearlessly you go!
Take care
Up there,
You little woolly atom! On and on
He goes...tis steep...Hillo!
My friend is gone,
Friend orthodoxo-logical—
He could not argue with a waterfall!
And here it is—my Aber...Stay!
I’ll cross
This way:
The moss
Upon these stones is dripping with the spray—
And now one turn, left hand,
And I shall stand
Before the very rock: not yet...not yet!
O let me think! No, no! I don’t forget
(Forget!) but this is sacred...peace, then, peace!
From all dead things, that serve not to present
At my soul’s grate the lovely innocent.
He had heard some idle talk
Of how his father had great strength to walk
And climb;
And so he thought that he must lose no time,
But instantly addressed
His little breast
To that tall cliff
Smooth, perpendicular, too stiff
For cragsman from the wildest Hebrides,
But he did bend his knees,
And spread his little arms, and laid
His body to the work, and made
Such genuine effort of ascent
As though he meant
To reach the top, of course, and had no doubt
Of what he was about—
So serious—no passing whim—
O, no! Twas thus his father clomb
And he had come
To climb like him.
And is he here?
O Braddan, are you here?
O darling, have no fear!
Speak to me! breathe some fond thing in my ear
But what should Braddan know
Of me, and what I am,
And what I want—the little lamb!
What should he know,
Who four brief years ago
Knew only what a little child should
Should some kind angel, who doth teach my child,
Some angel with the love-deep eyes,
Some angel charged to keep him undefiled,
Hear my sad cries,
And bring him unto me,
Is my whole heart a thing for him to see?
Am I prepared that his sweet honesty
Should search it through and through?
O, eyes of honest blue!
O, fearless eyes!
O, mild surprise!
O, is there one, one chamber of my heart
That’s fit
For him to sit
Therein, till it is time to part?
Or could I come to him?
No matter where— Swim,
Swim the dark river, and be there?
Could a deep acquiescence
Convey me to his presence?
And if it could,
What were it after all
But as a young prince stood
Upon the city wall,
And saw his foster-father at the gate,
And wondered at his mean estate,
And made no sign
Unto the warders? But my Braddan’s mine!
Mine! mine! and none’s beside!
O helpless men, has everything been tried?
Where does the secret bide?
Is it a simple thing perhaps?
Yea, after all, a very simple thing,
That through the lapse
Of all the ages any tide
Might bring,
Nay, every tide has brought
Up to the level of our thought?
Is the blest converse that I crave
The function of a faculty we have,
But know not how to use, being, by some dark mischance
Time-prisoned in a rooted ignorance?
A faculty which, if no God forbad it,
An accident might bring to light,
And some one, somewhere, waking in the night,
Would know he had it.
But we are cumbered with our egotisms;
A thousand prisms,
Hung round our souls, refract the single ray,
That else would show us instantly the way.
So even now, when my sad heart aspires
To height of paramount desires,
These verses mock it
With their rhyme-jangles, frustrate as a rocket,
That mounts, and breaks, and falls in coloured fading fire
A curse
Upon the impotent verse!
Yet, no!
Not so— It may be that in these
The soul shall yet win something more than ease
For song is of the essence, and who sings
Touches the central springs—
Ah, vain imaginings!
Let be! let be!
O Braddan, pity me!
Yes, yes!
I know there is another way—press, press,
And I will press, sweet Braddan.
Sink thought sink, sink
To think
Is but to madden
Stop, heart!
You have no part
In this—die, soul,
Die, die! it must be soon—
The barrier’s but a film; one gasp, and I shall swoon
Into his arms—
Braddan! why, Braddan! see, I keep my tryst—
O God! O Christ!
That snow
Is very slow
To disappear:how winter lags!
I see the darn
Upon the crags
But nowhere can I see the little lamb


The heavens are very blue
Above the western hill;
The earth is very still—-
I will draw near, and view
The spot
Where he is...not.
But O dear cliff, O big, good-natured giant,
I think some delicate dint must still remain
On your broad surface, from the strain
Of limbs so sweetly pliant.
The lamb! the lamb ! fallen from the very rock!
Cold! cold!
Dead! dead!
His little head
Rests on the very block
That Braddan trod—
Dear lambs ! twin lambs of God!
Old cliff, such things
Might move some stubborn questionings—
But now I question not—
See, see ! the waterfall
Is robed in rainbows—what!
Our lambs ? My Braddan shall have charge
Of him, and lead him by the marge
Of some bright stream celestial.
Braddan shall be a happy shepherd boy;
No trouble shall annoy
That soft green pasture—
Ab, Murillo, saint!
Kind fiiend ! that for all sorrowing hearts didst paint
John Baptist and the Lamb—those arms thrown round
That neck ! Forgive me, God, that I have found
Some comfort in this little parable—
It gives me strength to climb the hill,
And humbly so return—
God bless the merry burn!
I have no will
But thine, O God! I know that Thou art true—
Be blue, O heavens, be blue!
Be still, O earth, be still!

April 17, 1879.