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The Pilgrims of Hope

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The Pilgrims of Hope

by William Morris

Contents:

     The Message of the March Wind

     The Bridge and the Street

     Sending to the War

     Mother and Son

     New Birth

     The New Proletarian

     In Prison--and at Home

     The Half of Life Gone

     A New Friend

     Ready to Depart

     A Glimpse of the Coming Day

     Meeting The War-Machine

     The Story's Ending

THE MESSAGE OF THE MARCH WIND

    Fair now is the springtide, now earth lies beholding

     With the eyes of a lover the face of the sun; Long lasteth the daylight, and hope is enfolding

     The green-growing acres with increase begun.

    Now sweet, sweet it is through the land to be straying

     Mid the birds and the blossoms and the beasts of the field; Love mingles with love, and no evil is weighing

     On thy heart or mine, where all sorrow is healed.

    From township to township, o'er down and by tillage

     Far, far have we wandered and long was the day, But now cometh eve at the end of the village,

     Where over the grey wall the church riseth grey.

    There is wind in the twilight; in the white road before us

     The straw from the ox-yard is blowing about; The moon's rim is rising, a star glitters o'er us,

     And the vane on the spire-top is swinging in doubt.

    Down there dips the highway, toward the bridge crossing over

     The brook that runs on to the Thames and the sea. Draw closer, my sweet, we are lover and lover;

     This eve art thou given to gladness and me.

    Shall we be glad always? Come closer and hearken:

     Three fields further on, as they told me down there, When the young moon has set, if the March sky should darken,

     We might see from the hill-top the great city's glare.

    Hark, the wind in the elm-boughs! From London it bloweth,

     And telling of gold, and of hope and unrest; Of power that helps not; of wisdom that knoweth,

     But teacheth not aught of the worst and the best.

    Of the rich men it telleth, and strange is the story

     How they have, and they hanker, and grip far and wide; And they live and they die, and the earth and its glory

     Has been but a burden they scarce might abide.

    Hark! the March wind again of a people is telling;

     Of the life that they live there, so haggard and grim, That if we and our love amidst them had been dwelling

     My fondness had faltered, thy beauty grown dim.

    This land we have loved in our love and our leisure

     For them hangs in heaven, high out of their reach; The wide hills o'er the sea-plain for them have no pleasure,

     The grey homes of their fathers no story to teach.

    The singers have sung and the builders have builded,

     The painters have fashioned their tales of delight; For what and for whom hath the world's book been gilded,

     When all is for these but the blackness of night?

    How long and for what is their patience abiding?

     How oft and how oft shall their story be told, While the hope that none seeketh in darkness is hiding

     And in grief and in sorrow the world groweth old?

    Come back to the inn, love, and the lights and the fire,

     And the fiddler's old tune and the shuffling of feet; For there in a while shall be rest and desire,

     And there shall the morrow's uprising be sweet.

    Yet, love, as we wend the wind bloweth behind us

     And beareth the last tale it telleth to-night, How here in the spring-tide the message shall find us;

     For the hope that none seeketh is coming to light.

    Like the seed of midwinter, unheeded, unperished,

     Like the autumn-sown wheat 'neath the snow lying green, Like the love that o'ertook us, unawares and uncherished,

     Like the babe 'neath thy girdle that groweth unseen,

    So the hope of the people now buddeth and groweth -

     Rest fadeth before it, and blindness and fear; It biddeth us learn all the wisdom it knoweth;

     It hath found us and held us, and biddeth us hear:

    For it beareth the message: "Rise up on the morrow

     And go on your ways toward the doubt and the strife; Join hope to our hope and blend sorrow with sorrow,

     And seek for men's love in the short days of life."

    But lo, the old inn, and the lights and the fire,

     And the fiddler's old tune and the shuffling of feet; Soon for us shall be quiet and rest and desire,

     And to-morrow's uprising to deeds shall be sweet.

THE BRIDGE AND THE STREET

    In the midst of the bridge there we stopped and we wondered

     In London at last, and the moon going down, All sullied and red where the mast-wood was sundered

     By the void of the night-mist, the breath of the town.

    On each side lay the City, and Thames ran between it

     Dark, struggling, unheard 'neath the wheels and the feet. A strange dream it was that we ever had seen it,

     And strange was the hope we had wandered to meet.

    Was all nought but confusion? What man and what master

     Had each of these people that hastened along? Like a flood flowed the faces, and faster and faster

     Went the drift of the feet of the hurrying throng.

    Till all these seemed but one thing, and we twain another,

     A thing frail and feeble and young and unknown; What sign mid all these to tell foeman from brother?

     What sign of the hope in our hearts that had grown?

We went to our lodging afar from the river,

     And slept and forgot--and remembered in dreams; And friends that I knew not I strove to deliver

     From a crowd that swept o'er us in measureless streams,

    Wending whither I knew not: till meseemed I was waking

     To the first night in London, and lay by my love, And she worn and changed, and my very heart aching

     With a terror of soul that forbade me to move.

    Till I woke, in good sooth, and she lay there beside me,

     Fresh, lovely in sleep; but awhile yet I lay, For the fear of the dream-tide yet seemed to abide me

     In the cold and sad time ere the dawn of the day.

    Then I went to the window, and saw down below me

     The market-wains wending adown the dim street, And the scent of the hay and the herbs seemed to know me,

     And seek out my heart the dawn's sorrow to meet.

    They passed, and day grew, and with pitiless faces

     The dull houses stared on the prey they had trapped; 'Twas as though they had slain all the fair morning places

     Where in love and in leisure our joyance had happed.

    My heart sank; I murmured, "What's this we are doing

     In this grim net of London, this prison built stark With the greed of the ages, our young lives pursuing

     A phantom that leads but to death in the dark?"

    Day grew, and no longer was dusk with it striving,

     And now here and there a few people went by. As an image of what was once eager and living

     Seemed the hope that had led us to live or to die.

    Yet nought else seemed happy; the past and its pleasure

     Was light, and unworthy, had been and was gone;

    If hope had deceived us, if hid were its treasure,

     Nought now would be left us of all life had won.

O love, stand beside me; the sun is uprisen

     On the first day of London; and shame hath been here. For I saw our new life like the bars of a prison,

     And hope grew a-cold, and I parleyed with fear.

    Ah! I sadden thy face, and thy grey eyes are chiding!

     Yea, but life is no longer as stories of yore; From us from henceforth no fair words shall be hiding

     The nights of the wretched, the days of the poor.

    Time was we have grieved, we have feared, we have faltered,

     For ourselves, for each other, while yet we were twain; And no whit of the world by our sorrow was altered,

     Our faintness grieved nothing, our fear was in vain.

    Now our fear and our faintness, our sorrow, our passion,

     We shall feel all henceforth as we felt it erewhile; But now from all this the due deeds we shall fashion

     Of the eyes without blindness, the heart without guile.

    Let us grieve then--and help every soul in our sorrow;

     Let us fear--and press forward where few dare to go; Let us falter in hope--and plan deeds for the morrow,

     The world crowned with freedom, the fall of the foe.

    As the soldier who goes from his homestead a-weeping,

     And whose mouth yet remembers his sweetheart's embrace, While all round about him the bullets are sweeping,

     But stern and stout-hearted dies there in his place;

    Yea, so let our lives be! e'en such that hereafter,

     When the battle is won and the story is told, Our pain shall be hid, and remembered our laughter,

     And our names shall be those of the bright and the bold.

    NOTE--This section had the following note in The Commonweal. It is the

    intention of the author to follow the fortunes of the lovers who in the

    "Message of the March Wind" were already touched by sympathy with the

cause of the people.

SENDING TO THE WAR

    It was down in our far-off village that we heard of the war begun, But none of the neighbours were in it save the squire's thick-lipped son,

    A youth and a fool and a captain, who came and went away, And left me glad of his going. There was little for us to say Of the war and its why and wherefore--and we said it often enough; The papers gave us our wisdom, and we used it up in the rough. But I held my peace and wondered; for I thought of the folly of men, The fair lives ruined and broken that ne'er could be mended again; And the tale by lies bewildered, and no cause for a man to choose; Nothing to curse or to bless--just a game to win or to lose.

    But here were the streets of London--strife stalking wide in the world; And the flag of an ancient people to the battle-breeze unfurled. And who was helping or heeding? The gaudy shops displayed The toys of rich men's folly, by blinded labour made; And still from naught to nothing the bright-skinned horses drew Dull men and sleek-faced women with never a deed to do; While all about and around them the street-flood ebbed and flowed, Worn feet, grey anxious faces, grey backs bowed 'neath the load. Lo the sons of an ancient people! And for this they fought and fell In the days by fame made glorious, in the tale that singers tell.

    We two we stood in the street in the midst of a mighty crowd, The sound of its mingled murmur in the heavens above was loud, And earth was foul with its squalor--that stream of every day, The hurrying feet of labour, the faces worn and grey, Were a sore and grievous sight, and enough and to spare had I seen Of hard and pinching want midst our quiet fields and green; But all was nothing to this, the London holiday throng. Dull and with hang-dog gait they stood or shuffled along, While the stench from the lairs they had lain in last night went up in

    the wind,

    And poisoned the sun-lit spring: no story men can find Is fit for the tale of their lives; no word that man hath made

    Can tell the hue of their faces, or their rags by filth o'er-laid: For this hath our age invented--these are the sons of the free, Who shall bear our name triumphant o'er every land and sea. Read ye their souls in their faces, and what shall help you there? Joyless, hopeless, shameless, angerless, set is their stare: This is the thing we have made, and what shall help us now, For the field hath been laboured and tilled and the teeth of the dragon shall grow.

    But why are they gathered together? what is this crowd in the street? This is a holiday morning, though here and there we meet The hurrying tradesman's broadcloth, or the workman's basket of tools. Men say that at last we are rending the snares of knaves and fools; That a cry from the heart of the nation against the foe is hurled, And the flag of an ancient people to the battle-breeze unfurled. The soldiers are off to the war, we are here to see the sight, And all our griefs shall be hidden by the thought of our country's might. 'Tis the ordered anger of England and her hope for the good of the Earth That we to-day are speeding, and many a gift of worth

    Shall follow the brand and the bullet, and our wrath shall be no curse, But a blessing of life to the helpless--unless we are liars and worse -

    And these that we see are the senders; these are they that speed The dread and the blessing of England to help the world at its need.

    Sick unto death was my hope, and I turned and looked on my dear, And beheld her frightened wonder, and her grief without a tear, And knew how her thought was mine--when, hark! o'er the hubbub and noise, Faint and a long way off, the music's measured voice,

    And the crowd was swaying and swaying, and somehow, I knew not why, A dream came into my heart of deliverance drawing anigh. Then with roll and thunder of drums grew the music louder and loud, And the whole street tumbled and surged, and cleft was the holiday crowd, Till two walls of faces and rags lined either side of the way. Then clamour of shouts rose upward, as bright and glittering gay Came the voiceful brass of the band, and my heart beat fast and fast, For the river of steel came on, and the wrath of England passed Through the want and the woe of the town, and strange and wild was my thought,

    And my clenched hands wandered about as though a weapon they sought.

    Hubbub and din was behind them, and the shuffling haggard throng, Wandering aimless about, tangled the street for long;

    But the shouts and the rhythmic noise we still heard far away,

    And my dream was become a picture of the deeds of another day. Far and far was I borne, away o'er the years to come,

    And again was the ordered march, and the thunder of the drum, And the bickering points of steel, and the horses shifting about 'Neath the flashing swords of the captains--then the silence after the shout -

    Sun and wind in the street, familiar things made clear, Made strange by the breathless waiting for the deeds that are drawing anear.

    For woe had grown into will, and wrath was bared of its sheath, And stark in the streets of London stood the crop of the dragon's teeth. Where then in my dream were the poor and the wall of faces wan? Here and here by my side, shoulder to shoulder of man,

    Hope in the simple folk, hope in the hearts of the wise, For the happy life to follow, or death and the ending of lies, Hope is awake in the faces angerless now no more,

    Till the new peace dawn on the world, the fruit of the people's war.

War in the world abroad a thousand leagues away,

    While custom's wheel goes round and day devoureth day.

    Peace at home!--what peace, while the rich man's mill is strife, And the poor is the grist that he grindeth, and life devoureth life?

MOTHER AND SON

    Now sleeps the land of houses, and dead night holds the street, And there thou liest, my baby, and sleepest soft and sweet; My man is away for awhile, but safe and alone we lie;

    And none heareth thy breath but thy mother, and the moon looking down from the sky

    On the weary waste of the town, as it looked on the grass-edged road Still warm with yesterday's sun, when I left my old abode, Hand in hand with my love, that night of all nights in the year; When the river of love o'erflowed and drowned all doubt and fear, And we two were alone in the world, and once, if never again, We knew of the secret of earth and the tale of its labour and pain.

    Lo amidst London I lift thee, and how little and light thou art, And thou without hope or fear, thou fear and hope of my heart! Lo here thy body beginning, O son, and thy soul and thy life;

    But how will it be if thou livest, and enterest into the strife, And in love we dwell together when the man is grown in thee, When thy sweet speech I shall hearken, and yet 'twixt thee and me Shall rise that wall of distance, that round each one doth grow, And maketh it hard and bitter each other's thought to know? Now, therefore, while yet thou art little and hast no thought of thine own,

    I will tell thee a word of the world, of the hope whence thou hast grown,

    Of the love that once begat thee, of the sorrow that hath made Thy little heart of hunger, and thy hands on my bosom laid. Then mayst thou remember hereafter, as whiles when people say All this hath happened before in the life of another day; So mayst thou dimly remember this tale of thy mother's voice, As oft in the calm of dawning I have heard the birds rejoice, As oft I have heard the storm-wind go moaning through the wood, And I knew that earth was speaking, and the mother's voice was good.

    Now, to thee alone will I tell it that thy mother's body is fair, In the guise of the country maidens who play with the sun and the air, Who have stood in the row of the reapers in the August afternoon, Who have sat by the frozen water in the highday of the moon, When the lights of the Christmas feasting were dead in the house on the

    hill,

    And the wild geese gone to the salt marsh had left the winter still. Yea, I am fair, my firstling; if thou couldst but remember me! The hair that thy small hand clutcheth is a goodly sight to see; I am true, but my face is a snare; soft and deep are my eyes, And they seem for men's beguiling fulfilled with the dreams of the wise. Kind are my lips, and they look as though my soul had learned Deep things I have never heard of. My face and my hands are burned By the lovely sun of the acres; three months of London-town And thy birth-bed have bleached them indeed--"But lo, where the edge of

    the gown"

    (So said thy father one day) "parteth the wrist white as curd From the brown of the hands that I love, bright as the wing of a bird."

    Such is thy mother, O firstling, yet strong as the maidens of old, Whose spears and whose swords were the warders of homestead, of field and

    of fold.

    Oft were my feet on the highway, often they wearied the grass;

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