But each mother,
Longer than her wont stays shut in the dimness of her hut,
For she feels a brooding cloud of memory in the air,
A lingering thing there that makes her sit bowed
With hollow shining eyes, as the night-fire dies.
And stare softly at the ember, and try to remember
Something sorrowful and far, something sweet and vaguely seen
Like an early evening star when the sky is pale green:
A quiet silver tower that climbed in an hour,
Or a ghost like a flower, or a flower like a queen:
Something holy in the past that came and did not last,
But she knows not what it was.
It is easy to see in the last lines that Mr. Squire has escaped finally from the idealist’s disgust to the idealist’s exaltation. He has learned to express the beautiful mystery of life and he is no longer haunted in his nerves by the ugliness of circumstances. Not that he has shut himself up in an enchanted world: he still remains a poet of this agonizing earth. In The Stronghold he summons up a vision of “easeful death,” only to turn aside from it as Christian turned aside from the temptations on his way:—
But, O, if you find that castle,
Draw back your foot from the gateway,
Let not its peace invite you,
Let not its offerings tempt you,
For faded and decayed like a garment,
Love to a dust will have fallen,
And song and laughter will have gone with sorrow,
And hope will have gone with pain;
And of all the throbbing heart’s high courage
Nothing will remain.
And these later poems are not only nobler in passion than the early introspective work; they are also more moving. Few of the “in memoriam” poems of the war touch the heart as does that poem, To a Bulldog, with its moving close:—
And though you run expectant
as you always do
To the uniforms we meet,
You will never find Willy among all the soldiers
Even in the longest street.
Nor in any crowd: yet,
strange and bitter thought,
Even now were the old words said,
If I tried the old trick, and said “Where’s Willy?”
You would quiver and lift your head.
And your brown eyes would
look to ask if I was serious,
And wait for the word to spring.
Sleep undisturbed: I shan’t say that again,
You innocent old thing.
I must sit, not speaking,
on the sofa,
While you lie there asleep on the floor;
For he’s suffered a thing that dogs couldn’t dream of,
And he won’t be coming here any more.
Of the new poems in the book, one of the most beautiful is August Moon. The last verses provide an excellent example of Mr. Squire’s gift both as a painter of things and a creator of atmosphere:—
A golden half-moon in the sky, and broken gold in the water.