Orion, and Other Poems

by Charles G.D. Roberts


Appendix III


Text of "Stella" by Charles Pelham Mulvany
From Chandler and Mulvany, Lyrics, Songs and Sonnets (1880)
(Meter: hemiepes)


"Only a woman’s hair!"
Found as such relics are found
After long years, when the night
Closed on what once had been Swift,—
Stella’s the raven-black tress,—
Swift’s the inscription, no doubt.

Whereat reporters and critics
Cast in their Liliput minds
What the dead giant might mean,
Was it the misanthropist’s scorn
Mocking himself in his pain,
Making the love that had died
Point one more epigram more?

Not so, reporters and critics!
Read how, the night that she died,
Swift sat alone in the dark,
Tearless, unable to think;—
No! In these words are the tears
And the thoughts that would come not that day.

"Only a woman’s hair!"
All that was left of her now,
All that was left of a love
True through the world, through the years—
Born with his boyhood, to share
Battle and darkness and need,
Linking his youth to old age—
Proud when the victor prevailed,—
Glad when the athlete was crowned,—
True when the dark hours came on,—
Smiling to calm the wild eyes—
Kissing the lips fierce with scorn.

"Only a woman’s hair!"
How he remembered when first
Seen as it curled over eyes
Bent on his own, as they two,
Under the formal, close-trimmed,
High-Dutch, dwarf trees of Moore Park,—
Types of the pedant its lord,—
Learned a new language of soul—
Breathed a new life that set free
Genius and Youth, Hope and Love.

"Only a woman’s hair!"
And he had seen it so often
Blown by the Laracor winds,—
Brightened by suns that have set
Where the stream shewed—does it shew
Still,—the grey Parsonage walls;
Still those grey walls which that guest
Coming and going made glad—
Graced with the charm of her youth,
Laughter from merriest lips!
Bright light from kindliest eyes!

"Only a woman’s hair!"
Looked at so often alone,
After the feverish day,
When amid mean men called great,
He, with the sword of his wit,
Smote;—and that dark tress recalled
Home and her, far over seas!
Looked at even then as he wrote
"Journals to Stella" each day—
Each thought of his, each hope, hers—
Soothed with pet names like a child
Never was true love more true—
Never were tenderer words.

"Only a woman’s hair!"
Here in this house, home no more
Here where the garden-walks wind
Under the barbarous, grim,
Gothic cathedral’s grey towers—
Here where the bold words were written,
Calling the slaves to be free,
And in dead Ireland’s name
Fronting defiant her foes—
Then when his Dublin rose round him,
Guarding "the Dean," till the foe
Felt his fierce scorn and was foiled.
Dear to his country and her—
Was it not well with him then?

"Only a woman’s hair!"
Not of Vanessa but Hers—
Not of the meteor that beaming
Bright in a frivolous hour,
Passed to its place in the darkness,
Leaving remorse and dismay;
But of his Star, that still shone,
Then when all else was eclipsed,—
Genius and Manhood and Wit,
Friendship of statesmen and peers,—
Leaving that wreck of a life
Only the love of the poor—
Only his country’s regret—
"Only a woman’s hair!"

Ireland! If yet in the years
Being made free, thou shalt think
Then of those great ones thy sons,—
Building the marble to Swift,
Wilt thou not also to Stella
Build in that day?—to his Star—
Star of that great stormy life —
Feels "Fierce indignation" no more!