FOR THE ART EXHIBITION AT ST. JUDE'S, WHITECHAPEL
LIKE a fair flower springing fresh, sweet, and bright,
Through prison stones; or like one perfect song
Heard in a dream on one remembered night,
When waking worlds were dumb with grief and wrong;
Like the one kiss that links--first kiss and last--
The inevitable future spent apart
With the immutable divided past:
So in the east shines out this star of Art.
The narrow-shouldered, pale-faced girl and boy
Nestle against Art's new-found, love-warm breast,
And feel vague stirrings of a far-off joy,
Which life has never for themselves possessed,
And dimly guess at wonders hardly known--
Even as dreams--and weep glad tears to see
A loveliness that is at once life's own,
And yet is something life can never be.
Not worse will work the flying busy hand
Because the soul has drunk a cup of pleasure,
Has picked up on its leaden-coloured strand
Some little jewel of Art's splendid treasure,
Nor will less work be done because men see
That work is not the only thing in life,
Because they have been glad at heart and free
A little space 'mid sorrow, sin, and strife.
And this sweet draught may banish men's content?
For this we pray and strive--not all in vain--
That men may reach such heights of discontent
As never to fall back to peace again
Where no peace is--nor rest from strife and prayers,
But tread firm-footed up the thorny way,
Till all that spring of art and joy is theirs
Whereof they taste so small a draught to-day.