I bore my mystic chalice unto Earth
With vintage which no lips of hers might name;
Only, in token of its alien birth,
Love crowned it with his soft, immortal flame,
And, 'mid the world's wide sound,
Sacred reserves and silences breathed round,--
A spell to keep it pure from low acclaim.
With joy that dulled me to the touch of scorn,
I served;--not knowing that of all life's deeds
Service was first; nor that high powers are born
In humble uses. Fragrance-folding seeds
Must so through flowers expand,
Then die. God witness that I blessed the Hand
Which laid upon my heart such golden needs!
And yet I felt, through all the blind, sweet ways
Of life, for some clear shape its dreams to blend,--
Some thread of holy art, to knit the days
Each unto each, and all to some fair end,
Which, through unmarked removes,
Should draw me upward, even as it behooves
One whose deep spring-tides from His heart descend.
To swell some vast refrain beyond the sun,
The very weed breathed music from its sod;
And night and day in ceaseless antiphon
Rolled off through windless arches in the broad
Abyss.--Thou saw'st I, too,
Would in my place have blent accord as true,
And justified this great enshrining, God!
Dreams!--Stain it on the bending amethyst,
That one who came with visions of the Prime
For guide somehow her radiant pathway missed,
And wandered in the darkest gulf of Time.
No deed divine thenceforth
Stood royal in its far-related worth;
No god, in truth, might heal the wounded chime.
Oh, how? I darkly ask;--and if I dare
Take up a thought from this tumultuous street
To the forgotten Silence soaring there
Above the hiving roofs, its calm depths meet
My glance with no reply.
Might I go back and spell this mystery
In the new stillness at my mother's feet,--
I would recall with importunings long
That so sad soul, once pierced as with a knife,
And cry, Forgive! Oh, think Youth's tide was strong,
And the full torrent, shut from brain and life,
Plunged through the heart, until
It rocked to madness, and the o'erstrained will
Grew wild, then weak, in the despairing strife!
And ever I think, What warning voice should call,
Or show me bane from food, with tedious art,
When love--the perfect instinct, flower of all
Divinest potencies of choice, whose part
Was set 'mid stars and flame
To keep the inner place of God--became
A blind and ravening fever of the heart?
I laugh with scorn that men should think them praised
In women's love,--chance-flung in weary hours,
By sickly fire to bloated worship raised!--
O long-lost dream, so sweet of vernal flowers!
Wherein I stood, it seemed,
And gave a gift of queenly mark!--I dreamed
Of Passion's joy aglow in rounded powers.
I dreamed! The roar, the tramp, the burdened air
Pour round their sharp and subtle mockery.
Here go the eager-footed men; and there
The costly beggars of the world float by;--
Lilies, that toil nor spin,
How should they know so well the weft of sin,
And hide me from them with such sudden eye?
But all the roaming crowd begins to make
A whirl of humming shade;--for, since the day
Is done, and there's no lower step to take,
Life drops me here. Some rough, kind hand, I pray,
Thrust the sad wreck aside,
And shut the door on it!--a little pride,
That I may not offend who pass this way.
And this is all!--Oh, thou wilt yet give heed!
No soul but trusts some late redeeming care,--
But walks the narrow plank with bitter speed,
And, straining through the sweeping mist of air,
In the great tempest-call,
And greater silence deepening through it all,
Refuses still, refuses to despair!
Some further end, whence thou refitt'st with aim
Bewildered souls, perhaps?--Some breath in me,
By thee, the purest, found devoid of blame,
Fit for large teaching?--Look!--I cannot see,--
I can but feel!--Far off,
Life seethes and frets,--and from its shame and scoff
I take my broken crystal up to thee.
|This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.
The author died in 1915, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.