The poems of Edmund Clarence Stedman/Songs and Ballads

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The poems of Edmund Clarence Stedman  (1908)  by Edmund Clarence Stedman
Songs and Ballads
Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Company pages 359-392

SONGS AND BALLADS


THE SINGER

  O lark! sweet lark!
 Where learn you all your minstrelsy?
 What realms are those to which you fly?
While robins feed their young from dawn till dark,
  You soar on high,—
  Forever in the sky.


  O child! dear child!
 Above the clouds I lift my wing
 To hear the bells of Heaven ring;
Some of their music, though my flights be wild,
  To Earth I bring,
  Then let me soar and sing!


SUMMER RAIN

Through the night we heard it fall
Tenderly and musical;
And this morning not a sigh
 Of wind uplifts the briony leaves,
But the ashen-tinted sky
 Still for earthly turmoil grieves,
While the melody of the rain,
Dropping on the window-pane,
On the lilac and the rose,
Round us all its pleasance throws,
Till our souls are yielded wholly
To its constant melancholy,
And, like the burden of its song,
Passionate moments glide along.


Pinks and hyacinths perfume
All our garden-fronted room;
Hither, close beside me, Love!
Do not whisper, do not move.
Here we two will softly stay,
Side by side, the livelong day.
Lean thy head upon my breast:
Ever shall it give thee rest,
Ever would I gaze to meet
Eyes of thine up-glancing, Sweet!
What enchanted dreams are ours!
While the murmur of the showers
Dropping on the tranquil ground,
Dropping on the leaves and flowers,
Wraps our yearning souls around
In the drapery of its sound.


VOICE OF THE WESTERN WIND

Voice of the western wind!
 Thou singest from afar,
Rich with the music of a land
 Where all my memories are;
But in thy song I only hear
 The echo of a tone
That fell divinely on my ear
 In days forever flown.


Star of the western sky!
 Thou beamest from afar,
With lustre caught from eyes I knew,
 Whose orbs were each a star;
But, oh, those orbs—too wildly bright—
 No more eclipse thine own,
And never shall I find the light
 Of days forever flown!


APOLLO

Vainly, O burning Poets!
 Ye wait for his inspiration,
 Even as kings of old
 Stood by the oracle-gates.
Hasten back, he will say, hasten back
 To your provinces far away!
 There, at my own good time,
 Will I send my answer to you.

  Are ye not kings of song?
 At last the god cometh!
 The air runs over with splendor;
 The fire leaps high on the altar;
Melodious thunders shake the ground.
 Hark to the Delphic responses!
 Hark! it is the god!


MONTAGU

Queen Katherine of Arragon
 In gray Kimbolton dwelt,
A joyous bride, ere bluff King Hal
 At Bullen's footstool knelt.


Still in her haughty Spanish eyes
 Their childhood's lustre shone,
That lit with love two royal hearts,
 And won the English throne.


From gray Kimbolton's castle-gate
 She rode, each summer's day,
And blithely led the greenwood chase
 With hawk and hound away.


And ever handsome Montagu,
 Her Master of the Horse,
To guard his mistress kept her pace
 O'er heather, turf, and gorse.


O, who so brave as Montagu
 To leap the hedges clear!
And who so fleet as he to find
 The coverts of the deer!


And who so wild as Montagu,
 To seek his sovereign's love!
More hopeless than a child, who craves
 The brightest star above.


Day after day her presence fed
 The fever at his heart;
Yet loyally the young knight scorned
 To play a traitor's part.


Only, when at her palfrey's side
 He bowed him by command,
Lightening her footfall to the earth,
 He pressed her dainty hand;


A tender touch, as light as love,
 Soft as his heart's desire;
But aye, in Katherine's artless blood,
 It woke no answering fire.


King Hal to gray Kimbolton came
 Erelong, and true love's sign,
Unused in colder Arragon,
 She prayed him to divine:


"Canst tell me, Sire," she said, "what mean
 The gentry of your land,
When softly, thus, and thus, they take
 And press a lady's hand?"


"Ha! ha!" laughed Hal, "but tell me, Chick,
 Each answering in course,
Do any press your hand?" "O yes,
 My Master of the Horse."


Off to the wars her gallant went,
 And pushed the foremost dikes,
And gashed his fair young form against
 A score of Flemish pikes.


Heart's blood ebbed fast; but Montagu,
 Dipping a finger, wove
These red words in his shield: "Dear Queen,
 I perish of your love!"


Kimbolton, after many a year,
 Again met Katherine's view:
The banished wife, with half a sigh,
 Remembered Montagu.


JEAN PROUVAIRE'S SONG AT THE BARRICADE

"While the men were making cartridges and the women lint; while a large frying-pan, full of melted pewter and lead, destined for the bullet-mould, was smoking over a burning furnace; while the videttes were watching the barricades with arms in their hands; while Enjolras, whom nothing could distract, was watching the videttes,—Combeferre, Courfeyrac, Jean Prouvaire, Feuilly Bossuet, Joly, Bahorel, a few others besides, sought each other and got together, as in the most peaceful days of their student-chats, and in a corner of this wine-shop changed into a casemate, within two steps of the redoubt which they had thrown up, their carbines, primed and loaded, resting on the back of their chairs, these gallant young men, so near their last hour, began to sing love-rhymes.... The hour, the place, these memories of youth recalled, the few stars which began to shine in the sky, the funereal repose of these deserted streets, the imminence of the inexorable event, gave a pathetic charm to these rhymes, murmured in a low tone in the twilight by Jean Prouvaire, who, as we have said, was a sweet poet." Les Miserable: Saint Denis, Book XII, chapter vi.

Do you remember our charming times,
 When we were both so young, and knew
Of naught on earth that was worth a wish
 But love, and to look our best,—we two;


When all your birthdays, added to mine,
 A total of forty would not bring,
And when, in our humble and cosey roost,
 All, even the Winter, to us was Spring?


Rare days! then prudish Manuel stalked,
 Paris a godly life essayed,
Foy thundered, and yes, 't was then a pin
 In your bodice pricked my hand that abrayed!


Every one ogled you. At Prado's,
 Where you and your briefless barrister dined,
You were so pretty, the roses, I thought,
 Turned to look at you from behind.


They seemed to whisper: "How handsome she is!
 What wavy tresses! what sweet perfume!
Under her mantle she hides her wings;
 Her flower of a bonnet is just in bloom!"


I roamed with you, pressing your dainty arm,
 And the passers thought that Love, in play,
Had mated, in unison so sweet,
 The gallant April with gentle May.


We lived so merrily, all by ourselves,
 On love,—that choice forbidden fruit,—
And never a word my mouth could speak
 But your heart already had followed suit.


The Sorbonne was that bucolic place
 Where night till day my passion throve:
'T is thus that an ardent youngster makes
 The Latin Quarter a Land of Love.


O Place Maubert! O Place Dauphine!
 Sky-parlor reaching heavenward far,
In whose depths, when you drew your stocking on,
 I saw, methought, a shining star.


Hard-learned Plato I've long forgot:
 Neither Malebranche nor Lamennais
Taught me such faith in Providence
 As the flower which in your bosom lay.


You were my servant and I your slave:
 O golden attic! O joy, at morn,
To lace you—watch you dressing, and viewing
 Your girlish face in that glass forlorn!


Ah! who indeed could ever forget
 The sky and dawn commingling still;
That ribbony, flowery, gauzy glory,
 And Love's sweet nonsense talked at will?


Our garden a pot of tulips was;
 Your petticoat curtained the window-pane;
I took for myself the earthen bowl,
 And passed you a cup of porcelain.


What huge disasters to make us fun!
 Your muff afire; your tippet lost;
And that cherished portrait of Shakespeare, sold,
 One hungry evening, at half its cost.


I was a beggar and you were kind:
 A kiss from your fair round arms I'd steal,
While the folio-Dante we gayly spread
 With a hundred chestnuts, our frugal meal.


And oh! when first my favored mouth
 A kiss to your burning lips had given,
You were dishevelled and all aglow;
 I, pale with rapture, believed in Heaven.


Do you remember our countless joys,
 Those neckerchiefs rumpled every day?
Alas, what sighs from our boding hearts
 The infinite skies have borne away!


TOUJOURS AMOUR

Prithee tell me, Dimple-Chin,
At what age does Love begin?
Your blue eyes have scarcely seen
Summers three, my fairy queen,
But a miracle of sweets,
Soft approaches, sly retreats,
Show the little archer there,
Hidden in your pretty hair;
When didst learn a heart to win?
Prithee tell me, Dimple-Chin!


 "Oh!" the rosy lips reply,
 "I can't tell you if I try.

'T is so long I can't remember:
 Ask some younger lass than I!"


Tell, O tell me, Grizzled-Face,
Do your heart and head keep pace?
When does hoary Love expire,
When do frosts put out the fire?
Can its embers burn below
All that chill December snow?
Care you still soft hands to press,
Bonny heads to smooth and bless?
When does Love give up the chase?
Tell, O tell me, Grizzled-Face!


 "Ah!" the wise old lips reply,
 "Youth may pass and strength may die;

But of Love I can't foretoken:
 Ask some older sage than I!"


THE TRYST

Sleeping, I dreamed that thou wast mine.
In some ambrosial lovers' shrine.
My lips against thy lips were pressed,
And all our passion was confessed;
So near and dear my darling seemed,
I knew not that I only dreamed.


Waking, this mid and moonlit night,
I clasp thee close by lover's right.
Thou fearest not my warm embrace,
And yet, so like the dream thy face
And kisses, I but half partake
The joy, and know not if I wake.


VIOLET EYES

One can never quite forget
Eyes like yours, May Margaret,
Eyes of dewy violet!
Nothing like them, Margaret,
Save the blossoms newly born
Of the May and of the Morn.


Oft my memory wanders back
To those burning eyes and black,
Whose heat-lightnings once could move
Me to passion, not to love;
Longer in my heart of hearts
Linger those disguisèd arts,
Which, betimes, a hazel pair
Used upon me unaware;
And the wise and tender gray—
Eyes wherewith a saint might pray—
Speak of pledges that endure
And of faith and vigils pure;
But for him who fain would know
All the fire the first can show,
All the art, or friendship fast,
Of the second and the last,—
And would gain a subtler worth,
Part of Heaven, part of earth,—
He these mingled rays can find
In but one immortal kind:
In those eyes of violet,
In your eyes, May Margaret!


AT TWILIGHT

The sunset darkens in the west,
 The sea-gulls haunt the bay,
And far and high the swallows fly
 To watch the dying day.
Now where is she that once with me
 The rippling waves would list?
And O for the song I loved so long,
 And the darling lips I kist!


Yon twinkling sail may whiter gleam
 Than falcon's snowy wing,
Her lances far the evening-star
 Beyond the waves may fling;
Float on, ah float, enchanted boat,
 Bear true hearts o'er the main,
But I shall guide thy helm no more,
 Nor whisper love again!


AUTUMN SONG

No clouds are in the morning sky,
 The vapors hug the stream,—
Who says that life and love can die
 In all this northern gleam?
At every turn the maples burn,
 The quail is whistling free,
The partridge whirs, and the frosted burs
 Are dropping for you and me.
 Ho! hilly ho! heigh O!
   Hilly ho!
In the clear October morning.


Along our path the woods are bold,
 And glow with ripe desire;
The yellow chestnut showers its gold,
 The sumachs spread their fire;
The breezes feel as crisp as steel,
 The buckwheat tops are red:
Then down the lane, love, scurry again,
 And over the stubble tread!
 Ho! hilly ho! heigh O!
   Hilly ho!
In the clear October morning.


WHAT THE WINDS BRING

Which is the Wind that brings the cold?
 The North-Wind, Freddy, and all the snow;
And the sheep will scamper into the fold
 When the North begins to blow.


Which is the Wind that brings the heat?
 The South-Wind, Katy; and corn will grow,
And peaches redden for you to eat,
 When the South begins to blow.


Which is the Wind that brings the rain?
 The East-Wind, Arty; and farmers know
That cows come shivering up the lane
 When the East begins to blow.


Which is the Wind that brings the flowers?
 The West-Wind, Bessy; and soft and low
The birdies sing in the summer hours
 When the West begins to blow.


THE SONGSTER

A MIDSUMMER CAROL

I

 Within our summer hermitage
 I have an aviary,—
 'T is but a little, rustic cage,
That holds a golden-winged Canary,
A bird with no companion of his kind.
 But when the warm south-wind
 Blows, from rathe meadows, over
 The honey-scented clover,
I hang him in the porch, that he may hear
The voices of the bobolink and thrush,
 The robin's joyous gush,
The bluebird's warble, and the tunes of all
Glad matin songsters in the fields anear.
 Then, as the blithe responses vary,
 And rise anew and fall,
 In every hush
 He answers them again,
 With his own wild, reliant strain,
As if he breathed the air of sweet Canary.


II

 Bird, bird of the golden wing,
 Thou lithe, melodious thing!
 Where hast thy music found?
 What fantasies of vale and vine,
 Of glades where orchids intertwine,
 Of palm-trees, garlanded and crowned,
 And forests flooded deep with sound,—
 What high imagining
 Hath made this carol thine?
 By what instinct art thou bound
 To all rare harmonies that be
 In those green islands of the sea,
 Where thy radiant, wildwood kin
 Their madrigals at morn begin,
 Above the rainbow and the roar
Of the long billow from the Afric shore?


 Asking other guerdon
 None, than Heaven's light,
 Holding thy crested head aright,
 Thy melody's sweet burden
 Thou dost proudly utter,
 With many an ecstatic flutter
 And ruffle of thy tawny throat
 For each delicious note.
 —Art thou a waif from Paradise,
 In some fine moment wrought
By an artist of the skies,
 Thou winged, cherubic Thought?


 Bird of the amber beak,
 Bird of the golden wing!
 Thy dower is thy carolling;
 Thou hast not far to seek
 Thy bread, nor needest wine
 To make thine utterance divine;
 Thou art canopied and clothed
 And unto Song betrothed!
 In thy lone aërial cage
 Thou hast thine ancient heritage;
 There is no task-work on thee laid
But to rehearse the ditties thou hast made;
 Thou hast a lordly store,
 And, though thou scatterest them free,
 Art richer than before,
 Holding in fee
 The glad domain of minstrelsy.


III

 Brave songster, bold Canary!
 Thou art not of thy listeners wary,
 Art not timorous, nor chary
 Of quaver, trill, and tone,
 Each perfect and thine own;
 But renewest, shrill or soft,
 Thy greeting to the upper skies,
 Chanting thy latest song aloft
 With no tremor or disguise.
 Thine is a music that defies
 The envious rival near;
 Thou hast no fear
Of the day's vogue, the scornful critic's sneer.


 Would, O wisest bard, that now
 I could cheerly sing as thou!
Would I might chant the thoughts which on me throng
 For the very joy of song!
 Here, on the written page,
 I falter, yearning to impart
The vague and wandering murmur of my heart,
 Haply a little to assuage
 This human restlessness and pain,
 And half forget my chain:
 Thou, unconscious of thy cage,
 Showerest music everywhere;
 Thou hast no care
But to pour out the largesse thou hast won
 From the south-wind and the sun;
 There are no prison-bars
Betwixt thy tricksy spirit and the stars.


 When from its delicate clay
 Thy little life shall pass away,
 Thou wilt not meanly die,
Nor voiceless yield to silence and decay;
 But triumph still in art
 And act thy minstrel-part,
 Lifting a last, long pæan
 To the unventured empyrean.
 —So bid the world go by,
 And they who list to thee aright,
Seeing thee fold thy wings and fall, shall say:
"The Songster perished of his own delight!"


STANZAS FOR MUSIC

(FROM AN UNFINISHED DRAMA)

Thou art mine, thou hast given thy word;
 Close, close in my arms thou art clinging;
 Alone for my ear thou art singing
A song which no stranger hath heard:
But afar from me yet, like a bird,
Thy soul, in some region unstirred,
 On its mystical circuit is winging.


Thou art mine, I have made thee mine own;
 Henceforth we are mingled forever:
 But in vain, all in vain, I endeavor—
Though round thee my garlands are thrown,
And thou yieldest thy lips and thy zone—
To master the spell that alone
 My hold on thy being can sever.


Thou art mine, thou hast come unto me!
 But thy soul, when I strive to be near it—
 The innermost fold of thy spirit—
Is as far from my grasp, is as free,
As the stars from the mountain-tops be,
As the pearl, in the depths of the sea,
 From the portionless king that would wear it.


THE FLIGHT OF THE BIRDS

 Whither away, Robin,
 Whither away?
Is it through envy of the maple-leaf,
 Whose blushes mock the crimson of thy breast,
 Thou wilt not stay?
The summer days were long, yet all too brief
 The happy season thou hast been our guest:
 Whither away?


 Whither away, Bluebird,
 Whither away?
The blast is chill, yet in the upper sky
 Thou still canst find the color of thy wing,
 The hue of May.
Warbler, why speed thy southern flight? ah, why,
 Thou too, whose song first told us of the Spring?
 Whither away?


 Whither away, Swallow,
 Whither away?
Canst thou no longer tarry in the North,
 Here, where our roof so well hath screened thy nest?
 Not one short day?
Wilt thou—as if thou human wert—go forth
 And wanton far from them who love thee best?
 Whither away?


SONG FROM A DRAMA

I know not if moonlight or starlight
 Be soft on the land and the sea,—
I catch but the near light, the far light,
 Of eyes that are burning for me;
The scent of the night, of the roses,
 May burden the air for thee, Sweet,—
'T is only the breath of thy sighing
 I know, as I lie at thy feet.


The winds may be sobbing or singing,
 Their touch may be fervent or cold,
The night-bells may toll or be ringing,—
 I care not, while thee I enfold!
The feast may go on, and the music
 Be scattered in ecstasy round,—
Thy whisper, "I love thee! I love thee!"
 Hath flooded my soul with its sound.


I think not of time that is flying,
 How short is the hour I have won,
How near is this living to dying,
 How the shadow still follows the sun;
There is naught upon earth, no desire,
 Worth a thought, though 't were had by a sign!
I love thee! I love thee! bring nigher
 Thy spirit, thy kisses, to mine.


THE SUN-DIAL

"Horas non numero nisi serenas"

Only the sunny hours
 Are numbered here,—
No winter-time that lowers,
 No twilight drear.
But from a golden sky
 When sunbeams fall,
Though the bright moments fly,—
 They're counted all.


My heart its transient woe
 Remembers not!
The ills of long ago
 Are half forgot;
But Childhood's round of bliss,
 Youth's tender thrill,
Hope's whisper, Love's first kiss,—
 They haunt me still!


Sorrows are everywhere,
 Joys—all too few!
Have we not had our share
 Of pleasure too?
No Past the glad heart cowers,
 No memories dark;
Only the sunny hours
 The dial mark.


MADRIGAL

DORUS TO LYCORIS, WHO REPROVED HIM FOR INCONSTANCY

Why should I constant be?
The bird in yonder tree,
 This leafy summer,
Hath not his last year's mate,
Nor dreads to venture fate
 With a new-comer.


Why should I fear to sip
The sweets of each red lip?
 In every bower
The roving bee may taste
(Lest aught should run to waste)
 Each fresh-blown flower.


The trickling rain doth fall
Upon us one and all;
 The south-wind kisses
The saucy milkmaid's cheek,
The nun's, demure and meek,
 Nor any misses.


Then ask no more of me
That I should constant be
 Nor eke desire it;
Take not such idle pains
To hold our love in chains,
 Nor coax, nor hire it.


Be all things in thyself,—
A sprite, a tricksy elf,
 Forever changing,
So that thy latest mood
May ever bring new food
 To Fancy ranging.


Forget what thou wast first,
And as I loved thee erst
 In soul and feature,
I'll love thee out of mind
When each new morn shall find
 Thee a new creature.


NOCTURNE

 The silent world is sleeping,
 And spirits hover nigh,
 With downward pinions keeping
 Our love from mortal eye,
 Nor any ear of Earth can hear
 The heart-beat and the sigh.


 Now no more the twilight bird
 Showers his triple notes around;
 In the dewy paths is heard
 No rude footfall's sound.
 In the stillness I await
 Thy coming late,
 In the dusk would lay my heart
Close to thine own, and say how dear thou art!


 O life! O rarest hour!
 When the dark world onward rolls,
 And the fiery planets drift,
 Then from our commingled souls
 Clouds of passion and of power,
 Flames of incense, lift!


 Come, for the world is turning
 To meet the morning star!
 Answer my spirit's yearning
 And seek the arms that call thee from afar:
 Let them close—ah, let them close
Around thee now, and lure thee to repose.

1878.


GUESTS AT YULE

 Noël! Noël!
 Thus sounds each Christmas bell
 Across the winter snow.
But what are the little footprints all
That mark the path from the church-yard wall?
They are those of the children waked to-night
From sleep by the Christmas bells and light:
 Ring sweetly, chimes! Soft, soft, my rhymes!
 Their beds are under the snow.


 Noël! Noël!
 Carols each Christmas bell.
 What are the wraiths of mist
That gather anear the window-pane
Where the winter frost all day has lain?
They are soulless elves, who fain would peer
Within, and laugh at our Christmas cheer:
 Ring fleetly, chimes! Swift, swift, my rhymes!
 They are made of the mocking mist.


 Noël! Noël!
 Cease, cease, each Christmas bell!
 Under the holly bough,
Where the happy children throng and shout,
What shadow seems to flit about?
Is it the mother, then, who died
Ere the greens were sere last Christmas-tide?
 Hush, falling chimes! Cease, cease, my rhymes!
 The guests are gathered now.

1882.


THE PILGRIMS

O pilgrim from the Indies!
 O guest from out the North,
Where low and dun the midnight sun
 Upon the wave rides forth!
What country is most dear of all
 Beneath the heaven blue?
The dearest land is one's own land,
 Go search the wide world through.


O know you not that henceforth
 All countries are as one?
Ere summer fail, the world shall hail
 Its golden year begun.
But still each pilgrim answering names
 The clime that gave him birth:
One's own land is the dearest land
 Of all fair lands on earth.

 Children's Song,
Columbian Exposition, 1893


FALSTAFF'S SONG

Where's he that died o' Wednesday?
 What place on earth hath he?
A tailor's yard beneath, I wot,
 Where worms approaching be;
For the wight that died o' Wednesday,
 Just laid the light below,
Is dead as the varlet turned to clay
 A score of years ago.


Where's he that died o' Sabba' day?
 Good Lord, I'd not be he!
The best of days is foul enough
 From this world's fare to flee;
And the saint that died o' Sabba' day,
 With his grave turf yet to grow,
Is dead as the sinner brought to pray
 A hundred years ago.


Where's he that died o' yesterday?
 What better chance hath he
To clink the can and toss the pot
 When this night's junkets be?
For the lad that died o' yesterday
 Is just as dead—ho! ho!—
As the whoreson knave men laid away
 A thousand years ago.


PROVENÇAL LOVERS

AUCASSIN AND NICOLETTE

Within the garden of Beaucaire
He met her by a secret stair,—
The night was centuries ago.
Said Aucassin, "My love, my pet,
These old confessors vex me so!
They threaten all the pains of hell
Unless I give you up, ma belle";—
Said Aucassin to Nicolette.


"Now, who should there in Heaven be
To fill your place, ma très-douce mie?
To reach that spot I little care!
There all the droning priests are met;
All the old cripples, too, are there
That unto shrines and altars cling
To filch the Peter-pence we bring";—
Said Aucassin to Nicolette.


"There are the barefoot monks and friars
With gowns well tattered by the briars,
The saints who lift their eyes and whine:
I like them not—a starveling set!
Who'd care with folk like these to dine?
The other road 't were just as well
That you and I should take, ma belle!"—
Said Aucassin to Nicolette.


"To purgatory I would go
With pleasant comrades whom we know,
Fair scholars, minstrels, lusty knights
Whose deeds the land will not forget,
The captains of a hundred fights,
The men of valor and degree:
We'll join that gallant company,"—
Said Aucassin to Nicolette.


"There, too, are jousts and joyance rare,
And beauteous ladies debonair,
The pretty dames, the merry brides,
Who with their wedded lords coquette
And have a friend or two besides,—
And all in gold and trappings gay,
With furs, and crests in vair and gray"
Said Aucassin to Nicolette.


"Sweet players on the cithern strings,
And they who roam the world like kings,
Are gathered there, so blithe and free!
Pardie! I'd join them now, my pet,
If you went also, ma douce mie!
The joys of heaven I'd forego
To have you with me there below,"—
Said Aucassin to Nicolette.

1878.


THE WEDDING-DAY

I

Sweetheart, name the day for me
When we two shall wedded be.
Make it ere another moon,
While the meadows are in tune,
And the trees are blossoming,
And the robins mate and sing.
Whisper, love, and name a day
In this merry month of May.


  No, no, no,
You shall not escape me so!
Love will not forever wait;
Roses fade when gathered late.


II

Fie, for shame, Sir Malcontent!
How can time be better spent
Than in wooing? I would wed
When the clover blossoms red,
When the air is full of bliss.
And the sunshine like a kiss.
If you're good I'll grant a boon:
You shall have me, sir, in June.


  Nay, nay, nay,
Girls for once should have their way!
If you love me, wait till June:
Rosebuds wither, picked too soon.

1878.


THE DUTCH PATROL

When Christmas-Eve is ended,
 Just at the noon of night,
Rare things are seen by mortal een
 That have the second sight.
In St. Mark's church-yard then
 They see the shape arise
Of him who ruled Nieuw Amsterdam
 And here in slumber lies.


His face, beneath the close black cap,
 Has a martial look and grim;
On either side his locks fall wide
 To the broad collar's rim;
His sleeves are slashed; the velvet coat
 Is fashioned Hollandese
Above his fustian breeches, trimmed
 With scarf-knots at the knees.


His leg of flesh is hosed in silk;
 His wooden leg is bound,
As well befits a conqueror's,
 With silver bands around.
He reads the lines that mark
 His tablet on the wall,
Where boldly Petrus Stuyvesant
 Stands out beyond them all.


"'Tis well!" he says, and sternly smiles,
 "They hold our memory dear;
Nor rust nor moss hath crept across;
 'T will last this many a year."
Then down the path he strides,
 And through the iron gate,
Where the sage Nine Men, his councillors,
 Their Governor await.


Here are Van der Donck and Van Cortlandt,
 A triplet more of Vans,
And Hendrick Kip of the haughty lip,
 And Govert Loockermans,
Jan Jansen Dam, and Jansen,
 Of whom our annals tell,—
All risen this night their lord to greet
 At sound of the Christmas bell.


Nine lusty forms in linsey coats,
 Puffed sleeves and ample hose!
Each burgher smokes a Flemish pipe
 To warm his ancient nose;
The smoke-wreaths rise like mist,
 The smokers all are mute,
Yet all, with pipes thrice waving slow,
 Brave Stuyvesant salute.


Then into ranks they fall,
 And step out three by three,
And he of the wooden leg and staff
 In front walks solemnly.
Along their wonted course
 The phantom troop patrol,
To see how fares Nieuw Amsterdam,
 And what the years unroll.


Street after street and mile on mile,
 From river bound to bound,
From old St. Mark's to Whitehall Point,
 They foot the limits round;
From Maiden Lane to Corlaer's Hook
 The Dutchmen's pijpen glow,
But never a word from their lips is heard,
 And none their passing know.

Ere the first streak of dawn
 St. Mark's again they near,
And by a vault the Nine Men halt,
 Their Governor's voice to hear.
"Mynheeren," he says, "ye see
 Each year our borders spread!
Lo, one by one, the landmarks gone,
 And marvels come instead!


"Not even a windmill left,
 Nor a garden-plot we knew,
And but a paling marks the spot
 Where erst my pear-tree grew.
Our walks are wearier still,—
 Perchance and it were best,
So little of worth is left on earth,
 To break no more our rest?"


Thus speaks old Petrus doubtfully
 And shakes his valiant head,
When—on the roofs a sound of hoofs,
 A rattling, pattering tread!
The bells of reindeer tinkle,
 The Dutchmen plainly spy
St. Nicholas, who drives his team
 Across the roof-tops nigh.


"Beshrew me for a craven!"
 Cries Petrus—"All goes well!
Our patron saint still makes his round
 At sound of the Christmas bell.
So long as stanch St. Nicholas
 Shall guard these houses tall,
There shall come no harm from hostile arm—
 No evil chance befall!


"The yongens and the meisjes
 Shall have their hosen filled;
The butcher and the baker,
 And every honest guild,
Shall merrily thrive and flourish;
 Good-night, and be of cheer;
We may safely lay us down again
 To sleep another year!"


Once more the pipes are waved,
 Stout Petrus gives the sign,
The misty smoke enfolds them round,—
 Him and his burghers nine.
All, when the cloud has lifted,
 Have vanished quite away,
And the crowing cock and steeple clock
 Proclaim 't is Christmas-Day.

1882.


AARON BURR'S WOOING

From the commandant's quarters on Westchester height
The blue hills of Ramapo lie in full sight;
On their slope gleam the gables that shield his heart's queen,
But the redcoats are wary—the Hudson's between.
Through the camp runs a jest: "There's no moon—'t will be dark;
'T is odds little Aaron will go on a spark!"
And the toast of the troopers is: "Pickets, lie low,
And good luck to the colonel and Widow Prevost!"


Eight miles to the river he gallops his steed,
Lays him bound in the barge, bids his escort make speed,
Loose their swords, sit athwart, through the fleet reach yon shore,
Not a word—not a plash of the thick-muffled oar!
Once across, once again in the seat and away—
Five leagues are soon over when love has the say;
And "Old Put" and his rider a bridle-path know
To the Hermitage manor of Madame Prevost.


Lightly done! but he halts in the grove's deepest glade,
Ties his horse to a birch, trims his cue, slings his blade,
Wipes the dust and the dew from his smooth, handsome face,
With the 'kerchief she broidered and bordered in lace;
Then slips through the box-rows and taps at the hall,
Sees the glint of a waxlight, a hand white and small,
And the door is unbarred by herself all aglow—
Half in smiles, half in tears—Theodosia Prevost.


Alack for the soldier that's buried and gone!
What's a volley above him, a wreath on his stone,
Compared with sweet life and a wife for one's view
Like this dame, ripe and warm in her India fichu?
She chides her bold lover, yet holds him more dear,
For the daring that brings him a night-rider here;
British gallants by day through her doors come and go,
But a Yankee's the winner of Theo Prevost.


Where's the widow or maid with a mouth to be kist,
When Burr comes a-wooing, that long would resist?
Lights and wine on the beaufet, the shutters all fast,
And "Old Put" stamps in vain till an hour has flown past—
But an hour, for eight leagues must be covered ere day;
Laughs Aaron, "Let Washington frown as he may,
When he hears of me next, in a raid on the foe,
He'll forgive this night's tryst with the Widow Prevost!"

 1886.


CENTURIA

(TWELFTH NIGHT CHORUS, CENTURY ASSOCIATION)

The burthen is all that there is of this song,
 Centuria!
Let it sound through the halls where our memories throng—
Where thy dead and thy living commingled belong;
 Centuria, Centuria, vivat Centuria!


Let it sound till the wise and the gentle and brave,
 Centuria,
Come back from the vale where their soft grasses wave,
And list to our revel and join in the stave;
 Centuria, Centuria, vivat Centuria!


For the pen, lute and gown, and the iris-hued sky,
 Centuria,
Were theirs, and are ours while the nights still go by
With song, wit and wassail, and true hearts anigh.
 Centuria, Centuria, vivat Centuria!


Then love as they loved when thine eldest was young,
 Centuria!
O the comrades that gossipped and painted and sung,
O the smoke-cloud that lingers their places among!
 Centuria, Centuria, vivat Centuria!


And sing as they'll sing in thy fair years untold,
 Centuria,
Strong hearts that shall follow, as tender and bold;
We may fade, we shall pass, but thou growest not old;
 Centuria, Centuria, vivat Centuria!

 1892.