|←Introductory stanzas||Street Cries
|II. The Ship of Earth→|
|This is the first poem of Lanier’s collection Street Cries. Lanier composed this poem in Baltimore, Maryland 1878–79.|
“Opinion, let me alone: I am not thine.
Prim Creed, with categoric point, forbear
To feature me my Lord by rule and line.
Thou canst not measure Mistress Nature’s hair,
Not one sweet inch: nay, if thy sight is sharp,
Would’st count the strings upon an angel’s harp?
“Oh let me love my Lord more fathom deep
Than there is line to sound with: let me love
My fellow not as men that mandates keep:
Yea, all that’s lovable, below, above,
That let me love by heart, by heart, because
(Free from the penal pressure of the laws)
I find it fair.
“The tears I weep by day and bitter night,
Opinion! for thy sole salt vintage fall.
—As morn by morn I rise with fresh delight,
Time through my casement cheerily doth call
‘Nature is new, ’tis birthday every day,
Come feast with me, let no man say me nay,
“So fare I forth to feast: I sit beside
Some brother bright: but, ere good-morrow’s passed,
Burly Opinion wedging in hath cried
‘Thou shalt not sit by us, to break thy fast,
Save to our Rubric thou subscribe and swear—
‘Religion hath blue eyes and yellow hair:’
She’s Saxon, all.’
“Then, hard a-hungered for my brother’s grace
Till well-nigh fain to swear his folly’s true,
In sad dissent I turn my longing face
To him that sits on the left: ‘Brother,—with you?’
—‘Nay, not with me, save thou subscribe and swear
‘Religion hath black eyes and raven hair:’
Nought else is true.’
“Debarred of banquets that my heart could make
With every man on every day of life,
I homeward turn, my fires of pain to slake
In deep endearments of a worshipped wife.
‘I love thee well, dear Love,’ quoth she, ‘and yet
Would that thy creed with mine completely met,
As one, not two.’
“Assassin! Thief! Opinion, ’tis thy work.
By Church, by throne, by hearth, by every good
That’s in the Town of Time, I see thee lurk,
And e’er some shadow stays where thou hast stood.
Thou hand’st sweet Socrates his hemlock sour;
Thou sav’st Barabbas in that hideous hour,
And stabb’st the good
“Deliverer Christ; thou rack’st the souls of men;
Thou tossest girls to lions and boys to flames;
Thou hew’st Crusader down by Saracen;
Thou buildest closets full of secret shames;
Indifferent cruel, thou dost blow the blaze
Round Ridley or Servetus; all thy days
Smell scorched; I would
“—Thou base-born Accident of time and place—
Bigot Pretender unto Judgment’s throne—
Bastard, that claimest with a cunning face
Those rights the true, true Son of Man doth own
By Love’s authority—thou Rebel cold
At head of civil wars and quarrels old—
Thou Knife on a throne—
“I would thou left’st me free, to live with love,
And faith, that through the love of love doth find
My Lord’s dear presence in the stars above,
The clods below, the flesh without, the mind
Within, the bread, the tear, the smile.
Opinion, damned Intriguer, gray with guile,
Let me alone.”