The poems of Richard Watson Gilder/The Fire Divine
THE FIRE DIVINE
THE FIRE DIVINE
THE FIRE DIVINE
He who hath the sacred fire
Hidden in his heart of hearts,
It shall burn him clean and pure,
Make him conquer, make endure.
He to all things may aspire,
King of days, and souls, and arts.
Failure, fright, and dumb dismay
Are but wings upon his way.
Imagination and desire
Are his slaves and implements.
Faiths and foul calamities,
And the eternal ironies,
Are but voices in his choir.
Musician of decreed events—
Hungers, happinesses, hates,
Friendships lost, all adverse fates,
All passions and all elements,
Are but golden instruments
In his glorious symphonies.
Subject to his firm decrees
Are the heavens, are the seas;
But in utter humbleness
Reigns he, not to ban, but bless—
Cleansed, and conquering, and benign
Bearer of the fire divine.
(AT A LECTURE)
Such pictures of the heavens were never seen.
We stood at the steep edge of the abyss
And looked out on the making of the suns.
The skies were powdered with the white of stars
And the pale ghosts of systems yet to be;
While here and there a nebulous spiral told,
Against the dark, the story of the orbs—
From the impalpable condensing slow
Through ages infinite.
Each mighty shape
Seemed as the shape of speed—a whirling wheel
And yet no eye of man may see it stir.
(That moveless motion brings to the human brain
A hint of the large measurements of time—
Eternity made present.)
Such new sense
Of magnitudes that make our world an atom
Might crush the soul, did not this saving thought
Leap to the mind and lift it to clear hights:—
"'T is but the unseen that grows not old nor dies,
Suffers not change, nor waning, nor decay.
This that we see—this casual glimpse within
The seething pit of space; these million stars
And worlds in making, these are naught but matter;
These all are but the dust upon our feet,
And we who gaze forth fearless on the sight
Find not one equal, facing from the vast
Our sentient selves. Not one, sole, lonely star
In all the infinite glitter and deep light
Can make one conscious movement; all are slaves
To law material, immutable—
That Power immense, mysterious, intense,
Unseen as our own souls, but which must be
Like them the home of thought, with will and might
To stamp on mindless matter the soul's will.
Yea, in these souls of ours triumphant dwells
Some segment of the large creative Power—
A thing beyond the things of sight and sense;
A strength to think, a force to conquer force.
One are we with the ever-living One."
(AFTER READING A WORK ON ASTRONOMY)
I see it all; my soul the dregs hath drunk
Of man's last, helpless, hopeless destiny;
Born of the primal ooze, where slow light sunk,
And climbing to the secrets of the sky;
Through countless million years the spiral mounts
Till nature, a companionable slave,
Bows to man's bidding; lo, then, the deep founts
Run gradual dry, earth turns its own chill grave:
The insatiate desert marches on the sown,
The sea exhales, the very air is gone,
And, gasping in the silent void, the race
Dies with the planet.—But not this the doom
Of man's outlooking soul; that hath no tomb,
Being quenchless as the law and lord of space.
THE OLD FAITH
On that old faith I will take hold once more—
Now that the long waves bear me to the shore
And life's brief voyage is o'er;
Near is the looked-for land—
One wild leap on the strand
And the dear souls I loved of old
I shall again behold,
And arms that held me once shall hold again.
In blinding ways of men
Long did I mourning doubt,
Saying: "Into the universe have they gone out
And shall be lost
In the wide waves of unseen, infinite force;
For nature heeds not all the bitter cost,
But rushes on its course
Unto the far, determined goal,
Without self-conscious knowledge, or remorse."
But now the time is come, the test draws near,
And sudden my soul is innocent of fear.
O ye beloved! I come! I cry
With the old passion ye shall not deny!
I know you, as I knew
When life was in its dew;
Ah, naught of me has suffered inward change,
Nor can be change essential even in you,
However far the freer spirit's range.
Soul shall find soul; there is no distance
That bars love's brave insistence,
And nothing truly dies
In all the infinite realm of woe and weal;
Throughout creation's bound thrill answers thrill
And love to love replies.
THE DOUBTER'S SOLILOQUY
A white lie, even as the black, I learned to hate;
Being taught clear truth by honest parentage,
And, haply, somewhat morbid in this matter.
'T would come, I fear, not easy to deceive
Even death-beds, for their good, that men, indeed,
Might, as they say, "die happy." (Not that I
Have never eased, by little lies that helped,—
Being gray with years,—to smooth a neighbor's path,
Or even mine own.) And when I've read brave tales
Wherein the hero like a hero lied,
And saved the other hero from some shame,
Or loss, or ill that seemed itself a lie,
Such tragi-comedies, I ve thought, mayhap
Argued a sophist mind in them who wrote.
Once reading such a pretty history
The thought came on me with a sickening stroke:
"But what of all the martyrs who died singing,
Smiling and singing in the face of pain,
Of tortured, useless death; seeing just beyond
The flame, the scorch, the shudder—sudden joy;
Joy so intense it threw a splendor back
Into the midst of unfelt agonies!
And what of those, the unknown martyrdoms,
The myriads of faithful, humble souls
Who horribly suffered through long, faithful lives,
Seeing the peace of God beyond the strife!
What of all these if there be no awakening?
If He permitted the Colossal Lie
As opiate for the agony of life—
Who were the sophist then?"
But a voice spake
And said: "Your argument requires a God
All powerful, all present, and all wise,
Who could prevent false notions of Himself
And His designs to fasten on men's minds.
If such a God exists, this is most sure—
He wills not to make plain His character
And mode of government; witness through time
A thousand gods, religions without end,
Each in some souls,—all reverent and sincere,—
Supreme, unquestioned; gods that grimly held
Races and ages round about their thrones.
"Your very doubt creates a mighty Power,
Invisible, yet having human traits,
And Him you judge with your sole, finite mind—
You doubt, you dread, you trouble your sad soul.
Were it not best to follow those twin stars
Which light each mortal path: the double stars
Of Love and Duty? If by these you walk
(This has been proved), a solace shall arrive—
A noble solace, a majestic joy.
Whatever of life is worthy of the soul
Then shall be yours. Disdain, disdain all else!"
True love to liberty is never foe,
And he who truly loves is truly free:
Thus thought I when I heard the pulsing flow
Of mighty music rushing gloriously
Along the channels of unchanging law;
Thus thought I when I gazed upon the skies
And there the circling universe I saw
Moving obedient in glad harmonies
About a central, inescapable power:
No sun, nor planet, nor wild comet's course
But owns that sway in every separate hour
Of all its centuries; to that one force
Freely it yields,—as hearts that never rove,
But pour their being in a single love.
And can it be?
The heart that in the earth's far dawn knew God;
The thought that seized the circling of the stars;
The soul of fire that on that hill of Athens
Builded immortal beauty; the brain enorm
That peopled for all men and for all time
A world Shakespearian; and can it be?—
The mind imperial named Beethoven,
Majestically chanting harmonies
That hold the motions of the rhythmic worlds,
And to far doomsday stir all living hearts;
And he the framer of earth's mightiest dome,
Painter sublime and poet marvelous,
Who carved the likeness of his soul in stone,
And in cold marble the hot heart of man
Imprisoned eternally; and can it be?—
These, these and all the potencies of time
Which throbbed in human form; and can it be
That the intensive fire which made them men,
Not trees, nor creeping beasts, nor stones, nor stars,
And gave identity to every soul
Making it individual and alone
Among the myriads; and can it be
That, when the mortal framework failed, this fire,—
Which flamed in separate and lonely life,—
These souls, slipt out of being and were lost,
Eternally extinguished and cast out:
Only to some obscure electric wave
Giving new force, to some stray flower new grace,
Unto some lover's vow more ardency;
Making some island sunset more intense,
Passing from fiery thought to chemic heat—
But all the universe empty of that one high
And exquisite accomplishment and power,
Forever and forever—can it be?
"SPARE ME MY DREAMS"
Relentless Time, that gives both harsh and kind,
Brave let me be
To take thy various gifts with equal mind,
And proud humility;
But, even by day, while the full sunlight streams,
Give me my dreams!
Whatever, Time, thou takest from my heart,
What from my life,
From what dear thing thou yet may'st make me part—
Plunge not too deep the knife;
As dies the day, and the long twilight gleams,
Spare me my dreams!
(THANKSGIVING FOR SAINTS AND PROPHETS)
To Thee, Eternal Soul, be praise!
Who, from of old to our own days
Through souls of saints and prophets, Lord,
Hast sent Thy light, Thy love, Thy word.
We thank Thee for each mighty one
Through whom Thy living light hath shone;
And for each humble soul and sweet
That lights to heaven our wandering feet.
We thank Thee for the love divine
Made real in every saint of Thine;
That boundless love itself that gives
In service to each soul that lives.
We thank Thee for the word of might
The Spirit spake in darkest night;
Spake through the trumpet voices loud
Of prophets at Thy throne who bowed.
Eternal Soul, our souls keep pure,
That like Thy saints we may endure;
Forever through Thy servants, Lord,
Send Thou Thy light, Thy love, Thy word.
THE VALLEY OF LIFE
When I was a child joyfully I ran, hand claspt in hand, now with my mother, now with my father, or with younger, blithe companions, now in sunlight, now in shadow and dread, through the strange new Valley of Life.
Sometimes on the high-road, then over the fields and meadows, or through the solemn forests; sometimes along the happy brook-side, listening to its music or the clamor of the falls, as the pleasant waters hurried or grew still, in the winding way down the Valley of Life.
And as we moved along, hand claspt in hand, sometimes the hand-clasp was broken, and I, a happy child, ran swiftly aside from the path to gather flower or fruit or get sight of a singing bird; or to lean down and pluck a pearly stone from under the lapping waves; or climbed a tree and swayed, shouting, on its waving boughs—then returning to the clasp of loving hands, and so passing on and on down the opening Valley of Life.
In the bright morning I walked wondering; wondering I walked through the still twilight and many-colored sunset; watching the great stars gather, and lost in the mystery of worlds beyond number, and spaces beyond thought, till, side by side, we lay down to sleep under the stars in the Valley of Life and of Dreams.
Then there came a time when the hands that held me,—the loving hands that guided my steps and drew me gently on,—turned cold, and slipt from my grasp; I waited, but they came not back, and slowly and alone I plodded on down the Valley of Life and of Death.
"Where went they?" I asked my heart and the whispering waters and the sighing trees. "Where went my loving and well-belovèd guides? Did they climb the hills and tarry; did they, tired, lie down to sleep and forget me forever; leaving me to journey on without their dear care down the long Valley of Life?"
I could not know, for I heard no answer except my own heart's beating. But other comrades came,—one dearer than all,—and as time went on I felt the little hands of my own children clasping mine while, once more happy and elate, with them I traveled down the miraculous Valley of Life.
But, as on we wander, hearing their bright voices, and seeing their joy upon the way,—their happy chasings here and there, their eager run to hold again our hands,—how soon, I think, shall I feel the slipping away of the clasping fingers while I fall asleep by the wayside, or climb the cloud-enveloped hills, and leave those I love to journey on down the lonely Valley of Life?
And I say: "Surely the day and the hour hasten; grief will be theirs for a season; then will they, as did I, with brave hearts journey on the appointed way." But where then shall my spirit rest? Will it sink unconscious into endless night? or shall I, in some new dawn, and by some unimagined miracle not less than that which brought me here, wander, with those that led me once, and those I led, hand claspt in hand, as of old, by the murmuring waters and under the singing trees of the ever-wonderful, the never-ending Valley of Life?
TO ONE IMPATIENT OF FORM IN ART
Chide not the poet that he strives for beauty,
If still forthright he chants the thing he would—
If still he knows, nor can escape, the dire
Necessity and burden of straight speech;
Not his the fault should music haunt the stroke,
When to the marrow cleaves the lyric knife.
Who poured the violent ocean, and who called
Earthquake and tempest and the crash of doom,
He spread the sea all beautiful at dawn,
And curved the bright bow 'gainst the black, spent storm;
He framed these late and lovely violets
That under autumn leaves surprise the heart.
Blame not the seeker of beauty if his soul
Seeks it, in reverent and determined quest,
And in the sacred love of loveliness
Which God, the all-giver, gave—and satisfies;
Fearing lest he match not life s poignant breath
And the keen beauty of the blossoming day.
No poet he who knows not the great joy
That pulses in the flow and rush of rhythm,—
Rhythm which is the seed and life of life,
And of all art the root, and branch, and bloom,—
Knows not the strength that comes when vibrant thought
Beats 'gainst the bounds of fixèd time and space;
For law unto the master is pure freedom,
The prison-house a garden of delight.
So doth the blown breath from the bugle's walls
Issue in most triumphant melody;
So doth the impassioned poet's perfect verse,
Confined in law eternal, mate the stars.
TO THE POET
Let not thy listening spirit be abashed
By the majestic ranks of ancient bards
Or all the clarion singers of thy day:
For in thy true and individual song
Thou art a voice of nature; as the wind,
And cries of moving waters, and all shows
And speaking symbols of the universe
Are but the glorious sound and utterance
Of the mysterious power that spake the Word—
The immense first word that filled with splendid light
And vibrant potency the house of life;
Whose candles are a million, million stars,
Whose windows look on gulfs unthinkable
That bound our world. Think not on thine own self,
But on the enormous currents silently
That flood the unseen channels of still force,
Or with the sound of earthquake and the shout
Of circling storms complete an unknown doom.
Thine is the fate and function mystical,
In forms of lyric and eternal art,
Clearly to utter and re-syllable
The primal Word:—So is thy verse of kin
To the sea-shell, the lily, and the leaf.
It hath a natural right and majesty,
Being of the infinite, all-evolving power
True jet and symbol; kin to the morning star
That in the sky of dawn sings with its mates.
The Angel of Life stood forth on the threshold of Birth
And converse held with a spirit about to be born;
And the Angel announced to the Soul awaiting its world:
Choose thou! for now thou must choose, and never hereafter.
And if thou to beauty shalt bow, to Beauty and Art,
And if to thy spirit all exquisite things be revealed,
If the fate of the poet be thine, if a god thou wouldst be,
If thou in thy soul wouldst joyfully seize and encompass
The glories and grandeurs of earth, the sweetness supreme,
The vision angelic, forbidden to eyes unanointed,
The melodies silent to all save the holy of spirit,
The signs and the secrets, the splendors, the exaltations,
If these thou shalt choose, if these thou wouldst know and impart,
Even so—but forget not the price of the infinite wisdom,
For the price of the passion of joy is the passion of sorrow,
And the cost of thy heaven is the burning and anguish of hell.
THE POET'S SECRET
The secret he has learned it
And only, only he:
Heaven in his heart hath burned it;
To him alone 't is free,
And them from him who learned it
In wise simplicity.
From thousand suns it flashes,
It leaps in flower and flame;
The spring, from winter's ashes,
Cries out its silent name—
The secret of the ages
That, to the poet came.
Unknown to all the sages,
However wise they be,
Through his quick veins it rages
And soul of ecstasy;
It lightnings from his pages,
In all his songs 't is sung:
The secret of the ages—
To be forever young.
"THE DAY BEGAN AS OTHER DAYS BEGIN"
The day began as other days begin,
The round of work, the implacable city's din;
The New World's Babel, louder with each hour.
Then in a by-way,—a still, secret bower,—
A temple given to silence and to books;
And in its heart a sacred nook of nooks.
There, in the silence, from a priceless store
Of written tomes, a guardian of their lore
A manuscript uplifted to my view,
With reverent, loving hands—and then withdrew.
Opening the book my gaze fell on that line
Wherein the marvelous poet, the divine
Singer of Endymion, his deathless song
Began, and so beginning made immortal.
O dead, undying bard! now all the wrong
Fate did thee rose; through Memory's drapèd portal
Trooped, in wan figures, all thy tragic story—
But mightier still the wonder and the glory
Of that white page whereon thy soul was poured.
Then with thy spirit my spirit likewise soared;
Something immortal entered in this breast
Miraculously; and like one confessed
And throughly shriven, back to the world I turned
While a new heart within me flamed and burned.
And yet that morn, when grew the glare and din,
The day began, as other days begin.
A POET'S QUESTION
What, then, shall make these songs of mine more real;
More tuneful, piercing, bright—miraculous,
As art should be? Shall some high, fortunate chant,
Some song to come, flood backward on them all,—
Over every word in all the singing flock,—
A light, a meaning; a power to seize, to thrill;
A swift beatitude and haunting beauty;
Shall make of them a trouble to the base,
Scourge to the false, sun to the darkened soul,
Help to the fainting, succor to the bruised,
A judgment to the heeding and unheeding?
Or shall a flame leap from the singer's flight,
Making them luminous in sudden dawn—
Bright in the chrism of Death.
PRELUDE FOR "A BOOK OF MUSIC"
Without intent, I find a book I've writ
And music is the pleasant theme of it;
For tho' I can no music make, I trust
Here's proof I love it.
Tho' no reasoning fine
Should any ask to show this art divine,
Yet have I known even poets who refuse
To name pure music as an equal muse.
If music pleased them, 't was not deeply felt,
And in its charms they deemed it shame to melt;
For that, they held, it is an art where might
Even children give its votaries delight,
And therefore lacking in the things of mind.
But 't is not argued well. There is a kind
Of music that a little child can give,
Echoing great masters; but the masters live
Not in such echo—elfish, immature;
'T is but a part of them. Ah, be ye sure
Tho' lovely, not the loveliest; that must wait
For him who noble moods can recreate
With solemn, subtile, and deep-thoughted art
That wins the mind or e'er it takes the heart.
For that a child may gracious music make
Is but a sign that music doth partake
Of something deep, primeval, that began
When God dreamed of Himself, and fashioned man.
'T is near the source of being; it repeats
The vibrancy that runs in rhythmic beats
Through all the shaken universe; and tho'
Its language shall take not the ebb and flow
Of speech articulate, it is that tone
Cleaves closer to life's core; the thing alone
Well-nigh it is, not thought about the thing;
No pictured flight across a painted sky—
The bird itself, the beating of its wing;
The pang that is a cry;
Not human language, but pure ecstasy.
In this my Book of Music which hath come
As does a lover's litany by some
Miraculous chance, with added song to song,
I trust I have my Lady done no wrong,
My Lady of Melody I worshipt long.
Blameless the artist praises the sweet rose
If in his art he aim not to compose
An image, all inanimate, that seeks
To copy shrewdly those inviolate cheeks
Or the rich, natural odor imitate;
But shows, as best he can, its grace and state,
The love that in him burns for this fair flower,
And all his joy therein, for one sweet hour.
Nor shall the poet subtly strive to phrase
For any heart save his what music says;
For,—as before the autumn skies and woods,—
A meaning gleams through our own human moods:
Yet is the meaning real; and many a wound
Wherewith our spirits are beaten to the ground
Heals 'neath the sanctity of noble sound.
Ah, not to match the music of the wires
Or trembling breath, the instruments and choirs,
But to tell truly how that moves the soul
In the impassionate and rhythmic word,
By poesy's proper art—which must be heard
Even as music is! Not to forget
The viol and the harp, the clarinet,
The booming organ; too, the intertwined
Voices wherewith the sounding, rich clavier,
Struck by the master's hand, enchants the ear—
If so may be to catch a fleeting strain
And in new art imprison it again!
Then let him list to music who would rhyme;
For every art, tho' separate, may learn,
From the great souls in all, how to make burn
Brighter the light of beauty through all time.
And scorn not thou to read of music's power
Over one soul that in great humbleness
His memory brings of many a happy hour,
Hoping these echoed tones some wounded heart may bless.
MUSIC AT TWILIGHT
O, give me music in the twilight hour!
Then, skilled musician! thou of the magic power,
Summon the souls of masters long since gone
Who through thine art live on!
As the day dies I would once more respire
The passion of that spirit whose keen fire
Flashes and flames in yearning and unrest
And never-ending quest.
Or listen to the quick, electric tones,
Or moods of majesty, of him who owns
The secret of the thrill that shakes the earth
And moves the stars in mirth
And I would walk the shore of sound with him
Whose voice was as the voice of cherubim:
Musician most authentic and sublime
Of all the sons of time.
Bring their deep joys, the breath of solitudes,
Dear dreams and longings, and high, hero moods;
Ay, bring me their melodious despairs
To die in twilight airs.
For, given a rhythmic voice, re-uttered so,
Sorrow itself is lost in the large flow
Of nature; and of life is made such part
As doth enrich the heart;
And on the tide of music, to my soul
Shall enter beauty's solace—life be whole,
Not broken by chords discordant, but most sweet,
In sequent tones complete.
Great is the true interpreter, for like
No other art, two sentient souls must strike
The spark of music that in blackness lies
'Mid silent harmonies,
Till, at a cunning touch, the long-lost theme
Newly imagined, and new-born in dream,
Clothed gloriously in garment of sweet sound
Wakes from its darkened swound.
So would I ask, Musician! of thy grace
That thou wouldst bless and sanctify the place
With august harmonies, well-loved of old;—
But from thy manifold
Miraculous memory fail not of thine own
Imaginings enraptured of pure tone,
That I may nearer draw to music's shrine,
And mystery divine.
MUSIC IN MOONLIGHT
Was ever music lovelier than to-night?
'T was Schumann's Song of Moonlight; o'er the vale
The new moon lingered near the western hills;
The hearth-fire glimmered low; but melting tones
Blotted all else from memory and thought,
And all the world was music. Wondrous hour!
Then sank anew into our trancèd hearts
One secret and deep lesson of sweet sound—
The loveliness that from unloveliness
Outsprings, flooding the soul with poignant joy,
As the harmonious chords to harsh succeed,
And the rapt spirit climbs through pain to bliss:
Eternal question, answer infinite;
As day to night replies; as light to shade;
As summer to rough winter; death to life—
Death not a closing, but an opening door;
A deepened life, a prophecy fulfilled.
Not in the very present comes reply,
But in the flow of time. Should the song cease
Too soon; ere yet the rooted answer blooms,
Lo, what a pang of loss and dissonance!
But time with the resolving and intended tone
Heals all, and makes all beautiful and right.
Even so our mortal music-makers frame
Their messages melodious to men;
Even so the Eternal His high harmonies
Fashions, supreme, of life, and fate, and time.
THE UNKNOWN SINGER
One singer in the oratorio,
Her only did I see, nor can forget;
Nor knew her name, nor have I seen her more,
Nor could I in the chorus find her voice.
Her swaying, gracious form, her face alight
As with an inner flame of melody—
These seized me; seemed the white embodiment
Of all the angelic voices richly poured
In a great rushing and harmonious flood.
That human form, all beautiful and bright,
Lived the pure, conscious, glorious instrument
Wherethrough the master made his message felt—
Conscious, but with no shallow vanity,
A breathing image of a thought in sound,
A living statue, symbol of a tone.
That which she sang she was; and, unaware,
Made music visible not less than heard.
Rich is the music of sweet instruments,—
The separate harp, cornet, oboe, and flute,
The deep-souled viola, the 'cello grave,
The many-mooded, singing violin,
The infinite, triumphing, ivoried clavier;
And when, with art mysterious, some god
Thrills into one the lone and various tones,
Then is no hiding passion of the heart,
No sigh of evening winds, no breath of dawn,
No hope or hate of man that is not told.
But when a human voice leaps from that surge,
'T is as a flower that bursts from th' trembling earth;
Something more wonderful assails the soul,
As, with exultant cries, up-curving, swift,
The shrill Walküre clamor against the sky,
Or pale Brünhilde moans her bitter fate.
This is the eternal mystery of art:
He told the secretest secret of his heart—
How many mortals, with quick-flaming brow,
Whispered, "Lo, this am I—and that art thou!"
"THE PATHETIC SYMPHONY"
When the last movement fell, I thought: Ah, me!
Death this indeed; but still the music poured
On and still on. O, deathlier it grew,
And then, at last, my beating heart stood still—
Beyond all natural grief the music passing,
Beyond all tragedy, or last farewell.
Then, on that fatal tide, dismayed I felt
This living soul, my own, without one tear,
Slowly, irrevocably, and alone,
Enter the ultimate silence and the dark.
The New World hath a voice;
A voice of tragedy and mirth,
Sounding clear through all the earth;
A voice of music, tender and sublime,
Kin to the master-music of all time.
Hear ye, and know,—
While the chords throb with poignant pause and flow,—
Of the New World the mystic, lyric heart,
Breathed in undaunted art:
Her pomp of days, her glittering nights;
The rich surprise
And miracle of iridescent skies;
Her lovely lowlands and imperial hights;
Her glooms and gladness;
Her oceans thundering on a thousand shores;
Her wild-wood madness;
Her streams adream with memory that deplores
The red inhabitants evanished and undone
That follow, follow to far lands beyond the setting sun.
And echoes one may hear of ancient lores
From the Old World's well-loved shores—
Primal loves, and quenchless hates;
Striving lives, and conquering fates;
Elves innocently antic
Or wild-eyed, frantic;
Shadow-heroes, passionate, gigantic—
Sons and daughters of the prime
That moved the mighty bards to noble rhyme.
The New World hath new music, and a voice.
A FANTASY OF CHOPIN
Lightnings and tremblings and a voice of thunder;
But when the winds are down, and spent the showers—
At the vast mountain's base, the sheer cliffs under,
How sweet the summer flowers!
"HOW STRANGE THE MUSICIAN'S MEMORY"
How strange the musician's memory, never wrong
In symphony, sonata, fugue, or song!
Sees he the score with wide, unseeing eyes,
Or is it sound his heart doth memorize?
What is it like? Behold, from out the west,
The long light on the wild wave's flying crest.
See the swift gleam rush up the leaning strand
And die in foam upon the singing sand.
"IN A NIGHT OF MIDSUMMER"
In a night of midsummer, on the still eastern shore of the ocean inlet,
In our hearts a sense of the inaudible pulsings of the unseen, infinite sea,
Suddenly through the clear, cool air, arose the voice of a wonderful tenor; soaring and sobbing in the music of "Otello."
I knew that the singer was long dead; I knew well that it was not his living voice;
And yet truly it was as the voice of a living man; tho' heard as through a veil, still was it human; still was it living; still was it tragic;
Still felt I the fire of the spirit of a man; I was moved by the passion of his art; I perceived the flower and essence of his person; the exquisite expression of his mind and soul;
His soul it was that seized my soul, through his voice, which was as the very voice of sorrow;
And then I thought: If man, by science and searching, can build a cunning instrument that takes over and keeps, beyond the term of human existence, the essence and flower of a man's art;
If he can recreate that most individual attribute, his articulate and musical voice, and thus the very art and passion which that voice conveys,
Why may not the Supreme Artificer, when the human body is utterly dissolved and dispersed, recover and keep forever, in some new and delicate structure, the living soul itself?
IN THE WHITE MOUNTAINS
Mountains in whose vast shadows live great names,
On whose firm pillars rest mysterious dawns,
And sunsets that redream the apocalypse;
A world of billowing green that, veil on veil,
Turns a blue mist and melts in lucent skies;
A silent world, save for slow waves of wind,
Or sudden, hollow clamor of huge rocks
Beaten by valleyed waters manifold;—
Airs that to breathe is life and joyousness;
Days dying into music; nights whose stars
Shine near, and large, and lustrous; these, O these,
These are for memory to life's ending hour.
JOHN PAUL JONES
Behold our first great warrior of the sea
Who, in our war to make the half world free,
His knightly sword in noble anger drew!
Born to the Old, he visioned clear the New.
Born to the New—and shall we lose our faith
And mourn for freedom as a fleeing wraith?
Or heroes swift as he, and valorous, find
In bloodless battles of the unfettered mind!
TO EMMA LAZARUS
Dear bard and prophet, that thy rest is deep
Thanks be to God! Not now on thy heart falls
Rumor intolerable. Sleep, O sleep!
See not the blood of Israel that crawls,
Warm yet, into the noon and night; that cries
Even as of old, till all the world stands still
At rapine that even to Israel's agonies
Seems strange and monstrous, a mad dream of ill.
Thou sleepest! Yea, but as in grief we said:
There is a spiritual life unconquerable;
So, bard of the ancient people, tho' being dead
Thou speakest, and thy voice we love full well.
Never thy holy memory forsakes us;
Thy spirit is the trumpet that awakes us!
In youth he braved a monarch's ire
To set the people's poet free;
Then gave his life, his fame, his fire
To the long praise of liberty.
His life, his fame, his all he gave
That not on earth should live one slave;
True freedom of the soul he sought
And in that battle well he fought.
He fought, and yet he loved not war,
But looked and labored for the day
When the loud cannon silent are
And holy peace alone hath sway.
Ah, what a life! From youth to age
Keeping the faith, in noble rage.
Ah, what a life! From knightly youth
Servant and champion of the truth.
Not once, in all his length of days,
That falchion flashed for paltry ends;
So wise, so pure, his words and ways,
Even those he conquered rose his friends.
For went no rancor with the blow;
The wrong and not the man, his foe.
He smote not meanly, not in wrath;
That truth might speed he cleaved a path.
The lure of place he well could scorn
Who knew a mightier joy and fate—
The passion of the hope forlorn,
The luxury of being great,
The deep content of souls serene
Who gain or lose with equal mien;
Defeat his spirit not subdued
Nor victory marred his noble mood.
Ah, loving, exquisite, enraptured soul,
Who wert to me a father and a friend;
Who imaged and brought near, all humanly,
The sweetness and the majesty of him
Who in Judea melted human hearts,
And won the world by loveliness and love;
Dear spirit, who to the Infinite Purity
Past, without change, and humbly unabashed—
If farewell we must say, it is that thou
So far beyond, above, we,—alien so
From grace like thine,—may hardly follow close
Thy shining feet in fields of endless light
When to the goal of souls reborn we pass.
Yet couldst thou not rest happy in that world
Thou saw'st with eyes anointed, near that Christ
Who was to thee a human brother and friend,
If we, thy brothers, with thee came not nigh.
If ever saint with the Eternal strove,
Then wouldst thou, wilt thou, strive and supplicate
That not one soul be lost or suffer ill,
If so may be, but win to the Infinite Love
That was the faith, strength, life of all thy days.
Our hearts are heavy; O, yet give we thanks,
As thou didst give when died one dear to thee,
Thanks that thou livedst—that we knew and loved,
Even in the flesh, one who was one with God.
JOSEPHINE SHAW LOWELL
It was but yesterday she walked these streets,
Making them holier. How many years,
With all her widowed love, immeasurably
She ministered unto the abused and stricken,
And all the oppressed and suffering of mankind;
Herself forgetting, but never those in need;
Her whole, sweet soul lost in her loving work;
Pondering the endless problem of the poor.
In ceaseless labor, swift, unhurriedly,
She sped upon her tireless ministries,
Climbing the stairs of poverty and wrong,
Endeavoring the help that shall not hurt,
Seeking to build in every human heart
A temple of justice—that no brother's burden
Should heavier prove through human selfishness.
In memory I see that brooding face
That now seemed dreaming of the heroic past
When those most dear to her laid loyal lives
On the high altar of freedom; and again
That thinking, inward-lighted countenance
Drooped, saddened by the pain of humankind,
Tho' resolute to help where help might be,
And with undying faith illuminate.
She was our woman of sorrows, whose pure heart
Was pierced by many woes; and yet long since
Her soul of sympathy entered the peace
And calm eternal of the eternal mind;
Inheritor of noble lives, she held,
Even to the end, a spirit of cheerfulness,
And knowledge keen of the deep joy of being
By pain all unsubdued. Sister and saint,
Who to life's darkened passageways brought light,
Who taught the dignity of human service,
Who made the city noble by her life,
And sanctified the very stones her feet
Prest in their sacred journeys!
Most High God!
This city of mammon, this wide, seething pit
Of avarice and lust, hath known Thy saints,
And yet shall know. For faith than sin is mightier,
And by this faith we live—that in Thy time,
In Thine own time, the good shall crush the ill;
The brute within the human shall die down;
And love and justice reign, where hate prevents—
That love which in pure hearts reveals Thine own
And lights the world to righteousness and truth.
"ONE ROSE OF SONG"
(MARY PUTNAM JACOBI)
One rose of song
For one sweet deed
On her grave I fling.
But, O, how can I sing
When she takes no heed!
My rose of song
For a fragrant deed,
Tho' she takes no heed,
Still must I bring.
Tho' she needs no praise,
Tho' she hears not my song
On her journey long
In the new, strange ways—
O still must I sing,
My rose I must fling,
Just to ease my heart
Of the sorrow and smart.
In a far-off land
She stretched forth her hand
To me and to mine.
And now, for a sign,
This song I sing
And this rose I bring.
Tho' she take no heed
On her journey long,
Yet a soul shall hear,
Some soul shall take heed,
And the rose and the deed,
They shall sow their seed.
This actor in great Shakespeare's shadow moved;
He thought his thoughts, he lived in Shakespeare's age.
His were the tenets of that mighty stage:
Therefore we mourn; therefore was he beloved.
"Lost leaders"—no, they are not lost
Like shrunken leaves the wild wind tost.
Them only shall we mourn who failed;
When came the fight—who faltered, quailed.
Raged not through blood and battle grime
These heroes of our land and time;
The foes they fought, with dauntless deed,
Were shameless vice and maddened greed.
Not lost, not lost the noble dead—
By them our doubting feet are led.
Stars of our dark, sun of our day,
They guide, they light the climbing way.
And if, in their celestial flight,
The mist hath hid those forms from sight,
Still, down the stormy path, we hear
Their hero-voices ringing clear.
Who for their fellows live and die,
They the immortals are. O sigh
Not for their loss, but rather praise
The God that gave them to our days.
ON A CERTAIN "AGNOSTIC"
Agnostic! Ah, what idle name for him
Who knew—not the untruths of fables old,
Cherished in fear, or arrant ignorance;
Who knew—not the shrewd structures of keen minds
Intent on their own shrewdness; losing quite
The inner truth in outward scaffoldings,
Cunning appearances, and schemes involved;
But who knew well the central verity:
That honest thought followed, without dismay,
Unto the bitter and accepted end,
Is the one way to wisdom in this world;
Who knew not creeds, but could not help but follow
The feet of him who loved his fellow-men;
Who knew that human service is true life;
Who knew deep friendship, lived this knowledge out,
As few called "friends" have ever dared to live;
And who knew well the sacred truth of love.
Ah, call him not unknowing, for he knew
The truth of truth—the gods can know no more.
"A WEARY WASTE WITHOUT HER"
"A weary waste without her?" Ah, but think!
You who were blest with the most sweet, most near
Knowledge of that high nature; who could drink
At her fresh spirit's fountain, year by year—
What were the past without her? And her dear
Image and memory—did they, too, sink
Into the abyss?—Herself was yours, and here
Still lives remembrance; a bright, golden link
'Twixt this, the visible world, and the unknown
Toward which we journey—where she now doth live,
Close to the Eternal One. Make thou no moan;
What else may pass, this twofold gift endures;
Give thanks, and mourn not, then.—But, O, forgive!
How can I chide who mix my tears with yours?
THE POET'S SLEEP
In spite of it all I am going to sleep. Put out the lights.
Ever when slept the poet his dreams were music,
And in sweet song lived the dear dream once more.
So when from sleep and dreams again he wakes,—
Out from the world of symbols passing forth
Into that spirit-world where all is real,—
What memoried music, new and exquisite,
Shall strike on ears celestial—where he walks
Reverent among the immortal melodists!
WHERE SPRING BEGAN
The days were cold, and clouded. On a day
Before the seasonable warmth and sun
The poet died. We bore him to the tomb
And, under wreaths and flowers, we laid him down.
Then came a burst of sunshine. Bright it poured
On the banked blossoms and the leafless trees.
There, at the poet's grave, the spring began.
They said, "God made him," ah, the clean, great God!
Perhaps! Even as He made the loathèd beast
Whose use is to take offal for his feast;
As He made viper and vermin or, at a nod,
Made hell, to do some necessary part
In His wide-stretched, inscrutable universe.
Yes, haply God imagined him for a curse,
A scourge, a vengeance; with slow, patient art
Him did He fashion cunningly; saying: "This
My sign and warning, to time's distant end,
That all a loveless life is may be known,
And desolate horror of pure avarice;
The world is his,—a world without a friend,—
Without one friend an honest man would own."
PITY THE BLIND
"Pity the blind!" Yes, pity those
Whom day and night inclose
In equal dark; to whom the sun's keen flame
And pitchy night-time are the same.
But pity most the blind
Who cannot see
That to be kind
Is life's felicity.
PROOF OF SERVICE
Thou who wouldst serve thy country and thy kind,
Winning the praise of honorable men
And love of many hearts—know the true proof
Of faithfulness lies not therein. That dwells
In the lone consciousness of duty done,
And in the scorn and contumely of souls
Self-soiled with sin: the necessary hate
Of perjured and contaminated spirits
For that whose mere existence brings reproach,
Shame, and despair for something lost forever.
When thou hast won the hatred of the vile,
Then know thou hast served well thy fellow-men.
In thine anger it was said:
"Would that mine enemy were dead."
Or, if thou saidest naught,
That was thy thought.
Now thou cryest, night and day:
"Mine enemy hath conquered in our fight,
In that he fled away
Into the darkness and the night,
Ere I to justice wakened and the right.
Now this through all the anguished hours I say,
As with my soul my soul doth strive:
Would God mine enemy were alive!"
(A MEMORY OF EISLEBEN, THE PLACE OF LUTHER'S BIRTH AND DEATH)
In a far, lonely land at last I came
Unto a town made great by one great fame.
Born here, here died the noblest of his time,
Whose memory makes his century sublime.
But, O my God! I was not happy there,
For down below, in dark and caverned air,
Outstretched and cramped, the pallid miners lay.
Their shortened lives, their absence from the day,
Burdened my spirit with a sense of blame.
Now you, and you—I see you flush with shame.
(NEW YORK, 1905)
In the House of State at Albany,—in shadowy corridors and corners,—the whisperers whispered together.
In sumptuous palaces in the great city men talked intently, with mouth to ear.
Year in and year out they whispered, and talked, and no one heard save those who listened close.
Now in the Hall of the City the whisperers again are whispering, the talkers are talking.
They who once conversed so quietly, secretly, with shrugs and winks and finger laid beside nose what has happened to their throats?
For speak they never so low, their voices are as the voices of trumpets; whisper they never so close, their words are like alarm bells rung in the night.
Every whisper is a shout, and the noise of their speech goes forth like thunders.
They cry as from the housetops—their voices resound up and down the streets; they echo from village to village and from city to city.
Over prairies and mountains and across the salt sea their whispers go hissing and shouting.
They say the thing they would not say, and quickly the shameful thing clamors back and forth over the round world;
And when they would fain cease their saying, they may not, for a clear-voiced Questioner is as the finger of fate and the crack of doom.
What they would hide they reveal, what they would cover they make plain;
What they feared to speak aloud to one another, unwilling they publish to all mankind;
And the people listen with bowed heads, wondering and in grief;
And wise men, and they who love their country, turn pale and ask: "What new shame will come upon us?"
And again they ask, "Are these they in whose keep are the substance and hope of the widow and the fatherless?"
And the poor man, plodding home with his scant earnings from his hard week's work, hears the voices, with bitterness in his soul.
And thieves, lurking in dark places and furtively seizing that which is not their own; and the petty and cowardly briber, and he who is bribed, nudge one another;
And the anarch and the thrower of bombs clap hands together, and cry out: "Behold these our allies!"
BEFORE THE GRAND JURY
A woman, who has been a man's desire,
Now cast aside like ashes from a fire,
With startled breath, confessing all her shame,
Here,—looking in the faces of strange men,
Who probe remorselessly their "where" and "when,"
Falters her dreadful story, that the blame
May strike on the betrayer. In that glare
Plead piteous answers hardly might she dare
Murmur, at midnight, on a mother's breast.
Was ever secret misery confest
To such grim audience!
O hapless fate
For this sweet girl, and for her guiltier mate.
Powers of the world, and O, ye Powers Unseen,
Be stern, yet be ye kind! Let be the ends
Of justice served; but hold a shield between
Souls and the smiting sword. O, make amends
In the oncoming years, or some far age.
They are but caught in Nature's deathless rage;
The fire that in their bodies burned doth hold
The sun in heaven; part is it of the force
That keeps the stars each on its mystic course,
While the all-changing universe grows never old.
"IN THE CITIES"
In the cities no longer the blaring of trumpets that summon to battle,
From splendid towers the banners flash not forth in the breeze,
No longer the ringing of war-bells, and the clattering sound of horsemen,
The clangor of sword on shield, nor the cries of the feudal fighters
Hurrying into the streets to strike with bullet and steel;
Clamoring, battering down; assailing high walls and towers;
Rushing maddened, furious, to the killing of fellow-men.
Yet still a clangor of bells and a loud, shrill whistling and shouting,
But the sharp, quick sounds that startle proclaim not anger but mercy.
For now, like winds and thunders, flash by the glittering engines,
And the wagons, with ladders and axes, laden with well-trained men
Eager to quench the flame, to scale the dangerous battlements;
Eager to risk their lives in the hissing blaze and the smoke
That blinds, and that grips the throat like the throttling hand of murder.
On come the engines and wagons, and the Chief in his hooting chariot,
And a boy, who hears them careering, rushes out to the crossing of ways,
And, swinging his arms and shouting, clears a path for the shrieking engine,
That rushes like winds and thunders down a vale of death and destruction—
And every man, at his post, on the winds of the human tempest,
Mad for the saving of lives of men and of women and children—
To creep to the edge of death, to swing in dizzying chasms,
To save the children of strangers, forgetting their own in their madness;
And then if a comrade fall, how wild each man to the rescue,
Plunging into the pit, poisoned, choked, unconscious;
Revived, they struggle back 'gainst their officers' yelled commandings—
Mad, mad, mad, for the saving of human life.
And now, in the days of peace, no squadron charging by,
But hark! down the street a sharp reiterant stroke and clamor,
A rhythmic beating of hoofs, a galloping louder, closer,
And again a youth leaps quick to the crossing of crowded ways,
And he swings his arms and shouts, and clears, through the human currents,
A path for the ringing ambulance, hurrying, hurrying, hurrying
To a place where a child has fallen, is wounded nigh unto death,
That the child may be tenderly lifted and skillfully nursed and tended—
Engine and hurrying ambulance screaming, ringing, impatient,
Filling the frightened streets with echoes of old-time wars,
Laden with men of might, skilled and fierce and determined—
Not as of old to maim, to harry and scatter destruction;
Not to take life, but to save it; not to kill, but to rescue the perishing.
A TRAGEDY OF TO-DAY
(NEW YORK, 1905)
In a little theater, in the Jewry of the New World, I sat among the sad-eyed exiles;
Narrow was the stage and meagerly appointed, and the players gave themselves up utterly to their art;
And, before our eyes, were enacted scenes of a play that scarcely seemed a play.
The place was a city in a wide, unhappy land;
Even in that empire which drifts to-day like a great ship toward a black and unknown coast;
While men, with blanched faces, cry out: "Unless the tempest abates quickly, behold the mightiest wreck on all the shores of time!"
And the time of the drama was our own time; and the coming and the going; and the people themselves were of our own day and generation;
The people, with strange beards, and look of the immemorial Orient; like those men and women who, alien and melancholy, plod the New-World streets;
Like those who, in slow and pitiful procession, on a fixed day of mourning, with dirges and wailings, poured innumerous into the city's open places;
And, as the play went on, at times the very speech of the actors, in hot debate, crackled and sputtered like the fuse of a Russian bomb.
And there an old man, the preacher of a hunted race and a despised religion, all alone called to his people to follow him, and their God, the God of Israel.
Passionately he proclaimed the faith of the fathers and the saving word and protecting arm of the Almighty;
He, the voice and the prophet of the Lord High God, called aloud to them who strayed:—
"Come ye back to your God, and to His Everlasting Word.
"Ye young men who have forgotten Him, the Unforgetting, and ye old men mumbling your prayers; ye cowards! leaving the holy shrine unprotected";
And the young men answered and called the old man the name of them who are dead and have passed away;
And the old men, unheeding, swayed to and fro, mumbling their ancient psalms and ineffectual supplications.
Then, while the noise of the beastly rabble swelled louder and nearer—then did the preacher turn once more to the Lord of Hosts, lifting up his voice in praise and prayer, and faith unquenchable;
Crying to God with a loud voice and saying:—"Lead me, Thou Jehovah! in the right way,
"For now hath come the great day of the Lord; now, Lord, save Thy people and bless Thy heritage,
"Thou who wert, and art, and ever shalt be! Show now Thy Almightiness, send Thy miracle as lightning from on high."
Nearer and nearer came the curses and shrieks and the wailing lamentations; and men and women fled, wounded, before the infamous and infuriate avengers;
Then the crash of guns and the terror of carnage and rapine unspeakable;
And, in the midst, the voice of an old man crying to heaven, and falling smitten and dead before the shrine of the God of Israel.
And, listening, I heard not only the sounds of the mimic drama—but, louder and more dreadful, the panting of miserable women who welcomed death, the deliverer;
And from Kishineff and Odessa I heard, once more crying to heaven, the outpoured blood of the Jew.
And still as I listened and dreamed, the crimson flood widened to a great and lustrous pool,
And looking therein I saw reflected the faces of many known well to my heart and to the hearts of all the world,
For there were the features of mighty warriors and makers of laws and leaders of men; of poets inspired and of painters and musicians; and of famed philosophers, and of men and women who loved, and labored for, their kind;
And the faces of preachers and prophets; of those who fervently cursed the unrighteous, and who to a world in darkness brought light everlasting;
And chief of all I saw in that crimson mirror the face of him whose spirit was bowed beneath the agonies of all mankind.
THE OLD HOUSE
Home of my forebears, home of my dreaming childhood,
House that I love with a love instinctive, changeless,
Ancestral, mystical, passionate, tender, sorrowful;
Old house where I was born and my mother before me—
Strangely the old house speaks to its child returning,
Speaks with a tone affectionate, intimate, sweet,
Made, mysterious, out of the voices of many—
Out of the accents of them, the loving, the loyal,
That still in memory soothe and murmur and call;
Voices that greeted my life and guided the journey,
Human voices, long hushed, and the subtler speech
That steals from the dumb, dead walls, and whispers and thrills,
From the shadowy chimney-places, and haunted nooks;
These centuried walls, this roof, and the buoyant branches
Of large-leaved, mottled buttonwoods, towering mightily,
And pines that my father planted, now loftily dying—
These are the vibrant notes of the one deep chord
That sings in my heart, here by the ancient hearthstone.
Five are the generations this place have humaned,
Leaving their impress, I think, on the breathèd air—
For full is the house of relics of lives departed:
Carvings strange that some wanderer here enharbored,
Bringing the Orient's touch to the wondering child;
And Arctic gatherings; hints of the torrid zone;
And quaint embroideries worked by hands ancestral,
Deft for the spinning of flax on these silent wheels;
Books of a day when each was a treasure, a star—
And chief of them all, to the trembling heart of a boy,
The verse of him, the singer of song sonorous,
Whose voice was the voice of trumpets and many waters,
Whose soul went forth with angels and archangels,
Nor stood dismayed before the Eternal presence.
Pictures of faces whose features I see in my own—
That I see re-imaged by laws unfathomed, fateful,
In my own children's pleading, innocent faces;
Volumes of lores outgrown, or a living art;
Bibles and books of devotion, where names are enrolled
In letters that fade like the image of souls long dead.
Not without tears may I ponder the yellowing leaves
Where record was made of secretest dreams and prayers—
Records of love accomplished, or unfulfilled.
Were the agèd faces I knew, the timorous maidens
Who, wistful, their innocent passions here hinted, or hid?
This wife new-married, so young, so sweet, so appealing,
Was this the angelical mother, she of great sorrows,
Loving and dreaming in age, as in palpitant girlhood?
This lock, among many a tress so lovingly treasured—
Ah, this is my own, by hands that I knew so well,
Cut from a golden head that long has been silvered.
The old house speaks, and low, in the glimmering twilight,
It murmurs of days that are gone, and spirits lamented;
A girlish face with a smile all radiant, loving—
Sweet cousin mine! where, in the land of shadows,
Doth that smile illume, that voice bring joy as of old?
This quaint and closeted chamber, ah, here was unfolded
The love of a child for a child, through years and through sorrows
Remembered and cherished by each,—the love of the old
For the old, now,—the love of the old for lost youth
And comrades long gone, and loved and remembered together.
And she with the heart of a queen, and the soul of a martyr;
In young days serene, and blithe and undaunted in age,
Who loved the old house, even as I,—her birthplace, her refuge,—
She in a vision comes near; and quick I remember
One night of all nights, when a messenger stood in the doorway—
Silent he stood, and we knew the message unspoken!
O night of nights, when a wife turned sudden a widow,
And a child, neath the solacing stars, passed swift into manhood.
But of childhood the old house whispers and murmurs to-night,
Of the twilight hour in the arms of her the beloved
And loving sister of her who gave me my being—
Who like a second mother encompassed my childhood
With song and with story, with gleams of fairy and hero,
Chanting in twilight gray the ancient ballads,
Or crooning, as if to herself, the love-songs of girlhood;
Or, again, she fashioned the tales of her own young days:
Of the country balls, in the time when winter was winter,
And the snows were piled—high as the head of a man,
And the ringing sleighs sped over the fields and the fences
To the revels and routs in the taverns of long ago;
When the dancing would last till dawn, and the dancers flew
From village to village, and tavern to tavern, all night;
Turning the snow-lit dark to rollicking day.
O days and nights of a far and happy world!
Of childhood the old house whispers, of wintry sports
With sled and skate on the ponds long filled and forgotten;
Wild joys of meadow, and woods, and waters; of branches
Laden with black-heart cherries, where boys and birds
Alternate shared the wealth of the aery feast.
Of boyhood the old house whispers, of moonlit voyages
On the wooded stream, that wound in silent reaches,
Far through the mystic land of awakening life.
And now, in the twilight hour, dear, living voices,
The voices of children I hear, they come to my call;
And I tell of the days that are gone, and they hark with delight—
As I, in my youth, heard the tales of the ancient days;
Then good-night, and to bed! But the teller of ancient tales
Stays by the dying fire and listens, again,
To the thronging voices that murmur to him alone.
"THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE THE OLD PLACE!"
Back to the old place I've come home again,
Back at last from the big town,
After so many hard and struggling years;
Back to the old home, the old home in the mountains,
In the valley of childhood;
And I say to myself, again and again I say:
There's no place like the old place!
Here once more I wander, here, in the valley of brooks,
I wander a stranger—where every spring and tree and rock is familiar.
The little brooks tinkle down, with the old music, through the pine-darkened gorges;
The brooks that sometimes run dry, or hide under the smooth stones;
In the time of fullness leaping from ledge to ledge down to the big brook that never dries;
Where the trout dartle and the pools are shadowy and cool
And good to the hot body of a boy.
Lovely, with an intimate loveliness, is the valley,
And again and again I chant to myself:
O, there's no place like the old place!
There's no place like the old place!
Strangely nearer seem the walls of the valley,
Tho' far and spacious as ever the mysterious sunset.
Never before have I felt so intensely the beauty of it all—
How well-shaped the double valley;
The upper valley like a great, green bowl,
And the lower valley opening out toward the sunset like a trumpet;
The mountains embowered with evergreens, and maples, and chestnuts—
Or lying naked in the sun,
Scraped bare by the ancient glacier,
Scoured by rains and scarred by lightnings,
And with a look as if the salt sea had beaten and bitten there for a thousand years.
Stately and gracious with elms and willows are the smooth and grassy meadows
Leveled for human use by the lakes of untold ages,
Then covered with forests, that the pioneers uprooted—
Rich now and full of peace; bringing back the well-loved images of the Bible;
Meadows where first I heard the swift song of the bobolink,
Throbbing and ringing madly, back and forth in the meadow air,
And whence, in full summer, after a long, hot day
The boy that was I came back to the home barn
Royally charioted on the high-piled, sweet-scented hay.
Ah, there's no place like the old place!
There, under the hill, is the homestead;
How large the maples have grown that the old folks planted!
Sweet was the sap in the spring and the shade in the summer.
I never knew such water as from the spring at our house,
Running cold as ice in the kitchen and out in the barn.
And the little window up there was mine!
I tell you I slept well, and rose early in those days,
Tho' sometimes at night after a long rain, or when the ice was melting in Hayes's pond,
I could scarce sleep for the brook roaring like Niagara,
As it leapt the mill-dams and spread out over the meadows,
Scurrying great logs along, and every footbridge in the valley.
But most times it was quiet enough at the old home—
The dear old place, the old place that's the best place!
O, there's no place like the old place, and no time like the old time!
The chores were rough, but the keener the zest for the play!
For chestnuting in the frosty autumn,
For the tug of the bass at Goose pond and the lake at Monterey,
And the day of fun at the county fair;
For the skim on the frozen meadow on winter nights,
Or the watch at the pickerel flags in the ice-holes on the white spread of the mountain lakes,
Or the flying plunge of the bob-sled down Papermill hill;
The chase for the woodchuck, and the far-circling fox, and the all-night tramp for the treed 'coon;
For a hay-ride with a bevy of girls and a moonlight drive with one;
For wanderings through the woods and over the hills,
When the billowing mountain-laurel from afar off
Looked like flocks of sheep on the high terraces of the old Sweet farm;
When the hiding arbutus or gossamer clematis faintly scented the clean air;
When came the child's first thrill at the boom of the startled partridge,
And when first the adventurer heard a whole, great blossoming linden
Humming, with honey-gathering bees, like the pluckt string of a violin.
O, there's no place like the old place!
Mightier mountains there are, sky-piercing and snow-covered all the year round,
But the lion-like curve of Cobble, clear-cut against the southern heavens,
On still, cold nights heaves close to the thick stars;
And the white ways of the Galaxy I have seen start from the lion's head
And sweep over to the long mountain, as if all the light and glory were for the valley only.
Day and night, in sunlight and starlight, and in the light of the moon,
Beautiful, beautiful is the valley of brooks.
Travelers have said that in the whole earth there is none more beautiful.
Why have I stayed away so long?
I think I will come again and again before I die—
And perhaps after I have died; for in the white graveyard on the hill
Rest, in the long sleep, some whom one day I should like to join.
I wonder shall I seem to them as strange as now to me
The image of my own self as I was in the days of childhood:
An image that haunts me hourly while here I wander and dream,
And makes me strange to myself in a curious double existence.
The old friends seem to know me—but I am never deceived;
The one that I am is not the one that I was—yet truly
No one but I ever knew the youth who departed,
And the youth who departed still lives in the elder returning,
In whose bosom revive the days that forever are gone—
The old love and the old sweet longings;
The old love for the old place, that deepens as age comes closer,
And the heart keeps sighing and singing:
There's no place like the old place!
How curves the little river through Glen Gilder, O Glen Gilder;
Now it runs and now it rushes, now it sings and now it hushes
O'er the rocks and by the brushes in Glen Gilder.
All music is the river in Glen Gilder, O Glen Gilder;
It sounds like wild birds singing, and it chimes like bells a-ringing—
Birds, too, their songs are flinging in Glen Gilder.
O mighty are the willows of Glen Gilder, of Glen Gilder;
Cool the air and cool the waters 'neath the giant spreading shadows,
And beyond wide sweep the meadows from Glen Gilder.
O, there's life and fun and frolic in Glen Gilder, in Glen Gilder;
And near the men are haying, and here the cows are straying,
And the lambs and colts are playing in Glen Gilder.
Spring and autumn bring a change to fair Glen Gilder, O Glen Gilder;
Above the banks and under come the freshet's rage and thunder,
And men look with awe and wonder on Glen Gilder.
O, white the world of winter in Glen Gilder, in Glen Gilder;
'Neath ice the waves are creeping, or down in dark pools sleeping,
Or with sound of sleigh-bells leaping in Glen Gilder.
O, beautiful the morning in Glen Gilder, in Glen Gilder;
But, O, most dear and tender when blooms the sunset splendor,
At dying day's surrender in Glen Gilder.
And now the lingering sunlight leaves Glen Gilder, O Glen Gilder;
While moony shades are stalking, is it the wavelets talking,
Or whispering lovers walking in Glen Gilder?
Maria mia! all in white
Your fairy form against the night,
Maria mia! in the night
Gleams like a ghost your form so slight,
Maria mia! like a sprite
Burn those eyes in dusky light,
Maria mia! sweet and wise
Those darkling, deep, Italian eyes,
Maria mia! starry skies
Hold no such brightness as those eyes,
Maria mia! turn, O turn
Those eyes away that beam and burn,
Maria mia! when those eyes
Burn close, O close, I am not wise,
I am not wise,
This night, when I blew out my candle flame,
The window's dark square suddenly turned white!—
I had not known the half-moon shone so bright,
And that a cool, sweet, silent moonbeam came
Through summer air, faint-touched with autumn frost,
And poured upon my floor a pool of light!
Pure, heavenly visitant—and almost thou wert lost.
I dreamed a tender and mysterious dream
Of one who, threading paths of earthly fate,
In a rich twilight walked, with heart aglow,
And all his soul vibrant with unheard tones,
"Drawn, drawn by the soft splendor of a face."
"FROM LOVE TO LOVE"
(FOR A WEDDING)
From love to love she passes on this day;
Yet all the love she leaves with her doth stay;
Deep, deep, the new love, in her heart of hearts,
And the old love follows her when she departs:
So is she richer than she was before,
For of true love she hath a mightier store.
"I ASKED YOU TO READ MY POEM"
I asked you to read my poem, so shameless was I,
I not used such boon and service to ask;
This my excuse—when you hear, you will not deny
The prayer of the poet, who saw the soul through the mask.
The singer sails in a sea beyond sight or ken,
And he flings his plummet of song by night and by day;
With his poems he sounds the depths of the souls of men—
In your soul my song I flung to fathom the way.
From every motion, every lovely line,
Breathe art and passion; music from those lips;
The tragic Orient from those lustrous eyes.
A WARRIOR OF TROY
Let other gray-beards mourn the flight of years,
Finding no gains of eld to match its fears;
I have no feud with fate, nor age, nor time,
Who knew great Helen in her golden prime.
THE OBELISK (1881)
Beneath a stone wrenched from Egyptian sands
Six rivers run through six imperial lands;
Nile, Bosphorus, Tiber, Seine, and Thames, till now
The Hudson wears the jewel on her brow.
Land that we love! O be thou, by this sign,
Tho' last, the noblest of the mighty line.
I asked me: what in all the world so odd
And laughable to men, and unto God—
The hight of comedy in earthly things?
That lot of little men pretending to be kings!
TO "LITTLE LADY MARGARET"—WITH A BOOK OF POEMS
They who love the poets
Will never lack a friend—
Up the road, and down the road,
And to the very end.
Wed, thou, with sweet and silent Death,
Rather than join the prurient throng
Would soil, with foul, empoisoned breath,
The sanctity of song.
TO THE HERO OF A SCIENTIFIC ROMANCE
If you wish, go be a pig,
In and out of season;
But do not bore us with a big
THE WATCHMAN ON THE TOWER
Watchman! What seest thou in the New Dawn?
Far off, across the seas, I behold men pursuing men and helpless women with dreadful massacre; borne on the eastern wind I hear the horrible cries of the murdered and bereft.
And what seest thou nearer, O Watchman of the Tower?
Nearer I see dark and cowering forms of crime and frightened innocence, alike given pitilessly to the green tree and the red flame.
And what else nearer dost thou see, O Seer of Evil Things?
I see smoldering fires and drift of black smoke where all manner of shames have been burned in the marketplaces, befouling the pure air of heaven.
And now, again, thou seest —— ?
I see scared creatures, in shape of men, fleeing from the light, and hiding in clefts of rocks, and in far places of the earth.
Look well, O Watchman, look near and wide, and tell us, who wait, what other things thou dost behold!
I see the shining faces of little children from whose backs heavy burdens have been lifted; I see rich men eagerly scattering their wealth among those who need—lifting up the stricken and restoring the power of self-help to the sturdy, and striving to make less hard the lot of them who work; I see those who labor winning an ampler share in the profits of their toil—in wage, and comfort, and safety, and time for rest; I behold Science conquering the secrets and guiding the forces of nature, and creating new and wondrous devices for human happiness—working miracles in culture of the soil, and in the cure of sickness; I behold Art going up and down the land, making homes and cities more beautiful; I behold Service honored above possessions; I see men as brothers, in times of calm and in days of monstrous calamity,—stretching hands to one another over lands and seas, and across the ancient barriers of race, and religion, and condition; I see the hearts of men go out, in new love and care and understanding, to the beasts of the field and to the birds of the air; I hear the voices of poets and prophets troubling the hearts and lifting up the souls of all mankind; and in all these I see the mind of the Son of Man, and the power of the Will Eternal.
O Seer of Good and Evil, what else, what else?
Near by I behold the Angel of a People, and in his hand he bears a standard whereon is writ, in letters of light, the one word Truth; higher he bears the standard than ever before, and the people, in gathering numbers, follow the Word.
And what of the evil things that late thou sawest?
Still I see them, and many more, but fainter are they growing, as by some element of light consumed. Yet doth one strange and greatly evil thing loom with menace against the dawn—the shadow of false and self-seeking men who seize the banner of righteousness and with unclean hands uplift it, to the deceiving of many; and yet even here, I know, it is the love of Right and not of Wrong which doth mislead; and as the light increases, surely the pure in heart shall know their own and shun the deceiver of souls.
And what of the good that late thou sawest?
O still I see the good, and with clearer eyes; and, lo, it doth appear that, in the light of the New Dawn, greater and always greater grows the good, and nearer and always nearer. For now, with the rising sun, a company of angels in new flight lift their wings and come upon the day, and one is the bright Angel of Freedom, and one the strong Angel of Justice, and one is the undaunted Angel of Peace, and one the Angel of Hope Everlasting. With a great and wonderful burst of light they come, and with loud music of instruments and many voices.
O Watcher of the Dawn! thou seest what is, but canst thou see what yet shall be?
O ye who doubt! In the visible present lives the invisible future, and the hour that is brings the hour that shall be. If the Light grows, it shall not cease to grow; and the good that is brings the good that is to come. As with separate souls, so with peoples—the New Year, tho' it holds inheritance of shame and loss, holds, also, inheritance of striving, and accomplishment, and divine aspiration. Lo, the Light is climbing, not only of a New Year, but of a New Era for the awakening world.
UNDER THE STARS
A REQUIEM FOR AUGUSTUS SAINT-GAUDENS
O kindred stars, wherethrough his soul in flight
Past to the immortals! 'neath your ageless light
I stand perplext, remembering that keen spirit
Quenched in mid-strength; the world, that shall inherit
His legacy of genius, all deprived
Of wealth untold, the still ungathered fruit
Of that great art! What honey all unhived;
What unborn grandeurs; noble music mute!
O silent stars! even as I harken here,
Heart-heavy, a murmurous and mysterious voice,
Blent with sweet wiry tones, on the inward ear
Strikes, and I hear the summons: "O rejoice,
Rejoice and mourn not!" Then that wondrous star
Now drawn near earth,—named for the god of war,—
The fiery planet cries across the night:
"Victory, Victory, he hath won the fight!"
O star of fire! he was thy very child!
Mixt with his blood thy fierce, ensanguined ray!
'Gainst the proud forces of the sordid day
He battled valiantly, all unbeguiled
By what might tempt or foil a lesser soul.
Not wealth, nor ease, nor praise unworthily won
Could touch his spirit;—"There the swift course to run!"
"There, there, O see! the bright, immortal goal!"
Thou star of blood and battle! rich and sweet
Thy liquid gleam, where, in the twilight sky,
Thou shinest greatly! So did his art repeat
Thy strength, thy loveliness; thy ministry,—
In a dark, harmful world,—of Beauty's guerdon;—
Beauty that broods, enlightens, and makes endure
The heart of man beneath its heavy burden,
Lifting above the strife a deathless lure.
O starry skies! O palpitant winds whose throbbings
From out the vast of heaven pulse and flow!
In light and sound eterne our human sobbings
Are lost.—How dear to him who lieth low
The garment wonderful wild nature throws
About its inner life: green glades withdrawn;
Anger of ocean; radiance of the rose;
The pomp superb of sunset and of dawn.
White, trembling fires of the unknown universe!
Ye speak of some august, inscrutable Power
Creative, from whose hand, to bless or curse,
Ye were sent forth—thrillingly, in an hour
Of force stupendous, swift, immeasurable;
To-night those unconsuming fires tell
Of one who, in the splendor of his passion,
Alas! tho' mortal, could the immortal fashion.
O stars that sing as in creation's prime!
He whom, with love and tears, we celebrate,
He, like the Power that made ye, could create—
Bringing to birth new beauty for all time:
Once, lo! these shapes were not, now do they live,
And shall forever in the hearts of men;
And from their life new life shall spring again,
To souls unborn new light and joy to give.
Ye stars, all music to the spirit's ear!
Before the imperial music-masters knelt
This master of an art sublime, austere;
The very soul of music in him dwelt,
So in his lines the haunting strains of lyres,
From gracious forms deep tones symphonic spring;
Once more we hear the sound of heavenly wires,
Again the stars of morn together sing.
Red star of war! thy sons did he enshrine
In glorious art—fighters on sea and land;
In bronze they give again the brave command;
In bronze they march resistless, in divine
Ecstasy of devotion, not in wrath;
The fire and fury of battle he made real,
But like God's prophets moved they on their path
Led and uplifted by the great Ideal.
O fateful stars! that lit the climbing way
Of that dear, martyred son of fate and fame,—
The supreme soul of an immortal day,—
Linked with his name is our great sculptor's name;
For now in art eternal breathes again
The gaunt, sweet presence of our chief of men—
That soul of tenderness; that spirit stern,
Whose fires divine forever flame and burn.
Stars of white midnight! tho' unseen by day,
Imagined! He the unseen could subtly see
And image forth in most divine array:
Blest Charity, and Love, and Loyalty,
And Victory, and Grief; and, with a touch
Made tender by heroic years of pain,—
Telling in art what words might not contain,—
The calm, sweet face of Him who suffered much.
Mysterious sky! where orbs constellate reign!
Toward which the heart of man through endless ages
Hath flung eternal questionings in vain—
Yet hath he read a little in thy pages;
And him we miss, learned well from thee to mold,—
As by the hand of Fate, in time's dark womb,—
That mystic form, a thousand centuries old;
That mournless mourner near a tragic tomb.
Ye stars eternal! in your motions wide
I feel the march of time; audibly pours
To faithful ears the immemorial tide
Of starry seas that beat on infinite shores;
And, in that music magical, cold death,—
And grief its shadow,—melt and are undone;
And that which brings the miracle of breath,
And that which takes,—ay, that which takes,—are one.
O star of war! beyond thy troublous beams
His freed soul wings to a great calm at last;
The deep night, with its tremulous, starry streams
Of light celestial, pours repose so vast
Naught can escape that flood; and now the faces,
Angelical, he molded with pure art,
In majesty look forth from heavenly spaces.
Enter thy peace, O high, tempestuous heart!