The poems of Edmund Clarence Stedman/Poems of Occasion
POEMS OF OCCASION
ROUND THE OLD BOARD
Vigintennial Dinner, Class of 1853
Air—"Cheer, Boys, Cheer!"
Round the old board once more we feast together!
Thrice and again our hearts have drawn us here;
Long have we sailed, in fair and stormy weather;
Here we are in port, though we 've voyaged many a year.
Each a tale can tell—like him of Homer's story,
Patient Ulysses upon the sounding main;
Some have gathered gold, and some have gotten glory:
Round the old board we sit and feast again!
Yale, old Yale! the same old elms above us!
Comrades, are ye here, the mates that never fail?
Some have sought the skies, we know their spirits love us;
Some in far-off places are thinking of old Yale.
Twenty years syne! the shadow eastward passes;
Faster, every one, the seasons take their flight;
Though our time has come to sing Eheu! fugaces,
Round the old board we'll not be sad to-night!
Twenty years syne,—when we were spruce and slender,—
Larger now our waistbands, alack and well-a-day!
Still in our hearts there 's something true and tender;
Boys we are to-night, though our heads are turning gray.
Chorus: Yale, old Yale, etc.
Round the old board, with talk and song and laughter,
Each unto each shall gossip of his lot;
Here at Life's noon we look before and after;
Glad let us be, then, nor sigh for what is not.
Peace to the Dead! the spoiler has bereft us;
Dear are their names when the red wine is poured!
Drain we the cup to every comrade left us,
Near ones and far ones, round the old board.
Yale, old Yale! the same old elms above us!
Comrades, are ye here, the mates that never fail?
Some have sought the skies, we know their spirits love us;
Some in far-off places are thinking of old Yale.
AN OLD-FASHIONED POEM
The Twenty-fifth Anniversary of the Yale Class of 1853
Inque brevi spatio mutantur sæcla animantum
Et quasi cursores vitai lampada tradunt.
Lucretius, De Rer. Nat. Lib. ii.
The tryst is kept. How fares it with each one
At this mid hour, when mariners take the sun
And cast their reckoning? when some level height
Is reached by men who set their strength aright,—
Who for a little space the firm plateau
Tread sure and steadfast, yet who needs must know
Full soon begins the inevitable slide
Down westward slopings of the steep divide.
How stands it, comrades, at this noontide fleet,
When for an hour we gather to the meet?
Like huntsmen, rallied by the winding horn,
Who seek the shade with trophies lightly borne,
Remembering their deeds of derring-do—
What bows were bent, what arrows speeded true.
All, all have striven, and far apart have strayed:
Fling down! fill up the can! wipe off the blade!
Ring out the song! nor care, in this our mood,
What hollow echo mocks us from the wood!
Or is it with us, haply, as with those
Each man of whom the morn's long combat knows?
All veterans now: the bugle's far recall
From the hot strife has sounded sweet to all.
Welcome the rendezvous beneath the elms,
The truce, the throwing down of swords and helms!
Life is a battle! How these sayings trite
Which school-boys write—and know not what they write—
In after years begin to burn and glow!
What man is here that has not found it so?
Who here is not a soldier of the wars,
Has not his half-healed wound, his early scars,—
Has broken not his sword, or from the field
Borne often naught but honor and his shield?
Ah, ye recruits, with flags and arms unstained,
See by what toil and moil the heights are gained!
Learn of our skirmish lost, our ridges won,
The dust, the thirst beneath the scorching sun;
Then see us closer draw—by fate bereft
Of men we loved—the firm-set column left.
To me the picture that some painter drew
Makes answer for our past. His throng pursue
A siren, one that ever smiles before,
Almost in reach, alluring more and more.
Old, young, with outstretched hand, with eager eye,
Fast follow where her winged sandals fly,
While by some witchery unto each she seems
His dearest hope, the spirit of his dreams.
Ah, me! how like those dupes of Pleasure's chase,
Yet how unlike, we left our starting-place!
Is there not something nobler, far more true,
In the Ideal, still before our view,
Upon whose shining course we followed far
While sank and rose the night and morning star?
Ever we saw a bright glance cast behind
Or heard a word of hope borne down the wind,—
As yet we see and hear, and follow still
With faithful hearts and long-enduring will.
In what weird circle has the enchantress led
Our footsteps, so that now again they tread
These walks, and all that on the course befell
Seems to ourselves a shadow and a spell?
Was it the magic of a moment's trance,
A scholar's day-dream? Have we been, perchance,
Like that bewildered king who dipped his face
In water—while a dervish paused to trace
A mystic phrase—and, ere he raised it, lived
A score of seasons, labored, journeyed, wived
In a strange city,—Tunis or Algiers,—
And, after what had seemed so many years,
Came to himself, and found all this had been
During the palace-clock's brief noonday din?
For here the same blithe robins seem to house
In the elm-forest, underneath whose boughs
We too were sheltered; nay, we cannot mark
The five-and-twenty rings, beneath the bark,
That tell the growth of some historic tree,
Since we, too, were a part of Arcady.
And in our trance, negari, should the bell
Speak out the hour, non potest quin, 't were well
The upper or the lower room to seek
For Tully's Latin, Homer's rhythmic Greek;—
Yet were it well? ay, brothers, if, alack,
For this one day the shadow might go back!
Ah, no! with doubtful faces each on each
We look, we speak with altered, graver speech:
The spell is gone! We know what 't is to wake
From an illusive dream, at morning's break,
That we again are dark-haired, buoyant, young,—
Scanning, once more, our spring-time mates among,
The grand hexameter—that anthem free
Of the pursuing, loud-resounding sea,—
To wake, anon, and know another day
Already speeds for one whose hairs are gray,—
In this swift change to lose a third of life
Lopped by the stroke of Memory's ruthless knife,
And feel, though naught go ill, it is a pain
That youth, lost youth, can never come again!
Were the dream real, or should we idly go
To yonder halls and strive to make it so,
There listening to the voices that rehearse,
Like ours of old, the swift Ionic verse,
What silvery speech could now for us restore
The cadence that we thought to hear once more?
The low, calm utterance of him who first
Our faltering minds to clearer knowledge nursed,—
The perfect teacher, who endured our raw
Harsh bleatings with a pang we never saw;
Whose bearing was so apt we scarcely knew,
At first, the wit that lit him through and through,
Strength's surplusage; nor, after many a day
Had taught us, rated well the heart that lay
Beneath his speech, nor guessed how brave a soul
In that frail body dwelt with fine control:
Alas, no longer dwells! Time's largest theft
Was that which learning and the world bereft
Of this pure scholar,—one who had been great
In every walk where led by choice or fate,
Were not his delicate yearnings still represt
Obeying duty's every-day behest.
He shrank from note, yet might have worn at ease
The garb whose counterfeit a sad world sees
Round many a dolt who gains, and deems it fame,
One tenth the honor due to Hadley's name.
Too soon the years, gray Time's relentless breed,
Have claimed our Pascal. He is theirs indeed;
Yet three remain of the ancestral mould,
Abreast, like them who kept the bridge of old:
The true, large-hearted man so many found
A helpful guardian, stalwart, sane, and sound;
And he, by sure selection upward led,
Whom now we reverence as becomes the Head,—
The sweet polemic, pointing shafts divine
With kindly satire,—latest of the line
That dates from godly Pierson. No less dear,
And more revered with each unruffled year,
That other Grecian: he who stands aside
Watching the streams that gather and divide.
Alcestis' love, the Titan's deathless will,
We read of in his text, and drank our fill
At Plato's spring. Now, from his sacred shade,
Still on the outer world his hand is laid
In use and counsel. Whom the nation saw
Most fit for Heaven could best expound Earth's law.
His wise, kind eyes behold—nor are they loth—
The larger scope, the quarter-century's growth:
How blooms the Mother with unwrinkled brow,
To whom her wandering sons, returning now,
Come not alone, but bring their sons to prove
That children's children have a share of love.
Through them she proffers us a second chance;
With their young eyes we see her hands advance
To crown the sports once banished from her sight;
With them we see old wrong become the right,
Tread pleasant halls, a healthy life behold
Less stinted than the cloister-range of old—
When the last hour of morning sleep was lost
And prayer was sanctified by dusk and frost,
And hungry tutors taught a class unfed
That a full stomach meant an empty head.
For them a tenth Muse, Beauty, here and there
Has touched the landmarks, making all more fair;—
We knew her not, save in our stolen dreams
Or stumbling song, but now her likeness gleams
Through chapel aisles, and in the house where Art
Has builded for her praise its shrines apart.
Now the new Knowledge, risen like a sun,
Makes bright for them the hidden ways that none
Revealed to us; or haply would dethrone
The gods of old, and rule these hearts alone
From yonder stronghold. By unnumbered strings
She draws our sons to her discoverings,—
Traces the secret paths of force, the heat
That makes the stout heart give its patient beat,
Follows the stars through æons far and free,
And shows what forms have been and are to be.
Such things are plain to these we hither brought,
More strange and varied than ourselves were taught;
But has the iris of the murmuring shell
A charm the less because we know full well
Sweet Nature's trick? Is Music's dying fall
Less finely blent with strains antiphonal
Because within a harp's quick vibratings
We count the tremor of the spirit's wings?
There is a path by Science yet untrod
Where with closed eyes we walk to find out God!
Still, still, the unattained ideal lures,
The spell evades, the splendor yet endures;
False sang the poet,—there is no good in rest,
And Truth still leads us to a deeper quest.
But Alma Mater, with her mother-eyes
Seeing us graver grown if not more wise,—
She calls us back, dear comrades—ah, how dear,
And dearer than when each to each was near!
Time thickens blood! Enough to know that one
Our classmate was and is, and is her son;—
She looks unto the East, the South, the West,
Asking, "Now who have kept my maxims best?
Who have most nearly held within their grasp
The fluttering robe that each essayed to clasp?"
Can ye not answer, brothers, even as I,
That still in front the vision seems to fly,—
More light and fleet her shining footsteps burn,
And speed the most when most she seems to turn?
And some have fallen, fallen from our band
Just as we thought to see them lay the hand
Upon her scarf: we know their precious names,
Their hearts, their work, their sorrows, and their fames.
Few gifts the brief years brought them, yet how few
Fell to the living as the lots we drew!
But some, who most were baffled, later found
Capricious Fortune's arms a moment wound
About them; some, who sought her on one side,
Beheld her reach them by a compass wide.
What then is Life? or what Success may be
Who, who can tell? who for another see?
From those, perchance, that closest seem to hold
Her love, her strength, her laurels, or her gold,
In this meridian hour she far has sped
And left them but her phantom mask instead.
A grave, sweet poet in a song has told
Of one, a king, who in his palace old
Hung up a bell; and placed its cord anear
His couch,—that thenceforth, when the court should hear
Its music, all might know the king had rung
With his own hand, and that its silver tongue
Gave out the words of joy he wished to say,
"I have been wholly happy on this day!"
Joy's full perfection never to him came;
Voiceless the bell, year after year the same,
Till, in his death-throes, round the cord his hand
Gathered—and there was mourning in the land.
I pray you, search the wistful past, and tell
Which of you all could ring the happy bell!
The treasure-trove, the gifts we ask of Fate,
Come far apart, come mildewed, come too late.
What says the legend? "All that man desires
Greatly at morn he gains ere day expires;"
But Age craves not the fruits that gladden Youth,—
It sits among its vineyards, full of ruth,
Finding the owner's right to what is best
Of little worth without the seeker's zest.
Yet something has been gained. Not all a waste
The light-winged years have vanished in their haste,
Howbeit their gift was scant of what we thought,
So much we thought not of they slowly wrought!
Not all a waste the insight and the zeal
We gathered here: these surely make for weal;
The current sets for him who swims upbuoyed
By the trained skill, with all his arts employed.
Coy Fortune may disdain our noblest cares,
The good she gives at last comes unawares:—
Long, long in vain,—with patience, worth, and love,—
To do her task the enchanted princess strove,
Till in the midnight pitying fairies crept
Unravelling the tangle while she slept.
This, then, the boon our Age of Wisdom brings,—
A knowledge of the real worth of things:
How poor, how good, is wealth; how surely fame
And beauty must return to whence they came,
Yet not for this less beautiful and rare—
It is their evanescence makes them fair
And worth possession. Ours the age still strong
With passions, that demand not curb nor thong;
And ours the age not old enough to set
Youth's joys above their proper worth, nor yet
So young as still to trust its empery more
Than unseen hands which lead to fortune's door.
For most have done the best they could, and all
The reign of law has compassed like a wall;
Something accrued to each, and each has seen
A Power that works for good in life's demesne.
In our own time, to many a masquerade
The hour has come when masks aside were laid:
We've seen the shams die out, the poor pretense
Cut off at last by truth's keen instruments,
The ignoble fashion wane and pass away,—
The fine return a second time, to stay,—
The knave, the quack, and all the meaner brood,
Go surely down, by the strong years subdued,
And, in the quarter-century's capping-race,
Strength, talent, honor, take and hold their place.
More glad, you say, the song I might have sung
In the free, careless days when all were young!
Now, long deferred, the sullen stroke of time
Has given a graver key, a deeper chime,
That the late singer of this strain might prove
Himself less keen for honors, more for love,
And in the music of your answer find
The charms that life to further action bind.
The Past is past; survey its course no more;
Henceforth our glasses sweep the further shore.
Five lustra, briefer than those gone, remain,
And then—a white-haired few shall meet again,
Lifting their heads that long have learned to droop,
And hear some sweeter minstrel of our group.
But stay! which one of us, alone, shall dine
At the Last Shadowy Banquet of the line?
Who knows? who does not in his heart reply,
"It matters not, so that it be not I."
YALE ODE FOR COMMENCEMENT DAY
Hark! through the archways old
High voices manifold
Sing praise to our fair Mother, praise to Yale!
The Muses' rustling garments trail;
White arms, with myrtle and with laurel wound,
Bring crowns to her, the Crowned!
Youngest and blithest, and awaited long,
The heavenly maid, sweet Music's child divine,
With golden lyre and joy of choric song
Leads all the Sisters Nine.
In the gray of a people's morn,
In the faith of the years to be,
The sacred Mother was born
On the shore of the fruitful sea;
By the shore she grew, and the ancient winds of the East
Made her brave and strong, and her beauteous youth increased
Till the winds of the West, from a wondrous land,
From the strand of the setting sun to the sea of her sunrise strand,
From fanes which her own dear hand hath planted in grove and mead and vale,
Breathe love from her countless sons of might to the Mother—breathe praise to Yale.
Mother of Learning! thou whose torch
Starward uplifts, afar its light to bear,—
Thine own revere thee throned within thy porch,
Rayed with thy shining hair.
The youngest know thee still more young,—
The stateliest, statelier yet than prophet-bard hath sung.
O mighty Mother, proudly set
Beside the far-inreaching sea,
None shall the trophied Past forget
Or doubt thy splendor yet to be!
Recited at the Bicentennial Celebration of Yale University, October 23, 1901
All things on Earth that are accounted great
Are dedicate to conflict at first breath;
Nature herself knows grandly to await
The masterful estate
Which from her secret germ Time conjureth,
The elements that buffet man decree
His lustihood prevailing to the end;
The free air foreordains him to be free;—
Their stern persistency
The ages to his resolute spirit lend.
So rose our Academe since that far day
When reverently the grave forefathers came,
In council by the shoal ancestral bay,
To speak the word,—to pray,—
To found the enduring shrine without a name.
Ye, at the witchery of whose golden wand
New cloisters rise to splendor in a night,—
Find here your model! Here the barriers stand
That were not made to hand,
That have the puissance Time confers aright.
Born with the exit of that iron age
When Nova Anglia to New-England grew,
Learning's new child put up a hermitage,
Whereof no godly mage
As from a mount the boundaries foreknew;
No oracle betokened the obscure
Grim years encountering which the elders bowed,
Yet knew not faintness nor discomfiture,
But set the buttress sure
That should upstay these tabernacles proud;
These fanes, that bred their patriot to vie
In steadfastness, erect of thought to live,
Or, when the country bade, undauntedly
Without lament to die
Save that he had but one young life to give.
Twice, thrice, and yet again, that sovereign call
Rang not in vain; nor from this ancient grove
Hath ceased to broaden, as the days befall,
The famed processional
Of the mind's workmen who to greatness move.
No feebling she that reared them, no forlorn
And wrinkled mother lingering in the gray;
Fadeless she smiles to see her shield upborne:
It is her morn, her morn!
The past, but twilight ushering in her day.
Strong Mother! thou who from the doorways old,
Or housed anew in beauty renovate,
Hast spread thine heritage a hundred-fold,—
Hast wrought us to thy mould
Whether the bread of ease or toil we ate;
Thou who hast made thy sons coequal all,
The least one of thy progeny a peer
Wearing for worth not birth his coronal,—
The watchmen on thy wall
Wax proud this sundawn of thy cyclic year!
The lustres of a new-won firmament,
Spanned from the height thine upmost turrets crown,
Relume the course whereon thy thoughts are bent,—
Whereto the words are sent
That bid thy children pass the lineage down.
Ere yet that rainbowed dome thou seest complete,
Mankind, be sure, shall Earth more nobly share;
No churl his measure shall unduly mete;
And where are set thy feet
Life shall be counted lordlier and more fair.
Science shall yield new spells for man to know,
And bid thee consecrate to mortal weal
All that her henchmen in thy gates bestow;
Nor lofty then, nor low,
Save to his race each ministrant is leal.
Thine be it still the undying antique speech,
The grove's high thought, the wing'd Hellenic lyre,
Unvexed of soul thy acolytes to teach,—
So shall they also reach
Their lamps, and light them at a quenchless fire;
And wield the trebly-welded English tongue,
Their vantage by inheritance divine,
Invincible the laurelled lists among
Wherein the bards have sung
Or sages deathless made the lettered line;
Till now, for that sure Pentecost to come,
The globe's four winds are winnowing apace
Fresh harvestings of speech, in one to sum
A world's curriculum
When East and West forgather face to face.
Thus first imbued, thy coming host the clues
To broad achievement shall descry the more;
What thou hast taught them shall in statecraft use
Greatly; nor can they choose
But follow where the omens blaze before!
Even as our Platonist's exultant soul
That westward course of empire visioned far,
Now round the sheen, to Asia and the Pole,
Time charts upon our scroll
The empearlèd pathways of an orient star.
There the swart Malay's juster league begun
Takes from our hands the tables of the law;
The mild Hawaiian raises to the sun
The folds himself had won
Ere the Antilles their deliverance saw.
Time's drama speeds: albeit, alas! its chief
Protagonist, augmenter of the State,
Fell as the Prompter turned that unread leaf,—
And oh, what tragic grief
Just when consummate towered the action great!
To strong brave hands the rule, the large intent,
Have passed. Nor tears alone that some far plan
Required the master's life-blood interblent—
To point his monument
And leave once more the likeness of a man.
But we, Yale's living multitude rebrought
From farthest outposts of the pine and palm,—
We know her battlements of iron wrought,
Her captains fearing naught,
Her voice of welcome rising like a psalm.
We know the still indissoluble chain
Wherewith the sons are to the Mother bound;
Nor unto any shall she call in vain
Who in her heart have lain
And trod the memoried precinct of her ground.
God dower her endowering her brood
With knowledge, beauty, valor, from her breast,—
Ingathering from the peopled town, the wood,
The island solitude,
The land's most loyal and its manfullest!
God keep her! Yea, that Soul her soul endure,—
That Spirit of the interstellar void,
That mightier Presence than the fathers knew,—
The source of light wherethrough
Heaven's planets shine in joy and strength deployed.
That Power,—even that which doth impart a share
And semblance of divinity to our kind,—
Hold thee, dear Mother, here and everywhere,—
Thee and thy sons,—in care,
Through centuries yet still loftier use to find!
A wind and a voice from the North!
A courier-wind sent forth
From the mountains to the sea:
A summons borne to me
From halls which the Muses haunt, from hills where the heart and the wind are free!
"Come from the outer throng!"
(Such was the burden it bore,)
"Thou who hast gone before,
Hither! and sing us a song,
Far from the round of the town and the sound of the great world's roar!"
O masterful voice of Youth,
That will have, like the upland wind, its own wild way!
O choral words, that with every season rise
Like the warblings of orchard-birds at break of day!
O faces, fresh with the light of morning skies!
No marvel world-worn toilers seek you here,
Even as they life renew, from year to year,
In woods and meadows lit with blossoming May;
But O, blithe voices, that have such sweet power,
Unto your high behest this summer hour
What answer has the poet? how shall he frame his lay?
"What shall my song rehearse?" I said
To a wise bard, whose hoary head
Is bowed, like Kearsarge crouching low
Beneath a winter weight of snow,
But whose songs of passion, joy, or scorn,
Within a fiery heart are born.
"What can I spread, what proper feast
For these young Magi of the East?
What wisdom find, what mystic lore,
What chant they have not heard before?
Strange words of old has every tongue
Those happy cloistered hills among;
For each riddle I divine
They can answer me with nine;
Their footsteps by the Muse are led,
Their lips on Plato's honey fed;
Their eyes have skill to read the page
Of Theban bard or Attic sage;
For them all Nature's mysteries,—
The deep-down secrets of the seas,
The cyclone's whirl, the lightning's shock,
The language of the riven rock;
They know the starry sisters seven,—
What clouds the molten suns enfold,
And all the golden woof of heaven
Unravelled in their lens behold!
Gazing in a thousand eyes,
So rapt and clear, so wonder-wise,
What shall my language picture, then,
Beyond their wont—that has not reached their ken?
"What else are poets used to sing,
Who sing of youth, than laurelled fame and love?
But ah! it needs no words to move
Young hearts to some impassioned vow,
To whom already on the wing
The blind god hastens. Even now
Their pulses quiver with a thrill
Than all that wisdom wiser still.
Nor any need to tell of rustling bays,
Of honor ever at the victor's hand,
To them who at the portals stand
Like mettled steeds,—each eager from control
To leap, and, where the corso lies ablaze,
Let out his speed and soonest pass the goal.
"What is there left? what shall my verse
Within those ancient halls rehearse?"
Deep in his heart my plaint the minstrel weighed,
And a subtle answer made:
"The world that is, the ways of men,
Not yet are glassed within their ken.
Their foster-mother holds them long,—
Long, long to youth,—short, short to age, appear
The rounds of her Olympic Year,—
Their ears are quickened for the trumpet-call.
Sing to them one true song,
Ere from the Happy Vale they turn,
Of all the Abyssinian craved to learn,
And dared his fate, and scaled the mountain-wall
To join the ranks without, and meet what might befall."
Gone the Arcadian age,
When, from his hillside hermitage
Sent forth, the gentle scholar strode
At ease upon a royal road,
And found the outer regions all they seem
In Youth's prophetic dream.
The graduate took his station then
By right, a ruler among men:
Courtly the three estates, and sure;
The bar, the bench, the pulpit, pure;
No cosmic doubts arose, to vex
The preacher's heart, his faith perplex.
Content in ancient paths he trod,
Nor searched beyond his Book for God.
Great virtue lurked in many a saw
And in the doctor's Latin lay;
Men thought, lived, died, in the appointed way.
Yet eloquence was slave to law,
And law to right: the statesman sought
A patriot's fame, and served his land, unbought,
And bore erect his front, and held his oath in awe.
But, now, far other days
Have made less green the poet's bays,—
Have less revered the band and gown,
The grave physician's learnèd frown,—
Shaken the penitential mind
That read the text nor looked behind,—
Brought from his throne the bookman down,
Made hard the road to station and renown!
Now from this seclusion deep
The scholar wakes,—as one from sleep,
As one from sleep remote and sweet,
In some fragrant garden-close
Between the lily and the rose,
Roused by the tramp of many feet,
Leaps up to find a ruthless, warring band,
Dust, strife, an untried weapon in his hand!
The time unto itself is strange,
Driven on from change to change,
Neither of past nor present sure,
The ideal vanished nor the real secure.
Heaven has faded from the skies,
Faith hides apart and weeps with clouded eyes;
A noise of cries we hear, a noise of creeds,
While the old heroic deeds
Not of the leaders now are told, as then,
But of lowly, common men.
See by what paths the loud-voiced gain
Their little heights above the plain:
Truth, honor, virtue, cast away
For the poor plaudits of a day!
Now fashion guides at will
The artists brush, the writer's quill,
While, for a weary time unknown,
The reverent workman toils alone,
Asking for bread and given but a stone.
Fettered with gold the statesman's tongue;
Now, even the church, among
New doubts and strange discoveries, half in vain
Defends her long, ancestral reign;
Now, than all others grown more great,
That which was the last estate
By turns reflects and rules the age,—
Laughs, scolds, weeps, counsels, jeers,—a jester and sage!
Here in Learning's shaded haunt,
The battle-fugue and mingled cries forlorn
Softened to music seem, nor the clear spirit daunt;
Here, in the gracious world that looks
From earth and sky and books,
Easeful and sweet it seems all else to scorn
Than works of noble use and virtue born;
Brave hope and high ambition consecrate
Our coming years to something great.
But when the man has stood,
Anon, in garish outer light,
Feeling the first wild fever of the blood
That places self with self at strife
Whether to hoard or drain the wine of life,—
When the broad pageant flares upon the sight,
And tuneful Pleasure plumes her wing
And the crowds jostle and the mad bells ring,—
Then he, who sees the vain world take slow heed
Albeit of his worthiest and best,
And still, through years of failure and unrest,
Would keep inviolate his vow,
Of all his faith and valor has sore need!
Even then, I know, do nobly as we will,
What we would not, we do, and see not how;
That which we would, is not, we know not why;
Some fortune holds us from our purpose still,—
Chance sternly beats us back, and turns our steps awry!
YOUTH AND AGE
How slow, how sure, how swift,
The sands within each glass,
The brief, illusive moments, pass!
Half unawares we mark their drift
Till the awakened heart cries out,—Alas!
Alas, the fair occasion fled,
The precious chance to action all unwed!
And murmurs in its depths the old refrain,—
Had we but known betimes what now we know in vain!
When the veil from the eyes is lifted
The seer's head is gray;
When the sailor to shore has drifted
The sirens are far away.
Why must the clearer vision,
The wisdom of Life's late hour,
Come, as in Fate's derision,
When the hand has lost its power?
Is there a rarer being,
Is there a fairer sphere
Where the strong are not unseeing,
And the harvests are not sere;
Where, ere the season's dwindle
They yield their due return;
Where the lamps of knowledge kindle
While the flames of youth still burn?
O for the young man's chances!
O for the old man's will!
Those flee while this advances,
And the strong years cheat us still.
Is there naught else?—you say,—
No braver prospect far away?
No gladder song, no ringing call
Beyond the misty mountain-wall?
And were it thus indeed, I know
Your hearts would still with courage glow;
I know how yon historic stream
Is laden yet, as in the past,
With dreamful longings on it cast,
By those who saunter from the crown
Of this broad slope, their reverend Academe,—
Who reach the meadowed banks, and lay them down
On the green sward, and set their faces south,
Embarked in Fancy's shallop there,
And with the current seek the river's mouth,
Finding the outer ocean grand and fair.
Ay, like a stream's perpetual tide,
Wave after wave each blithe, successive throng
Must join the main and wander far and wide.
To you the golden, vanward years belong!
Ye need not fear to leave the shore:
Not seldom youth has shamed the sage
With riper wisdom,—but to age
Youth, youth, returns no more!
Be yours the strength by will to conquer fate,
Since to the man who sees his purpose clear,
And gains that knowledge of his sphere
Within which lies all happiness,—
Without, all danger and distress,—
And seeks the right, content to strive and wait,
To him all good things flow, nor honor crowns him late.
One such there was, that brother elder-born
And loftiest,—from your household torn
In the rathe spring-time, ere
His steps could seek their olden pathways here.
Mourn, for your Mother mourns, of him bereft,—
Her strong one! he is fallen:
But has left
His works your heritage and guide,
Through East and West his stalwart fame divide.
Mourn, for the liberal youth,
The undaunted spirit whose quintessence rare,
Fanned by the Norseland air,
Saw flaming in its own white heat the truth
That Man, whate'er his ancestry,
Tanned by what sun or exiled from what shore,
Hears in his soul the high command,—Be Free!
For him who, at the parting of the ways,
Disdained the flowery path, and gave
His succor to the hunted Afric slave,
Whose cause he chose nor feared the world's dispraise;
Yet found anon the right become the might,
And, in the long revenge of time,
Lived to renown and hoary years sublime.
Ye know him now, your beacon-light!
Ay, he was fronted like a tower,—
In thought large-moulded, as of frame;
He that, in the supreme hour,
Sat brooding at the river-heads of power
With sovereign strength for every need that came!
Not for that blameless one the place
That opens wide to men of lesser race;—
Even as of old the votes are given,
And Aristides is from Athens driven;
But for our statesmen, in his grander trust
No less the undefiled, The Just,—
With poesy and learning lightly worn,
And knees that bent to Heaven night and morn,—
For him that sacred, unimpassioned seat,
Where right and wrong for stainless judgment meet
Above the greed, the strife, the party call.—
Henceforth let Chase's robes on no base shoulders fall!
Well may your hearts be valiant,—ye who stand
Within that glory from the past,
And see how ripe the time, how fair the land
In which your lot is cast!
For us alone your sorrow,
Ye children of the morrow,—
For us, who struggle yet, and wait,
Sent forth too early and too late!
But yours shall be our tenure handed down,
Conveyed in blood, stamped with the martyr's crown;
For which the toilers long have wrought,
And poets sung, and heroes fought;
The new Saturnian age is yours,
That juster season soon to be
On the near coasts (whereto your vessels sail
Beyond the darkness and the gale),
Of proud Atlantis risen from the sea!
You shall not know the pain that now endures
The surge, the smiting of the waves,
The overhanging thunder,
The shades of night which plunge engulfed under
Those yawning island-caves;
But in their stead for you shall glisten soon
The coral circlet and the still lagoon,
Green shores of freedom, blest with calms,
And sunlit streams and meads, and shadowy palms:
Such joys await you, in our sorrows' stead;
Thither our charts have almost led;
Nor in that land shall worth, truth, courage, ask for alms.
VALETE ET SALVETE
O, trained beneath the Northern Star!
Worth, courage, honor, these indeed
Your sustenance and birthright are!
Now, from her sweet dominion freed,
Your Foster Mother bids you speed;
Her gracious hands the gates unbar,
Her richest gifts you bear away,
Her memories shall be your stay:
Go where you will, her eyes your course shall mark afar.
June 25, 1873.
THE OLD ADMIRAL
Gone at last,
That brave old hero of the Past!
His spirit has a second birth,
An unknown, grander life;—
All of him that was earth
Lies mute and cold,
Like a wrinkled sheath and old
Thrown off forever from the shimmering blade
That has good entrance made
Upon some distant, glorious strife.
From another generation,
A simpler age, to ours Old Ironsides came;
The morn and noontide of the nation
Alike he knew, nor yet outlived his fame,—
O, not outlived his fame!
The dauntless men whose service guards our shore
Lengthen still their glory-roll
With his name to lead the scroll,
As a flagship at her fore
Carries the Union, with its azure and the stars,
Symbol of times that are no more
And the old heroic wars.
He was the one
Whom Death had spared alone
Of all the captains of that lusty age,
Who sought the foeman where he lay,
On sea or sheltering bay,
Nor till the prize was theirs repressed their rage.
They are gone,—all gone:
They rest with glory and the undying Powers;
Only their name and fame and what they saved are ours!
It was fifty years ago,
Upon the Gallic Sea,
He bore the banner of the free,
And fought the fight whereof our children know.
The deathful, desperate fight!—
Under the fair moon's light
The frigate squared, and yawed to left and right.
Every broadside swept to death a score!
Roundly played her guns and well, till their fiery ensigns fell,
Neither foe replying more.
All in silence, when the night-breeze cleared the air,
Old Ironsides rested there,
Locked in between the twain, and drenched with blood.
Then homeward, like an eagle with her prey!
O, it was a gallant fray,
That fight in Biscay Bay!
Fearless the Captain stood, in his youthful hardihood;
He was the boldest of them all,
Our brave old Admiral!
And still our heroes bleed,
Taught by that olden deed.
Whether of iron or of oak
The ships we marshal at our country's need,
Still speak their cannon now as then they spoke;
Still floats our unstruck banner from the mast
As in the stormy Past.
Lay him in the ground:
Let him rest where the ancient river rolls;
Let him sleep beneath the shadow and the sound
Of the bell whose proclamation, as it tolls,
Is of Freedom and the gift our fathers gave.
Lay him gently down:
The clamor of the town
Will not break the slumbers deep, the beautiful ripe sleep
Of this lion of the wave,
Will not trouble the old Admiral in his grave.
Earth to earth his dust is laid.
Methinks his stately shade
On the shadow of a great ship leaves the shore;
Over cloudless western seas
Seeks the far Hesperides,
The islands of the blest,
Where no turbulent billows roar,—
Where is rest.
His ghost upon the shadowy quarter stands
Nearing the deathless lands.
There all his martial mates, renewed and strong,
Await his coming long.
I see the happy Heroes rise
With gratulation in their eyes:
"Welcome, old comrade," Lawrence cries;
"Ah, Stewart, tell us of the wars!
Who win the glory and the scars?
How floats the skyey flag,—how many stars?
Still speak they of Decatur's name,
Of Bainbridge's and Perry's fame?
Of me, who earliest came?
Make ready, all:
Room for the Admiral!
Come, Stewart, tell us of the wars!"
November 22, 1869.
Earth, let thy softest mantle rest
On this worn child to thee returning,
Whose youth was nurtured at thy breast,
Who loved thee with such tender yearning!
He knew thy fields and woodland ways,
And deemed thy humbleest son his brother:—
Asleep, beyond our blame, or praise,
We yield him back, O gentle Mother!
Of praise, of blame he drank his fill:
Who has not read the life-long story?
And dear we hold his fame, but still
The man was dearer than his glory.
And now to us are left alone
The closet where his shadow lingers,
The vacant chair,—that was a throne,—
The pen, just fallen from his fingers.
Wrath changed to kindness on that pen;
Though dipped in gall, it flowed with honey;
One flash from out the cloud, and then
The skies with smile and jest were sunny.
Of hate he surely lacked the art,
Who made his enemy his lover:
O reverend head and Christian heart!
Where now their like the round world over?
He saw the goodness, not the taint,
In many a poor, do-nothing creature,
And gave to sinner and to saint,
But kept his faith in human nature;
Perchance he was not worldly-wise,
Yet we who noted, standing nearer,
The shrewd, kind twinkle in his eyes,
For every weakness held him dearer.
Alas that unto him who gave
So much, so little should be given!
Himself alone he might not save
Of all for whom his hands had striven.
Place, freedom, fame, his work bestowed:
Men took, and passed, and left him lonely;—
What marvel if, beneath his load,
At times he craved—for justice only!
Yet thanklessness, the serpent's tooth,
His lofty purpose could not alter;
Toil had no power to bend his youth,
Or make his lusty manhood falter;
From envy's sling, from slander's dart,
That armored soul the body shielded,
Till one dark sorrow chilled his heart,
And then he bowed his head and yielded.
Now, now, we measure at its worth
The gracious presence gone forever!
The wrinkled East, that gave him birth,
Laments with every laboring river;
Wild moan the free winds of the West
For him who gathered to her prairies
The sons of men, and made each crest
The haunt of happy household fairies;
And anguish sits upon the mouth
Of her who came to know him latest:
His heart was ever thine, O South!
He was thy truest friend, and greatest!
He shunned thee in thy splendid shame,
He stayed thee in thy voiceless sorrow;
The day thou shalt forget his name,
Fair South, can have no sadder morrow.
The tears that fall from eyes unused,—
The hands above his grave united,—
The words of men whose lips he loosed,
Whose cross he bore, whose wrongs he righted,—
Could he but know, and rest with this!
Yet stay, through Death's low-lying hollow,
His one last foe's insatiate hiss
On that benignant shade would follow!
Peace! while we shroud this man of men
Let no unhallowed word be spoken!
He will not answer thee again,
His mouth is sealed, his wand is broken.
Some holier cause, some vaster trust
Beyond the veil, he doth inherit:
O gently, Earth, receive his dust,
And Heaven soothe his troubled spirit!
December 3, 1872.
THE MONUMENT OF GREELEY
Read at the Unveiling of the Bust surmounting the Printers' Monument to Horace Greeley, Greenwood Cemetery, December 4, 1876
Once more, dear mother Earth, we stand
In reverence where thy bounty gave
Our brother, yielded to thy hand,
The sweet protection of the grave!
Well hast thou soothed him through the years,
The years our love and sorrow number,—
And with thy smiles, and with thy tears,
Made green and fair his place of slumber.
Thine be the keeping of that trust;
And ours this image, born of Art
To shine above his hidden dust,
What time the sunrise breezes part
The trees, and with new life enwreathe
Yon head,—until the lips are golden,
And from them music seems to breathe
As from the desert statue olden.
Would it were so! that now we might
Hear once his uttered voice again,
Or hold him present to our sight,
Nor reach with empty hands and vain!
O that, from some far place, were heard
One cadence of his speech returning,—
A whispered tone, a single word,
Sent back in answer to our yearning!
It may not be? What then the spark,
The essence which illumed the whole
And made his living form its mark
And outward likeness? What the soul
That warmed the heart and poised the head,
And spoke the thoughts we now inherit?
Bright force of fire and ether bred,—
Where art thou now, elusive Spirit?
Where, now, the sunburst of a love
Which blended still with sudden wrath
To nerve the righteous hand that strove,
And blaze in the oppressor's path?
Fair Earth, our dust is thine indeed!
Too soon he reached the voiceless portal,—
That whither leads? Where lies the mead
He gained, and knew himself immortal?
Or, tell us, on what distant star,
Where even as here are toil and wrong,
With strength renewed he lifts afar
A voice of aid, a war-cry strong?
What fruit, this stern Olympiad past,
Has that rich nature elsewhere yielded,
What conquest gained and knowledge vast,
What kindred beings loved and shielded!
Why seek to know? he little sought,
Himself, to lift the close-drawn veil,
Nor for his own salvation wrought
And pleaded, ay, and wore his mail;
No selfish grasp of life, no fear,
Won for mankind his ceaseless caring,
But for themselves he held them dear,—
Their birth and shrouded exit sharing.
Not his the feverish will to live
A sunnier life, a longer space,
Save that the Eternal Law might give
The boon in common to his race.
Earth, 't was thy heaven he loved, and best
Thy precious offspring, man and woman,
And labor for them seemed but rest
To him, whose nature was so human.
Even here his spirit haply longed
To stay, remembered by our kind,
And where the haunts of men are thronged
Move yet among them. Seek and find
A presence, though his voice has ceased,
Still, even where we dwell, remaining,
With all its tenderest thrills increased
And all it cared to ask obtaining.
List, how the varied things that took
The impress of his passion rare
Make answer! To the roadways look,
The watered vales, the hamlets fair.
He walks unseen the living woods,
The fields, the town, the shaded borough,
And in the pastoral solitudes
Delights to view the lengthening furrow.
The faithful East that cradled him,
Still, while she deems her nurseling sleeps,
Sits by his couch with vision dim;
The plenteous West his feast-day keeps;
The wistful South recalls the ways
Of one who in his love enwound her,
And stayed her, in the evil days,
With arms of comfort thrown around her.
He lives wherever men to men
In perilous hours his words repeat,
Where clangs the forge, where glides the pen,
Where toil and traffic crowd the street;
And in whatever time or place
Earth's purest souls their purpose strengthen,
Down the broad pathway of his race
The shadow of his name shall lengthen.
"Still with us!" all the liegemen cry
Who read his heart and held him dear;
The hills declare "He shall not die!"
The prairies answer "He is here!"
Immortal thus, no dread of fate
Be ours, no vain memento mori:
Life, Life, not Death, we celebrate,—
A lasting presence touched with glory.
The star may vanish,—but a ray,
Sent forth, what mandate can recall?
The circling wave still keeps its way
That marked a turret's seaward fall;
The least of music's uttered strains
Is part of Nature's voice forever;
And aye beyond the grave remains
The great, the good man's high endeavor!
Well may the brooding Earth retake
The form we knew, to be a part
Of bloom and herbage, fern and brake,
New lives that from her being start.
Naught of the soul shall there remain:
They came on void and darkness solely
Who the veiled Spirit sought in vain
Within the temple's shrine Most Holy.
That, that, has found again the source
From which itself to us was lent:
The Power that, in perpetual course,
Makes of the dust an instrument
Supreme; the universal Soul;
The current infinite and single
Wherein, as ages onward roll,
Life, Thought, and Will forever mingle.
What more is left, to keep our hold
On him who was so true and strong?
This semblance, raised above the mould
With offerings of word and song,
That men may teach, in aftertime,
Their sons how goodness marked the features
Of one whose life was made sublime
By service for his brother creatures.
And last, and lordliest, his fame,—
A station in the sacred line
Of heroes that have left a name
We conjure with,—a place divine,
Since, in the world's eternal plan,
Divinity itself is given,
To him who lives or dies for Man
And looks within his soul for Heaven.
What! shall that sudden blade
Leap out no more?
No more thy hand be laid
Upon the sword-hilt, smiting sore?
O for another such
The charger's rein to clutch,—
One equal voice to summon victory,
Sounding thy battle-cry,
Brave darling of the soldiers' choice!
Would there were one more voice!
O gallant charge, too bold!
O fierce, imperious greed
To pierce the clouds that in their darkness hold
Slaughter of man and steed!
Now, stark and cold,
Among thy fallen braves thou liest,
And even with thy blood defiest
The wolfish foe:
But ah, thou liest low,
And all our birthday song is hushed indeed!
Young lion of the plain,
Thou of the tawny mane!
Hotly the soldiers' heart shall beat,
Their mouths thy death repeat,
Their vengeance seek the trail again
Where thy red doomsmen be;
But on the charge no more shall stream
Thy hair,—no more thy sabre gleam,—
No more ring out thy battle-shout,
Thy cry of victory!
Not when a hero falls
The sound a world appalls:
For while we plant his cross
There is a glory, even in the loss:
But when some craven heart
From honor dares to part,
Then, then, the groan, the blanching cheek,
And men in whispers speak,
Nor kith nor country dare reclaim
From the black depths his name.
Thou, wild young warrior, rest,
By all the prairie winds caressed!
Swift was thy dying pang;
Even as the war-cry rang
Thy deathless spirit mounted high
And sought Columbia's sky:—
There, to the northward far,
Shines a new star,
And from it blazes down
The light of thy renown!
July 10, 1876.
Read at the Opening Session of the Summer School of Philosophy, Concord, July 11, 1881
No sandalled footsteps fall,
Tablet and coronal
From the Cephissian grove have vanished long,
Yet in the sacred dale
Still bides the nightingale
Easing his ancient heart-break still with song;
Or is there some dim audience
Viewless to all save his unclouded sense?
Revisit now those glades
The stately mantled shades
Whose lips so wear the inexorable spell?
Saying, with heads sunk low,
All that we sought, we know,—
We know, but not to mortal ears may tell:
No answer unto man's desire
Shall thus be made, to quench his eager fire.
Under these orchard trees
Still pure and fresh the breeze
As where the plane-tree whispered to the elm;
The thrush and robin bring
A new-world offering
Of song,—nor are we banished from the realm
Of thought that as the wind is pure,
And converse deep, and memories that endure.
Some honey dropped as well,
Some dew of hydromel
From wilding meadow-bees, upon the lips
Of poet and sage who found,
Here on our own dear ground,
Light as of old; who let no dull eclipse
Obscure this modern sky, where first
Through perilous clouds the dawn of freedom burst.
Within this leafy haunt
Their service ministrant
Upheld the nobler freedom of the soul.
How was it hither came
The message and the flame
Anew? Make answer from thine aureole,
O mother Nature, thou who best
Man's heart in all thy ways interpretest!
High thoughts of thee brought near
Unto our minstrel-seer
The antique calm, the Asian wisdom old,
Till in his verse we heard
Of blossom, bee, and bird,
Of mountain crag and pine, the manifold
Rich song,—and on the world his eyes
Dwelt penetrant with vision sweet and wise.
Whence came the silver tongue
To one forever young
Who spoke until our hearts within us burned?
This reverend one, who took
No palimpsest or book,
But read his soul with glances inward turned,
While (her rapt forehead like the dawn)
The Sibyl listened, by that music drawn,
And from her fearless mouth,
Where never speech had drouth,
Gave voice to some old chant of womanhood,—
Her own imaginings,
Like swift, resplendent things,
Flashing from eyes that knew to beam or brood.
What sought these shining ones? What thought
From preacher-saint have poet and teacher caught?
In scorn of meaner use,
Anon, the young recluse
Builded his hut beside the woodland lake,
And set the world far off,
Though with no will to scoff,
Thus from the Earth's near breast fresh life to take.
Against her bosom, heart to heart,
All Nature's sweets he ravished for his Art.
The soul's fine instrument,
Of pains and raptures blent,
Replied to these clear voices, tone for tone,
Their cadence answering
With tuneful sounds that wing
The upper air a few perchance have known,
The stormless empyrean, where
In strength and joy a few move unaware.
Ah, even thus the thrill
Of life beyond life's ill
To feel betimes our envious selves are fain,—
Seeing that, as birds in night
Wind-driven against the light
Whose unseen armor mocks their stress and pain,
Most men fall baffled in the surge
That to their cry responds but with a dirge.
Where broods the Absolute,
Or shuns our long pursuit
By fiery utmost pathways out of ken?
Fleeter than sunbeams, lo,
Our passionate spirits go,
And traverse immemorial space, and then
Look off, and look in vain, to find
The master-clew to all they left behind.
White orbs like angels pass
Before the triple glass,
That men may scan the record of each flame,—
Of spectral line and line
The legendry divine,—
Finding their mould the same, and aye the same,
The atoms that we knew before
Of which ourselves are made,—dust, and no more.
So let our defter art
Probe the warm brain, and part
Each convolution of the trembling shell:
But whither now has fled
The sense to matter wed
That murmured here? All silence, such as fell
When to the shrine beyond the Ark
The soldiers reached, and found it void and dark.
Seek elsewhere, and in vain
The wings of morning chain;
Their speed transmute to fire, and bring the Light,
The co-eternal beam
Of the blind minstrel's dream;
But think not that bright heat to know aright,
Nor how the trodden seed takes root,
Waked by its glow, and climbs to flower and fruit.
Behind each captured law
Weird shadows give us awe;
Press with your swords, the phantoms still evade;
Through our alertest host
Wanders at ease some ghost,
Now here, now there, by no enchantment laid,
And works upon our souls its will,
Leading us on to subtler mazes still.
We think, we feel, we are;
And light, as of a star,
Gropes through the mist,—a little light is given;
And aye from life and death
We strive, with indrawn breath,
To somehow wrest the truth, and long have striven,
Nor pause, though book and star and clod
Reply, Canst thou by searching find out God?
As from the hollow deep
The soul's strong tide must keep
Its purpose still. We rest not, though we hear
No voice from heaven let fall,
No chant antiphonal
Sounding through sunlit clefts that open near;
We look not outward, but within,
And think not quite to end as we begin.
For now the questioning age
Cries to each hermitage,
Cease not to ask,—or bring again the time
When the young world's belief
Made light the mourner's grief
And strong the sage's word, the poet's rhyme,—
Ere Knowledge thrust a spear-head through
The temple's veil that priest so closely drew.
From what our fate inurns—
Save that which music yearns
To speak, in ecstasy none understand,
And (Oh, how like to it!)
The half-formed rays that flit,
Like memories vague, above the further land—
Cry, as the star-led Magi cried,
We seek, we seek, we will not be denied!
Let the blind throng await
A healer at the gate;
Our hearts press on to see what yonder lies,
Knowing that arch on arch
Shall loom across the march
And over portals gained new strongholds rise.
The search itself a glory brings,
Though foiled so oft, that seeks the soul of things.
Some brave discovery,
Howbeit in vain we try
To clutch the shape that lures us evermore,
It shall be ours to make,—
As, where the waters break
Upon the margin of a pathless shore,
They find, who sought for gold alone,
The sudden wonders of a clime unknown.
Such treasure by the way
Your errantry shall pay,
Nor shall it aught against your hope prevail
That not to waking eyes
The golden clouds arise
Wherewith our visions clothe the mystic Grail,
When, in blithe halts upon the road,
We sleep where pilgrims earlier gone abode.
After the twelvemonth set
When as of old they met,
(A twelvemonth and a day, and kept their tryst,)
And knight to pilgrim told
Things given them to behold,
What country found, what gained of all they wist,
(While ministering hands assign
To each a share of healing food and wine,)
So come,—when long grass waves
Above the holiest graves
Of them whose ripe adventure chides our own,—
Come where the great elms lean
Their quivering leaves and green
To shade the moss-clung roofs now sacred grown,
And where the bronze and granite tell
How Liberty was hailed with Life's farewell.
Here let your Academe
Be no ignoble dream,
But, consecrate with life and death and song,
Through the land's spaces spread
The trust inherited,
The hope which from your hands shall take no wrong,
And build an altar that may last
Till heads now young be laurelled with the Past.
"UBI SUNT QUI ANTE NOS?"
Read at the Semi-Centennial Meeting of the Century Association, January 13, 1897
How now are the Others faring? Where sit They all in state?
And is there a token that somewhere, beyond the muffled gate,
The vanished and unreturning, whose names our memories fill,
Are holding their upper conclave and are of the Century still?
Is it all a fancy that somewhere, that somehow, the mindful Dead,
From the first that made his exit to the latest kinsman sped,—
Their vision ourselves unnoting, their shapes by ourselves unseen,—
Have gathered like us, together this night in that strange demesne?
That the astral world's telepathy along their aisles of light
Has summoned our brave immortals, this selfsame mortal night,
All in that rare existence where thoughts a substance are,
To their native planet's aura, from journeyings near and far;
And that now with forms made over, and life as jocund and young
As when they here kept wassail and joined in the catches sung,
They have met in the ancient fashion, and now in the old-time speech
Are chanting their Vivat Centuria just out of our hearing's reach?
Yes, O yes,—as the pictured ghosts of Huns war on in middle air
With a fiercer battle-hunger from the field upflinging there,—
And since the things we have chosen from all, as most of worth
Forever here and hereafter, cease not with the end of Earth;
Since joy and knowledge and beauty, and the love of man to man
Passing the love of women, the links of our chain began,—
Yea, even as these are ceaseless, so they who were liegemen here
Hark back and are all Centurions this night of the fiftieth year!
Yes, the draftsmen and craftsmen have fashioned with a dream's compelling force
The Century's lordlier temple, have builded it course on course,
And a luminiferous ether floods the great assembly-hall
Where the scintillant "C. A." colophon burns high in the sight of all.
The painters have hung from end to end cloud-canvases ablaze
With that color-scheme from us hidden in the ultra-violet rays,
With the new chiaroscuro of things that each way face,
And the in-and-out perspective of their four-dimensioned space.
O, to hear the famed Cantators upraise the mighty chant,
With their bass transposed to the tumbling depth below our octaves scant,
And a tenor of those Elysian notes "too fine for mortal ear,"
Yet tuned to the diapason of this dear old darkling sphere!
And O, to catch but a glimpse of the company thronged around—
The scholars that know it all at last, the poets finally crowned!
There the blithe divines, that fear no more the midnight chimes, sit each
With his halo tilted a trifle, and his harp at easy reach;
There all the jolly Centurions of high or low degree,
This night of nights, as in early time, foregather gloriously,—
Come back, mayhap, from Martian meads, from many an orb come back,
Full sure the cheer they cared for here this night shall have no lack;
For they know the jovial servitors have mingled a noble brew
Of the tipple men call nectarean, the pure celestial dew,
And are passing around ambrosial cakes, while the incense-clouds arise
Of something akin to those earthly fumes not even the Blest despise.
And yet—and yet—could we listen, we might o'erhear them say
They would barter a year of Aidenn to be here for a night and a day;
And if one of us yearns to follow the paths that thitherward wend—
Let him rest content,—let him have no fear,—he verily shall in the end.
Then not for the quick alone this hour unbar the entrance gate,
But a health to the brethren gone before, however they hold their state!
Nor think it all fancy that to our hearts there comes an answering thrill
From the Dead that echo our Vivats and are of the Century still.
Harp of New England song,
That even in slumber tremblest with the touch
Of poets who like the four winds from thee waken
All harmonies that to thy strings belong,—
Say, wilt thou blame the younger hands too much
Which from thy laurelled resting-place have taken
Thee, crowned-one, in their hold? There is a name
Should quicken thee! No carol Hawthorne sang,
Yet his articulate spirit, like thine own,
Made answer, quick as flame,
To each breath of the shore from which he sprang,
And prose like his was poesy's high tone.
By measureless degrees
Star follows star throughout the rounded night.
Far off his path began, yet reached the near
Sweet influences of the Pleiades,—
A portion and a sharer of the light
That shall so long outlast each burning sphere.
Beneath the shade and whisper of the pines
Two youths were fostered in the Norseland air;
One found an eagle's plume, and one the wand
Wherewith a seer divines:
Now but the Minstrel lingers of that pair,—
The rod has fallen from the mage's hand.
Gray on thy mountain height,
More fair than wonderland beside thy streams,
Thou with the splendors twain of youth and age,
This was the son who read thy heart aright,
Of whom thou wast beholden in his dreams,—
The one New-Englander! Upon whose page
Thine offspring still are animate, and move
Adown thy paths, a quaint and stately throng:
Grave men of God who made the olden law,
Fair maidens, meet for love,—
All living types that to the coast belong
Since Carver from the prow thy headland saw.
What should the master be
Who to the world New-England's self must render,
Her best interpreter, her very own?
How spake the brooding Mother, strong and tender,
Back-looking through her youth betwixt the moan
Of forests and the murmur of the sea?
"Thou too," she said, "must first be set aside
To keep my ancient vigil for a space,—
Taught by repression, by the combating
With thine own pride of pride,
An unknown watcher in a lonely place
With none on whom thine utterance to fling."
But first of all she fed
Her heart's own favorite upon the store
Of precious things she treasures in her woods,
Of charm and story in her valleys spread.
For him her whispering winds and brooks that pour
Made ceaseless music in the solitudes;
The manifold bright surges of her deep
Gave him their light. Within her voice's call
She lured him on, by roadways overhung
With elms, that he might keep
Remembrance of her legends as they fall
Her shaded walks and gabled roofs among.
Within the mists she drew,
Anon, his silent footsteps, as her own
Were led of old, until he came to be
An eremite, whose life the desert knew,
And gained companionship in dreams alone.
The world, it seemed, had naught for such as he,—
For one who in his heart's deep wilderness
Shrunk darkling, and, whatever wind might blow,
Found no quick use for potent hands and fain,
No chance that might express
To humankind the thoughts which moved him so.
O, deem not those long years were quite in vain!
For his was the brave soul
Which, touched with fire, dwells not on whatsoever
Its outer senses hold in their intent,
But, sleepless even in sleep, must gather toll
Of dreams which pass like barks upon the river
And make each vision Beauty's instrument;
That from its own love Love's delight can tell,
And from its own grief guess the shrouded Sorrow;
From its own joyousness of Joy can sing;
That can predict so well
From its own dawn the lustre of to-morrow,
The whole flight from the flutter of the wing.
And his the gift which sees
A revelation and a tropic sign
In the lone passion-flower, and can discover
The likeness of the far Antipodes,
Though but a leaf is stranded from the brine;
His the fine spirit which is so true a lover
Of sovran Art, that all the becks of life
Allure it not until the work be wrought.
Nay, though the shout and smoke of combat rose,
He, through the changeful strife,
Eternal loveliness more closely sought,
And Beauty's changeless law and sure repose.
Was it not well that one—
One, if no more—should meditate aloof,
Though not for naught the time's heroic quarrel,
From what men rush to do and what is done.
He little knew to join the web and woof
Whereof slow Progress weaves her rich apparel,
But toward the Past half longing turned his head.
His deft hand dallied with its common share
Of human toil, nor sought new loads to lift
But held itself, instead,
All consecrate to uses that make fair,
By right divine of his mysterious gift.
How should the world discern
The artist's self, save through the fine creation
Of his rare moment? How, but from his song,
The unfettered spirit of the minstrel learn?
Yet on this one the stars had set the station
Which to the chief romancer should belong:
Child of the Beautiful! whose regnant brow
She made her canopy, and from his eyes
Looked outward with a steadfast purple gleam.
Who saw him marvelled how
The soul of that impassioned ray could lie
So calm beyond,—unspoken all its dream.
What sibyl to him bore
The secret oracles that move and haunt?
At night's dread noon he scanned the enchanted glass,
Ay, and himself the warlock's mantle wore,
Nor to the thronging phantoms said Avaunt,
But waved his rod and bade them rise and pass;
Till thus he drew the lineaments of men
Who fought the old colonial battles three,
Who with the lustihood of Nature warred
And made her docile,—then
Wrestled with Terror and with Tyranny,
Twin wardens of the scaffold and the sword.
He drew his native land,
The few and rude plantations of her Past,
Fringed by the beaches of her sounding shore;
Her children, as he drew them, there they stand;
There, too, her Present, with an outline cast
Still from the shape those other centuries wore.
Betimes the orchards and the clover-fields
Change into woods o'ershadowing a host
That winds along the Massachusetts Path;
The sword of Standish shields
The Plymouth band, and where the lewd ones boast
Stern Endicott pours out his godly wrath.
Within the Province House
The ancient governors hold their broidered state,—
Still gleam the lights, the shadows come and go;
Here once again the powdered guests carouse,
The masquerade lasts on, the night is late.
Thrice waves a mist-invoking wand, and lo,
What troubled sights! What summit bald and steep
Where stands a ladder 'gainst the accursed tree?
What dark processions thither slowly climb?
Anon, what lost ones keep
Their midnight tryst with forms that evil be,
Around the witch-fire in the forest grim!
Clearly the master's plan
Revealed his people, even as they were,
The prayerful elder and the winsome maid,
The errant roisterer, the Puritan,
Dark Pyncheon, mournful Hester,—all are there.
But none save he in our own time so laid
His summons on man's spirit; none but he,
Whether the light thereof were clear or clouded,
Thus on his canvas fixed the human soul,
The thoughts of mystery,
In deep hearts by this mortal guise enshrouded,
Wild hearts that like the church-bells ring and toll.
Two natures in him strove
Like day with night, his sunshine and his gloom.
To him the stern forefathers' creed descended,
The weight of some inexorable Jove
Prejudging from the cradle to the tomb;
But therewithal the lightsome laughter blended
Of that Arcadian sweetness undismayed
Which finds in Love its law, and graces still
The rood, the penitential symbol worn,—
Which sees, beyond the shade,
The Naiad nymph of every rippling rill,
And hears quick Fancy wind her wilful horn.
What if he brooded long
On Time and Fate,—the ominous progression
Of years that with Man's retributions frown,—
The destinies which round his footsteps throng,—
Justice, that heeds not Mercy's intercession,—
Crime, on its own head calling vengeance down,—
Deaf Chance and blind, that, like the mountain-slide
Puts out Youth's heart of fire and all is dark!
What though the blemish which, in aught of earth,
The maker's hand defied,
Was plain to him,—the one evasive mark
Wherewith Death stamps us for his own at birth!
Ah, none the less we know
He felt the imperceptible fine thrill
With which the waves of being palpitate,
Whether in ecstasy of joy or woe,
And saw the strong divinity of Will
Bringing to halt the stolid tramp of Fate;
Nor from his work was ever absent quite
The presence which, o'ercast it as we may,
Things far beyond our reason can suggest:
There was a drifting light
In Donatello's cell,—a fitful ray
Of sunshine came to hapless Clifford's breast.
Into such blossom brake
Our northern hedge, that neither mortal sadness
Nor the drear thought of lives that strive and fail,
Nor any hues its sombre leaves might take
From clouded skies, could overcome its gladness
Or in the blessing of its shade prevail.
Fresh sprays it yielded them of Merry Mount
For wedding wreaths; blithe Phœbe with the sweet
Pure flowers her promise to her lover gave:
Beside it, from a fount
Where Pearl and Pansie plashed their innocent feet,
A brook ran on and kissed Zenobia's grave.
Silent and dark the spell
Laid on New England by the frozen North;
Long, long the months,—and yet the Winter ends,
The snow-wraiths vanish, and rejoicing well
The dandelions from the grass leap forth,
And Spring through budding birch and willow sends
Her wind of Paradise. And there are left
Poets to sing of all, and welcome still
The robin's voice, the humble-bee's wise drone;
Nor are we yet bereft
Of one whose sagas ever at his will
Can answer back the ocean, tone for tone.
But he whose quickened eye
Saw through New England's life her inmost spirit,—
Her heart, and all the stays on which it leant,—
Returns not, since he laid the pencil by
Whose mystic touch none other shall inherit!
What though its work unfinished lies? Half-bent
The rainbow's arch fades out in upper air;
The shining cataract half-way down the height
Breaks into mist; the haunting strain, that fell
On listeners unaware,
Ends incomplete, but through the starry night
The ear still waits for what it did not tell.
Whittier! the Land that loves thee, she whose child
Thou art,—and whose uplifted hands thou long
Hast stayed with song availing like a prayer,—
She feels a sudden pang, who gave thee birth
And gave to thee the lineaments supreme
Of her own freedom, that she could not make
Thy tissues all immortal, or, if to change,
To bloom through years coeval with her own;
So that no touch of age nor frost of time
Should wither thee, nor furrow thy dear face,
Nor fleck thy hair with silver. Ay, she feels
A double pang that thee, with each new year,
Glad Youth may not revisit, like the Spring
That routs her northern Winter and anew
Melts off the hoar snow from her puissant hills.
She could not make thee deathless; no, but thou,
Thou sangest her always in abiding verse
And hast thy fame immortal—as we say
Immortal in this Earth that yet must die,
And in this land now fairest and most young
Of all fair lands that yet must perish with it.
Thy words shall last: albeit thou growest old,
Men say; but never old the poet's soul
Becomes; only its covering takes on
A reverend splendor, as in the misty fall
Thine own auroral forests, ere at last
Passes the spirit of the wooded dell.
And stay thou with us long; vouchsafe us long
This brave autumnal presence, ere the hues
Slow fading,—ere the quaver of thy voice,
The twilight of thine eye, move men to ask
Where hides the chariot,—in what sunset vale,
Beyond thy chosen river, champ the steeds
That wait to bear thee skyward? Since we too
Would feign thee, in our tenderness, to be
Inviolate, excepted from thy kind,
And that our bard and prophet best-beloved
Shall vanish like that other: him that stood
Undaunted in the pleasure-house of kings,
And unto kings and crownèd harlots spake
God's truth and judgment. At his sacred feet
Far followed all the lesser men of old
Whose lips were touched with fire, and caught from him
The gift of prophecy; and thus from thee,
Whittier, the younger singers,—whom thou seest
Each emulous to be thy staff this day,—
What learned they? righteous anger, burning scorn
Of the oppressor, love to humankind,
Sweet fealty to country and to home,
Peace, stainless purity, high thoughts of heaven,
And the clear, natural music of thy song.
What seest thou, where the peaks about thee stand,
Far up the ridge that severs from our view
That realm unvisited? What prospect new
Holds thy rapt eye? What glories of the land,
Which from yon loftier cliff thou now hast scanned,
Upon thy visage set their lustrous hue?
Speak, and interpret still, O Watchman true,
The signals answering thy lifted hand!
And bide thee yet! still linger, ere thy feet
To sainted bards that beckon bear thee down—
Though lilies, asphodel, and spikenard sweet
Await thy tread to blossom; and the crown
Long since is woven of Heaven's palm-leaves, meet
For him whom Earth can lend no more renown.
Whittier's Eightieth Birthday,
December 17, 1887.
Weary at length of the ancestral gloom,
The self-same drone, the patter of dull pens,
Nature sent Iris of the rosy plume,
Bearing to Holmes her wonder-working lens;
Grateful, he gave his dearest child her name,
Lit the shrewd East with laughter, love, and tears,—
Bade halt the sun—and arching into fame
His rainbowed fancy now the world enspheres.
On his Eightieth Birthday,
August 29, 1889.
Greenwood, November 13, 1865
We stood around the dreamless form
Whose strength was so untimely shaken,
Whose sleep not all our love could warm,
Nor any dearest voice awaken;
And while the Autumn breathed her sighs,
And dropped a thousand leafy glories,
And all the pathways, and the skies,
Were mindful of his songs and stories,
Nor failed to wear the mingled hues
He loved, and knew so well to render,
But wooed—alas, in vain!—their Muse
For one more tuneful lay and tender,
We paused awhile,—the gathered few
Who came, in longing, not in duty,—
With eyes that full of weeping grew,
To look their last upon his beauty.
Death would not rudely rob that face,
Nor dim its fine Arcadian brightness,
But gave the lines a clearer grace,
And sleep's repose, and marble's whiteness.
And, gazing there on him so young,
We thought of all his ended mission,
The broken links, the songs unsung,
The love that found no ripe fruition;
Till last the old, old question came
To hearts that beat with life around him,
Why Death, with downward torch aflame,
Had searched our number till he found him?
Why passed the one who poorly knows
That blithesome spell for either fortune,
Or mocked with lingering menace those
Whose pains the final thrust importune;
Or left the toiling ones who bear
The crowd's neglect, the want that presses,
The woes no human soul can share,
Nor look, nor spoken word, confesses.
And from the earth no answer came,
The forest wore a stillness deeper,
The sky and lake smiled on the same,
And voiceless as the silent sleeper.
And so we turned ourselves away,
By earth and air and water chidden,
And left him with them, where he lay,
A sharer of their secret hidden.
And each the staff and shell again
Took up, and marched with memories haunted;
But henceforth, in our pilgrim-strain,
We'll miss a voice that sweetly chaunted!
THE DEATH OF BRYANT
How was it then with Nature when the soul
Of her own poet heard a voice which came
From out the void, "Thou art no longer lent
To Earth!" when that incarnate spirit, blent
With the abiding force of waves that roll,
Wind-cradled vapors, circling stars that flame,
She did recall? How went
His antique shade, beaconed upon its way
Through the still aisles of night to universal day?
Her voice it was, her sovereign voice, which bade
The Earth resolve his elemental mould;
And once more came her summons: "Long, too long,
Thou lingerest, and charmest with thy song!
Return! return!" Thus Nature spoke, and made
Her sign; and forthwith on the minstrel old
An arrow, bright and strong,
Fell from the bent bow of the answering Sun,
Who cried, "The song is closed, the invocation done!"
But not as for those youths dead ere their prime,
New-entered on their music's high domain,
Then snatched away, did all things sorrow own:
No utterance now like that sad sweetest tone
When Bion died, and the Sicilian rhyme
Bewailed; no sobbing of the reeds that plain
Rehearsing some last moan
Of Lycidas; no strains which skyward swell
For Adonais still, and still for Asphodel!
The Muses wept not for him as for those
Of whom each vanished like a beauteous star
Quenched ere the shining midwatch of the night;
The greenwood Nymphs mourned not his lost delight;
Nor Echo, hidden in the tangled close,
Grieved that she could not mimic him afar.
He ceased not from our sight
Like him who, in the first glad flight of spring,
Fell as an eagle pierced with shafts from his own wing.
This was not Thyrsis! no, the minstrel lone
And reverend, the woodland singer hoar,
Who was dear Nature's nursling, and the priest
Whom most she loved; nor had his office ceased
But for her mandate: "Seek again thine own;
The walks of men shall draw thy steps no more!"
Softly, as from a feast
The guest departs that hears a low recall,
He went, and left behind his harp and coronal.
"Return!" she cried, "unto thine own return!
Too long the pilgrimage; too long the dream
In which, lest thou shouldst be companionless,
Unto the oracles thou hadst access,—
The sacred groves that with my presence yearn."
The voice was heard by mountain, dell, and stream,
Meadow and wilderness—
All fair things vestured by the changing year,
Which now awoke in joy to welcome one most dear.
"He comes!" declared the unseen ones that haunt
The dark recesses, the infinitude
Of whispering old oaks and soughing pines.
"He comes!" the warders of the forest shrines
Sang joyously. "His spirit ministrant
Henceforth with us shall walk the underwood,
Till mortal ear divines
Its music added to our choral hymn,
Rising and falling far through archways deep and dim!"
The orchard fields, the hillside pastures green,
Put gladness on; the rippling harvest-wave
Ran like a smile, as if a moment there
His shadow poised in the midsummer air
Above; the cataract took a pearly sheen
Even as it leapt; the winding river gave
A sound of welcome where
He came, and trembled, far as to the sea
It moves from rock-ribbed heights where its dark fountains be.
His presence brooded on the rolling plain,
And on the lake there fell a sudden calm,—
His own tranquillity; the mountain bowed
Its head, and felt the coolness of a cloud,
And murmured, "He is passing!" and again
Through all its firs the wind swept like a psalm;
Its eagles, thunder-browed,
In that mist-moulded shape their kinsmen knew,
And circled high, and in his mantle soared from view.
So drew he to the living veil, which hung
Of old above the deep's unimaged face,
And sought his own. Henceforward he is free
Of vassalage to that mortality
Which men have given a sepulchre among
The pathways of their kind,—a resting-place
Where, bending one great knee,
Knelt the proud mother of a mighty land
In tenderness, and came anon a plumèd band.
Came one by one the seasons meetly drest,
To sentinel the relics of their seer.
First Spring—upon whose head a wreath was set
Of wind-flowers and the yellow-violet—
Advanced. Then Summer led his loveliest
Of months, one ever to the minstrel dear,
(Her sweet eyes dewy wet,)
June, and her sisters, whose brown hands entwine
The brier-rose and the bee-haunted columbine.
Next, Autumn, like a monarch sad of heart,
Came, tended by his melancholy days.
Purple he wore, and bore a golden rod,
His sceptre; and let fall upon the sod
A lone fringed-gentian ere he would depart.
Scarce had his train gone darkling down the ways
When Winter thither trod,—
Winter, with beard and raiment blown before,
That was so seeming like our poet old and hoar.
What forms are these amid the pageant fair,
Harping with hands that falter? What sad throng?
They wait in vain, a mournful brotherhood,
And listen where their laurelled elder stood
For some last music fallen through the air.
"What cold, thin atmosphere now hears thy song?"
They ask, and long have wooed
The woods and waves that knew him, but can learn
Naught save the hollow, haunting cry, "Return! return!"
Good-bye, from all you loved of earth—
Rock, tree, dumb creature, man and woman—
To you, their comrade human.
The last assault
Ends now; and now in some great world has birth
A minstrel, whose strong soul finds broader wings,
More brave imaginings.
Stars crown the hilltop where your dust shall lie,
Even as we say good-bye,
Good-bye, old Walt!
Lines sent to his funeral
with an ivy wreath,
March 30, 1892.
A hundred years, 't is writ,—O presage vain!—
Earth wills her offspring life, ere one complete
His term, and rest from travail, and be fain
To lay him down in natural death and sweet.
What of her child whose swift divining soul
With triple fervor burns the torch apace,
And in one radiant third compacts the whole
Ethereal flame that lights him on his race?
Ay, what of him who to the winds upheld
A star-like brand, with pride and joy and tears,
And lived in that fleet course from youth to eld,
Count them who will, his century of years?
The Power that arches heaven's orbway round
Gave to this planet's brood its soul of fire,
Its heart of passion,—and for life unbound
By chain or creed the measureless desire;
Gave to one poet these, and manifold
High thoughts, beyond our lesser mortal share,—
Gave dreams of beauty, yes, and with a mould
The antique world had worshipped made him fair;
Then touched his lips with music,—lit his brow,
Even as a fane upon a sunward hill,
For strength, gave scorn, the pride that would not bow,
The glorious weapon of a dauntless will.
But that the surcharged spirit—a vapor pent
In beetling crags—a torrent barriered long—
A wind 'gainst heaven's four winds imminent—
Might memorably vent its noble song,
Each soaring gift was fretted with a band
That deadlier clung which way he fain would press:
His were an adverse age, a sordid land,
Gauging his heart by their own littleness;
Blind guides! the fiery spirit scorned their curb,
And Byron's love and gladness,—such the wise
Of ministrants whom evil times perturb,—
To wrath and melancholy changed their guise.
Yet this was he whose swift imaginings
Engirt fair Liberty from clime to clime,—
From Alp to ocean with an eagle's wings
Pursued her flight, in Harold's lofty rime.
Where the mind's freedom was not, could not be,
That bigot soil he rendered to disdain,
And sought, like Omar in his revelry,
At least the semblance of a joy to gain.
Laughter was at his beck, and wisdom's ruth
Sore-learned from fierce experiences that test
Life's masquerade, the carnival of youth,
The world of man. Then Folly lost her zest,
Yet left undimmed (her valediction sung
With Juan's smiles and tears) his natal ray
Of genius inextinguishably young,—
An Eôs through those mists proclaiming day.
How then, when to his ear came Hellas' cry,
He shred the garlands of the wild night's feast,
And rose a chief, to lead—alas, to die
And leave men mourning for that music ceased!
America! When nations for thy knell
Listened, one prophet oracled thy part:
Now, in thy morn of strength, remember well
The bard whose chant foretold thee as thou art.
Sky, mount, and forest, and high-sounding main,
The storm-cloud's vortex, splendor of the day,
Gloom of the night,—with these abide his strain,—
And these are thine, though he has passed away;
Their elemental force had roused to might
Great Nature's child in this her realm supreme,—
From their commingling he had guessed aright
The plenitude of all we know or dream.
Read thou aright his vision and his song,
That this enfranchised spirit of the spheres
May know his name henceforth shall take no wrong,
Outbroadening still yon ocean and these years!
In Memory of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Born on the Fourth of August, a. d. 1792
Wert thou on earth to-day, immortal one,
How wouldst thou, in the starlight of thine eld,
The likeness of that morntide look upon
Which men beheld?
How might it move thee, imaged in time's glass,
As when the tomb has kept
Unchanged the face of one who slept
Too soon, yet moulders not, though seasons come and pass?
Has Death a wont to stay the soul no less?
And art thou still what Shelley was erewhile,—
A feeling born of music's restlessness—
A child's swift smile
Between its sobs—a wandering mist that rose
At dawn—a cloud that hung
The Euganéan hills among;
Thy voice, a wind-harp's strain in some enchanted close?
Thyself the wild west wind, O boy divine,
Thou fain wouldst be,—the spirit which in its breath
Wooes yet the seaward ilex and the pine
That wept thy death?
Or art thou still the incarnate child of song
Who gazed, as if astray
From some uncharted stellar way,
With eyes of wonder at our world of grief and wrong?
Yet thou wast Nature's prodigal; the last
Unto whose lips her beauteous mouth she bent
An instant, ere thy kinsmen, fading fast,
Their lorn way went.
What though the faun and oread had fled?
A tenantry thine own,
Peopling their leafy coverts lone,
With thee still dwelt as when sweet Fancy was not dead;
Not dead as now, when we the visionless,
In nature's alchemy more woeful wise,
Say that no thought of us her depths possess,—
No love, her skies.
Not ours to parley with the whispering June,
The genii of the wood,
The shapes that lurk in solitude,
The cloud, the mounting lark, the wan and waning moon.
For thee the last time Hellas tipped her hills
With beauty; India breathed her midnight moan,
Her sigh, her ecstasy of passion's thrills,
To thee alone.
Such rapture thine, and the supremer gift
Which can the minstrel raise,
Above the myrtle and the bays,
To watch the sea of pain whereon our galleys drift.
Therefrom arose with thee that lyric cry,
Sad cadence of the disillusioned soul
That asks of heaven and earth its destiny,—
Or joy or dole.
Wild requiem of the heart whose vibratings,
With laughter fraught, and tears,
Beat through the century's dying years
While for one more dark round the old Earth plumes her wings.
No answer came to thee; from ether fell
No voice, no radiant beam; and in thy youth
How were it else, when still the oracle
Withholds its truth?
We sit in judgment,—we, above thy page
Judge thee and such as thee,
Pale heralds, sped too soon to see
The marvels of our late yet unanointed age!
The slaves of air and light obeyed afar
Thy summons, Ariel; their elf-horns wound
Strange notes which all uncapturable are
Of broken sound.
That music thou alone couldst rightly hear
(O rare impressionist!)
And mimic. Therefore still we list
To its ethereal fall in this thy cyclic year.
Be then the poet's poet still! for none
Of them whose minstrelsy the stars have blessed
Has from expression's wonderland so won
So wrought the charm of its elusive note
On us, who yearn in vain
To mock the pæan and the plain
Of tides that rise and fall with sweet mysterious rote.
Was it not well that the prophetic few,
So long inheritors of that high verse,
Dwelt in the mount alone, and haply knew
What stars rehearse?
But now with foolish cry the multitude
Awards at last the throne,
And claims thy cloudland for its own
With voices all untuned to thy melodious mood.
What joy it was to haunt some antique shade
Lone as thine echo, and to wreak my youth
Upon thy song,—to feel the throbs which made
Thy bliss, thy ruth,—
And thrill I knew not why, and dare to feel
Myself an heir unknown
To lands the poet treads alone
Ere to his soul the gods their presence quite reveal!
Even then, like thee, I vowed to dedicate
My powers to beauty; ay, but thou didst keep
The vow, whilst I knew not the afterweight
That poets weep,
The burthen under which one needs must bow,
The rude years envying
My voice the notes it fain would sing
For men belike to hear, as still they hear thee now.
Oh, the swift wind, the unrelenting sea!
They loved thee, yet they lured thee unaware
To be their spoil, lest alien skies to thee
Should seem more fair;
They had their will of thee, yet aye forlorn
Mourned the lithe soul's escape,
And gave the strand thy mortal shape
To be resolved in flame whereof its life was born.
Afloat on tropic waves, I yield once more
In age that heart of youth unto thy spell.
The century wanes: thy voice thrills as of yore
When first it fell.
Would that I too, so had I sung a lay
The least upborne of thine,
Had shared thy pain! Not so divine
Our light, as faith to chant the far auroral day.
On the Caribbean Sea
THE CLOSED STUDIO
This was a magician's cell:
Beauty's self obeyed his spell!
When the air was gloom without,
Grace and Color played about
Yonder easel. Many a sprite,
Golden-winged with heaven's light,
Let the upper skies go drear,
Spreading his rare plumage here.
Skyward now,—alas the day!—
See the truant Ariels play!
Cloud and air with light they fill,
Wandering at idle will,
Nor (with half their tasks undone)
Stay to mourn the master gone.
Only in this hollow room,
Now, the stillness and the gloom.
OF WINTER NIGHTS
When the long nights return, and find us met
Where he was wont to meet us, and the flame
On the deep hearth-stone gladdens as of old,
And there is cheer, as ever in that place,
How shall our utmost nearing close the gap
Known, but till then scarce measured? Or what light
Of cheer for us, his gracious presence gone,
His speech delayed, till none shall fail to miss
That halting voice, yet sure, speaking, it seemed
The one apt word? For well the painter knew
Art's alchemy and law; her nobleness
Was in his soul, her wisdom in his speech,
And loyalty was housed in that true heart,
Gentle yet strong, and yielding not one whit
Of right or purpose. Now, not more afar
The light of last year's Yule fire than the smile
Of Gifford, nor more irreclaimable
Its vapor mingled with the wintry air.
J. G. H.
Multis ille bonis flebilis occidit.
Hor., Carm. 1, 24.
Who knew him, loved him. His the longing heart
For what his youth had missed, his manhood known,—
The haunts of Song, the fellowship of Art,—
And all their kin he strove to make his own.
But his the good, true heart not thus content:
The words that fireside groups at eve repeat
He spoke, or sang; and far his sayings went,
And simple households found his music sweet.
So Heaven was kind and gave him naught to grieve.
Among his loved he woke at morn from rest,—
One smile—one pang—and gained betimes his leave,
Ere Strength had lost its use, or Life its zest.
ON A GREAT MAN WHOSE MIND IS CLOUDING
That sovereign thought obscured? That vision clear
Dimmed in the shadow of the sable wing,
And fainter grown the fine interpreting
Which as an oracle was ours to hear!
Nay, but the Gods reclaim not from the seer
Their gift,—although he ceases here to sing,
And, like the antique sage, a covering
Draws round his head, knowing what change is near.
ON THE DEATH OF AN INVINCIBLE SOLDIER
O what a sore campaign,
Of which men long shall tell,
Ended when he was slain—
When this our greatest fell!
For him no mould had cast
A bullet surely sped;
No falchion, welded fast,
His iron blood had shed.
Death on the hundredth field
Had failed to bring him low;
He was not born to yield
To might of mortal foe.
Even to himself unknown,
He bore the fated sword,
Forged somewhere near His throne
Of battles still the Lord.
That weapon when he drew,
Back rolled the wrath of men,—
Their onset feebler grew,
The Nation rose again.
The splendor and the fame—
Whisper of these alone,
Nor say that round his name
A moment's shade was thrown;
Count not each satellite
'Twixt him and glory's sun,
The circling things of night;
Number his battles won.
Where then to choose his grave?
From mountain unto sea,
The Land he fought to save
His sepulchre shall be.
Yet to its fruitful earth
His quickening ashes lend,
That chieftains may have birth,
And patriots without end.
His carven scroll shall read:
Here rests the valiant heart
Whose duty was his creed,—
Whose lot, the warrior's part.
Who, when the fight was done,
The grim last foe defied,
Naught knew save victory won,
Surrendered not—but died.
LIBERTY ENLIGHTENING THE WORLD
Warder at ocean's gate,
Thy feet on sea and shore,
Like one the skies await
When time shall be no more!
What splendors crown thy brow?
What bright dread angel Thou,
Dazzling the waves before
Thy station great?
"My name is Liberty!
From out a mighty land
I face the ancient sea,
I lift to God my hand;
By day in Heaven's light,
A pillar of fire by night,
At ocean's gate I stand
Nor bend the knee.
"The dark Earth lay in sleep,
Her children crouched forlorn,
Ere on the western steep
I sprang to height, reborn:
Then what a joyous shout
The quickened lands gave out,
And all the choir of morn
Sang anthems deep.
"Beneath yon firmament,
The New World to the Old
My sword and summons sent,
My azure flag unrolled:
The Old World's hands renew
Their strength; the form ye view
Came from a living mould
In glory blent.
"O ye, whose broken spars
Tell of the storms ye met,
Enter! fear not the bars
Across your pathway set;
Enter at Freedom's porch,
For you I lift my torch,
For you my coronet
Is rayed with stars.
"But ye that hither draw
To desecrate my fee,
Nor yet have held in awe
The justice that makes free,—
Avaunt, ye darkling brood!
By Right my house hath stood:
My name is Liberty,
My throne is Law."
O wonderful and bright,
Immortal Freedom, hail!
Front, in thy fiery might,
The midnight and the gale;
Undaunted on this base
Guard well thy dwelling-place:
Till the last sun grow pale
Let there be Light!
That border land 'twixt Day and Night be mine,
And choice companions gathered there to dine,
With talk, song, mirth, soup, salad, bread, and wine.
Twilight Club, 1883.
At set of sun one lone star rules the skies,
Night spreads a feast the day's long toil has won:
Eat, drink,—enough, no more,—and speak, ye wise,
Speak—but enough, no more, at set of sun!
Sunset Club, 1891.
ON WHITE CARNATIONS GIVEN ME FOR MY BIRTHDAY
Exquisite tufts of perfume and of light,
Fair gift of Summer unto Autumn borne,
Were but the years ye calendar as white,
As sweet, as you, Age could not be forlorn.
Yet, beauteous symbols of my only gain—
Love, portioned from your givers' envied share,
Honor, whose laurel at their feet hath lain—
Make me this night of Life's waste unaware!
October 8, 1894.
TO BAYARD TAYLOR
WITH A COPY OF THE ILIAD
Bayard, awaken not this music strong,
While round thy home the indolent sweet breeze
Floats lightly as the summer breath of seas
O'er which Ulysses heard the Sirens' song.
Dreams of low-lying isles to June belong,
And Circe holds us in her haunts of ease;
But later, when these high ancestral trees
Are sere, and such melodious languors wrong
The reddening strength of the autumnal year,
Yield to heroic words thy ear and eye;—
Intent on these broad pages thou shalt hear
The trumpets' blare, the Argive battle-cry,
And see Achilles hurl his hurtling spear,
And mark the Trojan arrows make reply!
TO W. S.
A dread voice from the mountain cried to me
Even as I woke this daybreak, Thou art old!
But then thy swift song answered dauntlessly,
"'T is Love, not age, that hath thee in his hold."
O minstrel dear, O friend with heart of gold
And hand so leal, and voice of music free,
This day I crest with thanks each billow rolled
To Scotia's shores across our northern Sea!
Kelp Rock, New Castle, N. H.
October 8, 1890.
HYMN OF THE WEST
O Thou, whose glorious orbs on high
Engird the earth with splendor round,
From out thy secret place draw nigh
The courts and temples of this ground;
Fill with thy might
These domes that in thy purpose grew,
And lift a nation's heart anew!
Illumine Thou each pathway here,
To show the marvels God hath wrought!
Since first thy people's chief and seer
Looked up with that prophetic thought,
Bade Time unroll
The fateful scroll,
And empire unto Freedom gave
From cloudland height to tropic wave.
Poured through the gateways of the North
Thy mighty rivers join their tide,
And, on the wings of morn sent forth,
Their mists the far-off peaks divide.
By Thee unsealed,
The mountains yield
Ores that the wealth of Ophir shame,
And gems enwrought of seven-hued flame.
Lo, through what years the soil hath lain
At thine own time to give increase—
The greater and the lesser grain,
The ripening boll, the myriad fleece!
Thy creatures graze
League after league across the land
The ceaseless herds obey thy hand.
Thou, whose high archways shine most clear
Above the plenteous Western plain,
Thine ancient tribes from round the sphere
To breathe its quickening air are fain:
And smiles the sun
To see made one
Their brood throughout Earth's greenest space,
Land of the new and lordlier race!
World's Fair, St. Louis, Mo., 1904.
H. VAN D.
Health to the poet, scholar, wit, divine,
In whom sweet Nature would all gifts combine
To make us hang upon his lips and say—
The Admirable Crichton of our day,
Whose quill and lute and voice are weapons shear
That quite outvie that gallant's swift rapier,—
Whose dulcet English, from its font that wells,
This night, the Scotsman's dozen tongues excels!
Long may he live, to wear the cloistral gown,
Or from his Little Rivers bring to town—
From every haunt where purling waters flow—
The mystic flower that only votaries know!
Wouldst view what Nature's portraiture is like?
The Dame herself hath sat to this Van Dyke.
Lotos Club, December 23, 1904.
TO DR. WALDSTEIN
ON HIS PROPOSAL TO EXCAVATE HERCULANEUM
Yes, Doctor, surely we recall
How at the Louvre you chanced to score so,—
'T was there you found against some wall
The head that matched an Elgin torso!
We know you born with that sixth sense,
The presage of discoveries mighty,
Nor like—unwitting or prepense—
To land a made-up Aphrodite.
Speed then, I pray, lest in the lurch
You leave a wistful graybeard mortal;
Begin apace your classic search
Beyond each Herculaneum portal!
Let others northward seek the stem
That swings this planetary apple,
Whilst you, to win a diadem
More worth, with Pluto's self must grapple.
The lettered Roman aired his Greek,
Drew forth his scrolls from shelf and panel,—
(So Gray and Walpole knew to speak,
To read, their French brought over Channel);
Untomb those sealed armaria! Let
Your hand among their riches wander,
Until, half-dazed, your eyes are set
Upon—some play of great Menander!
Byzantium's Christian priests, they say,
With those rare jestings heaped the pyre;
Lest ruthless, grim Vesuvius may
Restore them to the world's desire.
The mask, the marble and the bronze,
The eagle from Bellona's eyrie,—
Light trophies these to him who cons,
First of his time, those lost papyri,—
Whose sight takes in at last complete
The lines to Sappho's smile and tresses
Alcæus wrote—yet made retreat
In awe, as he himself confesses,—
Or ... thought to wake the pulse's thrill!...
Finds but one ode, all fire and air,
By Her,—one hymn diviner still
Than that ecstatic Lesbian prayer.
There's Pindar,—haply from the mound
You'll lift a six-and-fortieth pæan,
Or, blest indeed, disclose thrice-crowned—
Ye stars!—a trilogue Sophoclean;
Yet his, be sure, the loftiest meed
Whose spell shall split the Earth with wonder,
And bid us see Prometheus Freed,
That vanished Titan, loom from under.
Within some niche (once overhung
By whose sea-gazing cool pavilion?)
Sleep in their charm forever young
What idylls of the sweet Sicilian!
Not vain, Theocritus, our dream,—
Fresh songs of Etna's springs and grasses,
Of love-distracted Polypheme,
Of streets where couched Adonis passes.
What Dialogues, suppressed by Fate,
Of Plato's metaphysic rival,
Perchance in durance yet await
A bimillennial revival;
And "Hold!"—I hear Virgilians say—
"Was there no Latin then imbedded?
Slight not the golden verse, we pray,
Of bards to pure Augustan wedded."
So, Doctor, plead with State and Throne,
Adjure each latter-day Mæcenas;
Our pence and plaudits are your own,—
Our mandate—Frange nunc catenas!
Such vintage give the world to quaff,
Age-stored beneath its tedious rumble,
And many a laurelled cenotaph
Long ere your name dies out shall crumble.
March 10, 1905.
Fall'n like an eagle from his scaur—
From yon clear height none dared to soil!
Beats on that noble heart no more
Above the warfare and the spoil,—
The poet-statesman's, in whose thought
Self had no place since first he shared
The work his boyhood's chieftain wrought,
The faith which life nor substance spared?
There are who serve their Country well
Yet stoop to crave her light acclaim,—
His patriot pulses leapt and fell
Nor asked the glory of a name.
Love, honor, rose to him indeed,
As vapors toward the sunlit sky,
But his the generous heart, at need,
Without a pang to put them by.
Even so, a white star on his crest,
We knew him in his stainless youth;
Even so—not else than loyalest—
The world his manhood learned in sooth;
And if there be—and if there be
A realm where lives still forward roll,
Even so—no other—strong and free
Through time and space shine on, dear Soul!
July 1, 1905.
ON THE RETURN TO AMERICA OF THE REMAINS OF JOHN PAUL JONES
With proud, uplifted head
The fair Republic claims her dead;
With outstretched hands—the hands he fought to free—
Awaits, O not in ruth,
The lover of her youth,
Her Bayard of the sea.
Let the sea once more caress him
And the Land he loved possess him,
For now the years are sped—
The proud Republic claims her dead.
Atlantic waves, that smiled
Of old so oft to greet your child,
List not to hear his battle-orders ring;
Care not to break his sleep,
But softly, softly bring
Your nursling of the deep,
With his birthright flag above him,
To the shores that own and love him,—
Of old their rover wild,
Now held in slumber as a child.
The oaken ship that won
His storied sea-fight, gun to gun,
To Freedom's flag its red baptism gave,—
Aflame, still made reply,
Fought on to victory,
Then plunged beneath the wave.
Let the squadrons close around him
Till the nation's hands have crowned him
Whose fierce sea-fight he won
'Twixt the setting and the rising of the sun.
Not far from ocean's strand,
His tomb, made lasting by her hand,
Shall henceforth tell within the guarded field
Of him who that dread night
Began anew the fight,
And, sinking, could not yield.
Down the lengthened line bequeath it,
Let our sailor sons enwreathe it,
And the challenge and command
Be heard anear it and the strand.
Erect, with shining head,
The great Republic claims her dead;
Nor, in that day when every stripe and star
Proclaims the reign of Peace,
Shall honor to him cease
Nor Fame his laurel mar.
Though no battle-peal awake him,
Time upon its scroll shall make him
One of Earth's heroes dead
Whose deeds that golden day more swiftly sped.
July 12, 1905.
(TO R. K. P. D.)
Rosemary! could we give you
"Remembrance," with your name,
Ere long you 'd tell us something
Of Heaven, whence you came,—
Of those enchanted meadows
Where, through the ceaseless day,
The children waiting to be born
Wonder, and sing, and play,—
And where you wandered carolling
Until the angel's hand
Closed down your eyes—then opened them
To light this earthly Land,—
This Land whereto they 've sent you
To share its joy, its strife,
Its love, and learn through Womanhood
How rich, how deep, is Life.
WRITTEN AT THE OPENING OF A HOUSE-BOOK
(TO MR. AND MRS. W. O. P.)
Trailing hemlock, serried spruce,
Pine-tree, staunch and bold,
Still, as 't is your royal use,—
Each a stately seneschal,—
Guard this home through seasons long
From summer's heat and winter's cold!
Fame shall gild its every wall,
Beauty dwell with art and song,
And (of all life's guerdons best)
Love light the hearth—where blessings fall
On Master, Mistress, happy Guest.
Bar Harbor, August 22, 1906.
(TO H. M. A.)
What 's this! your tall ship sighted at the Line?
Some three degrees I 'd fain sail back to meet you,—
But orders hold, so let me flash this sign
Astern, and greet you.
You, who so oft have hailed me, ship to ship,—
A cheery consort in our "roaring forties";
Prithee, to whom shall not my ensigns dip,
If he your sort is?
Long on your desk (long in that "Study" chair—
To change the metaphor), dear Alden, still be!
The sturdiest master that was ever there,
Or ever will be.
I mind me how those songs which bore my name
Found grace with you—those cantilenae parvae—
Yes, even my Viking (ere his namesake came,
And bounteous Harvey).
"H. M.," Her Majesty's? No, though in sooth
Victorian decades somewhat overlay us,
I read, with that braw accent of our youth,
For am I not of them who, down the years
Now closed in Life's inexorable journal,
Have known your hand's strong grip that time endears,
Your words fraternal?
Yet knew you best, and last, from golden books,
The rare quintessence of your mystic spirit,—
When that through mortal eyes no longer looks
May mine be near it!
November 10, 1906.
- Aristophanes, Nubes, 995.
- Copyrighted by the Bibliophile Society and reprinted by permission.