Resurrection (Lanier)

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by Sidney Lanier

Sidney Lanier composed this poem in 1868. In the complete volume of his works Poems of Sidney Lanier, published posthumously, this poem is grouped among his “unrevised early poems.”

Sometimes in morning sunlights by the river
      Where in the early fall long grasses wave,
Light winds from over the moorland sink and shiver
      And sigh as if just blown across a grave.

And then I pause and listen to this sighing.
      I look with strange eyes on the well-known stream.
I hear wild birth-cries uttered by the dying.
      I know men waking who appear to dream.

Then from the water-lilies slow uprises
      The still vast face of all the life I know,
Changed now, and full of wonders and surprises,
      With fire in eyes that once were glazed with snow.

Fair now the brows old Pain had erewhile wrinkled,
      And peace and strength about the calm mouth dwell.
Clean of the ashes that Repentance sprinkled,
      The meek head poises like a flower-bell.

All the old scars of wanton wars are vanished;
      And what blue bruises grappling Sense had left
And sad remains of redder stains are banished,
      And the dim blotch of heart-committed theft.

O still vast vision of transfigured features
      Unvisited by secret crimes or dooms,
Remain, remain amid these water-creatures,
      Stand, shine among yon water-lily blooms.

For eighteen centuries ripple down the river,
      And windy times the stalks of empires wave,
—Let the winds come from the moor and sigh and shiver,
      Fain, fain am I, O Christ, to pass the grave.