Street Cries (Lanier)/To Richard Wagner
“I saw a sky of stars that rolled in grime.
All glory twinkled through some sweat of fight,
From each tall chimney of the roaring time
That shot his fire far up the sooty night
Mixt fuels—Labor’s Right and Labor’s Crime—
Sent upward throb on throb of scarlet light
Till huge hot blushes in the heavens blent
With golden hues of Trade’s high firmament.
“Fierce burned the furnaces; yet all seemed well,
Hope dreamed rich music in the rattling mills.
‘Ye foundries, ye shall cast my church a bell,’
Loud cried the Future from the farthest hills:
‘Ye groaning forces, crack me every shell
Of customs, old constraints, and narrow ills;
Thou, lithe Invention, wake and pry and guess,
Till thy deft mind invents me Happiness.’
“And I beheld high scaffoldings of creeds
Crumbling from round Religion’s perfect Fane:
And a vast noise of rights, wrongs, powers, needs,
—Cries of new Faiths that called ‘This Way is plain,’
—Grindings of upper against lower greeds—
—Fond sighs for old things, shouts for new,—did reign
Below that stream of golden fire that broke,
Mottled with red, above the seas of smoke.
“Hark! Gay fanfares from halls of old Romance
Strike through the clouds of clamor: who be these
That, paired in rich processional, advance
From darkness o’er the murk mad factories
Into yon flaming road, and sink, strange Ministrants!
Sheer down to earth, with many minstrelsies
And motions fine, and mix about the scene
And fill the Time with forms of ancient mien?
“Bright ladies and brave knights of Fatherland;
Sad mariners, no harbor e’er may hold,
A swan soft floating tow’rds a magic strand;
Dim ghosts, of earth, air, water, fire, steel, gold,
Wind, grief, and love; a lewd and lurking band
Of Powers—dark Conspiracy, Cunning cold,
Gray Sorcery; magic cloaks and rings and rods;
Valkyries, heroes, Rhinemaids, giants, gods!
* * * * *
“O Wagner, westward bring thy heavenly art,
No trifler thou: Siegfried and Wotan be
Names for big ballads of the modern heart.
Thine ears hear deeper than thine eyes can see.
Voice of the monstrous mill, the shouting mart,
Not less of airy cloud and wave and tree,
Thou, thou, if even to thyself unknown,
Hast power to say the Time in terms of tone.”