The Atlantic Monthly/Volume 17/Number 101/To Hersa

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TO HERSA.

Maiden, there is something more
Than raiment to adore;
Thou must have more than a dress,
More than any mode or mould,
More than mortal loveliness,
To captivate the cold.

Bow the knightly when they bow,
To a star behind the brow,—
Not to marble, not to dust,
But to that which warms them;
Not to contour nor to bust,
But to that which forms them,—
Not to languid lid nor lash,
Satin fold nor purple sash,
But unto the living flash
So mysteriously hid
Under lash and under lid.

But, vanity of vanities,—
If the red-rose in a young cheek lies,
Fatal disguise!
For the most terrible lances
Of the true, true knight
Are his bold eyebeams;
And every time that he opens his eyes,
The falsehood that he looks on dies.

If the heavenly light be latent,
It can need no earthly patent.
Unbeholden unto art—
Fashion or lore,
Scrip or store,
Earth or ore—
Be thy heart,
Which was music from the start,
Music, music to the core!

Music, which, though voiceless,
Can create
Both form and fate,
As Petrarch could a sonnet
That, taking flesh upon it,
Spirit-noiseless,
Doth the same inform and fill
With a music sweeter still!
Lives and breathes and palpitates,
Moves and moulds and animates,
And sleeps not from its duty
Till the maid in whom 'tis pent—
From a mortal rudiment,
From the earth-cell
And the love-cell,
By the birth-spell
And the love-spell—
Come to beauty.

Beauty, that, (Celestial Child,
From above,
Born of Wisdom and of Love,)
Can never die!
That ever, as she passeth by,
But casteth down the mild
Effulgence of her eye,
And, lo! the broken heart is healed,
The maimed, perverted soul
Ariseth and is whole!
That ever doing the fair deed,
And therein taking joy,
(A pure and priceless meed
That of this earth hath least alloy,)
It comes at last,
All mischance forever past,—
Every beautiful procedure
Manifest in form and feature,—
To be revealed:
There walks the earth an heavenly creature!

Beauty is music mute,—
Music's flower and fruit,
Music's creature—
Form and feature—
Music's lute.
Music's lute be thou,
Maiden of the starry brow!
(Keep thy heart true to know how!)
A Lute which he alone,
As all in good time shall be shown,
Shall prove, and thereby make his own,
Who is god enough to play upon it.

Happy, happy maid is she
Who is wedded unto Truth:
Thou shalt know him when he comes,
(Welcome youth!)
Not by any din of drums,
Nor the vantage of his airs;
Neither by his crown,
Nor his gown,
Nor by anything he wears.
He shall only well known be
By the holy harmony
That his coming makes in thee!

This work was published before January 1, 1924, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.