The poems of Richard Watson Gilder/Lyrics
I am the spirit of the morning sea;
I am the awakening and the glad surprise;
I fill the skies
With laughter and with light.
Not tears, but jollity
At birth of day brim the strong man-child's eyes.
Behold the white
Wide threefold beams that from the hidden sun
Rise swift and far—
One where Orion keeps
His armèd watch, and one
That to the midmost starry heaven upleaps;
The third blots out the firm-fixt Northern Star.
I am the wind that shakes the glittering wave,
Hurries the snowy spume along the shore
And dies at last in some far, murmuring cave.
My voice thou hearest in the breaker's roar—
That sound which never failed since time began,
And first around the world the shining tumult ran.
I light the sea and wake the sleeping land.
My footsteps on the hills make music, and my hand
Plays like a harper's on the wind-swept pines.
With the wind and the day
I follow round the world—away! away!
Wide over lake and plain my sunlight shines
And every wave and every blade of grass
Doth know me as I pass;
And me the western sloping mountains know, and me
The far-off, golden sea.
O sea, whereon the passing sun doth lie!
O man, who watchest by that golden sea!
Grieve not, O, grieve not thou, but lift thine eye
And see me glorious in the sunset sky!
I love not the night
Save when the stars are bright,
Or when the moon
Fills the white air with silence like a tune.
Yea, even the night is mine
When the Northern Lights outshine,
And all the wild heavens throb in ecstasy divine;—
Yea, mine deep midnight, tho' the black sky lowers,
When the sea burns white and breaks on the shore in starry showers.
I am the laughter of the new-born child
On whose soft-breathing sleep an angel smiled.
And I all sweet first things that are:
First songs of birds, not perfect as at last,—
Broken and incomplete,—
But sweet, O, sweet!
And I the first faint glimmer of a star
To the wreckt ship that tells the storm is past;
The first keen smells and stirrings of the Spring;
First snowflakes, and first May-flowers after snow;
The silver glow
Of the new moon's ethereal ring;
The song the morning stars together made,
And the first kiss of lovers under the first June shade.
My sword is quick, my arm is strong to smite
In the dread joy and fury of the fight.
I am with those who win, not those who fly;
With those who live I am, not those who die.
Who die? Nay, nay, that word
Where I am is unheard;
For I am the spirit of youth that cannot change,
Nor cease, nor suffer woe;
And I am the spirit of beauty that doth range
Through natural forms and motions, and each show
Of outward loveliness. With me have birth
All gentleness and joy in all the earth.
Raphael knew me, and showed the world my face;
Me Homer knew, and all the singing race—
For I am the spirit of light, and life, and mirth.
A SONG OF EARLY SUMMER
Not yet the orchard lifted
Its cloudy bloom to the sky,
Nor through the dim twilight drifted
The whippoorwill's low cry;
The gray rock had not made
Of the vine its glistening kirtle;
Nor shook in the locust shade
The purple bells of the "myrtle."
Not yet up the chimney-hollow
Was heard in the darkling night
The boom and whir of the swallow,
And the twitter that follows the flight;
Before the foamy whitening
Of the water below the mill;
Ere yet the summer lightning
Shone red at the edge of the hill;
In the time of sun and showers,
Of skies half black, half clear;
'Twixt melting snows and flowers;
At the poise of the flying year;
When woods flusht pink and yellow
In dreams of leafy June;
And days were keen or mellow
Like tones in a changing tune;
Before the birds had broken
Forth in their song divine,
O, then the word was spoken
That made my darling mine.
A MIDSUMMER SONG
O, father's gone to market-town, he was up before the day,
And Jamie's after robins, and the man is making hay,
And whistling down the hollow goes the boy that minds the mill,
While mother from the kitchen-door is calling with a will:
"Polly!—Polly!—The cows are in the corn!
O, where's Polly?"
From all the misty morning air there comes a summer sound—
A murmur as of waters from skies and trees and ground.
The birds they sing upon the wing, the pigeons bill and coo,
And over hill and hollow rings again the loud halloo:
"Polly!—Polly!—The cows are in the corn!
O, where's Polly?"
Above the trees the honey-bees swarm by with buzz and boom,
And in the field and garden a thousand blossoms bloom.
Within the farmer's meadow a brown-eyed daisy blows,
And down at the edge of the hollow a red and thorny rose.
But Polly!—Polly!—The cows are in the corn!
O, where's Polly?
How strange at such a time of day the mill should stop its clatter!
The farmer's wife is listening now and wonders what's the matter.
O, wild the birds are singing in the wood and on the hill,
While whistling up the hollow goes the boy that minds the mill.
But Polly!—Polly!—The cows are in the corn!
O, where's Polly?
"ON THE WILD ROSE TREE"
On the wild rose tree
Many buds there be,
Yet each sunny hour
Hath but one perfect flower.
Thou who wouldst be wise
Open wide thine eyes;
In each sunny hour
Pluck the one perfect flower!
"BEYOND ALL BEAUTY IS THE UNKNOWN GRACE"
Beyond all beauty is the unknown grace;
Above all bliss a higher; and above
The lovingest is a more loving love
That shows not the still anguish of its face.
Than death there is a deathlier. Brief space
Behind despair the blacker shadows rove;
Beneath all life a deeper life doth move:
So, friends of mine, when empty is my place,—
For me no more grass grows, dead leaves are stirred,—
And still the songs that once you loved to hear;
True friends whom well I thank for every word
Of heart-help,—praise or blame,—as you draw near
I pray that 'mid your tears this may be heard:
"For what he never did he is most dear."
A violet lay in the grass,
A tear in its golden eye;
And it said: "Alas and alas!
The night is over and gone,
Another day is anigh,
And I am alone, alone!
There is none to care if I die,
There is none to be glad that I live;
The lovers they pass me by
And never a glance they give.
And I could love so well, so well!
If one would but tarry and tell
A tale that was told to me only:—
My lover might go his ways,
But through all the nights and the days
I should never again be lonely!"
Then sudden there fell a look
Into that violet's heart.
It lifted its face with a start;
It arose; it trembled and shook.
"At last, O, at last!" it cried;
Down drooped its head, and it died.
Is God in Heaven! Is the light
Of the moons, and the stars, and the suns,
His—or the Evil One's,
Is He cruel, or mad, or right!
The lily that grew by the wall,
Its heart was heavy with bliss.
In the night it heard a call;
It listened, it felt a kiss;
Then a loving Wind did fall
On its breast, and shiver with gladness:
The morning brought love's madness
To light,—and the lover fled.
But the eyes that burned in his head
Shot love through each and all,
For the lily that bloomed by the wall
Shone sweet in every place,—
In the earth, and the sky above,
And the lover saw never the face
Of the flower that died of love.
Hush! Hush! Let no sorrow be spoken!
Tho' it perish, no pity shall flout it.
Better to die heart-broken
Of love than to live without it!
THE YOUNG POET
When I am dead and buried, then
There will be mourning among men.
I hear one musing on my dust:
"How hard he fought to win his crust."
And one, "He was too sensitive
In this cold-wintered world to live."
Another, weeping, "Ah, how few
So gentle-hearted and so true."
"I saw him only once, and yet
I think I never shall forget
The strange, sad look in those young eyes,"
Another says, and then with wise
And solemn-shaking head—"No doubt
The hot heart burned that frail frame out."
Good friends, a discount on your grief!
A little present help were worth
More than a sorrow-stricken earth
When I am but a withered leaf.
An outstretched hand were better to me
Than your glib graveyard sympathy.
You need not pity and rhyme and paint me,
You need not weep for, and sigh for, and saint me
After you've starved me—driven me dead.
Friends! do you hear? What I want is bread!
A SONG OF EARLY AUTUMN
When late in summer the streams run yellow,
Burst the bridges and spread into bays;
When berries are black and peaches are mellow,
And hills are hidden by rainy haze;
When the goldenrod is golden still,
But the heart of the sunflower is darker and sadder;
When the corn is in stacks on the slope of the hill,
And slides o'er the path the stripèd adder;
When butterflies flutter from clover to thicket,
Or wave their wings on the drooping leaf;
When the breeze comes shrill with the call of the cricket,
Grasshoppers' rasp, and rustle of sheaf;
When high in the field the fern-leaves wrinkle,
And brown is the grass where the mowers have mown;
When low in the meadow the cow-bells tinkle,
And small brooks crinkle o'er stock and stone.
When heavy and hollow the robin's whistle
And shadows are deep in the heat of noon;
When the air is white with the down o' the thistle,
And the sky is red with the harvest moon;
O, then be chary, young Robert and Mary,
No time let slip, not a moment wait!
If the fiddle would play it must stop its tuning,
And they who would wed must be done with their mooning;
So, let the churn rattle, see well to the cattle,
And pile the wood by the barn-yard gate!
THE BUILDING OF THE CHIMNEY
My chimney is builded
On a hill by the sea,
At the edge of a wood
That the sunset has gilded
Since time was begun
And the earth first was done:
For mine and for me
And for you, John Burroughs,
My friend old and good,
At the edge of a wood
On a hill by the sea
My chimney is builded.
My chimney gives forth
All its heat to the north,
While its right arm it reaches
Toward the meadows and beaches,
And its left it extends
To its pine-tree friends.
All its heat to the north
My chimney gives forth.
My chimney is builded
Of red and gray granite:
Of great split boulders
Are its thighs and its shoulders;
Its mouth—try to span it.
'T is a nine-foot block—
The shelf that hangs over
The stout hearth-rock.
Then the lines they upswell
Like a huge church-bell,
Or a bellying sail
In a stiff south gale
When the ship rolls well,
With a blue sky above her.
My chimney—come view it,
And I'll tell you, John Burroughs,
What is built all through it:
First the derrick's shrill creak,
That perturbed the still air
With a cry of despair.
The lone traveler who past
At the fall of the night
If he saw not its mast
Stood still with affright
At a sudden strange sound—
Hark! a woman's wild shriek?
Or the baying of a hound?
Then the stone-hammer's clink
And the drill's sharp tinkle,
And bird-songs that sprinkle
Their notes through the wood
(With pine odors scented),
On the swift way to drink
At the spring cold and good
That bubbles 'neath the stone
Where the red chieftain tented
In the days that are gone.
Yes, 'twixt granite and mortar
Many songs, long or shorter,
Are imprisoned in the wall;
And when red leaves shall fall,—
Coming home, all in herds,
From the air to the earth,—
When I have my heart's desire,
And we sit by the hearth
In the glow of the fire,
You and I, John of Birds,
We shall hear as they call
From the gray granite wall;
You shall name one and all.
There's the crow's caw-cawing
From the pine-tree's hight,
And the cat-bird's sawing,
The hissing of the adder
That climbed the rock ladder,
And the song of Bob White;
The robin's loud clatter,
The chipmunk's chatter,
And the mellow-voiced bell
That the cuckoo strikes well;
Yes, betwixt the stones and in
There is built a merry din.
But not all bright and gay
Are the songs we shall hear;
For as day turns to gray
Comes a voice low and clear—
Whippoorwill sounds his wail
Over hill, over dale,
Till the soul fills with fright.
'T is the bird that was heard
On the fields drenched with blood
By the dark southern flood
When they died in the night.
But you cannot split granite
Howsoe'er you may plan it,
Without bringing blood;
(There's a drop of mine there
On that block four-square).
Certain oaths, I'm aware,
Sudden, hot, and not good
(May Heaven cleanse the guilt!)
In these stone walls are built;—
With the wind through the pine-wood blowing,
The creak of tree on tree,
Child-laughter, and the lowing
Of the homeward-driven cattle,
The sound of wild birds singing,
Of steel on granite ringing,
The memory of battle,
And tales of the roaring sea.
For my chimney was builded
By a Plymouth County sailor,
An old North Sea whaler.
In the warm noon spell
'T was good to hear him tell
Of the great September blow
A dozen years ago:—
How at dawn of the day
The wind began to play,
Till it cut the waves flat
Like the brim of your hat.
There was no sea about,
But it blew straight out
Till the ship lurcht over;
But 't was quick to recover,
When, all of a stroke,
The hurricane broke.
Great heavens! how it roared,
And how the rain poured;
The thirty-fathom chain
Dragged out all in vain.
"What next?" the captain cried
To the mate by his side;
Then Tip Ryder he replied:
"Fetch the ax—no delay—
Cut the mainmast away;
If you want to save the ship
Let the mainmast rip!"
But another said, "Wait!"
And they did—till too late.
On her beam-ends she blew,
In the sea half the crew—
Struggling back through the wrack,
There to cling day and night.
Not a sail heaves in sight;
And, the worst, one in thirst
(Knows no better, the poor lad!)
Drinks salt water and goes mad.
Eighty hours blown and tost,
Five good sailors drowned and lost,
And the rest brought to shore;
—Some to sail as before;
"Not Tip Ryder, if he starves
Building chimneys, building wharves."
Now this was the manner
Of the building of the chimney.
('T is a good old-timer,
As you, friend John, will own.)
Old man Vail cut the stone;
William Ryder was the builder;
Stanford White was the planner;
And the owner and rhymer
Is Richard Watson Gilder.
"A WORD SAID IN THE DARK"
A word said in the dark
And hands prest, for a token;
"Now, little maiden, mark
The word that you have spoken;
Be not your promise broken!"
His lips upon her cheek
Felt tears among their kisses;
"O, pardon I bespeak
If for my doubting this is!
Now all my doubting ceases."
A RIDDLE OF LOVERS
Of my fair lady's lovers there were two
Who loved her more than all; nor she, nor they
Guessed which of these loved better, for one way
This had of loving, that another knew.
One round her neck brave arms of empire threw
And covered her with kisses where she lay;
The other sat apart, nor did betray
Sweet sorrow at that sight; but rather drew
His pleasure of his lady through the soul
And sense of this one. So there truly ran
Two separate loves through one embrace; the whole
This lady had of both, when one began
To clasp her close, and win her dear lips' goal.
Now read my lovers' riddle if you can.
THE DARK ROOM
A maiden sought her love in a dark room,—
So early had she yearned from yearning sleep,
So hard it was from her true love to keep,—
And blind she went through that all-silent gloom,
Like one who wanders weeping in a tomb.
Heavy her heart, but her light fingers leap
With restless grasp and question in that deep
Unanswering void. Now when a hand did loom
At last, how swift her warm impassioned face
Prest 'gainst the black and solemn-yielding air,
As near more near she groped to that bright place,
And seized the hand, and drowned it with her hair,
And bent her body to his fierce embrace,
And knew what joy was in the darkness there.
Great God! the arms wherein that maiden fell
Were not her lover's; I am her lover—I,
Who sat here in the shadows silently,
Thinking—at last the longed-for miracle!
Thinking to me she moved, and all was well.
She saw me not, yet dimly could descry
That beautiful hand of his, and with a sigh
Sank on his fair and treacherous breast. The spell
Of the Evil One was on me. All in vain
I strove to speak—my parchèd lips were dumb.
See! see! the wan and whitening window-pane!
See, in the night, the awful morning bloom!
Too late she will know all! Heaven! send thy rain
Of death, nor let the sun of wakening come!
The winds of morning move and sing;
The western stars are lingering;
In the pale east one planet still
Shines large above King Philip's hill;—
And near, in gold against the blue,
The old moon, in its arms the new.
Lo, the deep waters of the bay
Stir with the breath of hurrying day.
Wake, loved one, wake and look with me
Across the narrow, dawn-lit sea!
Such beauty is not wholly mine
Till thou, dear heart, hast made it thine.
"THE WOODS THAT BRING THE SUNSET NEAR"
The wind from out the west is blowing;
The homeward-wandering cows are lowing;
Dark grow the pine-woods, dark and drear—
The woods that bring the sunset near.
When o'er wide seas the sun declines,
Far off its fading glory shines,—
Far off, sublime, and full of fear,—
The pine-woods bring the sunset near.
This house that looks to east, to west,
This, dear one, is our home, our rest;
Yonder the stormy sea, and here
The woods that bring the sunset near.
SUNSET FROM THE TRAIN
But then the sunset smiled,
Smiled once and turned toward dark,
Above the distant, wavering line of trees that filed
Along the horizon's edge;
Like hooded monks that hark
Through evening air
The call to prayer;—
Smiled once, and faded slow, slow, slow away;
When, like a changing dream, the long cloud-wedge,
Grew saffron underneath and, ere I knew,
The interspace, green-blue—
The whole, illimitable, western, skyey shore,
The tender, human, silent sunset smiled once more.
Thee, absent loved one, did I think on now,
Wondering if thy deep brow
In dreams of me were lifted to the skies,
Where, by our far sea-home, the sunlight dies;
If thou didst stand, alone,
Watching the day pass slowly, slow, as here,
But closer and more dear,
Beyond the meadow and the long, familiar line
Of blackening pine;
When lo! that second smile;—dear heart, it was thine own.
"AFTER SORROW'S NIGHT"
After sorrow's night
Dawned the morning bright.
In dewy woods I heard
A golden-throated bird,
And "Love, love, love," it sang,
And "Love, love, love."
Evening shadows fell
In our happy dell.
From glimmering woods I heard
A golden-throated bird,
And "Love, love, love," it sang,
And "Love, love, love."
O, the summer night
Starry was and bright.
In the dark woods I heard
A golden-throated bird,
And "Love, love, love," it sang,
And "Love, love, love."
A NOVEMBER CHILD
November winds, blow mild
On this new-born child!
Spirit of the autumn wood,
Make her gentle, make her good!
Still attend her,
And befriend her,
Fill her days with warmth and color;
Keep her safe from winter's dolor.
On thy bosom
Hide this blossom
Safe from summer's rain and thunder!
When those eyes of light and wonder
Tire at last of earthly places—
Full of years and full of graces,
Then, O, then
Take her back to heaven again!
The sky is dark, and dark the bay below
Save where the midnight city's pallid glow
Lies like a lily white
On the black pool of night.
O rushing steamer, hurry on thy way
Across the swirling Kills and gusty bay,
To where the eddying tide
Strikes hard the city's side!
For there, between the river and the sea,
Beneath that glow,—the lily's heart to me,—
A sleeping mother mild,
And by her breast a child!
In the embers shining bright
A garden grows for thy delight,
With roses yellow, red, and white.
But, O my child, beware, beware!
Touch not the blossoms blowing there,
For every rose a thorn doth bear.
Nine years to heaven had flown,
And June came, with June's token—
The wild rose that had known
A maiden's silence broken.
'T was thus the lover spoke,
And thus she leaned and listened
(Below, the billows broke,
The blue sea shook and glistened):—
"We have been happy, Love,
Through bright and stormy weather,
Happy all hope above,
For we have been together.
"To meet, to love, to wed,—
Joy without stint or measure,—
This was our lot," he said,
"To find untouched our treasure;
"But had some blindfold fate
Bound each unto another—
To turn from Heaven's gate,
Each heart-throb hide and smother!
"O dear and faithful heart,
If thus had we been fated;
To meet, to know, to part—
Too early, falsely, mated!
"Were this our bitter plight,
Ah, could we have dissembled?"
Her cheek turned pale with fright;
She hid her face, and trembled.
"BACK FROM THE DARKNESS TO THE LIGHT AGAIN"
"Back from the darkness to the light again!"—
Not from the darkness, Love, for hadst thou lain
Within the shadowy portal of the tomb,
Thy light had warmed the darkness into bloom.
I flung a stone into a grassy field;—
How many tiny creatures there may yield
(I thought) their petty lives through that rude shock!
To me a pebble, 't is to them a rock—
Gigantic, cruel, fraught with sudden death.
Perhaps it crusht an ant, perhaps its breath
Alone tore down a white and glittering palace,
And the small spider damns the giant's malice
Who wrought the wreck—blasted his pretty art!
Who knows what day some saunterer, light of heart,
An idle wanderer through the fields of space,
Large-limbed, big-brained, to whom our puny race
Seems small as insects,—one whose footstep jars
On some vast world-orb islanded by stars,—
May fling a stone and crush our earth to bits,
And all that men have builded by their wits?
"Ah, what a loss!" you say; "our bodies go,
But not our temples, statues, and the glow
Of glorious canvases; and not the pages
Our poets have illumed through myriad ages.
What boots the insect's loss? Another day
Will see the selfsame ant-hill and the play
Of light on dainty web the same. But blot
All human art from this terrestrial plot,
Something indeed would pass that nevermore
Would light the universe as once before!"
The spider's work is not original,—
You hold,—but what of ours? I fear that all
We do is just the same thing over and over.
Take Life: you have the woman and her lover;
'T is old as Eden; naught is new in that!
Take Building, and you reach ere long the flat
Nile desert sands, by way of France, Rome, Greece.
And there is poetry—our bards increase
In numbers, not in sweetness, not in force,
Since he, sublimest poet of this globe,
Forgotten now, poured forth the chant of Job—
Where Man with the Eternal holds discourse.
No, no! The forms may change, but even they
Come round again. Could we but truly scan it,
We'd find in the heavens some little, busy planet,
Whence all we are was borrowed. If to-day
The imagined giant flung his ponderous stone,
And we and all our far-stretched schemes were done,
His were a scant remorse and short-lived trouble,
Like mine for those small creatures in the stubble.
"WE MET UPON THE CROWDED WAY"
We met upon the crowded way;
We spoke and past. How bright the day
Turned from that moment, for a light
Did shine from her to make it bright!
And then I asked: Can such as she
From life be blotted utterly?
The thoughts from those clear eyes that dawn—
Down to the ground can they be drawn?
Among the mighty who can find
One that hath a perfect mind?
Angry, jealous, curst by feuds,
They own the sway of fatal moods;
But thou dost perfect seem to me
In thy divine simplicity.
Tho' from the heavens the stars be wrenched,
Thy light, dear maid, shall not be quenched.
Gentle, and true, and pure, and free—
The gods will not abandon thee!
THE WHITE AND THE RED ROSE
In Heaven's happy bowers
There blossom two flowers,
One with fiery glow
And one as white as snow;
While lo! before them stands,
With pale and trembling hands,
A spirit who must choose
One, and one refuse.
O, tell me of these flowers
That bloom in heavenly bowers,
One with fiery glow,
And one as white as snow!
And tell me who is this
In Heaven's holy bliss
Who trembles and who cries
Like a mortal soul that dies!
These blossoms two,
Wet with heavenly dew—
The Gentle Heart is one,
And one is Beauty's own;
And the spirit here that stands,
With pale and trembling hands,
Before to-morrow's morn
Will be a child new-born,
Will be a mortal maiden
With earthly sorrows laden;
But of these shining flowers
That bloom in heavenly bowers,
To-day she still may choose
One, and one refuse.
Will she pluck the crimson flower
And win Beauty's dower?
Will she choose the better part
And gain the Gentle Heart?
Awhile she weeping waits
Within those pearly gates;
Alas! the mortal maiden
With earthly sorrow laden;
Her tears afresh they start—
She has chosen the Gentle Heart.
And now the spirit goes,
In her breast the snow-white rose.
When hark! a voice that calls
Within the garden walls:
"Thou didst choose the better part,
Thou hast won the Gentle Heart—
Lo, now to thee is given
The red rose of Heaven."
A WOMAN'S THOUGHT
I am a woman—therefore I may not
Call to him, cry to him,
Fly to him,
Bid him delay not!
Then when he comes to me, I must sit quiet;
Still as a stone—
All silent and cold.
If my heart riot—
Crush and defy it!
Should I grow bold,
Say one dear thing to him,
All my life fling to him,
Cling to him—
What to atone
Is enough for my sinning!
This were the cost to me,
This were my winning—
That he were lost to me.
Not as a lover
At last if he part from me,
Tearing my heart from me,
Hurt beyond cure—
Calm and demure
Then must I hold me,
In myself fold me,
Lest he discover;
Showing no sign to him
By look of mine to him
What he has been to me—
How my heart turns to him,
Follows him, yearns to him,
Prays him to love me.
Pity me, lean to me,
Thou God above me!
THE RIVER INN
The night was black and drear
Of the last day of the year.
Two guests to the river inn
Came, from the wide world's bound—
One with clangor and din,
The other without a sound.
"Now hurry, servants and host!
Get the best that your cellars boast.
White be the sheets and fine,
And the fire on the hearthstone bright;
Pile the wood, and spare not the wine,
And call him at morning-light."
"But where is the silent guest?
In what chamber shall she rest?
In this! Should she not go higher?
'T is damp, and the fire is gone."
"You need not kindle the fire,
You need not call her at dawn."
Next morn he sallied forth
On his journey to the North.
O, bright the sunlight shone
Through boughs that the breezes stir;
But for her was lifted a stone
Under the churchyard fir.
Here stays the house, here stay the selfsame places,
Here the white lilacs and the buttonwoods;
Here the dark pine-groves, there the river-floods,
And there the threading brook that interlaces
Green meadow-bank with meadow-bank the same.
The melancholy nightly chorus came
Long, long ago from the same pool, and yonder
Stark poplars lift in the same twilight air
Their ancient lonelinesses; nearer, fonder,
The black-heart cherry-tree's gaunt branches bare
Rasp on the same old window where I ponder.
And we, the only living, only pass;
We come and go, whither and whence we know not.
From birth to bound the same house keeps, alas!
New lives as gently as the old; there show not
Among the haunts that each had thought his own
The looks that partings bring to human faces.
The black-heart there, that heard my earliest moan,
And yet shall hear my last, like all these places
I love so well, unloving lives from child
To child; from morning joy to evening sorrow—
Untouched by joy, by anguish undefiled;
All one the generations gone, and new;
All one dark yesterday and bright to-morrow;
To the old tree's insensate sympathy
All one the morning and the evening dew—
My far, forgotten ancestor and I.
AT FOUR SCORE
This is the house she was born in, full four-score years ago,
And here she is living still, bowed and ailing, but clinging
Still to this wonted life—like an ancient and blasted oak-tree,
Whose dying roots yet clasp the earth with an iron hold.
This is the house she was born in, and yonder across the bay
Is the home her lover builded, for her and for him and their children;
Daily she watched it grow, from dawn to the evening twilight,
As it rose on the orchard hill, 'mid the springtime showers and bloom.
There is the village church, its steeple over the trees
Rises and shows the clock she has watched since the day it was started—
O, many a year ago, how many she cannot remember.
Now solemnly over the water rings out the evening hour.
And there in that very church,—tho', alas, how bedizened, and changed!
They've painted it up, she says, in their queer, new, modern fashion,—
There on a morning in June, she gave her hand to her husband;
Her heart it was his (she told him) long years and years before.
Now here she sits at the window, gazing out on steeple and hill;
All but the houses are gone,—the church, and the trees, and the houses;—
All, all have gone long since, parents, and husband, and children;
And herself—she thinks, at times, she too has vanished and gone.
No, it cannot be she who stood in the church that morning in June,
Nor she who felt at her breast the lips of a child in the darkness;
But hark in the gathering dusk comes a low, quick moan of anguish—
Ah, it is she indeed, who has lived, who has loved, and lost.
For she thinks of a wintry night, when her last was taken away,
Forty years this very month, the last, the fairest, the dearest;
All gone—ah, yes, it is she who has loved, who has lost, and suffered,
She and none other it is, left alone in her sorrow and pain.
Still with its sapless roots, that stay tho' the branches have dropt—
Have withered, and fallen, and gone, their strength and their glory forgotten;
Still with the life that remains, silent, and faithful, and stedfast,
Through sunshine and bending storm clings the oak to its mother-earth.
John Carman of Carmeltown
Worked hard through the livelong day;
He drove his awl and he snapt his thread
And he had but little to say.
He had but little to say
Except to a neighbor's child;
Three summers old she was, and her eyes
Had a look that was deep and wild.
Her hair was heavy and brown
Like clouds in a starry night.
She came and sat by the cobbler's bench
And his soul was filled with delight.
No kith nor kin had he
And he never went gadding about;
A strange, shy man, the people said;
They could not make him out.
And some of them shook their heads
And would never tell what they'd heard.
But he drove his awl and snapt his thread—
And he always kept his word;
And the little child that knew him
Better than all the rest,
She threw her arms around his neck
And went to sleep on his breast.
One day in that dreadful summer
When children died by the score,
John Carman glanced from his work and saw
Her mother there at the door.
He knew by the look on her face—
And his own turned deathly white;
He rose from his bench and followed her out
And watched by the child that night.
He tended her day and night;
He watched by her night and day.
He saw the cruel pain in her eyes;
He saw her lips turn gray.
The day that the child was buried
John Carman went back to his last,
And the neighbors said that for weeks and weeks
Not a word his clencht lips past.
"He takes it hard," they gossiped,
"Poor man, he's lacking in wit";
"I'll drop in to-day," said Deacon Gray,
"And comfort him up a bit."
So Deacon Gray dropt in
With a kind and neighborly air,
And before he left he knelt on the floor
And wrestled with God in prayer.
And he said: "O Lord, Thou hast stricken
This soul in its babyhood;
In Thy own way, we beseech and pray,
Bring forth from evil good."
That night the fire-bells rang
And the flames shot up to the sky,
And into the street as pale as a sheet
The town-folk flock and cry.
The bells ring loud and long,
The flames leap high and higher,
The rattling engines come too late—
The old First Church is on fire!
And lo and behold in the crimson glare
They see John Carman stand—
A look of mirth on his iron lips
And a blazing torch in his hand.
"You say it was He who killed her"
(His voice had a fearful sound):
"I'd have you know, who love Him so,
I've burned His house to the ground."
John Carman died in prison,
In the madman's cell, they say;
And from his crime, that I've told in rhyme,
Heaven cleanse his soul, I pray.
Thou who lov'st and art forsaken,
Didst believe and wert mistaken,
From thy dream thou wilt not waken
When Death thee shall call.
Like are infidel, believer,
The deceived, and the deceiver,
When the grave hides all.
What if thou be saint or sinner,
Crooked graybeard, straight beginner,—
Empty paunch, or jolly dinner,—
When Death thee shall call.
All alike are rich and richer,
King with crown, and cross-legged stitcher,
When the grave hides all.
Hope not thou to live hereafter
In men's memories and laughter,
When, 'twixt hearth and ringing rafter,
Death thee shall call.
For we both shall be forgotten,
Friend, when thou and I are rotten
And the grave hides all.
"Friend, why goest thou forth
When ice-hills drift from the north
And crush together?"
"The Voice that me doth call
Heeds not the ice-hill's fall,
Nor wind, nor weather."
"But, friend, the night is black;
Behold the driving rack
And wild seas under!"
"My straight and narrow bark
Fears not the threatening dark,
Nor storm, nor thunder."
"But O, thy children dear!
Thy wife,—she is not here,—
I haste to bring her!"
"No, no, it is too late!
Hush, hush! I may not wait,
Nor weep, nor linger."
"Hark! Who is he that knocks
With slow and dreadful shocks
The walls to sever?"
"It is my Master's call,
I go, whate'er befall;
FOR THE DEAD OF THE JEANNETTE BROUGHT HOME ON THE FRISIA
O gates of ice! long have ye held our loved ones.
Ye Cruel! how could ye keep from us them for whom our hearts yearned—our dear ones, our fathers, our children, our brothers, our lovers?
Cold and Sleet, Darkness and Ice! hard have ye held them; ye would not let them go.
Their hands ye have bound fast; their feet ye have detained; and well have ye laid hold upon the hearts of our loved ones.
O silent Arctic Night! thou hast wooed them from us.
O Secret of the white and unknown world! too strong hast thou been for us; we were as nothing to thee; thou hast drawn them from us; thou wouldst not let them go.
The long day past; thou wouldst not let them go.
The long, long night came and went; thou wouldst not let them go.
O thou insatiate! What to thee are youth, and life, and hope, and love?
For thou art Death, not Life; thou art Despair, not Hope.
Naught to thee the rush of youthful blood; naught to thee the beauty and strength of our loved ones.
The breath of their bodies was not sweet to thee; they loved thee, and thou lovedst not them.
They followed thee, thou didst not look upon them; but still, O thou inviolate! still did they follow thee.
Thee did they follow through storm, through perils of the ice, and of the unknown darkness.
The sharp spears of the frost they feared not; the terrors of death they feared not. For thee, for thee, for thee, not for us; only that they might look upon thy face!
All these they endured for thee; the thought of us whom yet they loved, this also they endured for thee.
For thou art beautiful, beyond the beauty of woman. In thy hair are the stars of night. Thou wrappest about thee garments of fire that burn not, and are never quenched;
When thou movest they are moved; when thou breathest they tremble.
Yea, awful art thou in thy beauty; with white fingers beckoning in mists and shadows of the frozen sea; drawing to thee the hearts of heroes.
Long, long have they tarried in thy gates, O North!
But now thou hast given them up. Lo, they come to us once more—our belovèd, our only ones!
O dearest, why have ye stayed so long?
With ye, night and day have come and gone, but with us there was night only.
But no, we will not reproach ye, hearts of our hearts, dearest and best; our fathers, our children, our brothers, our lovers!
Come back to us! Behold our arms are open for you; ye are ours; ye have returned unto us; ye shall never go hence again.
But why are ye silent, why do ye not stir, why do ye not speak to us, O belovèd ones?
White are your cheeks like snow; your eyes they do not look upon us.
So long ye have been gone, and is this your joy to see us once more?
Lo! do we not welcome ye? Are not our souls glad? Do not our tears, long kept, fall upon your faces?
Or do ye but sleep well, after those hard and weary labors? O, now awaken, for ye shall take rest and pleasure; here are your homes and kindred!
Listen, belovèd: here is your sister, here is your brother, here is your lover!
They will not hearken to our voices.
They are still; their eyes look not upon us.
O insatiate! O Secret of the white and unknown world, cruel indeed thou art!
Thou hast sent back to us our best belovèd; their bodies thou hast rendered up, but their spirits thou hast taken away from us forever.
In life thou didst hold them from us—and in death, in death they are thine.
New York, February 20, 1884.
(THE STUDIO CONCERT)
In the long studio from whose towering walls
Greek Phidias beams, and Angelo appalls,
Eager the listening, downcast faces throng
While violins their piercing tones prolong.
At times I know not if I see, or hear,
Yon statue's smile, or some not sorrowing tear
Down-falling on the surface of the stream
That music pours across my waking dream.
Ah, is it then a dream that while repeat
Those chords, like strokes of silver-shod light feet,
And the great Master's music marches on—
I hear the horses of the Parthenon?
But all to-day seems vague, unreal, far,
With fear and discord in the dearest strain,
For 'neath yon slowly-sinking western star
One that I love lies on her bed of pain.
A NEW WORLD
"I know" he said,
"The thunder and the lightning have past by
And all the earth is black, and burned, and dead;
But, friend, the grass will grow again, the flowers
Again will bloom, the summer birds will sing,
And the all-healing sun will shine once more."
"Blind prophecy," she answered in her woe.
Yet still, as time wore on, the prophet's words
Came true,—but not all true. (So shall it be
With all who here may suffer mortal loss.)
Ere long the grass, the flowers, the birds, the sun
Once more made bright the bleak and desolate earth;
They came once more, those joys of other days;
She felt them, moved among them, and was glad.
Glad—glad! O mocking word! They came once more,
But not the same to her. Familiar they
As a remembered dream, and beautiful—
But changed, all changed, the whole world changed for ever.
'T was in the year when mutterings, loud and deep,
Were heard in all the dark, distracted land;
And grave men questioned: "Can the State withstand
The shock and strain to come? O, will she keep
Firm her four walls, should the wild creature leap
To ruin and ravish? Will her pillars planned
By the great dead, tremble to either hand?
The dead! would heaven they might awake from sleep!"
Haply (I thought) our Congress still may hold
One voice of power—when lo! upon the blast
A sound like jackals ravening to and fro.
Great God! And has it come to this at last?
Such noise, such shame, where once, not long ago,
The pure and wise their living thoughts outrolled.
Come, Spirit of Song! true, faithful friend of mine!
Oft hast thou served me in life's warfare rough;
No knight of old found lance more keen or tough
At tourney or in dreadful battle-line:
Come, tho' they own thee not, the Muses Nine;
Strike one more blow,—the past is not enough,—
Not now for Love's sake, nor in Fate's rebuff,
Nor for Provence and all its golden wine:
But be one iron scorn for this huge town
Where love of God has turned to lust of gold,
And civic pride in private greed grows cold;
Where speculation stains the judge's gown,
And where, in new-born broods, foul beasts of prey
Ravage the treasure-house by night and day.
O, how shall I help to right the world that is going wrong!
And what can I do to hurry the promised time of peace!
The day of work is short and the night of sleep is long;
And whether to pray or preach, or whether to sing a song,
To plow in my neighbor's field, or to seek the golden fleece,
Or to sit with my hands in my lap, and wish that ill would cease!
I think, sometimes, it were best just to let the Lord alone;
I am sure some people forget He was here before they came;
Tho' they say it is all for His glory, 't is a good deal more for their own,
That they peddle their petty schemes, and blate and babble and groan.
I sometimes think it were best, and a man were little to blame,
Should he pass on his silent way nor mix with the noisy shame.
AT GARFIELD'S GRAVE
All summer long the people knelt
And listened at the sick man's door:
Each pang which that pale sufferer felt
Throbbed through the land from shore to shore;
And as the all-dreaded hour drew nigh,
What breathless watching, night and day!
What tears, what prayers! Great God on high!
Have we forgotten how to pray!
O broken-hearted, widowed one,
Forgive us if we press too near!
Dead is our husband, father, son,
For we are all one household here.
And not alone here by the sea,
And not in his own land alone,
Are tears of anguish shed with thee—
In this one loss the world is one.
A man not perfect, but of heart
So high, of such heroic rage,
That even his hopes became a part
Of earth's eternal heritage.
She saw the bayonets flashing in the sun,
The flags that proudly waved; she heard the bugles calling;
She saw the tattered banners falling
About the broken staffs, as one by one
The remnant of the mighty army past;
And at the last
Flowers for the graves of those whose fight was done.
She heard the tramping of ten thousand feet
As the long line swept round the crowded square;
She heard the incessant hum
That filled the warm and blossom-scented air—
The shrilling fife, the roll and throb of drum,
The happy laugh, the cheer. O, glorious and meet
To honor thus the dead,
Who chose the better part,
Who for their country bled!
—The dead! Great God! she stood there in the street,
Living, yet dead in soul and mind and heart—
While far away
His grave was deckt with flowers by strangers' hands to-day.
THE NORTH TO THE SOUTH
Land of the South,—whose stricken heart and brow
Bring grief to eyes that erewhile only knew
For their own loss to sorrow,—spurn not thou
These tribute tears; ah, we have suffered too.
New Orleans, 1885.
THE BURIAL OF GRANT
(NEW YORK, AUGUST 8, 1885)
Ye living soldiers of the mighty war,
Once more from roaring cannon and the drums
And bugles blown at morn, the summons comes;
Forget the halting limb, each wound and scar;
Once more your Captain calls to you;
Come to his last review!
And come ye, too, bright spirits of the dead,
Ye who flamed heavenward from the embattled field;
And ye whose harder fate it was to yield
Life from the loathful prison or anguished bed;
Dear ghosts! come join your comrades here
Beside this sacred bier.
Nor be ye absent, ye immortal band,—
Warriors of ages past, and our own age,—
Who drew the sword for right, and not in rage,
Made war that peace might live in all the land,
Nor ever struck one vengeful blow,
But helped the fallen foe.
And fail not ye,—but, ah, ye falter not
To join his army of the dead and living,—
Ye who once felt his might, and his forgiving;
Brothers, whom more in love than hate he smote.
For all his countrymen make room
By our great hero's tomb!
Come, soldiers—not to battle as of yore,
But come to weep; ay, shed your noblest tears;
For lo, the stubborn chief, who knew not fears,
Lies cold at last, ye shall not see him more.
How long grim Death he fought and well,
That poor, lean frame doth tell.
All's over now; here let our Captain rest,
Silent amid the blare of praise and blame;
Here let him rest, while never rests his fame;
Here in the city's heart he loved the best,
And where our sons his tomb may see
To make them brave as he;—
As brave as he—he on whose iron arm
Our Greatest leaned, our gentlest and most wise;
Leaned when all other help seemed mocking lies,
While this one soldier checked the tide of harm,
And they together saved the state,
And made it free and great.
THE DEAD COMRADE
At the burial of Grant, a bugler stood forth and sounded "taps."
Come, soldiers, arouse ye!
Another has gone;
Let us bury our comrade,
His battles are done.
His sun it is set;
He was true, he was brave,
He feared not the grave,
There is naught to regret.
Bring music and banners
And wreaths for his bier—
No fault of the fighter
That Death conquered here.
Bring him home ne'er to rove,
Bear him home to his rest,
And over his breast
Fold the flag of his love.
Great Captain of battles,
We leave him with Thee!
What was wrong, O, forgive it;
His spirit make free.
Sound taps, and away!
Out lights, and to bed!
Farewell, soldier dead!
Farewell—for a day.
ON THE LIFE-MASK OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
This bronze doth keep the very form and mold
Of our great martyr's face. Yes, this is he:
That brow all wisdom, all benignity;
That human, humorous mouth; those cheeks that hold
Like some harsh landscape all the summer's gold;
That spirit fit for sorrow, as the sea
For storms to beat on; the lone agony
Those silent, patient lips too well foretold.
Yes, this is he who ruled a world of men
As might some prophet of the elder day—
Brooding above the tempest and the fray
With deep-eyed thought and more than mortal ken.
A power was his beyond the touch of art
Or armèd strength—his pure and mighty heart.
(WRITTEN DURING THE FIRST ADMINISTRATION OF PRESIDENT CLEVELAND)
Not his to guide the ship while tempests blow,
War's billows burst, and glorious thunders beat;
Not his the joy to see an alien foe
Fly down the dreadful valley of defeat;
Not his the fame of that great soul and tried,
Who conquered civil peace by arms and love;
Nor his the emprize of one who lately died
Hand-claspt with foes, who weep his tomb above.
But this his task,—all passionless, unsplendid,—
To teach, in public place, a nobler creed;
To build a wall,—alone or well befriended,—
'Gainst the base partizan's ignoble greed.
Or will he fail, or triumph? History lays
A moment down her pen. A nation waits—and prays.
What is her playing like?
I ask—while dreaming here under her music's power.
'T is like the leaves of the dark passion-flower
Which grows on a strong vine whose roots, O, deep they sink,
Deep in the ground, that flower's pure life to drink.
What is her playing like?
'T is like a bird
Who, singing in a wild wood, never knows
That its lone melody is heard
By wandering mortal, who forgets his heavy woes.
ADELE AUS DER OHE
What is her playing like?
'T is like the wind in wintry northern valleys.
A dream-pause;—then it rallies
And once more bends the pine-tops, suddenly shatters
The ice-crags, whitely scatters
The spray along the paths of avalanches,
Startles the blood, and every visage blanches.
Half-sleeps the wind above a swirling pool
That holds the trembling shadow of the trees;
Where waves too wildly rush to freeze
Tho' all the air is cool;
And hear, O, hear, while musically call
With nearer tinkling sounds, or distant roar,
Voices of fall on fall;
And now a swelling blast, that dies; and now—no more, no more.
Ah, what celestial art!
And can sweet thoughts become pure tone and float,
All music, note by note,
Into the trancèd mind and quivering heart!
Her hand scarce stirs the singing, wiry metal—
Hear from the wild-rose fall each perfect petal!
And can we have, on earth, of heaven the whole,
Or be to heaven upcaught,
Hearing the soul of inexpressible thought,
Roses of sound
That strew melodious leaves upon the silent ground;
And music that is music's very soul,
Without one touch of earth,
Too tender, even, for sorrow, and too bright for mirth!
There are four sisters known to mortals well,
Whose names are Joy and Sorrow, Death and Love;
This last it was who did my footsteps move
To where the other deep-eyed sisters dwell.
To-night, or ere yon painted curtain fell,
These, one by one, before my eyes did rove
Through the brave mimic world that Shakespeare wove.
Lady! thy art, thy passion were the spell
That held me, and still holds; for thou dost show,
With those most high each in his sovereign art,—
Shakespeare supreme, and Tuscan Angelo,—
Great art and passion are one. Thine too the part
To prove, that still for him the laurels grow
Who reaches through the mind to pluck the heart.
(SUPPOSED TO BE FROM THE POLISH)
I sat in the crowded theater. The first notes of the orchestra wandered in the air; then the full harmony burst forth; then ceased.
The conductor, secretly pleased with the loud applause, waited a moment, then played again; but as he struck upon his desk for the third time, the bell sounded, the just-beginning tones of the wind-instruments and the violins husht suddenly, and the curtain was rolled to the ceiling.
Then appeared a wonderful vision, which shall not soon be forgotten by me.
For know that I am one who loves all things beautiful.
Did you find the figure of a man lying solitary upon the wind-fashioned hills of sand, watching the large sun rise from the ocean? That was I.
It was I who, lonely, walked at evening through the woods of autumn, beholding the sun's level light strike through the unfallen red and golden foliage,—
Whose heart trembled when he saw the fire that rapidly consumed the dead leaves lying upon the hillside, and spread a robe of black that throbbed with crimson jewels under the wind of the rushing flame.
Know, also, that the august forms wrought in marble by the ancient sculptors have power upon me, also the imaginative works of the incomparable painters; and that the voices of the early poets are modern and familiar to me.
What vision was it, then, that I beheld; what art was it that made my heart tremble and filled me with joy that was like pain?
Was it the art of the poet; was it of a truth poetry made visible in human attitudes and motions?
Was it the art of the painter—which Raphael knew so well when he created those most gracious shapes that yet live on the walls of the Vatican?
Or was it the severe and marvelous art of the sculptor, in which antique Phidias excelled, and which Michael Angelo indued with new and mighty power?
Or, haply, it was that enchanting myth, made real before our eyes—of the insensate marble warmed to life beneath the passionate gaze of the sculptor!
No, no; it was not this miracle, of which the bards have so often sung; nor was it the art of the poet, nor of the painter, nor of the musician (tho' often I thought of music), nor of the sculptor. It was none of these that moved my heart, and the hearts of all who beheld, and yet it was all of these,
For it was the ancient and noble art of the drama,—that art which includes all other arts, and she who was the mistress of it was the divine Modjeska.
FOR AN ALBUM
(TO BE READ ONE HUNDRED YEARS AFTER)
A century's summer breezes shook
The maple shadows on the grass
Since she who owned this ancient book
From the green world to heaven did pass.
Beside a northern lake she grew,
A wild-flower on its craggy walls;
Her eyes were mingled gray and blue,
Like waves where summer sunlight falls.
Cheerful from morn to evening-close,
No humblest work, no prayer forgot!
Yet who of woman born but knows
The sorrows of our mortal lot!
And she too suffered, tho' the wound
Was hidden from the general gaze,
And most from those who thus had found
An added burden for their days.
She had no special grace, nor art;
Her riches not in banks were kept;
Her treasure was a gentle heart;
Her skill to comfort those who wept.
Not without foes her days were past,
For quick her burning scorn was fanned.
Her friends were many—least and last,
A poet from a distant land.
I know a girl—she is a poet's daughter,
And many-mooded as a poet's day,
And changing as the Mediterranean water;
We walked together by an emerald bay,
So deep, so green, so promontory-hidden
That the lost mariner might peer in vain
Through storms, to find where he erewhile had ridden,
Safe-sheltered from the wild and windy main.
Down the high stairs we clambered just to rest a
Cool moment in the church's antique shade.
How gay the aisles and altars! 'T was the festa
Of brave Saint George who the old dragon laid.
How bright the little port! The red flags fluttered,
Loud clanged the bells, and loud the children's glee;
What tho' some distant, unseen storm-cloud muttered,
And waves breathed big along the weedy quay.
We climbed the hill whose rising cleaves asunder
Green bay and blue immeasurable sea;
We heard the breakers at its bases thunder;
We heard the priests harsh chant soar wild and free.
Then through the graveyard's straight and narrow portal
Our journey led. How dark the place! How strange
Its steep, black mountain wall—as if the immortal
Spirit could thus be stayed its skyward range!
Beyond, the smoky olives clothed the mountains
In green that grew through many a moonlit night.
Below, down cleft and chasm leapt snowy fountains;
Above, the sky was warm, and blue, and bright;
When, sudden, from out a fair and smiling heaven
Burst forth the rain, quick as a trumpet-blare;
Yet still the Italian sun each drop did leaven,
And turned the rain to diamonds in the air.
So past the day in shade, and shower, and sun,
Like thine own moods, thou sweet and changeful maiden!
Great Heaven! deal kindly with this gentle one,
Nor let her soul too heavily be laden.
I—TO F. F. C. ON THE PANSY, HER CLASS FLOWER
This is the flower of thought;
Take it, thou empress of a land
Of true hearts, from a loyal subject's hand;
And with it naught,
O, naught beneath life's ever-brightening dome
Of sad remembrance! May it bring
Dreams of joy only, and of happy days
Backward and still to come;
Of birds that sang last eve, and still shall sing
In dawns of morrows only joyful lays.
Or yet, if thou shouldst go
Not utterly unscathed of mortal woe—
Thy blackest hour be touched by memory's gold,
As is this flower's leaf. Then shalt thou hold
Ever a young heart in thee, ever as now
A look of quenchless youth beneath thy peerless brow.
Following the sun, westward the march of power!
The Rose of Might blooms in our new-world mart:
But see, just bursting forth from bud to flower,—
A late, slow growth,—the fairer Rose of Art.
III—TO A SOUTHERN GIRL
Sweet rose that bloomed on the red field of war,
Think not too sadly of the dreadful Past!
Are not old foes new friends—not least, tho' last,
One whose far home lies 'neath yon Northern star?
IV—FOR A FAN
Each of us answers to a call;
Master or mistress have we all.
I belong to lovely Anne;
Dost thou not wish thou wert a fan?
Thus to be treasured, thus to be prest,
Pleasuring thus, and thus carest?
V—TO T. B. A.
IN ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF A BOOK OF PROSE
Your pretty book doth please me,
Of carks and cares doth ease me;
But don't forget, my boy,
Verse is your true employ.
And surely, Thomas Bailey,
In all this new-world mêlée
Too seldom comes the poet,
And when he does we know it!
Yes, no one else can do
The work that's play to you.
So spend your precious time in
Your master art of rhymin',
Then shall you keep the praise
Of these and future days.
"Give me a theme," the little poet cried,
"And I will do my part."
"'T is not a theme you need," the world replied,
"You need a heart."
VII—THE CHRISTMAS TREE IN THE NURSERY
(FOR F. AND R.)
With wild surprise
Four great eyes
In two small heads
From neighboring beds
Looked out—and winkt—
And glittered and blinkt
At a very queer sight
In the dim dawn-light.
As plain as can be
A fairy tree
Flashes and glimmers
And shakes and shimmers.
Red, green, and blue
Meet their view;
Silver and gold
Sharp eyes behold;
Small moons, big stars;
And jams in jars,
And cakes and honey
And thimbles and money;
Pink dogs, blue cats,
Little squeaking rats,
And candles and dolls
And crackers and polls,
A real bird that sings,
And tokens and favors,
And all sorts of things
For the little shavers.
Four black eyes
Grow big with surprise,
And then grow bigger
When a tiny little figure
Jaunty and airy,
A fairy! a fairy!
From the tree-top cries:
"Open wide! Black Eyes!
Come, children, wake now!
Your joys you may take now."
Quick as you can think
Twenty small toes
In four pretty rows,
Like little piggies pink,
All kick in the air—
And before you can wink
The tree stands bare!
MUSIC AND WORDS
This day I heard such music that I thought:
Hath human speech the power thus to be wrought,
Into such melody,—pure, sensuous sound,—
Into such mellow, murmuring mazes caught;
Can words (I said), when these keen tones are bound
(Silent, except in memory of this hour)—
Can human words alone usurp the power
Of trembling strings that thrill to the very soul,
And of this ecstasy bring back the whole?
Ah, no ('t was answered in my inmost heart),
Unto itself sufficient is each art,
And each doth utter what none other can—
Some hidden mood of the large soul of man.
Ah, think not thou with words well interweaved
To wake the tones wherein the viol grieved
With its most heavy burden; think not thou,
Adventurous, to push thy shallop's prow
Into that surge of well-remembered tones,
Striving to match each wandering wind that moans,
Each bell that tolls, and every bugle's blowing
With some most fitting word, some verse bestowing
A never-shifting form on that which past
Swift as a bird that glimmers down the blast.
So, still unworded, save in memory mute,
Rest thou sweet hour of viol and of lute;
Of thoughts that never, never can be spoken,
Too frail for the rough usage of men's words—
Thoughts that shall keep their silence all unbroken
Till music once more stirs them;—then like birds
That in the night-time slumber, they shall wake,
While all the leaves of all the forest shake.
O, hark! I hear it now, that tender strain
Fulfilled with all of sorrow save its pain.
THE POET'S FAME
Many the songs of power the poet wrought
To shake the hearts of men. Yea, he had caught
The inarticulate and murmuring sound
That comes at midnight from the darkened ground
When the earth sleeps; for this he framed a word
Of human speech, and hearts were strangely stirred
That listened. And for him the evening dew
Fell with a sound of music, and the blue
Of the deep, starry sky he had the art
To put in language that did seem a part
Of the great scope and progeny of nature.
In woods, or waves, or winds, there was no creature
Mysterious to him. He was too wise
Either to fear, or follow, or despise
Whom men call Science—for he knew full well
All she had told, or still might live to tell,
Was known to him before her very birth;
Yea, that there was no secret of the earth,
Nor of the waters under, nor the skies,
That had been hidden from the poet's eyes;
By him there was no ocean unexplored,
Nor any savage coast that had not roared
Its music in his ears.
He loved the town—
Not less he loved the ever-deepening brown
Of summer twilights on the enchanted hills;
And long would listen to the starts and thrills
Of birds that sang and rustled in the trees,
Or watch the footsteps of the wandering breeze
And the quick, wingèd shadows flashing by,
Or birds that slowly wheeled across the unclouded sky.
All these were written on the poet's soul;
But he knew, too, the utmost, distant goal
Of the human mind. His fiery thought did run
To Time's beginning, ere yon central sun
Had warmed to life the swarming broods of men.
In waking dreams, his many-visioned ken
Clutcht the large, final destiny of things.
He heard the starry music, and the wings
Of beings unfelt by others thrilled the air
About him. Yet the loud and angry blare
Of tempests found an echo in his verse,
And it was here that lovers did rehearse
The ditties they would sing when, not too soon,
Came the warm night;—shadows, and stars, and moon.
Who heard his songs were filled with noble rage,
And wars took fire from his prophetic page—
Most righteous wars, wherein, 'midst blood and tears,
The world rushed onward through a thousand years.
And still he made the gentle sounds of peace
Heroic; bade the nation's anger cease!
Bitter his songs of grief for those who fell—
And for all this the people loved him well.
They loved him well and therefore, on a day,
They said with one accord: "Behold how gray
Our poet's head hath grown! Ere 't is too late
Come, let us crown him in our Hall of State;
Ring loud the bells, give to the winds his praise,
And urge his fame to other lands and days!"
So was it done, and deep his joy therein.
But passing home at night, from out the din
Of the loud Hall, the poet, unaware,
Moved through a lonely and dim-lighted square—
There was the smell of lilacs in the air
And then the sudden singing of a bird,
Startled by his slow tread. What memory stirred
Within his brain he told not. Yet this night,—
Lone lingering when the eastern heavens were bright,—
He wove a song of such immortal art
That there lives not in all the world one heart—
One human heart unmoved by it. Long! long!
The laurel-crown has failed, but not that song
Born of the night and sorrow. Where he lies
At rest beneath the ever-shifting skies,
Age after age, from far-off lands they come,
With tears and flowers, to seek the poet's tomb.
THE POET'S PROTEST
O man with your rule and measure,
Your tests and analyses!
You may take your empty pleasure,
May kill the pine, if you please;
You may count the rings and the seasons,
May hold the sap to the sun,
You may guess at the ways and the reasons
Till your little day is done.
But for me the golden crest
That shakes in the wind and launches
Its spear toward the reddening West!
For me the bough and the breeze,
The sap unseen, and the glint
Of light on the dew-wet branches,
The hiding shadows, the hint
Of the soul of mysteries.
You may sound the sources of life,
And prate of its aim and scope;
You may search with your chilly knife
Through the broken heart of hope.
But for me the love-sweet breath,
And the warm, white bosom heaving,
And never a thought of death,
And only the bliss of living.
TO A YOUNG POET
In the morning of the skies
I heard a lark arise.
On the first day of the year
A wood-flower did appear.
Like a violet, like a lark,
Like the dawn that kills the dark,
Like a dewdrop, trembling, clinging,
Is the poet's first sweet singing.
"WHEN THE TRUE POET COMES"
"When the true poet comes, how shall we know him?
By what clear token; manners, language, dress?
Or will a voice from heaven speak and show him—
Him the swift healer of the earth's distress?
Tell us, that when the long-expected comes
At last, with mirth and melody and singing,
We him may greet with banners, beat of drums,
Welcome of men and maids and joybells ringing;
And, for this poet of ours,
Laurels and flowers."
Thus shall ye know him, this shall be his token—
Manners like other men, an unstrange gear;
His speech not musical, but harsh and broken
Will sound at first, each line a driven spear.
For he will sing as in the centuries olden,
Before mankind its earliest fire forgot—
Yet whoso listens long hears music golden.
How shall ye know him? Ye shall know him not
Till, ended hate and scorn,
To the grave he's borne.
YOUTH AND AGE
"I like your book, my boy,
'T is full of youth and joy,
And love that sings and dreams.
Yet it puzzles me," he said;
"A string of pearls it seems,
But I cannot find the thread."
"O friend of olden days!
Dear to me is your praise,
But, many and many a year
You must go back, I fear;
You must journey back," I said,
"To find that golden thread!"
What is a sonnet? 'T is the pearly shell
That murmurs of the far-off murmuring sea;
A precious jewel carved most curiously;
It is a little picture painted well.
What is a sonnet? 'T is the tear that fell
From a great poet's hidden ecstasy;
A two-edged sword, a star, a song—ah me!
Sometimes a heavy-tolling funeral bell.
This was the flame that shook with Dante's breath;
The solemn organ whereon Milton played,
And the clear glass where Shakespeare's shadow falls:
A sea this is—beware who ventureth!
For like a fiord the narrow floor is laid
Mid-ocean deep sheer to the mountain walls.
A SONNET OF DANTE
("Tanto gentile e tanto onesta pare")
So fair, so pure my lady as she doth go
Upon her way, and others doth salute,
That every tongue becometh trembling-mute,
And every eye is troubled by that glow.
Her praise she hears as on she moveth slow,
Clothed with humility as with a suit;
She seems a thing that came (without dispute)
From heaven to earth a miracle to show.
Through eyes that gaze on her benignity
There passes to the heart a sense so sweet
That none can understand who may not prove;
And from her countenance there seems to move
A gentle spirit, with all love replete,
That to the soul comes, saying, "Sigh, O, sigh!"
THE NEW TROUBADOURS
They said that all the troubadours had flown—
No bird to flash a wing or swell a throat!
But as we journeyed down the rushing Rhone
To Avignon, what joyful note on note
Burst forth beneath thy shadow, O Ventour!
Whose eastward forehead takes the dawn divine;—
Ah, dear Provence! ah, happy troubadour,
And that sweet, mellow, antique song of thine!
First, Roumanille, the leader of the choir,
Then graceful Matthieu, tender, sighing, glowing,
Then Wyse all fancy, Aubanel all fire,
And Mistral, mighty as the north-wind's blowing;
And youthful Gras, and lo! among the rest
A mother-bird who sang above her nest.
Touch not with dark regret his perfect fame,
Sighing, "Had he but lived he had done so";
Or, "Were his heart not eaten out with woe
John Keats had won a prouder, mightier name!"
Take him for what he was and did—nor blame
Blind fate for all he suffered. Thou shouldst know
Souls such as his escape no mortal blow—
No agony of joy, or sorrow, or shame!
"Whose name was writ in water!" What large laughter
Among the immortals when that word was brought!
Then when his fiery spirit rose flaming after
High toward the topmost heaven of heavens up-caught!
"All hail! our younger brother!" Shakespeare said,
And Dante nodded his imperial head.
AN INSCRIPTION IN ROME
(PIAZZA DI SPAGNA)
Something there is in Death not all unkind;
He hath a gentler aspect, looking back;
For flowers may bloom in the dread thunder's track,
And even the cloud that struck with light was lined.
Thus, when the heart is silent, speaks the mind;
But there are moments when comes rushing, black
And fierce upon us, the old, awful lack,
And Death once more is cruel, senseless, blind.
So when I saw beside a Roman portal
"In this house died John Keats"—for tears that sprung
I could no further read. O bard immortal!
Not for thy fame's sake—but so young, so young;
Such beauty vanished; spilled such heavenly wine;
All quenched that power of deathless song divine!
The poet died last night;
Outworn his mortal frame.
He hath fought well the fight,
And won a deathless name.
Bring laurel for his bier,
And flowers to deck the hearse.
The tribute of a tear
To his immortal verse.
Husht is that piercing strain—
Who heard, for pleasure wept.
His were our joy and pain;
He sang—our sorrow slept.
Yes, weep for him; no more
Shall such high songs have birth;
Gone is the harp he bore
Forever from the earth.
Weep, weep, and scatter flowers
Above his precious dust;
Child of the heavenly powers—
Divine, and pure, and just.
Weep, weep—for when to-night
Shall hoot the hornèd owl,
Beneath the pale moon's light
The human ghouls will prowl.
What creatures those will throng
Within the sacred gloom,
To do our poet wrong—
To break the sealèd tomb?
Not the great world and gay
That pities not, nor halts
By thoughtless night or day,
But,—O more sordid-false!—
His trusted friend and near,
To whom his spirit moved;
The brother he held dear;
The woman that he loved.
Men grow old before their time,
With the journey half before them;
In languid rhyme
They deplore them.
Life up-gathers carks and cares,
So good-by to maid and lover!
Find three gray hairs,
And cry, "All's over!"
Look at Browning! How he keeps
In the seventies still a heart
That never sleeps—
Still an art
Full of youth's own grit and power,
Thoughts we deemed to boys belonging;
The springtime's flower—
TO AN ENGLISH FRIEND
WITH EMERSON'S "POEMS"
Edmund, in this book you'll find
Music from a prophet's mind.
Even when harsh the numbers be,
There's an inward melody;
And when sound is one with sense,
'T is a bird's song, sweet, intense.
Chide me not the book is small,
For in it lies our all in all.
We who in El Dorado live
Have no better gift to give.
When no more is silver mill,
Golden stream, or iron hill—
Search the New World from pole to pole,
Here you'll find its singing soul!
OUR ELDER POETS
He is gone! We shall not see again
That reverend form, those silver locks;
Silent at last the iron pen
And words that poured like molten rocks.
He is gone, and we who thought him cold
Miss from our lives a generous heat,
And know that stolid form did hold
A fire that burned, a heart that beat.
He is gone, but other bards remain—
Our gray old prophet, young at heart;
Our scholar-poet's patriot strain;
And he of the wise and mellow art.
And he who first to Science sought,
But to the Merry Muses after;
Who learned a secret never taught—
The knowledge of men's tears and laughter.
He also in whose music rude
Our peopled hills and prairies speak,
Resounding, in his modern mood,
The tragic fury of the Greek.
And he, too, lingers round about
The darling city of his birth—
The bard whose gray eyes looking out
Find scarce one peer in all the earth.
LONGFELLOW'S "BOOK OF SONNETS"
'Twas Sunday evening as I wandered down
The central highway of this swarming place,
And felt a pleasant stillness—not a trace
Of Saturday's harsh turmoil in the town;
Then as a gentle breeze just stirs a gown,
Yet almost motionless, or as the face
Of silence smiles, I heard the chimes of "Grace"
Sound murmuring through the autumn evening's brown.
To-day, again, I past along Broadway
In the fierce tumult and mid-noise of noon,
While 'neath my feet the solid pavement shook;
When lo! it seemed that bells began to play
Upon a Sabbath eve a silver tune—
For as I walked I read the poet's book.
I would that in the verse she loved some word,
Not all unfit, I to her praise might frame—
Some word wherein the memory of her name
Should through long years its incense still afford.
But no, her spirit smote with its own sword;
Herself has lit the fire whose blood-red flame
Shall not be quenched—this is her living fame
Who struck so well the sonnet's subtile chord.
None who e'er knew her can believe her dead;
Tho' should she die they deem it well might be
Her spirit took its everlasting flight
In summer's glory, by the sunset sea—
That onward through the Golden Gate it fled.
Ah, where that bright soul is cannot be night.
THE MODERN RHYMER
Now you who rhyme, and I who rhyme,
Have not we sworn it, many a time,
That we no more our verse would scrawl,
For Shakespeare he had sung it all!
And yet, whatever others see,
The earth is fresh to you and me;
And birds that sing, and winds that blow,
And blooms that make the country glow,
And lusty swains, and maidens bright,
And clouds by day, and stars by night,
And all the pictures in the skies
That moved before Will Shakespeare's eyes;
Love, hate, and scorn; frost, fire, and flower;
On us as well as him have power.
Go to! our spirits shall not be laid,
Silenced and smothered by a shade.
Avon is not the only stream
Can make a poet sing and dream;
Nor are those castles, queens, and kings
The hight of sublunary things.
Beneath the false moon's pallid glare,
By the cool fountain in the square
(This gray-green dusty square they set
Where two gigantic highways met)
We hear a music rare and new,
Sweet Shakespeare was not known to you!
You saw the New World's sun arise;
High up it shines in our own skies.
You saw the ocean from the shore;
Through mid-seas now our ship doth roar—
A wild, new, teeming world of men
That wakens in the poet's brain
Thoughts, that were never thought before,
Of hope, and longing, and despair,
Wherein man's never-resting race
Westward, still westward, on doth fare,
Doth still subdue, and still aspire,
Or turning on itself doth face
Its own indomitable fire;—
O million-centuried thoughts that make
The Past seem but a shallop's wake!