Southern Life in Southern Literature/Albert Pike

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[Albert Pike was a New Englander, born in Boston in 1809, who settled in the Southwest. The larger part of the time he lived in Arkansas, where he was editor, lawyer, and soldier. After the Civil War, in which he served on the Southern side, he moved to Washington, where he practiced law. There he died in 1891.]


Thou glorious mocker of the world! I hear
Thy many voices ringing through the glooms
Of these green solitudes; and all the clear,
Bright joyance of their song enthralls the ear,
And floods the heart. Over the spherèd tombs
Of vanished nations rolls thy music-tide:
No light from History's starlit page illumes
The memory of these nations; they have died:
None care for them but thou; and thou mayst sing
O'er me, perhaps, as now thy clear notes ring
Over their bones by whom thou once wast deified.

Glad scorner of all cities! Thou dost leave
The world's mad turmoil and incessant din,
Where none in others' honesty believe,
Where the old sigh, the young turn gray and grieve,
Where misery gnaws the maiden's heart within.
Thou fleest far into the dark green woods,
Where, with thy flood of music, thou canst win

Their heart to harmony, and where intrudes
No discord on thy melodies. Oh, where,
Among the sweet musicians of the air.
Is one so dear as thou to these old solitudes?

Ha! what a burst was that! The Æolian strain
Goes floating through the tangled passages
Of the still woods; and now it comes again,
A multitudinous melody, like a rain
Of glassy music under echoing trees,
Close by a ringing lake. It wraps the soul
With a bright harmony of happiness,
Even as a gem is wrapped when round it roll
Thin waves of crimson flame, till we become,
With the excess of perfect pleasure, dumb,
And pant like a swift runner clinging to the goal.

I cannot love the man who doth not love,
As men love light, the song of happy birds;
For the first visions that my boy-heart wove,
To fill its sleep with, were that I did rove
Through the fresh woods, what time the snowy herds
Of morning clouds shrunk from the advancing sun,
Into the depths of Heaven s blue heart, as words
From the poet s lips float gently, one by one,
And vanish in the human heart; and then
I reveled in such songs, and sorrowed, when,
With noon-heat overwrought, the music-gush was done.

I would, sweet bird, that I might live with thee,
Amid the eloquent grandeur of these shades,
Alone with Nature!—but it may not be:
I have to struggle with the stormy sea

Of human life until existence fades
Into death’s darkness. Thou wilt sing and soar
Through the thick woods and shadow-checkered glades,
While pain and sorrow cast no dimness o’er
The brilliance of thy heart; but I must wear,
As now, my garments of regret and care,
As penitents of old their galling sackcloth wore.

Yet, why complain? What though fond hopes deferred
Have overshadowed Life's green paths with gloom?
Content’s soft music is not all unheard:
There is a voice sweeter than thine, sweet bird,
To welcome me, within my humble home;
There is an eye, with love’s devotion bright,
The darkness of existence to illume.
Then why complain? When Death shall cast his blight
Over the spirit, my cold bones shall rest
Beneath these trees; and from thy swelling breast,
Over them pour thy song, like a rich flood of light.