The Poems of Madison Cawein, Volume 5 (of 5) by Madison Julius Cawein

THE POEMS OF
M A D I S O N C A W E I N

Volume V

Poems of Meditation
and of Forest
and Field
Illustrated
WITH PHOTOGRAVURES AFTER PAINTINGS
BY ERIC PAPE

INDIANAPOLIS
THE BOBBS-MERRILL COMPANY
PUBLISHERS
Copyright 1887, 1888, 1891, 1892, 1893, 1899, 1901, 1902,
1905 and 1907, by Madison Cawein
Copyright 1896, by Copeland and Day; 1898, by
R. H. Russell

PRESS OF
BRAUNWORTH & CO.
BOOKBINDERS AND PRINTERS
BROOKLYN, N. Y.

TO MY WIFE

WHO HAS BEEN THE INSPIRATION OF MANY OF

MY POEMS

TO GERTRUDE
You are weary of reading:
I am weary of song:
The one is misleading;
The other, o’er long:—
All Art’s overlong.
Ah, would it were ours
To leave them, and then,
’Mid the fields and the flowers,
Be children again,
Glad children again.
{1}
INTIMATIONS OF THE BEAUTIFUL
A thought, to lift me up to those
Sweet wildflowers of the pensive woods;
The lofty, lowly attitudes
Of bluet and of bramble-rose:
To lift me where my mind may reach
The lessons which their beauties teach.
A dream, to lead my spirit on
With sounds of fairy shawms and flutes,
And all mysterious attributes
Of skies of dusk and skies of dawn:
To lead me, like the wandering brooks,
Past all the knowledge of the books.
A song, to make my heart a guest
Of happiness whose soul is love;
One with the life that knoweth of
But song that turneth toil to rest:
To make me cousin to the birds,
Whose music needs not wisdom’s words.
{2}
I
Shall I forget, and yet behold
How Earth hath said its secret,—to
The violet’s appealing blue,—
Of fragrance; old as Earth is old,
The knowledge that is never told?
Shall I behold and yet forget,
The soft blue of the heaven fell,
Between the dusk and dawn, to tell
Its purpose, to the violet,
Of beauty none hath fathomed yet?
Between the Earth and Heav’n, above,
The wind goes singing all day long;
And he who listens to its song
May catch an instant’s meaning of
The end of life, the end of love.
II
The gods of Greece are mine once more!
The old philosophies again!
For I have drunk the hellebore
Of dreams, and dreams have made me sane—
The wine of dreams! that doth unfold
My other self,—’mid shadowy shrines{3}
Of myths which marble held of old,
Part of the Age of Bronze or Gold,—
That lives, a pagan, ’mid the pines.
Dead myths, to whom such dreams belong!
O beautiful philosophies
Of Nature! crystallized in song
And marble, peopling lost seas,
Lost forests and the star-lost vast,
Grant me the childlike faith that clung.—
Through loveliness that could not last,—
To Heaven in the pagan past,
Calling for God with infant tongue!
III
Idea, god of Plato! one
With beauty, justice, truth and love:
Who, type by type, the world begun
From an ideal world above!
Reason, who into Nature wrought
Your real entities,—which are
Ideas,—giving to our star
Their beauty through reflected thought;
The reminiscences that flame,
Momental, through the mind of man,{4}
Of things his memory can not name,
Lost things his knowledge can not scan,—
Hints of past periods are not these,
His soul hath lived since it had birth
In God?—Yea! who shall say that Earth
More ancient is than he who sees?
IV
Beside us, and yet far above,
She leads us to no base renown—
The Ideal, with her sun-white crown,
And starry raiment of her love:
She leads us by ascending ways
Of Nature to her purposed ends,
Who in the difficult, dark days
Of trial with her smile defends.
Beyond the years, that blindly grope,
To climb with her, from year to year,
To some exalted atmosphere,
Were more than earthly joy or hope!
Though in that atmosphere we find
Not her—her influence, pointing to
New elevations of the mind
By some superior avenue.
{5}
V
The climbing-cricket in the dusk
Moves wings of moony gossamer;
Its vague, vibrating note I hear
Among the boughs of dew and musk,
Whence, rustling with a mellow thud,
The ripe quince falls. Low, deep and clear,
The west is bound with burning blood.
The slanting bats beneath the moon,—
A dark disk edge with glittering white,—
Spin loops of intertangled night:
An owl wakes, hooting over soon,
Within the forest far away:
And now the heav’n fills, light by light,
And all the blood-red west grows gray.
I hear no sound of wind or wave;
No sob or song, except the slow
Leaf-cricket’s flute-soft tremolo,
Among wet walks grown gray and grave.—
In raiment mists of silver sear,
With strange, pale eyes thou comest, O
Thou Spirit of the Waning-Year!
{6}
VI
The hills are full of prophecies
And ancient voices of the dead;
Of hidden shapes that no man sees,
Pale, visionary presences,
That speak the things no tongue hath said,
No mind hath thought, no eye hath read.
The streams are full of oracles,
And momentary whisperings;
An immaterial beauty swells
Its breezy silver o’er the shells
With wordless speech that sings and sings
The real life of unreal things.
No indeterminable thought is theirs,
The stars’, the sunsets’ and the flowers’;
Whose inexpressible speech declares
Th’ immortal Beautiful, who shares
This mortal riddle which is ours,
Beyond the forward-flying hours.
VII
The hornet stings the garnet grape,
Whose hull splits with the honeyed heat;—
Fall hears the long loud locust beat{7}
Its song out, where, a girl-like shape,
She watches, through the wine-press’ crust,
Sweet trickle of the purple must.
The bee clings to the scarlet peach,
That thrusts a downy cheek between
The leaves of golden gray and green;—
Fall walks where orchard branches reach
Abundance to her hands, or drop
Their ripeness down to make her stop.
The bitter-sweet and sassafras
Hang yellow pods and crimson-black
Along the rails, that ramble back
Among the corn where she must pass;
Where, on her hair, a golden haze,
Showers the pollen of the maize.
Not till ’mid sad, chill scents all day
The green leaf-cricket chirrs its tune,
And underneath the hunter’s-moon
The oxen plod through clinging clay,
Or when, beyond the dripping pane,
The night sets in with whirling rain:
Not till ripe walnuts rain their spice
Of frost-nipped nuts down, and the oak{8}
Pelts with brown acorns, stroke on stroke,
The creek that slides through hints of ice;
And in the lane the wagon pulls,
Crunching, through thick-strewn hickory hulls:
Not till through frosty fogs, which hold
Wet mornings with their phantom night,
Like torches glimmering through the white,
The woods burn crimson blurs and gold,
And through the mist come muffled sounds
Of hunting-horns and baying hounds:
Shall I on hills, where looming pines
Against vermilion sunsets stand—
Black ruins in a blood-red land—
In wrecks of sumac and wild vines,
Go seek her, where she lies asleep,
Her dark, sad eyes too tired to weep.
VIII
It holds and beckons in the streams;
It lures and touches us in all
The flowers of the golden fall—
The mystic essence of our dreams:
A nymph blows bubbling music where{9}
Faint water ripples down the rocks;
A faun goes dancing hoiden locks,
And piping a Pandean air,
Through trees the instant wind shakes bare.
Our dreams are never otherwise
Than real when they hold us so;
We in some future life shall know
Them parts of it and recognize
Them as ideal substance, whence
The actual is—(as flowers and trees,
From color sources no one sees,
Draw dyes, the substance of a sense)—
Material with intelligence.
IX
Once more I watch the hills take fire
With dawn; and, shaggy spine by spine,
Flush like dark tyrants o’er their wine,
Who grasp the sword and break the lyre,
And carve the world to their desire;
While, red as blocks where kingdoms bleed,
The rocks trail crimson vine and weed.
To walls of gold, Enchantment built,
Again my fancy bids me go{10}—
Through woods, bewitched with fire, where blow
Wild horns of tournament and tilt—
A fairy-prince, whose spear hath spilt
No blood but in a shadow-world,
While at the real his gage is hurled.
What far, æolian echoes lead
My longing?—as a voice might wake
A lost child from deep sleep and take,
With music of a magic reed,
Him home where love will give him heed:—
What echoes, blown from lands that lie
Melodious ’neath no mortal sky?
X
The fire, to which the Magi prayed,
The Aztecs sacrificed and kneeled,
Whose ceremonies now are sealed,
Whose priests are dust, whose people weighed,
Since God permitted such, should man,—
All ignorant of heavenly ends,—
Despise the means, since Earth began,
God works by to perfect His plan,
Which through immediate forms ascends
Of Nature, lifting, race by race,
Man to the beauty of His face?{11}
Through Nature only we arrive
At God: identical with truth,
By periods of repeated youth,
Through Nature must the Ages strive;
The Epochs, that must purify
Themselves through her experience,
Her knowledge, which each Age lays by
To clothe it better for the sky
In robes of new intelligence
Befitting life, that upwardly
Approaches ends which none can see.
XI
Within the world awake behold
A world asleep … the wildwood shades!
With limbs of glimmering coolness lolled
Along the purple forest glades:—
Sleep in each unremembering face,
The sea-worn Greeks knew these of old,
And named “the lotus-eating race.”
Within the life asleep I mark
A life awake; a life intense,
That spurs the sap beneath the bark
With tender hints of violence,
The liquid germs of leaf and bud,{12}
And in the ponderable dark
Fulfils the offices of blood.
O wiser than Thy works!—behind
Thy works,—who shall behold Thy place?
Beyond the suns whose beams burn blind
Before the glory of Thy face!—
Among the least of worlds, shall we
Presume to give to Thee, defined,
A place and personality!
XII
Across the hills, that roll and rise
Beneath the blue, adoring skies,
Maturing Beauty by the old,
Dark forest stands, as might a slave
Before a Sultan sitting grave,
Grim-gazing from a throne of gold.
Across the hills, that rise and fall,
I gaze with eyes grown spiritual,
And see the Spirit of the Dew
From out the morn, that stains the mist
With amber and with amethyst,
Blown, bubble-bright, along the blue.
{13}
What king such kingly pomp can show
As on the hills the afterglow?
Where ’mid red woods the maples sit,
Like scarlet-mantled sagamores,
Who, from their totemed wigwam doors,
Watch, through red fires, the ghost-dance flit.
At night, as comes the fox, shall come
The Spirit of the Frost, whose thumb
Shall squeeze the chestnut burs, and press
Each husk bare; whisper every flower
Such tales of death that in an hour
It dies of utter happiness.
Until the moon sets I shall walk,
And listen how the woodlands talk
Of bygone lovely nights and days:
My soul, made silent intimate
Of all their sorrow, soon and late
A portion of the autumn haze.
XIII
What revelations fill with song
The cycles? and to what belong
Life’s far convictions of the light?
Through which the spirit waxeth strong,{14}
The darkling soul surmounts the night,
By builded rainbows, to some height
Near mountain stars of Truth and Right,
Beyond the vulture-wing of Wrong?—
To Nature! who adjusts the deeps
Of her soul’s needs to man’s; and keeps
Such grave response as grief shall hear
When on her heart it sinks and weeps;
For every gladness, clean and clear
Its glad reflection lying near—
The wild accord of hope and fear
Which in her inmost bosom sleeps.
XIV
The mallow, like an Elfland moon,
Along the stream gleams grottoed gold;
Its bell-shaped blossom seems to hold
All the lost beauty of last June.
September’s mist haunts, white and cold,
The windings of the forest stream,
As death might haunt a thought or dream.
And who with idle words hath stood,
With idle thoughts, and gazed into
The face of one he loved and knew,{15}
Dying in all her womanhood?
No words, but silence, then will do,
No thoughts but help the heart to hear:
So seems it with the fading year.
XV
The snowy flutter of a hand
Seems beckoning in the morning mist,
And from the mist a jewelled wrist
Of dew now waves us a command:
And in the skies, behold! the Land
Of Far-away-beyond-the-dawn,
Where, crowned with roses wild and wan,
The Futures of the World speed on.
Along the eve a fiery arm
Now points us to the waning west,
And all the sorrow, that oppressed
Our hearts once, straight becomes a charm
Of beauty, whose dim spells transform
The Present to the Long-ago,
All grief to joy,—or seeming so,—
We see through thaumaturgic glow.
XVI
Pearl-lilac blent with pearly rose,
The dawn bloomed slowly out of dusk,{16}—
As some huge cactus from its husk
Bursts vast a bloom whose chalice glows
A grotto of transmuted dyes;—
Such wild, auroral light as flows
On ice-peaks from unearthly skies.
Dove-purple shifting into shades
Of opal,—like the tints which dwell
With fire in the ocean-shell,—
The sunset flashed above the glades
Through skies of nacre and of flame;—
Such supernatural light as braids
Dim coral caves, that have no name.
XVII
Draw from thine eyes the veil that hides
Ideal visions; beckonings
Of loveliness, whose soul abides
Beneath the commonplace of things:
No brook within the woodland then
But shows its sparkling god to thee;
Upon the ancient hills no tree
Whose whispering spirit thou shalt not see,
Fairer than children born of men.{17}
Refine thy flesh that never hears
The inner music of all things,—
The deaf flesh,—from thy spirit’s ears,
And list the vaster voice that sings
With pregnant lips unto the Earth:
Mornings, who hymn with gold the sky,
To which the eves with gold reply—
The everlasting heavens that cry
The visible psalms of death and birth.
XVIII
The flowers of the fall I seek:
The purple aster,—like a gauze
Of pearl,—beneath the nodding haws
Or making gay each tangled creek:
The hairy, small herb-Robert, lost,—
Yet seen,—among the weeds which crush
Or crowd it, with its bluish blush;
Its rough, low stalk stung red with frost.
Around the rail-fence, climbing up,
The nightshade hangs rich berries down,—
Clusters of cochineal,—that drown
The flowering bind-weed’s pendant cup:
And where the boggy bottom sets
Its burs as breastworks and as tents,{18}
Like bivouacking regiments,
The cat-tails stack their bayonets.
From amaranth—in tree and flower—
To asphodel-in weed and bloom—
The season swings a magic loom
Of sun and mist from hour to hour:
In its wide warp it weaves the dyes
Of morning’s brilliant blue and gray;
And crimson through the weft of day
Flings the wild woof of evening skies.
XIX
What intimations made them wise,
The mournful pine, the mighty beech?
Some strange and esoteric speech—
(Communicated from the skies
In secret whispers)—that invokes
The boles that sleep within the seeds,
And out of narrow darkness leads
The vast assemblies of the oaks.
Within his knowledge, what one reads
The poems written by the flowers?
The sermons, past all speech that’s ours,
Preached in the gospel of the weeds?{19}—
O eloquence of coloring!
O thoughts of syllabled perfume!
O beauty uttered into bloom!
Teach me your dreams so I may sing!
XX
What time the great lobelia fills
The wildwood with the blue of spring—
And asters, scattered o’er the hills,
Bloom, starry-sown, through everything—
My fancy takes me wandering,
My fancy, clothed in daffodils.
In lavender lights, which sleep among
The ferns, my heart is at a loss
To find the love that leads along
Down magic ways of tufted moss—
Now, like the brook, it calls across,
Now, like a bird, it lures with song.
It leads me to the land which lies
Within a world no man can see;
Wherein the Elfland cities rise,
Faint haunts of musk and melody;
That with the butterfly and bee
And congregated flowers are wise.
{20}
XXI
Upon the Earth what hints are rife,
Of life when change hath left us still!
When death within us doth fulfil
Its end, whose part is one with life!
What hints, which tell us not alone
Immortal is the spirit, for
Flesh too,—corruption can but mar,—
The incorruptible puts on.
The blood but fills a part that’s higher
Of color, and pervades all flowers;
The brain informs the twinkling hours
With dreams of resurrected fire;
The heart performs the function of
A fragrance; and the countenance
Lends new expression to, perchance,
The face of beauty that we love.
XXII
Oh, joy, to walk the way that goes
Through woods of sweet-gum and of beech!
Where, like a ruby left in reach,
The berry of the dogwood glows:
Or where the bristling hillsides mass,{21}
’Twixt belts of tawny sassafras,
Brown shocks of corn in wigwam rows!
Where, in the hazy morning, runs
The stony branch that pools and drips,
The red-haws and the wild-rose hips
Are strewn like pebbles; and the sun’s
Own gold seems captured by the weeds;
To see, through scintillating seeds,
The hunters steal with glimmering guns!
Oh, joy, to go the path which lies
Through woodlands where the trees are tall!
Beneath the misty moon of fall,
Whose ghostly girdle prophesies
A morn wind-swept and gray with rain;
When, o’er the lonely, leafy lane,
The night-hawk, like a dead leaf, flies!
To stand within the dewy ring
Where pale death smites the boneset blooms,
And everlasting’s flowers, and plumes
Of mint, with aromatic wing!
And hear the creek,—whose sobbing seems
A wild man murmuring in his dreams,—
And insect violins that sing!{22}
Or where the dim persimmon-tree
Rains on the path its frosty fruit,
And in the oak the owl doth hoot,
Beneath the moon and mist, to see
The outcast Year come,—Hagar-wise,—
With far-off, melancholy eyes,
And lips that thirst for sympathy!
XXIII
Along my mind flies suddenly
A wildwood thought that will not die,
That makes me brother to the bee,
And cousin to the butterfly:
A thought, such as gives perfume to
The blushes of the bramble-rose,
And, fixed in quivering crystal, glows
A captive in the prismed dew.
It leads the feet no certain way,
No frequent path of human feet:
Its wild eyes follow me all day,
All day I hear its wild heart beat:
And in the night it sings and sighs
The songs the winds and waters love;
Its wild heart lying tranced above,
And tranced the wildness of its eyes.
{23}
XXIV
With eyes that seem to ache with tears
I look beyond the twilight fields:
The stars swing down their shimmering shields,
And fill the phalanx of their spears.
I can not see, I only know
A flower dies beneath my feet;
The fragrance of its death is sweet
And bitter as my heart’s own woe.
With thoughts that find not what they seek
I question Earth and Heaven, and find
That they are dark and I am blind,
And in my blindness very weak.
I do not know, I only feel
Behind all death a purpose stands,
With hallowed and magnetic hands,
Beneficent and strong to heal.
XXV
These, too, shall tell me what my heart,
And what my soul desireth:—
The flowers, that bloom serene for death,
The stars, that know no mortal part.
One shall inspire my heart with acts{24}
Of life so that the death responds;
One to the soul breathe higher facts
Of death that shall annul such bonds.
Sufficient for my love these terms,
Beyond my understanding’s scope:
I merely know all life must grope
Not downward from its darkling germs.
Sufficient for my faith is such:
That, in the narrow night that binds
The seed, its life shall feel in touch
With light above it seeks and finds.
XXVI
Beyond the violet-colored hill
The golden, deepening daffodil
Of dusk bloomed on heav’n’s window-sill:
And, drifting west, the crescent moon
Gleamed like a sword of Scanderoon
A khedive dropped on floors of gold;
Near which,—one loosened gem that rolled
Out of the jewelled scimitar,—
Glittered and shone the evening-star.
Behind the trees, where, darkly deep
As indigo, the shadows sleep,{25}—
As if the Titan world would heap
A throne with purple for its god,
Whose pomp comes with vermilion shod—
The west, ’thwart which the wild-ducks fly,
Burns, richer than the orient dye
Phœnician vessels brought from Tyre,
Deep, murex-stained, with carmine fire.
The light dies down; the skies grow gray:
The sear, dark forests sound and sway:
The ashen rain-clouds roll this way.
The green grig in the withered weeds
Sings, and the wild snipe seeks the reeds.
With hurling winds,—that seem to wail
Like Demon Huntsmen,—dark with hail
And rain, which blot the cabin’s light,
Comes on the wild autumnal night.
XXVII
There is a rushing in the woods,
The autumn-haunted solitudes,
When night comes in with winds that sweep
The wild rain from the hills; and reap
The roaring harvest of the leaves
With unseen scythes Death stalks behind,
And Desolation, fierce and blind,
Heaping the storm’s tumultuous sheaves.{26}
There is a sighing in the woods,
The hills of autumn solitudes,
When on the night, the winds have strewn
With crowding clouds, the stormy moon
Bursts like a herald shouting Cease!
Through darkness o’er a battlefield
Of Hell; the splendor of his shield
Inscribed with silence and with peace.
XXVIII
The storm,—that makes the sky its own,
And smites its spirit through Earth’s nerves,
And, like an instrument which serves
High purposes to us unknown
Of song that knows not that it sings,—
Itself is all majestic things
Imagination forms or feels;
Itself all wonders it reveals
To thought, which knows but semblances
Of such concealed realities.
The star, that flames through storm and crowds
An instant with its utterance
Of silence and serene romance,
And glides again into the clouds,
Shone for some present end; and filled{27}
A moment’s need as Heaven willed:—
A thought, some dreamer labored for,
Immaculate as is a star;
A hope, some weary watcher read
Pale in the loved face of his dead.
XXIX
Towards evening, where the sweet-gum flung
Its thorny balls among the weeds,
And where the milkweed’s sleepy seeds,—
A fairy Feast of Lanterns,—swung;
The cricket tuned a plaintive lyre,
And o’er the hills the sunset hung
A purple parchment scrawled with fire.
From silver-blue to amethyst
The shadows broadened in the vale;
And, belt by belt, the pearly pale
Aladdin fabric of the mist
Stretched its vague exhalation far;
A jewel on an Afrit’s wrist,
One star gemmed sunset’s cinnabar.
Then night drew near, as when, alone,
The heart and soul grow intimate;
And on the hills the twilight sate{28}
With shadows, whose wild robes were sown
With dreams and whispers—dreams, that led
The heart once with love’s monotone,
And whispers of the living dead.
XXX
Of life and of eternity
These are the dreams that came to me:
The one:—A whitened whirl of sea;
A gallows beetling through the rains,
And, tossing in its rusty chains,
Carrion upon the gallows-tree:
Gaunt ravens swarm above and tear
Long strips from shrivelled skin and hair:
A ship hurls pounding on the rocks:
Wild minute-guns boom through the spume
And crashing surf: out of the gloom
The strangled dead leers down and mocks.
An incorporeal solitude,
Which darkness out of darkness hewed,
The other dream: Enormous deeps
Of naught, where ancient Silence sleeps,
The eldest of Heav’n’s Titan brood:—
In unilluminated night,
Vast and insufferable white,{29}
A summit soars: its light, which dyes
Not darkness, of itself is born:
Around its splendor, as in scorn,
Night’s dark, defiant chaos lies.
XXXI
Past midnight, gathering from the west,
With rolling rain the storm came on,
And tore and tossed until the dawn,
Like some dark demon of unrest:
The stairways creaked! the chimneys boomed;
I heard the wild leaves blown about
The windy windows; and the shout
Of forests that the storm had doomed.
I listened, and remembered how
On yesterday I went alone
A sunlit path through fields o’ergrown
With sumac brakes, turned crimson now;
Where asters strung blue pearls and white
Beside the goldenrod’s soft ruff;
Where thistles, silvery puff on puff,
Danced many a twinkling witch’s-light.
Her joy the Autumn uttered so
To skies where gold and azure blent;{30}
Now storm is the embodiment
Of all her utterance of woe:
The two within me so abide,
That of the two my mind partakes,—
As one, who walks asleep, awakes,
Walks on and thinks, “To-night I died.”
XXXII
What sympathies of Heaven and Earth
The human ego enters in!
The universal stain of sin
Which qualifies it from its birth,
Denying it their highest worth.
There is a parallel of kin
’Twixt earth and man, that dignifies
Endeavor with such sympathies.
The all mysterious wisdom waits
In mountain, wood, and waterfall,
Sky, rock and sea, to hear the call
Of something—firmer than the Fates—
Deep in the soul it elevates;
And to the splendor of the All
Advances, through the night’s immense,
The spirit of experience.{31}
So think I now while, long and loud,
The wind its maniac music beats,
And storm a madman’s song repeats
To echoes in the rushing cloud;
While all the world to wrath is vowed,
And nothing conquers or defeats
The darkness and the rain that raves
Above the all-unheeding graves.
XXXIII
All night the rain-gusts shook the leaves
Around my window; and the blast
Rumbled the flickering flue, and fast
The storm streamed from the dripping eaves.
As if—’neath skies gone mad with fear—
The witches’ Sabboth galloped past,
The forests leapt like startled deer.
All night I heard the sweeping sleet;
And when the morning came, as slow
As pale affliction, with the woe
Of all the world dragged at her feet,
No spear of purple shattered through
The dark-gray of the east; no bow
Of gold, whose arrows cleft the blue.{32}
But rain, that whipped the windows; filled
The spouts with rushing; and around
The garden stamped, and sowed the ground
With limbs and leaves; the wood-pool filled
With overgurgling.—Bleak and cold
The fields looked, where the foot-path wound
Through teasel and bur-marigold….
Yet there is kindness in such days
Of gloom, that doth console regret
With sympathy of tears, which wet
Old eyes that watch the back-log blaze—
A kindness, alien to the deep
Glad blue of sunny days that let
No thought in of the lives that weep.
XXXIV
This dawn, through which the Autumn glowers,—
As might a face within our sleep,
With stone-gray eyes that weep and weep,
And wet brows bound with sodden flowers,—
Is sunset to some sister land;
A land of ruins and of palms;
Rich sunset, crimson with long calms,—
Whose burning belt low mountains bar,{33}—
That sees some brown Rebecca stand
Beside a well the camel-band
Winds down to ’neath the evening-star.
O sunset, sister to this dawn!
O dawn, whose face is turned away!
Who gazest not upon this day,
But back upon the day that’s gone!
Enamored so of loveliness,
The retrospect of what thou wast,
Oh, to thyself the present trust!
And as thy past make beautiful
With hues, that never can grow less!
Waiting thy pleasure to express
New beauty, lest the world grow dull.
XXXV
At daybreak from the woodland come
Echoes of hunting; or the chop
Of some far woodman’s axe, that cleaves
The tingling oak, whose russet leaves
Drop slowly where the white chips drop:
The air is fragrant with the loam,
Where, through the mists of steaming gold,
The sudden sun strikes fold on fold.{34}
Out of the window, filmed with fog,
I look into the wreck which was
The kitchen-garden, drenched with rain;
Among the death I mark again
One blue convolvulus—that draws
A gray vignette along a log,
With pencilled tendrils washed and wan—
The garden-story’s colophon.
XXXVI
More storm than calm, less gold than gray,
Along the years our lives must tread,
Makes sad the scenes around our way,
Makes grave the heavens overhead:
For on life’s storied page, behold,
Are adumbrations of the dead!
The neutral tint Time’s fingers lay
Around a tale that’s never told.
Time writes with sunshine less than rain,
With starlight less than mist, the scroll—
A thousand memories of pain
To one of joy—of his own soul:
The golden hues of life occur
In his dim palimpsest, whose whole
Death scrawls with dusty lines again,
Making of all a leaden blur.
{35}
XXXVII
Down in the woods a sorcerer,
Out of rank rain and death, distils,—
Through chill alembics of the air,—
Aromas that brood everywhere
Among the dingles of the hills:
The bitter myrrh of dead leaves fills
Wet valleys (where the gaunt weeds bleach)
With sodden scents of wood decay;—
As if a spirit all the day
Sat breathing softly ’neath the beech.
With other eyes I see her flit,
The wood-witch of the wild perfumes,
Among her sleepy owls,—that sit,
A fluffy white, in crescent-lit
Dim glens and opalescent glooms:—
Where, for her magic, buds and blooms
Mysterious perfumes, while she stands,
A fragrant shadow, summoning
The eery odors that take wing,
Like bubbles, from her rainy hands.
XXXVIII
With leagues of fog, which showed the sun
An agate-red without a ray,
And drowned the world in ghostly gray,{36}
The chill, autumnal day begun:
A phantom in the mist, a run
Foamed over phantom ledges lone
In forests that seemed far away,
Wild woods of immaterial stone.
With horses saffron to the knees
A country cart drove through the fog;
Its creaking wheels grown one great clog
Of clay, and clanking swingletrees:
Its smothered rumble did not cease
Till hidden in the woodland mist,
Where, leaning on his fresh-cut log,
The muffled woodman blew his fist.
Another world I wander in
Of unlaid ghosts and dreams unfled;
A twilight world of drowsy-head
And mystery, built figment-thin
Between the worlds of death and sin:
Where dim and strange and incomplete,
And substanceless, seem things not dead,
And sorrowful as dimly sweet.
XXXIX
Among the woods they call to me—
The lights that haunt the strand and stream;{37}
Voices of such white ecstasy
As moves with hushed lips through a dream:
They stand in nimbused radiances,
Or flash with glittering limbs across
Their golden shadows on the moss,
Or slip in silver through the trees.
What love can give the heart in me
More hope and exaltation than
The hand of light that tips the tree
And beckons far from marts of man?
That reaches foamy fingers through
The broken ripple, and replies
With sparkling speech of lips and eyes
To souls who seek and still pursue.
XL
Oh, bright the day, and calm and cool
With clouds, like cotton-fields that swoon
Beneath the silver summer moon;
And, quiet as a forest pool,—
Where Autumn sits and combs her locks,
And strews with rainbow leaves and roon,—
The shadows rest upon the rocks.
The sun pours airy amber on
The withered wood-ways, where the late{38}
Green-crickets’ shell-like wings vibrate:
And, fainter than lost lines of dawn,
The fields shine labyrinthed with rays,
With gossamer-webs, that imitate
Cloud-figments, or a splintered haze.
Beyond the yarrow’s meekness now,
Wood-sorrel’s lowliness, and shy
Hepatica’s humility,
The Year is grown: makes brave her brow
With crowning crimson of the lands,
And robes her limbs in cardinal dye,
And by the lonely waters stands.
XLI
Pure thought-creations of the mind,
Within the circle of the soul,—
The emanations that control
Life to its God-predestined goal,—
Are spirit shapes no flesh can bind:
Within the soul desire ordains
Achievements which the will constrains;
And far above us, on before,
Our thoughts—a beautiful people—soar,
To wait us on celestial plains.{39}
So Nature pours her thoughts in forms—
Realities we move among—
Of fragrance, color, and of song;
Sense emanations which belong,
Invisible, to spiritual charms;
The sensuous substance of her thought
From immaterial matter wrought—
Matter, which death can not annul,
That constitutes the Beautiful,
And, dead, repeats itself from naught.
XLII
Give me the streams, that counterfeit
The twilight of autumnal skies;
The silent, shadowy waters, lit
With fire like a woman’s eyes!
Slow waters that, in autumn, glass
The scarlet-strewn and golden grass,
And drink the sunset’s tawny dyes.
Give me the pools, that lie among
The centuried forests! give me those,
Deep, dim, and sad as shadows hung
Dark ’neath the sunset’s sombre rose:
Still pools, in whose vague mirrors look—
Like ragged gipsies round a book
Of magic—trees in wild repose.{40}
No quiet thing, or innocent,
Of water, earth, or air shall please
My soul now: but the violent
Between the sunset and the trees:
The fierce, the splendid, and intense,
Like love matures in innocence,
Like mighty music, give me these!
XLIII
As Nature in herself resolves
All parts of beauty to one whole,
And from the perfect whole evolves
The high ideas that control
Advancement, till the time be ripe
To doff disguise and, type by type,
Reveal the emanated soul:
So should the Beautiful in man
Evolve the best in him; to be
The lofty purpose life began
For ends which only Heaven can see—
The absolute, that sees how thought
Its high ideal’s shape hath wrought
To be its far affinity.
{41}
XLIV
I hold them here; they are no less;
I see them still—the changeful grays
Of threatening skies above the haze—
My hills! that roll long, murmuring miles
Of savage-painted wilderness,
On which the saddened sunlight smiles;
Or, like a fallen angel’s frown—
Severe beneath a burning crown—
Through sombre silvers, that oppress
With clouds its glory, rushes down.
I hear the coming storm again;
Again behold the streaming clouds;
The autumn wind drives down and crowds
Wild sibylline voices through the leaves,
To whispering octaves of the rain:
A wilder wind, vibrating, heaves
Vast music through the rolling woods—
Upon my soul the grandeur broods,
Like some archangel’s trumpet strain,
Or organ-pomp that sweeps all moods.
XLV
Such circumstance of passionate praise
Hath no religion; and the creeds{42}
No pomp of worship or of grace
Like Nature’s, standing face to face
With God, whose inmost thought she reads:
No multitude of words she needs,
Since all her worship is one word
Of love, like that creation heard.
God leaves progression in her care:
Through her it must materialize—
Our Mother! with strong lips of prayer,
Majestic-browed, with hands that bare
Immortal fire from the skies:
Who looks, with no evasive eyes,
Through life, and, smiling, sees beneath
The beautiful, dark eyes of death.
XLVI
Between the sunset and the stars
Long clouds lie—as fierce sachems loom,
In war-paint and the eagle-plume,
Among their wampumed warriors,
When council fires burn red and set
On stoic cheeks the battle-bloom,
That puff the smoking calumet.
Beneath the stars and hunter’s-moon
The frost spreads ghostly pearls, that glance{43}
Like dewy jewels in the dance
That whirls on fairied hills of June:
The night is calm; no luminous veil
Conceals the spirit utterance
Of her dark beauty, pure and pale.
XLVII
I sat alone with song and sleep,
And in the singing silence heard
The darkness draw from forth the deep
With star on star, like word on word:
A sound of twilight and swift shades
Materializing into night,
Who hears the breaking waves of light,
And towards the shores of morning wades.
I sat alone with dawn and death,
And in my waking vision saw
The form of silence, like a breath
Of bodiless beauty and of awe,
Whose sibyl eyes said unto me
The things the sealed lips would not word,
That eons of the stars record
In volumes of eternity.
{44}
XLVIII
The dead gold of the marybud,
The dusky, tarnished orange-red
Of zinnias, flush the flower-bed,
Like frosty autumn gleams that scud
Tempestuous dusks and stormy dawns
Above the wind-dishevelled lawns.
With tired eyes and heart grown grave,
And thoughts more weary than the night,
I watch the dwindling of the light,
And hear the rising night-winds rave,
As one might hear, when half asleep,
Another self make moan and weep.
XLIX
Behold, the winds have speech and speak!
The stars of heaven are eloquent!
A voice within us bids us seek
The word the flowers say in scent:
The paraclete encouragement
Of beauty that the burning scrolls
Of eve and morning give our souls.
There is one language of the mart;
Another of the rocks and trees:{45}
Unrest and greed is this one’s heart;
The other’s heart is rest and peace:
Within our souls we know of these;
They lead us by the myths we love,
Yet never see and know not of.
L
When thorn-tree copses still were bare
And black along the turbid brook;
When catkined willows blurred and shook
Great tawny tangles in the air;
In bottomlands, the first thaw makes
An oozy bog, beneath the trees,
Prophetic of the spring that wakes,
Sang the sonorous hylodes.
Now that wild winds have stripped the thorn,
And clogged with leaves the forest-creek;
Now that the woods look brown and bleak,
And webs are frosty white at morn;
At night beneath the spectral sky,
A far foreboding cry I hear—
The wild-fowl calling as they fly?
Or vague voice of the dying Year?
{46}
LI
Night,—who within heaven’s uttermost
Dark walls uncloses shadowy gates,—
Beyond the Spirit of Light she hates,
Speeds like a ghost before a ghost
Upon the twilight-haunted coast
Of death between the seas of sleep:
Her lips are dumb with awe that hears;
And in her eyes, that never weep,
Is anguish of eternal tears.
Out of the terrible gulfs of God
Into God’s awful deeps she goes,
Revealing in heaven’s gold and rose
The ways her footsteps tread and trod
From period to period:
Her lips are still—for she hath heard
God’s voice that moves the universe:
Her eyes are sad beyond the word—
The eyes of Vastness gazed in hers.
LII
And still my soul holds phantom tryst,
When chestnuts hiss among the coals,
Upon the Evening of All Souls,{47}
When all the night is moon and mist,
And all the world is mystery;
I kiss dear lips that death hath kissed,
And look in eyes no man may see,
Filled with a love long lost to me.
I hear the night-wind’s ghostly glove
Flutter the window: then the knob
Of some dark door turn, with a sob
As when love comes to gaze on love
Who lies pale-coffined in a room:
And then the iron gallop of
The storm, who rides outside, his plume
Sweeping the night with dread and gloom.
So fancy takes my mind, and paints
The darkness with eidolon light,
And writes the deads’ romance in white
On the dim Evening of All Saints:
Unheard the hissing nuts; the clink
Of falling coals, whose shadow faints
Around me where I sit and think,
Borne far beyond the actual’s brink.
LIII
No thing occult of Heaven or Earth,
Or influence of such, I feel{48}
But hath a meaning and a worth
God, in His wisdom, doth conceal:
Reflections of another birth,
Existent with and kin to ours,
Announcing through supernal powers
Facts of a world it would reveal.
In Nature I perceive it, too,
This other life I can not see:
A spirit sparkles in the dew,
The trees have tongues that speak to me:
That Earth is green and Heaven, blue,
The sight alone may satisfy;
The soul sees with a different eye
The meaning ’neath the mystery.
LIV
The shadow of uncertain things
And all unearthly whisperings,—
That premonitions death and blight,—
Leans from the sepulchre of night;
And on the Earth fall shadowings;
And prophecies of near decay;
But, lovelier than a dead delight,
The starlit skies of glittering gray.{49}
Still shall the Season claim and keep
Her wild-girl beauty; doubly deep
The purport of her dreams shall rise
Out of her heart into her eyes,
Till very dreaming makes her weep;
And death, with pale, pure lips and arms,
Shall touch her from the frosty skies,
Making a memory of her charms.
LV
Sometime shall Beauty hide no more
The fair conceptions she conceives
Beneath the abstract veil she weaves
Before her face the few adore;
The self-denying few, who long
Live lofty lives of art and song,
And, dying, leave the world less poor.
No more are these alone when she,
From the subjective world she rules,
Confronts the falsehood of the schools
With her high front of purity:
And on the dark and general way
Lets fall her individual ray
That low as well as high may see.
{50}
LVI
The ghost of what was loveliness
Sits in the waning woods, with bare
And bleeding feet, and wintry hair,
And brows the thorns of care distress;
She makes a passion of despair
And, Rachel-like, with eyes wept red,
Refuses to be comforted.
To funeral torches for the Year,
Tree by tall tree, the forests turned;
Then, fiery coals in ashes, burned
A few last leaves among the sear;
Where, robed in purple pomp, she yearned
To die, like some sad queen, and died
Crowned with magnificence and pride.
LVII
She meets us with impressive hands
And eyes of earnest emphasis
Between the known and unknown lands,
And fills our souls with untold bliss,
This spirit of the solitude
Named Meditation; thought-imbued,
On whom all beauty ministers;{51}
Whose silent, dreaming worshipers
Lay unresisting hands in hers,
Knowing their hearts are understood.
The holy harp she holds and smites
Was tuned among concordant spheres;
The heavenly pen with which she writes
Was dipped in angel smiles and tears:
Between her eyebrows and her eyes
The starry stamp of silence lies;
Between her symboled lips and tongue,
The song the stars of morning sung:
To this her heavenly harp is strung,
In that her holy pen is wise.
LVIII
Again the night is wild with rain;
Again distracted with the gale:
Upon the hills I hear a wail
Of lamentation and of pain,
As when, on some high burial-place,
Moaning among the windy graves,
The Indian squaws lament the braves,
Who fell in battle for their race.
Another day of storm shall dawn
Within the east; and, darkly lit,{52}
Like one, with brows abstraction-knit,
Absorbed in moody thought, pass on.—
Bear not too hard, is all I ask,
Upon the hearts that toil and yearn,
O day of clouds! but swiftly turn
To sunshine all your frowning mask.
LIX
No wind is this which cries forlorn
Around the hilltops and the woods!—
Earth, weary of her multitudes
Of dead, despairing of the morn,
Calls through illimitable night
The wailing words no thing may know;
Deep in her memory-haunted sight
Sleeps no remembrance of delight,
But death and everlasting woe.
No wind! a voice whose sense is form;
A form whose sense is but a sound;
That smites the constant skies around,
And shakes the steadfast hills with storm:
Adown life’s desolate deep it cries
The words death’s sterile lips must learn
From Law, the Law that never dies—
Such utterless, wild speech as sighs
In stone and cinerary urn.
{53}
LX
I heard the wind, before the morn
Stretched gaunt, gray fingers ’thwart my pane,
Drive clouds down, a dark dragon train;
Its iron visor closed, a horn
Of steel from out the north it wound.—
No morn like yesterday’s! whose mouth,
A cool carnation, from the south
Breathed through a golden reed the sound
Of days that drop clear gold upon
Cerulean silver floors of dawn.
And all of yesterday is lost
And swallowed in to-day’s wild light—
The birth deformed of day and night,
The illegitimate, who cost
Its mother secret tears and sighs;
Unlovely since unloved; and chilled
With sorrows and the shame that filled
Its parents’ love; which was not wise
In passion as the night and day
That yestermorn made heaven all ray.
LXI
We know not of one mood that’s hers,
Or glad or grave, which has not drawn{54}
Its source from God’s deep universe,
As th’ hours draw the day from dawn—
Nature’s! who holds us quietly
But earnestly, as by a spell,
Whose contact with us seems to be
Actual and yet intangible.
In us she thus asserts her claims
Of kinship and divine control;
God-teacher of exalted aims,
The high consents of heart and soul:
Imperfectly man sees and feels,
Through earthly mediums of his fate,
The premonitions she reveals
For issues that shall elevate.
LXII
Down through the dark, indignant trees,
On indistinguishable wings
Of storm, the wind of evening swings;
Before its insane anger flees
Distracted leaf and the shattered bough:
There is a rushing, as when seas
Of thunder beat an iron prow
On reefs of wrath and roaring wreck:
’Mid stormy leaves, a hurrying speck{55}
Of flickering blackness, driven by,
A mad bat whirls along the sky.
Like some sad shadow, in the eve’s
Deep melancholy—visible
As by some strange and twilight spell—
A gaunt girl stands among the leaves,
The night-wind in her dolorous dress:
Symbolic of the life that grieves,
Of toil that patience makes not less,
Her load of faggots fallen there.—
A wilder shadow sweeps the air,
And she is gone: Was it the dumb
Eidolon of the month to come?
LXIII
No songs but what are sorrowful
And sweet in pensive notes and words,
Shall fill my heart,—as singing birds
Might build a nest within a skull….
The nun-like days, in stoles of white,
Chant requiems for the dying Year:
The monk-like nights about her bier,
In cowls of black, with lights that blear,
The service for the dead recite.{56}
Into my soul the litanies
Of life and death strike golden bars:
I hear the far, responding stars,—
Uttering themselves within the skies,—
Reverberate from cause to cause
Results that terminate in man;
From world to world, the rounding plan
Of change,—God’s mighty artisan,—
Of which both life and death are laws.
LXIV
No sunlight strews with gold the plain;
No moonlight stains the hill with white;
Clouds, sullen with the undropped rain,
And motionless with unspent spite,
Dome deep with uninvaded gray
The dull, ignoble term of day,
The duller period of night.
Yea, ev’n the mad, marauding Wind,
Who whipped his wild steeds east and west,
Whose whirlwind wheels rolled down and dinned
Along the booming forest’s crest,
Lies dead upon his mountains, where
His sister Breezes beat the breast
Sighing through their unshaken hair.
{57}
LXV
The griefs of Nature, like her joys,
Are placid and yet passionate;
These, in her heart which knows no hate,
She for the beautiful employs….
Behold how thoughts of happiness
Rainbow the tears on sorrow’s face!
Upon, the brow of joy no less
Aureates the light of seriousness!
Each to the other lending grace.
Oh, tenderness of grief that knows
Some happiness still lies before!
That for the rose that blooms no more
Will bloom a no less perfect rose!
Oh, pensiveness of joy that takes
Sweet dignity from grief that died!
Remembering that though morning shakes
Her bright locks from blue eyes and wakes,
Night sleeps on the same mountain side.
LXVI
What alchemy does Earth conceal
Desired by the desperate days?
With feet of fog and hands of haze
They search the crumbling woods and steal{58}
With mutterings,—gaunt as hags who deal
In witchcraft,—where each dark tree sways,
And, venerable, with staff aslant,
Death sits like some old mendicant.
Around me all’s despondency,
And grief that holds the unwilling world:
The last gold leaf is wildly hurled
Through sobbing silence over me:
The brook has hushed its wildwood glee,
Sick of itself; and far unfurled,
And melancholy as my soul,
The struggling lights of sunset roll.
LXVII
The song-birds, are they flown away,
The song-birds of the summer-time,
That sang their souls into the day,
And set the laughing hours to rhyme?
No catbird scatters through the hush
The sparkling crystals of its song;
Within the woods no hermit-thrush
Trails an enchanted flute along,
Thridding with vocal gold the hush.
All day the crows fly cawing past:
The acorns drop: the forests scowl:{59}
At night I hear the bitter blast
Hoot with the hooting of the owl.
The wild creeks freeze: the ways are strewn
With leaves that clog: beneath the tree
The bird, that set its toil to tune,
And made a home for melody,
Lies dead beneath the snow-white moon.
{60}
THE MOATED GRANGE
“There, at the moated grange, resides this dejected Mariana.”—Shakespeare.

The sunset-crimson poppies are departed,
Mariana!
The purple-centered, sultry-smelling poppies,
The drowsy-hearted,
That burnt like flames along the low yew coppice;
All heavy headed,
The ruby-cupped and opium-brimming poppies,
That slumber wedded,
Mariana!
The sunset-crimson poppies are departed.
Oh, heavy, heavy are the hours that fall,
The lonesome hours of the lonely days!
No poppy strews oblivion by the wall,
Where lone the last pod sways,—
Oblivion that was hers of old that happier made her days.{61}
Oh, weary, weary is the sky o’er all,
The days that creep, the hours that crawl,
And weary all the ways—
She leans her face against the lichened wall,
The mildewed wall, the crumbling wall,
And dreams, the long, long days,
Of one who will not come again whatever may befall.
. . . . . . . . . . .
All night it blew. The rain streamed down
And drowned the world in misty wet.
At morning, round the sunflower’s crown
A row of silvery drops was set;
The candytuft, heat shrivelled brown,
And beds of drought-dried mignonette,
Were beat to earth: but wearier, oh,
The rain was than the sun’s fierce glow,
That in the garth had wrought such woe.
That killed the moss-rose ere it bloomed,
And scorched the double-hollyhocks;
And bred great, poisonous weeds that doomed
The snap-dragon and standing-phlox;
’Mid which gaunt spiders wove and loomed
Their dusty webs ’twixt rows of box;{62}
And rotted into sleepy ooze
The lilied moat, that, lined with yews,
Lay scummed with many sickly hues.
How oft she longed and prayed for rain,
To blot the hateful landscape out!
To heal her heart, so parched with pain,
With cooling sounds of broken drought;
And cure with change her stagnant brain,
And soothe to sleep all care and doubt:
At last—when many days had passed—
And she had ceased to care—at last
The longed-for rain came, falling fast.
At night, as late she lay awake,
And thought of him who had not come,
She heard the gray wind, moaning, shake
Her lattice; then the steady drum
Of rain upon the leads…. The ache
Within her heart, so burdensome,
Grew heavier with the moan of rain.
The house was still, save, at her pane,
The wind cried: hushed: then cried again.
All night she lay awake and wept:
There was no other thing to do.
At dawn she rose and, sighing, crept
Adown the stairs that led into{63}
The dripping garth, the storm had swept
With ruin; where, of every hue,
The flowers lay rotting, stained with mould;
Where all was old, unkempt and old,
And ragged as a marigold.
She sat her down, where oft she sat,
Upon a bench of marble, where,
In lines, she oft would marvel at,
A love was carved.—She did not dare
Look on it then, remembering that
Here in past time he kissed her hair,
And murmured vows while, soft above,
The full moon lit the form thereof,
The slowly crumbling form of Love.
She could but weep, remembering hours
Like these. Then in the drizzling rain,
That weighed the dead and dying flowers,
She sought the old stone dial again;
The dial, among the moss-rose bowers,
Where often she had read, in vain,
Of time and change, and love and loss,
Rude-lettered and o’ergrown with moss,
That slow the gnomon moved across.{64}
Remembering this, she turned away,
The rain and tears upon her face.
There was no thing to do or say.—
She stood a while, a little space,
And watched the rain bead, round and gray,
Upon the cobweb’s tattered lace,
And tag the toadstool’s spongy brim
With points of mist; and, orbing, dim
With fog the sunflower’s ruined rim.—
With fog, through which the moon at night
Would glimmer like a spectre sail;
Or, sullenly, a blur of light,
Like some great glow-worm, dimly trail;
’Neath which she’d hear, wrapped deep in white,
The far sea moaning on its shale:
While in the garden, pacing slow,
And listening to its surge and flow,
She’d seem to hear her own heart’s woe.—
Now as the fog crept in from sea,
A great white darkness, like a pall,
The yews and huddled shrubbery,
That dripped along the weedy wall,
Turned phantoms; and as shadowy
She too seemed, wandering ’mid it all—
A phantom, pale and sad and strange,{65}
And hopeless, doomed for aye to range
About the melancholy grange.
. . . . . . . . . . .
The pansies, too, are dead, the violet-varied,
Mariana!
The raven-dyed and fire-fretted pansies,
To memory married;
That from the grass, like forms in old romances,
Raised fairy faces:
All dead they lie, the violet-velvet pansies,
In many places,
Mariana!
The pansies, too, are dead, the violet-varied.
Oh, hateful, hateful are the hours that pass,
The lonely hours of the lonesome nights!
No pansy scatters heart’s-ease through the grass,
That autumn sorrow blights,
The heart’s-ease that was hers of old that happier made her nights.
Oh, barren, barren is her life, alas!
Its youth and beauty, all life has,
And barren all delights—
She lays her face against the withered grass,{66}
The rain-wet grass, the autumn grass,
And thinks, the long, long nights,
Of one who will not come again whatever comes to pass.
{67}
CIRCE
The pillared portals of her home once rose from out the sea;
Its casements burnt with green sea-fire of ocean mystery;
And all its halls of love were full of mermaid melody.
Its battlements of beauty were a pharos from afar,
To lure the wandering seamen like a constellated star:—
Life may question: death is silent: will it answer where they are?
It is enough to know that once between the golden goals
Of dreams and deeds their vessel steered to music of citoles,
And reached the Siren island where they pledged and lost their souls.{68}
It is enough to know that once love led them with a lute—
To taste the honey of her soul and of her flesh the fruit;
Between the soul and flesh she changed each man into a brute.
It is enough to know that love once sate them at a feast—
Her word was bread and oil to them, her kiss was wine at least;
Between the word and kiss she changed each man into a beast.
The marble now is vanished where the columned wonder rose;
The billow beats complaining there, a heart of many woes;
The sea-wind sings uncertain things of what the Siren knows.
Ah me! you know not how it is with him who once has been
A portion of such passion and the slave of such a queen;
What such possession of her love to his whole life may mean!{69}
The world of languid attitudes that lured him to despair;
Abandonments of beauty that his heart would not beware—
A red rose suffering death to live one hour in her hair.
Yea, just to be again to her as music to the lute,
As fragrance to the senses, and to lips the blood-red fruit,
Between the soul and flesh again, unto her beauty, brute.
Her alabaster stairways and her casements filled with light,
Her corridors of melody and colonnades of night
Shall haunt his heart forever with the magic of her might!
{70}
POPPY AND MANDRAGORA
Let us go far from here!
Here there is sadness in the early year:
Here sorrow is where joy went laughing late:
The sicklied face of heaven hangs like hate
Above the woodland and the meadowland;
And Spring hath taken fire in her hand
Of frost and made a dead bloom of her face,
Which was a flower of beauty once and grace,
And musk and color and serenest glow.
Delay not; let us go.
Let us go far away
Into the sunrise of a fairer day:
Where all the nights resign them to the moon,
And drug their souls with odor and soft tune,
And tell their dreams in starlight: where the hours
Teach immortality with fadeless flowers;
And all the day the bee weighs down the bloom,{71}
And all the night the moth shakes strange perfume
From bell and bugle of the lily intense.
Let us go far from hence.
Why should we sit and weep,
And yearn with weary eyelids still to sleep?
Forever hiding from our hearts the hate,
Death within death, life doth accumulate,
Like winter snows, along the barren leas
And sterile hills, whereon no lover sees
The crocus limn the beautiful in flame;
Or hyacinth and jonquil write the name
Of love in fire, beautiful to the eye.
Why should we sit and sigh?
We will not stay and long,
Here where our souls are wasting for a song;
Where no bird sings; and, dim beneath the stars,
No silvery water strikes melodious bars;
And in the rocks and forest-covered hills
No quick-tongued echo from her grotto fills
With eery syllables the solitude—
The vocal image of the voice that wooed—
Echo, of sound the airy looking-glass.
Our souls are sick, alas!{72}
What should we say to her,
To Hope, who in our hearts makes no sweet stir?
Who looks not on us nor gives thought unto:
Too busy with the birth of bud and dew,
And vague gold wings within the chrysalis;
Or Love, who will not miss us; had no kiss
To give your soul or the sad soul of me,
Who gave our hearts to her in poesy,
Long since, and wear her badge of service still.
Yea, we have served our fill.
We will go far away.
Song will not care, who slays our souls each day
With the dark daggers of indignant eyes,
And lips’ sharp silence!… Had she sighed us lies,
Not passionate, yet falsely tremulous;
And lent her mouth to ours, in mockery; thus
Smiled from calm eyes a loveless negative;
Then, then our hearts had taught themselves to live
Feeding their love on her indifference.
But no!—so let us hence.
So be the Bible shut
Of Love and Beauty, and their wisdom but
A clasp of memory!—We will not seek{73}
The light that came not when our souls were weak
With longing, and the darkness gave no sign
Of star-born comfort. Nay! why should we whine
Dull psalms of patience, or hosannas of
Old hope and dreary canticles of love?—
Leave us alone. My soul hath long supposed
For us God’s book was closed.
{74}
ROSEMARY
I
If she but breathe her wild breath in my face,
If she but shake her wild hair past mine eyes,
When life sits tearless in grief’s sunless chamber,
Then through the vasts of separating space,
Robed on with fire of hope my soul shall rise
And claim her.
II
When shall this be?—Not till within my soul
Joy’s lips are dumb, and dumb his instrument,
And love lies dead beside one withered flower,
And dark the gray walls of the home of dole,—
Whence the last flicker of hope’s taper went,—
Shall tower.
{75}
III
If she but bend her loving eyes on mine,
If she but give one loving thought to me,
When life sits sleepless in sleep’s caverned hollow,
Then in the night a sudden star shall shine,
And I shall rise, robed on with ecstasy,
And follow.
IV
When shall this be?—Not till within my heart
Hope’s voice is still, and song that suffereth,
And love lies dead beside his silent numbers,
And in the halls of silence, all apart,
Oblivion sits, crowned with the crown of death,
And slumbers.
{76}
NIGHTSHADE
I
Though she hath lifted up my face to hers,
And kissed the lips of worship she denied,
There is no mouth of verse,
Here in the shadow of the crucified,
Or voice of love; only my soul that died,
My dead soul and my curse!—
She asks me now for flowers that are ashes,
Here where the red flow’r of my life lies slain:
For love, that lashed me once and now that lashes
Her soul again.
II
Though she hath gazed into mine eyes and said,
“Belovéd, look thou in my soul and see,”
And I have looked and read{77}
The burthen of a kindred agony,
I am grown glad that this hath come to be
Betwixt the quick and dead.—
She asks me now for songs from love’s sweet psalter,
Here where the music of my life lies hushed:
For love, that died upon the iron altar
Where hers lies crushed.
III
Though she hath touched hot lips to mine and wept,
From out the hell of her wild soul, fierce tears,
Each little look love kept
Of her disdain, unknowingly, these years,
And word of scorn, is crier at mine ears
To wake the hate that slept.—
She asks me now for water that shall cherish,
When hot sands choke my life’s dry fountainhead:
For love, that stirs not though her love should perish
Where mine lies dead.
{78}
LOTUS
Where is the vale and mountain,
And where the rock and stream,
One with its life of music,
The other with its gleam,
Where she and I were shadows
And all our world, a dream?
Between the world of waking,
And the sad world of sleep,
I met her, crowned with sorrow
Of love no heart would keep;
Within her eyes the terror
Of darkness, starry deep.
And was it in the valley,
Where something whispereth,
“Who is it walks so dimly?”
That I heard her murmur, “Death”?
As if upon my eyelids
The Beautiful breathed its breath.{79}
There was no tomb before us,
Nor any stone to tell
Of love, or hate, or horror
In heaven or in hell—
But in her look the legend,
And in her eyes the spell.
And was it on the mountain,
The stealthy stars had crossed
To stand austere with silence,
That I heard her whisper, “Lost”?
As if dark eyes one moment
The Terrible did accost.
There was no memoried presence
Of flower or star or bird
To tell of tears and parting
That heartbreak once had heard—
But in her face the vision,
And in her heart the word.
Where is the vale and mountain,
And where the rock and stream
One with its life of music,
The other with its gleam,
Where she and I were shadows
And all our world, a dream?
{80}
MOLY
When by the wall the tiger-flower swings
A head of sultry slumber and aroma;
And by the path, whereon the blown rose flings
Its obsolete beauty, the long lilies foam a
White place of perfume, like a beautiful breast;
Between the pansy fire of the west,
And poppy mist of moonrise in the east,
This heartache will have ceased.
The witchcraft of soft music and sweet sleep—
Let it beguile the burthen from my spirit,
And white dreams reap me, as strong reapers reap
The golden grain and gorgeous blossom near it;
Let me behold how gladness gives the whole
The transformed countenance of my own soul;
Between the sunset and the risen moon,
Let sorrow vanish soon.{81}
And these things then shall keep me company:
The spirit of the dew; the heart of laughter
That haunts the wind; the soul of melody
That sings within the stream, that reaches after
The flow’rs, that rock themselves to its caress:
These of themselves shall shape my happiness,
A visible presence I shall lean upon,
Feeling that care is gone.
Forgetting how the cankered flower must die;
The worm-pierced fruit fall, sicklied to its syrup;
How joy, begotten ’twixt a sigh and sigh,
Waits with one foot forever in the stirrup:—
Remembering how within the hollow lute
Sweet music sleeps when music’s voice is mute;
And in the heart, when all seems dark despair,
Hope with his golden hair.
{82}
CHRYSELEPHANTINE
I
Among the hills and morning-colored ways
Let us go forth, oh, let us go with singing!
Within the hearts of better bosoms bringing
A gift of gifts, one day of all our days,
Unto the golden temple of God’s praise,
And ivory altar of the beautiful.
The woods are deep, the woods are dark and cool;
Let us go forth with timbrels of rejoicing,
And lutes of love, and lips forever voicing
The beautiful!
II
The milkworth’s pink and barley’s gold and green,
Twined with the purple of the wilding pansies,
Shall be our wreath;—sweet as an old romance is
With pale blue eyes of some fair fairy-queen,{83}—
Let the frail bluet in our wreath be seen;
And of mauve leaves and leafy loveliness,
And cool, green moss and ferns shall be our dress.
Let us go forth, arrayed as is the morning,
With psalteries of praise, to the adorning
Of loveliness!
III
No spotted serpent hisses near her shrine,
That God ordained, within the heaven-lit distance,
Which love hath built, with life to give assistance,
Of fragrance and of song; whereover shine
All of God’s stars,—so many thoughts divine:—
And at its entrance moonéd purity,
Naked, keeps guard,—no eye impure shall see!—
But worshippers of beauty in the spirit,
And offerers of soul, whose thoughts inherit
Love’s purity.
{84}
SIBYLLINE
I
There is a glory in the apple-boughs
Of glimmering moonlight,—like a torch of myrrh,
Burning upon an altar of sweet vows,
Dropped from the hand of some pale worshiper:—
And there is life among the apple-blooms
Of mystic winds,—as if a god addressed
The flamen from the sanctuary glooms,
Revealing secrets which no man has guessed,
Saying: “Behold! a darkness which illumes:
A waking which is rest.”
II
There is a blackness in the apple-trees
Of tempest,—like the ashes of an urn
Hurt hands have gathered upon blistered knees,
With salt of tears, out of the flames that burn:{85}—
And there is death among the blooms, that fill
The night with breathless scent,—as when, above
The priest, the vision of his faith doth will
Forth from his soul the beautiful form thereof,
Saying: “Behold! a silence never still:
And love that’s more than love.”
{86}
ELEUSINIAN
Praxitelean marbles, fairer forms
Than Phryne’s and than hers,—who loved and knew
The Attic cynic’s soul,—the rosy charms
Of lovely Laïs, gradually grew
Before his eyelids, like a floating mist,
Out of the music of the citharist.
And there were Dryads, laughing sidewise eyes,
Among Cithæron’s ash-trees; and uncouth
Brown Satyrs, dancing ’neath Bœotian skies;
And by a fountain sat a beautiful youth,
Like some white flow’r, with dim, dejected grace,
In love with the reflection of his face.
And then a chord of soft bewitchment swept
Along his soul; and, oh! within a vale,
Like some young god, a godlike mortal slept;
And there was splendor on the heights, and pale
The presence of supernal purity,
Whose face was as a marble melody.{87}
And now two chords, that were two hands that strewed
Innumerable memories upon
His eyelids—and his spirit understood
How, ages past, he was Endymion,—
And, lo! again the old, wild rapture of
Immortal sorrow and immortal love.
{88}
ARGONAUT
His argosy spreads dawn-kissed sails,
His trireme oars the dusk,
On mythic seas whereover gales
Of summer breathe their musk.
He hears the hail of Siren bands
From headlands sunset-kissed;
The Lotus-eaters wave him hands
Pale in a land of mist.
For many a league he hears the roar
Of the Symplegades;
And through the far foam of its shore
The Isle of Circe sees.
All day he looks with hazy lids
At sea-gods cleave the deep;
All night he hears the Nereïds
Sing their wild hearts to sleep.{89}
When heaven thunders overhead,
And hell upheaves the Vast,
Dim faces of the ocean’s dead
Gaze at him from his mast.
He but repeats the oracle
That bade him first set sail;
And cheers his soul with, “All is well!
Sail on! I will not fail!”
Behold! he sails no earthly barque,
And on no earthly sea—
Adown the years he sails the dark
Deeps of futurity.
Ideals are the ships of Greece
His purpose steers afar:
His seas, the skies, the Golden Fleece
He seeks, the farthest star.
{90}
SIC VOS NON VOBIS
If on the thorns thy feet be pierced to-morrow,
And far the fierce sands glare,
Unbind thy temples! thank life for its sorrow,
Its longing and despair.
With love within, what heart shall halt and wither,
Athirst for rivered hills?
Moaning, “Mine! mine! what hate hath led me hither
Unto a sky that kills?”
Unworthy thou! if faith should sink and falter;
Blind hand and blinder eye
Bind the blind hope upon thy doubt’s old altar
And stab it till it die.
Thou canst not say thy toil and tears have never
Communed with lovely sleep!
Had night before thine eyeballs—night forever
To lead thee to the deep!{91}
Ay! wouldst thou have thy self-love for a burden,
A fardel bound with tears,
To sweat beneath and gain at last, for guerdon,
From hands of wasted years?
To find thy stars are glow-worms, feebler, thinner
Than glimmers of the moon:
Dead stars, and all the darkness of the inner
Self’s deader plenilune.
To see at last,—beneath Death’s sterner learning,
—Through sockets sealed with frost,
The awful sunsets of Doom’s heavens burning
God’s baffling pentecost.
{92}
WITH THE TIDE
Once when the morning flashed athwart the breakers,
And on the foaming sand,
In exultation, by the ocean’s acres,
Love took command.
And so we sailed, æolian music melting
Around our silken sails;
The bubbled foam our prow of sandal pelting
With rainbow gales.
We watched the beach, with prickly cactus hateful,
And gnarled palmetto, pass
Beyond our vision; coasts where Life walked fateful
With Time’s slow glass.
Though hateful now, who could forget the beauty
Of dim and fragile shells,{93}
That strewed the shores of Patience and of Duty
Like asphodels?
The rocks of Care, where Faith’s meek flow’r suffices
To lead Love up and on,
To levels, that the Bible’s lily spices,
Divine with dawn?
On, on we sailed, Love laughing at to-morrow,
Past sunny isle and cape:
Three were we now:—My Soul and Love and—Sorrow,
A tall, dim shape.
On, on we sailed, Love at the golden rudder,
On till the day waxed late,
When, lo! beside him, like an icy shudder,
Rose pallid Hate.
On, on we sailed, Love seeing me, no other:
None crowned with bleeding thorn,
None armed with violence, and now another—
Unyielding Scorn.
And then Love saw; Love, who had naught demanded,
Love saw, and summoned Pride:{94}
The darker three, against the bright two banded,
Stood side by side.
On through the night our barque went drifting, drifting;
My stricken Soul alone;
A white face cold as moonlit marble lifting,
And still as stone.
{95}
APPORTIONMENT
If grief must fill my heart with tears, and Time
Abate no hour
Of agony with any happy rhyme,—
Be grief my dower.
If days must sing to my attentive soul
Joy’s cradle-song,
Nor lift one grave note in the gladsome whole,
Let joy be long.
Bring me pale flowers of the handselled hills,
To braid and lay
On coffined brows, sad separation fills
With death’s dismay.
Or dreams to drug my soul’s life-cup with pure
Ideal love;
Glad dreams of life whose beauties aye allure
The soul above.{96}
A harp, to hold against my heart and smite
With smiles and tears,
To sing bereavement or my soul’s delight
Through all the years.
Make of my heart a lute, for Love to wake
With tripping tune;
Or Loss to crush against her breast and break
With wilder croon.
Upon the mountains of the morning lands,
Where all may look,
Let Hope arise and lift with astral hands
His starry book.
Up bars of stars, the golden notes of skies,
On night’s black scroll
Let the moon’s music lift, and with it rise
Despair’s dark soul.
Apportion, O my God, the hope or fear,
The grief or glee!
Thine be the purpose of each smile, each tear
Eternally.
{97}
ESOTERIC BEAUTY
I
Within the old, old forest
The wind hath whispered me
Thou dwellest—thou, who warrest
With birds in melody,
And all the wood-ways starrest
With wild-flow’rs fragrantly,
Thou presence none may see!
II
If I should find thee sitting
Beneath the woodland tree,
The elder-blossoms knitting
In wreaths of witchery,
Between the glimpse and flitting,
What wouldst thou show to me,
Thou presence none may see?
{98}
III
O thou, who, haply, hidest,
A flower upon the tree;
Or in a color glidest,
Or murmur of a bee;
Or in a scent abidest,
A fragrance,—show to me
The things no man may see!
IV
If I should find thee dreaming
Upon the wild-rose lea,
The heart within thee gleaming
And breathing like a bee,
Between the real and seeming,
What wouldst thou say to me,
Thou presence none may see?
V
O thou, who, haply, tellest
To birds their wild wood glee;
Who in the water wellest
As murmuring melody;
And in the wood-wind dwellest
As music,—sing to me
Of that no man may see!
{99}
TEMPEST
The trees before the coming storm
Toss, wild as leaping Corybants
Who fling to Cybele an arm
Of rapture, and a face that pants
Through hair the ritual frenzy slants.
Vague, stormy shapes of tempest sit,
August, majestic, and immense,
Beneath the stars—as, lightning-lit,
A god might give wild audience
To awe and night and violence.
Storm is her signet; hers, who writes
Stern laws in flame; and, shadowy,
With thunder seals the rolled-out nights,
And sits in terrible mystery—
The mountain-crownéd Cybele.
{100}
REVELATION
I write these things that men may hear.
This was the word that gave me cheer:
There sate a dæmon at mine ear,
Who whispered me, “Man knoweth naught.—
First know thyself wouldst thou know aught.”
This was the word that brought me grace:
There fell a shape before my face,
Who motioned me, “All forms are sin’s.—
He aims above himself who wins.”
This was the word that made me wise:
There stood an angel at mine eyes,
Who looked, “The world lives selfishly.—
Give thy own self if thou wouldst see.”
These are the words they brought to me.
{101}
ANALOGIES
Of Rosamond the beautiful, of her
The joy and pride of Cunimund,—last king
Of the fierce Gepidæ,—a warrior
Such as the old-world minstrels loved to sing,
To Alboin, Prince of Lombardy,—at war
With Cunimund her father,—fame did bring
Report of such proud loveliness and grace
That he had loved her ere he saw her face.
War was between them and the hate of thrones:
For he had slain a son of Turismund
And brother of King Cunimund. His bones
Were as a wall between desire—unsunned
Of such encouragement as young Love owns;
Young Love, before the ruined lips that stunned
Appeal with dead defiance, and the grim
Confrontment mocking as the hopes of him.—
Such oft is Life! that, standing with despair,
Looks on some crime,—as looked the conqueror{102}
Of Rosamond,—ere goaded on to dare
Fate through the stern arbitrament of war:
Death smiles within the danger of her hair;
Defeat, more deadly than the wild Avar,
Looks, armored, from her eyes; and in her mouth
An exarch marshals legions from the south.
Yet, should he so prevail against her might—
Her woman Pride, her hosts of beautiful
Angers and scorns—that she be forced, some night,
To pledge him faith in Hate’s full cup, a skull—
What though he sees Revenge writ, fiery white,
Upon her brow! revenge, that hides a dull
Poison for sleep, or dagger all prepared!—
Life writes not Failure where Fate writes He dared.
{103}
MNEMONICS
It shall not be forgotten
Of any one who sees,—
The sorrel-flow’r amid the moss,
The wind-flow’r ’mid the trees.
Though I can but remember
All flowers by her face,
That flow’r, which is my life’s perfume,
Kin to the wild-flow’r race.
It shall not be forgotten
Of any one who looks,—
The evening-star above the hills,
Its image in the brooks.
Though I can but remember
All planets by her eyes,
Those stars, which are my destiny,
Bright sisters to the skies{104}’.
And, oh, the song that follows
The wing-beat of the bird!—
It shall not be forgotten
When once such song is heard.
Though I can but remember
All music by her words,
Her voice, which is my heart’s response,
Kin to the building bird’s.
How can they be forgotten,
The fair and fugitive,
When in all birds and stars and flowers
Love’s intimations live!
{105}
ASSUMPTION
I
A mile of moonlight and the whispering wood:
A mile of shadow and the odorous lane:
One large, white star above the solitude,
Like one sweet wish: and, laughter after pain,
Wild roses wistful in a web of rain.
II
No star, no rose, to lesson him and lead,
No woodsman compass of the skies and rocks,—
Tattooed with stars and lichens,—doth love need
To guide him where, among the hollyhocks,
A blur of moonlight, gleam his sweetheart’s locks.
{106}
III
We name it beauty—that permitted part,
The love-elected apotheosis
Of Nature, which the god within the heart,
Just touching, makes immortal, but by this—
A star, a rose, the memory of a kiss.
{107}
PROEM TO “UNDERTONES”
Long are the days, and overlong the nights.
The weary hours are a heavy chain
Upon the feet of all Earth’s dear delights,
Holding them ever prisoners to pain.
What shall beguile me to believe again
In hope, that Faith within her parable writes
Of life, Care reads with eyes whose teardrops stain?
Shall such assist me to subdue the heights?
Long is the night, and overlong the day.—
The burden of all being!—Is it worse
Or better, lo! that they who toil and pray
May win no more than they who toil and curse
A little sleep, a little love, ah me!
And the slow weight up the soul’s Calvary!
{108}
UNQUALIFIED
Not his the part to win the goal,
The flaming goal that flies before,
Into whose course the apples roll
Of self that stay the feet the more.
Beyond himself he shall not win
Whose aim is as a driven dust,
That his own soul must wander in,
Seeing no farther than his lust.
{109}
UNENCOURAGED ASPIRATION
Mine is the part of no companion hand
Of help, except my shadow’s silent self:
A moonlight traveller in Fancy’s land
Of leering gnome and hollow-laughing elf:
Whose forests deepen and whose moon goes down,
When night’s blind shadow shall usurp my own;
And, ’midst the dust and wreck of some old town,
The City of Dreams, I grope and fall alone.
{110}
INTERPRETED
What magic shall solve us the secret
Of beauty that’s born for an hour?
That gleams, in the flight of an egret,
Or swoons, in the scent of a flower,
With death for a dower?
What leaps in the bosk but a satyr?
What pipes in the wind but a faun?
What blooms in the waters that scatter
But limbs of a nymph that is gone,
When we walk in the dawn?
What sings on the hills but a fairy?
Or sighs in the fields but a sprite?
What breathes through the leaves but the airy
Dim spirits of shadow and light,
When we walk in the night?
Behold how the world-heart is eager
To draw us and hold us and claim!
Through truths of the dreams that beleaguer
Her soul she makes ours the same,
And death but a name.
{111}
SECOND SIGHT
They lean their faces to me through
Green windows of the woods;
Their cool throats sweet with honey-dew
Beneath their leafy hoods—
No dream they dream but hath been true
Here in the solitudes.
Star trillium, in the underbrush,
In whom Spring bares her face;
Sun eglantine, that breathes the blush
Of Summer’s quiet grace;
Moon mallow, in whom lives the hush
Of Autumn’s tragic pace.
This one hath heard the dryad’s sighs
Behind the covering bark;
That one hath felt the satyr’s eyes
Gleam through the bosky dark;
And one hath seen the Naiad rise
In waters all a-spark.{112}
I bend my soul unto them, stilled
In worship man hath lost:—
The old-world myths that science killed
Are living things almost
To me through these whose forms are filled
With Beauty’s pagan ghost.
And with new eyes I seem to see
The world these live within,—
A shuttered world of mystery,
Where unreal forms begin
Real forms of ideality
That have no unreal kin.
{113}
SUCCESS
How some succeed, who have least need,
In that they make no effort for!
And pluck, where others pluck a weed,
The burning blossom of a star,
Grown from no earthly seed.
For some shall reap who never sow;
And some shall toil and ne’er attain—
What boots it, in ourselves to know
Such labor here is not in vain,
When we still see it so!
{114}
THE HOUSE OF SONG
Unto the portal of the House of Song,
Symbols of wrong and emblems of unrest,
And mottoes of despair and envious jest,
And stony masks of scorn and hate belong.
Who enters here shall feel his soul denied
All welcome; where the chiselled form of Love
Stares down in marble on the shrine above
The tomb of Beauty where he dreamed and died.
Who enters here shall know no poppy flowers
Of Rest, or harp-tones of serene Content;
Only sad ghosts of music and of scent
Shall mock his mind with their remembered powers.
Here must he wait till striving Patience carves
His name upon the century-storied floor;
His heart’s blood staining one dim pane the more
In Fame’s high casement while he sings and starves.
{115}
FLOWERS
Oh, why for us the blighted bloom,
The blossom that lies withering!—
Why has He, of Life’s changeless loom,
Created here no changeless thing?
Where grows the rose of fadeless Grace?
Through which the spirit manifests
The fact of an immortal place,
The dream on which religion rests.
Where buds the lily of our Faith?
That grows for us in unknown wise,
Out of the barren dust of death,
The pregnant bloom of Paradise.
In Heaven! so near that flowers know!
That flowers see how near!—and thus
Reflect the knowledge here below
Of love and life unknown to us.
{116}
DEAD SEA FRUIT
All things have power to hold us back.
Our very hopes build up a wall
Of doubt, whose shadow stretches black
O’er all.
The dreams, that helped us once, become
Dread disappointments, that oppose
Dead eyes to ours, and lips made dumb
With woes.
The thoughts that opened doors before
Within the mind’s house, hide away;
Discouragement hath locked the door
For aye.
Come, loss, more frequently than gain!
And failure than success! until
The spirit’s struggle to attain
Is still!
{117}
REQUIEM
I
No more for him, where hills look down,
Shall Morning crown
Her rainy brow with blossom bands!—
The Morning Hours, whose rosy hands
Drop wild-flowers of the breaking skies
Upon the sod ’neath which he lies.—
No more for him! No more! no more!
II
No more for him, where waters sleep,
Shall Evening heap
The long gold of the perfect days!
The Eventide, whose warm hand lays
Great poppies of the afterglow
Upon the turf he rests below.—
No more for him! No more! no more!
{118}
III
No more for him, where woodlands loom,
Shall Midnight bloom
The star-flow’red acres of the blue!
The Midnight Hours, whose dim hands strew
Dead leaves of darkness, hushed and deep,
Upon the grave where he doth sleep.—
No more for him! No more! no more!
IV
The hills, that Morning’s footsteps wake;
The waves that take
A brightness from the Eve; the woods,
The solitudes, o’er which Night broods,
Their Spirits have, whose parts are one
With his, whose mortal part is done.
Whose part is done; alas! is done.
{119}
AT LAST
What shall be said to him,
Now he is dead?
Now that his eyes are dim,
Low lies his head?
What shall be said to him,
Now he is dead?
One thing, he knew not of,
Sweet, in his ear
Whisper with all thy love—
Haply he’ll hear.
One thing, he knew not of,
Sweet, in his ear.
What shall be given him,
Now he is dead?
Now that his eyes are dim,
Low lies his head?
What shall be given him,
Now he is dead?{120}
That which was long denied
Here, Sweet,—thy heart
Lay now his heart beside,
Never to part.
That which was long denied
Here, Sweet,—thy heart.
{121}
REMEMBERED
Here in the dusk I picture it again,
Her face, as ’twas before she fell asleep:
Renunciation glorifying pain
Of her soul’s inmost deep.
I shall not see its like again! the brow
Of marble, that the fair hair aureoled,—
Like some pale lily in the afterglow,—
With supernatural gold.
As if a rose should speak and, somehow heard
Thro’ some strange sense, the unembodied sound
Grow visible, her mouth was as a word
A sweet thought falters round.{122}
So do I still remember eyes imbued
With far reflections—as the stars suggest
The silence, purity, and solitude
Of infinite peace and rest.
She was my all. I loved her as men love
A high desire, religion, an ideal—
The meaning purpose in the loss whereof
God shall alone reveal.
{123}
MONOCHROMES
I
The last rose falls, wrecked of the wind and rain;
Where once it bloomed the thorns alone remain:
Dead in the wet the slow rain strews the rose.
The day was dim; now eve comes on again,
Grave as a life weighed down with many woes:
So is the joy dead, and alive the pain.
The brown leaf flutters where the green leaf died;
Bare are the boughs, and bleak the forest side:
The wind is whirling with the last wild leaf.
The eve was strange; now dusk comes weird and wide,
Gaunt as a life that lives alone with grief:
So hope is gone, and doubt and loss abide.
An empty nest hangs where the wood-bird pled;
Along the west the dusk dies, stormy red:
The frost falls, subtle as a serpent’s breath.{124}
The dusk was sad; now night is overhead,
Grim as a life brought face to face with death:
So life lives on when love, its life, lies dead.
II
Go your own ways. Who shall persuade me now
To look with high face for a star of hope?
Or up endeavor’s unsubduable slope
Advance a bosom of desire, and bow
A back of patience in a thankless task?
Alone beside the grave of love I ask,
Shalt thou? or thou?
Leave go my hands. Fain would I walk alone
The easy ways of silence and of sleep.
What though I go with eyes that can not weep,
And lips contracted with no uttered moan,
Through rocks and thorns, where every footprint bleeds,
A dead-sea path of desert night that leads
To one white stone!
Though sands be black and bitter black the sea,
Night lie before me and behind me night,
And God within far Heaven refuse to light{125}
The consolation of the dawn for me,—
Between the shadowy bournes of Heaven and Hell,
It is enough love leaves my soul to dwell
With memory.
{126}
THE WORLD’S DESIRE
The roses of voluptuousness
Wreathe her dark locks and hide her eyes;
Her limbs are flower-like nakedness,
Wherethrough the fragrant blood doth press,
The blossom-blood of Paradise.
She stands with Lilith finger-tips,
With Lilith hands; and gathers up
The grapes of life; whose wine she sips,—
With Lilith-laughter-lightened lips,—
The soul, as from a curious cup.
What though she cast the cup away!
The empty bowl that flashed with wine!
Her lips’ wild kiss, that stained the clay,
Her hands’ hot clasp—shall these not stay,
That made its nothingness divine?
Through one again shall live the glow,
Immortalizing, of her touch;
And through the other, sweet to know
How life swept, flame once, ’neath the snow
Of her moon’d breasts—and this is much!
{127}
THE UNATTAINABLE
Mark thou! a shadow crowned with fire of hell.
Man holds her in his heart as night doth hold
The moonlight memories of day’s dead gold;
Or as a winter-withered asphodel
In its dead loveliness holds scents of old.
And looking on her, lo, he thinks ’tis well.
Who would not follow her whose glory sits,
Imperishably lovely, on the air?
Who, from the arms of Earth’s desire, flits
With eyes defiant and rebellious hair?—
Hers is the beauty that no man shall share.
He who hath seen, what shall it profit him?
He who doth love, what shall his passion gain?
When disappointment at her cup’s bright brim
Poisons the pleasure with the hemlock pain?
Hers is the passion that no man shall drain.
How long, how long since Life hath kissed her eyes,
Making their night clairvoyant! And how long{128}
Since Love hath kissed her lips and made them wise,
Mixing their speech with prophecy and song!
Hope clad her nakedness in lovely lies,
Giving into her hands the right of wrong!
Lo! in her world she sets pale tents of thought,
Unearthly bannered; and her dreams’ wild bands
Besiege the heavens like a twilight fraught
With recollections of lost stars. She stands
Radiant as Lilith glowing from God’s hands.
The golden rose of patience at her throat
Drops fragrant petals—as a pensive tune
Drops its surrendered sweetness note by note;—
And from her hands the buds of hope are strewn,
Moon-flowers, mothered of the barren moon.
So in her flowers man seats him at her feet
In star-faced worship, knowing all of this;
And now to him to die seems very sweet,
Filled with the fire of her look and kiss;
While in his heart the blood’s tumultuous beat
Drowns, in her own, the drowsing serpent’s hiss.{129}
He who hath dreamed but of her world shall give
All of his soul unto her restlessly:
He who hath seen but her far face shall live
No more for things we name reality:
Such is the power of her tyranny.
He, whom she wins, hath nothing ’neath the sun;
Forgetting all that she may not forget
He loves her, who still feeds his soul upon
Dreams and desires, and doubt and vain regret,—
Life’s bitter bread his heart’s fierce tears make wet.
What word of wisdom hast thou, Life, to wake
Him now! or song of magic now to dull
The dreams he lives in! or what charm to break
The spell that makes her evil beautiful!
What charm to show her beauty hides a snake,
Whose basilisk eyes burn dark behind a skull!
{130}
PROBLEMS
Man’s is the learning of his books—
What is all knowledge that he knows
Beside the wit of winding brooks,
The wisdom of the summer rose!
How soil distils the scent in flowers
Baffles his science: heaven-dyed,
How, from the sunshine and the showers,
They draw their colors, hath defied.
Nor hath he solved why light is white,
Yet paints with hues the dawns and noons,
Stains all the hollow edge of night
With glory as of molten moons.
What knows he of the laws of birth
Or death, or what these are and why!
Or what it is within the earth
That helps us live and helps us die!
{131}
THE BEAUTIFUL
I
Of moires of placid glitter
The moon is knitter,
Under dark trees, whose branches
The blue night blanches:
Upon yon stream’s swift arrow
Lights lie, as narrow
As is the glance of some pale sorceress,
Spell-haunted, watching in a wilderness.
And I, who, dreaming, wander,
Seem to behold her yonder,
My beautiful dream, my bodiless loveliness.
II
Upon this water’s glimmer
White sheets of shimmer
Glow outward, as if inner
Sea-castles,—thinner
Than peeléd pearl,—through curlings
And water whirlings,{132}
Let spray the light of lucid dome and spire,
The smoldering silver of an inward fire.—
Perhaps her towers, enchanted,
Are there; on mountains planted
Of crystal:—hers! the soul of my desire!
III
Or there above the beeches,
On terraced reaches
Of rolling roses, towered
And moonbeam-bowered,
Is it her palace airy?—
Or dream of Fairy?—
Piled, full of melody and marble-white,
Its pointed casements lit with piercing light:
Wherein, all veiled and hidden,
She waits,—who long hath bidden
Me come to her,—her accoladed knight?
IV
The blue night’s sweetness settles—
Like hyacinth petals,
Bowed by their weight of rain-drops—
Around me: pain drops
From off my heart, the sadness{133}
Of life to gladness
Of beauty turns, that was not born to die;
That whispers in my soul and tells me why
I, too, was born—to render
Her worship: feel her splendor
Expand me like a rose beneath God’s eye.
{134}
WORLD’S ATTAINMENT
A Lorelei full fair she sits
Above the Stream of Life that rolls;
And, hope-thrilled, with her wild harp knits
To her from year to year men’s souls.
They hear her harp, they hear her song,
Behold her beauty throned on high,
And gazing on her, sweep along,
Strike on the rocks and sink and die.
{135}
A BLOWN ROSE
Lay but a finger on
Its pallid petals sweet,
They flutter, gray and wan,
Beneath the passing feet.
But, soft! blown rose, although
Departed is thy bloom,—
Thy bud, thy youth, I know,
Had no such sweet perfume.
Thou art like one whose page
Of life is beauty-fraught,
Who grays to ripe old-age,
Sweet-mellowed through with thought:
Who, when his hoary head
Is wept into the tomb,
With dreams, that are not dead,
Still gives his name perfume.
{136}
NEPENTHE
Ah, it is well for men to strain
And strive and yearn to rise;
The soul’s salvation is in pain,
In toil and sacrifice.
The grandest souls that rose above,
Thought’s noblest heights to tread,
Found consolation in their love,
And life behind the dead.
A living glory in the tomb,
Whose night shall end in light;
An intense splendor veiled with gloom,
Too blinding for earth’s sight.
Nepenthe of this struggling world,
Whose knowledge comforts care,
And in the heart, where it is curled,
Conquers the snake, despair.
{137}
ON A DIAL
Look on my face: to-morrow
I am to-day.
From me you may not borrow
Or take away.
I mark life’s mirth and sorrow,
Birth and decay.
I know nor joy nor sadness:
I go, yet stay:
And men in me find gladness
And grief, they say:
I stay not for their madness,
Nor pass away.
{138}
UNUTTERABLE
There is a sorrow in the wind to-night
That haunteth me; she, like a penitent,
Heaps on rent hair the snow’s thin ashes white,
And moans and moans, her swaying body bent.
And Superstition, gliding softly, shakes
With wasted hands, that vainly grope and seek,
The rustling curtains; of each cranny makes
Wild, ghostly lips that, wailing, fain would speak.
{139}
QUESTIONINGS
Now that wan sunsets, wintery
With icy gold, paint bleak the sky;
Now nights are starless utterly,
And snow and sleet cut moaning by,
One’s memory keeps one company,
And sorrow puts its “when” and “why.”
Such inquisition, when alone,
Leads on to ways of doubt and dread,
Despair has miled with many a stone,
Carved with the faces of our dead,
Stamped on whose brows we read, “Unknown!
No further look, nor seek to tread.”
And, oh! that weariness of soul
That leans upon our dead, the clod
And air have taken, as a whole,
Through some mysterious period!—
Life! with its questions of control!
Death! with its unguessed laws of God!
{140}
FRAGMENTS
I
The curtains of my couch sway heavily:
’Tis death, who parts the curtains of my soul.—
Sleep, like a gray expression of ghost lips
Heard through the moonlight of a haunted room,
Seems near yet far away. Would God ’twere day!
II
“Stay not too long, love, stay not long away!”
Lightly my heart said when we kissed farewell.
But now my heart is heavy with hard news—
Oh! bitterness of kisses that were sweet!
III
Tear from my heart and under furious feet
Trample the golden record of our love,
Love’s book of golden days, despair! despair!
{141}
IV
Night is a grave physician, who contrives
The drug of sleep to heal day’s bruises with,
The drug of death for life’s delirium.—
V
On lost expanses of a phantom land
Life stands; and, overhead, one sinister star,
A baleful beacon, burns: heav’n seems a hand
Of jeweled darkness pointing her her way,
Mournful, through shadows of lugubrious hills
And rising tempest, to a house, a shape
Placid and pale and silent utterly.
VI
O undivulging, unresponsive fate,
Is gold another name for power and crime?
Life, dust long dedicated unto death?
And death? is it all darkness without light?
Whereto all things go groping, love and joy
And beauty, glow-worms, flickering each its spark?
Precious as gold does anything avail?
Steadfast as tablets of the eternal stars,
What deeds of man, when time hath touched them, last?
{142}
DEITY
No personal! No God divinely crowned
With gold and raised upon a golden throne,
Deep in a golden glory,—whence he nods
Man this or that,—and little more than man!
Thus I divine Him: When the soul, refined
Through love and wisdom through a thousand years,
Shall mount as pure intelligence and pierce
The separate cycles singing under God,—
Their iridescent evolutions orbed
Of wild electric splendor,—it shall see
(Through God-propinquity become a god)
Resplendencies of empyrean light
Swift-lightening out of spheric harmonies:
Prisms and facets of ten million beams
Starring a crystal of wild-rainbowed rays:
And in it—eyes: of burning sapphire, eyes
Deep as the music of the beautiful:
And o’er the eyes, limpid, hierarchal brows,
As they were lilies of seraphic fire:{143}
Lips underneath of trembling ruby—lips,
Whose smile is light and each expression, song.
In multiplying myriads, forms of fire,
Cherubic faces of intensity,
Waiting His look, that is electric thought,
To work His will, spirits on spirits stand
Circling the Unit, God: Supremity
Creative and eternal.
And from Him
Man’s intellect, detached, expelled and breathed
Exaltant into flesh endowed with soul,—
One sparkle of the Essence clothed with clay,—
Is given to Earth for something more than earth,
Some purpose, some divine development,—
That protoplasmic evolution proves,—
That lifts him upward, heart and soul and mind,
From matter to ideal potencies,
Up to the source and fountain of all mind,
Beauty and truth and everlasting love,
To be resumed and re-absorbed in them—
One more expression of Eternity.
{144}
DISENCHANTMENT OF DEATH
Hush! she is dead. Tread gently as the light
Steals in the weary room. Thou shalt behold.
Look:—in death’s ermine pomp of awful white,
Pale passion of pulseless slumber, very cold,
Her beautiful youth!—Proud as heroic might,—
Brought low by him whose touch is shadow and mold.
Old earth she is now: energy of birth
Hath fledged glad wings and tried them suddenly:
The eyes that held have freed their maiden mirth:
The spark of spirit, which made this to be,
Shines in some fairer star than this of Earth,
Some Fairy-star of far eternity.{145}
A sod is this; whence, what were once those eyes,
Will grow blue wildflowers in some happier air!
Some weed with flossy blossoms will surprise,
Haply, some summer with her affluent hair!
Some rose reveal her cheeks: and the wise skies
Will clasp her beauty in some young tree there.
The chastity of death hath filled her so
No dreams of life may reach her in her rest;
No dreams the heart exhausted here below,
Hopes built within the romance of her breast.
Now she will sleep, like music, silent, slow,—
That wakes the buds, to golden life caressed.
The winds of spring, that whisper to the grass;
The rain, that sets the red roots harping; sound,
And gleam and color of the dews that glass
Globes of concentric beauty on the ground;
Shall hint of her; and she herself shall pass,
Like prayer, into each flower with memory crowned.{146}
So, though she’s dead, you see she is not dead:
All things are vocal of her: lost in sleep
She lies: its narrow house the soul hath fled;
Her soul, still near us, haply; while the deep
Remains unvoyaged: waiting to be led
It still delays, held here by us who weep.
We should restrain our anguish;—(merciless,
Albeit it is, and bitter cruel the grave:)—
Grief wrings our dead with more than grief’s distress,
Earth chaining love, bound by the lips that rave.
And curse not death!—Yea, rather let us bless
That conqueror who makes us less a slave!
To principles of passion and of pride;
To sin and circumstance and lust and law!
Slave to all these, like rags now flung aside!—
Wouldst have the soul resume them, and withdraw
From its inheritance, where, as a bride,
It stands arrayed in glory and in awe?
“Unjust”?—God is not. Yea, hast thou not all,
All that thou ever hadst when this dull clay,{147}
Thy well belovéd, made the spiritual
A restless vassal of the night and day?
This hath been thine and is: the cosmic call
Rang through this house, and took its own away.
But man, in selfishness, from its estate,—
Won with what pains and devastating cares,
What bootless battling with resistless fate,
What mailed endeavor with unyielding years,—
Would bar the soul, Heaven grants him here as mate,
And being compelled, returns Heaven’s loan with tears.
{148}
SLEEP
Look in my eyes!—Oh, the mild and mysterious
Deeps of thine eyes that are holy with rest!—
Sigh to me! yea, as thy kinsman, imperious
Love, might, with lips that are soft and delirious,
Soft with such comfort as blesses the blessed.
Fold all my soul in the mild and mysterious
Might of thy rest.
All the night for thy love, all the night! while the gladdening
Presence of darkness, as legends of old,
Wraps me in poesy: none of the saddening
Prose of the day that is sad with the maddening
Soul of unrest that is heartless and cold.
All the night for thy love, all the night! and its gladdening
Beauty of old.
Scorn is not thine nor is hate; but the bubbling
Fountains of strength that are youthful as morn’s:{149}
Hurt is not thine of remembrance; nor troubling
Sorrows of waking whose fingers keep doubling—
Pressing on temples life’s cares that are thorns.
Thine are the hours of the stars and the bubbling
Wells of the morns.
Pride and the passions and labors that worry us
Mix with and brutalize; envy and spite
Of the heart; and the griefs of the soul that oft hurry us
On, with the iron of anguish, and bury us,—
Touch them and calm with thy fingers of white.
Make all these passions and pains, that oft worry us,
Night with the night.
Silence hath built thee a mansion, where flowery
Fields of the visions are poppied with dreams;
Where the high mountains of quiet loom showery
Under the stars; and the valleys of bowery
Lotus and moly gleam, misty with streams:
Where slumber’s halcyon waters thrid flowery
Pastures of dreams.
Come to me, Spirit!—Ah, wilt thou not stay for me?{150}
Stay for me! fill me with rest as with prayer!
Mother of hope, let thy touch soothe away for me
All of life’s weariness! make all the day for me
Dim with forgetting! the day and its care!
Come to me! Mix with the soul of me! Stay for me,
Cure me like prayer!
{151}
CHATTERTON
“I thought of Chatterton, the marvellous boy,
The sleepless soul that perished in his pride.”
—Wordsworth.
He dreamed of Mendip Hills, and woods
So deep, storm-barriers on the sky
Are not more dark, that rain their floods
From clouds of sullen dye:
And Somerset, where sparsely grew
Gnarled, iron-colored oaks, with rifts,
Between old boughs, of April blue:
Ways where the speedwell lifts
Its bit of heav’n; and, spreading far,—
The gold, the fallen gold of dawn
Held captive in each cowslip’s star,—
The meadows led him on.
Where, round his feet, the lady-smock
And pearl-pale lady-slipper crept;
Where butterflies, pied-wing’d, did rock,
Or, seal-brown, sucked and slept.{152}
O’er which the west shot crooked fire
Athwart a half-moon leaning low;
While one white, arrowy star throbbed higher
In curdled honey-glow.
Was it some elfin euphrasy
That purged his sight and said, “Prepare!
See where the daisies beckon thee;
The harebells ring to prayer?
“Come here and dream! far from the roofs,
The grime and smoke of London Town,
That monster, with its myriad hoofs,
That grinds the poet down!”
Not different from his days our days,
That break the poet’s heart. No love
Or pity after death repays
The soul that failed and strove.
They found him dead his songs beside,
Long stairs above the din and dust
Of life: and that for which he died
Denied him even a crust.
{153}
THE SYMPHONY
The soul of love is harmony: as such
All melodies, that with wide pinions beat
Against the heart’s red gateway to the soul,—
That, opening, bids them enter in and sing,—
Are portions of the soul, and while they stay,
Lords of its action molding all at will.
There is a symphony, I know not whose,
That seems to bear my spirit far away,
To regions not of Earth nor yet of Heaven,
Where neither am I I, nor air, nor clay,
My soul, a portion of the waves of song,
Reverberating ’twixt the earth and moon.
First, sweeping marches, loud with martial boast,
Triumphal clamors and the shout of joy,
As when,—in bannered cities, welcoming home,—
Bright ranks of victory and cavalcades
Of splendid battle march to roll of drums
And clang of cymbals and sonorous horns.{154}
Then sudden thunder; adverse hosts of storm;
And lightning cleaving the tempestuous gloom;
Earthquake, and roar of ruin as if Thebes
And Karnac crashed their Titan temples down,
Pillar and groinéd nave and fretted dome,
On all their gods of gold and worshippers.
Then from the wreck, unutterably slow,
An exhalation seems to beat, of sound,
An audible perfume; slowly as the fang
Of dusty gold the lily’s cone puts forth
To drink the sunlight and to lure the bee:
A mist of music, delicate as the shapes
Who ride the rainbow bubbles of the foam
Of mountain cataracts; or, who, heeled with flame,
Wing-tipped with fire, make couriers of the winds,
And, zoned with opal, chariot the morning star.
Then soft complaints that fill the waiting heart
With dreams of love long-cherished; love-dreams found
On morning mountains, splendid with the dawn.
Then tender chords that weigh the eyelids down
With sleep’s pale kisses, softer than the buds
That open to the spring, the kiss of May;{155}
And sweeter than sweet vows of fondest faith
Kept evermore; or looks, whose witchery
Might lure old saints down to the lowest Hell
For one last glance: then notes like haunting eyes,
Great, melancholy eyes of love long lost,
Darker than night, and brimming o’er with dreams;
Or faces, stooping in a silver mist
At Care’s thin brow, and gazing in his eyes,
Sad where he sits before the smouldering logs,
At Yuletide, when the sleet taps on the pane,
And all the loved are gone, and he’s alone,
Alone, save for the memories that rise
Faint in the ashes and the spark-starred smoke.
Then, from these chords, these mortal ecstasies,
Dim as the half-forgotten dreams of youth,
Voices of expectation chorus up,—
The diapason of a mighty choir,—
’Mid organ throbbings, ever beating low
Like the huge heart of Ocean; pulsings wove
Of deep, æolian thunders: and my soul
Seems wafted far beneath the sea of seas,
To chasms and caves of crystal, ocean-carved,
Filled with dark lamentations of the deep,{156}
Deep, dolorous seas, that throb like some vast harp,
Wild, oceanic, and with stormy sighs
Of labyrinthine music shake the world.
One with the tumult,—under circling tiers
Of beryl and chrysoberyl, splashed and hung
Pale with pelagian gems and feathery shells,
And spars of moony radiance,—on I drift,
A voice ’mid voices, chord amid the chords,
A wave, a wild vibration of the strain,
Part of the ray, the rose of melody,
An utterance amid that utterance
Of choral harmony: now rising up,—
As ’twere a spire of silver symphony
Blown from a reed of hollow pearl and fire
By some still spirit dwelling within the moon,—
To the vast vault of echoes: dying now
Down to the underworld of silence, deep
With wild, unburdened sobbings; then, once more,
Sweeping the vault with tumult, like a bird
With maddened wings, that beat and bleed in vain
Against the bars; or like the human soul,
Oppressed and bulked within its cage of clay,
That longs and strains to burst its bonds and soar.{157}
Then tones that shape before my inner sight
The moonlit gardens of the spirit, Sleep,
Far on a star man’s eyes have never seen:
White Sleep, who leads me ’mid her poppies, weighed
With dewy slumber; from whose chalices
She culls white dreams to lay on human hearts
In pearly clusters sparkling now with tears
And now with smiles; the blossoms of her soul.
She, on her shadowy pinions, winging high,
Bears me from pole to pole of her white star,
The continents like clouds beneath our feet,
The seas like mists; then drops me, meteor-like,
A million leagues, through all the gulfs of God,
Down, down to Earth again; a sound of stars,
Streaming from burning orbits into night,
About my soul, about my soul like fire.
Oh, then what agony and bitter woe,
Regret and noise of desolation, vast
As when all that one loves is torn away
Forever with “farewell forevermore”!
Oh, strife and panic of impending doom!
Wherein rush by pale brows with tresses torn;
Pale faces browed with raven, rended hair,
That cringe or fly before the wrath of God,
Or stand white-lifted to the bolts of Heaven,{158}
Ploughing the tempest, chasmed with torrent flame
As ’twere with rocking earthquake. All around
Ruin and terror, moans and awful eyes,
Fierce, moveless eyes that seem to curse their God:
Then sounds, as ’twere, of burning tears that fall
Through blinding blackness: then—long thunder strokes
As of a bell that tolls “’Tis Judgment Day!”
Sonorous bell-beats heard through night and storm,
O’er hands high lifted as it were in prayer
Or battling with their doom: still tolling on,
The knell of dying Earth and of the Dawn;
The Dawn that will not break, that comes no more;
Never again; the beautiful, wild Dawn,
The young, the holy, radiant and wonderful,
First born of Heaven’s children, daughters of Light:
The Rose of God, the dream and youth of Day,
Whom Night hath slain and Darkness laid away,
Crying, “No more shall she awake the world!
No more! no more!—The Dawn, aurora-wreathed,
Lies dead with all her flow’rs! and Death and I,{159}
Darkness and Death, Lords of Oblivion,
Heart-shaking monarchs of the universe,
Throned on the ruins of the world, shall rule
From everlasting unto everlasting now!—
Look on our faces, Nations, and despair!”
{160}
A SONG FOR OLD AGE
Now nights grow cold and colder,
And north the wild vane swings,
And round each tree and boulder
The driving snow-storm sings—
Come, make my old heart older,
O memory of lost things!
Of Hope, when promise sung her
Brave songs, and I was young,
That banquets now on hunger
Since all youth’s songs are sung;
Of Love, who walks with younger
Sweethearts the flowers among.
Ah, well! while Life holds levee,
Death’s ceaseless dance goes on.
So let the curtains, heavy
About my couch, be drawn—
The curtains, dark and heavy,
Where all shall sleep anon.
{161}
“WHEN THE WINE-CUP AT THE LIP”
When the wine-cup at the lip
Slants its ruby fire,
O’er its level, while you sip,
Have you marked the finger-tip
Of the god Desire slip,
Of the god Desire?
Saying—“Lo, the hours run!
Live your day before ’tis done!”
When the empty goblet lies
At the ended revel,
In the glass, the wine-stain dyes,
Have you marked the hollow eyes
Of a mocking Devil rise,
Of a mocking Devil?
Saying—“Lo, the pleasure’s done!
Look on me whose hour’s begun!”
{162}
THE BETTER LOT
Her life was bound to crutches: pale and bent,
But smiling ever, she would go and come:
For of her soul God made an instrument
Of strength and comfort to an humble home.
Better a life of toil and slow disease
That Love companions through the patient years,
Than one whose heritage is loveless ease,
That never knows the blessedness of tears.
{163}
PASSION
The wine-loud laughter of indulged desire
Upon his lips, and, in his eyes, the fire
Of uncontrol, he takes in reckless hands,—
And interrupts with discords,—the sad lyre
Of Love’s deep soul, and never understands.
{164}
THE TROGLODYTE
In ages dead, a troglodyte,
At the hollow roots of a monster height,—
That grew from the heart of the world to light,—
I dwelt in caverns: Over me
Were mountains older than the moon;
And forests, vaster than the sea,
And gulfs, that the earthquake’s hand had hewn,
Hung under me. And late and soon
I heard the Dæmon of Change that sighed
A cosmic language of mystery;
Where I sat silent, primeval-eyed,
With the infant Spirit of Prophecy.{165}
Gaunt stars glared down on the Titan peaks;
And the gaunter glare of the cratered streaks
Of the sunset’s ruin heard condor shrieks:
The roar of cataracts hurled in air,
And the hurricane, laying its thunders bare,
And the rush of battling beasts,—whose lair
Was the antechamber of nadir-gloom,—
Were my outworld joys. But who can tell
The awe of the depths whence rose the boom
Of the iron rivers that fashioned Hell!
{166}
THE EVANESCENT BEAUTIFUL
Day after day, young with eternal beauty,
Pays flowery duty to the month and clime;
Night after night erects a vasty portal
Of stars immortal for the march of Time.
But where are now the glory and the rapture,
That once did capture me in cloud and stream?
Where now the joy, that was both speech and silence?
Where the beguilance that was fact and dream?
I know that Earth and Heaven are as golden
As they of olden made me feel and see;
Not in themselves is lacking aught of power
Through star and flower—something’s lost in me.
“Return! return!” I cry, “O visions vanished,
O voices banished, to my soul again!”—
The near Earth blossoms and the far skies glisten,
I look and listen, but, alas! in vain.
{167}
THE HIGHER BROTHERHOOD
To come in touch with mysteries
Of beauty idealizing Earth,
Go seek the hills, grown green with trees,
The old hills wise with death and birth.
There you may hear the heart that beats
In streams, where music has its source;
And in wild rocks of mossed retreats
Behold the silent soul of force.
Above the love that emanates
From human passion, and reflects
The flesh, must be the love that waits
On Nature, whose high call elects
None to her secrets save the few
Who hold that facts are far less real
Than dreams, with which all facts indue
Themselves approaching the ideal.
{168}
TO A WINDFLOWER
I
Teach me the secret of thy loveliness,
That, being made wise, I may aspire to be
As beautiful in thought, and so express
Immortal truths to Earth’s mortality;
Though to my soul ability be less
Than ’tis to thee, O sweet anemone.
II
Teach me the secret of thy innocence,
That in simplicity I may grow wise;
Asking from Art no other recompense
Than the approval of her own just eyes;
So may I rise to some fair eminence,
Though less than thine, O cousin of the skies.
III
Teach me these things; through whose high knowledge, I,{169}—
When Death hath poured oblivion through my veins,
And brought me home, as all are brought, to lie
In that vast House, common to serfs and Thanes,—
I shall not die, I shall not utterly die,
For beauty born of beauty—that remains.
{170}
MICROCOSM
The memory of what we’ve lost
Is with us more than what we’ve won;
Perhaps because we count the cost
By what we could, yet have not done.
’Twixt act and purpose fate hath drawn
Invisible threads we can not break,
And puppet-like these move us on
The stage of life, and break or make.
Less than the dust from which we’re wrought,
We come and go, and still are hurled
From change to change, from naught to naught,
Heirs of oblivion and the world.
{171}
FORTUNE
Within the hollowed hand of God
Blood-red they lie, the dice of Fate,
That have no time nor period,
And know no early and no late.
Postpone you can not, nor advance
Success or failure that’s to be;
All fortune, being born of chance,
Is bastard child to destiny.
Bow down your head, or hold it high,
Consent, defy—no smallest part
Of this you change, although the die
Was fashioned from your living heart.
{172}
DEATH
Through some strange sense of sight or touch
I find what all have found before,—
The presence I have feared so much,
The unknown’s immaterial door.
I seek not and it comes to me:
I do not know the thing I find:
The fillet of fatality
Drops from my brows that made me blind.
Point forward now or backward, Light!
The way I take I may not choose:
Out of the night into the night,
And in the night no certain clews.
But on the future, dim and vast,
And dark with dust and sacrifice,
Death’s towering ruin from the past
Makes black the land that round me lies.
{173}
THE SOUL
An heritage of hopes and fears
And dreams and memory,
And vices of ten thousand years
God gives to thee.
A house of clay, the home of Fate,
Haunted of Love and Sin,
Where Death stands knocking at the gate
To let him in.
{174}
CONSCIENCE
Within the soul are throned two powers,
Named Love and Hate. Begot of these,
And veiled between, a presence towers,
The shadowy Keeper of the Keys.
With wild command or calm persuasion
This one may argue, that compel:
Vain are concealment and evasion—
For each he opens Heaven and Hell.
{175}
YOUTH
I
Morn’s mystic rose is reddening on the hills;
Dawn’s irised nautilus makes glad the sea;
There is a lyre of flame that throbs and fills
Far heaven and earth with hope’s wild ecstasy.—
With lilied field and grove,
Haunts of the turtle-dove,
Here is the land of Love.
II
The chariot of the noon makes blind the blue
As towards the goal his burning axle glares;
There is a fiery trumpet thrilling through
Wide heaven and earth with deeds of one who dares.—
With peaks of splendid name,
Wrapped round with astral flame,
Here is the land of Fame.
{176}
III
The purple priesthood of the evening waits
With golden pomp within the templed skies;
There is a harp of worship at the gates
Of heaven and earth that bids the soul arise.—
With columned cliffs and long
Vales, music breathes among,
Here is the land of Song.
IV
Moon-crowned the epic of the night unrolls
Its starry utterance o’er height and deep;
There is a voice of beauty at the souls
Of heaven and earth that lulls the heart asleep.—
With storied woods and streams,
Where marble glows and gleams,
Here is the land of Dreams.
{177}
LIFE’S SEASONS
I
When all the world was May-day,
And all the skies were blue,
Young innocence made play-day
Among the buds and dew;
Then all of life was May-day
And clouds were none or few.
II
When all the world was Summer,
And morn shone overhead,
Love was the sweet new-comer
Who led youth forth to wed;
Then all of life was Summer,
And clouds were gold and red.
III
When earth was all October,
And days were gray with mist,{178}
On woodways, sad and sober,
Grave memory kept her tryst;
Then life was all October,
And clouds were twilight-kissed.
IV
Now all the world’s December,
And night is all alarm,
Above the last dim ember
Age bends to keep him warm;
Now all of life’s December,
And clouds are driven storm.
{179}
THE LIGHT AND LARK
Hangs, stormed with stars, the night,
Deep over deep;
Each star a point of light
In God’s high keep.
In God’s?—Perhaps.—Of such
We can not tell,
Who shrink—and is it much?—
To say farewell.
There ’tis the dawn and lark:
Here ’tis the wail,
Sobbed through the ceaseless dark,
O’ the nightingale.
But what were all this worth
To thee or me,
Were there not, after earth,
Eternity?{180}
God gives us life to keep.—
And what hath life?—
Love, faith, and care, and sleep,
Where dreams are rife.
Death’s sleep! whose shadows start
The tears in eyes
Of Love, who breaks his heart,
Despairs and dies.
And faith is never given
Without some care,
Perhaps that leads to Heaven
By ways of prayer.
The nightingale and dark
He gives us here:—
Oh, for the light and lark
Eternal there!
{181}
THE JESSAMINE AND THE MORNING-GLORY
I
With his herald torch in the van of day
The star of the morning smiled;
And the streaks in the east were rosy gray,
And the earth lay undefiled,
When a morning-glory’s spiral bud,
As pink as a shell and slim,
Unbound the sark of her maidenhood,
And flashed on the dawning dim:
Royal she seemed, to the purple born,
And vain of her beauty and proud to scorn.
II
And she shook her locks at the morning-star,
And her raiment fluttered wide;
Then smiled above at his scimitar,
And gazed around in pride:
The pomegranate near, with its crown of flame,
And the gemmed geraniums nigh,{182}
All bowed their heads at her whispered name,
As she throned herself on high;
While the fuchsia, under her silvery hood,
Shrunk with a face like a bead of blood.
III
All knew that this child of the morning light
Was queen of the morn and them;
That the morning-star, in his beams of white,
Was her prince in a diadem:
’Twas he who had given those gems that flash
And jewel the front of her smock;
From his lordly fingers of light did dash
Down pearls where she stooped to mock
A jessamine, pale, in the garden’s gloom,
All wan of face, but of sweet perfume.
IV
And the morning-glory, in pride of birth,
From the jessamine turned in scorn:
“I marvel,” she said, “if thy mother earth
Was not sick when thou wast born!
Thou art pale as an infant an hour dead—
Wan thing, dost weary our eye!”
And she weakly laughed and stiffened her head
And turned to her star in the sky.{183}
And the jessamine sighed, as she bent her head,
“I am sick of myself, and I would I were dead!”
V
And the east grew gold with burning bars,
And the sun in his chariot came;
And this princess proud saw her lord of stars
Snuffed out like a taper’s flame:
And higher the lord of the light and hours
Glared up the glittering sky,
And the fragile queen of the morning flowers
In his beams did wilt and die:
But the jessamine waxed in the sun-god’s ray,
And her breath and her beauty made sweet the day.
{184}
THE TOAD IN THE SKULL
A human skull in a churchyard lay;
For the church was a wreck, and, toppling old,
On the graves of their dead, were the tombstones gray,
And crumbling into mold.
And a hideous toad of this skull had made
A house, a hermitage, long agone,
Where the ivy-tod with many a braid
Half-hid his cell of bone.
And the place was dark; and my feet were drawn
To the desolate spot where the tottering tombs
Seemed sheeted ghosts in the twilight wan
Of the yew-invested glooms.
The night her crescent had slimly hung
From a single star o’er the shattered wall,
And its feeble light on the stone was flung
Where I sat to hear him call.{185}
And I heard this heremite toad as he sate
In the gloom of his ghastly hermitage
To himself and the gloom all hollowly prate,
Like a misanthropic sage:
“Oh, beauty is well and wealth to all;
But wealth without beauty makes fair:
And beauty with wealth brings wooers tall
Whom she snares with her golden hair.
“Though beauty be well and be wealth to all,
And wealth without beauty draw men,
Beauty must come to the vaulted wall,
And what is wealth to her then?…
“This skeleton face was beautiful erst;
These sockets were brighter than stars;
And she bartered her beauty for gold accurst—
But the story is older than Mars!” …
And he blinked at the moon from his grinning cell,
And the darnels and burdocks were stirred,
Cold-swept of the wind, and I shuddered.—Well!
Perhaps ’twas my heart I had heard.
{186}
THE MOONMEN
I stood in the forest on Huron Hill
When the night was old and the world was still.
The Wind was a wizard who muttering strode
In a raven cloak on a haunted road.
The Sound of Water, a witch who crooned
Her spells to the rocks the rain had runed.
And the Gleam of the Dew on the fern’s green tip
Was a sylvan passing with robe a-drip.
The Light of the Stars was a glimmering maid
Who stole, an elfin, from glade to glade.
The Scent of the Woods in the delicate air,
A wild-flower shape with chilly hair.
And Silence, a spirit who sat alone
With lifted finger and eyes of stone.{187}
And it seemed to me these six were met
To greet a greater who came not yet.
And the speech they spoke, that I listened to,
Was the archetype of the speech I knew.
For the Wind clasped hands with the Water’s rush,
And I heard them whisper, “Hush, oh, hush!”
The Light of the Stars and the Dew’s cool Gleam
Touched lips and murmured, “Dream, oh, dream!”
The Scent of the Woods and the Silence deep
Sighed, bosom to bosom, “Sleep, oh, sleep!”
And so for a moment the six were dumb,
Then exulted together, “They come, they come!”
And I stood expectant and seemed to hear
A visible music drawing near.
And the first who came was the Captain Moon
Bearing a shield in God’s House hewn.{188}
Then an Army of Glamour, a glittering host,
Beleaguered the night from coast to coast.
And the world was filled with spheric fire
From the palpitant chords of many a lyre,
As out of the East the Moonmen came
Smiting their harps of silver and flame.
More beauty and grace did their forms express
Than the God of Love’s white nakedness.
More chastity too their faces held
Than the snowy breasts of Diana swelled.
Translucent-limbed, I saw the beat
In their hearts of pearl of the golden heat.
And the hair they tossed was a crystal light,
And the eyes beneath it were burning white.
Their hands that lifted, their feet that fell,
Made the darkness blossom to asphodel.
And the heavens, the hills, and the streams they trod
Shone pale with th’ communicated God.{189}
A placid frenzy, a waking trance,
A soft oracular radiance,
Wrapped forms that moved as melodies move,
Laurelled with Godhead and haloed with Love.
And there in the forest on Huron Hill
The Moonmen camped when the world was still.
. . . . . . . . . . .
What wonder that they who have looked on these
Are lost to the earth’s realities!
That they sit aside with a far-off look
Dreaming the dreams that are writ in no book!
That they walk alone till the day they die,
Even as I, yea, even as I!
{190}
PHANTOMS
This was her home; one mossy gable thrust
Above the cedars and the locust trees:
This was her home, whose beauty now is dust,
A lonely memory for melodies
The wild birds sing, the wild birds and the bees.
Here every evening is a prayer: no boast
Or ruin of sunset makes the wan world wroth;
Here, through the twilight, like a pale flower’s ghost,
A drowsy flutter, flies the tiger-moth;
And dusk spreads darkness like a dewy cloth.
In vagabond velvet, all the placid day
A stain of crimson, lolls the butterfly;
The south-wind sows with ripple and with ray
The pleasant waters; and the gentle sky
Looks on the homestead like a quiet eye.{191}
Their melancholy quaver, lone and low,
When day is done, the gray tree-toads repeat:
The whippoorwills, far in the afterglow,
Complain to silence: and the lightnings beat,
In one still cloud, glimmers of golden heat.
He comes not yet: not till the dusk is dead,
And all the western glow is far withdrawn;
Not till,—a sleepy mouth love’s kiss makes red,—
The baby bud opes in a rosy yawn,
Breathing sweet guesses of the dreamed-of dawn.
When in the shadows, like a rain of gold,
The fireflies stream steadily; and bright
Along the moss the glow-worm, as of old,
A crawling sparkle—like a crooked light
In smoldering vellum—scrawls a square of night,—
Then will he come, and she will lean to him,—
She who is buried there, within that place,—
Between the starlight and his eyes; so dim
With suave control and soul-compelling grace,
He can not help but see her, face to face.
{192}
THE HOUSE OF DEATH
(A Dream)

I
Starless and still and lustreless
And sombre black, it seemed to me,
The heaven hung in hideousness
Of Hell’s serenity:
Indefinite and vague and old
As nothing that is ours,
It rose turrets, dark with mould,
And dark, colossal towers.
II
Infernal monsters crumbled ’mid
The trefoils of its dim façade,
And, hideous as murder, hid
Gnarled in the pillared shade.
And all below and overhead,
In cancerous blotches, grew
The gray gangrene of lichens dead,
And fungus, sickly blue.
{193}
III
Beneath the black, impending skies,
Like Death’s dead countenance it stood,
Hollow, with cavernous window-eyes
Staring on solitude.
The grass was black, and in it, white
The tombstones rose; and gray,
Long league on league, adown the night,
Like phantoms, stretched away.
IV
And I, who entered in, could hear
No organ notes resound and roll,
But silence, like an awful fear,
Made tumult in my soul.
And, lo! I saw, like Hell’s wild songs,
The vast interior carved
With shapes of stone, vague woman throngs,
Naked, obscene, and starved.
V
Medusa mouths and harpy hands,
And Gorgon eyes where death abode;
Like idols, wherein heathen lands
Image the Plague’s black god.{194}
Round mighty door and window-frame,
On floor and vault, behold,
The chiselled forms were all the same—
Gray with exuding mold.
VI
And I, who entered in, in dread
Felt silence like some awful hymn—
Or was ’t the effluvia of the dead
That round me seemed to swim?
Miasms, from which had oozed its walls,
Had rotted, breath on breath,
This house, within whose haunted halls
Death sat and dreamed of death.
{195}
EIDOLONS
The white moth-mullein brushed its slim
Cool, fairy flowers against his knee;
In places where the way lay dim
The branches, arching hollowly,
Made tomb-like mystery for him.
The wild-rose and the elder, drenched
With rain, made pale a misty place,—
From which, as from a ghost, he blenched;
He walking with averted face,
And lips white-closed and teeth tight-clenched.
For far within the forest,—where
Weird shadows stood like phantom men,
And where the ground-hog dug its lair,
The she-fox whelped and had her den,—
The thing kept calling, buried there.
One dead trunk, like a ruined tower,
Dark green with toppling trailers, shoved{196}
Its wild wreck o’er the brush; one bower
Looked like a dead man, capped and gloved,
The thing that haunted him each hour.
Now at his side he heard it: thin
As echoes of a thought that speaks
In sleep: and, listening with his chin
Upon his palm, unto his cheeks
He felt the moon’s slow silver win.
And now the voice was still: and lo,
With eyes that stared on naught but night,
He looked and saw—what none shall know!
The form of one, who long from sight
Had lain, here murdered long ago?…
And men who found him,—thither led
By the she-fox,—within that place
Saw in his stony eyes, ’tis said,
The thing he met there face to face,
The thing that left him staring dead.
{197}
IDENTITIES
I sat alone in the arrased room
Of Sin, wrapped pale in her winding shroud;
The night was stricken with glare and gloom,
And the wailing wind was loud.
I heard the gallop of one who rode
Like a rushing leaf on the wind that lisps;
The night with the speed of her steed was sowed
With streaming will-o’-the-wisps.
And I said to myself, “’Tis a long-lost Shame,
Who rides to my house through the night and rain!
She will blaze in the blackness a face of flame
When she opens the door again!{198}”
I thought of the blame on her lips and brow;
And stared at the door she must enter in—
To sear my soul with her eyes and bow
My heart by the corpse of Sin.
As hushed as the mansion of death was night,
When, dark as a sob of the storm, she came—
But her face, like beautiful Sin’s, was white,
And her face and Sin’s—the same!
{199}
HALLOWE’EN
It was down in the woodland on last Hallowe’en,
Where silence and darkness had built them a lair,
That I felt the dim presence of her, the unseen,
And heard her still step on the hush-haunted air.
It was last Hallowe’en in the glimmer and swoon
Of mist and of moonlight, where once we had sinned,
That I saw the gray gleam of her eyes in the moon,
And hair, like a raven, blown wild on the wind.
It was last Hallowe’en where starlight and dew
Made mystical marriage on flower and leaf,
That she led me with looks of a love, that I knew
Was dead, and the voice of a passion too brief.{200}
It was last Hallowe’en in the forest of dreams,
Where trees are eidolons and flowers have eyes,
That I saw her pale face like the foam of far streams,
And heard, like the night-wind, her tears and her sighs.
It was last Hallowe’en, the haunted, the dread,
In the wind-tattered wood, by the storm-twisted pine,
That I, who am living, kept tryst with the dead,
And clasped her a moment who once had been mine.
{201}
ANSWERED
Do you remember how that night drew on?
That night of sorrow, when the stars looked wan
As eyes that gaze, reproachful, in a dream;
Loved eyes, long dead, and sadder than the grave?
How through the heaven stole the moon’s gray gleam,
Like a nun’s ghost down a cathedral’s nave?—
Do you remember how that night drew on?
Do you remember the hard words then said?
The words of hate above my bowed-down head,
That left me dead, long, long before I died:
Those words, whose bitterness had stabbed and slain
My heart before I knew your love had lied,
Or pierced me with the dagger of disdain.—
Do you remember the hard words then said?
Do you remember?—now the night draws down,{202}—
As on that night,—the heavens, lightnings crown
With wrecks of thunder; and the moon doth give
The clouds wild witchery,—as in a room,
Behind the sorrowful arras, still may live
The pallid secret of the haunted gloom.—
Do you remember, now the night draws down?
Do you remember, now it comes to pass
Your form is bowed as is the wind-swept grass?
And death hath won from you that confidence
Denied to life? now your sick soul rebels
Against your pride with tragic eloquence,
That self-crowned demon of the heart’s fierce hells.—
Do you remember, now it comes to pass?
Yea, you remember! Bid your soul be still!
Here passion hath surrendered unto will,
And flesh to spirit. Quiet your wild tongue
And wilder heart. Your kiss wakes naught in me.
The instrument love gave you lies unstrung,
Silent, forsaken of all melody.—
Yea, you remember! Bid your soul be still!
{203}
UNFULFILLED
In my dream last night it seemed I stood
With a boy’s glad heart in my boyhood’s wood.
The beryl green and the cairngorm brown
Of the day through the deep leaves sifted down.
The rippling drip of a passing shower
Rinsed wild aroma from herb and flower.
The splash and urge of a waterfall
Spread stairwayed rocks with a crystal caul.
And I waded the strip of the creek’s dry bed
For the colored keel and the arrow-head.
And I found the cohosh coigne the same
Tossing with torches of pearly flame.
The owlet dingle of vine and brier,
That the butterfly-weed flecked fierce with fire.{204}
The elder bosk with its warm perfume,
And the yellow stars of the daisy bloom;
The moss, the fern, and the touch-me-not
I breathed, and the mint-smell keen and hot.
And I saw the bird, that sang its best,
In the tufted sumac building its nest.
And I saw the chipmunk’s stealthy face,
And the rabbit crouched in a grassy place.
And I watched the crows, that cawed and cried,
Harrying the hawk at the forest-side;
The bees that sucked in the blossoms slim,
And the wasps that built on the lichened limb.
And felt the silence, the dusk, the dread
Of the spot where they buried the unknown dead:
The water-murmur, the insect hum,
And a far bird calling, “Come, oh, come!”—
No sweeter music can mortals make
To ease the heart of its human ache!{205}—
And it seemed in my dream,—that was all too true,—
That I met in the woods again with you.
A sun-tanned face and brown bare knees,
And hands stained red with dewberries.
And we stopped a moment some word to tell,
And then in the woods we kissed farewell.
But once I met you; yet, lo! it seems
Again and again we meet in dreams.
And I ask my soul what it all may mean:
If this is the love that should have been.
And oft and often I wonder, Can
What Fate intends be changed by man?
{206}
DIRGE
What shall her dreaming keep
Under the sun?
Here where the willows weep
And waters run;
Here where she lies asleep
And all is done.
Lights, when the tree-top swings;
Scents that are blown;
Sounds of the wood-bird’s wings;
And the bee’s drone;
These be her comfortings
Round her headstone.
What shall watch o’er her here
When day is fled?
Here when the night is near
And skies are red;
Here where she lieth dear
And young and dead.{207}
Shadows, and winds that spill
Dew; and the rune
Of the wild whippoorwill;
And the white moon;
These be the watchers still
Round her headstone.
{208}
REST
Under the brindled beech,
Deep in the mottled shade,
Where the rocks hang in reach
Flower and ferny blade,
Let him be laid.
Here will the brooks that rove
Under the mossy trees,—
Grave with the music of
Underworld melodies,—
Lap him in peace.
Here will the winds, that blow
Out of the haunted west,—
Gold with the dreams that glow
There on the heaven’s breast,—
Lull him to rest.
Here will the stars and moon,
Silent and far and deep,{209}—
Old with the mystic rune
Of the slow years that creep,—
Charm him with sleep.
Under the ancient beech,
Deep in the quiet shade,—
Where the wood’s peace may reach
Him, as each bough is swayed,—
Let him be laid.
{210}
CLAIRVOYANCE
The sunlight, that makes of the heaven
A pathway for sylphids to throng;
The wind, that makes harps of the forests
For spirits to smite into song,
Are the image and voice of a vision
That comforts the heart and makes strong.
I look in one’s face, and the shadows
Are lifted; and, lo, I can see,
Through windows of evident being,—
Filled full of eternity,—
The form of the essence of Beauty
God garments with mystery.
I hearken one’s voice, and the wrangle
Of living hath pause: and I hear,
Through doors of invisible spirit,—
Filled full of God’s light that is clear,—
The radiant raiment of Music,
In the hush of the heavens, sweep near.
{211}
THE IDEAL
Nor time nor all his minions
Of sorrow and of pain,
Shall dash with vulture pinions
The cup she fills again
Within the dream-dominions
Of life where she doth reign.
Clothed on with bright desire
And hope that makes her strong,
With limbs of frost and fire,
She sits above all wrong,
Her heart a living lyre,
And love its only song.
And in the waking pauses
Of weariness and care,
And when the dark hour draws his
Black dagger of despair,
Above effects and causes
I hear her music there.{212}
The longing’s life hath near it
Of beauty we would see;
The dreams it doth inherit
Of immortality;
Are callings of her spirit
To something yet to be.
{213}
TO ONE READING THE MORTE D’ARTHURE
O daughter of our Southern sun,
Sweet sister of each flower,
Dost dream in terraced Avalon
A shadow-haunted hour?
Or stand with Guinevere upon
Some ivied Camelot tower?
Or, in the wind, dost breathe the musk
That blows Tintagel’s sea on?
Or ’mid the lists by castled Usk
Hear some wild tourney’s glee on?
Or ’neath the Merlin moons of dusk
Dost muse in old Caerleon?
Or now of Launcelot, and then
Of Arthur, ’mid the roses,
Dost speak with wily Vivien?
Or, where the shade reposes,
Dost walk with stately, armored men
In marble-fountained closes?{214}
So speak the dreams within thy gaze,
The dreams thy spirit cages,
Would that Romance—which on thee lays
The spell of bygone ages—
Held me! a memory of those days,
A portion of those pages.
{215}
THE CROSS
The cross I bear no man shall know—
No man shall see the cross I bear!—
Alas! the thorny path of woe
Up the steep hill of care!
There is no word to comfort me;
No sign to ease my cross-bowed head:
Deep night is in the heart of me,
And in my soul is dread.
To strive, it seems, that I was born,
For that which others shall obtain;
The disappointment and the scorn
Alone for me remain.
One half my life is overpast;
The other half I contemplate—
Meseems the past doth but forecast
A darker future state.{216}
Sick to the heart of that which makes
Me hope and struggle and desire,
The aspiration here that aches
With ineffectual fire:
While inwardly I know the lack
Of thought, the paucity of power,
Each past day’s retrospect makes black
Each onward-coming hour.
Now in my youth would I could die!
Would God that I could lay me down
And pass away without a sigh,
Oblivious of renown!
{217}
NIGHTFALL
O day, so sicklied o’er with night!
O dreadful fruit of fallen dusk!—
A Circe orange, golden-bright,
With horror ’neath its husk.—
And I, who gave the promise heed
That made life’s tempting surface fair,
Have I not eaten to the seed
Its ashes of despair!
O silence of the drifted grass!
And immemorial eloquence
Of stars and winds and waves that pass!
And God’s indifference!{218}
Leave me alone with sleep that knows
Not anything that life may keep—
Not e’en the pulse that comes and goes
In germs that climb and creep.
Or if an aspiration pale
Must quicken there—oh, let the spot
Grow weeds! that dust may so prevail
Where spirit once could not!
{219}
PAUSE
Thou too art sick of dreams, that stain
The aisle, along which life must pass,
With hues of mystic-colored glass,
That fills the windows of the brain.
Thou too art sick of thoughts, that carve
The house of days with arabesques
And gargoyles, where the mind grotesques
In masks of hope and faith who starve.
Come, lay thy over-weary head
Upon my bosom! Do not weep!—
“He giveth His beloved sleep.”—
Heart of my heart, be comforted.
{220}
ABOVE THE VALES
We went by ways of bygone days,
Up mountain heights of story,
Where, lost in vague, historic haze,
Tradition, crowned with battle-bays,
Sat ’mid her ruins hoary.
Where, wing to wing, the eagles cling
And torrents have their sources,
War rose with bugle voice to sing
Of woods of spears and swords a-swing,
And rush of men and horses.
Then deep below, where orchards show
A home here, there a steeple,
We heard a simple shepherd go,
Singing,—within the afterglow,—
A love-song of the people.{221}
As ’mid the trees his song did cease,
With voice most sweet and holy,
Peace,—’mid the cornlands of increase
And rose-beds of love’s victories,—
Took up his music lowly.
{222}
INSOMNIA
It seems that dawn will never climb
The eastern hills;
And, clad in mist and flame and rime,
Make flashing highways of the rills.
The night is as an ancient way
Through some dead land,
Whereon the ghosts of Memory
And Sorrow wander, hand in hand.
By which man’s works ignoble seem,
Unbeautiful;
And grandeur, but the ruined dream
Of some dead queen, crowned with a skull.
A way, Past-peopled, dark and old,
That stretches far—
Its only real thing, the cold
Vague light of Sleep’s one fitful star.
{223}
ENCOURAGEMENT
To help our tired hope to toil,
Lo! have we not the council here
Of trees, that to my heart appear
As sermons of the soil?
To help our flagging faith to rise,
Lo! have we not the high advice
Of stars, that for my soul suffice
As gospels of the skies?
Sustain us, Lord! and help us climb,
With hope and faith made strong and great,
The rock-rough pathway of our fate,
The care-dark way of time.
{224}
WHICH?
The wind was on the forest,
And silence on the wold;
And darkness on the waters,
And heaven was starry cold;
When Sleep, with all her magic,
Made me this thing behold:
This side, an iron woodland;
That side, an iron waste;
Between which rose a tower,
Wherein a wan light paced,
A light, or phantom woman
Ice-eyed and icy-faced.
And through the iron tower
Of silence and of night,
My Soul and I went only,
My Soul, whose face was white,
Whose one hand signed me listen,
One bore a taper-light.{225}
For, lo! a voice behind me
Kept sighing in my ear
The dreams my mind accepted,
My heart refused to hear—
Of one I loved and loved not,
Whose spirit now was near,
And, lo! a voice before me
Kept calling constantly
The hopes my heart accepted,
My mind refused to see—
Of one I loved and loved not,
Whose spirit spake to me.
This way the one would bid me;
This way the other saith:—
Sweet is the voice behind me
Of Life that followeth;
And sweet the voice before me
Of Life whose name is Death.
{226}
STORM
I looked into the night and saw
God writing with tumultuous flame
Upon the thunder’s front of awe,—
As on sonorous brass,—the Law,
Terrific, of His judgment name.
Weary of all life’s best and worst,
With hands of hate, I—who had pled,
I, who had prayed for death at first
And had not died—now stood and cursed
God, yet He would not strike me dead.
{227}
TIME AND DEATH AND LOVE
Last night I watched for Death—
So sick of life was I!—
When, in the street beneath,
I heard his watchman cry
The hour, while passing by.
I called. And in the night
I heard him stop below,
His owlish lanthorn’s light
Blurring the windy snow—
How long the time and slow!
I said, “Why dost thou cower
There at my door and knock?
Come in! It is the hour!
Cease fumbling at the lock!
Naught’s well! ’Tis no o’clock!”
Black through the door with him
Swept in the Winter’s breath;
His cloak was great and grim—
But he who smiled beneath
Had the face of Love not Death.
{228}
A PHANTASY
I know not where I found you
With your wild hair a-blow,
Nor why the world around you
Would never let me know:
Perhaps ’twas Heaven relented;
Perhaps ’twas Hell resented
My hope, and grimly vented
Its hate upon me so.
In Shadowland I met you
Where all life’s shadows meet;
Within my heart I set you,
A woman bitter-sweet:
No hope for me to win you,
Though I with soul and sinew
Strove on and on, when in you
There was no heart or heat.
Still always, aye, and ever,
Although I knew you lied,
I followed on, but never
Would your fair form abide:{229}
With loving arms stretched meward,
As Sirens beckon seaward
To some frail vessel leeward,
Before me you would glide.
But like an evil fairy,
That mocks one with a light,
Now near, you led your airy,
Now far, your fitful flight:
With red-gold tresses blowing,
And eyes of sapphire glowing,
With raiment white and flowing,
You lured me through the night.
To some unearthly revel
Of mimes, a motley crew,
’Twixt Angel-land and Devil-,
You lured me on, I knew,
And lure me still! soft whiling
The way with hopes beguiling,
While dark Despair sits smiling
Behind the eyes of you.
{230}
WHEREFORE
I would not see, yet must behold
The lie they preach in church and hall;
And question thus,—Is death then all,
And life an idle tale that’s told?
The myriad wonders art hath wrought
Men deem eternal as God’s love:
No more than shadows these shall prove,
And insubstantial, too, as thought.
And love and labor, who have gone,
Hand in close hand, and civilized
The wilderness, these shall be prized
No more than if they had not done.
Then wherefore strive? Why strain and bend
Beneath a burden so unjust—
Our works are builded of the dust,
And dust our universal end.
{231}
TRISTRAM AND ISOLT
Night, and vast caverns of rock and of iron:
Voices like water, and voices like wind:
Horror, and tempests of hail that environ
Shapes and the shadows of two who have sinned.
Wan on the whirlwind, in loathing uplifting
Faces that loved once, forever they go,
Tristram and Isolt, the lovers, go drifting,
The simmer and laughter of Hell below.
{232}
NIGHT
Lo! where the champion, Day, down slopes of flame,
In golden armor, quits the evening skies!
And as his glowing steeds, with manes of fire,
Rush from the world, a dust of glimmering gold
From their fierce hoofs o’er heaven’s azure meads
Rolls to one star that blossoms near the moon.
With solemn tread and holy-stoled, star-bound,
Night, like a votaress, a shadowy nun,
Paces the lonely corridors of heaven,
The vasty-arched and ebon halls of sky.
How still! how beautiful! her raven locks
Pale-filleted with stars that dance their sheen
On her deep, vestal eyes, and woo the soul
To wonder, and to dream of far-off things.
How calm o’er this great river, in its flow
Silent and dark, smoothes Earth’s cold sister sphere{233}
Her lunar chasteness, whiter than blown foam!
As o’er a troubled brow a hand of love:
As on a restless heart the balm of sleep,
Caressing softening all care away.
See, where the roses, at the wood’s dark edge,
In many a languid bloom, bow to the moon
And the dim river’s lisp; sleep weighs their eyes
With damask lashes of deep petals fringed,
That the rude, frolic bee,—rough paramour,—
So often kissed beneath the noonday sun.
How cool the breezes touch the tired head!
As if with unseen fingers, soft and slow,
Smoothing away the weariness of day.
And on the breeze, hark! to that melody,
Borne from that thorn-tree, white with fragrant bloom,
The dreaming nocturne of a mocking-bird,—
Ave Maria, nun-like, slumbering sung,—
There on its couch of clustered snow and scent.
See, where the violet mound nods many a flower!
Dreamily sad as Sorrow’s own sad eyes,{234}
And lost in thought, and great with dewy grief,
As are her eyes when haltingly she bends
O’er Lethe’s waves, and, stooping down to drink,
Delays to drink, and faltering remains.
The Night with feet of moon-tinged mist and wind
Swept o’er them now, but as she passed she bent,
Meseemed, and kissed each modest bloom and left
A brilliant on its brow, that bashful hung,
Freighted with love: then, groping up her train
Of star-stained crape, that billowed breeze-like by,
I seemed to hear her whisper as she passed:
“Sleep, sleep, my children! Lo, I bring to you
God’s best gift, sleep! the soft, the misty eyed;
The strange, the wonderful! the cure for care!”
And all things slept, the trees, the rocks, the soil,
Sleep’s soft ablution in them washing out{235}
The fever and the frenzy of the day:
But I, I slept not with them, though the world
And all its peoples slept, I could not sleep,
My heart being brimmed with love, with joy and love,
With thoughts and dreams of love’s first happiness;
Until the Night turned from the slumbering world,
From her dim vigil turned,—as, from her child,
A loving mother turns, who, all night long,
Hath bent above its cradle, and with songs
And kisses soothed to rest:—and in the east
The first faint streaks of dawn made gray the heaven,
And the rathe cock, like some clear clarion, crew.
{236}
DAWN
I
Mist on the mountain height
Silverly creeping:
Incarnate beads of light
Bloom-cradled sleeping,
Dripped from the brow of Night.
II
Shadows and winds that rise
Over the mountain:
Stars in the spar that lies
Lost in the fountain,
Cold as the waking skies.
III
Sheep in the fenced-in folds
Dreamily bleating,
Dim on the thistled wolds,
Where, glad with meeting,
Twilight the Night enfolds.
{237}
IV
Sleep on the restless sea
Hushing its trouble:
Rest on the dreams that be
Hued in Life’s bubble:
Calm on the heart of me.
V
Mist from the mountain height
Hurriedly fleeting:
Star in the locks of Night
Throbbing and beating,
Thrilled with the coming light.
VI
Flocks on the musky strips;
Pearl on the fountain:
Winds from the heavens’ lips;
And, on the mountain,
Dawn with her rose that drips.
{238}
THE OCKLAWAHA
River, winding from the west,
Winding from the River May,
Often hath the Indian pressed
Through your black-gums and your mosses,
Where the alligator crosses
Still some lily-paven bay,
Basking there in lazy rest.
Still the spider-lily loops
Sprawling flowers, peels of pearl,
Where the green magnolia stoops
Buds to yellow-lily bonnets;
Where, the morning dew upon its
Golden funnels, curl on curl,
The festooning jasmine droops.
Who may paint the beauty of
Orchids blooming late in June,
Bristling on the boughs above!
Cypress trees where vine and flower,{239}
Long, liana’d blossoms shower
On the deer that come at noon
To the inlets that they love.
Lilied inlets,—where the teal
Dabble ’mid the water-grasses,—
That some treasure seem to seal
With white blooms that star the river:
Bays, the swift kingfishers shiver
Into circles as each passes
O’er their mirrors that reveal.
Bends, reflecting root and moss,
Where the tall palmettos throng
’Mid the live-oaks; tower and toss
Panther necks whose heads are heavy:
Hamaks, where the perfumes levy
Tribute from the birds in song,
From the mocking-birds that cross.
Logs, the turtles haunt; and deeps
Of lagoons the searching crane
Wades; and where the heron sleeps;
Where the screaming limpkins listen,
And the leaping mullet glisten;
Where the bream and bass show plain,
And the dark didapper sweeps.{240}
Coäcoochee! Coäcoochee!
Still your loved magnolias bloom,
Still the tangled Cherokee;
Still the blazing-star spreads splendor
Through the forest, and the tender
Discs of the hibiscus loom,
Rosy, where you once roamed free.
Osceola! Osceola!
Phantoms of your vanquished race
Seem around me: overawe
All my soul here. Mossy regions
Swarm with Seminoles: lost legions
Rise, the war-paint on each face—
Dead, long dead for Florida!
{241}
THE MINORCAN
I
The mocking-bird may sing
Loud welcomes in the Spring;
The farewell of our nightingales
Prevails, prevails!
No thing may hush their song:
In sleep they sing the clearer—
It’s “home, home, home,” the whole night long—
What wonder that we feel our wrong
The nearer!
II
Hibiscus blooms surprise
The swamp with rosy eyes;
The Balearic girl but knows
Our rose, our rose!
No slavery may undo
Her dream it makes the purer,{242}
With “love, love, love,” the long night through,—
That makes the day’s long heartbreak too
The surer.
III
The wind from out the west
Would teach our souls unrest;
We will not hear until hath ceased
The East, the East!
Within its whispering sweep
The olive sounds and rushes;
It’s “rest, rest, rest,” while night doth keep
The weight of memory asleep
That crushes.
IV
Deep ocean brings us shells,
Like dead but fond farewells,
And calls to us with all its tongues of foam,
“From home! from home!”
And then the stars on high
Look down and say, “Come, cherish
Hope, hope, sweet hope,” our hearts deny
Us while we toil all day and sigh,
And perish.
{243}
THE SPRING IN FLORIDA
I
Crab-apples make the western belt
Of hamak one gay holiday of pink;
And through palmetto deeps, on winds like felt,
The jasmine odors sink.
The wind blows blurs of peach and pearl
Around the villa by the river’s side;
The guava blossoms and the orange-trees whirl
Aroma far and wide.
“He courts her!” sings the mocking-bird;
“He courts her, and she misses
This word, or that, she might have heard,
Had he not crushed a sweeter word
On her sweet mouth with kisses.
He courts her.”
II
Chameleons haunt the sunlight there,
Where lemons firmament with blooms the way:{244}
The white rose gives its soul up and the air
Ensnares it in a ray.
Great lilies open mouths of musk
And stun the wind with scent; the loaded light
Swoons with japonicas; and, tusk on tusk,
Magnolias bud in sight.
The red-bird sings, “Oh, haste, haste, haste!
Sweetheart! no longer tarry!
Go, clasp her sweetly by the waist!
And ask her, like a poppy faced,
Sweetheart! if she will marry.
Oh, haste, haste, haste!”
III
There the verandah, spilled and spun
With deep bignonia, foaming all its frame
With fiery blooms, seems pouring for the sun
A cataract of flame.
The oleander hedges soak
The dusk with fragrance: and the gray moss sweeps
Its streamers from the cypress and live-oak
Where blue the ocean sleeps.{245}
“Oh, love, love, love!” the wood-dove coos;
“Oh, love, love, love, for ever!
They who the crimson rose refuse,
All other flowers, too, may lose—
So choose thou now or never!
Oh, love, love, love!”
{246}
LONG AGO
When the winter wind comes sighing
Like a ghost, and softly trying
Door and window, and the dying
Light upon the hearth burns low;
How his heart, that’s old, remembers
Love that faded as the embers
Into ashes, or December’s
Vanished snow.
And he seems to see her sitting
With the tranquil firelight flitting
On her face and fitful knitting,
While her chair goes to and fro;
As she sat once in the hours
That are gone; that, like the flowers,
Died, with all that youth embowers,
Long ago.
Then he seems to hear her speaking,
And her rocker faintly creaking,
And his hand goes dimly seeking
Hers that is not there, ah, no!{247}
Hers, whose memory keeps reaching
From the past fond arms, beseeching
Heart and soul till, past all preaching,
Both o’erflow.
Oh, caresses lost that take him
In his dreams and wildly wake him!
Tears that blind and sighs that shake him,
Is there any cure for woe?—
Answer, love, whose eyes once merried!
Joy, whose cheeks and lips were cherried!
You, whom long ago he buried,
Long ago.
{248}
SELF
A Sufi said to me in dreams:
Behold! from Sodomite to Peri
Earth tablets us: man lives and is
Man’s own long commentary.
Is one begat at Bassora,
One lies at Damietta dying—
The plausibilities of God
All possibles o’erlying.
But when lust burns within the flesh—
Hell’s but a homily on Heaven—
Put then the individual first,
And of thyself be shriven.
Neither in adamant nor brass
The scrutinizing eye records it:
The arm is rooted in the heart,
The heart that rules and lords it.
Be that it is and thou art all:
And what thou art so hast thou written
Thee of the lutanists of Love,
Or of the torture-smitten.
{249}
ASPIRATION
God knew he strove against pale lust and vice,
Wound in the net of their voluptuous hair:
God knew that to their kisses he was ice,
Their arms around him there.
God knew against the front of fate he set
A front as stern, with lips as sternly pressed;
Raised clenched and ineffectual hands that met
The iron of her breast.
God knew what motive his sad soul inspired:
God knew the star for which he climbed and craved:
God knew, and only God, the hell that fired
His heart and in it raved.
And yet he failed! failed utterly!—No lie
Of Hell, that writhes within its simmering pit,
Sank deeper down than he, who, with the cry,
“Now shall I rest from it!{250}”
Died; was remembered, haply, for a day;
Who hoped to rise rolled in the morning’s rose,
The flame of fame, and still lies laid away
Where no one cares or knows.
{251}
PEACE
I
When rose-leaves ’neath the rose-bush lie
And lilies bloom and lilacs die,
When days fall sadder than a sigh,
Lay me asleep;
Where breezes blow the rose-leaves by,
Lay me asleep.
II
When to the dusty, dreary day
No lonely cloud brings cooling gray,
And languidly the tree-tops sway
And flowers there,
Come thou as silently and pray
As flowers there.
{252}
III
Then pass as softly: shed no tear
Nor flaw with sighs the peace that’s here;
The pallid silence, far and near,
So weary grown;
Nor bring the world to jar the ear
So weary grown.
{253}
SIN
There is a legend of an old Hartz tower
That tells of one, a noble, who had sold
His soul unto the Fiend; who grew not old
On this condition: that the Demon’s power
Cease every midnight for a single hour,
And, in that hour, his body should lie cold
With limbs up-shriveled, and with face, behold!
Shrunk to a death’s-head in the taper’s glower.—
So unto Sin Life gives his best. Her arts
Make all his outward seeming beautiful
Before the world; but in his heart of hearts
Abides an hour when her strength is null;
When he shall feel the death through all his parts
Strike, and his countenance become a skull.
{254}
THE HOUSE OF FEAR
Vast are its halls, as vast the halls and lone
Where Death sits, listening to the wind and rain;
And dark the house, where I shall meet again
That long-dead Sin in some dread way unknown:
For I have dreamed of stairs of haunted stone,
And spectre footsteps I have fled in vain;
And windows glaring with a blood-red stain,
And hollow eyes, that burn me to the bone,
Within a face that looks as that black night
It looked when deep I dug for it a grave,—
The dagger wound above the brow, the thin
Blood trickling slantwise down the cheek’s dead white;—
And I have dreamed not even God can save
Me and my soul from that arisen Sin.
{255}
SATAN
Still shall I stand the everlasting hate
Colossal Chaos builded ’neath thine eyes,
The symbol of all evil, that defies
Thy victory, and, vanquished, still can wait.
Scar me again with such vast flame as late
Hurled abrupt thunder and archangel cries,
’Mid fiery whirlwinds of the terrible skies,
Down the deep’s roar against Hell’s monster gate!
Thy wrath can not abolish or make less
Me, an eternal wile opposed to wrath:
Me, who to thwart thee evermore shall plan!
Behold thy Eden’s vanished loveliness!—
Why hast thou set a sword within its path,
And cursed and exiled thine own image, Man?
{256}
OSSIAN
Long have I heard the noise of battle clash
Along the windy sea that roared again;
Seen helmets rise, and on the clanking plain
Barbaric chieftains meet and, howling, dash
Their mailéd thousands down, with crash on crash,
Like crags contending with the roaring main;
Torrents of shields, like rivers of rolling rain,
I have beheld within the moon’s pale flash;
The moon, that, like a spirit, o’er the wood
Hung white as steel, glimmering the spears and swords,
That shone like ripples in the iron flood,
The streams of war, that beat in heathen hordes
About their rock-like kings, whence wave-like far,
Circled the battle, warrior on warrior.
{257}
QUATRAINS
I
The Love Chase

On, towards the purlieus of impossible space,
From Death, enamoured, Life, capricious, flies:
Communicated sorrow of his face
Freezing her ever backward burning eyes.
II
The Garden of Days

Man’s days are planted as a flower-bed
With labor’s lily and the rose of folly:
Beneath grief’s cypress, pale, uncomforted,
The phantom fungus blooms of melancholy.
III
Faith and Facts

With starry gold Night still endorses what
Man’s soul hath written, guessing at the skies:{258}
Day on Night’s scribble drops a fiery blot,
And ’thwart the writing scrawls, “The lie of lies.”
IV
Hell and Heaven

And it may be that, seamed with iron scars,
One in vast Hell oft lifts fierce eyes above,
And one, inviolate as God’s high stars,
Looks from far Heaven, sighing: “Alas, O love!”
V
Alchemy

Into her heart’s young crucible Life threw
Affliction first, then Faith,—by which is meant
Hope and Humility:—Love touched the two,
And, lo! the golden blessing of Content.
VI
Trial

As oft as Hope weighed, coaxing, on this arm,
On that Despair dashed heavily his fist:
He knew no way out of Grief’s night and storm,
Until a child, named Effort, came and kissed.
{259}
VII
Nightmare

Some obscene drug in her dull draught Sleep gave,
For dead I lay, yet heard a man-faced beast
Dig, dig with wolfish fingers in my grave,
With horrible laughter to a horrible feast.
VIII
Clairvoyance

Some few may pierce the phantom fogs, that veil
Life’s stormy seas, into futurity,
And see the Flying Dutchman’s ominous sail,
Portentous of dark things that are to be.
IX
The Flying Dutchman

Through hissing scud, mad mist, and roaring rain,
On thundering seas, I see her drive and drive,
Crowding wild canvas ’gainst the hurricane,
Her demon ports with glow-worm lamps alive.
{260}
X
Destiny

Within the volume of the universe
With worlds she writes irrevocable laws:
From everlasting unto everlasting hers
The evolutions of effect and cause.
XI
Fame, the Mermaid

A mirror, brilliant as a beautiful star,
She lifts and sings to her own loveliness:
Not till her light and song have lured him far
Does man behold the lie he did not guess.
XII
The Hours

With stars and dew and sunlight in their hair,
They come, the daughters of the Day, who saith:
“The gifts my children bring are rest and care,
Of which the last is Life, the first is Death.”
{261}
XIII
Despair

So sick at heart, so weary of the sun,
In her sad halls the Soul sits desolate,
Her Hope surrendered to Oblivion,
Whose coal-black charger neighs outside the gate.
XIV
The Misanthrope

Shut in with its own selfishness his soul
Sees,—as a screech-owl in a dead tree might,
Blinking avoided daylight through one hole,—
The white world blackened by his own dull sight.
XV
The Hun

On splendid infamies—a thousand years
Heaven tolerated—like a Word that trod
Incarnate of the Law, vast wrath and tears
In pagan eyes, behold the Scourge of God!
{262}
XVI
Greece

The godlike sister of all lands she stands
Before the World, to whom she gave her heart,
Still testifying with degenerate hands
Her bygone glory in enduring art.
XVII
Egypt

With ages weighed as with the pyramids
And Karnac wrecks, still—out of Sphinx-like eyes
Beneath the apathetic lotus-lids—
With Memnon moan her granite heart defies.
XVIII
Poe

Wild wandering witch-lights and, dark-wing’d above,
A raven; and, within a sculptured tomb,
Beside the corpse of Beauty and of Love,
Song’s everlasting-lamp that lights the gloom.
[Image unavailable.]
Egypt Page 262

Quatrains
{263}

XIX
Hawthorne

Dim lands and dimmer walls, where Magic slips
A couch of velvet sleep beneath Romance:
Where Speculation, Prince-like, kneels; his lips
Fearing to break the long-unbroken trance.
XX
Emerson

Our New-World Chrysostom, whose golden tongue
Through Nature preached philosophy and truth:
Old intimate of loveliness he sung,
Wise and instructing with the lips of youth.
XXI
Jaafer the Vizier

Lutes, odorous torches, slaves and dancing girls
In gardens by a moonlit waterside,{264}
And one whose wise lips scatter words like pearls—
Behold the true Haroun whom naught may hide!
{265}
THE PURITANS’ CHRISTMAS
Their only thought religion,
What Christmas joys had they,
The stern, staunch Pilgrim Fathers who
Knew never a holiday?—
A log-church in the clearing
’Mid solitudes of snow,
The wild-beast and the wilderness,
And lurking Indian foe.
No time had they for pleasure,
Whom God had put to school;
A sermon was their Christmas cheer,
A psalm their only Yule.
They deemed it joy sufficient,—
Nor would Christ take it ill,—
That service to himself and God
Employed their spirits still.{266}
And so through faith and prayer
Their powers were renewed,
And hearts made strong to hew a world,
And tame a solitude.
A type of revolution,
Wrought from an iron plan,
In the largest mold of liberty
God cast the Puritan.
A better land they founded,
That Freedom had for bride,
The shackles of old despotism
Struck from her limbs and side.
With faith within to guide them,
And courage to perform,
A nation, from a wilderness,
They hewed with their strong arm.
For liberty to worship,
And right to do and dare,
They faced the savage and the storm
With voices raised in prayer.
For God it was who summoned,
And God it was who led,{267}
And God would not forsake the love
That must be clothed and fed.
Great need had they of courage!
Great need of faith had they!
And, lacking these,—how otherwise
For us had been this day!
{268}
THE NEW YEAR
Lift up thy torch, O Year, and let us see
What Destiny
Hath made thee heir to, at nativity!—
Doubt, some call Faith; and ancient Wrong and Might,
Whom some name Right;
And Darkness, that the purblind world calls Light.
Despair, with Hope’s brave form; and Hate, who goes
In Friendship’s clothes;
And Joy, the smiling mask of many woes.
Neglect, whom Merit serves; Lust, to whom, see,
Love bends the knee;
And Selfishness, who preacheth charity.
Vice, in whose dungeon Virtue lies in chains;
And Cares and Pains,
That on the throne of Pleasure hold their reigns.{269}
Corruption, known as Honesty; and Fame
That’s but a name;
And Innocence, whose other name is Shame.
And Folly men call Wisdom here, forsooth;
And, like a youth,
Fair Falsehood, whom the many take for Truth.
Abundance, who hath Famine’s house in lease;
And, high ’mid these,
War, blood-black, on the spotless shrine of Peace.
Lift up thy torch, O Year! make clear our sight!
Deep lies the night
Around us, and God grants us little light!
{270}
THE POET OF THE SIERRAS
How shall I greet him—him who seems
To me the greatest of our singers?
As one who hears Sierra streams,
And, gazing under arching fingers,
Feels all the eagle feels that screams,
The savage dreams, what time he lingers?
Son of the West, out of the West
We heard thee sing,—who still allurest,—
That land where God sits manifest;
That land where man stands freest, surest;
That land, our wildest and our best,
The grandest and the purest.
Wild hast thou sung,—as some strange bird,—
Of gold and men and peaks that glistened,
Of seas and stars, and we have heard—
And one, whose soul cried out and listened,
He sends his young, unworthy word
To thee the Master’s hand hath christened
{271}
AMERICA
Behold her stand, with power thunder-lipped,
And eagle-thoughts that soar above the storm
Convulsing ledges of the mountain Wrong!
Beside her Liberty, whose sword is tipped
With lightning, towering a majestic form,
Her voice like battle in a freedom song.
America, what hates may soil thy hands?
What kingdoms face with insult thy bold brow?
Oppressions brave the anger in thine eyes?—
Behind thee dies the darkness from the lands:
Before thee mounts the glory of the Now:
Around thee sit the sessions of the skies.
Thine is the land where Progress leans to heed
The lessons taught of Heaven and of God,
The golden texts of morning and of night:
The science of thy soul hath taught thee speed!
No precedent of Nations makes thee nod!
Brow-bound with bolts, thy feet are shod with light.{272}
America, beneath thy iron heel
What Old World tyrannies, that crushed the poor,
Writhe out their lives, abolished in their ire!
Around thine arms, wrapped strong in fourfold steel,
What Old World injuries have failed to moor
Barques thou hast beaconed like a pillared fire!
Thou speakest, and Oppression’s mists divide;
And gyves of Superstition and of Lust
Fall shattered from the World; and Truth and Love
Assume their places, beautiful in pride:
And stars spring up around them from the dust,
The dust of hopes long fallen from above.
Onward thou movest: where thy steps are bent
The Earth is civilized: the desert plain
Blossoms—is citied with vast industry.—
Behold! the pagan, Violence, is spent!
His idol, Ignorance, is rent in twain
Before thy splendor that makes all men free.
{273}
“THE FATHERS OF OUR FATHERS”
Written February 24, 1898, on reading the latest news concerning the battleship Maine, blown up in Havana Harbor, February fifteenth.

I
The fathers of our fathers, they were men!—
What are we who now stand idle while we see our seamen slain?
Who behold our flag dishonored, and still pause!
Are we blind to her duplicity, the treachery of Spain?
To the rights, she scorns, of nations and their laws?
Let us rise, a mighty people, let us wipe away the stain!
Shall we wait till she defile us for a cause?—
The fathers of our fathers, they were men!
{274}
II
The fathers of our fathers, they were men!—
Had they nursed delay as we do? had they sat thus deaf and dumb,
With these cowards compromising year by year?
Never hearing what they should hear, never saying what should come,
While the courteous mask of Spain still hid a sneer!
No! such news had ’roused their natures like a rolling battle-drum—
God of Earth! and God of Battles! do we fear?—
The fathers of our fathers, they were men!
III
The fathers of our fathers, they were men!—
What are we who are so cautious, never venturing too far!
Shall we, at the cost of honor, still keep peace?
While we see the thousands starving and the struggling Cuban star,
And the outraged form of Freedom on her knees!{275}
Let our long, steel ocean-bloodhounds, adamantine dogs of war,
Sweep the yellow Spanish panther from the seas!—
The fathers of our fathers, they were men!
{276}
MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN
I
Behold! we have gathered together our battleships near and afar;
Their decks, they are cleared for action; their guns, they are shotted for war:
From the East to the West there is hurry; in the North and the South a peal
Of hammers in fort and shipyard, and the clamor and clang of steel;
And the roar and the rush of engines, and clanking of derrick and crane—
Thou art weighed in the Scales and found wanting! the balance of God, O Spain!
II
Behold! I have stood on the mountains, and this was writ in the sky:—
“She is weighed in the Scales and found wanting! the balance God holds on high!{277}”
The balance he once weighed Babylon, the Mother of Harlots, in:
One scale holds thy pride and thy power and empire, begotten of sin;
Heavy with woe and torture, the crimes of a thousand years,
Mortared and welded together with fire and blood and tears:
In the other, for justice and mercy, a blade with never a stain,
Is laid the Sword of Liberty, and the balance dips, O Spain!
III
Summon thy vessels together! great is thy need for these!—
Cristobal Colon, Vizcaya, Oquendo, and Maria Terese—
Let them be strong and many, for a vision I had by night,
That the ancient wrongs thou hast done the world came howling to the fight:
From the New-World’s shores they gathered, Inca and Aztec slain,
To the Cuban shot but yesterday, and our own dead seamen, Spain!
{278}
IV
Summon thy ships together, gather a mighty fleet!
For a strong, young Nation is arming, that never hath known defeat.
Summon thy ships together, there by thy blood-stained sands!
For a shadowy army gathers with manacled feet and hands;
A shadowy host of sorrows and shames, too black to tell,
That reach, with their horrible wounds, for thee to drag thee down to Hell:
A myriad phantoms and spectres, thou warrest against in vain—
Thou art weighed in the Scales and found wanting! the balance of God, O Spain!

May, 1898.
{279}

UNDER THE STARS AND STRIPES
I
High on the world did our fathers of old,
Under the Stars and Stripes,
Blazon the name that we now must uphold,
Under the Stars and Stripes.
Vast in the past they have builded an arch,
Over which Freedom has lighted her torch—
Follow it! follow it! come, let us march
Under the Stars and Stripes!
II
We in whose bodies the blood of these runs,
Under the Stars and Stripes,
We will acquit us as sons of their sons,
Under the Stars and Stripes.
Ever for justice, our heel upon wrong,
We in the might of our vengeance thrice strong—
Rally together! come marching along
Under the Stars and Stripes!
{280}
III
Out of our strength and a nation’s great need,
Under the Stars and Stripes,
Heroes again as of old we shall breed,
Under the Stars and Stripes.
Broad to the winds be our banner unfurled!
Straight from our guns let defiance be hurled!
God on our side, we will battle the world,
Under the Stars and Stripes!

May, 1898.
{281}

OUR CAUSE
I
Lord God, who mad’st Spain’s vessels melt
Before the flame our squadrons dealt,
And Santiago’s mountain belt
Rock near and far
With thunder of our ships of steel,
Keep us still humble! help us kneel
In prayer with hearts as great to heal,
As strong in war!
II
When turret booms to turret; when
The steam goes up of battle, then
Lord God, we pray Thee, keep our men
Till all is o’er:
Should pride of conquest then mislead
Our House and Senate, Lord, we plead
Keep Thou our cause as clean of greed
As ’twas before.
{282}
III
And when the batteries there of Spain,
From shore and headland, hurricane
Their roaring sleet and crashing rain
Of shell and shot;
When drums beat up and bugles blow,
And rank on rank we face the foe,
In life and death, in joy and woe,
Forget us not.
IV
Not for ourselves we pray to Thee;
But for the cause of liberty,
Lord God!—Let old Oppression see
How o’er her coasts
Our Eagle’s fierce, majestic form
Soars through the lightning and the storm
Beneath thy all protecting arm,
Lord God of Hosts!

July 4th, 1898.
{283}

AFTERWORD
The old enthusiasms
Are dead, quite dead, in me;
Dead the aspiring spasms
Of art and poesy,
That opened magic chasms,
Once, of wild mystery,
In youth’s rich Araby,
Aladdin-wondrous chasms.
The longing and the care
Are mine; and, helplessly,
The heartache and despair
For what can never be.
More than my mortal share
Of sad mortality,
It seems, God gives to me,
More than my mortal share.
O world! O time! O fate!
Remorseless trinity!
Let not your wheel abate
Its iron rotary!—
Turn round! nor make me wait,
Bound to it neck and knee,
Hope’s final agony!—
Turn round! nor make me wait.
{284}

{285}

{286}

{287}

POEMS OF FOREST AND FIELD PROEM
They took him into confidence—each oak
Of the far forest: and all day he sat
Hearing of Nature from an autocrat,
An oak—so old, Dodona might have spoke
Its infant oracles through it; that, part
Of the oracular beauty of the gods,
Yet irresponsible, down in its heart
Still felt the rapture of their periods.
They took him into confidence—the skies;
And all night long he lay beneath one star,
Hearing of God…. One that was chorister
At Earth’s first morning; that beheld fierce eyes
Of rebel angels, and the birth of Hell;
Whom God set over Eden and o’er them,
The Two, as destiny; that did foretell
How Christ lay born at far-off Bethlehem.
{289}{288}
THE HYLAS
I
I heard the hylas in the bottomlands
Piping a reed-note in the praise of Spring:
The South-wind brought the music on its wing,
As ’t were a hundred strands
Of guttural gold smitten of elfin hands;
Or of sonorous silver, struck by bands,
Anviled within the earth,
Of laboring gnomes shaping some gem of worth.
Sounds that seemed to bid
The wildflowers wake;
Unclose each dewy lid,
And starrily shake
Sleep from their airy eyes
Beneath the loam,
And, robed in dædal dyes,
Frail as the fluttering foam,
In countless myriads rise.
And in my city home
I, too, who heard
Their reedy word,
Awoke, and, with my soul, went forth to roam.
{290}
II
And under glimpses of the cloud-white sky
My soul and I
Beheld her seated, Spring among the woods
With bright attendants,
Two radiant maidens,
The Wind and Sun: one robed in cadence,
And one in white resplendence,
Working wild wonders with the solitudes.
And thus it was,
So it seemed to me,
Where she sat apart
Fondling a bee,
By some strange art,
As in a glass,
Down in her heart
My eyes could see
What would come to pass:—
How in each tree,
Each blade of grass,—
Dead though it seemed,—
Still lived and dreamed
Life and perfume,
Color and bloom,
Housed from the North
Like golden mirth,{291}
That she with jubilation would bring forth,
Astonishing Earth.
III
And thus it was I knew
That though the trees were barren of all buds,
And all the woods
Of blossoms now, still, still their hoods
And heads of blue and gold,
And pink and pearl lay hidden in the mould;
And in a day or two,
When Spring’s fair feet came twinkling through
The trees, their gold and blue,
And pearl and pink in countless bands would rise,
Invading all these ways
With loveliness; and to the skies,
In radiant rapture raise
The fragile sweetness of a thousand eyes.
When every foot of soil would boast
An ambuscade
Of blossoms; each green rood parade
Its flowery host;
And every acre of the woods,
With little bird-like beaks of leaves and buds,
Brag of its beauty; making bankrupts of
Our hearts of praise, and beggar us of love.
{292}
IV
Here, when the snow was flying,
And barren boughs were sighing,
In icy January,
I stood, like some gray tree, lonely and solitary.
Now every spine and splinter
Of wood, washed clean of winter,
By hill and canyon
Makes of itself an intimate companion,
A confidant, who whispers me the dreams
That haunt its heart, and clothe it as with gleams.
And lonely now no more
I walk the mossy floor
Of woodlands where each bourgeoning leaf is matched,
Mated with music; triumphed o’er
Of building love and nestling song just hatched.
V
Washed of the early rains,
And rosed with ruddy stains,
The boughs and branches now make ready for
Their raiment green of leaves and musk and myrrh.—
As if to greet her pomp,
The heralds of her state,{293}
As ’t were with many a silvery trump,
The birds are singing, singing,
And all the world’s elate,
As o’er the hills, as ’twere from Heaven’s gate,
With garments, dewy-clinging,
Comes Spring, around whose way the budded woods are ringing
With redbird and with bluebird and with thrush;
While, overhead, on happy wings is swinging
The swallow through the heaven’s azure hush:
And wren and sparrow, vireo and crow
Are busy with their nests, or high or low,
In every tree, it seems, and every bush.
The loamy odor of the turfy heat,
Breathed warm from every field and wood-retreat,
Is as if spirits passed on flowery feet:—
That indescribable
Aroma of the woods one knows so well,
Reminding one of sylvan presences,
Clad on with lichen and with moss,
That haunt and trail across
The woods’ dim dales and dells; their airy essences
Of racy nard and musk
Rapping at gummy husk
And honeyed sheath of every leaf and flower{294}
That open to their knock, each at the appointed hour:—
And, lo!
Where’er they go,
Behold a miracle
Too beautiful to tell!—
Where late the woods were bare
The red-bud shakes its hair
Of flowering flame; the dogwood and the haw
Voluble with bees dazzle with pearl the shaw;
And the broad maple crimsons, sunset-red,
Through firmaments of forest overhead:
And of its boughs the wild-crab makes a lair,
A rosy cloud of blossoms, for the bees,
Bewildered there,
To traffic in; lulling itself with these.
And in the whispering woods
The wild-flower multitudes
Rise, star, and bell, and bugle, all amort
To everything save their own loveliness
And the soft wind’s caress,—
The wind that tip-toes through them:—liverwort,
Spring-beauty, windflower and the bleeding-heart,
And bloodroot, holding low
Its cups of stainless snow;{295}
Sorrel and trillium and the twin-leaf, too,
Twinkling, like stars, through dew:
And patches, as it were, of saffron skies,
Ranunculus; and golden eyes
Of adder’s-tongue; and mines,
It seems, of grottoed gold, the poppy-celandines;
And, sapphire-spilled,
Bluets and violets,
Dark pansy-violets and columbines,
With rainy radiance filled;
And many more whose names my mind forgets,
But not my heart:
The Nations of the Flowers, making gay
In every place and part,
With pomp and pageantry
Of absolute Beauty, all the worlds of woods,
In congregated multitudes,
Assembled where
Unearthly colors all the oaks put on,
Velvet and silk and vair,
Vermeil and mauve and fawn,
Dim and auroral as the hues of dawn.
{296}
WIND AND CLOUD
A March Voluntary

I
Winds that cavern heaven and the clouds
And canyon with cerulean blue,—
Great rifts down which the stormy sunlight crowds
Like some bright seraph, who,
Mailed in intensity of silver mail,
Flashes his splendor over hill and vale,—
Now tramp, tremendous, the loud forest through:
Or now, like mighty runners in a race,
That swing, long pace to pace,
Sweep round the hills, fresh as, at dawn’s first start,
They swept, dew-dripping, from
The crystal-crimson ruby of her heart,
Shouting the dim world dumb.
And with their passage the gray and green
Of the earth’s washed clean;{297}
And the cleansing breath of their might is wings
And warm aroma we know as Spring’s,
And sap and strength to her bourgeonings.
II
My brow I bare
To the cool, clean air,
That blows from the crests of the clouds that roll,
Pearl-piled and berged as floes of Northern Seas,
Banked gray and thunder-low
Big in the heaven’s peace;
Clouds, borne from nowhere that we know,
With nowhere for their goal;
With here and there a silvery glow
Of sunlight chasming deeps of sombre snow,
Great gulfs that overflow
With sky, a sapphire-blue,
Or opal, sapphire-kissed,
Wide-welled and deep and swiftly rifting through
Stratas of streaming mist;—
Each opening like a pool,
Serene, cerule,{298}
Set round with crag-like clouds ’mid which its eye gleams cool.
III
What blue is bluer than the bluebird’s blue!—
’T is as if heaven itself sat on its wings;
As if the sky in miniature it bore
The fields and forests through,
Bringing the very heaven to our door;
The daybreak of its back soft-wedded to
The sunset-auburn of its throat that sings.—
The dithyrambics of the wind and rain
Strive to, but can not, drown its strain:
Again, and yet again
I hear it where the maples tassel red,
And blossoms of the crab round out o’erhead,
And catkins make the willow-brake
A gossamer blur around the lake
That lately was a stream,
A little stream locked in its icy dream.
IV
Invisible crystals of aërial ring,
Against the wind I hear the bluebird fling
Its notes; and where the oak’s mauve leaves uncurl{299}
I catch the skyey glitter of its wing;
Its wing that lures me, like some magic charm,
Far in the woods
And shadowy solitudes:
And where the purple hills stretch under purple and pearl
Of clouds that sweep and swirl,
Its music seems to take material form;
A form that beckons with cerulean arm
And bids me see and follow,
Where, in the violet hollow,
There at the wood’s far turn,
On starry moss and fern,
She shimmers, glimmering like a rainbowed shower,
The Spirit of Spring,
Diaphanous-limbed, who stands
With honeysuckle hands
Sowing the earth with many a firstling flower,
Footed with fragrance of their blossoming,
And clad in heaven as is the bluebird’s wing.
V
The tumult and the booming of the trees,
Shaken with shoutings of the winds of March{300}—
No mightier music have I heard than these,—
The rocking and the rushing of the trees,
The organ-thunder of the forest’s arch.
And in the wind their columned trunks become,
Each one, a mighty pendulum,
Swayed to and fro as if in time
To some vast song, some roaring rhyme,
Wind-shouted from sonorous hill to hill.
The woods are never still:
The dead leaves frenzy by,
Innumerable and frantic as the dance
That whirled its madness once beneath the sky
In ancient Greece,—like withered Corybants:
And I am caught and carried with their rush,
Their countless panic—borne away,
A brother to the wind, through the deep gray
Of the old beech-wood, where the wild March-day
Sits dreaming, filling all the boisterous hush
With murmurous laughter and swift smiles of sun;
Conspiring in its heart and plotting how
To load with leaves and blossoms every bough,
And whispering to itself, “Now Spring’s begun!
And soon her flowers shall golden through these leaves!{301}—
Away, ye sightless things and sere!
Make room for that which shall appear!
The glory and the gladness of the year;
The loveliness my eye alone perceives,—
Still hidden there beneath the covering leaves,—
My song shall waken!—flowers, that this floor
Of whispering woodland soon shall carpet o’er
For my sweet sisters’ feet to tread upon,
Months kinder than myself, the stern and strong,
Tempestuous-loving one,
Whose soul is full of wild, tumultuous song,
And whose rough hand now thrusts itself among
The dead leaves; groping for the flowers that lie
Huddled beneath, each like a sleep-closed eye:
Gold adder’s-tongue and pink
Oxalis; snow-pale bloodroot blooms;
May-apple hoods, that parasol the brink,
Screening their moons, of the slim woodland-stream:
And the wild iris; trillium,—white as stars,—
And bluebells, dream on dream:
With harsh hand groping in the glooms,{302}
I grasp their slenderness and shake
Their lovely eyes awake,
Dispelling from their souls the sleep that mars;
With heart-disturbing jars
Clasping their forms, and with rude finger-tips,
Through the dark rain that drips
Lifting them shrinking to my stormy lips.
VI
“Already spicewood and the sassafras,
Like fragrant flames, begin
To tuft their boughs with topaz, ere they spin
Their beryl canopies—a glimmering mass,
Mist-blurred, above the deepening grass.
Already where the old beech stands
Clutching the lean soil as it were with hands
Taloned and twisted,—on its trunk a knot,
A huge excrescence, a great fungous clot,
Like some enormous and distorting wart,—
My eyes can see how, blot on beautiful blot
Of blue, the violets blur through
The musky and the loamy rot
Of leaf-pierced leaves; and, heaven in their hue,
A sunbeam at each blossom’s heart,{303}
The little bluets, crew on azure crew,
Prepare their myriads for invasion too.
VII
“And in my soul I see how, soon, shall rise,—
Still hidden to men’s eyes,—
Dim as the wind that round them treads,—
Hosts of spring-beauties, streaked with rosy reds,
And pale anemones, whose airy heads,
As to some fairy rhyme,
All day shall nod in delicate time:
And now, even now, white peal on peal
Of pearly bells,—that in bare boughs conceal
Themselves,—like snowy music, chime on chime,
The huckleberries to my gaze reveal—
Clusters, that soon shall toss
Above this green-starred moss,
That, like an emerald fire, gleams across
This forest-side, and from its moist deeps lifts
Slim, wire-like stems of seed;
Or, lichen-colored, glows with many a bead
Of cup-like blossoms: carpets where, I read,
When through the night’s dark rifts
The moonlight’s glimpsing splendor sifts,{304}
The immaterial forms
With moonbeam-beckoning arms,
Of Fable and Romance,—
Myths that are born of whispers of the wind
And foam of falling waters, music-twinned—
Shall lead the legendary dance;
The dance that never stops,
Of Earth’s wild beauty on the green hill-tops.”
VIII
The youth, the beauty and disdain
Of birth, death does not know,
Compel my heart with longing like to pain
When the spring breezes blow.
The fragrance and the heat
Of their soft breath, whose musk makes sweet
Each woodland way, each wild retreat,
Seem saying in my ear, “Hark, and behold!
Before a week be gone
This barren woodside and this leafless wold
A million flowers shall invade
With argent and azure, pearl and gold,—
Like rainbow fragments scattered of the dawn,—
Here making bright, here wan{305}
Each foot of earth, each glen and glimmering glade,
Each rood of windy wood,
Where late gaunt Winter stood,
Shaggy with snow and howling at the sky;
Where even now the Springtime seems afraid
To whisper of the beauty she designs,
The flowery campaign that she now outlines
Within her soul; her heart’s conspiracy
To take the world with loveliness; defy
And then o’erwhelm the Death—that Winter throned
Amid the trees,—with love that she hath owned
Since God informed her from His very breath,
Giving her right triumphant over Death.
And, irresistible,
Her heart’s deep ecstasy shall swell,
Taking the form of flower, leaf, and blade,
Invading every dell,
And sweeping, surge on surge,
Around the world, like some exultant raid,
Even to the heaven’s verge.
Soon shall her legions storm
Death’s ramparts, planting Life’s fair standard there,
The banner which her beauty hath in care,{306}
Beauty, that shall eventuate
With all the pomp and pageant and the state,
That are a part of power, and that wait
On majesty, to which it, too, is heir.”
IX
Already bluish pink and green
The bloodroot’s buds and leaves are seen
Clumped in dim cirques; one from the other
Hardly distinguished in the shadowy smother
Of last year’s leaves blown brown between.
And, piercing through the layers of dead leaves,
The searching eye perceives
The dog’s-tooth violet, pointed needle-keen,
Lifting its beak of mottled green;
While near it heaves
The May-apple its umbrous spike, a ball,—
Like to a round, green bean,
That folds its blossom,—topping its tight-closed parasol:
The clustered bluebell near
Hollows its azure ear,
Low-leaning to the earth as if to hear
The sound of its own growing and perfume
Flowing into its bloom:{307}
And softly there
The twin-leaf’s stems prepare
Pale tapers of transparent white,
As if to light
The Spirit of Beauty through the wood’s green night.
X
Why does Nature love the number five?
Five-whorled leaves and five-tipped flowers?—
Haply the bee i’ the voluble rose,
Laboring aye to store its hive,
And humming away the long noon hours,
Haply it knows as it comes and goes:
Or haply the butterfly,
Or moth of pansy-dye,
Flitting from bloom to bloom
In the forest’s violet gloom,
It knows why:
Or the irised fly, to whom
Each bud, as it glitters near,
Lends eager and ardent ear.—
And, also, tell
Why Nature loves so well
To prank her flowers in gold and blue.
Haply the dew,{308}
That lies so close to them the whole night through,
Hugged to each honeyed heart,
Perhaps the dew the secret could impart:
Or haply now the bluebird there that bears,
Glad, unawares,
God’s sapphire on its wings,
The lapis-lazuli
O’ the clean, clear sky,
The heav’n of which he sings,
Haply he, too, could tell me why:
Or the maple there that swings,
To the wind’s soft sigh,
Its winglets, crystal red,
A rainy ruby twinkling overhead:
Or haply now the wind, that breathes of rain
Amid the rosy boughs, it could explain:
And even now, in words of mystery,—
That haunt the heart of me,—
Low-whispered, dim and bland,
Tells me, but tells in vain,
And strives to make me see and understand,
Delaying where
The feldspar fire of the violet breaks,
And the starred myrtle aches
With heavenly blue; and the frail windflower shakes
Its trembling tresses in the opal air.
{309}
IN SOLITARY PLACES
I
The hurl and hurry of the winds of March,
That tore the ash and bowed the pine and larch,
And filled the night with rushings,—like the crew
Of the Wild Huntsman,—and the days with hue
And cry of storm, soft in the heaven’s porch
Have laid them down:—loud winds, that trampled through
The forests with enormous, scythe-like sweep,
And from the darkened deep,
The battlemented heavens, thunder-blue,
Rumbled the arch,
The rocking arch of all the booming oaks,
With stormy chariot-spokes:
Chariots, from which wild bugle-blasts they blew
In warlike challenge…. Now the windflower sweet
Misses the fury of their ruining feet,
The trumpet-thunder of resistless flight,
Crashing and vast, obliterating light;{310}
Sweeping the skeleton madness down
Of last-year’s leaves; and, overhead,
Hurrying the giant foliage of night,
Gaunt clouds that streamed with tempest.
… Now each crown
Of ancient woods, that clamored with their tread,
The frenzy of their passage, stoops no more,
Hearing no more their clarion-command,
Their chariot-hurl and the wild whip in hand.
No more, no more,
The forests rock and roar
And tumult with their shoutings.
Hushed and still
Is the green-gleaming and the sunlit hill,
Along whose sides,
Flushing the dewy moss and rainy grass—
Beneath the topaz-tinted sassafras,
Pale, aromatic as some orient wine—
The violet fire of the bluet glides,
The amaranthine flame
Of sorrel and of bluebell runs;
And through the drabs and duns
Of rotting leaves, the moonéd celandine,
Line upon lovely line,
Deliberate, goldens into birth:
And, ruby and rose, the moccasin-flower hides:{311}
Innumerable flowers, with which she writes her name,
April, upon the page,
The winter-withered parchment of old earth;
Her fragrant autograph, that gives it worth
And loveliness that take away its age.
II
Here where the woods are wet,
The blossoms of the dog’s-tooth violet
Seem meteors in a miniature firmament
Of wild-flowers, where, with rainy sound and scent
Of breeze and blossom, dim the April went:
Their tongue-like leaves of umber-mottled green,
So thickly seen,
Seem dropping words of gold,
Inaudible syllables of a magic old.
Beside them, near the wahoo-bush and haw,
Blooms the hepatica;
Its slender flowers upon swaying stems
Lifting chaste, solitary blooms,
Astral, and twilight-colored,—frail as gems
That star the diadems
Of elves and sylvans, piercing pale the glooms;—
Or like the wands, the torches of the fays,{312}
That link lone, leafy ways
With slim, uncertain rays:—
(The faëry people, whom no eye may see,
Busy, so legend says,
With budding bough and leafing tree,
The blossom’s heart o’ honey and honey-sack o’ the bee,
And all dim thoughts and dreams,
That take the form of flowers, as it seems,
And haunt the banks of greenwood streams,
Showing in every line and curve,
Commensurate with our love, an intimacy,
A smiling confidence or sweet reserve.)
There, at that leafy turn,
Of trailered rocks, rise fronds of hart’s-tongue fern:
Fronds that my fancy names
Uncurling gleeds of emerald and gold,
Whose feathering flames
Were kindled in the musky mould,
And now, as stealthy as the graying morn,
Thorn upon woolly thorn,
Build up, and silently unfold
Faint, cool, green fires, that burn
Uneagerly, and spread around
An elfin light above the ground,{313}
Like that green, rayless glow
A spirit, lamped with crystal, makes below
In dripping caves of labyrinthine moss,
Or grottoes of the weedy undertow.—
And in the underwoods, around them, toss
The white-hearts with their penciled leaves,
That, ’mid the shifting gleams and glooms,
The interchanging shine and shade,
Seem some soft garment made
By visionary hands, that none perceives;
Hands busy with invisible looms
Of woodland shine and shade; a shadowy light,
Whose figments interbraid,
Carpeting the woods with colors and perfumes.—
Or, are they fragments left in flight,
These flow’rs that scatter every glade
With windy, rippling white,
And breezy, fluttering blue,
Of her wild gown that shone upon my sight,
A moment, in the woods I wandered through?
April’s, who fled this way?
April, whom still I follow,
Whom still my dreams pursue;
Who leads me on by many a tangled clue
Of loveliness, until in some green hollow,
Born of her fragrance and her melody,
But lovelier than herself and happier, too,{314}
Cradled in blossoms of the dogwood-tree,
My soul shall see,
White as a sunbeam in the heart of day,
The infant, May.
III
Up, up, my heart! and forth where none perceives!
’Twas this which that sweet lay meant
You heard in dreams. Come, let us take rich payment,
For every care that grieves,
From Nature’s prodigal purse. ’Twas this that May meant
By sending forth the wind which round our eaves
Whispered all night;—or was’t the spirit who weaves,
From gold and glaucous green of early leaves,
Spring’s regal raiment?—
Up, up, my heart, and forth where none perceives!
Come, let us forth, my heart, where none divines!
Into far woodland places,
Where we may meet the fair assembled races,
Beneath the guardian pines,{315}
Of May’s first flowers…. Poppy-celandines,
And starry trilliums, bugled columbines,
With which her hair, her radiant hair she twines,
And loops and laces.—
Come, let us forth, my heart, where none divines!
Forth, forth, my heart, and let us find our dreams,
There, where they haunt each hollow!
Dreams luring us with oread feet to follow,
With flying feet of beams,
Fleeter and lighter than the fleetest swallow:
Dreams, holding us with dryad glooms and gleams,
With Naiad eyes, far stiller than still streams,
That have beheld and still reflect, it seems,
The god Apollo.—
Forth, forth, my heart, and let us find our dreams!
Out, out, my heart, the world is white with spring.
Long have our dreams been pleaders:
Now let them be our firm but gentle leaders.
Come, let us forth and sing
Among the amber-emerald-tufted cedars,{316}
And balm-o’-Gileads, cotton-woods, a-swing
Like giant censers, that, from leaf-cusps fling
Balsams of gummy gold, bewildering
The winds their feeders.
Out, out, my heart, the world is white with spring.
Up, up, my heart, and all thy hope put on.
Array thyself in splendor.
Like some bright dragon-fly, some May-fly slender,
The irised lamels don
Of thy new armor; and, where burns the centre,
Refulgent, of the opening rose of dawn,
Spread thy wild wings, and, ere the hour be gone,
Bright as a blast from some bold clarion,
Thy Dream-world enter.—
Up, up, my heart, and all thy hope put on.
IV
And then I heard it singing,
The wind that touched my hair,
A song of wild expression,
A song that called in session
The wild-flowers sweetly swinging,
The wild-flowers lightly flinging
Their tresses to the air.{317}
And first, beneath a bramble arch,
The bloodroot rose; each bloom a torch
Of hollow snow, within which, bright,
The calyx grottoed golden light.
Hepatica and bluet,
And gold corydalis,
Arose as to an aria;
Then wild-phlox and dentaria,
In rapture, ere they knew it,
Trooped forward, nodding to it,
Faint as a first star is.
And then a music,—to the ear
Inaudible,—I seemed to hear;
A symphony that seemed to rise
And speak in colors to the eyes.
I saw the Jacob’s-ladder
Ring violet peal on peal
Of perfume, azure-swinging;
The bluebell slimly ringing
Its purple chimes; and, gladder,
Green note on note, the madder
Bells of the Solomon’s-seal.
Now very near, now faintly lost,
I saw their fragrant music tossed;
Mixed dimly with white interludes
Of trilliums starring cool the woods.{318}
Then choral, solitary,
I saw the celandine
Smite bright its golden cymbals,
The starwort shake its timbrels,
The whiteheart’s horns of Fairy,
With many a flourish airy,
Strike silvery into line.
And, lo, my soul they seemed to draw,
By chords of loveliness and awe
Into a Fairy world afar
Where all man’s dreams and longings are.
V
And then a spirit looked down at me
Out of the deeps of the opal morn:
Its eyes were blue as a sunlit sea,
And young with the joy of a star that has just been born:
And I seemed to hear, with my soul, the rose of its cool mouth say:—
“Long I lay, long I lay,
High on the Hills of the Break-of-Day,
Where ever the light is green and gray,
And the gleam of the moon is a silvery spray,
And the stars are glimmering bubbles.{319}
Now from the Hills of the Break-of-Day
I come, I come, on a rainbow ray,
To laugh and sparkle, to leap and play,
And blow from the face of the world away,
Like mists, its griefs and troubles.”
VI
And now that the dawn is everywhere,
Let us take this path through this wild, green place,
Where the rattlesnake-weed shows its yellow face,
And the lichens cover the rocks with lace:
Where tannin-tinct is the woodland air,
Let us take this path through the oaks where, thin,
The low leaves whisper, “The day is fair”;
And waters murmur, “Come in, come in,
Where you can hark to our waterfalls,
And the wind of their foam can play with your hair,
And soothe away care.—
Come here, come here, where our water calls.”
Berry blossoms, that seem to flow
As the winds blow,{320}
Blackberry blossoms swing and sway
To and fro
Along the way,
Like ocean spray on a breezy day,
Over the green of the grass as foam on the green of a bay,
When the world is white and green with the white and the green of May.
VII
The dewberries are blooming now;
The days are long, the nights are short;
Each haw-tree and each dogwood bough
Is bleached with bloom, and seems a part,—
Reflected palely on her brow,—
Of dreams that haunt the Year’s young heart.
But this will pass; and presently
The world forget the spring that was;
And underneath the wild-plum tree,
’Mid hornet hum and wild-bee’s buzz,
Summer, in dreamy reverie,
Will sit all warm and amorous.
Summer, with drowsy eyes and hair,
Who walks the orchard aisles between;{321}
Whose hot touch tans the freckled pear,
And crimsons peach and nectarine;
And, in the vineyard everywhere,
Bubbles with blue the grape’s ripe green.
Where now the briers blossoming are,
Soon will the berries darkly glow;
Then Summer pass: and star on star,
Where now the grass is strewn below
With petals, soon, both near and far,
Will lie the obliterating snow.
VIII
But now the bluets blooming,
The bluets brightly blue,
O’er which the bees go booming,
Drunk with the honey-dew,
From wood-ways which they strew,
Make eyes of love at you….
O slender Quaker-ladies,
With eyes of heavenly hue,
Who, where the mossy shade is,
Hold quiet Quaker-meeting,
Now tell me, is it true
That these wild-bees are raiders?
Bold gold-galloonéd raiders?{322}
Gold-belted ambuscaders?—
Or are they serenaders,
Your gold-hipped serenaders,
That, to your ears repeating
Old ballads, come to woo,
And win the hearts of you,
The golden hearts of you?
And here the bells of th’ huckleberries toss, so it seems, in time,
Delicate, tenderly white, thick by the wildwood way;
Clusters swinging, it seems, inaudible peals of rhyme,
Music visibly dropped from the virginal lips of the May,
Crystally dropped, so it seems, bar upon blossoming bar,
Pendent, pensively pale, star upon hollowed star.
IX
The star-flower now, that disks with gold
The woodland moss, the forest grass,
Already in a day is old,
Already doth its beauty pass;
Soon, undistinguished, with the mould
’Twill mingle and ’twill mix, alas.{323}
The bluet, too, that spreads its skies,
Its little heavens, at our feet;
And crowfoot-bloom, that, with soft eyes
Of amber, now our eyes doth greet,
Shall fade and pass, and none surmise
How once they made the Maytime sweet.
X
But the crowfoot-bloom still trails its gold
Along the edges of the oak-wood old;
And there, where spreads the pond, still white are seen
The lilies islanded between
The pads’ round archipelagoes of green;
The jade-dark pads that pave
The water’s wrinkled wave;
In which the vireo and the sparrow lave
Their fluttered breasts and wings,
Preening their backs, with many twitterings,
With necks the moisture streaks;
Then dipping deep their beaks,
To which the beaded coolness clings,
They bend their mellow throats
And let the freshness trickle into notes.
And now you hear
The red-capped woodpecker rap near;{324}
And now that acrobat,
The yellow-breasted chat,
Calls high and clear,
Chuckling his grotesque music from
Some bough that he hath clomb.
And now, and now,
Upon another bough,
Hark how the honey-throated thrush
Scatters the forest’s listening hush
With notes of limpid harmony,
Taking the woods with witchery—
Or is ’t a spirit, none can see.
Hid in the top of some old tree,
Who, in his house of leaves, of haunted green,
Keeps trying, silver-sweet, his sunbeam flute serene?
XI
And then as I listened I seemed to see,
Out of the sunset’s ruin of gold,
A presence, a spirit, look down at me,
With eyes that were grave with the grief of a world grown old;
And I seemed to hear, with my soul, the flame of its sad mouth sigh:{325}
“Now good-by, now good-by.
Down to the Caves of the Night go I;
Where a shadowy couch of the purple sky,
That the moon and the starlight curtain high,
Is spread for my joy and sorrow:
Down to the Caves of the Night go I,
Where side by side with mystery
And all the Yesterdays I’ll lie;
And where from my body, before I die,
Will be born the young To-morrow.”
XII
And here where the dusk steals on, you see,
Violet-mantled, from tree to tree,
The milkwort’s spike of lavender hue,—
Of rosy blue,—
Tipped by the weight of a passing bee,—
Nods like a goblin night-cap, slim, sedate,
That night shall tassel with the dew,
Beneath a canopy of rose and rue.
And as the purple state
Of twilight crowds the sunset’s crimson gate,
Now one, now two,
Drifting the oaks’ dark vistas through,
The screech-owl’s cry of “Who, oh, who,
Who stays so late?”
Drops like a challenge down to you.{326}
The silence deepens; it seems so still,
That, if you laid to the tree your ear,
You too might hear
Its great roots growing into the hill;
Or there on the twig of the oak-tree tall,
The gray-green egg in the gray-green gall
Split, and the little round worm and white,
That grows to a gnat in a summer night,
Uncurl in its nest as it dreams of flight.
In the heart of the weed that grows near by,—
If you laid your ear
To a leaflet near,—
You too might hear, if you, too, would try,
The little gray worm, that becomes a fly
A gray wood-fly, a rainbowed fly,
As it feels a yearning for wings within,
Minute of movement, steadily,—
As a leaf-bud pushes from forth a tree,—
Under the milk of its larval skin,
The outward pressure of wings begin.
Far off a vesper-sparrow lifts its song,
Lost in the woods that now are beryl-wan;
The path is drowned in dusk, is almost gone,
Where now a fox or rabbit steals along:
Dark is each vine-roofed hollow where, withdrawn,{327}
The creek-frog sounds his guttural gong,
Like some squat dwarf or gnome,
Seated upon his temple’s oozy dome,
Summoning the faithful unto prayer,
Muezzin-like, the worshipers of the moon,
The insect people of the earth and air,
Who join him in his twilight tune.
Along the path, where the lizard hides,
An instant shadow, the spider glides;
The hairy spider, that haunts the way,
Crouching black by its earth-bored hole,
An insect ogre, that lairs with the mole,
Hungry, seeking its insect prey,
Fast to follow and swift to slay.—
And over your hands and over your face
The cobweb brushes its phantom lace:
And now, from many a stealthy place,
Woolly-winged and gossamer-gray,
The forest moths come fluttering,
Marked and mottled with lichen hues,
Seal-soft umbers and downy blues,
Dark as the bark to which they cling.
XIII
Now in the hollow of a hill,—
Like a glow-worm held in a giant hand,{328}—
Under the sunset’s last red band,
And one star hued like a daffodil,
The windowed lamp of a cabin glows;
The charcoal-burner’s, whose hut is poor
But always open; beside whose door
An oak grows gnarled and a pine stands slim.
Clean of soul, though of feature grim,
Here he houses where no one knows,
His only neighbors the cawing crows,
That make a roost of the pine’s top limb:
His only friend the fiddle he bows
As he sits at his door in the eve’s repose
Making it chuckle and sing and speak,
Lovingly pressed to his swarthy cheek.
And over many a root, through flowers and weeds,
Past lonely places where the raccoon breeds,
By many a rock and water lying dim,
Roofed with the brier and the bramble-rose,
Under a star and the new-moon’s rim,
Downward the wood-way leads to him,
Down where his lone lamp gleams and glows,
A pencil slim
Of marigold light under leaf and limb.
[Image unavailable.]
Making it chuckle and sing and speak Page 328

In Solitary Places
{329}

XIV
Ere that small sisterhood of misty stars,
The Pleiadës, consents to grace the sky;
While still through sunset’s golds and cinnabars
The evening-star, like an Aladdin eye
Of bright enchantment, at the day’s last hour,
Looks downward from its twilight-builded tower,
Listen, and you may hear, now low, now high,
A voice, a summons, fainter than a flower.
There is a fellowship so still and sweet,
A brotherhood, that speaks, unwordable,
In every tree, in every stream you meet,
The soul is fain to dream beneath its spell.—
And heart-admitted to their presence there,
Those intimacies of the earth and air,
It shall hear things too wonderful to tell,
Too deep to interpret, and more sweet than prayer.
And you may see the things that are unseen,
And hear the things that never have been heard:
The whisper of the woods, in gray and green,
Will walk by you, its heart a wildwood bird;
Or by your side, in hushed and solemn wise,
The silence sit; and clothed in glimmering dyes{330}
Of pearl and purple, with a sunset word,
The dusk steal to you with tenebrious eyes.
Then through the ugliness that toils in night.
Uncouth, obscure, that hates the glare of day,
Dull things that pierce the earth, avoid the light,
And hide themselves in clamminess and clay,—
The dumb, ungainly things, that make a home
Of mud and mire they hill and honeycomb,—
Through these, perhaps, in some mysterious way
Beauty may speak, fairer than wind-wild foam.
Not as it speaks—an eagle message—drawn
In starry vastness from night’s labyrinths:
Not uttering itself from forth the dawn
In egret hues: nor from the cloud-built plinths
Of sunset’s splendor, speaking burningly
Unto the spirit; nor from flow’rs the bee
Makes mouths of musk of, cymes of hyacinths,—
But from the things that type humility.
From things despised.—Ev’n from the crawfish there,
Hollowing its house of ooze—a wet, vague sound
Of sleepy slime; or from the mole, whose lair,
Blind-tunneled, corridors the earth around{331}—
Beauty may draw her truths, as draws its wings
The butterfly from the dull worm that clings,
Cocoon and chrysalis; and from the ground
Address the soul through even senseless things.
The soul, that oft hath heard the trees’ huge roots
Fumble the darkness, clutching at the soil;
The bird-like beaks of the imprisoned shoots
Peck through the bark and into leaves uncoil;
Hath heard the buried seed split through its pod,
Groping its blind way up to light and God;
The fungus, laboring with gnome-like toil,
Heave slow its white orb through the encircling sod.
The winds and waters, stars and streams and flowers,
The very stones have tongues: and moss and fern
And even lichens speak. This world of ours
Is eloquent with things that bid us learn
To pierce appearances, and so to mark,
Within the rock and underneath the bark,
Heard through some inward sense, the dreams that turn
Outward to light and beauty from the dark.
{332}
XV
Then it came to pass as I gazed on space
That I met with Mystery, face to face.
Within her eyes my wondering soul beheld
The eons past, the eons yet to come
At cosmic labor; and the stars,—that swelled,
Flaming or nebulous, from the darkness dumb,
In their appointed places, world and sun,
I saw were truths made visible, whose sum
Proclaimed one truth, the Word of Him, the One.
And it came to pass as I went my ways
That I met with Beauty, face to face.
Within her eyes my worshiping spirit saw
The moments busy with the dreams whence spring
Earth’s lovelinesses: and all things that awe
Man’s soul with their perfection—everything
That buds and bourgeons, blossoming above—
I saw were letters of enduring law,
Whose chapters make the beautiful book of Love.
{333}
THE MAN HUNT
The woods stretch deep to the mountain side,
And the brush is wild where a man may hide.
They have brought the bloodhounds up again
To the roadside rock where they found the slain.
They have brought the bloodhounds up, and they
Have taken the trail to the mountain way.
Three times they circled the trail and crossed,
And thrice they found it and thrice they lost.
Now straight through the trees and the underbrush
They follow the scent through the forest’s hush.
And their deep-mouthed bay is a pulse of fear
In the heart of the wood that the man must hear.
The man who crouches among the trees
From the stern-faced men who follow these.{334}
A huddle of rocks that the ooze has mossed
And the trail of the hunted again is lost.
An upturned pebble, a bit of ground
A heel has trampled—the trail is found.
And the woods reëcho the bloodhounds’ bay
As again they take to the mountain way.
A rock, a ribbon of road, a ledge,
With a pine tree clutching its crumbling edge.
A pine, that the lightning long since clave,
Whose huge roots hollow a ragged cave.
A shout, a curse, and a face aghast,
And the human quarry is laired at last.
The human quarry with clay-clogged hair
And eyes of terror who waits them there.
That glares and crouches and rising then
Hurls clods and curses at dogs and men.
Until the blow of a gun-butt lays
Him stunned and bleeding upon his face.{335}
A rope; a prayer; and an oak-tree near,
And a score of hands to swing him clear.
A grim, black thing for the setting sun
And the moon and the stars to look upon.
{336}
THE FOREST OF SHADOWS
Deep in the hush of a mighty wood
I came to a place of dread and dream,
And forms of shadows, whose shapes elude
The searching swords of the sun’s dim gleam,
Builders of silence and solitude.
And there, where a glimmering water crept
From rock to rock with a slumberous sound,
Tired to tears, on the mossy ground,
Under a tree I lay and slept.
Was it the heart of an olden oak?
Was it the soul of a flower that died?
Or was it the wild-rose there that spoke,
The wilding lily that palely sighed?—
For all on a sudden it seemed I awoke:
And the leaves and the flowers were all intent
On a visible something of light and bloom—
A presence, felt as a wild perfume,
Or beautiful music, that came and went.{337}
And all the grief I had known was gone,
And all the anguish of heart and soul;
And the burden of care that had made me wan
Lifted and left me young and whole
As once in the flush of my youth’s dead dawn.
And lo! it was night. And the oval moon,
A silvery spectre, paced the wood:
And there in its light, like snow, she stood,
As starry still as a star a-swoon.
At first I thought that I looked into
A shadowy water of violet,
Where the faint reflection of one I knew,
Long dead, gazed up from its mirror wet,
Till she smiled in my face as the living do:
Till I felt her touch, and heard her say,
In a voice as still as a rose unfolds,—
“You have come at last: now nothing holds:
Give me your hand: let us wander away.
“Let us wander away through the Shadow Wood,
Through the Shadow Wood to the Shadow Land,
Where the trees have speech and the blossoms brood,
Like visible music; and, hand in hand,{338}
The winds and the waves go, rainbow-hued:
Where ever the voice of beauty sighs,
And ever the dance of dreams goes on;
Where nothing grows old: and the dead and gone,
And the loved and the lost, smile into your eyes.
“Let us wander away! let us wander away!—
Do you hear them calling, ‘Come here and live’?
Do you hear what the trees and the flowers say,
Wonderful, wild, and imperative,
Hushed as the hues of the dawn of day?—
They say, ‘Your life, that was rose and rue,
In a world of shadows where all things die,
Where beauty is dust, and love, a lie,
Is ended. Come! we are waiting for you.’”
And she took my hand: and the trees around
Seemed whispering something I dared not hear;
And the taciturn flowers, that strewed the ground,
Seemed thinking something I felt with fear—
A beautiful something that made no sound.{339}—
And she led me on through the forest old,
Where the moon and the midnight stood on guard,—
Sentinel spirits that shimmered the sward,
Silver and sable and glimmering gold.
And then in a moment I knew…. I knew
What the trees had whispered, the winds had said;
What the flowers had thought in their hearts of dew,
And the stars had syllabled overhead—
And she bent above me and smiled, “’Tis true!
Heart of my heart, you have heard aright.—
Look in my eyes and draw me near!
Look in my face and have no fear!—
Heart of my heart, you died to-night!”
{340}
“ROSE LEAVES, WHEN THE ROSE IS DEAD”
See how the rose leaves fall,
The rose leaves fall and fade;
And by the wall, in shade funereal,
How leaf on leaf is laid,
Withered and soiled and frayed!
How red the rose leaves fall—
And in the ancient trees,
That stretch their ghostly arms about the Hall,
Burdened with mysteries,
How sadly sighs the breeze!
How soft the rose leaves fall—
The rose leaves fall and lie!
While over them dull slugs and beetles crawl,
And, palely glimmering by,
The glow-worm trails its eye.
How thick the rose leaves fall,
And strew the garden way!{341}
For snails to slime and spotted toads to sprawl,
And, plodding past each day,
Coarse feet to tread in clay.
How fast they fade and fall
Where Beauty, carved in stone,
With broken hands veils her dead eyes, and, tall,
White in the moonlight lone,
Stands like a marble moan.
How slow they drift and fall
And strew the fountained pool,
That, in the nymph-carved basin by the wall,
Reflects, in darkness cool,
Ruin made beautiful.
How red the rose leaves fall,
Fall, and like blood remain
Upon the dial’s disk, whose pedestal,
Black-mossed, and dark with stain,
Crumbles in sun and rain.
How dim they seem to fall
Around one where she stands,
Deep in their midst, beyond the years’ recall,
Reaching pale, passionate hands
Into the past’s vague lands.{342}
How still the rose leaves fall
Around them as they meet
As oft of old! she, in her gem-pinned shawl
Of white; and he, complete
In black from head to feet.
How faint the rose leaves fall
Around them where, it seems,
He holds her clasped, parting from her and all
His heart’s wild hopes and dreams,
There in the moon’s pale beams!
Around them rose leaves fall—
And in the stress and urge
Of winds that strew them wanly over all,
With deep, autumnal surge,
There floats a funeral dirge:—
“See how the rose leaves fall
Upon thy dead, O soul!
The rose leaves of the love that once in thrall
Held thee, beyond control,
Making thy heart’s world whole.
“God help them still to fall
Around thee, bowed above
The face within thy heart, beneath the pall,
The perished face thereof,
The beautiful face of Love.”
{343}
MUSIC AND MOONLIGHT
White roses, like a mist
Upon a terraced height;
And ’mid the roses, opal, moonbeam kissed,
A fountain falling white.
And as the full moon flows,
Orb’d fire, into a cloud,
There is a fragrant sound as if a rose
Sighed its sweet soul aloud.
There is a whisper pale,
As if a rose awoke,
And, having heard in sleep the nightingale,
Still dreaming of it spoke.
Now, as from some vast shell
A giant pearl rolls white,
From the dividing cloud, that winds compel,
The moon sweeps, big and bright.{344}
Moon-mists and pale perfumes,
Wind-wafted through the dusk:
There is a sound as if unfolding blooms
Voiced their sweet thoughts in musk.
A spirit is abroad
Of music and of sleep;
The moon and mists have made for it a road
Adown the violet deep.
It breathes a tale to me,
A tale of ancient day;
And, like a dream, again I seem to see
Those towers old and gray.
That castle by the foam,
Where once our hearts made moan:
And through the night again you seem to come
Down statued stairs of stone.
Again I feel your hair,
Dark, fragrant, deep and cool:
You lift your face up, pale with its despair,
And wildly beautiful.
Again your form I strain,
Again, unto my heart;{345}
Again your lips, again and yet again,
I press … and then we part.
As centuries ago
We did in Camelot;
Where once we lived that life of bliss and woe,
That you remember not.
When you were Guinevere,
And I was Launcelot….
I have remembered many and many a year,
And you—you have forgot.
{346}
THE AWAKENING
God made that night of pearl and ivory,
Perfect and holy as a holy thought
Born of perfection, dreams, and ecstasy,
In love and silence wrought.
And she, who lay where, through the casement falling,
The moonlight clasped with arms of vapory gold
Her Danaë beauty, seemed to hear a calling
Deep in the garden old.
And then it seemed, through some strange sense, she heard
The roses softly speaking in the night,—
Or was it but the nocturne of a bird
Haunting the white moonlight?
It seemed a fragrant whisper vaguely roaming
From rose to rose, a language sweet that blushed,{347}
Saying, “Who comes? Who is this swiftly coming,
With face so dim and hushed?
“And now, and now we hear a wild heart beating—
Whose heart is this that beats among our blooms?
Whose every pulse in rapture keeps repeating
Wild words like wild perfumes?” …
And then it ceased: and then she heard a sigh,
As if a lily syllabled sweet scent,—
Or was it but the wind that silverly
Touched some stringed instrument?
And then again a rumor she detected
Among the roses, words of musk and myrrh,
Saying, “He comes! the one she hath expected,
Who long hath sought for her.
The one whose coming made her soul awaken,
Whose face is fragrance and whose feet are fire:
The one by whom her being shall be shaken
With dreams and deep desire.”
And then she rose, and to the casement hastened,{348}
And flung it wide and, leaning outward, gazed:
Above, the night hung, moon and starlight chastened;
Below, with shadows mazed,
The garden bloomed. Around her and o’erhead
All seemed at pause—save one wild star that streamed,
One rose that fell.—And then she sighed and said,
“I must have dreamed, have dreamed.”
And then again she seemed to hear it speak,
A moth that murmured of a star attained,—
Or was it but the fountain whispering weak,
White where the moonbeams rained?
And still it grew; and still the sound insisted,
Louder and sweeter, burning into form,
Until at last a presence, starlight-misted,
It shone there rosy warm:
Crying, “Come down! long have I watched and waited!
Come down! draw near! or, like some splendid flower,{349}
Let down thy hair! so I may climb as fated
Into thy heart’s high tower.
Lower! bend lower, so thy heart may hear me!
Thy soul may clasp me!… Beautiful above
All beautiful things, behold me, yea, draw near me;
Behold! for I am Love.”
{350}
THE VALE OF TEMPE
All night I lay upon the rocks:
And now the dawn comes up this way,
One great star trembling in her locks
Of rosy ray.
I can not tell the things I’ve seen,
The things I’ve heard I dare not speak
The dawn is breaking, gold and green,
O’er vale and peak.
My soul hath kept its tryst again
With her as once in ages past,
In that lost life, I know not when,
Which was my last:
When she was dryad, I was faun,
And lone we loved in Tempe’s Vale,
Where once we saw Endymion
Pass passion-pale:{351}
Where once we saw him clasp and meet
Among the pines, with kiss on kiss,
Moon-breasted and most heavenly sweet,
White Artemis.
Where often, Bacchus-borne, we heard
The Mænad shout, wild-revelling:
And filled with witchcraft, past all word,
The Limnad sing.
Bloom-bodied ’mid the twilight trees
We saw the Oread, who shone
Fair as the forms Praxiteles
Carved out of stone.
And oft, goat-footed, in a glade
We marked the Satyrs dance, and great,
Man-muscled, like the oaks that shade
Dodona’s gate,
Fierce Centaurs hoof a torrent’s bank
With wind-tossed manes, or leap a crag,
While swift, the arrow in its flank,
Swept by the stag.
And minnow-white the Naiad there
We watched, foam-shouldered, in her stream,{352}
Wringing the moisture from her hair
Of emerald gleam.
We saw the oak unclose and, brown,
Sap-scented, from its door of bark
The Hamadryad young step down:
Or, crouching dark
Within the oak’s old heart, we felt
Her eyes, that pierced the fibrous gloom;
Her breath, that was the musk we smelt,
The wild perfume.
There is no flower that opens glad
Wide eyes of dawn and sunset hue,
As fair as the Leimoniad
We saw there too:
That flower-divinity, rose-born,
Of sunlight and white dew, whose blood
Is fragrance, and whose heart of morn
A crimson bud.
There is no star that rises white,
To tiptoe down the deeps of dusk,
Sweet as the moony Nymphs of Night
With breasts of musk,{353}
We met among the mystery
And hush of forests, where, afar,
We watched their hearts beat glimmeringly,
Each heart a star.
There is no beam that rays the marge
Of mist that trails from cape to cape,
From panther-haunted gorge to gorge,
Bright as the shape
Of her, the one Auloniad,
That, born of wind and grassy gleams,
Silvered upon our sight, dim-clad
In foam of streams.
All, all of these I saw again,
Or dreamed I saw, as there, ah me!
Upon the cliffs, above the plain,
In Thessaly,
I lay, while Mount Olympus helmed
Its brow with moon-effulgence deep,
And, far below, vague, overwhelmed
With reedy sleep,
Peneus flowed, and, murmuring, sighed,
Meseemed, for its dead gods, whose ghosts{354}
Through its dark forests seemed to glide
In whispering hosts….
’Mid whose pale shapes again I spoke
With her, my soul, as I divine,
Dim ’neath some gnarled Olympian oak,
Or Ossan pine,
Till down the slopes of heaven came
Those daughters of the Dawn, the Hours,
Clothed on with raiment blue of flame,
And crowned with flowers;
When she, with whom my soul once more
Had trysted—limbed of light and air—
Whom to my breast,—(as oft of yore
In Tempe there,
When she was dryad, I was faun)—
I clasped and held, and pressed and kissed,
Within my arms, as broke the dawn,
Became a mist.
{355}
THE BALLAD OF LOW-LIE-DOWN
John-a-dreams and Harum-Scarum
Came a-riding into town:
At the Sign o’ the Jug-and-Jorum
There they met with Low-lie-down.
Brave in shoes of Romany leather,
Bodice blue and gipsy gown,
And a cap of fur and feather,
In the inn sat Low-lie-down.
Harum-Scarum kissed her lightly,
Smiled into her eyes of brown,
Clasped her waist and held her tightly,
Laughing, “Lovely Low-lie-down!”
Then with many an oath and swagger,
As a man of great renown,
On the board he clapped his dagger,
Called for sack and sat him down.{356}
So a while they laughed together;
Then he rose and with a frown
Sighed, “While still ’tis pleasant weather,
I must leave thee, Low-lie-down.”
So away rode Harum-Scarum,
With a song rode out of town;
At the Sign o’ the Jug-and-Jorum
Weeping lingered Low-lie-down.
Then this John-a-dreams, in tatters,
In his pocket ne’er a crown,
Touched her saying, “Wench, what matters!
Dry your eyes and, come, sit down.
“Here’s my hand: we’ll roam together,
Far away from thorp and town.
Here’s my heart,—for any weather,—
And my dreams, too, Low-lie-down.
“Some men call me dreamer, poet:
Some men call me fool and clown—
What I am but you shall know it,
Only you, sweet Low-lie-down.”
For a little while she pondered:
Smiled: then said, “Let care go drown!”
Rose and kissed him…. Forth they wandered,
John-a-dreams and Low-lie-down.
{357}
VAGABONDS
I
It’s ho, it’s ho! when haw-trees blow
Among the hills that Springtime thrills;
When huckleberries, row on row,
Hang out their blossom-bells of snow
Around the rills that music fills:
When haw-trees blow among the hills,
It’s ho, it’s ho! oh let us go,
My love and I, where fancy wills.
II
It’s hey, it’s hey! when daisies sway
Among the meads where Summer speeds;
When ripeness bends each fruited spray,
And harvest wafts adown the day
The feathered seeds of golden weeds:
When daisies sway among the meads,
It’s hey, it’s hey! oh, let’s away,
My heart and I, where longing leads.
{358}
III
It’s ay, it’s ay! when red leaves fly,
And strew the ways where Autumn strays;
When round the beech and chestnut lie
The sturdy burrs where creeks run dry,
And frosts and haze turn golds to grays:
When red leaves fly and strew the ways,
It’s ay, it’s ay! oh, let us hie,
My love and I, where dreaming says.
IV
Wassail! wassail! when snow and hail
Make white the lands where Winter stands;
When wild winds from the forests flail
The last dead leaves, and, in the gale,
The trees wring hands in ghostly bands:
When snow and hail make white the lands,
Wassail! wassail! oh, let us trail,
My heart and I, where love commands.
{359}
REVEALMENT
A sense of sadness in the golden air,
A pensiveness, that has no part in care,
As if the Season, by some woodland pool,
Braiding the early blossoms in her hair,
Seeing her loveliness reflected there,
Had sighed to find herself so beautiful.
A breathlessness, a feeling as of fear,
Holy and dim, as of a mystery near,
As if the World, about us, listening went,
With lifted finger and hand-hollowed ear,
Harkening a music, that we can not hear,
Haunting the quickening earth and firmament.
A prescience of the soul that has no name,
Expectancy that is both wild and tame,
As if the Earth, from out its azure ring
Of heavens, looked to see, as white as flame,—
As Perseus once to chained Andromeda came,—
The swift, divine revealment of the Spring.
{360}
A YELLOW ROSE
The old gate clicks, and down the walk,
Between clove-pink and hollyhock,
Still young of face though gray of lock,
Among her garden’s flowers she goes,
At evening’s close,
Deep in her hair a yellow rose.
The old house shows one gable-peak
Above its trees; and sage and leek
Blend with the flowers’ their scent: the creek,
Leaf-hidden, past the garden flows,
That on it snows
Pale petals of the yellow rose.
The crickets pipe in dewy damps;
And everywhere the fireflies’ lamps
Flame like the lights of fairy camps;
While, overhead, the soft sky shows
One star that glows,
As, in gray locks, a yellow rose.{361}
There is one spot she seeks for where
The roses make a fragrant lair,
A spot where once he kissed her hair,
And told his love, as each one knows,
Each flower that blows,
And pledged it with a yellow rose.
The years have turned her dark hair gray
Since that far time: and still, they say,
She keeps the tryst as on that day;
And through the garden softly goes,
At evening’s close,
Wearing for him that yellow rose.
{362}
WHIPPOORWILL TIME
I
Let down the bars; drive in the cows:
The west is barred with burning rose.
Unhitch the horses from the ploughs,
And from the cart the ox that lows,
And light the lamp within the house:—
The whippoorwill is calling,
“Whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will,”
Where the locust blooms are falling
On the hill;
The sunset’s rose is dying,
And the whippoorwill is crying,
“Whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will;”
Soft, now shrill,
The whippoorwill is crying,
“Whip-poor-will.”
II
Unloose the watch-dog from his chain:
The first stars wink their drowsy eyes:{363}
A sheep-bell tinkles in the lane,
And where the shadow deepest lies
A lamp makes bright the kitchen pane:—
The whippoorwill is calling,
“Whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will,”
Where the berry-blooms are falling
On the rill;
The first faint stars are springing,
And the whippoorwill is singing,
“Whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will;”
Softly still
The whippoorwill is singing,
“Whip-poor-will.”
III
The cows are milked: the cattle fed:
The last far streaks of evening fade:
The farm-hand whistles in the shed,
And in the house the table’s laid,
Its lamp streams on the garden-bed:—
The whippoorwill is calling,
“Whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will,”
Where the dogwood blooms are falling
On the hill:
The afterglow is waning,{364}
And the whippoorwill’s complaining,
“Whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will;”
Wild and shrill,
The whippoorwill’s complaining,
“Whip-poor-will.”
IV
The moon blooms out, a great white rose;
The stars wheel onward towards the west;
The barnyard-cock wakes once and crows;
The farm is wrapped in peaceful rest;
The cricket chirrs; the firefly glows:—
The whippoorwill is calling,
“Whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will,”
Where the bramble-blooms are falling
On the rill;
The moon her watch is keeping,
And the whippoorwill is weeping,
“Whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will:”
Lonely still,
The whippoorwill is weeping,
“Whip-poor-will.”
{365}
NOVEMBER
I
Morning

Deep in her broom-sedge, burrs, and ironweeds,
Her frost-slain asters and dead mallow-moons,
Where gray the wilding clematis balloons
The brake with puff-balls: where the slow stream leads
Her slower steps; decked with the scarlet beads,
Of hip and haw; through dolorous maroons
And desolate golds, she goes; the wailing tunes
Of all the winds about her like wild reeds.
The red wrought-iron hues that flush the green
Of blackberry briers, and the bronze that stains
The oak’s sere leaves, are in her cheeks: the gray
Of forest pools, thin-clocked with ice, is keen
In her cold eyes; and in her hair, the rain’s
Chill silver shimmers like a moonlight ray.
{366}
II
Noon

Lost in the sleepy grays and drowsy browns
Of woodlands, smoky with the autumn haze,
Where dull the last, leafed maples, smouldering, blaze
Like ghosts of sachem fires, the month uncrowns
Her frosty hair; and where the forest drowns
The road in darkness, in the rutted ways,
Filled full of freezing rain, her robe she lays
Of tattered gold, and seats herself and frowns.
And at her frown each wood and bosky hill
Shudders with prescience of approaching storm,
Her soul’s familiar fiend, who, with wild broom
Of wind and rain, works her resistless will,
Sweeping the world, and driving with fierce arm
The clouds, like leaves, through the tumultuous gloom.
III
Evening

The shivering wind sits in the oaks, whose limbs,
Twisted and tortured, nevermore are still;{367}
Grief and decay sit with it; they, whose chill
Autumnal touch makes hectic red the rims
Of all the oak-leaves; desolating, dims
The ageratum’s blue that banks the rill;
And splits the milkweed’s pod upon the hill,
And shakes it free of the last seed that swims.
Down goes the day despondent to its close:
And now the sunset’s hands of copper build
A tower of brass, behind whose burning bars,
The Day, in fierce, barbarian repose,
Like some imprisoned Inca sits, hate-filled,
Crowned with the gold corymbus of the stars.
IV
Night

There is a booming in the forest boughs;
Tremendous feet seem trampling through the trees:
The storm is at his wildman revelries,
And earth and heaven echo his carouse.
Night reels with tumult; and, from out her house
Of cloud, the moon looks,—like a face one sees
In nightmare,—hurrying, with pale eyes that freeze,
Stooping above with white, malignant brows.{368}
The isolated oak upon the hill,
That seemed, at sunset, in terrific lands
A Titan head black in a sea of blood,
Now seems a monster harp, whose wild strings thrill
To the vast fingering of innumerable hands—
Spirits of tempest and of solitude.
{369}
HALLOWMAS
All hushed of glee,
The last chill bee
Clings wearily
To the dying aster:
The leaves drop faster:
And all around, red as disaster,
The forest crimsons with tree on tree.
A butterfly,
The last to die,
Droops heavily by,
Weighed down with torpor:
The air grows sharper:
And the wind in the trees, like some sad harper,
Sits and sorrows with sigh on sigh.
The far crows call;
The acorns fall;
And over all
The Autumn raises{370}
Dun mists and hazes,
Through which her soul, it seemeth, gazes
On ghosts and dreams in carnival.
The end is near:
The dying Year
Leans low to hear
Her own heart breaking,
And Beauty taking
Her flight, and all her dreams forsaking
Her soul, bowed down ’mid the sad and sere.
{371}
AUBADE
Awake! the Dawn is on the hills!
Behold, at her cool throat a rose,
Blue-eyed and beautiful she goes,
Leaving her steps in daffodils.—
Awake! arise! and let me see
Thine eyes, whose deeps epitomize
All dawns that were or are to be,
O love, all Heaven in thine eyes!—
Awake! arise! come down to me!
Behold! the Dawn is up: behold!
How all the birds around her float,
Wild rills of music, note on note,
Spilling the air with mellow gold.—
Arise! awake! and, drawing near,
Let me but hear thee and rejoice!
Thou, who bear’st captive, sweet and clear,
All song, O love, within thy voice!
Arise! awake! and let me hear!
{372}
See, where she comes, with limbs of day,
The Dawn! with wild-rose hands and feet,
Within whose veins the sunbeams beat,
And laughters meet of wind and ray.
Arise! come down! and, heart to heart,
Love, let me clasp in thee all these—
The sunbeam, of which thou art part,
And all the rapture of the breeze!—
Arise! come down! loved that thou art!
{373}

WOMAN’S LOVE
Sweet lies! the sweetest ever heard,
To her he said:
Her heart remembers every word
Now he is dead.
I ask:—“If thus his lies can make
Your young heart grieve for his false sake,
Had he been true what had you done,
For true love’s sake?”—
“Upon his grave there in the sun,
Avoided now of all—but one,
I’d lay my heart with all its ache,
And let it break, and let it break.{374}”
And falsehood! fairer ne’er was seen
Than he put on:
Her heart recalls each look and mien
Now he is gone.
I ask:—“If thus his treachery
Can hold your heart with lie on lie,
What had you done for manly love,
Love without lie?”—
“There in the grass that grows above
His grave, where all could know thereof,
I’d lay me down without a sigh,
And gladly die, and gladly die.”
{375}
AT MOONRISE
Pale faces looked up at me, up from the earth, like flowers.
Pale hands reached down to me, out of the dusk, like stars,
As over the hills, robed on with twilight, the Hours,
The Day’s last Hours departed, and the Night put up her bars.
Pale fingers beckoned me on, pale fingers, like starlit mist;
Dim voices called to me, dim as the wind’s dim rune,
As up from the trees, like a Nymph from the amethyst
Of her waters, as silver as foam, rose the round, white breast of the moon.
And I followed the pearly waving and beckon of hands,
The luring glitter and dancing glimmer of feet,{376}
And the sibilant whisper of silence, that summoned to lands
Remoter than legend or faery, where Myth and Tradition meet.
And I came to a place where the shadow of ancient Night
Brooded o’er ruins, far wilder than castles of dreams,
Fantastic, a mansion of phantoms, where, wandering white,
I met with a shadowy presence whose voice I had followed it seems.
And the ivy waved in the wind and the moonlight laid,
Like a ghostly benediction, a finger wan
On the face of the one from whose eyes the darkness rayed,
The presence I knew for one I had known in the years long gone.
And she looked in my face and kissed me on brow and on cheek,
Murmured my name and wistfully smiled in my eyes;{377}
And the tears welled up in my heart that was wild and weak,
And my bosom seemed bursting with yearning and my soul with sighs.
And there ’mid the ruins we sat.—Oh, strange were the words that she said!
Distant and dim and strange:—and hollow the looks that she gave:—
And I knew her then for a joy, a joy that was dead,
A hope, a beautiful hope, that my youth had laid in its grave.
{378}
THE LAMP AT THE WINDOW
Like some gaunt ghost the tempest wails
Outside my door; its icy nails
Beat on my pane. And night and storm
Around the house, with furious flails
Of wind, from which the slant sleet hails,
Stalk up and down; or, arm in arm,
Stand giant guard; the wild-beast lair
Of their fierce bosoms black and bare….
My lamp is lit. I have no fear.
Through night and storm my love draws near.
Now through the forest how they go,
With whirlwind hoofs, and maned with snow,
The beasts of tempest! winter herds,
That lift huge heads of mist and low
Like oxen; beasts of air, that blow
Ice from their nostrils; winged like birds,
And bullock-breasted, onward hurled,
That shake with tumult all the world….
My lamp is set where love can see,
Who through the tempest comes to me.{379}
I press my face against the pane,
And seem to see, from wood and plain,
In phantom thousands, stormy pale,
The ghosts of forests, tempest-slain,
Vast wraiths of woodlands, rise and strain
And rock wild limbs against the gale;
Or, borne in fragments overhead,
Sow night with horror and with dread….
He comes! My light is as an arm
To guide him onward through the storm.
I hear the tempest from the sky
Cry, eagle-like, its battle-cry;
I hear the night, upon the peaks,
Send back its condor-like reply;
And then again come booming by
The forest’s challenge, hoarse as speaks
Hate unto hate, or wrath to wrath,
When each draws sword and sweeps the path.—
But let them rage! through darkness far
My bright light leads him like a star.
The cliffs, with all their plumes of pines,
Bow down high heads: the battle-lines
Of all the hills, that iron seams,
Shudder through all their rocky spines:
And under shields of matted vines{380}
The vales crouch down: and all the streams
Are hushed and frozen as with fear
As from the deeps the winds draw near….
But let them come! my lamp is lit!
Nor shall their fury flutter it.
Now round and round, with stride on stride,
In Boreal armor, tempest-dyed,
I hear the thunder of their strokes—
The heavens are rocked on every side
With all their clouds; and far and wide
The earth roars back with all its oaks….
Still at the pane burns bright my light
To guide him onward through the night,
To lead love through the night and storm
Where my young heart will make him warm.
{381}
ACHIEVEMENT
He held himself splendidly forward
Both early and late;
The aim of his purpose was starward,
To master his fate.
So he wrought and he toiled and he waited,
Till he rose o’er the hordes that he hated,
And stood on the heights, as was fated,
Made one of the great.
Then, lo! on the top of the mountain,
With walls that were wide,
A city! from which, like a fountain,
Rose voices that cried:—
“He comes! Let us forth now to meet him!
Both mummer and priest let us greet him!
In the city he built let us seat him
On the throne of his pride!”
Then out of the city he builded,
Of shadows it seems,
From gates that his fancy had gilded
With thought’s brightest beams,{382}
Strange mimes and chimeras came trooping,
With moping and mowing and stooping—
And he saw with a heart that was drooping,
That these were his dreams.
He entered; and, lo! as he entered,
They murmured his name;
And led him where, burningly centered,
An altar of flame
Made lurid a temple,—erected
Of self,—where a form he detected—
The love that his life had rejected …
And this was his fame!
{383}
MYSTERIES
Soft and silken and silvery brown,
In shoes of lichen and leafy gown,
Little blue butterflies fluttering around her,
Deep in the forest, afar from town,
There, where a stream was trickling down,
I met with Silence, who wove a crown
Of sleep whose mystery bound her.
I gazed in her eyes, that were mossy green
As the rain that pools in the hollow between
The twisted roots of a tree that towers;
And I saw the things that none has seen,—
That mean far more than facts may mean,—
The dreams, that are true, of an age that has been,
That God has thought into flowers.
I gazed at her lips, that were dewy gray
As the mist that clings, at the close of day,
To the wet hillside when the winds cease blowing:{384}
And I heard the things that none may say,—
That are holier far than the prayers we pray,—
The murmured music God breathes alway
Through the hearts of all things growing.
Soft and subtle and vapory white,
In shoes of shadow and gown of light,
Crimson poppies asleep around her,
Far in the forest, beneath a height,
I came on Slumber, who wove from night
A wreath of silence, that, darkly bright,
With its mystic beauty crowned her.
I looked in her face, that was pale and still
As the moon that rises above the hill
Where the pines loom sombre as sorrow:
And the things that all have known and will,
I knew for a moment—the myths that fill
And people the past of the soul and thrill
Its hope with a far to-morrow.
I heard her voice, that was strange with pain
As a wind that whispers of wreck and rain
To the leaves of the autumn rustling lonely:
And I felt the things that are felt in vain
By all—the longings that haunt the brain
Of man, that come and depart again
And are part of his dreamings only.
{385}
A SONG OF THE SNOW
I
Roaring winds that rocked the crow,
High in his eyrie,
All night long, and to and fro
Swung the cedar and drove the snow
Out of the North, have ceased to blow,
And dawn breaks fiery.
Sing, Ho, a song of the winter dawn,
When the air is still and the clouds are gone,
And the snow lies deep on hill and lawn,
And the old clock ticks, “’Tis time! ’tis time!”
And the household rises with many a yawn—
Sing, Ho, a song of the winter dawn!
Sing, Ho!
II
Deep in the East a rosy glow
Broadens and brightens,
Glints through the icicles, row on row,{386}
Flames on the panes of the farm-house low,
And over the miles of drifted snow
Silently whitens.
Sing, Ho, a song of the winter sky,
When the last star closes its icy eye,
And deep in the road the snow drifts lie,
And the old clock ticks, “’Tis late! ’tis late!”
And the flame on the hearth leaps red, leaps high—
Sing, Ho, a song of the winter sky!
Sing, Ho!
III
Into the heav’n the sun comes slow,
All red and frowsy:
Out of the shed the muffled low
Of the cattle comes; the rooster’s crow
Sounds strangely distant beneath the snow
And dull and drowsy.
Sing, Ho, a song of the winter morn,
When the snow makes ghostly the wayside thorn,
And hills of pearl are the shocks of corn,
And the old clock ticks, “Tick-tock, tick-tock;{387}”
And the goodman bustles about the barn—
Sing, Ho, a song of the winter morn!
Sing, Ho!
IV
Now to their tasks the farm-hands go,
Cheerily, cheerily:
With ears a-tingle and cheeks a-glow,
She with her pail and he with his hoe,
To milk the cows and to path the snow,
Merrily, merrily.
Sing, Ho, a song of the winter day,
When ermine-capped are the stacks of hay,
And the wood-smoke pillars the air with gray,
And the old clock ticks, “To work! to work!”
And the goodwife sings as she churns away—
Sing, Ho, a song of the winter day!
Sing, Ho!
{388}
THE WOOD WATER
An evil, stealthy water, dark as hate,
Sunk from the light of day,
’Thwart which is hung a ruined water-gate,
Creeps on its stagnant way.
Moss and the spawny duckweed, dim as air,
And green as copperas,
Choke its dull current; and, like hideous hair,
Tangles of twisted grass.
Above it sinister trees,—as crouched and gaunt
As huddled Terror,—lean;
Guarding some secret in that nightmare haunt,
Some horror they have seen.
Something the sunset points at from afar,
Spearing the sullen wood
And hag-gray water with a single bar
Of flame as red as blood.{389}
Something the stars, conspiring with the moon,
Shall look on, and remain
Frozen with fear; staring as in a swoon,
Striving to flee in vain.
Something the wisp that, wandering in the night,
Above the ghastly stream,
Haply shall find; and, filled with frantic fright,
Light with its ghostly gleam.
Something that lies there under weed and ooze,
With wide and awful eyes
And matted hair, and limbs the waters bruise,
That strives yet can not rise.
{390}
THE EGRET HUNTER
Through woods the Spanish moss makes gray,
With deeps the daylight never reaches,
The water sluices slow its way,
And chokes with weeds its beaches.
’Twas here, lost in this lone bayou,
Where poison brims each blossom’s throat,
Last night I followed a firefly glow,
And oared a leaky boat.
The way was dark; and overhead
The wailing limpkin moaned and cried;
The moss, like cerements of the dead,
Waved wildly on each side.
The way was black, albeit the trees
Let here and there the moonlight through,
The shadows, ’mid the cypress-knees,
Seemed ominous of hue.{391}
And then, behold! a boat that oozed
Slow slime and trailed rank water-weeds
Loomed on me: in which, interfused,
Great glow-worms glowed like beads.
And in its rotting hulk, upright,
His eyeless eyes fixed far before,
A dead man sat, and stared at night,
Grasping a rotting oar.
Slowly it passed; and fearfully
The moccasin slid in its wake;
The owl shrunk shrieking in its tree;
And in its hole the snake.
But I, who met it face to face,
I could not shrink nor turn aside:
Within that dark and demon place
There was nowhere to hide.
Slowly it passed; for me too slow!
The grim Death, in the moon’s faint shine,
Whose story, haply, none may know
Save th’ owl that haunts the pine.
{392}
THE MIRACLE OF THE DAWN
What would it mean for you and me
If dawn should come no more!
Think of its gold along the sea,
Its rose above the shore!
That rose of awful mystery,
Our souls bow down before.
What wonder that the Inca kneeled,
The Aztec prayed and pled
And sacrificed to it, and sealed,—
With rites that long are dead,—
The marvels that it once revealed
To them it comforted.
What wonder, yea! what awe, behold!
What rapture and what tears
Were ours, if wild its rivered gold,—
That now each day appears,—
Burst on the world, in darkness rolled,
Once every thousand years!{393}
Think what it means to me and you
To see it even as God
Evolved it when the world was new!
When Light rose, earthquake-shod,
And slow its gradual splendor grew
O’er deeps the whirlwind trod.
What shoutings then and cymballings
Arose from depth and height!
What worship-solemn trumpetings,
And thunders, burning-white,
Of winds and waves, and anthemings
Of Earth received the Light.
Think what it means to see the dawn!
The dawn, that comes each day!—
What if the East should ne’er grow wan,
Should nevermore grow gray!
That line of rose no more be drawn
Above the ocean’s spray!
{394}
PENETRALIA
I am a part of all you see
In Nature; part of all you feel:
I am the impact of the bee
Upon the blossom; in the tree
I am the sap,—that shall reveal
The leaf, the bloom,—that flows and flutes
Up from the darkness through its roots.
I am the vermeil of the rose,
The perfume breathing in its veins;
The gold within the mist that glows
Along the west and overflows
The heaven with light; the dew that rains
Its freshness down and strings with spheres
Of wet the webs and oaten ears.
I am the egg that folds the bird,
The song that beaks and breaks its shell;
The laughter and the wandering word
The water says; and, dimly heard,
The music of the blossom’s bell{395}
When soft winds swing it; and the sound
Of grass slow-creeping o’er the ground.
I am the warmth, the honey-scent
That throats with spice each lily-bud
That opens, white with wonderment,
Beneath the moon; or, downward bent,
Sleeps with a moth beneath its hood:
I am the dream that haunts it too,
That crystallizes into dew.
I am the seed within its pod;
The worm within its closed cocoon:
The wings within the circling clod,
The germ that gropes through soil and sod
To beauty, radiant in the noon:
I am all these, behold! and more—
I am the love at the world-heart’s core.
{396}
THE HEAVEN-BORN
Not into these dark cities,
These sordid marts and streets,
That the sun in his rising pities,
And the moon with sorrow greets,
Does she, with her dreams and flowers,
For whom our hearts are dumb,
Does she of the golden hours,
Earth’s heaven-born Beauty come.
Afar ’mid the hills she tarries,
Beyond the farthest streams,
In a world where music marries
With color that blooms and beams;
Where shadow and light are wedded,
Whose children people the Earth,
The fair, the fragrant-headed,
The pure, the wild of birth.
Where Morn with rosy kisses
Wakes ever the eyes of Day;
And, winds in her radiant tresses,
Haunts every wildwood way:{397}
Where Eve, with her mouth’s twin roses,
Her kisses sweet with balm,
The eyes of the glad Day closes,
And, crowned with stars, sits calm.
There, lost in contemplation
Of things no mortal sees,
She dwells, the incarnation
Of idealities;
Of dreams, that long have fired
Men’s hearts with joy and pain,—
The far, the dear-desired,
Whom no man shall attain.
{398}
THE BALLAD OF THE ROSE
Booted and spurred he rode toward the west,
A rose, from the woman who loved him best,
Lay warm with her kisses there in his breast,
And the battle beacons were burning.
As over the draw he galloping went,
She, from the gateway’s battlement,
With a wafted kiss and a warning bent—
“Beware of the ford at the turning!”
An instant only he turned in his sell,
And lightly fingered his petronel,
Then settled his sword in its belt as well,
And the horns to battle were sounding.
She watched till he reached the beacon there,
And saw its gleam on his helm and hair,
Then turned and murmured, “God keep thee, Clare!
From that wolf of the hills and his hounding.{399}”
And on he rode till he came to the hill,
Where the road turned off by the ruined mill,
Where the stream flowed shallow and broad and still,
And the battle beacon was burning.
Into the river with little heed,
Down from the hill he galloped his steed—
The water whispered on rock and reed,
“Death hides by the ford at the turning!”
And out of the night on the other side,
Their helms and corselets dim descried,
He saw ten bandit troopers ride,
And the horns to battle were blaring.
Then he reined his steed in the middle ford,
And glanced behind him and drew his sword,
And laughed as he shouted his battle-word,
“Clare! Clare! and my steel needs airing!”
Then down from the hills at his back there came
Ten troopers more. With a face of flame
Red Hugh of the Hills led on the same,
In the glare of the beacon’s burning.
Again the cavalier turned and gazed,
Then quick to his lips the rose he raised,{400}
And kissed it, crying, “Now God be praised!
And help her there when mourning!”
Then he rose in his stirrups and loosened rein,
And shouting his cry spurred on amain
Into the troopers to slay and be slain,
While the horns to battle were blowing.
With ten behind him and ten before,
And the battle beacon to light the shore,
Small doubt of the end in his mind he bore,
With her rose in his bosom glowing.
One trooper he slew with his petronel,
And one with his sword when his good steed fell,
And they haled him, fighting, from horse and sell
In the light of the beacon’s burning.
Quoth Hugh of the Hills,—“To yonder tree
Now hang him high where she may see;
Then bear this rose and message from me—
‘The ravens feast at the turning.’”
{401}
BERTRAND DE BORN
Knight and Troubadour, to his Lady the beautiful Maenz of Martagnac.

The burden of the sometime years,
That once my soul did overweigh,
Falls from me, with its griefs and fears,
When gazing in thine eyes of gray;
Wherein, behold, like some bright ray
Of dawn, thy hearts fond love appears,
To cheer my life upon its way.
Thine eyes! the daybreak of my heart!
That give me strength to do and dare;
Whose beauty is a radiant part
Of all my songs; the music there;
The morning, that makes dim each care,
And glorifies my mind’s dull mart,
And helps my soul to do and dare.
God, when He made thy fresh fair face,
And thy young body, took the morn{402}
And made thee like a rose, whose race
Is not of Earth; without a thorn,
And dewed thee with the joy that’s born
Of love, wherein hope hath its place
Like to the star that heralds morn.
I go my way through town and thorp:
In court and hall and castle bower
I tune my lute and strike my harp:
And often from some twilight tower
A lady drops to me a flower,
That bids me scale the moat’s steep scarp,
And climb to love within her bower.
I heed them not, but go my ways:
What is their passion unto me!
My songs are only in thy praise;
Thy face alone it is I see,
That fills my heart with melody—
My sweet aubade! that makes my days
All music, singing here in me!
One time a foul knight in his towers
Sneered thus: “God’s blood! why weary us
With this one woman all our hours!—
Sing of our wenches! amorous
Yolande and Ysoarde here!—Not thus{403}
Shalt sing, but of our paramours!—
What is thy Lady unto us!”
And then I flung my lute aside;
And from its baldric flew my sword;
And down the hall ’twas but a stride;
And in his brute face and its word
My gauntlet; and around the board
The battle, till all wild-beast-eyed
He lay and at his throat my sword.
Thou dost remember in Provence
The vile thing that I slew; and how
With my good jongleurs and my lance
Kept back his horde!—The memory now
Makes fierce my blood and hot my brow
With rage.—Ah, what a madman dance
We led them, and escaped somehow!
Oft times, when, in the tournament,
I see thee sitting yet uncrowned;
And bugles blow and spears are bent,
And shields and falchions clash around,
And steeds go crashing to the ground;
And thou dost smile on me,—though spent
With war, again my soul is crowned:{404}
And I am fire to strike and slay;
Before my face there comes a mist
Of blood; and like a flame I play
Through the loud lists; all who resist
Go down like corn; until thy wrist,
Kneeling, I kiss; the wreath they lay
Of beauty on thy head’s gold mist.
And then I seize my lute and sing
Some chanson or some wild aubade
Full of thy beauty and the swing
Of swords and love which I have had
Of thee, until, with music mad,
The lists reel with thy name and ring
The echoed words of my aubade.
I am thy knight and troubadour,
Bertrand de Born, whom naught shall part
From thee: who art my life’s high lure,
And wild bird of my wilder heart
And all its music: yea, who art
My soul’s sweet sickness and its cure,
From which, God grant! it ne’er shall part.
{405}
THE TROUBADOUR, PONS DE CAPDEUIL
In Provence, to his Lady, Azalis de Mercœur in Anjou

The gray dawn finds me thinking still
Of thee who hadst my thoughts all night;
Of thee, who art my lute’s sweet skill,
And of my soul the only light;
My star of song to whom I turn
My face and for whose love I yearn.
Thou dost not know thy troubadour
Lies sick to death; no longer sings:
That this alone may work his cure—
To feel thy white hand, weighed with rings,
Smoothed softly through his heavy hair,
Or resting with the old love there.
To feel thy warm cheek laid to his;
Thy bosom fluttering with love;
Then on his eyes and lips thy kiss{406}—
Thy kiss alone were all enough
To heal his heart, to cure his soul,
And make his mind and body whole.
The drought, these three months past, hath slain
All green things in this weary land,
As in my life thy high disdain
Hath killed ambition: yea, my hand
Forgets its cunning; and my heart,
Sick to stagnation, all its art.
Once to my castle there at Puy,
In honor of thy beauty, came
The Angevin nobility,
To hear me sing of thee, whose fame
Was high as Helen’s.—Azalis,
Hast thou forgot? Forget’st thou this?
And in the lists how often there
I broke a spear for thee? and placed
The crown of beauty on thy hair,
While thou sat’st, like the fair moon faced,
Amid the human firmament
Of faces that toward thee bent.
I take my hawk, my peregrine—
No falconer or page beside{407}—
And ride from morn till eve begin;
I ride forgetting that I ride,
And all save this: that thou no more
Dost ride beside me as of yore.
A heron sweeps above me: I
Remember then how oft were cast
Thy hawk and mine at such: and sigh
Thinking of thee and days long past,
When through the Anjou fields and bowers
We used to hawk and hunt for hours.
And when, unhappy, I return,
And take my lute and seek again
The terrace where, beside some urn,
The castle gathers,—while the stain
Of sunset crimsons all the sea,—
And sing old songs once loved of thee:
The soul within me overflows
With longing; and I seem to hear
Thy voice through fountains and the rose
Calling afar, while, wildly near,
The rossignol makes mute my tongue
With memories of things long sung.
Here in Provence I pine for thee;
And there in Anjou dost forget!{408}—
All beauty here is less to me
Than is the ribbon lightly set
At thy white throat; or, on thy foot,
The shoe that I have loved to lute.
Thy foot, that I have loved to kiss;
To kiss and sing of!—Song hath died
In me since then, my Azalis;
Since to my soul e’en that’s denied:
Thy kiss, that now alone could cure
The sick heart of thy Troubadour.
{409}
THE OLD HOME
An old lane, an old gate, an old house by a tree;
A wild wood, a wild brook—they will not let me be:
In boyhood I knew them, and still they call to me.
Down deep in my heart’s core I hear them and my eyes
Through tear-mists behold them beneath the old-time skies,
’Mid bee-boom and rose-bloom and orchard-lands arise.
I hear them; and heartsick with longing is my soul,
To walk there, to dream there, beneath the sky’s blue bowl;
Around me, within me, the weary world made whole.{410}
To talk with the wild brook of all the long-ago;
To whisper the wood-wind of things we used to know
When we were old companions, before my heart knew woe.
To walk with the morning and watch its rose unfold;
To drowse with the noontide lulled on its heart of gold;
To lie with the night-time and dream the dreams of old.
To tell to the old trees, and to each listening leaf,
The longing, the yearning, as in my boyhood brief,
The old hope, the old love, would ease me of my grief.
The old lane, the old gate, the old house by the tree;
The wild wood, the wild brook—they will not let me be:
In boyhood I knew them, and still they call to me.
{411}
THE OLD HERB-MAN
On the barren hillside lone he sat;
On his head he wore a tattered hat;
In his hand he bore a crooked staff;
Never heard I laughter like his laugh,
On the barren hillside, thistle-hoar.
Cracked his laughter sounded, harsh as woe,
As the croaking, thinned, of a crow:
At his back hung, pinned, a wallet old,
Bulged with roots and simples caked with mould:
On the barren hillside in the wind.
Roots of twisted twin-leaf; sassafras;
Bloodroot, tightly whipped round with grass;
Adder’s-tongue; and, tipped brown and black,
Yellowroot and snakeroot filled his pack,
On the barren hillside, winter-stripped.{412}
There is nothing sadder than old age;
Nothing saddens more than that stage
When, forlornly poor, bent with toil,
One must starve or wring life from the soil,
From the barren hillside, wild and hoar.
Down the barren hillside slow he went,
Cursing at the cold, bowed and bent;
With his bag of mold, herbs and roots,
In his clay-stained garments, clay-caked boots,
Down the barren hillside, poor and old.
{413}
THE SOLITARY
Upon the mossed rock by the spring
She sits, forgetful of her pail,
Lost in remote remembering
Of that which may no more avail.
Her thin, pale hair is dimly dressed
Above a brow lined deep with care,
The color of a leaf long pressed,
A faded leaf that once was fair.
You may not know her from the stone
So still she sits who does not stir,
Thinking of this one thing alone—
The love that never came to her.
{415}{414}
{416}

{417}

FOOTPATHS
What though I dreamed of mountain heights, Of peaks, the
barriers of the world, Around whose tops the Northern Lights And
tempests are unfurled!
Mine are the footpaths leading through Life’s lowly fields and
woods,—with rifts, Above, of heaven’s Eden blue,—By which the violet
lifts
Its shy appeal; and, holding up Its chaliced gold, like some wild wine,
Along the hillside, cup on cup, Blooms bright the celandine.
Where soft upon each flowering stock The butterfly spreads damask
wings; And under grassy loam and rock The cottage cricket sings.
Where, overhead, eve blooms with fire, In which the new moon bends her
bow, And, arrow-like, one white star by her Burns through the
afterglow.{418}
I care not, so the sesame I find; the magic flower there, Whose touch
unseals each mystery In water, earth and air.
Which, in the oak-tree, lets me hear Its heart’s deep speech, its
soul’s wise words; And to my mind makes crystal clear The melodies of
birds.
Why should I care, who live aloof, Beyond the din of life and dust,
While dreams still share my humble roof, And love makes sweet my crust?
{419}
ELFIN
I
When wildflower blue and wildflower white
The wildflowers lay their heads together,
And the moon-moth glimmers along the night,
And the wandering firefly flares its light,
And the full moon rises broad and bright,
Then, then it is elfin weather.
II
And fern and flower on top of the hill
Are a fairy wood where the fairies camp;
And there, to the pipe of the cricket shrill,
And the owl’s bassoon or the whippoorwill,
They whirl their wildest and trip their fill
By the light of the glow-worm’s lamp.
III
And the mottled toad and the katydid
Are the henchmen set to guard their dance;{420}
At whose cry they creep ’neath the dewy lid
Of a violet’s eye, or close lie hid
In a bluebell’s ear, if a mortal ’mid
The moonlit woods should chance.
IV
And the forest-fly with its gossamer wings,
And filmy body of rainbow dye,
Is the ouphen steed each elfin brings,
Whereon by the light of the stars he swings,
When the dance is done and the barn-cock sings,
And the dim dawn streaks the sky.
{421}
AUTHORITIES
The unpretentious flowers of the woods,
That rise in bright and banded brotherhoods,
Waving us welcome, and with kisses sweet
Laying their lives down underneath our feet,
Lesson my soul more than the tomes of man,
Packed with the lore of ages, ever can,
In love and truth, hope and humility,
And such unselfishness as to the bee,
Lifting permissive petals dripping nard,
Yields every sweet up, asking no reward.
The many flowers of wood and field and stream,
Filling our hearts with wonder and with dream,
That know no ceremony, yet that are
Attended of such reverence as that star—
That punctual point of flame, which, to our eyes,
Leads on the vast procession of the skies,
Sidereal silver, glittering in the west—
Compels, assertive of heaven’s loveliest.{422}
Where may one find suggestion simpler set
Than in the radius of a violet?
Or more authentic loveliness than glows
In the small compass of a single rose?
Or more of spiritual thought than perfumes from
The absolute purity of a lily-bloom?
{423}
THE WILLOW WATER
Deep in the hollow wood he found a way
Winding unto a water, dim and gray,
Grayer and dimmer than the break of day;
By which a wildrose blossomed; flower on flower
Leaning above its image hour on hour,
Musing, it seemed, on its own loveliness,
And longing with sweet longing to express
Some thought to its reflection.
Dropping now
Bee-shaken pollen from the voluble bough,
And now a petal, delicate as a blush,
It seemed to sigh or whisper to the hush
The dreams, the myths and marvels it had seen
Tip-toeing dimly through the woodland green:
Faint shapes of fragrance; forms like flowers, that go
Footing the moss; or, shouldered with moonbeam glow,
Through starlit waves oaring an arm of snow.{424}
He sat him down and gazed into the pool:
And as he gazed, two petals, silken cool,
Fell, soft as star beams fall that arrow through
The fern-hung trembling of a drop of dew;
And, pearly-placid, on the water lay,
Two curves of languid ruby, where, green-gray,
The shadow of a willow dimmed the stream.
And suddenly he saw—or did he dream
He saw?—the rose-leaves change to rosy lips,
A laughing crimson. And, with silvery hips,
And eyes of luminous emerald, full of sleep
And all the stillness of the under deep,
The shadow of the tree become a girl,
A shadowy girl, who shook from many a curl
Faint, tangled glimmerings of shell and pearl.
A girl who called him, beckoned him to come,
Waving a hand whiter than moonlit foam,
And pointing, minnowy fingered, to her home—
A bubble, rainbow-built, beneath the wave,
Dim-domed, and murmurous as the deep-sea cave,
Columned of coral and of grottoed foam,
Where the pale mermaids never cease to comb
Their weed-green hair with fingers crystal-cold,
Sighing forever round the Sea King old
Throned on his throne of shell and ribbéd gold.{425}
Laughing, she lured him, lipped like some wild-rose;
Bidding him follow; come to her; repose
Upon her bosom and forever dream
Lulled by the wandering whisper of the stream.
But him mortality weighed heavily on
And earthly love: and, sorrowful and wan,
He shook his head, motioning “I can not rise”;
But still he felt the magic of her eyes
Drawing him to her; felt her hands of foam
Around his heart; her lips, that bade him come
With smiling witchery, and with laughing looks
Like those that lured us in the fairy books
Our childhood dreamed on….
Then, as suddenly,
A wind, it seemed, from nowhere he could see,
Wrinkled the water; ruffled its smooth glass;
And there again, behold! when it did pass
The rose-leaves lay and shadow, dimly seen;
The willow’s shadow, and no thing between.
{426}
ELUSION
I
My soul goes out to her who says,
“Come follow me and cast off care!”
Then tosses back her sunbright hair,
And like a flower before me sways
Between the green leaves and my gaze:
This creature like a girl, who smiles
Into my eyes and softly lays
Her hand in mine and leads me miles,
Long miles of haunted forest ways.
II
Sometimes she seems a faint perfume,
A fragrance that a flower exhaled
And God gave form to; now, unveiled,
A sunbeam making gold the gloom
Of vines that roof some woodland room
Of boughs; and now the silvery sound
Of streams her presence doth assume—
Music, from which, in dreaming drowned,
A crystal shadow she seems to bloom.
{427}
III
Sometimes she seems the light that lies
On foam of waters where the fern
Shimmers and drips; now, at some turn
Of woodland, bright against the skies,
She seems the rainbowed mist that flies;
And now the mossy fire that breaks
Beneath the feet in azure eyes
Of flowers; and now the wind that shakes
Pale petals from the bough that sighs.
IV
Sometimes she lures me with a song;
Sometimes she guides me with a laugh;
Her white hand is a magic staff,
Her look a spell to lead me long:
Though she be weak and I be strong,
She needs but shake her happy hair,
But glance her eyes, and, right or wrong,
My soul must follow—anywhere
She wills—far from the world’s loud throng.
V
Sometimes I think that she must be
No part of earth, but merely this{428}—
The fair, elusive thing we miss
In Nature, that we dream we see
Yet never see: that goldenly
Beckons; that, limbed with rose and pearl,
The Greek made a divinity:—
A nymph, a god, a glimmering girl,
That haunts the forest’s mystery.
{429}
THE LOST GARDEN
Roses, brier on brier,
Like a hedge of fire,
Walled it from the world and rolled
Crimson round it; manifold
Blossoms, ’mid which once of old
Walked my Heart’s Desire.
There the golden Hours
Dwelt; and ’mid the bowers
Beauty wandered like a maid;
And the Dreams that never fade
Sat within its haunted shade
Gazing at the flowers.
There the winds that vary
Melody and marry
Perfume unto perfume, went,
Whispering to the buds, that bent,
Messages whose wonderment
Made them sweet to carry.{430}
There the waters hoary
Murmured many a story
To the leaves that leaned above,
Listening to their tales of love,
While the happiness thereof
Flushed their green with glory.
There the sunset’s shimmer
’Mid the bowers,—dimmer
Than the woods where Fable dwells,
And Romance her legends tells,—
Wrought dim dreams and dimmer spells,
Filled with golden glimmer.
There at night the wonder
Of the moon would sunder
Foliage deeps with breast of pearl,
Wandering like a glimmering girl,
Fair of form and bright of curl,
Through the trees and under.
There the stars would follow,
Over hill and hollow,
Spirit shapes that danced the dew
From frail cups of sparry hue;
Firefly forms that fleeter flew
Than the fleetest swallow.{431}
There my heart made merry;
There, ’mid bloom and berry,
Dreamed the dreams that are no more,
In that garden lost of yore,
Set in seas, without a shore,
That no man may ferry.
Where perhaps her lyre,—
Wreathed with serest brier,—
Sorrow strikes now; sad its gold
Sighing where, ’mid roses old,
Fair of face and dead and cold
Lies my Heart’s Desire.
{432}
LATE OCTOBER WOODS
Clumped in the shadow of the beech,—
In whose brown top the crows are loud,—
Where, every side, great briers reach
And cling like hands,—the beech drops crowd
The mossy cirque with neutral tints
Of gray; and deep, with berries bowed,
The buckbush reddens ’mid the mints.
O’erhead the forest scarcely stirs:
The wind is laid: the sky is blue:
Bush-clover, with its links of burrs,
And some last blooms,—few, pink of hue,—
Makes wild the way: and everywhere
Slim, white-ribbed cones of fungi strew
The grass that’s like a wildman’s hair.
The jewel-weeds, whose pods bombard
The hush with fairy batteries
Of seeds, grow dense here; pattering hard
Their sacs explode, persuade the eyes
To search the heaven for show’rs:—One seems
To walk where old Enchantment plies
Her shuttle of lost days and dreams.{433}
And, lo! yon rock of fern and flower,
That heaves its height from bramble deeps,
All on a sudden seems the tower
Wherein the Sleeping Beauty sleeps:
And that red vine the fire-drake,
The flaming dragon, is, that keeps
The world from her no man may wake.
{434}
IN THE BEECH WOODS
Amber and emerald, cairngorm and chrysoprase,
Stream through the autumn woods, scatter the beech-wood ways:
Ways where the wahoo-bush brightens with scarlet;
And where the aster-stalk lifts its last starlet.
Ways where the brier burns; poplars drop, one by one,
Leaves that seem beaten gold, each like a splash of sun:
Round which the beeches rise, tree upon golden tree,
That, with each wind that blows, sound like a summer sea.
Ways where the papaw leans, great-leaved and beryl-green,
Like some grand forester one in Romance hath seen;{435}
And like some Indian queen, sung of in story,
Flaming the gum-tree stands, crowned with its glory.
Ways where the bittersweet, cleaving its pods of gold,
Brightens the brake with flame, torches the dingle old:
And where the dogwood, too, crimsons with ruby seeds;
Spicewood and buckbush bend ruddy with rosy beads.
These are the woods of gold; forests our childhood knew,
Where the Enchanted dwelt, she with the eyes of blue;
She of the raven locks, and of the lovely looks,
She who oft gazed at us out of the Story Books.
And with that Prince again, striding his snow-white steed,
To her deliverance through the gold wood we speed;
On through the wood of flame to the Dark Tower,
Where like a light she gleams high in her bower.
{436}
THE WORD IN THE WOOD
I
The acorn-oak
Sullens to sombre crimson all its leaves;
And where it hugely heaves
A giant head dark as congested blood,
The gum-tree towers, against the sky a stroke
Of purpling gold; and every blur of wood
Is color on the pallet that she drops,
The Autumn, dreaming on the hazed hilltops.
II
And as I went
Through golden forests in a golden land,
Where Magic waved her wand
And dimmed the air with dreams my boyhood knew,
Enchantment met me; and again she bent
Her face to mine, and smiled with eyes of blue,
And kissed me on the mouth and bade me heed
Old tales again from books no man may read.
{437}
III
And at her word
The wood became transfigured; and, behold!
With hair of wavy gold
A presence walked there; and its beauty was
The beauty not of Earth: and then I heard
Within my heart vague voices, murmurous
And multitudinous as leaves that sow
The firmament when winds of autumn blow.
IV
And I perceived
The voices were but one voice made of sighs,
That sorrowed in this wise:
“I am the child-soul that grew up and died,
The child-soul of the world that once believed,
Believed in me, but long ago denied;
The Faery Faith it needs no more to-day,
The folk-lore Beauty long since passed away.”
{438}
THE NIGHT-WIND
I
I have heard the wind on a winter’s night,
When the snow-cold moon looked icily through
My window’s flickering firelight,
Where the frost his witchery drew:
I have heard the wind on a winter’s night,
Wandering ways that were frozen white,
Wail in my chimney-flue:
And its voice was the voice,—so it seemed to me,—
The voice of the world’s vast misery.
II
I have heard the wind on a night of spring,
When the leaves unclasped their girdles of gold,
And the bird on the bough sang slumbering,
In the lilac’s fragrant fold:{439}
I have heard the wind on a night of spring,
Shaking the musk from its dewy wing,
Sigh in my garden old:
And it seemed that it said, as it sighed above,
“I am the voice of the Earth’s great love.”
III
I have heard the wind on a night of fall,
When a devil’s-dance was the rain’s downpour,
And the wild woods reeled to its demon call,
And the carpet fluttered the floor:
I have heard the wind on a night of fall,
Heaping the leaves by the garden wall,
Weep at my close-shut door:
And its voice, so it seemed, as it sorrowed there,
Was the old, old voice of the world’s despair.
IV
I have heard the wind on a summer night,
When the myriad stars stormed heaven with fire,
And the moon-moth glimmered in phantom flight,
And the crickets creaked in choir:{440}
I have heard the wind on a summer night,
Rocking the red rose and the white,
Murmur in bloom and brier:
And its voice was the voice,—so it seemed to me,—
Of Earth’s primordial mystery.
{441}
GOD’S GREEN BOOK
I
Out, out in the open fields,
Where the great, green book of God,—
The book that its wisdom yields
To each soul that is not a clod,—
Lies wide for the world to read,
I would go; and in flower and weed,
That letter the lines of the grass,
Would read of a better creed
Than that which the town-world has.
II
Too long in the city streets,
The alleys of grime and sin,
Have I heard the iron beats
Of the heart of toil; whose din,
And the throb of whose wild unrest
Have stunned the song in my breast,
Have marred its music and slain
The bird that was once its guest,
And my soul would find it again.
{442}
III
Out there where the great, green book,
Whose leaves are the grass and trees,
Lies open; where each may look,
May muse and read as he please;
The book, that is gilt with gleams,
Whose pages are ribboned with streams;
That says what our souls would say
Of beauty that’s wrought of dreams
And buds and blossoms of May.
{443}
A WET DAY
Dark, drear, and drizzly, with vapor grizzly,
The day goes dully unto its close;
Its wet robe smutches each thing it touches,
Its fingers sully and wreck the rose.
Around the railing and garden-paling
The dripping lily hangs low its head:
A brood-mare whinnies; and hens and guineas
Droop, damp and chilly, beneath the shed.
In splashing mire about the byre
The cattle huddle, the farm-hand plods;
While to some neighbor’s a wagon labors
Through pool and puddle and clay that clods.{444}
The day, unsplendid, at last is ended,
Is dead and buried, and night has come;—
Night, blind and footless, and foul and fruitless,
With weeping wearied, and sorrow-dumb.
Ah, God! for thunder! for winds to sunder
The clouds and o’er us smite rushing bars!
And through wild masses of storm, that passes,
Roll calm the chorus of moon and stars.
{445}
AFTER STORM
Great clouds of sullen seal and gold
Bar bleak the tawny west,
From which all day the thunder rolled,
And storm streamed, crest on crest.
Now silvery in its deeps of bronze
The new moon fills its sphere;
And point by point the darkness dons
Its pale stars there and here.
But still behind the moon and stars,
The peace of heaven remains
Suspicion of the wrath that wars,
That Nature now restrains.
As, lined ’neath tiger eyelids, glare
The wild-beast eyes that sleep,
So smoulders in its sunset lair
The rage that rent the deep.
{446}
SUNSET ON THE RIVER
I
A sea of onyx are the skies,
Cloud-islanded with fire;
Such nacre-colored flame as dyes
A sea-shell’s rosy spire;
And at its edge one star sinks slow,
Burning, into the overglow.
II
Save for the cricket in the grass,
Or passing bird that twitters,
The world is hushed. Like liquid glass
The soundless river glitters
Between the hills that hug and hold
Its beauty like a hoop of gold.
III
The glory deepens; and, meseems,
A vasty canvas, painted{447}
With revelations of God’s dreams
And visions symbol-sainted,
The west is, that each night-cowled hill
Kneels down before in worship still.
IV
There is no thing to wake unrest;
No sight or sound to jangle
The peace that evening in the breast
Brings, smoothing out the tangle
Of gnarls and knots of care and strife
That snarl the colored cord of life.
{448}
TABERNACLES
The little tents the wildflowers raise
Are tabernacles where Love prays
And Beauty preaches all the days.
I walk the woodland through and through,
And everywhere I see their blue
And gold where I may worship too.
All hearts unto their inmost shrine
Of fragrance they invite; and mine
Enters and sees the All Divine.
I hark; and with some inward ear
Soft words of praise and prayer I hear,
And bow my head and have no fear.
For God is present as I see
In them; and gazes out at me
Kneeling to His divinity.{449}
Oh, holiness that Nature knows,
That dwells within each thing that grows,
Vestured with dreams, as is the rose
With perfume! whereof all things preach—
The birds, the brooks, the leaves that reach
Our hearts and souls with loving speech;
That makes a tabernacle of
The flow’rs; whose priests are Truth and Love,
Who help our souls to rise above
The Earth and that which we name sin,
Unto the knowledge, that is kin
To Heaven, to which at last we win.
{450}
THE CAT-BIRD
I
The tufted gold of the sassafras,
And the gold of the spicewood-bush,
Bewilder the ways of the forest pass,
And brighten the underbrush:
The white-starred drifts of the wild-plum tree,
And the haw with its pearly plumes,
And the redbud, misted rosily,
Dazzle the woodland glooms.
II
And I hear the song of the cat-bird wake
I’ the boughs o’ the gnarled wild-crab,
Or there where the snows of the dogwood shake,
That the silvery sunbeams stab:
And it seems to me that a magic lies
In the crystal sweet of its notes,
That a myriad blossoms open their eyes
As its strain above them floats.
{451}
III
I see the bluebell’s blue unclose,
And the trillium’s stainless white;
The bird-foot violet’s purple and rose,
And the poppy, golden-bright!
And I see the eyes of the bluet wink,
And the heads of the white-hearts nod;
And the baby mouths of the woodland pink
And the sorrel salute the sod.
IV
And this, meseems, does the cat-bird say,
As the blossoms crowd i’ the sun:—
“Up, up! and out! oh, out and away!
Up, up! and out, each one!
Sweethearts! sweethearts! oh, sweet, sweet, sweet!
Come listen and hark to me!
The Spring, the Spring, with her fragrant feet,
Is passing this way!—Oh, hark to the beat
Of her bee-like heart!—Oh, sweet, sweet, sweet!
Come! open your eyes and see!
See, see, see!”
{452}
DAYS COME AND GO
Leaves fall and flowers fade,
Days come and go:
Now is sweet Summer laid
Low in her leafy glade,
Low like a fragrant maid,
Low, low, ah, low.
Tears fall and eyelids ache,
Hearts overflow:
Here for our dead love’s sake
Let us our farewells make—
Will he again awake?
Ah, no, no, no.
Winds sigh and skies are gray,
Days come and go:
Wild birds are flown away:
Where are the blooms of May?—
Dead, dead, this many a day,
Under the snow.{453}
Lips sigh and cheeks are pale,
Hearts overflow:
Will not some song or tale,
Kiss, or a flower frail,
With our dead love avail?—
Ah, no, no, no.
{454}
THE WANING YEAR
A sense of something that is sad and strange;
Of something that is felt as death is felt,—
As shadows, phantoms, in a haunted grange,—
Around me seems to melt.
It rises, so it seems, from the decay
Of the dim woods; from withered leaves and weeds,
And dead flowers hanging by the woodland way
Sad, hoary heads of seeds.
And from the cricket’s song,—so feeble now
’Tis like a sound heard in the heart, a call
Dreamier than dreams;—and from the shaken bough,
And acorns’ drowsy fall.
From scents and sounds it rises, sadly slow,
This presence, that hath neither face nor form;
That in the woods sits like demented woe,
Whispering of wreck and storm.{455}
A presence wrought of melancholy grief,
And dreams that die; that, in the streaming night,
I shall behold, like some fantastic leaf,
Beat at my window’s light.
That I shall hear, outside my storm-lashed door,
Moan like the wind in some rain-tortured tree;
Or round my roof and down my chimney roar
All the wild night to me.
{456}
GRAY NOVEMBER
I
Dull, dimly gleaming,
The dawn looks downward
Where, flowing townward,
The river, steaming
With mist, is hidden:
Each bush, that huddles
Beside the road,—the rain has pooled with puddles,—
Seems, in the fog, a hag or thing hag-ridden.
II
Where leaves hang tattered
In forest tangles,
And woodway angles
Are acorn-scattered,
Coughing and yawning
The woodsman slouches,
Or stands as silent as the hound that crouches
Beside him, ghostly in the mist-drenched dawning.
{457}
III
Through roses, rotting
Within the garden,—
With blooms, that harden,
Of marigolds, knotting,
(Each one an ember
Dull, dead and dripping,)
Her brow, from which their faded wreath is slipping,
Mantled in frost and fog, comes in November.
{458}
WHAT OF IT THEN
I
Well, what of it then, if your heart be weighed with the yoke
Of the world’s neglect? and the smoke
Of doubt, blown into your eyes, makes night of your road?
And the sting of the goad,
The merciless goad of scorn,
And the rise and fall
Of the whip of necessity gall,
Till your heart, forlorn,
Indignant, in rage would rebel?
And your bosom fill,
And sobbingly swell,
With bitterness, yea, against God and ’gainst Fate,
Fate, and the world of men,
What of it then?…
Let it be as it will,
If you labor and wait,{459}
You, too, will arrive, and the end for you, too, will be well.
What of it then, say I! yea, what of it then!
II
Well, what of it then? if the hate of the world and of men
Make wreck of your dreams again?
What of it then
If contumely and sneer,
And ignorant jibe and jeer,
Be heaped upon all that you do and dream:
And the irresistible stream
Of events overwhelm and submerge
All effort—or so it may seem?
Not all, not all shall be lost,
Not all, in the merciless gurge
And pitiless surge!—
Though you see it tempestuously tossed,
Though you see it sink down or sweep by,
Not in vain did you strive, not in vain!
The struggle, the longing and toil
Of hand and of heart and of brain,
Not in vain was it all, say I!
For out of the wild turmoil
And seething and soil{460}
Of Time, some part of the whole will arise,
Arise and remain,
In spite of the wrath of the skies
And the hate of men.—
What of it then, say I! yea, what of it then!
{461}
WOMANHOOD
I
The summer takes its hue
From something opulent as fair in her,
And the bright heav’n is brighter than it was;
Brighter and lovelier,
Arching its beautiful blue,
Serene and soft, as her sweet gaze, o’er us.
II
The springtime takes its moods
From something in her made of smiles and tears,
And flowery earth is flowerier than before,
And happier, it appears,
Adding new multitudes
To flowers, like thoughts, that haunt us evermore.
{462}
III
Summer and spring are wed
In her—her nature; and the glamour of
Their loveliness, their bounty, as it were,
Of life, and joy, and love,
Her being seems to shed,
The magic aura of the heart of her.
{463}
THE ROSE’S SECRET
When down the west the new moon slipped,
A curved canoe that dipped and tipped,
When from the rose the dewdrop dripped,
As if it shed its heart’s blood slow;
As softly silent as a star
I climbed a lattice that I know,
A window lattice, held ajar
By one slim hand as white as snow:
The hand of her who set me here,
A rose, to bloom from year to year.
I, who have heard the bird of June
Sing all night long beneath the moon;
I, who have heard the zephyr croon
Soft music ’mid spring’s avenues,
Heard then a sweeter sound than these,
Among the shadows and the dews—
A heart that beat like any bee’s,
Sweet with a name—and I know whose:
Her heart that, leaning, pressed on me,
A rose, she never looked to see.{464}
O star and moon! O wind and bird!
Ye harkened, too, but never heard
The secret sweet, the whispered word
I heard, when by her lips his name
Was murmured.—Then she saw me there!—
But that I heard was I to blame?
Whom in the darkness of her hair
She thrust since I had heard the same:
Condemned within its deeps to lie,
A rose, imprisoned till I die.
{465}
THE HUSHED HOUSE
I, who went at nightfall, came again at dawn;
On Love’s door again I knocked.—Love was gone.
He who oft had bade me in, now would bid no more;
Silence sat within his house; barred its door.
When the slow door opened wide through it I could see
How the emptiness within stared at me.
Through the dreary chambers, long I sought and sighed,
But no answering footstep came; naught replied.
Then at last I entered, dim, a darkened room:
There a taper glimmered gray in the gloom.
And I saw one lying crowned with helichrys;
Never saw I face as fair as was his.{466}
Like a wintry lily was his brow in hue;
And his cheeks were each a rose, wintry, too.
Then my soul remembered all that made us part,
And what I had laughed at once—broke my heart.
{467}
UNFORGOTTEN
I
How many things, that we would remember,
Sweet or sad, or great or small,
Do our minds forget! and how one thing only,
One little thing endures o’er all!
For many things have I forgotten,
But this one thing can never forget—
The scent of a primrose, woodland-wet,
Long years ago I found in a far land;
A fragile flower that April set,
Rainy pink, in her forehead’s garland.
II
How many things by the heart are forgotten!
Sad or sweet, or little or great!
And how one thing that could mean nothing
Stays knocking still at the heart’s red gate!
For many things has my heart forgotten,
But this one thing can never forget—
The face of a girl, a moment met,
Who smiled in my eyes; whom I passed in pity;
A flower-like face, with weeping wet,
Flung to the streets of a mighty city.
{468}
UNSUCCESS
A modern Poet addresses his Muse, to whom he has devoted the best Years of his Life

I
Not here, O belovéd! not here let us part, in the city, but there!
Out there where the storm can enfold us, on the hills, where its breast is made bare:
Its breast, that is rainy and cool as the fern that drips by the fall
In the luminous night of the woodland where winds to the waters call.
Not here, O belovéd! not here! but there! out there in the storm!
The rush and the reel of the heavens, the tempest, whose rapturous arm
Shall seize us and sweep us together,—resistless as passions seize men,—
Through the rocking world of the woodland, with its multitude music, and then,{469}
With the rain on our lips, belovéd! in the heart of the night’s wild hell,
One last, long kiss forever, and forever and ever farewell.
II
I am sick of the madness of men; of the bootless struggle and strife:
Of the pain and the patience of waiting; the scoff and the scorning of life:
I am sick of the shapes and the shadows; the sins and the sorrows that crowd
The gateways of heart and of brain; of the laughter, the shout that is loud
In the mouth of Success—Success, that was never for me, ah me!—
And all the wrong and neglect that are heaped beloved, on thee!
I am sick of the whining of failure; the boast and the brag of Success;
The vainness of effort and longing; the dreams and the days that oppress:
I am sick of them all; but am sickest, am sickest in body and soul,
Of the love that I bear thee, beloved! and only thy death can make whole.
{470}
III
Imperfect, imperfect God made us,—or the power that men call God.—
And I think that a Power so perfect, that made us with merely a nod,
Could have fashioned us beings less faulty; more able to wear and to bear;
Less open to mar and to fracture; less filled with the stuff of despair:
Less damned with the unavailing; less empty of all good things—
The hopes and the dreams that mature not while the clay still to them clings:
I am sick of it all, belovéd! of the world and the ways of God;
The thorns that have pierced thy bosom; the shards of the paths we have trod:
I am sick of going and coming; and of love I am sickest of all:
The striving, the praying, the dreaming; and the things that never befall.—
So there in the storm and the darkness,—O fair, and O fugitive!—
Out there in the night, belovéd, must thou die so I may live!
{471}
THE FIRST QUARTER
I
January

Shaggy with skins of frost-furred gray and drab,
Harsh, hoary hair framing a bitter face,
He bends above the dead Year’s fireplace
Nursing the last few embers of its slab
To sullen glow: from pinched lips, cold and crab,
The starved flame shrinks; his breath, like a menáce,
Shrieks in the flue, fluttering its sooty lace,
Piercing the silence like an icy stab.
From rheum-gnarled knees he rises, slow with cold,
And to the frost-bound window, muttering, goes,
With iron knuckles knocking on the pane;
And, lo! outside, his minions manifold
Answer the summons: wolf-like shapes of woe,
Hunger and suffering, trooping to his train.
{472}
II
February

Gray-muffled to his eyes in rags of cloud,
His whip of winds forever in his hand,
Driving the herded storms along the land,—
That shake the wild sleet from wild hair and crowd
Heaven with tumultuous bulks,—he comes, low-browed
And heavy-eyed; the hail, like stinging sand,
Whirls white behind, swept backward by his band
Of wild-hoofed gales that o’er the world ring loud.
All day the tatters of his dark cloak stream
Congealing moisture, till in solid ice
The forests stand; and, clang on thunderous clang,
All night is heard,—as in the moon’s cold gleam
Tightens his grip of frost, his iron vise,—
The boom of bursting boughs that icicles fang.
{473}
III
March

This is the tomboy month of all the year,
March, who comes shouting o’er the winter hills,
Waking the world with laughter, as she wills,
Or wild halloos, a windflower in her ear.
She stops a moment by the half-thawed mere
And whistles to the wind, and straightway shrills
The hyla’s song, and hoods of daffodils
Crowd golden round her, leaning their heads to hear.
Then through the woods, that drip with all their eaves,
Her mad hair blown about her, loud she goes
Singing and calling to the naked trees,
And straight the oilets of the little leaves
Open their eyes in wonder, rows on rows,
And the first bluebird bugles to the breeze.
{474}
ZERO
The gate, on ice-hoarse hinges, stiff with frost,
Croaks open; and harsh wagon-wheels are heard
Creaking through cold; the horses’ breath is furred
Around their nostrils; and with snow deep-mossed
The hut is barely seen, from which, uptossed,
The wood-smoke pillars the icy air unstirred;
And every sound, each axe-stroke and each word,
Comes as through crystal, then again is lost.
The sun strikes bitter on the frozen pane,
And all around there is a tingling,—tense
As is a wire stretched upon a disk
Vibrating without sound:—It is the strain
That Winter plays, to which each tree and fence,
It seems, is strung, as ’twere of ringing bisque.
{475}
ON THE HILLTOP.
There is no inspiration in the view.
From where this acorn drops its thimbles brown
The landscape stretches like a shaggy frown;
The wrinkled hills hang haggard and harsh of hue:
Above them hollows the heaven’s stony blue,
Like a dull thought that haunts some sleep-dazed clown
Plodding his homeward way; and, whispering down,
The dead leaves dance, a sere and shelterless crew.
Let the sick day stagger unto its close,
Morose and mumbling, like a hoary crone
Beneath her faggots—huddled fogs that soon
Shall flare the windy west with ashen glows,
Like some deep, dying hearth; and let the lone
Night come at last—night, and its withered moon.
{476}
AUTUMN STORM
The wind is rising and the leaves are swept
Wildly before it, hundreds on hundreds fall
Huddling beneath the trees. With brag and brawl
Of storm the day is grown a tavern, kept
Of madness, where, with mantles torn and ripped
Of flying leaves that beat above it all,
The wild winds fight; and, like some half-spent ball,
The acorn stings the rout; and, silver-stripped,
The milkweed-pod winks an exhausted lamp:
Now, in his coat of tatters dark that streams,
The ragged rain sweeps stormily this way,
With all his clamorous followers—clouds that camp
Around the hearthstone of the west where gleams
The last chill flame of the expiring day.
{477}
THE JONGLEUR
Last night I lay awake and heard the wind,
That madman jongleur of the world of air,
Making wild music: now he seemed to fare
With harp and lute, so intimately twinned
They were as one; now on a drum he dinned,
Now on a tabor; now, with blow and blare
Of sackbut and recorder, everywhere
Shattered the night; then on a sudden thinned
To bagpipe wailings as of maniac grief
That whined itself to sleep. And then, me-seemed,
Out in the darkness, mediæval-dim,
I saw him dancing, like an autumn leaf,
In tattered tunic, while around him streamed
His lute’s wild ribbons ’thwart the moon’s low rim.
{478}
OLD SIR JOHN
Bald, with old eyes a blood-shot blue, he comes
Into the Boar’s Head Inn: the hot sweat streaks
His fulvous face, and all his raiment reeks
Of all the stews and all the Eastcheap slums.
Upon the battered board again he drums
And croaks for sack: then sits, his harsh-haired cheeks
Sunk in his hands, rough with the grime of weeks,
While round the tap one great bluebottle hums.
All, all are gone, the old companions—they
Who made his rogue’s world merry: of them all
Not one is left. Old, toothless now, and gray,
Alone he waits: the swagger of that day
Gone from his bulk—departed even as Doll,
And he, his Hal, who broke his heart, they say.
{479}
IN AGES PAST
I stood upon a height and listened to
The solemn psalmody of many pines,
And with the sound I seemed to see long lines
Of mountains rise, blue peak on cloudy blue,
And hear the roar of torrents hurling through
Riven ravines; or from the crags’ gaunt spines
Pouring wild hair, where,—as an eyeball shines,—
A mountain pool shone, clear and cold of hue.
And then my soul remembered—felt, how once,
In ages past, ’twas here that I, a Faun,
Startled an Oread at her morning bath,
Who stood revealed; her beauty, like the sun’s,
Veiled in her hair, heavy with dews of dawn,
Through which, like stars, burnt blue her eyes’ bright wrath.
{480}
THE MISER
Withered and gray as winter; gnarled and old,
With bony hands he crouches by the coals;
His beggar’s coat is patched and worn in holes;
Rags are his shoes: clutched in his claw-like hold
A chest he hugs wherein he hoards his gold.
Far-heard a bell of midnight slowly tolls:
The bleak blasts shake his hut like wailing souls,
And door and window chatter with the cold.
Nor sleet nor snow he heeds, nor storm nor night.
Let the wind howl! and let the palsy twitch
His rheum-racked limbs! here’s that will make them glow
And warm his heart! here’s comfort, joy and light!—
How the gold glistens!—Rich he is; how rich—
Only the death that knocks outside shall know.
{481}
UNTO WHAT END
Unto what end, I ask, unto what end
Is all this effort, this unrest and toil?
Work that avails not? strife and mad turmoil?
Ambitions vain that rack our hearts and rend?
Did labor but avail! did it defend
The soul from its despair, who would recoil
From sweet endeavor then? work that were oil
To still the storms that in the heart contend!
But still to see all effort valueless!
To toil in vain year after weary year
At Song! beholding every other Art
Considered more than Song’s high holiness,—
The difficult, the beautiful and dear!—
Doth break my heart, ah God! doth break my heart!
{482}
EPILOGUE
We have worshipped two gods from our earliest youth,
Soul of my soul and heart of me!
Young forever and true as truth—
The gods of Beauty and Poesy.
Sweet to us are their tyrannies,
Sweet their chains that have held us long,
For God’s own self is a part of these,
Part of our gods of Beauty and Song.
What to us if the world revile!
What to us if its heart rejects!
It may scorn our gods, or curse with a smile,
The gods we worship, that it neglects:
Nothing to us is its blessing or curse;
Less than nothing its hate and wrong:
For Love smiles down through the universe
Smiles on our gods of Beauty and Song.
We go our ways: and the dreams we dream,
People our path and cheer us on;
And ever before is the golden gleam,
The star we follow, the streak of dawn:
Nothing to us is the word men say;
For a wiser word still keeps us strong,
God’s word, that makes fine fire of clay,
That shaped our gods of Beauty and Song.