Untrodden, drear, and lone,
Stretched many a league away,
Beneath a burning, noonday sun,
The Syrian desert lay.
The scorching rays that beat
Upon that herbless plain,
The dazzling sands, with fiercer heat,
Reflected back again.
O'er that dry ocean strayed
No wandering breath of air,
No palm trees cast their cooling shade,
No water murmured there.
And thither, bowed with shame,
Spurned from her master's side,
The dark-browed child of Egypt came,
Her woe and shame to hide.
Drooping, and travel-worn,
The boy upon her hung;
Who, from his father's tent, that morn,
Like a gazelle had sprung.
His ebbing breath failed fast,
Glazed was his flashing eye;
And in that fearful, desert waste,
She laid him down to die.
But when, in wild despair,
She left him to his lot,
A voice that filled that breathless air,
Said, 'Hagar, fear thou not.'
Then o'er the hot sands flowed
A cooling, crystal stream,
And angels left their high abode,
And ministered to them.
Oft, when drear wastes surround
My faltering footsteps here,
I've thought, I too heard that blest sound
Of 'Wanderer, do not fear.'
And then, to light my path
On through the evil land,
Have the twin angels, Hope and Faith,
Walked with me, hand to hand.
As once I dreamed, methought I strayed
Within a snow-clad mountain's shade;
From whose far height the silence bore
One charméd word, 'Excelsior!'
And, as upon my soul it fell,
It bound me with a fearful spell;
It shut the sweet vale from my sight,
And called me up that dazzling height.
I could not choose but heed its tone,
And climb that dreary path alone;
And now around me hung the gloom,
Where the storm-spirit makes his home.
Upon my head the tempests beat;
Dark caverns opened at my feet;
The thunders rolled, the lightnings flashed
And fierce the swollen torrents dashed.
'Twas gained, that mountain's stormy pass;
But, chilled beside a _mer de glace,_
My heavy heart in vain would soar, -
The heart hears not 'Excelsior!'
The heart's home is the vale below,
Where kind words greet, where fond eyes glow;
It withers 'neath those frozen skies,
Where the aspiring thought would rise.
Above me the eternal snows
In the cold sunlight's glare arose,
And a dread Presence seemed to brood
O'er the appalling solitude.
But now, on that unquiet dream,
Did one of stateliest aspect beam;
Whose brow thought's kingly impress bore,
Whose soul thrilled to 'Excelsior!'
Though but one moment o'er my way
Did the bright form beside me stay;
In that pale brow and speaking eye,
Methought I saw _my Destiny!_
And as, far up the heaven-crowned height,
Thou seem'dst to vanish from my sight;
Thine image yet beside me stood,
And filled the voiceless solitude.
No longer drear that mountain waste.
For o'er its snows thy steps had passed;
No longer dread, in upper air,
That mountain's crest, for thou wert there!
As when untaught and blind,
To the mute stone the pagan bows his knee,
Spirit of Love! phantom of my own mind!
So have I worshipped thee!
When first a laughing child,
I gazed on nature with a wondering eye,
I learned of her in calm and tempest wild,
This thirst for sympathy.
I saw the flowers appear,
And spread their petals out to meet the sun,
The dew-drops on their glistening leaves draw near
And mingle into one.
And if a harp was stirred
By the soft pulses of some wandering sound,
Attuned to the same key, then I have heard
Its chords untouched respond.
Fast through the vaulted sky,
Giving no sound or light, when storms were loud,
I saw the electric cloud in silence fly, -
Seeking its sister cloud.
I saw the winds, the sea,
And all the hosts of heaven in bright array,
Governed by this sweet law of sympathy,
Roll on their destined way.
And then my spirit pined,
And, like the sea-shell for its parent sea,
Moaned for those kindred souls it could not find,
And panted to be free.
And then came wild despair,
And laid her palsying hand upon my soul,
And her dread ministers were with her there,
The dagger and the bowl.
Oh God of life and light,
Thou who didst stay my hand in that dread hour,
Thou who didst save me in that fearful night,
Of maddening passion's power!
Before thy throne I bow;
I tear my worshipped idols from their shrine;
I give to thee, though bruised and aching now,
This heart, - oh! make it thine.
I've sought to fill in vain
Its lonely, silent depths with human love:
Help me to cast away each earthly claim
And rise to thee above.
Dedication To My Mother
THE flowers of romance that I cherished,
Around me lie withered and dead;
The stars of my youth's shining heaven,
Were but meteors whose brightness misled;
And the day-dreams of life's vernal morning,
Like the mists of the morning have fled.
But one flower I have found still unwithered;
Like the night-scented jasmin it gleams;
And beyond where the fallen stars vanished,
One light pure and hallowed still beams;
One love I have found, deep and changeless,
As that I have yearned for in dreams.
Too often the links have been broken,
That bound me in friendship's bright chain
Too often has fancy deceived me
To blind or to charm me again;
And I sigh o'er my young heart's illusions,
With a sorrow I would were disdain.
But now, as the clouds return earthward,
From the cold and void ether above;
As on pinions all drooping and weary,
O'er the waste flew the wandering dove;
O'er the tide of the world's troubled waters,
I return to the ark of thy love.
Here, at length, my tired spirit reposes;
Here my heart's strongest tendrils entwine;
Here its warmest and deepest affections
It lays on earth's holiest shrine
Dearest mother, receive the devotion
Of the life thou hast given from thine.
Here, pressed to thy bosom, the tempests
That sweep over life's stormy sea,
Have beat, in their impotent fury, —
They were winged with no terror for me;
If I shrank from the fearful encounter,
If I trembled — it was but for thee.
The spirit of Song that lies buried
In silence or sleep in the breast,
Unlike the wild music of Memnon,
Is changed by the sunshine to rest;
In the clash of contending emotions
Are its harmonies only expressed.
When, at moments, my soul has been shaken,
In the strife with the world's rushing throng;
Or moved by some holier impulse,
As borne by its current along;
This spirit aroused, has responded,
And uttered these fragments of song.
I know they are but passing echoes,
For which time has no place and no name;
But hereafter, in loftier numbers,
Might I seek for the guerdon of fame —
Might I gather its evergreen laurels —
I would twine them around thy loved name.
But I mark now a pallor that deepens,
And spreads o'er thy brow and thy cheek;
And, filled with a fearful foreboding,
My strong heart grows nerveless and weak;
And shrinks back appalled from the anguish,
The blow beneath which it would break.
Oh, leave me not yet, gentle spirit,
Though our loved and our lost, gone before,
In the Better Land watch for thy coming,
And call thee away to that shore;
These clasped arms are strong to detain thee —
Leave, leave me not yet, I implore!
Oh God! let this cup but pass from me,
When thy bitterest draught would be thrown;
Not yet those sweet ties rend asunder
Heart with heart, life with life that have grown!
Not yet can I bear life's great burden,
And tread its dark wine-press alone.
The Battle Of Life
THERE are countless fields the green earth o'er,
Where the verdant turf has been dyed with gore;
Where hostile ranks in their grim array,
With the battle's smoke have obscured the day;
Where hate has stamped on each rigid face
As foe met foe in the death embrace;
Where the groans of the wounded and dying rose,
Till the heart of the listener with horror froze,
And the wide expanse of the crimsoned plain
Was piled with its heaps of uncounted slain: —
But a fiercer combat, a deadlier strife,
Is that which is waged in the Battle of Life.
The hero that wars on the tented field,
With his shining sword and his burnished shield,
Goes not alone with his faithful brand,
Friends and comrades around him stand;
The trumpets sound and the war-steeds neigh,
To join in the shock of the coming fray,
And he flies to the onset, he charges the foe,
Where the bayonets gleam and the red tides flow;
And he bears his part in the conflict dire,
With an arm all nerve, and a heart all fire.
What though he fall! at the battle's close,
In the flush of victory won, he goes,
With martial music and waving plume,
From a field of fame to a laurelled tomb.
But the hero that wars in the Battle of Life,
Must stand alone in the fearful strife;
Alone in his weakness or strength must go,
Hero or craven to meet the foe;
He may not fly, — on that fated field,
He must win or lose, he must conquer or yield.
Warrior who com'st to this battle now,
With a careless step and a thoughtless brow,
As if the field were already won;
Pause, and gird all thy armor on.
Myriads have Come to this battle-ground,
With a valiant arm and a name renowned,
And have fallen vanquished, to rise no more,
Ere the sun was set, or the day half o'er.
Dost thou bring with thee hither a dauntless will,
An ardent soul that no blast can chill;
Thy shield of Faith hast thou tried and proved;
Canst thou say to the mountain — ' Be thou moved;'
In thy hand does the sword of truth flame bright;
Is thy banner emblazoned — 'For God and the Right;'
In the might of prayer, dost thou strive and plead?
Never had warrior greater need.
Unseen foes in thy pathway hide;
Thou art encompassed on every side.
There Pleasure waits, with her syren train,
Her poison flowers and her hidden chain;
Hope, with her Dead Sea fruits, is there;
Sin is spreading her gilded snare;
Flattery courts, with her hollow smiles;
Passion with silvery tone beguiles;
Love and Friendship their charmed spells weave:
Trust not too deeply, they may deceive.
Disease with a ruthless hand would smite,
and Care spread o'er thee a with'ring blight;
Hate and Envy, with visage black,
And the serpent Slander are on thy track;
Guilt and Falsehood, Remorse and Pride,
Doubt and Despair in thy pathway glide;
Haggard Want, in her demon joy,
Waits to degrade thee and then destroy;
Palsied Age in the distance lies,
And watches his victim with rayless eyes;
And Death, the insatiate, is hovering near,
To snatch from they grasp all thou holdest dear.
No skill may avail, and no ambush hide,
In the open field must the champion bide,
And face to face, and hand to hand,
Alone in his valor confront that band.
In war with these phantoms that gird him round,
No limbs dissevered may strew the ground;
No blood may flow, andno mortal ear
The groans of the wounded heart may hear,
As it struggles and writhes in their dread control,
As the iron enters the riven soul.
But the youthful form grows wasted and weak,
And sunken and wan is the rounded cheek;
The brow is furrowed, but not with years;
The eye is dimmed with its secret tears,
And streaked with white is the raven hair:
These are the tokens of conflict there.
The battle is over; the hero goes,
Scarred and worn, to his last repose.
He has won the day, he has conquered Doom,
He has sunk unknown to his nameless tomb.
For the victor's glory no voices plead,
Fame has no echo, and earth no meed.
But the guardian angels are hovering near;
They have watched unseen o'er the conflict here,
And they bear him now, on their wings away,
To a realm of peace, — to a cloudless day.
Ended now is the earthly strife,
And his brow is crowned with the Crown of Life.