Through the deserted square he cries,
And babies put their rosy fists
Into their eyes.
There's nothing out of No-man's-land
So drowsy since the world began,
As 'Dustman, dustman,
He goes his village round at dusk
From door to door, from day to day;
And when the children hear his step
They stop their play.
Far up the street he is descried,
And soberly the twilight games
Are laid aside.
There, Drowsyhead, the old refrain,
It goes again.
Hurry by and let me sleep.
When most I wish for you to come,
You always creep.
And when I want to play some more,
You never then are farther off
Than the next door.
He beckles down the echoing curb,
A step that neither hopes nor hates
He never varies from one pace,
And the monotony of time
Is in his face.
And some day, with more potent dust,
Brought from his home beyond the deep,
And gently scattered on our eyes,
We, too, shall sleep,—
Hearing the call we know so well
Fade softly out as it began,
A Song Before Sailing
Wind of the dead men's feet,
Blow down the empty street
Of this old city by the sea
With news for me!
Blow me beyond the grime
And pestilence of time!
I am too sick at heart to war
With failure any more.
Thy chill is in my bones;
The moonlight on the stones
Is pale, and palpable, and cold;
I am as one grown old.
I call from room to room
Through the deserted gloom;
The echoes are all words I know,
Lost in some long ago.
I prowl from door to door,
And find no comrade more.
The wolfish fear that children feel
Is snuffing at my heel.
I hear the hollow sound
Of a great ship coming round,
The thunder of tackle and the tread
Of sailors overhead.
That stormy-blown hulloo
Has orders for me, too.
I see thee, hand at mouth, and hark,
My captain of the dark.
O wind of the great East,
By whom we are released
From this strange dusty port to sail
Beyond our fellows' hail,
Under the stars that keep
The entry of the deep,
Thy somber voice brings up the sea's
And I have no more need
Of bread, or wine, or creed,
Bound for the colonies of time
Beyond the farthest prime.
Wind of the dead men's feet,
Blow through the empty street;
The last adventurer am I,
Then, world, goodby!
For The Brthday Of James Whitcomb Riley, October 7, 1914
LOCKERBIE STREET is a little street,
Just one block long;
But the days go there with a magical air,
The whole year long.
The sun in his journey across the sky
Slows his car as he passes by;
The sighing wind and the grieving rain
Change their tune and cease to complain;
And the birds have a wonderful call that seems
Like a street-cry out of the land of dreams;
For there the real and the make-believe meet.
Time does not hurry in Lockerbie Street.
Lockerbie Street is a little street,
Only one block long;
But the moonlight there is strange and fair
All the year long,
As ever it was in old romance,
When fairies would sing and fauns would dance,
Proving this earth is subject still
To a blithesome wonder-working Will,
Spreading beauty over the land,
That every beholder may understand
How glory shines round the Mercy-seat.
That is the gospel of Lockerbie Street.
Lockerbie Street is a little street,
Only one block long,
A little apart, yet near the heart
Of the city's throng.
If you are a stranger looking to find
Respite and cheer for soul and mind,
And have lost your way, and would inquire
For a street that will lead to Heart's Desire,—
To a place where the spirit is never old,
And gladness and love are worth more than gold, —
Ask the first boy or girl you meet!
Everyone knows where is Lockerbie Street.
Lockerbie Street is a little street,
Only one block long;
But never a street in all the world,
In story or song,
Is better beloved by old and young;
For there a poet has lived and sung,
Wise as an angel, glad as a bird,
Fearless and fond in every word,
Many a year. And if you would know
The secret of joy and the cure of woe,—
How to be gentle and brave and sweet,—
Ask your way to Lockerbie Street.
A Threnody for Robert Louis Stevenson
COLD, the dull cold! What ails the sun,
And takes the heart out of the day?
What makes the morning look so mean,
The Common so forlorn and gray?
The wintry city's granite heart
Beats on in iron mockery,
And like the roaming mountain rains,
I hear the thresh of feet go by.
It is the lonely human surf
Surging through alleys chill with grime,
The muttering churning ceaseless floe
Adrift out of the North of time.
Fades, it all fades! I only see
The poster with its reds and blues
Bidding the heart stand still to take
Its desolating stab of news.
That intimate and magic name:
' Dead in Samoa.' . . . Cry your cries,
O city of the golden dome,
Under the gray Atlantic skies!
But I have wander-biddings now.
Far down the latitudes of sun,
An island mountain of the sea,
Piercing the green and rosy zone,
Goes up into the wondrous day.
And there the brown-limbed island men
Are bearing up for burial,
Within the sun's departing ken,
The master of the roving kind.
And there where time will set no mark
For his irrevocable rest,
Under the spacious melting dark,
With all the nomad tented stars
About him, they have laid him down
Above the crumbling of the sea,
Beyond the turmoil of renown.
O all you hearts about the world
In whom the truant gipsy blood,
Under the frost of this pale time,
Sleeps like the daring sap and flood
That dream of April and reprieve!
You whom the haunted vision drives,
Incredulous of home and ease,
Perfection's lovers all your lives!
You whom the wander-spirit loves
To lead by some forgotten clue
For ever vanishing beyond
Horizon brinks for ever new;
The road, unmarked, ordained, whereby
Your brothers of the field and air
Before you, faithful, blind, and glad,
Emerged from chaos pair by pair;
The road whereby you too must come,
In the unvexed and fabled years
Into the country of your dream,
With all your knowledge in arrears!
You who can never quite forget
Your glimpse of Beauty as she passed,
The well-head where her knee was pressed,
The dew wherein her foot was cast;
O you who bid the paint and clay
Be glorious when you are dead,
And fit the plangent words in rhyme
Where the dark secret lurks unsaid;
You brethren of the light-heart guild,
The mystic fellowcraft of joy,
Who tarry for the news of truth,
And listen for some vast ahoy
Blown in from sea, who crowd the wharves
With eager eyes that wait the ship
Whose foreign tongue may fill the world
With wondrous tales from lip to lip;
Our restless loved adventurer,
On secret orders come to him,
Has slipped his cable, cleared the reef,
And melted on the white sea-rim.
O granite hills, go down in blue!
And like green clouds in opal calms,
You anchored islands of the main,
Float up your loom of feathery palms!
For deep within your dales, where lies
A valiant earthling stark and dumb,
This savage undiscerning heart
Is with the silent chiefs who come
To mourn their kin and bear him gifts,—
Who kiss his hand, and take their place,
This last night he receives his friends,
The journey-wonder on his face.
He 'was not born for age.' Ah no,
For everlasting youth is his!
Part of the lyric of the earth
With spring and leaf and blade he is.
'Twill nevermore be April now
But there will lurk a thought of him
At the street corners, gay with flowers
From rainy valleys purple-dim.
O chiefs, you do not mourn alone!
In that stern North where mystery broods,
Our mother grief has many sons
Bred in those iron solitudes.
It does not help them, to have laid
Their coil of lightning under seas;
They are as impotent as you
To mend the loosened wrists and knees.
And yet how many a harvest night,
When the great luminous meteors flare
Along the trenches of the dusk,
The men who dwell beneath the Bear,
Seeing those vagrants of the sky
Float through the deep beyond their hark,
Like Arabs through the wastes of air,—
A flash, a dream, from dark to dark,—
Must feel the solemn large surmise:
By a dim, vast and perilous way
We sweep through undetermined time,
Illumining this quench of clay,
A moment staunched, then forth again.
Ah, not alone you climb the steep
To set your loving burden down
Against the mighty knees of sleep.
With you we hold the sombre faith
Where creeds are sown like rain at sea;
And leave the loveliest child of earth
To slumber where he longed to be.
His fathers lit the dangerous coast
To steer the daring merchant home;
His courage lights the darkling port
Where every sea-worn sail must come.
And since he was the type of all
That strain in us which still must fare,
The fleeting migrant of a day,
Heart-high, outbound for otherwhere,
Now therefore, where the passing ships
Hang on the edges of the noon,
And Northern liners trail their smoke
Across the rising yellow moon,
Bound for his home, with shuddering screw
That beats its strength out into speed,
Until the pacing watch descries
On the sea-line a scarlet seed
Smoulder and kindle and set fire
To the dark selvedge of the night,
The deep blue tapestry of stars,
Then sheet the dome in pearly light,
There in perpetual tides of day,
Where men may praise him and deplore,
The place of his lone grave shall be
A seamark set for evermore,
High on a peak adrift with mist,
And round whose bases, far beneath
The snow-white wheeling tropic birds,
The emerald dragon breaks his teeth.
To T. B. M.
IN the crowd that thronged the pierhead, come to see their friends take ship
For new ventures in seafaring, when the hawsers were let slip
And we swung out in the current, with good-byes on every lip,
'Midst the waving caps and kisses, as we dropped down with the tide
And the faces blurred and faded, last of all your hand I spied
Signalling, Farewell, Good fortune! then my heart rose up and cried:
'While the world holds one such comrade, whose sweet durable regard
Would so speed my safe departure, lest home-leaving should be hard,
What care I who keeps the ferry, whether Charon or Cunard!'
Then we cleared the bar, and laid her on the course, the thousand miles
From the Hook to the Bahamas, from midwinter to the isles
Where frost never laid a finger, and eternal summer smiles.
Three days through the surly storm-beat, while the surf-heads threshed and flew,
And the rolling mountains thundered to the trample of the screw,
The black liner heaved and scuffled and strained on, as if she knew.
On the fourth, the round blue morning sparkled there, all light and breeze,
Clean and tenuous as a bubble blown from two immensities,
Shot and coloured with sheer sunlight and the magic of those seas.
In that bright new world of wonder, it was life enough to laze
All day underneath the awnings, and through half-shut eyes to gaze
At the marvel of the sea-blue; and I faltered for a phrase
Should half give you the impression, tell you how the very tint
Justified your finest daring, as if Nature gave the hint,
'Plodders, see Imagination set his pallet without stint!'
Cobalt, gobelin, and azure, turquoise, sapphire, indigo,
Changing from the spectral bluish of a shadow upon snow
To the deep of Canton china,—one unfathomable glow.
And the flying-fish,—to see them in a scurry lift and flee,
Silvery as the foam they sprang from, fragile people of the sea,
Whom their heart's great aspiration for a moment had set free.
From the dim and cloudy ocean, thunder-centred, rosy-verged,
At the lord sun's Sursum Corda, as implicit impulse urged,
Frail as vapour, fine as music, these bright spirit-things emerged;
Like those flocks of small white snowbirds we have seen start up before
Our brisk walk in winter weather by the snowy Scituate shore;
And the tiny shining sea-folk brought you back to me once more.
So we ran down Abaco; and passing that tall sentinel
Black against the sundown, sighted, as the sudden twilight fell,
Nassau light; and the warm darkness breathed on us from breeze and swell.
Stand-by bell and stop of engine; clank of anchor going down;
And we're riding in the roadstead off a twinkling-lighted town,
Low dark shore with boom of breakers and white beach the palm-trees crown.
In the soft wash of the sea air, on the long swing of the tide,
Here for once the dream came true, the voyage ended close beside
The Hesperides in moonlight on mid-ocean where they ride!
And those Hesperidean joy-lands were not strange to you and me.
Just beyond the lost horizon, every time we looked to sea
From Testudo, there they floated, looming plain as plain could be.
Who believed us? 'Myth and fable are a science in our time.'
'Never saw the sea that colour. ''Never heard of such a rhyme.'
Well, we've proved it, prince of idlers,—knowledge wrong and faith sublime.
Right were you to follow fancy, give the vaguer instinct room
In a heaven of clear colour, where the spirit might assume
All her elemental beauty, past the fact of sky or bloom.
Paint the vision, not the view,—the touch that bids the sense good-bye,
Lifting spirit at a bound beyond the frontiers of the eye,
To suburb unguessed dominions of the soul's credulity.
Never yet was painter, poet, born content with things that are,—
Must divine from every beauty other beauties greater far,
Till the arc of truth be circled, and her lantern blaze, a star.
This alone is art's ambition, to arrest with form and hue
Dominant ungrasped ideals, known to credence, hid from view,
In a mimic of creation,—to the life, yet fairer too,—
Where the soul may take her pleasure, contemplate perfection's plan,
And returning bring the tidings of his heritage to man,—
News of continents uncharted she has stood tip-toe to scan.
So she fires his gorgeous fancy with a cadence, with a line,
Till the artist wakes within him, and the toiler grows divine,
Shaping the rough world about him nearer to some fair design.
Every heart must have its Indies,—an inheritance unclaimed
In the unsubstantial treasure of a province never named,
Loved and longed for through a lifetime, dull, laborious, and unfamed,
Never wholly disillusioned. Spiritus, read, haeres sit
Patriæ quæ tristia mescit. This alone the great king writ
O'er the tomb of her he cherished in this fair world she must quit.
Love in one farewell for ever, taking counsel to implore
Best of human benedictions on its dead, could ask no more.
The heart's country for a dwelling, this at last is all our lore.
But the fairies at your cradle gave you craft to build a home
In the wide bright world of colour, with the cunning of a gnome;
Blessed you so above your fellows of the tribe that still must roam.
Still across the world they go, tormented by a strange unrest,
And the unabiding spirit knocks for ever at their breast,
Bidding them away to fortune in some undiscovered West;
While at home you sit and call the Orient up at your command,
Master of the iris seas and Prospero of the purple land.
Listen, here was one world-corner matched the cunning of your hand.
Not, my friend, since we were children, and all wonder-tales were true,—
Jason, Hengest, Hiawatha, fairy prince or pirate crew—
Was there ever such a landing in a country strange and new?
Up the harbour where there gathered, fought and revelled many a year,
Swarthy Spaniard, lost Lucayan, Loyalist, and Buccaneer,
'Once upon a time' was now, and 'far across the sea' was here.
Tropic moonlight, in great floods and fathoms pouring through the trees
On a ground as white as sea-froth its fantastic traceries,
While the poincianas, rustling like the rain, moved in the breeze,
Showed a city, coral-streeted, melting in the mellow shine,
Built of creamstone and enchantment, fairy work in every line,
In a velvet atmosphere that bids the heart her haste resign.
Thanks to Julian Hospitator, saint of travellers by sea,
Roving minstrels and all boatmen,—just such vagabonds as we—
On the shaded wharf we landed, rich in leisure, hale and free.
What more would you for God's creatures, but the little tide of sleep?
In a clean white room I wakened, saw the careless sunlight peep
Through the roses at the window, lay and listened to the creep
Of the soft wind in the shutters, heard the palm-tops stirring high,
And that strange mysterious shuffle of the slipshod foot go by.
In a world all glad with colour, gladdest of all things was I;
In a quiet convent garden, tranquil as the day is long,
Here to sit without intrusion of the world or strife or wrong,—
Watch the lizards chase each other, and the green bird make his song;
Warmed and freshened, lulled yet quickened in that Paradisal air,
Motherly and uncapricious, healing every hurt or care,
Wooing body, mind, and spirit, firmly back to strong and fair;
By the Angelus reminded, silence waits the touch of sound,
As the soul waits her awaking to some Gloria profound;
Till the mighty Southern Cross is lighted at the day's last bound.
And if ever your fair fortune make you good Saint Vincent's guest,
At his door take leave of trouble, welcomed to his decent rest,
Of his ordered peace partaker, by his solace healed and blessed;
Where this flowered cloister garden, hidden from the passing view,
Lies behind its yellow walls in prayer the holy hours through:
And beyond, that fairy harbour, floored in malachite and blue.
In that old white-streeted city gladness has her way at last
Under burdens finely poised, and with a freedom unsurpassed,
Move the naked-footed bearers in the blue day deep and vast.
This is Bay Street broad and low-built, basking in its quiet trade;
Here the sponging fleet is anchored; here shell trinkets are displayed;
Here the cable news is posted daily; here the market's made,
With its oranges from Andros, heaps of yam and tamarind,
Red-juiced shadducks from the Current, ripened in the long trade-wind,
Gaudy fish from their sea-gardens, yellow-tailed and azure-tinned.
Here a group of diving boys in bronze and ivory, bright and slim,
Sparkling copper in the high noon, dripping loin-cloth, polished limb,
Poised a moment and then plunged in that deep daylight green and dim.
Here the great rich Spanish laurels spread across the public square
Their dense, solemn shade; and near by, half within the open glare,
Mannerly in their clean cottons, knots of blacks are waiting there
By the court-house, where a magistrate is hearing cases through,
Dealing justice prompt and level, as the sturdy English do,—
One more tent-peg of the Empire, holding that great shelter true.
Last the picture from the town's end, palmed and foam-fringed through the cane,
Where the gorgeous sunset yellows pour aloft and spill and stain
The pure amethystine sea and far faint islands of the main.
Loveliest of the Lucayas, peace be yours till time be done!
In the gray North I shall see you, with your white streets in the sun,
Old pink walls and purple gateways, where the lizards bask and run,
Where the great hibiscus blossoms in their scarlet loll and glow,
And the idling gay bandannas through the hot noons come and go,
While the ever-stirring sea-wind sways the palm-tops to and fro.
Far from stress and storm for ever, dream behind your jalousies,
While the long white lines of breakers crumble on your reefs and keys,
And the crimson oleanders burn against the peacock seas.