Stanza From An Early Poem
THOUGHT is deeper than all speech,
Feeling deeper than all thought;
Souls to souls can never teach
What unto themselves was taught.
Sonnet Lvi. Music And Poetry. 2.
YET words though weak are all that poets own
Wherewith their muse translates that kindred muse
Of Harmony, whose subtle forms and hues
Float in the unlanguaged poesy of Tone.
And so no true-souled artist stands alone;
But all are brothers, though one hand may use
A magic wand the others must refuse,
And painters need no sculptor's Parian stone.
If Art is long, yet is her province wide.
While all for truth and beauty live and dare,
One sacred temple covers all her sons.
Music and Poesy stand side by side.
Through every member one blood-current runs:
One aim, one work, one destiny they share.
FORGIVE — that thus the trumpet I have blown
You never sounded — never cared to hear.
The world, I know, can give no smile or tear
To those whose story it has never known.
But must the poet tune his lyre alone
To themes of passionate hope or love or fear, —
Or thoughts of loftier flight, yet shun the clear
Affection of two brothers' hearts at one?
If gallant sonneteers may sing the light
And radiant demoiselles of olden time —
If in their melodies they may not slight
The fleeting passion of their youthful prime,
The old true loves from boyhood ever bright
Are surely worth the tribute of a rhyme.
Sonnet Lv. Music And Poetry. 1.
SING, poets, as ye list, of fields, of flowers,
Of changing seasons with their brilliant round
Of keen delights, or themes still more profound —
Where soul through sense transmutes this world of ours.
There is a life intense beyond your powers
Of utterance, which the ear alone has found
In the aerial fields of rhythmic sound —
The inviolate pathways and air-woven bowers
Built by entwining melodies and chords.
Ah, could I find some correspondent sign
Matching such wondrous art with fitting words!
But vain the task. Within his hallowed shrine
Apollo veils his face. No muse records
In human speech such mysteries divine.
A Poet's Soliloquy
ON a time — not of old —
When a poet had sent out his soul and no welcome had found
Where the heart of the nation in prose stood fettered and bound
In fold upon fold —
He called back his soul who had pined for an answer afloat;
And thus in the silence of night and the pride of his spirit he wrote.
Come back, poet-thought!
For they honor thee not in thy vesture of verse and of song.
Come back — thou hast hovered about in the market too long.
In vain thou hast sought
To stem the strong current that flows from the Philistine lands.
Thou hast failed to deliver the message the practical public demands.
Come back to the heights
Of thy vision — thy love — thy Parnassus of beauty and truth,
From the valleys below where the labor of age and of youth
Has no need of thy lights;
For science has marshalled the way with a lamp of its own.
Till they woo thee with wakening love thou must follow thy pathway alone.
We have striven, have toiled,
Have pressed with the foremost to sing to the men of our time
The thought that was deepest, the lay that was lightest in rhyme.
We are baffled and foiled.
The crowd hurries on intent upon traffic and pay;
They have ears, but they hear not. What chance to be heard has the poet to-day?
So we turn from the crowd,
And we sing as we please, like the thrush far away in the woods.
They may listen or not, as they choose, to our fancies and moods
Chanted low — chanted loud,
In the sunshine and storm — 'mid the hearts that are tender or hard.
What need of applause from the world, when Art is its own reward?
READING in Omar till the thoughts that burned
Upon his pages seemed to be inurned
Within me in a silent fire, my pen
By instinct to his flowing metre turned.
Vine-crowned free-thinker of thy Persian clime —
Brave bard whose daring thought and mystic rhyme
Through English filter trickles down to us
Out of the lost springs of an olden time —
Baffled by life's enigmas, like the crowd
Who strove before and since to see the cloud
Lift from the mountain pinnacles of faith —
We honor still the doubts thou hast avowed,
And fain would round the hail-truth of thy dream;
And fain let in — if so we might — a beam
Of purer light through windows of the soul,
Dividing things that are from things that seem.
True, true, brave poet, in thy cloud involved,
The riddle of the world stood all unsolved;
And we who boast our broader views still grope
Too oft like thee, though centuries have revolved.
Yet this we know. Thy symbol of the jar
Suits not our western manhood, left to mar
Or make, in part, the clay 't is moulded of:
And the soul's freedom is its fateful star.
Not like thy ball thrown from the player's hand
Inert and passive on a yielding strand;
Or if a ball, the rock whence it rebounds
Proves that e'en this some license may command.
But though thy mind, which measured Jove and Mars,
Lay fettered from the Unseen by bolts and bars
Of circumstance, one truth thy spirit saw,
The mystery spanning life and earth and stars.
Dervish and threatening dogma were thy foes.
The question though unanswered still arose;
And through the revel and the wine-cups still
The honest thought,
'Who knows, but One — who knows?'
And as I read again each fervent line
That smiles through sighs, and drips with fragrant wine;
And Vedder's thoughtful muse has graced the verse
With added jewels from the artist's mine —
I read a larger meaning in the sage,
A modern comment on a far-off age;
And take the truth, and leave the error out
That casts its light stain on the Asian page.
Ormuzd And Ahriman. The Overture.
HAD I, instead of unsonorous words,
The skill that moves in rapturous melodies,
And modulations of entrancing chords
Through mystic mazes of all harmonies —
The bounding pulses of an overture
Whose grand orchestral movement might allure
The listener's soul through chaos and through night,
And seeming dissonance to concord and to light —
I might allow some harsh Titanic strains
To wrestle with Apollo and with Jove;
And let the war-cries on barbaric plains
Clash through the chords of wisdom and of love.
For still the harmonies should sing and soar
Above the discord and the battle's roar;
E'en as the evolving art and course of time,
Amid the wrecks in wild confusion hurled,
Move with impartial rhythm and cosmic rhyme
Along the eternal order of the world.
Then would I bid my lyric band express
In music the old earth's long toil and stress:
How the dumb iron centuries have foretold
The coming of the future age of gold:
How, ere the morning stars together sang,
Divine completeness out of chaos sprang
Through shapeless germs of lower forms that climb
By slow vast æons of a dateless time:
Till, through the impulse of the primal plan
They reach their flowering in the soul of man.
All swift-contending fugues — all wild escapes
Of passion — long-drawn wail and sudden blast —
Weird, winding serpent-chords, their writhing shapes
Shot through with arrowy melodies that fast
Pursue them, or that fall and lose themselves
In changing forms, as in some land of elves;
The shadows and the lights
Of joyous mornings, and of sorrowing nights —
Strange tones of crude half-truth — the good within
The mysteries of evil and of sin,
Should weave the prelude of a symphony
Whose music voiced the world's vast harmony;
And only to the ears
Of spirits listening from serener spheres
Of thought, the differing tones should blend and twine
Into the semblance of a work divine;
Where, not in strife but peace, should meet
What single were but incomplete.
I would unloose the soul beneath the wings
Of every instrument;
I would enlist the deep-complaining strings
Of doubt and discontent;
The low sad mutterings and entangled tunes
Of viols and bassoons; —
Shy horns with diffident tones —
The insolent trombones —
The reedy notes
From mellow throats
Of oboë and of clarionet —
Their pure and pastoral singing met
By clash of bacchanal cymbals, and a rout
Of tipsy satyrs dancing all about: —
Carols of love and hope checked by the blare
Of trumpet-cries of anger and despair: —
All differing mingling voices of the deep —
All startling blasts, all airs that lull to sleep;
The mountain cataract that whirls and spins
And bursts in spray asunder :—
Swift puttering rains of flutes and violins, —
The tymbal's muffled thunder:
Æolian breathings wild and soft,
Notes that sink or soar aloft —
Soar or sink with harp-strings pulsing under :—
Ravishing melodies that stream
Through chords entrancing as a dream
Out of a realm of wonder.
Or else, from off the full and large-leaved score
Into the willing instruments I'd pour
A noise of battle in the air unseen;
Of ghostly squadrons sending tremors strange
Of trouble and disastrous change
From beyond their cloudy screen;
Low rumbling thunders — drops of bloody rain —
Earthquake and storm — presentiment of pain —
Strange sobbings in the air
Hushed by degrees in fading semitones
And softened sighs and moans,
As when a mother by the cradle stills
At night her weeping child, ere morn peeps o'er the hills,
And all the world again is bright and fair.
While, with receding feet,
Far off is heard the beat
Of mournful marches of the muffled drums;
And nearer now and nearer,
Sweeter still and clearer,
The bird-like flute-notes leap into the air,
While the great human-heavenly music comes
Emerging from the dark with bursts of song
And hope and victory delayed too long.
So should my music fill its perfect round
With dewy sunrise, and with peace profound.
Ah, what are all the discords of all time
But stumbling steps of one persistent life
That struggles up through mists to heights sublime
Forefelt through all creation's lingering strife: —
The deathless motion of one undertone,
Whose deep vibrations thrill from God to God alone!
Lionel And Lucille
IN the beautiful Castleton Island a mansion of lordly style,
Embowered in gardens and lawns, looks over the glimmering bay.
In the light of a morning in summer, with stately beauty and pride,
Its turrets and glittering roof flash down from the hills like a star.
There, pillowed in woods, it blinks on the dusty village below;
And ere it settles itself to its rest in the ambered dusk,
Its windows blaze from afar in the gold of the setting sun.
There in a curtained alcove facing a lawn to the south,
Lucille one morning in early spring was sitting alone.
Now in a novel she read, and now at her broidery stitched;
And now, throwing both aside, at her piano warbled and trilled.
Then on a balcony leaning, she wished that the weeks would pass,
For she with her mother to Europe was going. Her father had died
And left her an heiress; and lovers like moths came fluttering round,
Dazzled with visions of gold, and half believing them love, —
All but one, who was poor, and loved her, but not for her wealth.
Three months had Lionel known her — but never had told her his love.
How could he ask her to wed him, the scholar who drudged for his bread?
Even were his offers accepted, (and little his chances, he thought,)
What would they say in the city? 'He has picked up a fortune, it seems:
A shrewd lucky fellow!' So proudly he kept his fond thoughts to himself.
Seldom he saw her alone. In a circle of fashion she moved.
Whenever he called, there were carriages waiting, with liveries fine —
Visitors going and coming, with shallow and gossiping talk.
Those who knew him would surely have said, ''T is strange he should love
A girl of such frivolous tastes.' But such are the ways of the heart —
Ever a riddle too deep for the crude common-sense of the world.
To-day no visitors came, and Lucille was deep in her book —
(A tale of romantic affection far back in the Orient days) —
When a ring at the door was heard, and — Lionel stood in the hall.
He had heard she was going to Europe. He would n't yet bid her good-bye,
For he hoped he might see her again ere fate put an ocean between.
Something more earnest than usual she felt was in Lionel's face;
Something more tender and deep in the tones of his tremulous voice,
Though half hidden in jest too grave and intense for a smile.
She, brimming o'er with her poets, and fresh from her bath of romance,
Clothed the season, and him, and herself, in an opaline light.
Softer her tones, and her words less tinged with fashion and form,
Cordially lighted like birds on the ground of his intimate thoughts.
And as he left her, to stroll on the hills of the beautiful island,
Hope with her roseate colors enveloped the earth and the sky.
'T was one of those April days when the lingering Winter stands
Waving his breezy scarfs from the north for a last good-bye;
When the delicate wind-flowers peep from the matting and moss of the woods,
And the blue Hepatica lurks in the shadowy dells of the fern;
When the beautiful nun, the Arbutus, down in her cloisters brown,
Creeps through her corridors damp in the dead old leaves of the past,
Whispering with fragrant breath to the bold things dancing above:
'Tell me, has Winter gone? May I peep — just peep, at the world?'
When the spaces of sky are bluer, with white clouds hurrying fast,
Blurring the sun for a moment, then letting him flash on the fields,
While the shadows are miles in breadth, and travel as swift as the wind
Over the sparkling cities afar and the roughening bay; —
When the pine-groves sigh and sing as the wind sweeps under and through
The cheerful gloom of their spicy shade; and the willows lithe
Bend and wave with the tender green of their trailing boughs; —
When the furry catkins drop from the silvery poplar tree;
When the bare, gray bushes are tipped with the light of their new-born leaves,
And the petted hyacinths sprout and curl their parasite lips
Under the sunlit, sheltering sides of the palace walls,
And seem to scoff at the violets hidden deep in the grass,
And the common, yellow face of the dandelion's star,
As it peeps like a poor man's child through the rails of the garden fence.
Then, as Lionel entered the crowd and the city again,
Lighter his labors appeared in his office, wall-shadowed and dusk.
Dreams of the island and woods swept over his figures and books:
Visions of love in a cottage, with fashion and splendor forgotten.
Changeable April had shown but its sunniest side to his heart.
Once more, — twice, to the island he went: and Lionel hoped
A tenderer feeling for him had dawned in the heart of Lucille.
Ever with friendlier greeting she met him: for she in her mind
Had dressed up a hero of fiction; and Lionel — could it be he?
Was not his name of itself a romance? Then his face and his form,
Voice and manners and culture, were just what her hero's should be.
So with the glamour of life unreal she saw him; and yet —
Was it love? She thought so, perhaps. At least she would dream out her dream:
This was a real live novel — and worth reading through, was it not?
One day, when the bushes were white in the lanes, and the bees were astir
In the blooms of the apple-trees, and the green woods ringing with birds,
Lionel asked Lucille to walk with him over the heights
Looking far down on the Narrows and out on the dim blue sea.
So through the forest they strolled. They stopped here and there for a flower,
Then sat to rest on a rock. An oak-tree over their heads
Stretched abroad its flickering lights and shadows. The birds
Sang in the woodlands around them. The spot seemed made for romance.
And Lionel drew from his pocket a book that had lately appeared,
A volume of lovers' verse by a poet over the seas,
And read aloud from its pages. Lucille sat twisting a wreath,
Laurel and white-thorn blossoms that half dropped away as she twined them; —
Paused now and then to listen; and as he was closing the book,
Laid a wild flower between the leaves to remember the place —
And playfully placed her wreath on his head, as if he were the poet.
Silent and musing they sat, as they turned to look at the sea,
Watching the smoke of the steamers and white sails skimming afar.
And Lionel said, 'Ah, soon you too will be steaming away
Down the blue Narrows; and I — shall miss you — more than you know.'
'Why should you miss me?'
'So seldom you visit our house.'
'Had I but followed my wishes; — but you like the lady appeared,
Shut in the circle of Comus. How hard to enter your ring!'
'What should prevent you from coming? How often I wished you would come!
Nobody calls that I care for: our island is growing so dull.'
'Yes — and you long for a change — and so you are going to Europe.
There in a whirl of delights, with fashion and wealth at command,
Soon you'll forget your poor island, and all the admirers you knew.'
— she whispered —
— and blushed, with her head turned away,
Looked down and murmured: 'You think I am wedded to fashion and wealth:
Yet often I long for the simpler manners the poets have sung,
The grand old days when souls were prized for their natural worth.
You think I can rise to no feelings and thoughts of a serious life —
Can value no mind and no heart but — such as you meet at our house.
I care not for such — I fancied you knew me far better than that.'
— he never had called her Lucille, but the name came unbidden;
'Lucille, could you love a poor toiler who dared not to offer his heart
And his hand — and in silence had loved you, and wished you were poor for his sake,
So fortunes were equal?' And she, still floating in rosy romance,
with a look that melted the walls of reserve
And mingled two souls into one. Then, turning away from the sea,
The sea that so soon must divide them, they pledged to each other their troth.
And Lionel saw not the fates that were frowning afar o'er the waves;
For the world wore the color of dreams, as homeward they wended their way.
Bright were the meetings that followed — and yet with a shadowy touch
On Lionel's hopes, as if in the changeable April days
He still were roaming the hills, and still looked over the bay
Where cloud and sunshine were flying, with doubtful promise of spring.
Lucille had a reason, it seemed, to keep their betrothal untold.
The day was so near of their parting. She feared what her mother might say.
'T were best they should part but as friends. They would write to each other the same —
And they would be true to each other — and all would be clear before long.
And Lionel yielded, and pondered. And so they parted at last.
The summer had hardly begun when a letter from England came,
Full of the voyage and landing — but little of what he had hoped.
Too light, too glancing it seemed for a first love-letter from one
Far over the sea, who had said he should ever be first in her thoughts.
Bright and witty it fluttered from topic to topic — but never
Paused with a tremulous wing to dwell on the love she had left.
Something there was in its tone that said
'I am happy without you:'
Something too little regretful — too full of her glittering life.
And as one gathers a beautiful flower ne'er gathered before,
Hoping a fragrance he misses, and yet half imagines he finds —
Wooing the depths of its color too rich for no perfume to match —
So seemed her letter to him, as he read the lines over and over.
Yet when Lionel answered, he breathed not a word of the thought,
Shading the glowing disc of his love with distant surmise.
'Soon,' he said, 'will the novelty cease of this foreign excitement.
Then she will think sometimes of me as the sun goes down
Over the western waves — and tenderer tones will flow,
And mingle with warmer words in her letters from over the sea.'
Yet when another letter came, it brought her no nearer,
Less of herself, and more of the colors that tinted her life.
And Lionel wrote with passionate words: 'Only tell me, Lucille,
Tell me you love me — but one brief line — and I will not complain.'
Restless, troubled, one day he passed her house on the island;
Shut to the sun and the breeze, it blinked on the village below.
Over the balcony leaned a purple Wisteria vine,
(Blooming, but not in its season, as oft 't is their habit to do,)
Trailing its ladylike flounces from window and carved balustrade,
And dropping its blossoms as brief as love. And Lionel muttered:
'She too over that balcony leaned one day as I passed —
Leaned like a flowery vine; and smiled as I passed below,
And waved me an airy kiss, with a pose of her beautiful form.
Can love that promised so truly be frail as these clusters of June?'
Month after month now passed. Though he wrote as fondly as ever,
Brief were her answers, and longer between — till they finally ceased.
A year from the day when they parted, a letter from Paris arrived,
Short and constrained. It said: 'I fear I have made you unhappy.
We have read too much of the poets. Our troth was a thing of romance.
My mother forbids it, it seems. There are reasons 't were painful to tell.
I'm sure you would find me unfitted — and I am not worth your regretting.
Adieu — and be happy. Lucille.'
Next month in the papers he saw
She had married a Count — some Pole with an unpronounceable name.
Ormuzd And Ahriman. Part I
CHORUS OF PLANETARY SPIRITS.
YE interstellar spaces, serene and still and clear.
Above, below, around!
Ye gray unmeasured breadths of ether, — sphere on sphere!
We listen, but no sound
Rings from your depths profound.
But ever along and all across the morning bars
Fast-flashing meteors run —
The trailing wrecks of fierce and fiery-bearded stars,
Scattered and lost and won
Back to their parent sun.
Through rifts of bronzing clouds the tides of morning glow
And swell and mount apace.
We watch and wait if haply we at last may know
Some record we may trace
Upon the orbs of space.
Above, below, around we track our planets' flight;
Their paths and destinies
Are intertwined with ours. Remote or near, their light
Or darkness to our eyes
A mystic picture lies.
Close to the morn a small and sparkling star-world dances,
Bathed in the flaming mist;
Flashing and quivering like a million moving lances
Of gold and amethyst
By slanting sunrise kissed.
A fairy realm of rapid and unimpeded sprites,
That fly and leap and dart;
All fierce and tropic fervors, all swift and warm delights
Bound and flash and start
In every fiery heart.
Deep in the dawn floats up a star of dewy fire —
So pure it seems new-born;
As though the soul of morn
Were pulsing through its heart in dim, divine desire
Of poesy and love; — the star of morn and eve —
Whose crystal sphere is shining
With joys beyond divining —
Passion that never tortures, and hopes that ne'er deceive.
There swims the pale, green Earth, half drowned and thunder-rifted,
Steeped in a sea of rain. Above the watery waste
Of God's primeval flood, all other land effaced —
One peak alone uplifted.
The baffled lightnings play around its crags and chasms;
So far away they flash, I hear no thunder-spasms.
But now the scowling clouds are drifting from its spaces,
And leave it to the wind and coming day's embraces.
Beyond, a planet rolls with darkly lurid sides,
Flooded and seamed and stained by drenching Stygian tides;
Deep gorges, up whose black and slimy slopes there peep
All monstrous Saurian growths that run or fly or creep;
And, in and out the holes and caverns clogged with mud,
Crawl through their giant ferns to suck each other's blood.
I see them battling there in fog and oozy water,
Symbols of savage lust, deformity, and slaughter.
I see an orb above that spins with rapid motion,
Vaster and raster growing —
Belted with sulphurous clouds; and through the rents an ocean
Boiling and plunging up on a crust of fiery shore.
And now I hear far off the elemental roar,
And the red fire-winds blowing:
A low, dull, steady moan a million miles away,
Of whirling hurricanes that rage all night, all day.
No life of man or beast, were life engendered there,
Could bide those flaming winds, that white metallic glare.
But yonder, studded round with lamps of moonlight tender,
And arched from pole to pole with rings of rainbow splendor,
A world rolls far apart; as though in haughty scorning
Of all the alien light of his diminished morning.
SEVENTH AND EIGHTH SPIRITS.
Cold, cold and dark — and farther still
We dimly see the icy spheres
Like spectre worlds, who yet fulfil,
Through slow dull centuries of years,
Their circuit round the distant sun who winds them at his will.
Round and round one central orb
The wheeling planets move,
And some reflect and some absorb
The floods of light and love.
The rolling globe of molten stones,
The spinning watery waste,
The forests whirled through tropic zones
By circling moons embraced —
We watch their element strife;
We wait, that we may see
Some record of their inner life,
Where all is mystery.
A pause. The Spirits approach the Earth. The Sun rises over the Continent of Asia.
Look, brothers, look! The quivering sunrise tinges
Our nearest orb of Earth. The forest fringes
Redden with joy; and all about the sun,
That gilds the boundless east, the cloud-banks dun
Flame into gold; and with a crimson kiss
Wake the green world to beauty and to bliss.
See how she glows with sweet responsive smile!
Hark, how the waves of air lap round her!
As though she were some green, embowered isle,
And the fond ocean had just found her,
In Time's primeval morn of unrecorded calms
Hidden away with all her lilies and her palms;
And flattering at her feet, had smoothed his angry mane,
And moving round her kissed her o'er and o'er again.
And now, behold, our wings are rapid as our thought;
And nearer yet have brought
Our feet, until we hover above the Asian lands
Beyond the desert sands.
There, girt about by mountain peaks that cleave the skies,
A blooming valley lies:
A pathway, sloping down from visionary heights
Through shades and dappled lights,
Lost in a garden widerness of tropic trees
And flowers and birds and bees.
Far off I smell the rose, the amaranth, the spice,
The breath of Paradise.
Far off I hear the singing through hidden groves and vales
Of Eden's nightingales;
And, sliding down through pines and moss and rocky walls,
The murmuring waterfalls.
And lo, two radiant forms that seem akin to us,
Walk, calm and beauteous,
Crowed with the light of thought and mutual love, whose blisses
Are sealed with rapturous kisses.
Ah, beautiful green Earth! ah, happy, happy pair!
Can there be aught so fair,
O brothers, in yon vast unpeopled worlds afar,
As these bright beings are!
CHORUS OF SPIRITS.
The stars in the heavens are singing
Response to the wonderful story;
Joy, joy to the race that is springing
To cover the earth with its glory!
The race that enfolds in its bosom
A birthright divine and immortal;
As the fruit is enwrapped in the blossom,
As the garden is hid by the portal!
(A change to a minor key.)
Sin and weakness, misery and pain,
Cloud their sunlit birth;
And the sons of Heaven alone remain
Gods unmixed with earth.
Light and darkness are the twins of fate;
Through all realms that bear a mortal date,
Hold alternate sway.
Through the universe the lords of life
Never at peace can be.
Good and evil in a ceaseless strife
Fight for victory.
I hear in the spaces below
A discord of voices that flow
In muttering tones through the air.
But where are they hidden — where?
There are trailings of gloom through the spaces,
And far-darting cones that eclipse
The splendor of planets whose faces
Are dimmed by their darkening traces,
And frozen by alien lips;
And the dream of a swift-coming change
Foretokens a destiny strange.
And what is yon Shadow that creeps
On the marge of her crystalline deeps?
On the field and the river and grove,
On the borders of hope and of rest;
On the Eden of wedlock and love;
On the labor contentment hath blessed?
That crawls like a serpent of mist
Through the vales and the gardens of peace,
With a blight upon all it hath kissed,
And a shade that shall never decrease?
That maddens the wings of desire,
And saddens the ardors of joy —
Winged like a phantom of fire —
Armed like a fiend to destroy!
Before me there flitted a vision —
A vision of dawn and Creation,
Of faith and of doubt and division,
Of mystical fruit and temptation:
A garden of lilies and roses,
Ah, sweeter than dreams ever fashioned;
Hopes in whose splendor reposes
A love that was pure and impassioned.
But alas for the sons and the daughters
Of man, in the morning of nations!
Alas for their rivers of waters!
Alas for their fruitless oblations!
The curse and the blight and the sentence
Have fallen too swift for repentance.
I see it, I feel it — O brother!
It shadows one half of their garden.
O Earth! O improvident Mother!
Where left'st thou thy angel, thy warden?
Is it theirs, or the guilt of another?
Must they die without hope of a pardon?
What is it they suffer, O brother,
In the red, rosy light of their garden?
Ye Angels — ye heavenly Powers
Whose wisdom is higher than ours —
From the blight, from the terror defend them —
Help, help! In their Eden befriend them.
THE ANGEL RAPHAEL.
Beyond the imagined limits of such space
As ye can guess, I passed, yet heard your cry.
For ye are brother spirits. And I come,
Swifter than light, to shield you from the dread
Of earth-born shadows, and the ghostly folds
Of seeming evil curtaining round your worlds.
Yet can I bring no amulet to guard
One peaceful breast from sorrow; for yourselves
Are girt about, as I, by that divine,
Exhaustless Love, whose pledge your souls contain.
Ah, not for ourselves — but our brothers
We plead, in their dawn overglooming,
For the death is not theirs, but anothers.
Help, help! from the doom that is coming;
For they stand all alone and unguided;
No Past with its lesson upholds them;
Their life from their race is divided;
A childhood unconscious enfolds them.
Is it sin — is it death that has shrouded
Their souls, or a taint in their nature?
Is there hope for a future unclouded?
Tell — tell us — angelical teacher!
Yon earth, which claimed your closer vigilance,
And seems so near to you in time and space,
Is far away. Your present is its past.
To spirits, worlds and æons are condensed
Into a moment's feeling or a thought.
While ye were singing as ye watched those orbs,
They grew and grew from incandescent globes
Girdled with thunder, wreathed with sulphurous steam —
Or from the slime where rude gigantic forms
Of crocodile or bat plunged through the dense
And flowerless wilds of cane, or flapped like dreams
Of darkness through the foul mephitic air.
These shapes gave way to forests, rocks, and seas,
And shapely forms of beast and bird and man —
The last result of wonder-working Time —
Man — the tall crowning flower and fruit of all —
And the vast complex tissues he hath wrought
Of life and laws and government and arts.
All this ye knew not; tranced in choral song,
Your music was the oblivion of all time.
Have we not seen the approaching doom of Earth?
The vision ye have had of joy and doom
Flashing and glooming o'er two little lives,
Is truth half-typed in legend, such as fed
The people of the ancient days, distilled
From crude primordial growths of time, when sin
Saw the fierce flaming sword of conscience shake
Its terror through the groves of Paradise,
Grasped by Jehovah's red right hand in wrath.
Was it a dream? We saw that red right hand.
The events and thoughts that passed in olden time
Dawn on your senses with the beams of light
That left long, long ago those distant worlds,
And flash from out the past like present truths.
It was a poet's dream ye saw. It held
A truth. 'Tis yours to unfold the mythic form,
And guess the meaning of the ancient tale.
We mark thy words; we know that thou art wise
And good; and yet we hover in a mist
Of doubt. Help us! Our sight is weak and dim.
Know then that men and Angels can conceive
Through symbols only, the eternal truths.
Through all creation streams this dual ray —
The marriage of the spirit with the form —
The correspondence of the universe
With souls through sense; and that the deepest thought
And firmest faith are nurtured and sustained
By the great visible universe of time
And space — the alphabet whose mystic forms
Present all inner lessons to the soul —
And thus the unseen by the seen is known.
Yea, even the blank and sterile voids that span
The dead unpalpitating space 'twixt star
And star, shall speak, as light hath spoken once.
And hark! Even now the unfathomable deeps
Begin to stir. I hear a far off sound
Of shuddering wings, beyond the hurrying clouds,
Beyond the stars — now nearer, nearer still!
(Confusedly, in a minor key.)
Behind us shines the Light of lights.
We are the Shadows, we the nights,
That blot the pure expanse of time.
And yet we weave the destined rhyme
Of creatures with the Increate —
Of God and man, free will and fate;
The warp and woof of heavens and hells;
The noiseless round of death and birth;
The eternal protoplasmic spells
Binding the sons of God to earth; —
The ceaseless web of mystery
That has been, and shall ever be.
Far off we seem to hear a chorus strange,
Rising and falling through the gathering gloom.
And now the congregated clouds appear
To take the semblance of a Shape, that bends
This way — as when a whirling ocean-spout
Drinks, as it moves along, the light of heaven.
Spirit — if Spirit or Presence
Thou art, or the gloom of a symbol —
Approach, if thou canst, to interpret
Thy name and thy work and thy essence.
( A pause. )
Behold, the Shadow spreads and towers apace,
Like a dense cloud that rolls along the sea
Landward, then shrouds the winding shore, the fields,
The network of rite gray autumnal woods,
And the low cottage roofs of upland farms;
What seemed a vapor with a ragged fringe
Changes to wings, that sweep from north to south.
And round about the mass whose cloudy dome
Should be a head, I see the lambent flames
Of distant lightnings play. And now a voice
Of winds and waves and crumbling thunder tones
Commingled, muttering unintelligible things,
Approaches us. The air grows strangely chill
And nebulous. Daylight hath backward stepped.
The morning sun is blotted with eclipse.
CHORUS OF THE SPIRITS.
Like the pale stricken leaves of the Autumn
When Winter swoops downward to whirl them
Afar from the nooks of the woodlands,
And up through the clouds of the twilight,
We shudder! We hear a wind roaring
And booming below in the darkness;
A voice whose low thunder is mingled
With waves of the sibilant ocean.
The clouds that were pearly and golden
Are steeped in a blackening crimson.
The spell of a magical presence
Is nearing us out of the darkness.
What is it? No shape we distinguish —
No voice — but a sound that is muffled,
Muffled and stifled in thunder.
We are troubled. Oh, help us, strong Angel!
A Form gathers out of the darkness,
Awful and dim and abysmal!
Fear not the gloomy Phantasm. Speak to him.
If he will answer, ye may learn of him
What human books of dead theology
Have seldom taught, or poets, though they sang
Of Eden and the primal curse of man.
Spirit, or phantom — darkening earth and sky,
And creeping through the soul in grim despair —
What art thou? Speak! whose shadow darkens thus
The eye of morn?
I am not what I seem.
Art thou that fallen Angel who seduced
From their allegiance the bright hosts of heaven
And men, and reignest now the lord of doom?
I am not what I seem to finite minds; —
No fallen Angel — for I never fell,
Though priest and poet feign me exiled and doomed;
But ever was and ever shall be thus —
Nor worse nor better than the Eternal planned.
I am the Retribution, not the Curse.
I am the shadow and reverse of God;
The type of mixed and interrupted good;
The clod of sense without whose earthly base
You spirit-flowers can never grow and bloom.
We dread to ask — what need have we of thee?
I am that stern necessity of fate —
Creation's temperament — the mass and mould
Of circumstance, through which eternal law
Works in its own mysterious way its will.
Art thou not Evil — Sin abstract and pure?
There were no shadows till the worlds were made;
No evil and no sin till finite souls,
Imperfect thence, conditioned in free-will,
Took form, projected by eternal law
Through co-existent realms of time and space.
Thy words are dark. We dimly catch their sense.
Naught evil, though it were the Prince of evil,
Hath being in itself. For God alone
Existeth in Himself, and Good, which lives
As sunshine lives, born of the Parent Sun.
I am the finite shadow of that Sun,
Opposite, not opposing, only seen
Upon the nether side.
Art happy then?
Nor happy I nor wretched. I but do
My work, as finite fate and law prescribe.
Didst thou not tempt the woman and the man
Of Eden, and beguile them to their doom?
No personal will am I, no influence bad
Or good. I symbolize the wild and deep
And unregenerated wastes of life,
Dark with transmitted tendencies of race
And blind mischance; all crude mistakes of will —
Proclivity unbalanced by due weight
Of favoring circumstance; all passion blown
By wandering winds; all surplusage of force
Piled up for use, but slipping from its base
Of law and order; all undisciplined
And ignorant mutiny against the wise
Restraint of rules by centuries old indorsed,
And proved the best so long it needs no proof; —
All quality o'erstrained until it cracks —
Yet but a surface crack; the Eternal Eye
Sees underneath the soul's sphere, as above,
And knows the deep foundations of the world
Will not be jarred or loosened by the stress
Of sun and wind and rain upon the crust
Of upper soil. Nay, let the earthquake split
The mountains into steep and splintered chasms —
Down deeper than the shock the adamant
Of ages stands, symbol no less divine
Of the eternal Law than heaven above.
Shall we then doubt the sacred books — the faith
That Satan was of old the foe of God?
Nations have planned their demons as they planned
Their gods. Say, rather, God and Satan mixed, —
A hybrid of perplexed theology, —
Stood at the centre of the universe;
Ormuzd and Ahriman, in ceaseless war —
A double spirit through whose nerves and veins
Throbbed the vast pulses of his feverish moods
Of blight and benediction. Did the Jew
Or Pagan, save the few of finer mould,
Own an unchanging God, or one self-willed,
Who, like themselves, was moved to wrath, revenge
And jealousy, to petty strifes and bars
Of sect and clan — the reflex of their thought?
What if it were revealed to holy men,
By faith, that God had formed a spirit vast
Who fell, rebelled, tempted the race to death?
Whether a foe who rode upon the wind,
Or one within, leagued with some sweet, strong drift
Of natural desire, tainted yet sweet?
Alas, did ever human eyes transcend
And pierce beyond the hemisphere of tints
That overarched their thought and hope, yet seemed
A heaven of truth? As man is so his God.
So too his spirit of evil. Evil fixed
He saw, eternal and abstract, whose tree
Thrust down its grappling tap-roots in the heart,
And poisoned where it grew; its blighting shade
By no sweet wandering winds of heaven caressed,
No raindrops from the pitiless clouds. No birds
Of song and summer in its branches built
Their little nests of love. No hermit sought
The shivering rustle of its chilly shade.
Accursed of God it stood — accursed and drear
It stood apart — a thing by God and man
Hated or pitied as a pestilence
O'er-passing cure. So hate not me. For I
Am but the picture mortal eyes behold
Shadowing the dread results of broken laws
Designed by eternal wisdom for the good
Of man, though typed as Darkness, Pain, and Fire.
Must not the eternal Justice punish man
And spirits — now and in the great To-Be?
What sinner can escape his burning wrath?
The soul of man is man's own heaven or hell.
God's love and justice will no curse on men
Or spirits, who condemn themselves, and hide
Their faces in the murky fogs of sense
And lawless passion, and the hate and feud
Born of all dense inwoven ignorance.
Man loves or fears the shadow of himself.
God shines behind him. Let him turn and see.
Yet stay — speak, speak once more! Tell us what fate
Awaits the human race — now on this earth
Teeming with life — and in the great Hereafter!
The phantom-lips are dumb: nor could they answer.
The book of fate is known to One alone.
And thou — thou, sovereign Angel, knowest not?
He alone knows whose being contains the all.
Cease questioning. Have faith. Love reigns supreme.