The House Of Love
Often between the midnight and the morn
I wake and see the angels round my bed;
Then fall asleep again, well-comforted.
I wait not now till that clear dawn be born
Shall lead my feet (O Love, thine eyes are worn
With watching) where her feet have late been led;
Nor lie awake, saying the words she said—
(Her yellow hair.—Have ye seen yellow corn?)
I fall asleep and dream and quite forget,
For here in heaven I know a new love’s birth
Which casteth out all memory. And yet
(As I had loved her more, O Christ, on earth,
Hadst Thou not been so long unsought, unmet)
Some morrow Thou shalt learn my worship’s worth
Come and let me make thee glad
In this house that I have made!
Nowhere ( I am unafraid!)
Canst thou find its like on Earth:
Come, and learn the perfect worth
Of the labor I have had.
I have fashioned it for thee,
Every room and pictured wall;
Every marble pillar tall,
Every door and window-place;
All were done that thy fair face
Might look kindlier on me.
Here, moreover, thou shalt find
Strange, delightful, far-brought things:
Dulcimers, whose tightened strings,
Once, dead women loved to touch;
(Deeming they could mimic much
Of the music of the wind!)
Heavy candlesticks of brass;
Chess-men carved of ivory;
Mass-books written perfectly
By some patient monk of old;
Flagons wrought of thick, red gold,
Set with gems and colored glass;
Burnished armor, once some knight
(Dead, I deem, long wars ago!)
Its great strength was glad to know
When his Lady needed him:
(Now that both his eyes are dim
Both his sword and shield are bright!)
Come, and share these things with me,
Men have died to leave to us!
We shall find life glorious
In this splendid house of love;
Come, and claim thy part thereof,―
I have fashioned it for thee!
Three Grey Days
If she would come, now, and say, What will you, Lover?—
She who has the fairest gifts of al the earth to give—
Think you I should ask some tremendous thing to prove her,
Her life, say, and all her love, so long as she might live? . . .
Should I touch her hair? her hands? her garments, even?
Nay! for such rewards the gods their own good time have set!
Once, these were all mine; the least, poor one was heaven:
Now, lest she remember, I pray that she forget. [page 8]
Merely should I ask—ah! she would not refuse them
Who still seems very kind when I meet with her in dreams—
Only three of our old days, and—should she help to choose
Would the first not be in April, beside the sudden streams? . . .
Once, upon a morning, up the path that we had taken,
We saw Spring come where the willow-buds are gray,
Heard the high hills, as with tread of armies, shaken;
Felt the strong sun—O the glory of that day!
And then—what? one afternoon of quiet summer weather!
O, woodlands and meadow-lands along the blue St. John,
My birch finds a path—though your rafts lie close together—
Then O! what starry miles before the gray o’ the dawn! . . .
I have met the new day, among the misty islands,
Come with whine of saw-mills and whirr of hidden wings,
Gleam of dewy cobwebs, smell of grassy highlands, —
Ah! the blood grows young again thinking of these things.
Then, last and best of all! Though all else were found hollow
Would Time not send a little space, before the Autumn’s close,
And lead us up the road—the old road we used to follow
Among the sunset hills till the Hunter’s Moon arose? . . .
Then, home through the poplar-wood! damp across our faces
The gray leaves that fall, the moths that flutter by:
Yea! this for me, now, of all old hours and places,
To keep when I am dead, Time, until she come to die.
A Song In August
O gold is the West and gold the river-waters
Washing past the sides of my yellow birch canoe.
Gold are the great drops that fall from my paddle,
The far-off hills cry a golden word of you.
I can almost see you! Where its own shadow
Creeps down the hill’s side, gradual and slow,
There you stand waiting; the goldenrod and thistle
Glad of you beside them—the fairest thing they know.
Down the worn foot-path, the tufted pines behind you,
Gray sheep between,—unfrightened as you pass;
Swift through the sun-glow, I to my loved one
Come, striving hard against the long trailing grass.
Soon shall I ground on the shining gravel-reaches;
Through the thick alders you will break your way;
Then your hand in mine, and our path is on the waters,—
For us the long shadows and the end of day.
Whither shall we go? See, over to the westward,
An hour of precious gold standeth still for you and me;
Still gleams the grain, all yellow on the uplands;
West is it, or East, O Love, that you would be?
West now, or East? For, underneath the moonrise,
Also it is fair; and where the reeds are tall,
And the only little noise is the sound of quiet waters,
Heavy, like the rain, we shall hear the duck-oats fall.
And perhaps we shall see, resign slowly from the driftwood,
A lone crane go over to its inland nest;
Or a dark line of ducks will come in across the islands
And sail overhead to the marshes of the west.
Now a little wind rises up for our returning;
Silver grows the East, as the West grows gray;
Shadows on the waters, shades are the meadows,
The firs on the hillside— naught so dark as they.
Yet we have known the light!—Was ever such an August?
Your hand leaves mine; and the new stars gleam
As we separately go to our dreams of opened heaven,—
The golden dawn shall tell you that you did not dream.
High above the trees, swinging in across the hills,
There’s a wide cloud, ominous and slow;
And the wind that rushes over sends the little stars to cover
And the wavering shadow fade along the snow.
Surely on my window (Hark the tumult of the night!)
That’s first, fitful dropp of scanty rain;
And the hillside wakes and quivers with the strength of newborn
Come to make our Northland glad and free again.
O remember how the snow fell the long winter through!
Was it yesterday I tied your snowshoes on?
All my soul grew wild with yearning for the sight of your
But I waited all those hours that you were gone.
For I watched you from our window through the blurring flakes
Till you gained the quiet wood, and then I knew
(When our pathways lay together how we reveled in such
That the ancient things I loved would comfort you.
Now I knew that you would tarry in the shadow of the firs
And remember many winters overpast;
All the hidden signs I found you of the hiding life around you,
Sleeping patient till the year should wake at last.
Here a tuft of fern underneath the rounded drift;
A rock, there, behind a covered spring;
And here, nowhither tending, tracks beginning not nor
Was it bird or shy four-footed furry thing?
And remember how we followed down the woodman’s winding
By the axe-strokes ringing louder, one by one,
Well we knew that we were nearing now the edges of the
O the gleam of chips all yellow in the sun!
But the twilight fell about us as we watched him at his work;
And in the south a sudden moon, hung low,
Beckoned us beyond the shadows—down the hill—across the
Where our little house loomed dark against the snow.
And that night, too—remember?—outside our quiet house,
Just before the dawn we heard the moaning wind;
Only then its wings were weighted with the storm itself created
And it hid the very things it came to find.
In the morn, when we arose, and looked out across the fields,
(Hark the branches! how they shatter overhear!)
Seemed it not that Time was sleeping, and the whole wide
world was keeping
All the silence of the Houses of the Dead?
Ah, but that was long ago! And tonight the wind foretells
(Hark, above the wind, the little laughing rills!)
Earth’s forgetfulness of sorrow when the dawn shall break
And lead me to the bases of the hills:
To the low southern hills where of old we used to go—
(Hark the rumor of ten thousand ancient Springs!)
O my love, to thy dark quiet—far beyond our North’s mad riot—
Do thy new Gods bring remembrance of such things?
Under the sun, the Kingfisher
From his high place was watching her.
He knew she came from some far place;
For when she threw her body down,
She seemed quite tired; and her face
Had dust upon it; and her gown,
That had been yellow, now was brown.
She lay near where the shadows lie
At noontime when they meet the sun.
The water floated slowly by
Her feet. Her hair was all undone,
And with the grass its gold was spun.
The trees were tall and green behind,
And hid the house upon the hill.
This place was sheltered from the wind,
And all the little leaves were still,
And every fern and daffodil.
Her face was hidden in her hands;
And through the grass, and through her hair,
The sunlight found the golden bands
About her wrists. (It was aware,
Also, that her two arms were bare.)
From his high branch, the Kingfisher
Looked down on her and pitied her.
He wondered who that she could be,―
This dear, strange lady, who had come
To vex him with her misery;
And why her days were wearisome,
And what far country was her home.
Her home must be far off indeed,
Wherein such bitter grief could grow.
Had there been no one there to plead
For her when they had wronged her so?
Did none her perfect honor know?
Was there no sword or pennoned lance
Omnipotent in hall or field
For her complete deliverance?
To make them cry, “We yield! we yield”?
Were not her colors on some shield?
Had he been there, the Kingfisher,
How he had fought and died for her!
A little yellow bird flew by;
And where the water-weeds were still,
Hovered a great blue dragon-fly;
Small fishes set the streams a-thrill.
The Kingfisher forgot to kill.
He only thought of her who lay
Upon the ground and was so fair,―
As fair as she who came one day
And sat long with her lover there.
The same gold sun was in her hair.
They had come down, because of love,
From the great house on the hillside:
This lady had no share thereof,
For now this place was sanctified!
Had this fair lady’s lover died?
Was this dear lady’s lover dead?
Had she come here to wait until
Her heart and soul were comforted?
Why was it not within her will
To seek the lady on the hill?
She, too, was lonely; for he had
Beheld her just this morning, when
Her last kiss made her lover glad
Who went to fight the heathen-men:
(He said he would return again!)
That lady would have charity
He knew, because her love was great;
And this one—fairer even than she—
Should enter in her open gate
And be no more disconsolate!
Under the sun, the Kingfisher
Knew no one else might comfort her.
Summer! I praise thee, who art glorious!
For now the sudden promise of the Spring
Hath been fulfilled in many ways to us,
And all live things are thine.
Therefore, while all the earth
Is glad, and young, and strangely riotous
With love of thee, whose blood is even as wine,
I dare to sing,
Worshipping thee, and thy face welcoming;
I, also a lover of thy most wondrous worth.
Yet with no scorn of any passèd days
Come I, ―who even in April caught great pleasure,―
Making of ancient woes the stronger praise;
Nor build I this new crown
For my new love’s fair head
Of flowers plucked in once oft-travelled ways,
And then forgot and utterly cast down;
But from the measure
Of a strange, undreamt-of, undivided treasure
I glean, and thus my love is garlanded.
Yea, with a crown such as no other queen
That ever ruled on earth wore round her hair,
And garments such as man hath never seen!
The beauty Heaven hath
For thee was magnified;
I think the least of thy bright gold and green
Once lived along God’s best-beloved path,
And angels there
Passed by, and gathered those He called most fair,
And, at His bidding, dressed thee for Earth’s bride.
How at thy coming we were glad again!
We who were nigh to death, awaiting thee;
And fain of death as one aweary of pain.
Life had grown burthensome,
Till suddenly we learned
The joy the old brown earth has, when the rain
Comes, and the earth is glad that it has come:
The buds have, when the worn snow sets them free,
The sea’s delight when storm-time has returned.
O season of the strong triumphant Sun!
Bringer of exultation unto all!
Behold thy work ere yet thy day be run.
Over thy growing grain
How the winds rise and cease!
Behold these meadows where thick gold lies spun―
There, last night, surely, thy long hair must have lain!
Where trees are tall,
Hear where young birds hold their high festival;
And see where shallow waters know thy peace.
Will any of these things ever pain thine eyes,
Summer, that thou shouldst go another way
Than ours, or shouldst our offerings despise?
Come with me further still
Where, in sight of the sea,
This garden liveth under mellow skies;
Of its dear odors drink thine utmost fill,
And deign to stay
A moment mid its colors’ glad array,―
Is not this place a pleasant one for thee?
Yea, thou wilt ever stay, I know full well!
Why do I fear that thou wilt pass from us?
Is not this earth thy home wherein to dwell?
The perfect ways thereof
Are thy desirèd ones;
Earth hath no voice but of thy worth to tell.
Therefore, as one who loves might praise his love,
So, even thus,
I hail thee, Summer, who art glorious,
And know thy reign eternal as the Sun’s!
A November Vigil
I wonder why my love for him
Should grow so much these last three days,
While he but stares as if some whim
Had been discovered to his gaze;
Some foolish whim that brings but shame
Whatever time he thinks thereof,—
To him my name is now the name
Of some old half-forgotten love.
And yet I starve for his least kiss
And faint because my love is great;
I, who am now no more than this,—
An unseen beggar at his gate. . . .
She watched the moon and spake aloud.
The moon seemed not to rise, but hung
Just underneath the long straight cloud
That low across the heavens swung,
As if to press the old moon back
Into its place behind the trees.
The trees stood where the hill was black;
They were not vexed by any breeze.
The moon was not as it had been
Before, when she had watched it rise;
It was misshapen now, and thin,
As if some trouble in the skies
Had happened more than it could bear.
Its color, too, was no more red;
Nor was it like her yellow hair;―
It looked as if its soul were dead.
I, who was once well-loved of him,
Am as a beggar by his gate
Whereon black carvèd things look grim
At one who thinks to penetrate.
I do not ask if I may stray
Once more in those desirèd lands;
Another night, yet one more day,
For these I do not make demands;
For when the ripened hour is past
Things such as these are asked in vain:
His first day’s love,—were that the last
I were repaid for this new pain.
Out of his love great joy I had
For many days; and even now
I do not dare to be but glad
When I remember, often, how
He said he had great joy of me.
The while he loved, no man, I think,
Exceeded him in constancy;
My passion, even, seemed to shrink
Almost to nothing, when he came
And told me all of love’s strange things:
The paths love trod, loves eyes of flame,
Its silent hours, its rapid wings. . . .
The moon still waited, watching her
(The cloud still stretched there, close above;
The trees beneath): it could not stir,
And yet it seemed the shape thereof,
Since she looked first, some change had known.
In places it had burned away,
And one side had much thinner grown;
—What light that came from it was gray.
It was not curved from east to west,
But lay upon its back; life one
Wounded, or weary of some quest,
Or by strong enemies undone.
Elsewhere no stars were in the sky;
She knew they were burned out and dead
Because no clouds went, drifting by,
Across the light the strange moon shed.
Now I can hope for naught but death.
I would not stay to give him pain,
Or say the words a woman saith
When love hath called aloud in vain
And got no answer anywhere.
It were far better I should die,
And have rough strangers come to bear
My body far away, where I
Shall know the quiet of the tomb;
That they should leave me, with no tears,
To think and think within the gloom
For many years, for many years.
The thought of that strange, narrow place
Is hard for me to bear, indeed;
I do not fear cold Death’s embrace,
And where black worms draw nigh to feed
On my white body, then, I know
That I shall make no mournful cry:
But that I should be hidden so
Where I no more may see the sky,―
The wide sky filled with many a star,
Or all around the yellow sun,
Or even the sky where great clouds are
That wait until the rain be done,
―That is an evil thing for me. . . .
Across the sky the cloud swung still
And pressed the moon down heavily
Where leafless trees grew on the hill.
The pale moon now was very thin.
There was no water near the place,
Else would the moon that slept therein
Have frightened her with its gray face.
How shall I wish to see the sky!
For that alone mine eyes shall weep;
I care not where they make me lie,
Nor if my grave be diggèd deep,
So they leave loose my coffin’s lid
And throw on me no mouldy clay,
That the white stars may not be hid:
This little thing is all I pray.
Then I shall move me wearily,
And clasp each bone that was my wrist,
Around each slender bony knee;
And wind my hair, that once he kissed,
Around my body wasted think,
To keep me from the grave’s cold breath;
And on my knees rest my poor chin,
And think of what I lose by death.
I shall be happy, being dead. . . .
The moon, by now, had nearly gone,
As if it knew its time was sped
And feared the coming of the dawn.
It had not risen; one could see
The cloud was strong to keep it back;
It merely faded utterly,
And where it was the sky grew black.
Till suddenly the east turned gray,
Although no stars were overhead;
And though the moon had died away,
There came faint glimmerings of red;
Then larger waves of golden light
Heralded that the day was born,
And on the furthest eastern height
With swift feet came the waited morn.
With swift feet came the morn, but lo!
Just as its triumph was begun,
The fist wild onset of the snow
Strangled the glad imperial sun!
O ye who so unceasing praise the Sun;
Ye who find nothing worthy of your love
But the Sun's face and the strong light thereof;
Who, when the day is done,
Are all uncomforted
Unless the night be crowned with many a star,
Or mellow light be shed
From the ancient moon that gazeth from afar,
With pitiless calm, upon the old, tired Earth;
O ye to whom the skies
Must be forever fair to free your eyes
From mortal pain; ―
Have ye not known the great exceeding worth
Of that soft peace which cometh with Rain?
Behold! the wisest of you knows no thing
That hath such title to man's worshipping
As the first sudden day [page 40]
The slumberous Earth is wakened into Spring;
When heavy clouds and gray
Come up the southern way,
And their bold challenge throw
In the face of the frightened snow
That covereth the ground.
What need they now the armies of the Sun
Whose trumpets now do sound?
Alas, the powerless Sun!
Hath he not waged his wars for days gone past,
Each morning drawing up his cohorts vast
And leading them with slow and even paces
To assault once more the impenetrable places,
The river moveth on with silent sound?
O puny, powerless Sun!
On the pure white snow where are the lightest traces
Of what thy forces' ordered ways have done?
On these large spaces
No footsteps are imprinted anywhere;
Still the white glare
Is perfect; yea, the snows are drifted still
On plain and hill;
And still the river knows the Winter's iron will.
Thou wert most wise, O Sun, to hide thy face
This day beneath the cloud's gray covering;
Thou wert most wise to know the deep disgrace
In which thy name is holden of the Spring.
She deems thee now an impotent, useless thing,
And hath dethroned thee from thy mighty place;
Knowing that with the clouds will come apace
The Rain, and that the rain will be a royal king.
A king? —Nay, queen! [page 41]
For in soft girlish-wise she takes her throne
When first she cometh in the young Spring-season;
Gentle and mild,
Yet with no dread of any revolution,
And fearing not a land unreconciled,
And unafraid of treason.
In her dark hair
Lieth the snow's most certain dissolution;
And in her glance is known
The freeing of the rivers from their chainings;
And in her bosom's strainings
Earth's teeming breast is tokened and foreshown.
Behold her coming surely, calmly down,
Where late the clear skies were,
With gray clouds for a gown;
Her fragile draperies
Caught by the little breeze
Which loveth her!
She weareth yet no crown,
Nor is there any sceptre in her hands;
Yea, in all lands,
Whatever Spring she cometh, men know well
That it is right and good for her to come;
And that her least commands
Must be fulfilled, however wearisome;
And that they all must guard the citadel
Wherein she deigns to dwell!
And so, even now, her feet pass swiftly over
The impressionable snow
That vanisheth as woe
Doth vanish from the rapt face of a lover,
Who, after doubting nights, hath come to know
His lady loves him so! [page 42]
(Yet not like him
Doth the snow bear the signs of her light touch!
It is all gray in places, and looks worn
With some most bitter pain;
As he shall look, perchance,
Some early morn
While yet the dawn is dim,
When he awakens from the enraptured trance
In which he, blind, hath lain,
And knows also that he hath loved in vain
The lady who, he deemed, had loved him much.
And though her utter worthlessness is plain
He hath no joy of his deliverance,
But only asketh God to let him die,―
And getteth no reply.)
Yea, the snows fade before the calm strength of the rain!
And while the rain is unabated,
Well-heads are born and streams created
On the hillsides, and set a-flowing
Across the fields. The river, knowing
That there hath surely come at last
Its freedom, and that frost is past,
Gathereth force to break its chains;
The river's faith is in the Spring's unceasing rains!
See where the shores even now were firmly bound
The slowly widening water showeth black,
As from the fields and meadows all around
Come rushing over the dark and snowless ground
The foaming streams!
Beneath the ice the shoulders of the tide
Lift, and from shore to shore a thin, blue crack
Starts, and the dark, long-hidden water gleams,
Glad to be free.
And now the uneven rift is growing wide;
The breaking ice is fast becoming gray;
It hears the loud beseeching of the sea,
And moveth on its way.
Surely at last the work of the rain is done!
Surely the Spring at last is well begun,
O unavailing Sun!
O ye who worship only at the noon,
When will ye learn the glory of the rain?
Have ye not seen the thirsty meadow-grass
Uplooking piteous at the burnished sky,
And all in vain?
Even in June
Have ye not seen the yellow flowers swoon
Along the roadside, where the dust, alas,
Is hard to pass?
Have ye not heard
The song cease in the throat of every bird
And know the thing all these were stricken by?
Ye have beheld these things, yet made no prayer,
O pitiless and uncompassionate!
Yet should the weeping
Of Death's wide wings across your face unsleeping
Be felt of you to-night,
And all your hair
Know the soft stirring of an alien breath
From out the mouth of Death,
Would ye not then have memory of these
And how their pain was great?
Would ye not wish to hear among the trees
The wind in his great night,
And on the roof the rain's unending harmonies?
For when could death be more desired by us
(Oh, follow, Death, I pray thee, with the Fall!)
Than when the night
Is heavy with the wet wind born of rain?
When flowers are yellow, and the growing grass
Is not yet tall,
Or when all living things are harvested
And with bright gold the hills are glorious,
Or when all colors have faded from our sight
And all is gray that late was gold and red?
Have ye not lain awake the long night through
And listened to the falling of the rain
On fallen leaves, withered and brown and dead?
Have none of you,
Hearing its ceaseless sound, been comforted
And made forgetful of the day's live pain?
Even Thou, who wept because the dark was great
Once, and didst pray that dawn might come again,
Has noon not seemed to be a dreaded thing
And night a thing not wholly desolate
And Death thy soul's supremest sun-rising?
Did not thy hearing strain
To catch the moaning of the wind-swept sea,
Where great tides be,
And swift, white rain?
Did not its far exulting teach thy soul
That of all things the sea alone is free
And under no control?
Was it not most desired by thy soul?
The Earth is alway glad, yea, and the sea
Is glad alway
When the rain cometh; either tranquilly [page 45]
As at the first dawn of a Summer day
Or in late Autumn wildly passionate,
Or when all things are all disconsolate
Because that Winter has been long their king,
Or in the Spring.
―Therefore let now your joyful thanksgiving
Be heard on Earth because the Rain hath come!
While land and sea give praise, shall ye be dumb?
Shall ye alone await the sun-shining?
Your days, perchance, have many joys to bring;
Perchance with woes they shall be burthensome;
Yet when night cometh, and ye journey home,
Weary, and sore, and stained with travelling,
When ye seek out your homes because the night―
The last, dark night—falls swift across your path,
And on Life's altar your last day lies slain,
Will ye not cry aloud with that new might
One dying with great things unfinished hath,
"O God! If Thou wouldst only send Thy Rain! "