Under The Pines
"LIFE is sad," says the wind in the pines
To the still soul listening,
While the pale, pale day declines
Like a white bird on the wing.
"Life is sad," says the quiet earth
Under the churchyard wall,
Where the spring flowers have their birth
And the autumn leaflets fall.
"Life is sad," say the daisies that blow there
And stretch out their heads to the sun;
"Life is sad," say the poor hearts that go there
To weep when the day's work is done.
"Life is sad," from below, from on high,
From forest and meadow and tree,
From the clouds that drift over the sky
And the days that die into the sea.
Then up and be brave with thy sorrow,
Like a man with his face to the blast;
Not from hope of the joys of to-morrow,
Nor rest when the warfare is past;
But strong that weak souls may grow strong,
That men may take heart by the way,
Till the heavens break forth with the song
That will herald eternal day.
THOU stand'st complete in every part,
An individual of thy kind;
But whence thou cam'st and what thou art,
Didst ever ask thee of thy mind?
Thou claim'st a portion of God's earth;
Thou say'st to all men, "This is I;"
Thou hast a date to mark thy birth,
And other date when thou shalt die.
Thy years are in the planets' years;
A space in all that mighty span,
A little space of smiles and tears,
Is writ in shining letters—"Man."
Thou hear'st the mighty ocean roll,
Thou seest death on every hand;
There loom strange phantoms in thy soul,
And boundless heavens arch the land.
Thy feet are on the sand and clay,
Which once had other growths than these,
And in the great world's yesterday,
Heard murmurs of the tropic seas.
Life out of death, death out of life,
In endless cycles rolling on,
And fire-gleams flashing from the strife
Of what will come and what has gone.
A perfect whole, a perfect plan,
Ay, doubtless, in the perfect mind,
An onward march since time began,
With yet no laggart left behind.
All blended in a wondrous chain,
Each link the fittest for its place;
The stronger made to bear the strain,
The weaker formed to give it grace.
But what art thou and what am I?
What place is ours in all this scheme?
What is it to be born and die?
Are we but phases in a dream,
That earth or some prime mother dreams,
Folded away in crimson skies?
Or are we dazzled with the beams
Of light too strong for new-born eyes?
Certes, we are not very much;
We cannot cause ourselves to be;
Not even the limbs by which we touch
Are really owned by thee and me.
But they were fashioned years ago,
Ay, centuries; since earth's natal morn,
The wondering ages saw them grow,
Till our time came and we were born.
And we are present, future, past—
Shall live again, have lived before,
Like billows on the beaches cast
Of tides that flow for evermore.
And yet thou sayest, "This is I;
I am marked off from all my kind;
I look not to the by-and-by;
I care not for what lies behind."
That may be so; but to mine eyes
A being of wondrous make thou art—
The point at which infinities
Converge, touch, and for ever part.
Thou canst not unmake what has been,
Nor hold back that which is to come;
We dwell upon the waste between
In the small "now" which is our home.
"Though this be so," thou answerest, "still
I feel and know myself to be:
Thy creed would make the perfect will
In God's sight like a stone or tree."
Ah no! for stone and tree are one,
And perfect will bears different fruit;
The will is grander than the sun,
The body brother to the brute.
But in the ages thou shalt be
A link from unknown to unknown,
A bridge across a darkling sea,
A light on the world's pathway thrown
Ay, such is man—a moan in sleep;
A passing dream; he thinks and is,
And then falls back into the deep
Where other deeps call unto this.
But in that thinking, in that pause,
That dream which did so little yield,
There met a universe of laws,
And branched out into wider field.
We live not for ourselves—ah no!
We do not live; man lives in us.
The race dwells in us; even so
The race will live, though we pass thus.
The forces that have fashioned thee
Have rolled through space since time began—
Have ranged the heavens, the earth, the sea,
And in God's time have made thee man.
And so to further goal they move,
When thou hast passed from mortal sight;
To fashion beings that will prove
More wondrous still, more full of light.
We are the foam-crest on the wave,
Lit for a moment by the sun;
A moment thus we toss and rave,
Then fall back ere our day is done.
Thou then art twain—the force that builds
The broad foundations of the race,
And separate light from God that gilds
The soul with individual grace.
God looks at both: the one displays
The laws that work His purpose still;
The other thine own spirit sways,
And here God asks the perfect will.
I would not have thee think the less
Of this small part which is man's soul,
Nor miss the exceeding blessedness
Of knowing thyself a separate whole.
"What proof," thou sayest, "if this be true,
That thou and I survive the shock
Which summons all we are and do
To credit of the primal stock?
"If I and thou a moment are
Conscious of self, of touch, of sight,
Then vanish like a falling star,
And sink in everlasting night,
"What proof that in the overthrow
The thing that says, knows, ‘This is I,'
Will not pass with the rest, and go
Dissolved into the vast supply?"
Though formed of elemental dust,
And moulded through such countless years,
We perish not with these, but must
Survive the rolling of the spheres.
We must, I say; for what most high
In man? Is't not the subtle part,
The power which tells me, "This is I;
I am not everything thou art"?
Would God have laboured then and wrought
With fire and water, life and death,
And through the weary cycles brought
A creature with the vital breath,
And breathed such power within his soul,
And crowned him with such wondrous grace,
And said, "Go forth from pole to pole,
And meet thy brother face to face,"
If this strange power were meant to sink
Back into chaos or be lost,
Or cast off as a broken link,
Or die like wave along the coast?
Not that God's way. On—ever on,
To nobler, purer, higher things;
Form out the ages that are gone
Each newer, grander era springs.
So nought is lost, but all must pass,
And life through varied stages move;
From the pale fungus in the grass,
To deepest depths of light and love.
And we must pass—we shall not die;
Changed and transformed, but still the same,
To grander heights of mystery,
To fairer realms than whence we came.
God will not let His work be lost;
Too wondrous is the mind of man,
Too many ages it has cost
The huge fulfilment of His plan.
But on we pass, for ever on,
Through death to other deaths and life;
To brighter lights when these are gone;
To broader thought, more glorious strife;
To vistas opening out of these;
To wonders shining from afar,
Above the surging of the seas,
Above the course of moon and star;
To higher powers of will and deed,
All bounds and limits left behind;
To truths undreamt in any creed;
To deeper love, more God-like mind.
For this the sky and sea and earth
God moulded with His ice and fire;
For this the ages gave us birth,
And filled our hearts with mad desire.
Great God! we move into the vast;
All questions vain—the shadows come!
We hear no answer from the past;
The years before us all are dumb.
We trust Thy purpose and Thy will,
We see afar the shining goal;
Forgive us if there linger still
Some human fear within our soul!
Forgive us, if when crumbling in
The world that we have loved and known,
With forms so fair to us, we sin
By eyes averted from Thy throne!
Forgive us, if with thoughts too wild,
And eyes too dim to pierce the gloom,
We shudder like a frightened child
That enters at a darkened room!
Forgive us, if when dies away
All human sound upon our ears,
We hear not, in the swift decay,
Thy loving voice to calm our fears!
But lo! the dawn of fuller days;
Horizon-glories fringe the sky!
Our feet would climb the shining ways
To meet man's widest destiny.
Come, then, all sorrow's recompense!
The kindling sky is flaked with gold;
Above the shattered screen of sense,
A voice like thunder cries, "Behold!"
GREAT mother! from the depths of forest wilds,
From mountain pass and burning sunset plain,
We, thine unlettered children of the woods,
Upraise to thee the everlasting hymn
Of nature, language of the skies and seas,
Voice of the birds and sighing of the pine
In wintry wastes. We know none other tongue,
Nor the smooth speech that, like the shining leaves,
Hides the rough stems beneath. We bring our song,
Wood-fragrant, rough, yet autumn-streaked with love,
And lay it as a tribute at thy feet.
But should it vex thee thus to hear us sing,
Sad in the universal joy that crowns
This year of years, and shouldst thou deem our voice
But death-cry of the ages that are past,
Bear with us—say, "My children of the woods,
In language learnt from bird and wood and stream,
From changing moons and stars and misty lakes,
Pour forth their love, and lay it at my feet;
The voice is wild and strange, untuned to ear
Of majesty, ill-timed to fevered pulse
Of this young age, and meteor-souls that flash
New paths upon night's dome; yet will I hear
This singing of my children ere they die."
Great mother! thou art wise, they say, and good,
And reignest like the moon in autumn skies,
The world about thy feet. We have not seen
Thy face, nor the wild seas of life that surge
Around thy throne; but we have stood by falls,
Deep-shadowed in the silence of the woods,
And heard the water-thunders, and have said,
Thus is the voice of men about our Queen.
What is the red man but the forest stream,
The cry of screech-owl in the desert wilds?
This flood that overflows the hills and plains
Is not for us. Back, Westward, Northward, ay,
Up to eternal winter 'neath the stars,
Our path must be in silence, till the snows
And sun and wind have bleached our children's bones.
The red must go; the axe and plough and plane
Are not for him. We perish with the pine,
We vanish in the silence of the woods;
Our footsteps, like the war-trail in the snow,
Grow fainter while the new spring buds with life.
Great mother! the white faces came with words
Of love and hope, and pointed to the skies,
And in the sunrise splendour set the throne
Of the Great Spirit, and upon the cross
Showed us His Son, and asked a throne for Him.
Their speech was music; but in camp at night
We brooded o'er the matter round the fire,
The shadowy pines about us, and the stars,
Set in the silent heavens, looking down.
We brooded o'er the matter days and years,
For thus each thought and thus each spake in words:
"We children of the woods have lived and died
In these our forests, since the first moon tipped
Their thousand lakes and rivers with her beams,
Pale silver in the fading sky of even.
Our fathers' faces kindled in the glow
Of setting suns; they read the starlit sky;
They heard the Spirit's breathing on the storm,
And on the quaking earth they felt His tread;
But never yet the story of His Son
Was wafted to them from the sighing woods,
Or bird or stream. Our fathers' God is ours;
And as for these new words, we watch and wait."
Great mother! we have waited days and years,
Thro' spring and summer—summer, autumn, spring;
Brooding in silence, for anon we dreamed
A bird's voice in our hearts half sung, "'Tis true."
We listened and we watched the pale face come,
When, lo! new gods came with them—gods of iron
And fire, that shook the forests as they rushed,
Filling with thunder and loud screeching, plains,
Mountains, and woods, and dimming with their breath
The shining skies. These new gods, who were they,
That came devouring all, and blackening earth
And sky with smoke and thunder? We knew not,
But fled in terror further from the face
Of these white children and their gods of iron;
We heard no more their story of the Son,
And words of love. Their own lives were not love,
But war concealed and fire beneath the ash.
Thus ever now the burden of our speech—
We perish with the pine tree and the bird,
We vanish in the silence of the woods,
The white man's hunting-ground, it is not ours;
We care not for his gods of iron and fire;
Our home is in the trackless wilds, the depths
Of mountain solitudes, by starlit lakes,
By noise of waters in the unchanging woods.
Great mother! we have wondered that thy sons,
Thy pale sons, should have left thy side and come
To these wild plains, and sought the haunts of bears
And red men. Why their battle with the woods?
Whither they go upon their gods of iron,
Out of the golden sunrise to the mists
Of purple evening in the setting west?
Their lives have scarce as many moons as ours,
Nor happier are. We know not what they seek;
For death's cold finger chills their fevered life,
As in the wilds he stills the meanest worm,
And death flies with them over all their paths,
And waits them in the heart of wildest waste;
They cannot break his power. Forgive these thoughts
If, as they rise like mists, they dim the gold
That zones thy brow. They came to us at night,
As we have sat in council round the fire;
They seemed the echo of the sighing pines
Far in our soul. One evening rose a chief,
White-headed, bowed with years, one hand on staff,
One on death's arm, preparing for the way.
"My sons," he said, "these people are not wise.
We bide our time, and they will pass away;
Then shall the red man come like bird in spring,
And build the broken camp, and hunt and fish
In his old woods. These people pass away;
Then shall the red man come like bird in spring,
And build the broken camp, and hunt and fish
In his old woods. These people pass away;
For I have thought through many nights and days,
And wondered what they seek; and now I know,
And knowing, say these people are not wise.
They found these plains beneath the burning west,
And westward, ever westward, still they press,
Seeking the shining meadows of the land
Where the sun sleeps, and, folded 'neath his wings,
The happy spirits breathe eternal day.
But I have lived thro' five score changing years,
And I have talked with wintry-headed chiefs,
And I have heard that kingdom is not reached
Thro' woods and plains, but by the bridge of death.
This people is not wise; we bide our time."
Great mother! they have told us that the snows
Of fifty winters sleep about thy throne,
And buds of spring now blossom with sweet breath
Beneath thy tread. They tell us of the sea,
And other lands, where other children dwell;
Of mighty cities and the gleam of gold,
Of empires wider than the shining plains
Viewed from giant hill, that lift thy throne above
The clouded mountain-tops. They tell us, too,
Of wonders in the home of man; of gods
Of iron and fire made servants, and of fire
Snatched from the clouds to flash man's swiftest thought;
But these are not for us. The forest flower
Droops in the haunts of man; it needs the sky,
And smokeless air, and glances of the sun
Thro' rustling leaves. We perish with the woods;
The plains are all before thee. Send thy sons
To plant and build, and drive their flashing gods,
Startling the forests, till, like ocean's bounds,
Thine empire rolls in splendour from wide east
To widest west, broad fields of gold for thee
And thy white children; but our spirits wait
Amid the silent ages, and we pass
To where our fathers dwell, by silent streams,
And hunt in trackless wilds through cloudless days.
The wheels of thy great empire, as it moves
From east to west, from south to icy north,
Crush us to earth. We perish with the woods.
Great mother; if the changing moons have brought
Thee nearer to the darksome bridge that spans
The gulf between this and the eternal day,
If thy path and thy children's be the same,
And thy feet follow where thy fathers went,
Perchance thy soul upon earth's utmost verge,
The eternal sky about thee, and the deeps
Unfathomable beyond—perchance thy soul,
Grown weary with the fever of thy life,
May yearn for song of bird, and sighing pine,
And silent meditation of the woods;
Perchance, when, looking back from infinite skies
To restless man, thy soul, too, echoes, "Why?"
"Where?" and "Whither?" and thy heart may love
This death-song of thy children, ere they pass
With birds and forests to the silent land.
Perchance the white face told us what was true,
And love and hope wait by the throne of God.
The ruffled lake gives out but broken gleams
Of the clear stars above; so, restless life
May be the troubled reflex of the skies.
The world rolls onward, ever on and on,
Through clouded vast and moans of dying years,
Into the depths of sunset; but the light
Blinds our dim eyes, we cannot see the goal.
The spirit of the world is not for us;
We perish with the pine tree and the bird;
We bow our heads in silence. We must die.