The Summer Bower

It is a place whither I've often gone
For peace, and found it, secret, hushed, and cool,
A beautiful recess in neighboring woods.
Trees of the soberest hues, thick-leaved and tall,
Arch it o'erhead and column it around,
Framing a covert, natural and wild,
Domelike and dim; though nowhere so enclosed
But that the gentlest breezes reach the spot
Unwearied and unweakened. Sound is here
A transient and unfrequent visitor;
Yet if the day be calm, not often then,
Whilst the high pines in one another's arms
Sleep, you may sometimes with unstartled ear
Catch the far fall of voices, how remote
You know not, and you do not care to know.
The turf is soft and green, but not a flower
Lights the recess, save one, star-shaped and bright --
I do not know its name -- which here and there
Gleams like a sapphire set in emerald.
A narrow opening in the branched roof,
A single one, is large enough to show,
With that half glimpse a dreamer loves so much,
The blue air and the blessing of the sky.
Thither I always bent my idle steps,
When griefs depressed, or joys disturbed my heart,
And found the calm I looked for, or returned
Strong with the quiet rapture in my soul.
But one day,
One of those July days when winds have fled
One knows not whither, I, most sick in mind
With thoughts that shall be nameless, yet, no doubt,
Wrong, or at least unhealthful, since though dark
With gloom, and touched with discontent, they had
No adequate excuse, nor cause, nor end,
I, with these thoughts, and on this summer day,
Entered the accustomed haunt, and found for once
No medicinal virtue.
Not a leaf
Stirred with the whispering welcome which I sought,
But in a close and humid atmosphere,
Every fair plant and implicated bough
Hung lax and lifeless. Something in the place,
Its utter stillness, the unusual heat,
And some more secret influence, I thought,
Weighed on the sense like sin. Above I saw,
Though not a cloud was visible in heaven,
The pallid sky look through a glazed mist
Like a blue eye in death.
The change, perhaps,
Was natural enough; my jaundiced sight,
The weather, and the time explain it all:
Yet have I drawn a lesson from the spot,
And shrined it in these verses for my heart.
Thenceforth those tranquil precincts I have sought
Not less, and in all shades of various moods;
But always shun to desecrate the spot
By vain repinings, sickly sentiments,
Or inconclusive sorrows. Nature, though
Pure as she was in Eden when her breath
Kissed the white brow of Eve, doth not refuse,
In her own way and with a just reserve,
To sympathize with human suffering;
But for the pains, the fever, and the fret
Engendered of a weak, unquiet heart,
She hath no solace; and who seeks her when
These be the troubles over which he moans,
Reads in her unreplying lineaments
Rebukes, that, to the guilty consciousness,
Strike like contempt.

Not to win thy favor, maiden, not to steal away thy heart,
Have I ever sought thy presence, ever stooped to any art;
Thou wast but a wildering problem, which I aimed to solve, and then
Make it matter for my note-book, or a picture for my pen.
So, I daily conned thee over, thinking it no dangerous task,
Peeping underneath thy lashes, peering underneath thy mask -
For thou wear'st one - no denial! there is much within thine eyes;
But those stars have other secrets than are patent in their skies.
And I read thee, read thee closely, every grace and every sin,
Looked behind the outward seeming to the strange wild world within,
Where thy future self is forming, where I saw - no matter what!
There was something less than angel, there was many an earthly spot;
Yet so beautiful thy errors that I had no heart for blame,
And thy virtues made thee dearer than my dearest hopes of fame;
All so blended, that in wishing one peculiar trait removed,
We indeed might make thee better, but less lovely and less loved.
All my mind was in the study - so two thrilling fortnights passed -
All my mind was in the study - till my heart was touched at last.
Well! and then the book was finished, the absorbing task was done,
I awoke as one who had been dreaming in a noon-day sun;
With a fever on my forehead, and a throbbing in my brain,
In my soul delirious wishes, in my heart a lasting pain;
Yet so hopeless, yet so cureless - as in every great despair -
I was very calm and silent, and I never stooped to prayer,
Like a sick man unattended, reckless of the coming death,
Only for he knows it certain, and he feels no sister's breath.
All the while as by an Atle, with no pity in her face,
Yet with eyes of witching beauty, and with form of matchless grace,
I was haunted by thy presence, oh! for weary nights and days,
I was haunted by thy spirit, I was troubled by thy gaze,
And the question which to answer I had taxed a subtle brain,
What thou art, and what thou wilt be, came again and yet again;
With its opposite deductions, it recurred a thousand times,
Like a coward's apprehensions, like a madman's favorite rhymes.
But to-night my thoughts flow calmer - in thy room I think I stand,
See a fair white page before thee, and a pen within thy hand;
And thy fingers sweep the paper, and a light is in thine eyes,
Whilst I read thy secret fancies, whilst I hear thy secret sighs.
What they are I will not whisper, those are lovely, these are deep,
But one name is left unwritten, that is only breathed in sleep.
Is it wonder that my passion bursts at once from out its nest?
I have bent my knee before thee, and my love is all confessed;
Though I knew that name unwritten was another name than mine,
Though I felt those sighs half murmured what I could but half divine.
Aye! I hear thy haughty answer! Aye! I see thy proud lip curl!
'What presumption, and what folly!' why, I only love a girl
With some very winning graces, with some very noble traits,
But no better than a thousand who have bent to humbler fates.
That I ask not; I have, maiden, just as haught a soul as thine;
If thou think'st thy place above me, thou shalt never stoop to mine.
Yet as long as blood runs redly, yet as long as mental worth
Is a nobler gift than fortune, is a holier thing than birth,
I will claim the right to utter, to the high and to the low,
That I love them, or I hate them, that I am a friend or foe.
Nor shall any slight unman me; I have yet some little strength,
Yet my song shall sound as sweetly, yet a power be mine at length!
Then, oh, then! but moans are idle - hear me, pitying saints above!
With a chaplet on my forehead, I will justify my love.
And perhaps when thou art leaning on some less devoted breast,
Thou shalt murmur, 'He was worthier than my blinded spirit guessed.'

Not to win thy favor, maiden, not to steal away thy heart,
Have I ever sought thy presence, ever stooped to any art;
Thou wast but a wildering problem, which I aimed to solve, and then
Make it matter for my note-book, or a picture for my pen.
So, I daily conned thee over, thinking it no dangerous task,
Peeping underneath thy lashes, peering underneath thy mask --
For thou wear'st one -- no denial! there is much within thine eyes;
But those stars have other secrets than are patent in their skies.
And I read thee, read thee closely, every grace and every sin,
Looked behind the outward seeming to the strange wild world within,
Where thy future self is forming, where I saw -- no matter what!
There was something less than angel, there was many an earthly spot;
Yet so beautiful thy errors that I had no heart for blame,
And thy virtues made thee dearer than my dearest hopes of fame;
All so blended, that in wishing one peculiar trait removed,
We indeed might make thee better, but less lovely and less loved.
All my mind was in the study -- so two thrilling fortnights passed --
All my mind was in the study -- till my heart was touched at last.
Well! and then the book was finished, the absorbing task was done,
I awoke as one who had been dreaming in a noon-day sun;
With a fever on my forehead, and a throbbing in my brain,
In my soul delirious wishes, in my heart a lasting pain;
Yet so hopeless, yet so cureless -- as in every great despair --
I was very calm and silent, and I never stooped to prayer,
Like a sick man unattended, reckless of the coming death,
Only for he knows it certain, and he feels no sister's breath.
All the while as by an Atle, with no pity in her face,
Yet with eyes of witching beauty, and with form of matchless grace,
I was haunted by thy presence, oh! for weary nights and days,
I was haunted by thy spirit, I was troubled by thy gaze,
And the question which to answer I had taxed a subtle brain,
What thou art, and what thou wilt be, came again and yet again;
With its opposite deductions, it recurred a thousand times,
Like a coward's apprehensions, like a madman's favorite rhymes.
But to-night my thoughts flow calmer -- in thy room I think I stand,
See a fair white page before thee, and a pen within thy hand;
And thy fingers sweep the paper, and a light is in thine eyes,
Whilst I read thy secret fancies, whilst I hear thy secret sighs.
What they are I will not whisper, those are lovely, these are deep,
But one name is left unwritten, that is only breathed in sleep.
Is it wonder that my passion bursts at once from out its nest?
I have bent my knee before thee, and my love is all confessed;
Though I knew that name unwritten was another name than mine,
Though I felt those sighs half murmured what I could but half divine.
Aye! I hear thy haughty answer! Aye! I see thy proud lip curl!
"What presumption, and what folly!" why, I only love a girl
With some very winning graces, with some very noble traits,
But no better than a thousand who have bent to humbler fates.
That I ask not; I have, maiden, just as haught a soul as thine;
If thou think'st thy place above me, thou shalt never stoop to mine.
Yet as long as blood runs redly, yet as long as mental worth
Is a nobler gift than fortune, is a holier thing than birth,
I will claim the right to utter, to the high and to the low,
That I love them, or I hate them, that I am a friend or foe.
Nor shall any slight unman me; I have yet some little strength,
Yet my song shall sound as sweetly, yet a power be mine at length!
Then, oh, then! but moans are idle -- hear me, pitying saints above!
With a chaplet on my forehead, I will justify my love.
And perhaps when thou art leaning on some less devoted breast,
Thou shalt murmur, "He was worthier than my blinded spirit guessed."

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