For The Old
These are the things I pray Heaven send us still,
To blow the ashes of the years away,
Or keep aglow forever 'neath their gray
The fire that warms when Life's old house grows chill:
First Faith, that gazed into our youth's bright eyes;
Courage, that helped us onward, rain or sun;
Then Hope, who captained all our deeds well done;
And, last, the dream of Love that never dies.
The New God
I look about me, and behold
How all is changed: The sound and sane,
The kind, the true, the hale and old,
That once made strong the features plain
Of life, are cast in other mold,
That bears the stamp of greed and gold
A god unclean, who drags a chain
Of jewelled lust, which men call Gain,
Binding their hearts to all that's vain,
That God at last for punishment
Shall curse with woe and discontent.
IN her vast church of glimmering blue,
Gray-stoled from feet to chin,
Her dark locks beaded with the dew,
The nun-like dawn comes in:
At once the hills put on their spencers
Of purple, swinging streaming censers
Of mist before the God of Day
Who goes with pomp his way.
With sapphire draperies of light
Is hung the sombre pines;
Filling each valley, every height
With sacerdotal lines —
Shrines, where, like priests with worship vestured,
The forests bow and, heavenly gestured,
Lift high the chalice of the sun,
Intoning, 'Night is done!'
WITH her fair face she made my heaven,
Beneath whose stars and moon and sun
I worshiped, praying, having striven,
For wealth through which she might be won.
And yet she had no soul: A woman
As fair and cruel as a god;
Who played with hearts as nothing human,
And tossed them by and on them trod.
She killed a soul; she did it nightly;
Luring it forth from peace and prayer,
To strangle it, and laughing lightly,
Cast it into the gutter there.
And yet, not for a purer vision
Would I exchange; or Paradise
Possess instead of Hell, my prison,
Where burns the passion of her eyes.
How shall it be with them that day
When God demands of Earth His pay?
With them who make a god of clay
And gold and put all truth away.
Shall not they see the lightning-ray
Of wrath? and hear the trumpet-bray
Of black destruction? while dismay
O'erwhelms them and God's hosts delay?
Shall not they, clothed in rich array,
Pray God for mercy? and, a-sway,
Heap on their hearts the ashes gray
Of old repentance? Nay! oh, nay!
They shall not know till He shall lay
An earthquake hand upon their way;
And Doomsday, clad in Death's decay,
Sweep down, and they've no time to pray.
The Iron Age
And these are Christians! God! the horror of it!
How long, O Lord! how long, O Lord! how long
Wilt Thou endure this crime? and there, above it,
Look down on Earth nor sweep away the wrong!
Are these Thy teachings? Where is then that pity,
Which bade the weary, suffering come to Thee?
War takes its toll of life in field and City,
And Thou must see! O Christianity!
And then the children! Oh, Thou art another!
Not God! but Fiend, whom God has given release!
Will prayer avail naught? tears of father, mother?
To give at last the weary world surcease
From butchery? that back again hath brought her
Into that age barbarian that priced
Hate above Love; and, shod with steel and slaughter,
Stamped on the Cross and on the face of Christ.
Before The Temple
All desolate she sate her down
Upon the marble of the temple's stair.
You would have thought her, with her eyes of brown,
Flushed cheeks and hazel hair,
A dryad dreaming there.
A priest of Bacchus passed, nor stopped
To chide her; deeming her whose chiton hid
But half her bosom, and whose girdle dropped
Some grief-drowned Bassarid,
The god of wine had chid.
With wreaths of woodland cyclamen
For Dian's shrine, a shepherdess drew near,
All her young thoughts on vestal beauty, when
She dare not look for fear
Behold the goddess here!
Fierce lights on shields of bossy brass
And helms of gold, next from the hills deploy
Tall youths of Argos. And she sees him pass,
Flushed with heroic joy,
On towards the siege of Troy.
Frogs At Night
I heard the toads and frogs last night
When snug in bed, and all was still;
I lay and listened there until
It seemed a church where one, with might,
Was preaching high and very shrill:
'The will of God!
The will of God!'
To which a voice, below the hill,
Basso-profundo'd deep, 'The will!'
'The will of God!
The will of God!'
'The will! The will!'
They croaked and chorused hoarse or shrill.
It made me sleepy; sleepier
Than any sermon ever heard:
And so I turned upon my ear
And went to-sleep and never stirred:
But in my sleep I seemed to hear:
'The word of God!
The word of God!'
Chanted and quavered, chirped and purred,
To which one deep voice croaked, 'The word!'
'The word of God!
The word of God!'
'The word! The word!'
And I slept on and never stirred.
THERE is a glory in the apple boughs
Of silver moonlight; like a torch of myrrh,
Burning upon an altar of sweet vows,
Dropped from the hand of some wan worshipper:
And there is life among the apple blooms
Of whisp’ring winds; as if a god addressed
The flamen from the sanctuary glooms
With secrets of the bourne that hope hath guessed,
Saying: ‘Behold! a darkness which illumes,
A waking which is rest.’
There is a blackness in the apple trees
Of tempest; like the ashes of an urn
Hurt hands have gathered upon blistered knees,
With salt of tears, out of the flames that burn:
And there is death among the blooms, that fill
The night with breathless scent,—as when, above
The priest, the vision of his faith doth will
Forth from his soul the beautiful form thereof,—
Saying: ‘Behold! a silence never still;
The other form of love.’
A Light In The Window
Rain and wind and candlelight
And let us pray a prayer to-night:
For every soul, since life is brief,
Little of trouble and less of grief.
And set a light at the windowpane,
To guide Love home through the night and rain.
Rain and wind and candlelight
And what shall we pray again to-night?
For every life, whose way is dim,
The grace of God and trust in Him.
A word, a song, till the tears be dried,
And Faith and Hope sit down beside.
Rain and wind and candlelight
And one last prayer to pray to-night:
For every heart in the dark and rain
To know its prayer is not in vain:
A door flung wide, and a face aglow
Love come back from the Long-Ago.
Then let the rain and the wind without
Threaten their worst and rave and shout:
For who will care, though the night is black
Love to his own has wandered back.
Has wandered back through the rain and night,
Led home again by her candle's light.
Out Of The Depths
Let me forget her face!
So fresh, so lovely! the abiding place
Of tears and smiles that won my heart to her;
Of dreams and moods that moved my soul's dim deeps,
As strong winds stir
Dark waters where the starlight glimmering sleeps.
In every lineament the mind can trace,
Let me forget her face!
Let me forget her form!
Soft and seductive, that contained each charm,
Each grace the sweet word maidenhood implies;
And all the sensuous youth of line and curve,
That makes men's eyes
Bondsmen of beauty eager still to serve.
In every part that memory can warm,
Let me forget her form!
Let me forget her, God!
Her who made honeyed love a bitter rod
To scourge my heart with, barren with despair;
To tear my soul with, sick with vain desire!
Oh, hear my prayer!
Out of the hell of love's unquenchable fire
I cry to thee, with face against the sod,
Let me forget her, God!
In The Shadow Of The Beeches
In the shadow of the beeches,
Where the fragile wildflowers bloom;
Where the pensive silence pleaches
Green a roof of cool perfume,
Have you felt an awe imperious
As when, in a church, mysterious
Windows paint with God the gloom?
In the shadow of the beeches,
Where the rock-ledged waters flow;
Where the sun's slant splendor bleaches
Every wave to foaming snow,
Have you felt a music solemn
As when minster arch and column
Echo organ worship low?
In the shadow of the beeches,
Where the light and shade are blent;
Where the forest bird beseeches,
And the breeze is brimmed with scent,-
Is it joy or melancholy
That o'erwhelms us partly, wholly,
To our spirit's betterment?
In the shadow of the beeches
Lay me where no eye perceives;
Where,-like some great arm that reaches
Gently as a love that grieves,-
One gnarled root may clasp me kindly,
While the long years, working blindly,
Slowly change my dust to leaves.
The Creaking Door
COME in, old Ghost of all that used to be! —
You find me old,
And love grown cold,
And fortune fled to younger company:
Departed, as the glory of the day,
With friends! — And you, it seems, have come to stay.—
'T is time to pray.
Come; sit with me, here at Life's creaking door,
Think, nay! then, guess,
What was the one thing, eh? that made me poor? —
The love of beauty, that I could not bind?
My dream of truth? or faith in humankind? —
But, never mind!
All are departed now, with love and youth,
Whose stay was brief;
And left but grief
And gray regret — two jades, who tell the truth; —
Whose children — memories of things to be,
And things that failed,— within my heart, ah me!
None can turn time back, and no man delay
Death when he knocks.—
What good are clocks,
Or human hearts, to stay for us that day
When at Life's creaking door we see his smile,—
Death's! at the door of this old House of Trial? —
Old Ghost, let's wait awhile.
The little tents the wildflowers raise
Are tabernacles where Love prays
And Beauty preaches all the days.
I walk the woodland through and through,
And everywhere I see their blue
And gold where I may worship too.
All hearts unto their inmost shrine
Of fragrance they invite; and mine
Enters and sees the All Divine.
I hark; and with some inward ear
Soft words of praise and prayer I hear,
And bow my head and have no fear.
For God is present as I see
In them; and gazes out at me
Kneeling to His divinity.
Oh, holiness that Nature knows,
That dwells within each thing that grows,
Vestured with dreams as is the rose.
With perfume! whereof all things preach
The birds, the brooks, the leaves, that reach
Our hearts and souls with loving speech;
That makes a tabernacle of
The flowers; whose priests are Truth and Love,
Who help our souls to rise above.
The Earth and that which we name sin
Unto the knowledge that is kin
To Heaven, to which at last we win.
'Teach me the wisdom of thy beauty, pray,
That, being thus wise, I may aspire to see
What beauty is, whence, why, and in what way
Immortal, yet how mortal utterly:
For, shrinking loveliness, thy brow of day
Pleads plaintive as a prayer, anemone.
'Teach me wood-wisdom, I am petulant:
Thou hast the wildness of a Dryad's eyes,
The shyness of an Oread's, wild plant:-
Behold the bashful goddess where she lies
Distinctly delicate!- inhabitant
Ambrosial-earthed, star-cousin of the skies.
'Teach me thy wisdom, for, thro' knowing, yet,
When I have drunk dull Lethe till each vein
Thuds full oblivion, I shall not forget;-
For beauty known is beauty; to sustain
Glad memories with life, while mad regret
And sorrow perish, being Lethe slain.'
'Teach thee my beauty being beautiful
And beauty wise?- My slight perfections, whole
As world, as man, in their creation full
As old a Power's cogitation roll.
Teach thee?- Presumption! thought is young and dull-
Question thy God what God is, soul what soul.'
She kneels with haggard eyes and hair
Unto the Christ upon the Cross:
Her gown is torn; her feet are bare.
What is this thing she begs of him,
The gentle Christ upon the Cross?
Her hands are clasped; her face is dim.
Is it forgiveness for her sin,
She asks of Christ upon the Cross?
And mercy for the soul within?
With anguished face, so sad and sweet,
She kneels to Christ upon the Cross:
Her arms embrace his nail-pierced feet.
Her tears run slowly down her face,
O piteous Christ upon the Cross!
And through her tears she sighs and says:
'The thing that I would crave of Thee,
O Christ upon the cruel Cross,
Is not a thing to comfort me.
'Thou, who hast taught us to forgive,
O tender Christ upon the Cross,
Help Thou my love for him to live.
'Oh, let the love that was my fall,
O loving Christ upon the Cross,
Still to my life be all in all.
'With love for him who loves no more,
O patient Christ upon the Cross,
Make Thou my punishment full sore.'
She kneels with haggard eyes and hair
Unto the Christ upon the Cross:
Her gown is torn; her feet are bare.
Meeting In The Woods
Through ferns and moss the path wound to
A hollow where the touchmenots
Swung horns of honey filled with dew;
And where like foot-prints violets blue
And bluets made sweet sapphire blots,
'Twas there that she had passed he knew.
The grass, the very wilderness
On either side, breathed rapture of
Her passage: 'twas her hand or dress
That touched some tree a slight caress
That made the wood-birds sing above;
Her step that made the flowers up-press.
He hurried, till across his way,
Foam-footed, bounding through the wood,
A brook, like some wild girl at play,
Went laughing loud its roundelay;
And there upon its bank she stood,
A sunbeam clad in woodland gray.
And when she saw him, all her face
Grew to a wildrose by the stream;
And to his breast a moment's space
He gathered her; and all the place
Seemed conscious of some happy dream
Come true to add to Earth its grace.
Some joy, on which Heav'n was intent
For which God made the world the bliss,
The love, that raised her innocent
Pure face to his that, smiling, bent
And sealed confession with a kiss
Life needs no other testament.
The dim verbena drugs the dusk
With lemon-heavy odours where
The heliotropes breathe drowsy musk
Into the jasmine-dreamy air;
The moss-rose bursts its dewy husk
And spills its attar there.
The orange at thy casement swings
Star-censers oozing rich perfumes;
The clematis, long-petalled, clings
In clusters of dark purple blooms;
With flowers, like moons or sylphide wings,
Magnolias light the glooms.
Awake, awake from sleep!
Thy balmy hair,
Down-fallen, deep on deep,
Like blossoms there'
That dew and fragrance weep'
Will fill the night with prayer.
Awake, awake from sleep!
And dreaming here it seems to me
A dryad's bosom grows confessed,
Bright in the moss of yonder tree,
That rustles with the murmurous West
Or is it but a bloom I see,
Round as thy virgin breast?
Through fathomless deeps above are rolled
A million feverish worlds, that burst,
Like gems, from Heaven's caskets old
Of darkness fires that throb and thirst;
An aloe, showering buds of gold,
The night seems, star-immersed.
Unseal, unseal thine eyes!
O'er which her rod
Sleep sways; and like the skies,
That dream and nod,
Their starry majesties
Will fill the night with God.
Unseal, unseal thine eyes!
The Puritans' Christmas
Their only thought religion,
What Christmas joys had they,
The stern, staunch Pilgrim Fathers who
Knew naught of holiday?
A log-church in the clearing
'Mid solitudes of snow,
The wild-beast and the wilderness,
And lurking Indian foe.
No time had they for pleasure,
Whom God had put to school;
A sermon was their Christmas cheer,
A psalm their only Yule.
They deemed it joy sufficient,-
Nor would Christ take it ill,-
That service to Himself and God
Employed their spirits still.
And so through faith and prayer
Their powers were renewed,
And souls made strong to shape a World,
And tame a solitude.
A type of revolution,
Wrought from an iron plan,
In the largest mold of liberty
God cast the Puritan.
A better land they founded,
That Freedom had for bride,
The shackles of old despotism
Struck from her limbs and side.
With faith within to guide them,
And courage to perform,
A nation, from a wilderness,
They hewed with their strong arm.
For liberty to worship,
And right to do and dare,
They faced the savage and the storm
With voices raised in prayer.
For God it was who summoned,
And God it was who led,
And God would not forsake the love
That must be clothed and fed.
Great need had they of courage!
Great need of faith had they!
And lacking these-how otherwise
For us had been this day!
The Iron Cross
THEY pass, with heavy eyes and hair,
Before the Christ upon the Cross,
The Nations, stricken with their loss,
And lifting faces of despair.
What is the prayer they pray to Him,
Christ Jesus on the Iron Cross?
The Christ, neglected, dark with moss,
Whose hands are pierced, whose face is grim.
Is it forgiveness for great sin
They plead before the Iron Cross?
Or for some gift of gold or dross?
Or battle lost, that they would win?
With eyes where hate and horror meet,
They pass before the Iron Cross,
The Cross, that ancient words emboss,
Where hangs the Christ with nail-pierced feet.
His hair is fallen on his face.
His head hangs sidewise from the Cross —
The Crucified, who knows all loss,
And had on Earth no resting place.
'O world of men,' he seems to say,
'Behold me on your Iron Cross!
To me why kneel and tell your loss?
Why kneel to me and weep and pray?
'Have I not taught you to forgive?
And bade you from my Iron Cross
Believe, and bear your grief and loss,
That after death you too may live?
'You have not followed at my call!
You keep me on this Iron Cross,
And pray me keep you from all loss,
And save and comfort you withal.—
'You ask for love, and hate the more! —
You keep me on this Iron Cross!—
Restore to me my greater loss,
The brotherhood of rich and poor.'
They pass, with weary eyes and hair,
Before the Christ upon the Cross —
The Nations, wailing of their loss,
And lifting faces of despair.
A Prayer For Old Age
These are the things which I would ask of Time:
When I am old,
Never to feel in soul doubt's spiritual rime;
The heart grow cold
With self; but in me that which warms my time.
Never to feel the drouth, the dearth that kills,
Before one dies,
Of mind, full-flowering on thought's fertile hills;
But, in my skies,
The falcon, Fancy, that no season kills.
Never to see the shadow at my door,
Nor fear its fall;
But wait serenely, whether rich or poor,
Nor care at all,
So Love sits with me at my open door.
Never to have a dream I dreamed destroyed:
And towards the last
Live o'er again all that I have enjoyed,
The happy Past,
Through these, the dreams, no time has yet destroyed.
Never to lose my love for lowly things;
To feel the need
For simple beauty still: each bird that sings,
Each flower and weed
That looks its message of unguessed-at things.
Never to lose my faith in Nature, God:
But still to find
Worship in trees; religion in each sod;
And in the wind
Sermons that breathe the universal God.
Never to age in mind; much less in heart;
But keep them young
With song, glad song, that still shall have its part,
Sung or unsung,
Within the inmost temple of my heart.
That I may lose not all my trust in men!
And, through it, grow
Nearer to Heaven and God: and softly then
Meet Death and know
He has no terrors for my soul. Amen.
O Maytime Woods!
From the idyll 'Wild Thorn and Lily'
O Maytime woods! O Maytime lanes and hours!
And stars, that knew how often there at night
Beside the path, where woodbine odors blew
Between the drowsy eyelids of the dusk,-
When, like a great, white, pearly moth, the moon
Hung silvering long windows of your room,-
I stood among the shrubs! The dark house slept.
I watched and waited for-I know not what!-
Some tremor of your gown: a velvet leaf's
Unfolding to caresses of the Spring:
The rustle of your footsteps: or the dew
Syllabling avowal on a tulip's lips
Of odorous scarlet: or the whispered word
Of something lovelier than new leaf or rose-
The word young lips half murmur in a dream:
Serene with sleep, light visions weigh her eyes:
And underneath her window blooms a quince.
The night is a sultana who doth rise
In slippered caution, to admit a prince,
Love, who her eunuchs and her lord defies.
Are these her dreams? or is it that the breeze
Pelts me with petals of the quince, and lifts
The Balm-o'-Gilead buds? and seems to squeeze
Aroma on aroma through sweet rifts
Of Eden, dripping through the rainy trees.
Along the path the buckeye trees begin
To heap their hills of blossoms.-Oh, that they
Were Romeo ladders, whereby I might win
Her chamber's sanctity!-where dreams must pray
About her soul!-That I might enter in!-
A dream,-and see the balsam scent erase
Its dim intrusion; and the starry night
Conclude majestic pomp; the virgin grace
Of every bud abashed before the white,
Pure passion-flower of her sleeping face.
There is a scent of roses and spilt wine
Between the moonlight and the laurel coppice;
The marble idol glimmers on its shrine,
White as a star, among a heaven of poppies.
Here all my life lies like a spilth of wine.
There is a mouth of music like a lute,
A nightingale that sigheth to one flower;
Between the falling flower and the fruit,
Where love hath died, the music of an hour.
To sit alone with memory and a rose;
To dwell with shadows of whilom romances;
To make one hour of a year of woes
And walk on starlight, in ethereal trances,
With love's lost face fair as a moon-white rose,
To shape from music and the scent of buds
Love's spirit and its presence of sweet fire,
Between the heart's wild burning and the blood's,
Is part of life and of the soul's desire.
There is a song to silence and the stars,
Between the forest and the temple's arches;
And down the stream of night, like nenuphars,
The tossing fires of the revellers' torches.
Here all my life waits lonely as the stars.
Shall not one hour of all those hours suffice
For resignation God hath given as dower?
Between the summons and the sacrifice
One hour of love, th' eternity of an hour?
The shrine is shattered and the bird is gone;
Dark is the house of music and of bridal;
The stars are stricken and the storm comes on;
Lost in a wreck of roses lies the idol,
Sad as the memory of a joy that's gone.
To dream of perished gladness and a kiss,
Waking the last chord of love's broken lyre,
Between remembering and forgetting, this
Is part of life and of the soul's desire.
Soft and silken and silvery brown,
In shoes of lichen and leafy gown,
Little blue butterflies fluttering around her,
Deep in the forest, afar from town,
There where a stream came trickling down,
I met with Silence, who wove a crown
Of sleep whose mystery bound her.
I gazed in her eyes, that were mossy green
As the rain that pools in a hollow between
The twisted roots of a tree that towers:
And I saw the things that none has seen,
That mean far more than facts may mean,
The dreams, that are true, of an age that has been,
That God has thought into flowers.
I gazed on her lips, that were dewy gray
As the mist that clings, at the close of day,
To the wet hillside when the winds cease blowing;
And I heard the things that none may say,
That are holier far than the prayers we pray,
The murmured music God breathes alway
Through the hearts of all things growing.
Soft and subtle and vapory white,
In shoes of shadow and gown of light,
Crimson poppies asleep around her,
Far in the forest, beneath a height,
I came on Slumber, who wove from night
A wreath of silence, that, darkly bright,
With its mystic beauty bound her.
I looked in her face that was pale and still
As the moon that rises above the hill
Where the pines loom sombre as sorrow:
And the things that all have known and will,
I knew for a moment: the myths that fill
And people the past of the soul and thrill
Its hope with a far to-morrow.
I heard her voice, that was strange with pain
As a wind that whispers of wreck and rain
To the leaves of the autumn rustling lonely:
And I felt the things that are felt in vain
By all the longings that haunt the brain
Of man, that come and depart again
And are part of his dreamings only.
Little Messages Of Joy And Hope
Take heart again. Joy may be lost awhile.
It is not always Spring.
And even now from some far Summer Isle
Hither the birds may wing.
Hearts, that have cheered us ever, night and day,
With words that helped us on the rugged way,
The hard, long road of life to whom is due
More than the heart can ever hope to pay
Are they not touchstones, soul-transmuting true
All thoughts to gold, refining thus the clay?
Fortune may pass us by:
Follow her flying feet.
Love, all we ask, deny:
Never admit defeat.
Take heart again and try.
Never say die.
Be glad, just for to-day!
O heart, be glad!
Cast all your cares away!
Doff all that 's sad!
Put of your garments gray
Be glad to-day!
Be merry while you-can;
For life is short
It seemeth but a span
Before we part.
Let each maid take her man,
And dance while dance she can:
Life's but a little span
Be merry while you can.
Blow high, blow low!
No longer borrow
Care of tomorrow:
Take joy of life, and let care go!
One with the Heaven above
Am I its bliss:
Part of its truth and love,
And what God is.
I heal the soul and mind:
I work their cures:
Not Grief, that rends Mankind,
But Joy endures.
For The Old
These are the things I pray Heaven send us still,
To blow the ashes of the years away,
Or keep aglow forever 'neath their gray
The fire that warms when Life's old house grows chill:
First Faith, that gazed into our youth's bright eyes;
Courage, that helped us onward, rain or sun;
Then Hope, who captained all our deeds well done;
And, last, the dream of Love that never dies.
I passed a cottage 'twixt the town and wood,
And marked its garden, blossoming bright and bold,
And breathing many a scent. Awhile I stood
Near pink and marigold.
It seemed a place of prayer; of love and peace;
Where gray Content with children at his knees,
Like blessings manifold,
Rested among the trees.
An old man came into the garden-plot;
And 'mid the tansy and the scarlet sage
Found for himseft a dim and quiet spot
Wherein to turn a page:
For in his hand he bore a well-thumbed book,
Upon whose pages now and then he'd look;
And then, as if with age,
His hoary head he shook.
I said to him:'You have a lovely place.
How rich your garden blooms! How sweet its shade!
How good to sit here in the eve and face
Those hills of woods while fade.
The sunset's splendors like a bannered host
Before the glory of the Holy Ghost,
While Dusk, in light arrayed,
Takes up his starry post.'
The old man smiled, and turned around to stare
Not at me but above my head, as if
He saw a form, a flying phantom there,
A flaming hippogriff:
Then said, 'You find here what I keep in mind
Thoughts thoughts of beauty with which God is kind
To an old man grown stiff
And half-way deaf and blind.
'This garden, now, in every herb and flower,
Expresses what the Bible says in part.
Unto my soul: To serve God every hour,
In thought, or through some art,
With loveliness: as men did long ago,
Work at some beauty that shall gleam and glow
With worship of the heart,
Whose dream shall burn below.
'For men may serve God in their humblest works:
In gardens, say, like mine; wherein the Word
Walks with me, and in every rosebush lurks
'God's blessing like a bird.'
And so he ceased. And, like the Seraphim,
The sunset clouds spread golden over him;
And in the trees I heard,
The wind, like some far hymn.
The Wood God
I Heard his step upon the moss;
I glimpsed his shadow in the stream;
And thrice I saw the brambles toss
Wherein he vanished like a dream.
A great beech aimed a giant stroke
At my bent head, in mad alarm;
And then a chestnut and an oak
Struck at me with a knotted arm.
The brambles clutched at me; and fear
For one swift instant held me fast
Just long enough to let me hear
His windlike footsteps vanish past.
The brushwood made itself more dense,
And looped my feet with green delay;
And, threatening every violence,
The rocks and thorns opposed my way.
But still I followed; strove and strained
In spite of all the wood devised
To hold me back, and on him gained
The deity I had surprised.
The genius of the wood, whose flute
Had led me far; at first, to see
The imprint of his form and foot
Upon the moss beneath the tree.
A bird piped warning and he fled:
I saw a gleam of gold and green:
The woodland held its breath for dread
That its great godhead would be seen.
Could I but speak him face to face,
And for a while his joy behold,
What visions there might then take place,
What myst'ries of the woods be told!
And well I knew that he was near
By that soft sound the water made
Upon its rock; and by the fear
The wind unto the leaves betrayed.
And by the sign bough made to bough,
The secret signal, brusque and brief,
That said, 'On guard! He's looking now!'
And pointed at me every leaf.
Then suddenly the way lay wide;
The brambles ceased to clutch and tear;
And even the grim trees shrunk aside,
And motioned me, 'He's there! he's there!'
A ruse! I knew it for a ruse,
To thwart my search at last. But I
Had been a fool to follow clues,
And let the god himself pass by.
And then the wood in mighty mirth
Laughed at me, all its bulk a-swing;
It roared and bent its giant girth
As if it'd done a clever thing.
But I, on whom its scorn was spent,
Said not a word, but turned away:
To me this truth was evident
No man may see the gods to-day.
How long had I sat there and had not beheld
The gleam of the glow-worm till something compelled!...
The heaven was starless, the forest was deep,
And the vistas of darkness stretched silent in sleep.
And late 'mid the trees had I lingered until
No thing was awake but the lone whippoorwill.
And haunted of thoughts for an hour I sat
On a lichen-gray rock where the moss was a mat.
And thinking of one whom my heart had held dear,
Like terrible waters, a gathering fear.
Came stealing upon me with all the distress
Of loss and of yearning and powerlessness:
Till the hopes and the doubts and the sleepless unrest
That, swallow-like, built in the home of my breast,
Now hither, now thither, now heavenward flew,
Wild-winged as the winds are: now suddenly drew
My soul to abysses of nothingness where
All light was a shadow, all hope, a despair:
Where truth, that religion had set upon high,
The darkness distorted and changed to a lie:
And dreams of the beauty ambition had fed
Like leaves of the autumn fell blighted and dead.
And I rose with my burden of anguish and doom,
And cried, 'O my God, had I died in the womb!
'Than born into night, with no hope of the morn,
An heir unto shadows, to live so forlorn!
'All effort is vain; and the planet called Faith
Sinks down; and no power is real but death.
'Oh, light me a torch in the deepening dark
So my sick soul may follow, my sad heart may mark!'
And then in the darkness the answer!-It came
From Earth not from Heaven-a glimmering flame,
Behold, at my feet! In the shadow it shone
Mysteriously lovely and dimly alone:
An ember; a sparkle of dew and of glower;
Like the lamp that a spirit hangs under a flower:
As goldenly green as the phosphorus star
A fairy may wear in her diadem's bar:
An element essence of moonlight and dawn
That, trodden and trampled, burns on and burns on.
And hushed was my soul with the lesson of light
That God had revealed to me there in the night:
Though mortal its structure, material its form,
The spiritual message of worm unto worm.
What wood-god, on this water's mossy curb,
Lost in reflections of earth's loveliness,
Did I, just now, unconsciously disturb?
I, who haphazard, wandering at a guess,
Came on this spot, wherein, with gold and flame
Of buds and blooms, the season writes its name.
Ah, me! could I have seen him ere alarm
Of my approach aroused him from his calm!
As he, part Hamadryad and, mayhap,
Part Faun, lay here; who left the shadow warm
As wildwood rose, and filled the air with balm
Of his sweet breath as with ethereal sap.
Does not the moss retain some vague impress,
Green dented in, of where he lay or trod?
Do not the flow'rs, so reticent, confess
With conscious looks the contact of a god?
Does not the very water garrulously
Boast the indulgence of a deity?
And, hark! in burly beech and sycamore
How all the birds proclaim it! and the leaves
Rejoice with clappings of their myriad hands!
And shall not I believe, too, and adore,
With such wide proof?-Yea, though my soul perceives
No evident presence, still it understands.
And for a while it moves me to lie down
Here on the spot his god-head sanctified:
Mayhap some dream he dreamed may lingert brown
And young as joy, around the forestside;
Some dream within whose heart lives no disdain
For such as I whose love is sweet and sane;
That may repeat, so none but I may hear
As one might tell a pearl-strung rosary
Some epic that the trees have learned to croon,
Some lyric whispered in the wild-flower's ear,
Whose murmurous lines are sung by bird and bee,
And all the insects of the night and noon.
For, all around me, upon field and hill,
Enchantment lies as of mysterious flutes;
As if the music of a god's good-will
Had taken on material attributes
In blooms, like chords; and in the water-gleam,
That runs its silvery scales from stream to stream;
In sunbeam bars, up which the butterfly,
A golden note, vibrates then flutters on
Inaudible tunes, blown on the pipes of Pan,
That have assumed a visible entity,
And drugged the air with beauty so, a Faun,
Behold, I seem, and am no more a man.
The Forest Of Fear
The cut-throat darkness hemmed me 'round:
I waited, helpless in its grasp.
The forest gave no sign or sound:
The wind was dead: no insect's rasp
I heard, nor water's gulp and gasp
Fitting its strength against a stone.
The only sound that there was made
Was my wild heart's that sobbed alone,
Knowing itself to be afraid
Of that vast wood where it had strayed.
I dared not move. There was no star
To indicate where God might be.
Night and his henchmen, without bar,
Had there assumed their empery.
Nothing but prayer was left to me.
Around me seemed to loom the dead
Of ages past, gaunt in the gloom.
And when I heard a stealthy tread
As of one groping from the tomb,
I braced myself to meet my doom.
And then I heard a breathing low
As of a beast that seeks its prey;
And then the footstep, soft and slow,
Approached again from far away.
I held my breath lest it betray
Me to some Death in monstrous guise?
With fang or talon, or a blade
Grasped in a hand of giant size?
Or was't a fiend? And then I prayed,
Who never yet had prayed, for aid.
I closed my eyes. My heart was still.
I did not look. I knew it stood
Glaring upon me all its fill.
When would it strike? The ancient wood
Seemed waiting eager for my blood.
I prayed and prayed. The something there
Stood waiting still a fiend from Hell
Gloating upon my soul's despair?
This was the end, I knew too well;
It pealed within me like a bell.
And then I thought, 'In spite of all,
It is but death. Earth can not go
Further than death, whate'er befall.
With open eyes I'll take the blow,
And face to face now meet my foe.'
'My foe?' Perhaps it was a friend.
What whim put in my heart that thought?
I had no friends. This was the end,
And I would face it: I was caught
In the old gin that sin had wrought.
And then I looked I looked to see
How could it be? serene of eye,
A little Child beneath a tree.
A Child that glimmered starrily;
A Christ-like Child not born to die.
And overhead I saw the night'
Had doffed its cowl of, black, and stood
Revealed in azure and in white,
While all the staring solitude
Looked on the round moon o'er the wood.
I called the Child. It smiling came;
Undid the bonds of my despair,
And led me forth. I said, 'Your name?'
I t smiled and, gazing, answered, 'Prayer.'
And with that word went into air.
There is never a thing we dream or do
But was dreamed and done in the ages gone;
Everything's old; there is nothing that's new,
And so it will be while the world goes on.
The thoughts we think have been thought before;
The deeds we do have long been done;
We pride ourselves on our love and lore
And both are as old as the moon and sun.
We strive and struggle and swink and sweat,
And the end for each is one and the same;
Time and the sun and the frost and wet
Will wear from its pillar the greatest name.
No answer comes for our prayer or curse,
No word replies though we shriek in air;
Ever the taciturn universe
Stretches unchanged for our curse or prayer.
With our mind's small light in the dark we crawl,
Glow-worm glimmers that creep about,
Till the Power that shaped us, over us all
Poises His foot and treads us out.
Unasked He fashions us out of clay,
A little water, a little dust,
And then in our holes He thrusts us away,
With never a word, to rot and rust.
'Tis a sorry play with a sorry plot,
This life of hate and of lust and pain,
Where we play our parts and are soon forgot,
And all that we do is done in vain.
There is never a dream but it shall come true,
And never a deed but was wrought by plan;
And life is filled with the strange and new,
And ever has been since the world began.
As mind develops and soul matures
These two shall parent Earth's mightier acts;
Love is a fact, and 'tis love endures
'Though the world make wreck of all other facts.
Through thought alone shall our Age obtain
Above all Ages gone before;
The tribes of sloth, of brawn, not brain,
Are the tribes that perish, are known no more.
Within ourselves is a voice of Awe,
And a hand that points to Balanced Scales;
The one is Love and the other Law,
And their presence alone it is avails.
For every shadow about our way
There is a glory of moon and sun;
But the hope within us hath more of ray
Than the light of the sun and moon in one.
Behind all being a purpose lies,
Undeviating as God hath willed;
And he alone it is who dies,
Who leaves that purpose unfulfilled.
Life is an epic the Master sings,
Whose theme is Man, and whose music, Soul,
Where each is a word in the Song of Things,
That shall roll on while the ages roll.
The End Of The Century
There are moments when, as missions,
God reveals to us strange visions;
When, within their separate stations,
We may see the Centuries,
Like revolving constellations
Shaping out Earth's destinies.
I have gazed in Time's abysses,
Where no smallest thing Earth misses
That was hers once. 'Mid her chattels,
There the Past's gigantic ghost
Sits and dreams of thrones and battles
In the night of ages lost.
Far before her eyes, unholy
Mist was spread; that darkly, slowly
Rolled aside, like some huge curtain
Hung above the land and sea;
And beneath it, wild, uncertain,
Rose the wraiths of memory.
First I saw colossal spectres
Of dead cities: Troy once Hector's
Pride; then Babylon and Tyre;
Karnac, Carthage, and the gray
Walls of Thebes, Apollo's lyre
Built; and Rome and Nineveh.
Empires followed: first, in seeming,
Old Chaldea lost in dreaming;
Egypt next, a bulk Memnonian
Staring from her pyramids;
Then Assyria, Babylonian
Night beneath her hell-lit lids.
Greece, in classic white, sidereal
Armored; Rome, in dark, imperial
Purple, crowned with blood and fire,
Down the deeps barbaric strode;
Gaul and Britain stalking by her,
Skin-clad and tattooed with woad.
All around them, rent and scattered,
Lay their gods with features battered,
Brute and human, stone and iron,
Caked with gems and gnarled with gold;
Temples, that did once environ
These, in wreck around them rolled.
While I stood and gazed and waited,
Slowly night obliterated
All; and other phantoms drifted
Out of darkness pale as stars;
Shapes that tyrant faces lifted,
Sultans, kings, and emperors.
Man and steed in ponderous metal
Panoplied, they seemed to settle,
Condors gaunt of devastation,
On the world: behind their march
Loomed before them with her torch.
Helmets flamed like fearful flowers;
Chariots rose and moving towers;
Captains passed; each fierce commander
With his gauntlet on his sword:
Cæsar, each led on his horde.
Huns and Vandals; wild invaders:
Goths and Arabs; stern Crusaders:
Each, like some terrific torrent,
Rolled above a ruined world;
Till a cataract abhorrent
Seemed the swarming spears uphurled.
Banners and escutcheons, kindled
By the light of slaughter, dwindled
Died in darkness; the chimera
Of the Past was laid at last.
But, behold, another era
From her corpse rose, vague and vast.
Demogorgon of the Present!
Who in one hand raised a Crescent,
In the other, with submissive
Fingers, lifted up a Cross;
Reverent and yet derisive
Seemed she, robed in gold and dross.
In her skeptic eyes professions
Of great faith I saw; expressions,
Christian and humanitarian,
Played around her cynic lip;
Still I knew her a barbarian
By the sword upon her hip.
And she cherished strange eidolons,
Pagan shadows Platos, Solons
From whose teachings she indentured
Forms of law and sophistry;
Seeking still for truth she ventured
Just so far as these could see.
When she vanished, I uplifting
Eyes to where the dawn was rifting
Darkness, lo! beheld a shadow
Towering on Earth's utmost peaks;
'Round whom morning's eldorado
Rivered gold in blinding streaks.
On her brow I saw the stigma
Still of death; and life's enigma
Filled her eyes: around her shimmered
Folds of silence; and afar,
Faint above her forehead, glimmered
Lone the light of one pale star.
Then a voice, above or under
Earth, against her seemed to thunder
Questions, wherein was repeated,
'Christ or Cain?' and'God or beast?'
And the Future, shadowy-sheeted,
Turning, pointed towards the East.
A beardless crew we launched our little boat;
Laughed at its lightness; joyed to see it float,
Veer in the wind, and, with the freshening gale,
Bend o'er the foaming prow the swollen sail.
No fears were ours within that stanch-built barque;
No fears were ours 'though all the west was dark,
And overhead were unknown stars; the ring
Of ocean sailless and no bird a-wing:
Yet there was light; radiance that dimmed the stars
Dancing like bubbles in Night's sapphire jars.
We knew not what: only adown the skies
A shape that led us, with sidereal eyes,
Brow-bound and shod with elemental fire,
Beckoning us onward like the god Desire.
Brisk blew the breeze; and through the starry gloam,
Flung from our prow, flew white the furrowed foam.
Long, long we sailed; and now have reached our goal.
Come, let us rest us here and call the roll.
How few we are! Alas, alas, how few!
How many perished! Every storm that blew
Swept from our deck or from our staggering mast
Some well-loved comrade in the boiling vast.
Wildly we saw them sink beneath our prow,
Helpless to aid; pallid of face and brow,
Lost in the foam we saw them sink or fade
Beneath the tempest's rolling cannonade.
They sank; but where they sank, above the wave
A corposant danced, a flame that marked their grave;
And o'er the flame, whereon were fixed our eyes,
An albatross, huge in volcanic skies.
They died; but not in vain their stubborn strife,
The zeal that held them onward, great of life:
They too are with us; they, in spite of death,
Have reached here first. Upon our brows their breath
Breathes softly, vaguely, sweetly as the breeze
From isles of spice in summer-haunted seas.
From palaces and pinnacles of mist
The sunset builds in heaven's amethyst
Beyond yon headland where the billows break,
Perhaps they beckon now; the winds that shake
These tamarisks, that never bowed to storm,
Haply are but their voices filled with charm
Bidding us rest from labor; toil no more;
Draw up our vessel on the happy shore;
And of the lotus of content and peace,
Growing far inland, eat, and never cease
To dream the dreams that keep the heart still young,
Hearing forever how the foam is flung
Beneath the cliff; forgetting all life's care;
Easing the soul of all its long despair.
Let us forget how once within that barque,
Like some swift eagle sweeping through the dark,
We weighed the sun; we weighed the farthest stars;
Traced the dim continents of fiery Mars;
Measured the vapory planets whose long run
Takes centuries to gird their glimmering sun:
Let us forget how oft the crystal mountains
Of the white moon we searched; and plumbed her fountains,
That hale the waters of the æonian deep
In ebb and flow, and in her power keep:
Let us remember her but as a gem,
A mighty pearl, placed in Night's anadem:
Let us forget how once we pierced the flood,
Fathorned its groves of coral, red as blood,
Branching and blooming underneath our keel,
Through which like birds the nautilus and eel,
The rainbowed conch and irised fishes swept,
And where the sea-snake like a long weed slept.
Here let us dream our dreams: let Helen bare
Her white breast for us; and let Dido share
Her rich feast with us; or let Lalage
Laugh in our eyes as once, all lovingly,
She laughed for Flaccus. We are done with all
The lusts of life! its loves are ours. Let fall
The Catilines! the Cæsars! and in Gaul
Their legions perish! And let Phillip's son
In Ammon's desert die; and never a one
Lead back to Greece of all his conquering line
From gemmed Hydaspes.
Here we set our shrine!
Here on this headland templed of God's peaks,
Where Beauty only to our worship speaks
Her mighty truths, gazing beyond the shore
Into the heart of God: her eyes a door
Wherethrough we see the dreams, the mysteries,
That grew to form in the Art that once was Greece:
Making them live once more for us, the shapes
That filled the woods, the mountains, and the capes
Of Hellas: Dryad, Oread, and Faun;
Naiad and Nereid, and all the hosts of Dawn.
The Land Of Illusion
So we had come at last, my soul and I,
Into that land of shadowy plain and peak,
On which the dawn seemed ever about to break
On which the day seemed ever about to die.
Long had we sought fulfillment of our dreams,
The everlasting wells of Joy and Youth;
Long had we sought the snow-white flow'r of Truth,
That blooms eternal by eternal streams.
And, fonder still, we hoped to find the sweet
Immortal presence, Love; the bird Delight
Beside her; and, eyed with sidereal night,
Faith, like a lion, fawning at her feet.
But, scorched and barren, in its arid well,
We found our dreams' forgotten fountain-head;
And by black, bitter waters, crushed and dead,
Among wild weeds, Truth's trampled asphodel.
And side by side with pallid Doubt and Pain,
Not Love, but Grief did meet us there: afar
We saw her, like a melancholy star,
Or pensive moon, move towards us o'er the plain.
Sweet was her face as song that sings of home;
And filled our hearts with vague, suggestive spells
Of pathos, as sad ocean fills its shells
With sympathetic moanings of its foam.
She raised one hand and pointed silently,
Then passed; her eyes, gaunt with a thirst unslaked,
Were worlds of woe, where tears in torrents ached,
Yet never fell. And like a winter sea,-
Whose caverned crags are haunts of wreck and wrath,
That house the condor pinions of the storm,-
My soul replied; and, weeping, arm in arm,
To'ards those dim hills, by that appointed path,
We turned and went. Arrived, we did discern
How Beauty beckoned, white 'mid miles of flowers,
Through which, behold, the amaranthine Hours
Like maidens went each holding up an urn;
Wherein, it seemed-drained from long chalices
Of those slim flow'rs-they bore mysterious wine;
A poppied vintage, full of sleep divine
And pale forgetting of all miseries.
Then to my soul I said, 'No longer weep.
Come, let us drink; for hateful is the sky,
And earth is full of care, and life's a lie.
So let us drink; yea, let us drink and sleep.'
Then from their brimming urns we drank sweet must,
While, all around us, rose-crowned faces laughed
Into our eyes; but hardly had we quaffed
When, one by one, these crumbled into dust.
And league on league the eminence of blooms,
That flashed and billowed like a summer sea,
Rolled out a waste of thorns and tombs; where bee
And butterfly and bird hung dead in looms
Of worm and spider. And through tomb and brier,
A thin wind, parched with thirsty dust and sand,
Went wailing as if mourning some lost land
Of perished empire, Babylon or Tyre.
Long, long with blistered feet we wandered in
That land of ruins, through whose sky of brass
Hate's Harpy shrieked; and in whose iron grass
The Hydra hissed of undestroyable Sin.
And there at last, behold, the House of Doom,-
Red, as if Hell had glared it into life,
Blood-red, and howling with incessant strife,-
With burning battlements, towered in the gloom.
And throned within sat Darkness.-Who might gaze
Upon that form, that threatening presence there,
Crowned with the flickering corpse-lights of Despair,
And yet escape sans madness and amaze?
And we had hoped to find among these hills
The House of Beauty!-Curst, yea, thrice accurst,
The hope that lures one on from last to first
With vain illusions that no time fulfills!
Why will we struggle to attain, and strive,
When all we gain is but an empty dream?-
Better, unto my thinking, doth it seem
To end it all and let who will survive;
To find at last all beauty is but dust;
That love and sorrow are the very same;
That joy is only suffering's sweeter name;
And sense is but the synonym of lust.
Far better, yea, to me it seems to die;
To set glad lips against the lips of Death-
The only thing God gives that comforteth,
The only thing we do not find a lie.
An Ode to be read on the laying of the foundation
stone of the new Oglethorpe University,
January, 1915, at Atlanta,
AS when with oldtime passion for this Land
Here once she stood, and in her pride, sent forth
Workmen on every hand,
Sowing the seed of knowledge South and North,
More gracious now than ever, let her rise,
The splendor of a new dawn in her eyes;
Grave, youngest sister of that company,
That smiling wear
Laurel and pine
And wild magnolias in their flowing hair;
The sisters Academe,
With thoughts divine,
Standing with eyes a-dream,
Gazing beyond the world, into the sea,
Where lie the Islands of Infinity.
Now in these stormy days of stress and strain,
When Gospel seems in vain,
And Christianity a dream we've lost,
That once we made our boast;
Now when all life is brought
Face to grim face with naught,
And a condition speaking, trumpet-lipped,
Of works material, leaving Beauty out
Of God's economy; while, horror-dipped,
Lies our buried faith, full near to perish,
'Mid the high things we cherish,
In these tempestuous days when, to and fro
The serpent, Evil, goes and strews his way
With dragon's teeth that play
Their part as once they did in Jason's day;
And War, with menace loud,
And footsteps, metal-slow,
And eyes a crimson hot,
Is seen, against the Heaven a burning blot
Of blood and tears and woe:
Now when no mortal living seems to know
Whither to turn for hope, we turn to thee,
And such as thou art, asking 'What's to be?'
And that thou point the path
Above Earth's hate and wrath,
And Madness, stalking with his torch aglow
Amid the ruins of the Nations slow
Crumbling to ashes with Old Empire there
In Europe's tiger lair.
A temple may'st thou be,
A temple by the everlasting sea,
For the high goddess, Ideality,
Set like a star,
Above the peaks of dark reality:
Above the deeds of War,
Within the shrine of Love, whose face men mar
That is the prism
Through which they gaze with eyes obscured of Greed,
At the white light of God's Eternity,
The comfort of the world, the soul's great need,
That beacons Earth indeed,
Breaking its light intense
With turmoil and suspense
And failing human Sense.
From thee a higher Creed
Shall be evolved.
The broken lights resolved
Into one light again, of glorious light,
Between us and the Everlasting, that is God.—
The all-confusing fragments, that are night,
Lift up thy rod
Of knowledge and from Truth's eyeballs strip
The darkness, and in armor of the Right,
Bear high the standard of imperishable light!
Cry out, 'Awake! — I slept awhile! — Awake!
Again I take
My burden up of Truth for Jesus' sake,
And stand for what he stood for, Peace and Thought,
And all that's Beauty-wrought
Through doubt and dread and ache,
By which the world to good at last is brought!'
No more with silence burdened, when the Land
Was stricken by the hand
Of war, she rises, and assumes her stand
For the Enduring; setting firm her feet
On what is blind and brute:
Still holding fast
With honor to the past,
Speaking a trumpet word,
Which shall be heard
As an authority, no longer mute.
Again, yea, she shall stand
For what Truth means to Man
For science and for Art and all that can
Make life superior to the things that weight
The soul down, things of hate
Instead of love, for which the world was planned;
May she demand
Faith and inspire it; Song to lead her way
Above the crags of Wrong
Into the broader day;
And may she stand
For poets still; poets that now the Land
Needs as it never needed; such an one
As he, large Nature's Son
Lanier, who with firm hand
Held up her magic wand
Directing deep in music such as none
Has ever heard
Such music as a bird
Gives of its soul, when dying,
And unconscious if it's heard.
So let her rise, mother of greatness still,
Above all temporal ill;
Invested with all old nobility,
Teaching the South decision, self control
And strength of mind and soul;
Achieving ends that shall embrace the whole
Through deeds of heart and mind;
And thereby bind
Its effort to an end
And reach its goal.
So shall she win
A wrestler with sin,
Supremely to a place above the years,
And help men rise
To what is wise
And true beyond their mortal finite scan —
The purblind gaze of man;
Aiding with introspective eyes
His soul to see a higher plan
Of life beyond this life; above the gyves
Of circumstance that bind him in his place
Of doubt and keep away his face
From what alone survives;
And what assures
Immortal life to that within, that gives
Of its own self,
And through its giving, lives,
And evermore endures.
The Song Of Songs
I HEARD a Spirit singing as, beyond the morning winging,
Its radiant form went swinging like a star:
In its song prophetic voices mixed their sounds with trumpet-noises,
As when, loud, the World rejoices after war.
And it said:
Above the roar of cities,
The clamor and conflict of trade,
The frenzy and fury of commercialism,
Is heard my voice, chanting, intoning.—
Down the long corridors of time it comes,
Bearing my message, bidding the soul of man arise
To the realization of his dream.
Now and then discords seem to intrude,
And tones that are false and feeble —
Beginnings of the perfect chord
From which is evolved the ideal, the unattainable.
Ever and ever,
Above the tumult of the years,
The blatant cacophonies of war,
The wrangling of politics,
Demons and spirits of unrest,
My song persists,
Addressing the soul
With the urge of an astral something,
Instinct with an everlasting fire.
I am the expression of the subconscious,
The utterance of the intellect,
The voice of mind,
That stands for civilization.
Out of my singing sprang, Minerva-like,
Full-armed and fearless,
Subduer of tyrants, who feed on the strength of Nations.
Out of my chanting arose,
As Aphrodite arose from the foam of the ocean,
The Dream of Spiritual Desire,
Mother of Knowledge,
Victor o'er Hate and Oppression,—
Ancient and elemental dæmons,
Who, with Ignorance and Evil, their consorts,
Have ruled for eons of years.
Should my chanting cease,
My music utterly fail you,
Out of the hoary Past, most swiftly, surely,
Would gather the Evils of Earth,
The Hydras and Harpies, forgotten,
And buried in darkness:
Amorphous of form,
Tyrannies and Superstitions
Torturing body and soul:
And with them,
Gargoyls of dreams that groaned in the Middle Ages —
Aspects of darkness and death and hollow eidolons,
Wearing the faces and forms of all the wrongs of the world.
Barbarian hordes whose shapes make hideous
The cycles of error and crime:
Grendels of darkness,
Devouring the manhood of Nations:
Demogorgons of War and Misrule,
Blackening the world with blood and the lust of destruction.
Out of my song have grown
Beauty and joy,
And with them
The triumph of Reason;
The confirmation of Hope,
Of Faith and Endeavor:
The Dream that's immortal,
To whose creation Thought gives concrete form,
And of which Vision makes permanent substance.
Out of the Past,
Down the long aisles of the Centuries,
Uncertain at first and uneasy,
Hesitant, harsh of expression,
My song was heard,
A murmur merely:
Singing into form,
Louder, lovelier, and more insistent,
Clearer and surer and stronger,
Attaining expression, evermore truer and clearer:
Masterful, mighty at last,
Committed to conquest,
And with Beauty coeval;
Part of the wonder of life,
The triumph of light over darkness:
Taking the form of Art —
Art, that is voice and vision of the soul of man.—
One with the Loveliness song shall evolve,
My voice is become as an army of banners,
Marching irresistibly forward,
With the roll of the drums of attainment,
The blare of the bugles of fame:
Tramping, tramping, evermore advancing,
Till the last redoubt of prejudice is down,
And the Eagles and Fasces of Learning
Make glorious the van o' the world.
They who are deaf to my singing,
Who disregard me,—
Let them beware lest the splendor escape them,
The glory of light that is back o' the darkness of life,
And with it —
The blindness of spirit o'erwhelm them.—
They who reject me,
Reject the gleam
That goes to the making of Beauty;
And put away
The loftier impulses of heart and of mind.
They shall not possess the dream, the ideal,
Of ultimate worlds,
That is part of the soul that aspires;
That sits with the Spirit of Thought,
The radiant presence who weaves,
Directed of Destiny,
There in the Universe,
At its infinite pattern of stars.
They shall not know,
The exaltations that make endurable here on the Earth
The ponderable curtain of flesh.
Not they! Not they!
I control, and direct;
I wound and heal,
Elevate and subdue
The vaulting energies of Man.
I am part of the cosmic strain o' the Universe:
I captain the thoughts that grow to deeds,
Material and spiritual facts,
Pointing the world to greater and nobler things.—
My dædal expression peoples the Past and Present
With forms of ethereal thought
That symbolize Beauty:
The Beauty expressing itself now,
As Truth and Religion now,
As science and Law,
Vaunt couriers of Civilization.
The Old Water Mill
Wild ridge on ridge the wooded hills arise,
Between whose breezy vistas gulfs of skies
Pilot great clouds like towering argosies,
And hawk and buzzard breast the azure breeze.
With many a foaming fall and glimmering reach
Of placid murmur, under elm and beech,
The creek goes twinkling through long gleams and glooms
Of woodland quiet, summered with perfumes:
The creek, in whose clear shallows minnow-schools
Glitter or dart; and by whose deeper pools
The blue kingfishers and the herons haunt;
That, often startled from the freckled flaunt
Of blackberry-lilies-where they feed or hide-
Trail a lank flight along the forestside
With eery clangor. Here a sycamore
Smooth, wave-uprooted, builds from shore to shore
A headlong bridge; and there, a storm-hurled oak
Lays a long dam, where sand and gravel choke
The water's lazy way. Here mistflower blurs
Its bit of heaven; there the ox-eye stirs
Its gloaming hues of pearl and gold; and here,
A gray, cool stain, like dawn's own atmosphere,
The dim wild carrot lifts its crumpled crest:
And over all, at slender flight or rest,
The dragonflies, like coruscating rays
Of lapis-lazuli and chrysoprase,
Drowsily sparkle through the summer days:
And, dewlap-deep, here from the noontide heat
The bell-hung cattle find a cool retreat;
And through the willows girdling the hill,
Now far, now near, borne as the soft winds will,
Comes the low rushing of the water-mill.
Ah, lovely to me from a little child,
How changed the place! wherein once, undefiled,
The glad communion of the sky and stream
Went with me like a presence and a dream.
Where once the brambled meads and orchardlands,
Poured ripe abundance down with mellow hands
Of summer; and the birds of field and wood
Called to me in a tongue I understood;
And in the tangles of the old rail-fence
Even the insect tumult had some sense,
And every sound a happy eloquence:
And more to me than wisest books can teach
The wind and water said; whose words did reach
My soul, addressing their magnificent speech,-
Raucous and rushing,-from the old mill-wheel,
That made the rolling mill-cogs snore and reel,
Like some old ogre in a faerytale
Nodding above his meat and mug of ale.
How memory takes me back the ways that lead-
As when a boy-through woodland and through mead!
To orchards fruited; or to fields in bloom;
Or briery fallows, like a mighty room,
Through which the winds swing censers of perfume,
And where deep blackberries spread miles of fruit;-
A wildwood feast, that stayed the plowboy's foot
When to the tasseling acres of the corn
He drove his team, fresh in the primrose morn;
And from the liberal banquet, nature lent,
Plucked dewy handfuls as he whistling went.-
A boy once more, I stand with sunburnt feet
And watch the harvester sweep down the wheat;
Or laze with warm limbs in the unstacked straw
Near by the thresher, whose insatiate maw
Devours the sheaves, hot-drawling out its hum-
Like some great sleepy bee, above a bloom,
Made drunk with honey-while, grown big with grain,
The bulging sacks receive the golden rain.
Again I tread the valley, sweet with hay,
And hear the bobwhite calling far away,
Or wood-dove cooing in the elder-brake;
Or see the sassafras bushes madly shake
As swift, a rufous instant, in the glen
The red fox leaps and gallops to his den:
Or, standing in the violet-colored gloam,
Hear roadways sound with holiday riding home
From church or fair, or country barbecue,
Which half the county to some village drew.
How spilled with berries were its summer hills,
And strewn with walnuts all its autumn rills!-
And chestnuts too! burred from the spring's long flowers;
June's, when their tree-tops streamed delirious showers
Of blossoming silver, cool, crepuscular,
And like a nebulous radiance shone afar.-
And maples! how their sappy hearts would pour
Rude troughs of syrup, when the winter hoar
Steamed with the sugar-kettle, day and night,
And, red, the snow was streaked with firelight.
Then it was glorious! the mill-dam's edge
One slope of frosty crystal, laid a ledge
Of pearl across; above which, sleeted trees
Tossed arms of ice, that, clashing in the breeze,
Tinkled the ringing creek with icicles,
Thin as the peal of far-off elfin bells:
A sound that in my city dreams I hear,
That brings before me, under skies that clear,
The old mill in its winter garb of snow,
Its frozen wheel like a hoar beard below,
And its west windows, two deep eyes aglow.
Ah, ancient mill, still do I picture o'er
Thy cobwebbed stairs and loft and grain-strewn floor;
Thy door,-like some brown, honest hand of toil,
And honorable with service of the soil,-
Forever open; to which, on his back
The prosperous farmer bears his bursting sack,
And while the miller measures out his toll,
Again I hear, above the cogs' loud roll,-
That makes stout joist and rafter groan and sway,-
The harmless gossip of the passing day:
Good country talk, that says how so-and-so
Lived, died, or wedded: how curculio
And codling-moth play havoc with the fruit,
Smut ruins the corn and blight the grapes to boot:
Or what is news from town: next county fair:
How well the crops are looking everywhere:-
Now this, now that, on which their interests fix,
Prospects for rain or frost, and politics.
While, all around, the sweet smell of the meal
Filters, warm-pouring from the rolling wheel
Into the bin; beside which, mealy white,
The miller looms, dim in the dusty light.
Again I see the miller's home between
The crinkling creek and hills of beechen green:
Again the miller greets me, gaunt and brown,
Who oft o'erawed my boyhood with his frown
And gray-browed mien: again he tries to reach
My youthful soul with fervid scriptural speech.-
For he, of all the countryside confessed,
The most religious was and goodliest;
A Methodist, who at all meetings led;
Prayed with his family ere they went to bed.
No books except the Bible had he read-
At least so seemed it to my younger head.-
All things of Heaven and Earth he'd prove by this,
Be it a fact or mere hypothesis:
For to his simple wisdom, reverent,
'The Bible says'
was all of argument.-
God keep his soul! his bones were long since laid
Among the sunken gravestones in the shade
Of those dark-lichened rocks, that wall around
The family burying-ground with cedars crowned:
Where bristling teasel and the brier combine
With clambering wood-rose and the wildgrape-vine
To hide the stone whereon his name and dates
Neglect, with mossy hand, obliterates.
At The Lane's End
No more to strip the roses from
The rose-boughs of her porch's place!
I dreamed last night that I was home
Beside a rose her face.
I must have smiled in sleep who knows?
The rose aroma filled the lane;
I saw her white hand's lifted rose
That called me home again.
And yet when I awoke so wan,
An old face wet with icy tears!
Somehow, it seems, sleep had misdrawn
A love gone thirty years.
The clouds roll up and the clouds roll down
Over the roofs of the little town;
Out in the hills where the pike winds by
Fields of clover and bottoms of rye,
You will hear no sound but the barking cough
Of the striped chipmunk where the lane leads off;
You will hear no bird but the sapsuckers
Far off in the forest, that seems to purr,
As the warm wind fondles its top, grown hot,
Like the docile back of an ocelot:
You will see no thing but the shine and shade
Of briers that climb and of weeds that wade
The glittering creeks of the light, that fills
The dusty road and the red-keel hills
And all day long in the pennyroy'l
The grasshoppers at their anvils toil;
Thick click of their tireless hammers thrum,
And the wheezy belts of their bellows hum;
Tinkers who solder the silence and heat
To make the loneliness more complete.
Around old rails where the blackberries
Are reddening ripe, and the bumble-bees
Are a drowsy rustle of Summer's skirts,
And the bob-white's wing is the fan she flirts.
Under the hill, through the iron weeds,
And ox-eyed daisies and milkweeds, leads
The path forgotten of all but one.
Where elder bushes are sick with sun,
And wild raspberries branch big blue veins
O'er the face of the rock, where the old spring rains
Its sparkling splinters of molten spar
On the gravel bed where the tadpoles are,
You will find the pales of the fallen fence,
And the tangled orchard and vineyard, dense
With the weedy neglect of thirty years.
The garden there, where the soft sky clears
Like an old sweet face that has dried its tears;
The garden plot where the cabbage grew
And the pompous pumpkin; and beans that blew
Balloons of white by the melon patch;
Maize; and tomatoes that seemed to catch
Oblong amber and agate balls
Thrown from the sun in the frosty falls:
Long rows of currants and gooseberries,
And the balsam-gourd with its honey-bees.
And here was a nook for the princess-plumes,
The snap-dragons and the poppy-blooms,
Mother's sweet-williams and pansy flowers,
And the morning-glories' bewildered bowers,
Tipping their cornucopias up
For the humming-birds that came to sup.
And over it all was the Sabbath peace
Of the land whose lap was the love of these;
And the old log-house where my innocence died,
With my boyhood buried side by side.
Shall a man with a face as withered and gray
As the wasp-nest stowed in a loft away,
Where the hornets haunt and the mortar drops
From the loosened logs of the clap-board tops;
Whom vice has aged as the rotting rooms
The rain where memories haunt the glooms;
A hitch in his joints like the rheum that gnats
In the rasping hinge of the door that jars;
A harsh, cracked throat like the old stone flue
Where the swallows build the summer through;
Shall a man, I say, with the spider sins
That the long years spin in the outs and ins
Of his soul returning to see once more
His boyhood's home, where his life was poor
With toil and tears and their fretfulness,
But rich with health and the hopes that bless
The unsoiled wealth of a vigorous youth;
Shall he not take comfort and know the truth
In its threadbare raiment of falsehood? Yea!
In his crumbled past he shall kneel and pray,
Like a pilgrim come to the shrine again
Of the homely saints that shall soothe his pain,
And arise and depart made clean from stain!
Years of care can not erase
Visions of the hills and trees
Closing in the dam and race;
Not the mile-long memories
Of the mill-stream's lovely place.
How the sunsets used to stain
Mirror of the water lying
Under eaves made dark with rain!
Where the red-bird, westward flying,
Lit to try one song again.
Dingles, hills, and woods, and springs,
Where we came in calm and storm,
Swinging in the grape-vine swings,
Wading where the rocks were warm,
With our fishing-nets and strings.
Here the road plunged down the hill,
Under ash and chinquapin,
Where the grasshoppers would drill
Ears of silence with their din,
To the willow-girdled mill.
There the path beyond the ford
Takes the woodside, just below
Shallows that the lilies sword,
Where the scarlet blossoms blow
Of the trumpet-vine and gourd.
Summer winds, that sink with heat,
On the pelted waters winnow
Moony petals that repeat
Crescents, where the startled minnow
Beats a glittering retreat.
Summer winds that bear the scent
Of the iron-weed and mint,
Weary with sweet freight and spent,
On the deeper pools imprint
Stumbling steps in many a dent.
Summer winds, that split the husk
Of the peach and nectarine,
Trail along the amber dusk
Hazy skirts of gray and green,
Spilling balms of dew and musk.
Where with balls of bursting juice
Summer sees the red wild-plum
Strew the gravel; ripened loose,
Autumn hears the pawpaw drum
Plumpness on the rocks that bruise:
There we found the water-beech,
One forgotten August noon,
With a hornet-nest in reach,
Like a fairyland balloon,
Full of bustling fairy speech.
Some invasion sure it was;
For we heard the captains scold;
Waspish cavalry a-buzz,
Troopers uniformed in gold,
Sable-slashed, to charge on us.
Could I find the sedgy angle,
Where the dragon-flies would turn
Slender flittings into spangle
On the sunlight? or would burn
Where the berries made a tangle
Sparkling green and brassy blue;
Rendezvousing, by the stream,
Bands of elf-banditti, who,
Brigands of the bloom and beam,
Drunken were with honey-dew.
Could I find the pond that lay
Where vermilion blossoms showered
Fragrance down the daisied way?
That the sassafras embowered
With the spice of early May?
Could I find it did I seek
The old mill? Its weather-beaten
Wheel and gable by the creek?
With its warping roof; worm-eaten,
Dusty rafters worn and weak.
Where old shadows haunt old places,
Loft and hopper, stair and bin;
Ghostly with the dust that laces
Webs that usher phantoms in,
Wistful with remembered faces.
While the frogs' grave litanies
Drowse in far-off antiphone,
Supplicating, till the eyes
Of dead friendships, long alone
In the dusky corners, rise.
Moonrays or the splintered slip
Of a star? within the darkling
Twilight, where the fire-flies dip
As if Night a myriad sparkling
Jewels from her hands let slip:
While again some farm-boy crosses,
With a corn-sack for the meal,
O'er the creek, through ferns and mosses
Sprinkled by the old mill-wheel,
Where the water drips and tosses.
An Ode - In Commemoration Of The Founding, Of The Massachusetts Bay Colony In The Year 1623.
They who maintained their rights,
Through storm and stress,
And walked in all the ways
That God made known,
Led by no wandering lights,
And by no guess,
Through dark and desolate days
Of trial and moan:
Here let their monument
Rise, like a word
In rock commemorative
Of our Land's youth;
Of ways the Puritan went,
With soul love-spurred
To suffer, die, and live
For faith and truth.
Here they the corner-stone
Of Freedom laid;
Here in their hearts' distress
They lit the lights
Of Liberty alone;
Here, with God's aid,
Conquered the wilderness,
Secured their rights.
Not men, but giants, they,
Who wrought with toil
And sweat of brawn and brain
Their freehold here;
Who, with their blood, each day
Hallowed the soil,
And left it without stain
And without fear.
Yea; here, from men like these,
Our country had its stanch beginning;
Hence sprang she with the ocean breeze
And pine scent in her hair;
Deep in her eyes the winning,
The far-off winning of the unmeasured West;
And in her heart the care,
The young unrest,
Of all that she must dare,
Ere as a mighty Nation she should stand
Towering from sea to sea,
From land to moantained land,
One with the imperishable beauty of the stars
In absolute destiny;
Part of that cosmic law, no shadow mars,
To which all freedom runs,
That wheels the circles of the worlds and suns
Along their courses through the vasty night,
Irrevocable and eternal as is Light.
What people has to-day
Such faith as launched and sped,
With psalm and prayer, the Mayflower on its way?
Such faith as led
The Dorchester fishers to this sea-washed point,
This granite headland of Cape Ann?
Where first they made their bed,
Salt-blown and wet with brine,
In cold and hunger, where the storm-wrenched pine
Clung to the rock with desperate footing. They,
With hearts courageous whom hope did anoint,
Despite their tar and tan,
Worn of the wind and spray,
Seem more to me than man,
With their unconquerable spirits. Mountains may
Succumb to men like these, to wills like theirs,
The Puritan's tenacity to do;
The stubbornness of genius; holding to
Their purpose to the end,
No New-World hardship could deflect or bend;
That never doubted in their worst despairs,
But steadily on their way
Held to the last, trusting in God, who filled
Their souls with fire of faith that helped them build
A country, greater than had ever thrilled
Man's wildest dreams, or entered in
His highest hopes. 'Twas thins that helped them win
In spite of danger and distress,
Through darkness and the din
Of winds and waves, unto a wilderness,
Savage, unbounded, pathless as the sea,
That said, 'Behold me! I am free!'
Giving itself to them for greater things
Than filled their souls with dim imaginings.
Let History record their stalwart names,
And catalogue their fortitude, whence grew,
Swiftly as running flames,
Cities and civilazation:
How from a meeting-house and school,
A few log-huddled cabins, Freedom drew
Her rude beginnings. Every pioneer station,
Each settlemeat, though primitive of tool,
Had in it then the making of a Nation;
Had in it then the roofing of the plains
With tragic; and the piercing through and through
Of forests with the iron veins
Would I could make you see
How these, laboriously,
These founders of New England, every hour
Faced danger, death, and misery,
Conquering the wilderness;
With supernatural power
Changing its features; all its savage glower
Of wild barbarity, fierce hate, duress,
To something human, something that could bless
Mankind with peace and lift its heart's elation;
Something at last that stood
For universal brotherhood,
Astonishing the world, a mighty Nation,
Hewn from the solitude.
Iron of purpose as of faith and daring,
And of indomitable will,
With axe and hymn-book still I see them faring,
The Saxon Spirit of Conquest at their side
With sword and flintlock; still I see them stride,
As to some Roundhead rhyme,
Adown the aisles of Time.
Can praise be simply said of such as these?
Such men as Standish, Winthrop, Endicott?
Such souls as Roger Conant and John White?
Rugged and great as trees,
The oaks of that New World with which their lot
Was cast forever, proudly to remain.
That world in which each name still stands, a light
To beacon the Ship of State through stormy seas.
Can praise be simply said
Of him, the younger Vane,
Puritan and patriot,
Whose dedicated head
Was laid upon the block
In thy name, Liberty!
Can praise be simply said of such as he!
Needs must the soul unlock
All gates of eloquence to sing of these.
Such epic melodies,
As holds the utterance of the earlier gods,
The lords of song, one needs
To sing the praise of these!
No feeble music, tinklings frail of glass;
No penny trumpetings; twitterings of brass,
The moment's effort, shak'n from pigmy bells,
Ephemeral drops from small Pierian wells,
With which the Age relieves a barren hour.
But such large music, such melodious power,
As have our cataracts,
Pouring the iron facts,
The giant acts
Of these: such song as have our rock-ridged deep
And mountain steeps,
When winds, like clanging eagles, sweep the storm
On tossing wood and farm:
Such eloquence as in the torrent leaps,
Where the hoarse canyon sleeps,
Holding the heart with its terrific charm,
Carrying its roaring message to the town,
To voice their high achievement and renown.
Long, long ago, beneath heaven's stormy slope,
In deeds of faith and hope,
Our fathers laid Freedom's foundations here,
And raised, invisible, vast,
Embodying naught of doubt or fear,
A monument whose greatness shall outlast
The future, as the past,
Of all the Old World's dynasties and kings.
A symbol of all things
That we would speak, but cannot say in words,
Of those who first began our Nation here,
Behold, we now would rear!
A different monument! a thought, that girds
Itself with granite; dream made visible
In rock and bronze to tell
To all the Future what here once befell;
Here where, unknown to them,
A tree took root; a tree of wondrous stem;
The tree of high ideals, which has grown,
And has not withered since its seed was sown,
Was planted here by them in this new soil,
Who watered it with tears and blood and toil:
An heritage we mean to hold,
Keeping it stanch and beautiful as of old.
For never a State,
Or People, yet was great
Without its great ideals; branch and root
Of the deep tree of life where bud and blow
The dreams, the thoughts, that grow
To deeds, the glowing fruit.
The morn, that breaks its heart of gold
Above the purple hills;
The eve, that spills
Its nautilus splendor where the sea is rolled;
The night, that leads the vast procession in
Of stars and dreams,
The beauty that shall never die or pass:
The winds, that spin
Of rain the misty mantles of the grass,
And thunder-raiment of the mountain-streams;
The sunbeams, needling with gold the dusk
Green cowls of ancient woods;
The shadows, thridding, veiled with musk,
The moon-pathed solitudes,
Call to my Fancy, saying, 'Follow! follow!'
Till, following, I see,
Fair as a cascade in a rainbowed hollow,
A dream, a shape, take form,
Clad on with every charm,
The vision of that Ideality,
Which lured the pioneer in wood and hill,
And beckoned him from earth and sky;
The dream that cannot die,
Their children's children did fulfill,
In stone and iron and wood,
Out of the solitude,
And by a forthright act
Create a mighty fact
A Nation, now that stands
Clad on with hope and beauty, strength and song,
Eternal, young, and strong,
Planting her heel on Wrong,
Her starry banner in triumphant hands....
Within her face the rose
Of Alleghany dawns;
Limbed with Alaskan snows,
Floridian starlight in her eyes,
Eyes stern as steel yet tender as a fawn's,
And in her hair
The rapture of her river; and the dare,
As perishless as truth,
That o'er the crags of her Sierras flies,
Urging the eagle ardor through her veins,
Behold her where,
Around her radiant youth,
The spirits of the cataracts and plains,
The genii of the floods and forests, meet,
In rainbow mists circling her brow and feet:
The forces vast that sit
In session round her; powers paraclete,
That guard her presence; awful forms and fair,
Making secure her place;
Guiding her surely as the worlds through space
Do laws sidereal; edicts, thunder-lit,
Of skyed eternity, in splendor borne
On planetary wings of night and morn.
Behold her! this is she!
Beautiful as morning on the summer sea,
Yet terrible as is the elemental gold
That cleaves the tempest and in angles clings
About its cloudy temples. Manifold
The dreams of daring in her fearless gaze,
Fixed on the future's days;
And round her brow, a strand of astral beads,
Her soul's resplendent deeds;
And at her front one star,
Like that on morning's slope,
Beaconing the world afar.
From her high place she sees
Her long procession of accomplished acts,
Of thoughts in steel and stone, of marble dreams,
Lift up tremendous battlements,
Sun-blinding, built of facts;
While in her soul she seems,
Listening, to hear, as from innumerable tents,
Æonian thunder, wonder, and applause
Of all the heroic ages that are gone;
That, as her Past, her Future shall endure,
As did her Cause
When redly broke the dawn
Of fierce rebellion, and, beneath its star,
The firmaments of war
Poured down infernal rain,
And North and South lay bleeding 'mid their slain.
And now, no less, shall her Cause still prevail,
More so in peace than war,
Through the thrilled wire and electric rail,
Carrying her message far;
Shaping her dream
Within the brain of steam,
That, with a myriad hands,
Labors unceasingly, and knits her lands
In firmer union; joining plain and stream
With steel; and binding shore to shore
With bands of iron; nerves and arteries,
Along whose adamant forever pour
Her concrete thoughts, her tireless energies.
Here is a tale for children and their grannies:
There was a fool, a man who'd had his chances
But missed them, somehow; lost them, just for fancies,
Tag-ends of things with which he'd crammed crannies
Of his cracked head, as panes are crammed with paper:
Fragments of song and bits of worthless writing,
Which he was never weary of reciting,
Fluttered his mind as night a windy taper.
A witless fool! who lived in some fair Venice
Of his own building where he dreamed of Beauty:
Who swore each weed a flower the sorry pauper!
This would not do. Men said he was a menace
To all mankind; and, as it was their duty,
Clapped him in prison where he died as proper.
Here is a tale for prelates and for parsons:
There was a scarecrow once, a thing of tatters
And sticks and straw, to whom men trusted matters
Of weighty moment murders, thefts and arsons.
None saw he was a scarecrow. Every worship
And honour his. Men set him in high places,
And ladies primped their bodies, tinged their faces,
And kneeled to him as slaves to some great Sirship.
One night a storm, none knew it, blew to pieces
Our jackstraw friend, and the sweet air of heaven
Knew him no more, and was no longer tainted.
Then learned doctors put him in their theses:
The State set up his statue: and thought, even
As thought the Church, perhaps he should be sainted.
Here is a tale for proper men and virgins:
There was a woman once who had a daughter,
A fair-faced wench, as stable as is water,
And frailer than the first spring flower that burgeons.
She did not need to work, but then her mother
Thought it more suitable, and circumspectly
Put her with gentlefolks, where, indirectly,
She rose in service as has many another.
The house she served in soon became divided:
The wife and husband parted, with some scandal:
But she remained and, in the end, was married.
What happened then? You'll say, 'The girl decided
She loved another. 'Nay; not so. The vandal
Wrecked no more homes but lived a life unvaried.
Here is a tale for maidens and for mothers:
There was an ape, a very prince of monkeys,
Who capered in the world of fools and flunkies,
The envy of his set and of all others.
He was the handbook of all social manners:
The beau of beaux, and simian glass of fashion,
To whom all folly functioned, played at passion,
And matrimony waved beleaguering banners.
A girl of girls, one God had given graces
And beauty, more than oft He grants to human,
Captured the creature, and they were united.
And strange to say, she loved him. Saw no traces
Of ape in him. And, like a very woman,
Reformed her countenance, and was delighted.
Here is a tale for uncles and old aunties:
There was a man once who denied the Devil,
Yet in the world saw nothing else but evil;
A pessimist, with face as sour as Dante's.
Still people praised him; men he loathed and hated,
And cursed beneath his breath for wretched sinners,
While still he drank with them and ate their dinners,
And listened to their talk and tolerated.
At last he wrote a book, full of invective
And vile abuse of earth and all its nations,
Denying God and Devil, Heaven and Hades.
Fame followed this. 'His was the right perspective!'
'A great philosopher!' He lost all patience.
But still went out to dine with Lords and Ladies.
Here is a tale for men and women teachers:
There was a girl who'd ceased to be a maiden;
Who walked by night with heart like Lilith's laden;
A child of sin anathemaed of preachers.
She had been lovely once; but dye and scarlet,
On hair and face, had ravaged all her beauty;
Only her eyes still did her girl-soul duty,
Showing the hell that hounded her poor harlot!
One day a fisherman from out the river
Fished her pale body, (like a branch of willlow,
Or golden weed) self-murdered, drowned and broken:
The sight of it had made a strong man shiver;
And on her poor breast, as upon a pillow,
A picture smiled, a baby's, like some token
Here is a tale for gossips and chaste people:
There lived a woman once, a straight-laced lady,
Whose only love was slander. Nothing shady
Escaped her vulture eye. Like some prim steeple
Her course of life pointed to Heaven ever;
And woe unto the sinner, girl or woman,
Whom love undid. She was their fiercest foeman.
No circumstance excused. Misfortune, never....
As she had lived she died. The mourners gathered:
Parson and preacher, this one and another,
And many gossips of most proper carriage.
Her will was read. And then... a child was fathered.
Fat Lechery had his day.... She'd been a mother.
A man was heir.... There'd never been a marriage.
Here is a tale for infants and old nurses:
There was a man who gathered rags; and peddled:
Who lived alone: with no one ever meddled:
And this old man was very fond of verses.
His house, a ruin, so the tale rehearses;
A hovel over-run of rats and vermin;
Not fit for beast to live in. (Like a sermon
Embodying misery and hell and curses.)
There, one grey dawn of rain and windy weather,
They found him dead; starved; o'er a written paper;
Beside a dim and half-expiring taper:
It was a play, the poor fool'd put together,
Of gnomes and fairies, for his own sad pleasure:
And folks destroyed it, saying, 'We seek for treasure.'
Here is a tale for artists and for writers:
There was an ass, in other words, a critic,
Who brayed and balked and kicked most analytic,
And waved long ears above his brother smiters.
He could not tell a rose-tree from a thistle,
But oft mistook the one thing for the other;
Then wagged his ears most wisely at some brother,
Sent him his he-haw for the Penny Whistle.
A poet sent his volume to him' kindly
Asking for criticism. You might know it:
He made one mouthful of it, weed and flower.
There rose a cry that he had done it blindly.
'Twas poetry! What! would he kill a poet!
Not he! The ass had brayed him into power.
Here is a tale for any one who wishes:
There grew a cabbage once among the flowers,
A plain, broad cabbage a good wench, whose hours
Were kitchen-busy with plebeian dishes.
The rose and lily, toilless, without mottle,
Patricians born, despised her: 'How unpleasant!'
They cried;'What odour! Worse than any peasant
Who soils God's air! Give us our smelling- bottle.'
There came a gentleman who owned the garden,
Looking about him at both flower and edible,
Admiring here and there; a simple sinner,
Who sought some bud to be his heart's sweet warden:
But passed the flowers and took it seems incredible!
That cabbage! But a man must have his dinner.
Here is a tale for all who wish to listen:
There was a thief who, in his cut-throat quarter,
Was hailed as chief; he had a way of barter,
Persuasion, masked, behind a weapon's glisten,
That made it cockrow with each good man's riches.
At last he joined the Brotherhood of Murder,
And rose in his profession; lived a herder
Of crime in some dark tavern of the ditches.
There was a war. He went. Became a gunner.
And slew, as soldiers should, his many a hundred,
In authorized and most professional manner.
Here he advanced again. Was starred a oner.
Was captained, pensioned, and nobody wondered;
And lived and died respectable as a tanner.
Death And The Fool
Here is a tale for any man or woman:
A fool sought Death; and braved him with his bauble
Among the graves. At last he heard a hobble,
And something passed him, monstrous, super-human.
And by a tomb, that reared a broken column,
He heard it stop. And then Gargantuan laughter
Shattered the hush. Deep silence followed after,
Filled with the stir of bones, cadaverous, solemn.
Then said the fool:'Come! show thyself, old prancer!
I'll have a bout with thee. I, too, can clatter
My wand and motley. Come now! Death and Folly,
See who's the better man.' There was no answer;
Only his bauble broke; a serious matter
To the poor fool who died of melancholy.
Here is a tale for poets and for players:
There was a bagpipe once, that wheezed and whistled,
And droned vile discords, notes that fairly bristled,
Nasal and harsh, outbraying all the brayers.
And then the thing assumed another bearing:
Boasted itself an organ of God's making,
A world-enduring instrument, Earth-shaking,
Greater than any organ, more sky-daring.
To prove which, lo, upon an elevation
It pranced and blew to its own satisfaction,
Until 'twas heard from Key West far as Fundy.
But while it piped, some schoolboy took occasion
There was a blow; a sudden sharp impaction;
The wind-bag burst... Sic transit gloria mundi.
Here is a tale for farmer and for peasant:
There was an ox, who might have ploughed for Jason,
So strong was he, his huge head like a bason,
A Gothic helmet with enormous crescent.
Stolid of look and slow of hoof and steady,
Meek was the beast and born but to be driven,
Unmindful of the yoke which toil had given,
Toil with his goad and lash for ever ready.
One day a bull, who was the bullock's neighbor,
Proud as a sultan haremed with his women,
Lowed to the ox who had received a beating:
'You are a fool! What have you for your labour?
Blows and bad food! Go to. Why don't you show men?'
The ox was but an ox and went on eating.
Here is a tale for spinsters at their sewing:
There was a goose, a little gosling surely,
Who went her goose-girl way and looked demurely
As every goose should when 'tis wise and knowing.
Proper was she as every gosling should be,
And innocent as Margarete or Gretchen,
And did her duty in the house and kitchen,
And like a goose was happy as she could be.
Smug was she with a sleek and dove-like dimple,
Great gooseberry eyes and cheeks out of the dairy:
A goose, aye, just a goose, a little dumb thing.
One day the goose was gone. The tale is simple.
She had eloped. 'Twas nothing ordinary.
A married man with children. That was something.
Here is a tale for sportsmen when at table:
There was a boar, like that Atalanta hunted,
Who gorged and snored and, unmolested, grunted,
His fat way through the world as such able.
Huge-jowled and paunched and porcine-limbed and marrowed,
King of his kind, deep in his lair he squatted,
And round him fames of many maidens rotted
Where Licence whelped and Lust her monsters farrowed.
There came a damsel, like the one in Spenser,
A Britomart, as sorcerous as Circe,
Who pierced him with a tract, her spear, and ended
The beast's career. Made him a man; a censor
Of public morals; arbiter of mercy;
And led him by the nose and called him splendid.
Here is a tale for ladies with romances:
There was an owl; composer and musician,
Who looked as wise as if he had a mission,
And at all art cast supercilious glances.
People proclaimed him great because he said it;
And, like the great, he never played, nor printed
His compositions, 'though 'twas whispered, hinted
He'd written something but no one had read it.
Owl-eyed he posed at functions of position,
Hirsute, and eye-glassed, looking analytic,
Opening his mouth to worshipping female knowledge:
And then he married. A woman of ambition.
A singer, teacher, and a musical critic.
Just what he wanted. He became a college.
Here is a tale to tell to rich relations:
There was a toad, a Calibanic monster,
In whose squat head ambition had ensconced her
Most bloated jewel, dear to highest stations.
He was received, though mottled as a lichen
In coat and character, because the creature
Croaked as the devil prompted him, or nature,
And said the right thing both in hall and kitchen.
To each he sang according to their liking,
And purred his flattery in the ear of Leisure,
Cringing attendance on the proud and wealthy.
One day a crane, with features of a Viking,
Swallowed him whole and did it with great pleasure:
His system needed such; toads kept him healthy.
Here is a tale for those who sing with reason:
There was a cricket, troubadouring fellow,
Who chirped his lay, or zoomed it like a 'cello,
Day in, day out, no matter what the season.
Great was his love for his own violining;
He never wearied saying, 'What performing!'
And oft, when through, would ask, 'Was not that charming?'
Then play it over, right from the beginning.
A talent, such as his, should be rewarded,
So thought he, all unconscious of intention
Of any one among the violin sects,
Until by some one, lo, he was regarded;
Lifted, examined; given special mention;
And placed within a case with other insects.
Here is a tale for workmen and their masters:
There was a torrent once that down a mountain
Flashed its resistless way; a foaming fountain,
Basaltic-built, 'twixt cataract-hewn pilasters.
Down from its eagle eyrie nearer, nearer,
Its savage beauty born mid rocks and cedars,
Swept free as tempest, wild as mountain leaders,
Of stars and storms the swiftly moving mirror.
Men found it out; and set to work to tame it;
Put it to pounding rock and rafting lumber;
Made it a carrier of the filth of cities:
Harnessed its joy to engines; tried to shame it;
Saying, 'Be civilized!' and piled their cumber
Upon it; bound it. God of all the Pities!