Hymn For The Dedication Of Memorial Hall At Cambridge, June 23, 1874
WHERE, girt around by savage foes,
Our nurturing Mother's shelter rose,
Behold, the lofty temple stands,
Reared by her children's grateful hands!
Firm are the pillars that defy
The volleyed thunders of the sky;
Sweet are the summer wreaths that twine
With bud and flower our martyrs' shrine.
The hues their tattered colors bore
Fall mingling on the sunlit floor
Till evening spreads her spangled pall,
And wraps in shade the storied hall.
Firm were their hearts in danger's hour,
Sweet was their manhood's morning flower,
Their hopes with rainbow hues were bright,--
How swiftly winged the sudden night!
O Mother! on thy marble page
Thy children read, from age to age,
The mighty word that upward leads
Through noble thought to nobler deeds.
TRUTH, heaven-born TRUTH, their fearless guide,
Thy saints have lived, thy heroes died;
Our love has reared their earthly shrine,
Their glory be forever thine!
From A Bachelor’s Private Journal
SWEET Mary, I have never breathed
The love it were in vain to name;
Though round my heart a serpent wreathed,
I smiled, or strove to smile, the same.
Once more the pulse of Nature glows
With faster throb and fresher fire,
While music round her pathway flows,
Like echoes from a hidden lyre.
And is there none with me to share
The glories of the earth and sky?
The eagle through the pathless air
Is followed by one burning eye.
Ah no! the cradled flowers may wake,
Again may flow the frozen sea,
From every cloud a star may break,--
There conies no second spring to me.
Go,--ere the painted toys of youth
Are crushed beneath the tread of years;
Ere visions have been chilled to truth,
And hopes are washed away in tears.
Go,--for I will not bid thee weep,--
Too soon my sorrows will be thine,
And evening's troubled air shall sweep
The incense from the broken shrine.
If Heaven can hear the dying tone
Of chords that soon will cease to thrill,
The prayer that Heaven has heard alone
May bless thee when those chords are still.
Our Sweet Singer
ONE memory trembles on our lips;
It throbs in every breast;
In tear-dimmed eyes, in mirth's eclipse,
The shadow stands confessed.
O silent voice, that cheered so long
Our manhood's marching day,
Without thy breath of heavenly song,
How weary seems the way!
Vain every pictured phrase to tell
Our sorrowing heart's desire,--
The shattered harp, the broken shell,
The silent unstrung lyre;
For youth was round us while he sang;
It glowed in every tone;
With bridal chimes the echoes rang,
And made the past our own.
Oh blissful dream! Our nursery joys
We know must have an end,
But love and friendship's broken toys
May God's good angels mend!
The cheering smile, the voice of mirth
And laughter's gay surprise
That please the children born of earth.
Why deem that Heaven denies?
Methinks in that refulgent sphere
That knows not sun or moon,
An earth-born saint might long to hear
One verse of 'Bonny Doon';
Or walking through the streets of gold
In heaven's unclouded light,
His lips recall the song of old
And hum 'The sky is bright.'
And can we smile when thou art dead?
Ah, brothers, even so!
The rose of summer will be red,
In spite of winter's snow.
Thou wouldst not leave us all in gloom
Because thy song is still,
Nor blight the banquet-garland's bloom
With grief's untimely chill.
The sighing wintry winds complain,--
The singing bird has flown,--
Hark! heard I not that ringing strain,
That clear celestial tone?
How poor these pallid phrases seem,
How weak this tinkling line,
As warbles through my waking dream
That angel voice of thine!
Thy requiem asks a sweeter lay;
It falters on my tongue;
For all we vainly strive to say,
Thou shouldst thyself have sung!
H. C. M. H. S. J. K. W.
THE dirge is played, the throbbing death-peal rung,
The sad-voiced requiem sung;
On each white urn where memory dwells
The wreath of rustling immortelles
Our loving hands have hung,
And balmiest leaves have strown and tenderest blossoms flung.
The birds that filled the air with songs have flown,
The wintry blasts have blown,
And these for whom the voice of spring
Bade the sweet choirs their carols sing
Sleep in those chambers lone
Where snows untrodden lie, unheard the night-winds moan.
We clasp them all in memory, as the vine
Whose running stems intwine
The marble shaft, and steal around
The lowly stone, the nameless mound;
With sorrowing hearts resign
Our brothers true and tried, and close our broken line.
How fast the lamps of life grow dim and die
Beneath our sunset sky!
Still fading, as along our track
We cast our saddened glances back,
And while we vainly sigh
The shadowy day recedes, the starry night draws nigh.
As when from pier to pier across the tide
With even keel we glide,
The lights we left along the shore
Grow less and less, while more, yet more
New vistas open wide
Of fair illumined streets and casements golden-eyed.
Each closing circle of our sunlit sphere
Seems to bring heaven more near
Can we not dream that those we love
Are listening in the world above
And smiling as they hear
The voices known so well of friends that still are dear?
Does all that made us human fade away
With this dissolving clay?
Nay, rather deem the blessed isles
Are bright and gay with joyous smiles,
That angels have their play,
And saints that tire of song may claim their holiday.
All else of earth may perish; love alone
Not heaven shall find outgrown!
Are they not here, our spirit guests,
With love still throbbing in their breasts?
Once more let flowers be strown.
Welcome, ye shadowy forms, we count you still our own!
Our Dead Singer
H. W. L.
PRIDE of the sister realm so long our own,
We claim with her that spotless fame of thine,
White as her snow and fragrant as her pine!
Ours was thy birthplace, but in every zone
Some wreath of song thy liberal hand has thrown
Breathes perfume from its blossoms, that entwine
Where'er the dewdrops fall, the sunbeams shine,
On life's long path with tangled cares o'ergrown.
Can Art thy truthful counterfeit command,--
The silver-haloed features, tranquil, mild,--
Soften the lips of bronze as when they smiled,
Give warmth and pressure to the marble hand?
Seek the lost rainbow in the sky it spanned
Farewell, sweet Singer! Heaven reclaims its child.
Carved from the block or cast in clinging mould,
Will grateful Memory fondly try her best
The mortal vesture from decay to wrest;
His look shall greet us, calm, but ah, how cold!
No breath can stir the brazen drapery's fold,
No throb can heave the statue's stony breast;
'He is not here, but risen,' will stand confest
In all we miss, in all our eyes behold.
How Nature loved him! On his placid brow,
Thought's ample dome, she set the sacred sign
That marks the priesthood of her holiest shrine,
Nor asked a leaflet from the laurel's bough
That envious Time might clutch or disallow,
To prove her chosen minstrel's song divine.
On many a saddened hearth the evening fire
Burns paler as the children's hour draws near,--
That joyous hour his song made doubly dear,--
And tender memories touch the faltering choir.
He sings no more on earth; our vain desire
Aches for the voice we loved so long to hear
In Dorian flute-notes breathing soft and clear,--
The sweet contralto that could never tire.
Deafened with listening to a harsher strain,
The Maenad's scream, the stark barbarian's cry,
Still for those soothing, loving tones we sigh;
Oh, for our vanished Orpheus once again!
The shadowy silence hears us call in vain!
His lips are hushed; his song shall never die.
For The Burns Centennial Celebration
JANUARY 25, 1859
His birthday.--Nay, we need not speak
The name each heart is beating,--
Each glistening eye and flushing cheek
In light and flame repeating!
We come in one tumultuous tide,--
One surge of wild emotion,--
As crowding through the Frith of Clyde
Rolls in the Western Ocean;
As when yon cloudless, quartered moon
Hangs o'er each storied river,
The swelling breasts of Ayr and Doon
With sea green wavelets quiver.
The century shrivels like a scroll,--
The past becomes the present,--
And face to face, and soul to soul,
We greet the monarch-peasant.
While Shenstone strained in feeble flights
With Corydon and Phillis,--
While Wolfe was climbing Abraham's heights
To snatch the Bourbon lilies,--
Who heard the wailing infant's cry,
The babe beneath the sheeliug,
Whose song to-night in every sky
Will shake earth's starry ceiling,--
Whose passion-breathing voice ascends
And floats like incense o'er us,
Whose ringing lay of friendship blends
With labor's anvil chorus?
We love him, not for sweetest song,
Though never tone so tender;
We love him, even in his wrong,--
His wasteful self-surrender.
We praise him, not for gifts divine,--
His Muse was born of woman,--
His manhood breathes in every line,--
Was ever heart more human?
We love him, praise him, just for this
In every form and feature,
Through wealth and want, through woe and bliss,
He saw his fellow-creature!
No soul could sink beneath his love,--
Not even angel blasted;
No mortal power could soar above
The pride that all outlasted!
Ay! Heaven had set one living man
Beyond the pedant's tether,--
His virtues, frailties, HE may scan,
Who weighs them all together!
I fling my pebble on the cairn
Of him, though dead, undying;
Sweet Nature's nursling, bonniest bairn
Beneath her daisies lying.
The waning suns, the wasting globe,
Shall spare the minstrel's story,--
The centuries weave his purple robe,
The mountain-mist of glory!
To Christian Gottfried Ehrenberg
FOR HIS 'JUBILAEUM' AT BERLIN, NOVEMBER 5, 1868
THOU who hast taught the teachers of mankind
How from the least of things the mightiest grow,
What marvel jealous Nature made thee blind,
Lest man should learn what angels long to know?
Thou in the flinty rock, the river's flow,
In the thick-moted sunbeam's sifted light
Hast trained thy downward-pointed tube to show
Worlds within worlds unveiled to mortal sight,
Even as the patient watchers of the night,--
The cyclope gleaners of the fruitful skies,--
Show the wide misty way where heaven is white
All paved with suns that daze our wondering eyes.
Far o'er the stormy deep an empire lies,
Beyond the storied islands of the blest,
That waits to see the lingering day-star rise;
The forest-tinctured Eden of the West;
Whose queen, fair Freedom, twines her iron crest
With leaves from every wreath that mortals wear,
But loves the sober garland ever best
That science lends the sage's silvered hair;--
Science, who makes life's heritage more fair,
Forging for every lock its mastering key,
Filling with life and hope the stagnant air,
Pouring the light of Heaven o'er land and sea!
From her unsceptred realm we come to thee,
Bearing our slender tribute in our hands;
Deem it not worthless, humble though it be,
Set by the larger gifts of older lands
The smallest fibres weave the strongest bands,--
In narrowest tubes the sovereign nerves are spun,--
A little cord along the deep sea-sands
Makes the live thought of severed nations one
Thy fame has journeyed westering with the sun,
Prairies and lone sierras know thy name
And the long day of service nobly done
That crowns thy darkened evening with its flame!
One with the grateful world, we own thy claim,--
Nay, rather claim our right to join the throng
Who come with varied tongues, but hearts the same,
To hail thy festal morn with smiles and song;
Ah, happy they to whom the joys belong
Of peaceful triumphs that can never die
From History's record,--not of gilded wrong,
But golden truths that, while the world goes by
With all its empty pageant, blazoned high
Around the Master's name forever shine
So shines thy name illumined in the sky,--
Such joys, such triumphs, such remembrance thine!
At A Dinner To General Grant
JULY 31, 1865
WHEN treason first began the strife
That crimsoned sea and shore,
The Nation poured her hoarded life
On Freedom's threshing-floor;
From field and prairie, east and west,
From coast and hill and plain,
The sheaves of ripening manhood pressed
Thick as the bearded grain.
Rich was the harvest; souls as true
As ever battle tried;
But fiercer still the conflict grew,
The floor of death more wide;
Ah, who forgets that dreadful day
Whose blot of grief and shame
Four bitter years scarce wash away
In seas of blood and flame?
Vain, vain the Nation's lofty boasts,--
Vain all her sacrifice!
'Give me a man to lead my hosts,
O God in heaven!' she cries.
While Battle whirls his crushing flail,
And plies his winnowing fan,--
Thick flies the chaff on every gale,--
She cannot find her man!
Bravely they fought who failed to win,--
Our leaders battle-scarred,--
Fighting the hosts of hell and sin,
But devils die always hard!
Blame not the broken tools of God
That helped our sorest needs;
Through paths that martyr feet have trod
The conqueror's steps He leads.
But now the heavens grow black with doubt,
The ravens fill the sky,
'Friends' plot within, foes storm without,
Hark,--that despairing cry,
'Where is the heart, the hand, the brain
To dare, to do, to plan?'
The bleeding Nation shrieks in vain,--
She has not found her man!
A little echo stirs the air,--
Some tale, whate'er it be,
Of rebels routed in their lair
Along the Tennessee.
The little echo spreads and grows,
And soon the trump of Fame
Has taught the Nation's friends and foes
The 'man on horseback''s name.
So well his warlike wooing sped,
No fortress might resist
His billets-doux of lisping lead,
The bayonets in his fist,--
With kisses from his cannons' mouth
He made his passion known
Till Vicksburg, vestal of the South,
Unbound her virgin zone.
And still where'er his banners led
He conquered as he came,
The trembling hosts of treason fled
Before his breath of flame,
And Fame's still gathering echoes grew
Till high o'er Richmond's towers
The starry fold of Freedom flew,
And all the land was ours.
Welcome from fields where valor fought
To feasts where pleasure waits;
A Nation gives you smiles unbought
At all her opening gates!
Forgive us when we press your hand,--
Your war-worn features scan,--
God sent you to a bleeding land;
Our Nation found its man!
F. W. C.
FAST as the rolling seasons bring
The hour of fate to those we love,
Each pearl that leaves the broken string
Is set in Friendship's crown above.
As narrower grows the earthly chain,
The circle widens in the sky;
These are our treasures that remain,
But those are stars that beam on high.
We miss--oh, how we miss!--his face,--
With trembling accents speak his name.
Earth cannot fill his shadowed place
From all her rolls of pride and fame;
Our song has lost the silvery thread
That carolled through his jocund lips;
Our laugh is mute, our smile is fled,
And all our sunshine in eclipse.
And what and whence the wondrous charm
That kept his manhood boylike still,--
That life's hard censors could disarm
And lead them captive at his will?
His heart was shaped of rosier clay,--
His veins were filled with ruddier fire,--
Time could not chill him, fortune sway,
Nor toil with all its burdens tire.
His speech burst throbbing from its fount
And set our colder thoughts aglow,
As the hot leaping geysers mount
And falling melt the Iceland snow.
Some word, perchance, we counted rash,--
Some phrase our calmness might disclaim,
Yet 't was the sunset's lightning's flash,
No angry bolt, but harmless flame.
Man judges all, God knoweth each;
We read the rule, He sees the law;
How oft his laughing children teach
The truths his prophets never saw
O friend, whose wisdom flowered in mirth,
Our hearts are sad, our eyes are dim;
He gave thy smiles to brighten earth,--
We trust thy joyous soul to Him!
Alas!--our weakness Heaven forgive!
We murmur, even while we trust,
'How long earth's breathing burdens live,
Whose hearts, before they die, are dust!'
But thou!--through grief's untimely tears
We ask with half-reproachful sigh--
'Couldst thou not watch a few brief years
Till Friendship faltered, 'Thou mayst die'?'
Who loved our boyish years so well?
Who knew so well their pleasant tales,
And all those livelier freaks could tell
Whose oft-told story never fails?
In vain we turn our aching eyes,--
In vain we stretch our eager hands,--
Cold in his wintry shroud he lies
Beneath the dreary drifting sands!
Ah, speak not thus! _He_ lies not there!
We see him, hear him as of old!
He comes! He claims his wonted chair;
His beaming face we still behold!
His voice rings clear in all our songs,
And loud his mirthful accents rise;
To us our brother's life belongs,--
Dear friends, a classmate never dies!
A Memorial Tribute
READ AT THE MEETING HELD AT MUSIC HALL,
FEBRUARY 8, 1876, IN MEMORY OF DR. SAMUEL G. HOWE
LEADER of armies, Israel's God,
Thy soldier's fight is won!
Master, whose lowly path he trod,
Thy servant's work is done!
No voice is heard from Sinai's steep
Our wandering feet to guide;
From Horeb's rock no waters leap;
No Jordan's waves divide;
No prophet cleaves our western sky
On wheels of whirling fire;
No shepherds hear the song on high
Of heaven's angelic choir.
Yet here as to the patriarch's tent
God's angel comes a guest;
He comes on heaven's high errand sent,
In earth's poor raiment drest.
We see no halo round his brow
Till love its own recalls,
And, like a leaf that quits the bough,
The mortal vesture falls.
In autumn's chill declining day,
Ere winter's killing frost,
The message came; so passed away
The friend our earth has lost.
Still, Father, in thy love we trust;
Forgive us if we mourn
The saddening hour that laid in dust
His robe of flesh outworn.
How long the wreck-strewn journey seems
To reach the far-off past
That woke his youth from peaceful dreams
With Freedom's trumpet-blast.
Along her classic hillsides rung
The Paynim's battle-cry,
And like a red-cross knight he sprung
For her to live or die.
No trustier service claimed the wreath
For Sparta's bravest son;
No truer soldier sleeps beneath
The mound of Marathon;
Yet not for him the warrior's grave
In front of angry foes;
To lift, to shield, to help, to save,
The holier task he chose.
He touched the eyelids of the blind,
And lo! the veil withdrawn,
As o'er the midnight of the mind
He led the light of dawn.
He asked not whence the fountains roll
No traveller's foot has found,
But mapped the desert of the soul
Untracked by sight or sound.
What prayers have reached the sapphire throne,
By silent fingers spelt,
For him who first through depths unknown
His doubtful pathway felt,
Who sought the slumbering sense that lay
Close shut with bolt and bar,
And showed awakening thought the ray
Of reason's morning star.
Where'er he moved, his shadowy form
The sightless orbs would seek,
And smiles of welcome light and warm
The lips that could not speak.
No labored line, no sculptor's art,
Such hallowed memory needs;
His tablet is the human heart,
His record loving deeds.
The rest that earth denied is thine,--
Ah, is it rest? we ask,
Or, traced by knowledge more divine,
Some larger, nobler task?
Had but those boundless fields of blue
One darkened sphere like this;
But what has heaven for thee to do
In realms of perfect bliss?
No cloud to lift, no mind to clear,
No rugged path to smooth,
No struggling soul to help and cheer,
No mortal grief to soothe!
Enough; is there a world of love,
No more we ask to know;
The hand will guide thy ways above
That shaped thy task below.
On The Death Of President Garfield
FALLEN with autumn's falling leaf
Ere yet his summer's noon was past,
Our friend, our guide, our trusted chief,--
What words can match a woe so vast!
And whose the chartered claim to speak
The sacred grief where all have part,
Where sorrow saddens every cheek
And broods in every aching heart?
Yet Nature prompts the burning phrase
That thrills the hushed and shrouded hall,
The loud lament, the sorrowing praise,
The silent tear that love lets fall.
In loftiest verse, in lowliest rhyme,
Shall strive unblamed the minstrel choir,---
The singers of the new-born time,
And trembling age with outworn lyre.
No room for pride, no place for blame,--
We fling our blossoms on the grave,
Pale,--scentless,--faded,--all we claim,
This only,--what we had we gave.
Ah, could the grief of all who mourn
Blend in one voice its bitter cry,
The wail to heaven's high arches borne
Would echo through the caverned sky.
O happiest land, whose peaceful choice
Fills with a breath its empty throne!
God, speaking through thy people's voice,
Has made that voice for once His own.
No angry passion shakes the state
Whose weary servant seeks for rest;
And who could fear that scowling hate
Would strike at that unguarded breast?
He stands, unconscious of his doom,
In manly strength, erect, serene;
Around him Summer spreads her bloom;
He falls,--what horror clothes the scene!
How swift the sudden flash of woe
Where all was bright as childhood's dream!
As if from heaven's ethereal bow
Had leaped the lightning's arrowy gleam.
Blot the foul deed from history's page;
Let not the all-betraying sun
Blush for the day that stains an age
When murder's blackest wreath was won.
Pale on his couch the sufferer lies,
The weary battle-ground of pain
Love tends his pillow; Science tries
Her every art, alas! in vain.
The strife endures how long! how long!
Life, death, seem balanced in the scale,
While round his bed a viewless throng
Await each morrow's changing tale.
In realms the desert ocean parts
What myriads watch with tear-filled eyes,
His pulse-beats echoing in their hearts,
His breathings counted with their sighs!
Slowly the stores of life are spent,
Yet hope still battles with despair;
Will Heaven not yield when knees are bent?
Answer, O thou that hearest prayer.
But silent is the brazen sky;
On sweeps the meteor's threatening train,
Unswerving Nature's mute reply,
Bound in her adamantine chain.
Not ours the verdict to decide
Whom death shall claim or skill shall save;
The hero's life though Heaven denied,
It gave our land a martyr's grave.
Nor count the teaching vainly sent
How human hearts their griefs may share,--
The lesson woman's love has lent,
What hope may do, what faith can bear!
Farewell! the leaf-strown earth enfolds
Our stay, our pride, our hopes, our fears,
And autumn's golden sun beholds
A nation bowed, a world in tears.
For Class Meeting
IT is a pity and a shame--alas! alas! I know it is,
To tread the trodden grapes again, but so it has been,
so it is;
The purple vintage long is past, with ripened
clusters bursting so
They filled the wine-vats to the brim,-'t is strange
you will be thirsting so!
Too well our faithful memory tells what might be
rhymed or sung about,
For all have sighed and some have wept since last
year's snows were flung about;
The beacon flame that fired the sky, the modest
ray that gladdened us,
A little breath has quenched their light, and
deepening shades have saddened us.
No more our brother's life is ours for cheering or
for grieving us,
One only sadness they bequeathed, the sorrow of
their leaving us;
Farewell! Farewell!--I turn the leaf I read my
chiming measure in;
Who knows but something still is there a friend
may find a pleasure in?
For who can tell by what he likes what other
people's fancies are?
How all men think the best of wives their own
particular Nancies are?
If what I sing you brings a smile, you will not stop
Nor read Bceotia's lumbering line with nicely
scanning Attic eyes.
Perhaps the alabaster box that Mary broke so
While Judas looked so sternly on, the Master so
Was not so fairly wrought as those that Pilate's
wife and daughters had,
Or many a dame of Judah's line that drank of
Jordan's waters had.
Perhaps the balm that cost so dear, as some
The precious nard that filled the room with
fragrance so deliciously,
So oft recalled in storied page and sung in verse
The dancing girl had thought too cheap,--that
daughter of Herodias.
Where now are all the mighty deeds that Herod
boasted loudest of?
Where now the flashing jewelry the tetrarch's wife
was proudest of?
Yet still to hear how Mary loved, all tribes of men
And still the sinful woman's tears like stars
heaven are glistening.
'T is not the gift our hands have brought, the love
it is we bring with it,--
The minstrel's lips may shape the song, his heart
in tune must sing with it;
And so we love the simple lays, and wish we might
have more of them,
Our poet brothers sing for us,--there must be half
a score of them.
It may be that of fame and name our voices once
With deeper thoughts, with tenderer throbs their
softening tones are tremulous;
The dead seem listening as of old, ere friendship
was bereft of them;
The living wear a kinder smile, the remnant that
is left of them.
Though on the once unfurrowed brows the harrow-
teeth of Time may show,
Though all the strain of crippling years the halting
feet of rhyme may show,
We look and hear with melting hearts, for what
we all remember is
The morn of Spring, nor heed how chill the sky of
gray November is.
Thanks to the gracious powers above from all mankind
that singled us,
And dropped the pearl of friendship in the cup they
kindly mingled us,
And bound us in a wreath of flowers with hoops of
steel knit under it;--
Nor time, nor space, nor chance, nor change, nor
death himself shall sunder it!
'OUR FIRST CITIZEN'
WINTER'S cold drift lies glistening o'er his breast;
For him no spring shall bid the leaf unfold
What Love could speak, by sudden grief oppressed,
What swiftly summoned Memory tell, is told.
Even as the bells, in one consenting chime,
Filled with their sweet vibrations all the air,
So joined all voices, in that mournful time,
His genius, wisdom, virtues, to declare.
What place is left for words of measured praise,
Till calm-eyed History, with her iron pen,
Grooves in the unchanging rock the final phrase
That shapes his image in the souls of men?
Yet while the echoes still repeat his name,
While countless tongues his full-orbed life rehearse,
Love, by his beating pulses taught, will claim
The breath of song, the tuneful throb of verse,--
Verse that, in ever-changing ebb and flow,
Moves, like the laboring heart, with rush and rest,
Or swings in solemn cadence, sad and slow,
Like the tired heaving of a grief-worn breast.
This was a mind so rounded, so complete,
No partial gift of Nature in excess,
That, like a single stream where many meet,
Each separate talent counted something less.
A little hillock, if it lonely stand,
Holds o'er the fields an undisputed reign;
While the broad summit of the table-land
Seems with its belt of clouds a level plain.
Servant of all his powers, that faithful slave,
Unsleeping Memory, strengthening with his toils,
To every ruder task his shoulder gave,
And loaded every day with golden spoils.
Order, the law of Heaven, was throned supreme
O'er action, instinct, impulse, feeling, thought;
True as the dial's shadow to the beam,
Each hour was equal to the charge it brought.
Too large his compass for the nicer skill
That weighs the world of science grain by grain;
All realms of knowledge owned the mastering will
That claimed the franchise of its whole domain.
Earth, air, sea, sky, the elemental fire,
Art, history, song,--what meanings lie in each
Found in his cunning hand a stringless lyre,
And poured their mingling music through his speech.
Thence flowed those anthems of our festal days,
Whose ravishing division held apart
The lips of listening throngs in sweet amaze,
Moved in all breasts the selfsame human heart.
Subdued his accents, as of one who tries
To press some care, some haunting sadness down;
His smile half shadow; and to stranger eyes
The kingly forehead wore an iron crown.
He was not armed to wrestle with the storm,
To fight for homely truth with vulgar power;
Grace looked from every feature, shaped his form,
The rose of Academe,--the perfect flower!
Such was the stately scholar whom we knew
In those ill days of soul-enslaving calm,
Before the blast of Northern vengeance blew
Her snow-wreathed pine against the Southern palm.
Ah, God forgive us! did we hold too cheap
The heart we might have known, but would not see,
And look to find the nation's friend asleep
Through the dread hour of her Gethsemane?
That wrong is past; we gave him up to Death
With all a hero's honors round his name;
As martyrs coin their blood, he coined his breath,
And dimmed the scholar's in the patriot's fame.
So shall we blazon on the shaft we raise,--
Telling our grief, our pride, to unborn years,--
'He who had lived the mark of all men's praise
Died with the tribute of a Nation's tears.'
Homesick In Heaven
THE DIVINE VOICE
Go seek thine earth-born sisters,--thus the Voice
That all obey,--the sad and silent three;
These only, while the hosts of Heaven rejoice,
Smile never; ask them what their sorrows be;
And when the secret of their griefs they tell,
Look on them with thy mild, half-human eyes;
Say what thou wast on earth; thou knowest well;
So shall they cease from unavailing sighs.
Why thus, apart,--the swift-winged herald spake,--
Sit ye with silent lips and unstrung lyres
While the trisagion's blending chords awake
In shouts of joy from all the heavenly choirs?
Chide not thy sisters,--thus the answer came;--
Children of earth, our half-weaned nature clings
To earth's fond memories, and her whispered name
Untunes our quivering lips, our saddened strings;
For there we loved, and where we love is home,
Home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts,
Though o'er us shine the jasper-lighted dome:--
The chain may lengthen, but it never parts!
Sometimes a sunlit sphere comes rolling by,
And then we softly whisper,--can it be?
And leaning toward the silvery orb, we try
To hear the music of its murmuring sea;
To catch, perchance, some flashing glimpse of green,
Or breathe some wild-wood fragrance, wafted through
The opening gates of pearl, that fold between
The blinding splendors and the changeless blue.
Nay, sister, nay! a single healing leaf
Plucked from the bough of yon twelve-fruited tree
Would soothe such anguish,--deeper stabbing grief
Has pierced thy throbbing heart--
THE FIRST SPIRIT
Ah, woe is me! I from my clinging babe was rudely torn;
His tender lips a loveless bosom pressed;
Can I forget him in my life new born?
Oh that my darling lay upon my breast!
THE SECOND SPIRIT
I was a fair and youthful bride,
The kiss of love still burns upon my cheek,
He whom I worshipped, ever at my side,--
Him through the spirit realm in vain I seek.
Sweet faces turn their beaming eyes on mine;
Ah! not in these the wished-for look I read;
Still for that one dear human smile I pine;
_Thou and none other!_--is the lover's creed.
And whence thy sadness in a world of bliss
Where never parting comes, nor mourner's tear?
Art thou, too, dreaming of a mortal's kiss
Amid the seraphs of the heavenly sphere?
THE THIRD SPIRIT
Nay, tax not me with passion's wasting fire;
When the swift message set my spirit free,
Blind, helpless, lone, I left my gray-haired sire;
My friends were many, he had none save me.
I left him, orphaned, in the starless night;
Alas, for him no cheerful morning's dawn
I wear the ransomed spirit's robe of white,
Yet still I hear him moaning, _She is gone!_
Ye know me not, sweet sisters?--All in vain
Ye seek your lost ones in the shapes they wore;
The flower once opened may not bud again,
The fruit once fallen finds the stem no more.
Child, lover, sire,--yea, all things loved below,--
Fair pictures damasked on a vapor's fold,--
Fade like the roseate flush, the golden glow,
When the bright curtain of the day is rolled.
I was the babe that slumbered on thy breast.
And, sister, mine the lips that called thee bride.
Mine were the silvered locks thy hand caressed,
That faithful hand, my faltering footstep's guide!
Each changing form, frail vesture of decay,
The soul unclad forgets it once hath worn,
Stained with the travel of the weary day,
And shamed with rents from every wayside
To lie, an infant, in thy fond embrace,--
To come with love's warm kisses back to thee,--
To show thine eyes thy gray-haired father's face,
Not Heaven itself could grant; this may not be!
Then spread your folded wings, and leave to earth
The dust once breathing ye have mourned so long,
Till Love, new risen, owns his heavenly birth,
And sorrow's discords sweeten into song!
In The Twilight
NOT bed-time yet! The night-winds blow,
The stars are out,--full well we know
The nurse is on the stair,
With hand of ice and cheek of snow,
And frozen lips that whisper low,
'Come, children, it is time to go
My peaceful couch to share.'
No years a wakeful heart can tire;
Not bed-time yet! Come, stir the fire
And warm your dear old hands;
Kind Mother Earth we love so well
Has pleasant stories yet to tell
Before we hear the curfew bell;
Still glow the burning brands.
Not bed-time yet! We long to know
What wonders time has yet to show,
What unborn years shall bring;
What ship the Arctic pole shall reach,
What lessons Science waits to teach,
What sermons there are left to preach.
What poems yet to sing.
What next? we ask; and is it true
The sunshine falls on nothing new,
As Israel's king declared?
Was ocean ploughed with harnessed fire?
Were nations coupled with a wire?
Did Tarshish telegraph to Tyre?
How Hiram would have stared!
And what if Sheba's curious queen,
Who came to see,--and to be seen,--
Or something new to seek,
And swooned, as ladies sometimes do,
At sights that thrilled her through and through,
Had heard, as she was 'coming to,'
A locomotive's shriek,
And seen a rushing railway train
As she looked out along the plain
From David's lofty tower,--
A mile of smoke that blots the sky
And blinds the eagles as they fly
Behind the cars that thunder by
A score of leagues an hour!
See to my _fiat lux_ respond
This little slumbering fire-tipped wand,--
One touch,--it bursts in flame!
Steal me a portrait from the sun,--
One look,--and to! the picture done!
Are these old tricks, King Solomon,
We lying moderns claim?
Could you have spectroscoped a star?
If both those mothers at your bar,
The cruel and the mild,
The young and tender, old and tough,
Had said, 'Divide,--you're right, though rough,'--
Did old Judea know enough
To etherize the child?
These births of time our eyes have seen,
With but a few brief years between;
What wonder if the text,
For other ages doubtless true,
For coming years will never do,--
Whereof we all should like a few,
If but to see what next.
If such things have been, such may be;
Who would not like to live and see--
If Heaven may so ordain--
What waifs undreamed of, yet in store,
The waves that roll forevermore
On life's long beach may east ashore
From out the mist-clad main?
Will Earth to pagan dreams return
To find from misery's painted urn
That all save hope has flown,--
Of Book and Church and Priest bereft,
The Rock of Ages vainly cleft,
Life's compass gone, its anchor left,
Left,--lost,--in depths unknown?
Shall Faith the trodden path pursue
The _crux ansata_ wearers knew
Who sleep with folded hands,
Where, like a naked, lidless eye,
The staring Nile rolls wandering by
Those mountain slopes that climb the sky
Above the drifting sands?
Or shall a nobler Faith return,
Its fanes a purer gospel learn,
With holier anthems ring,
And teach us that our transient creeds
Were but the perishable seeds
Of harvests sown for larger needs,
That ripening years shall bring?
Well, let the present do its best,
We trust our Maker for the rest,
As on our way we plod;
Our souls, full dressed in fleshly suits,
Love air and sunshine, flowers and fruits,
The daisies better than their roots
Beneath the grassy sod.
Not bed-time yet! The full-blown flower
Of all the year--this evening hour--
With friendship's flame is bright;
Life still is sweet, the heavens are fair,
Though fields are brown and woods are bare,
And many a joy is left to share
Before we say Good-night!
And when, our cheerful evening past,
The nurse, long waiting, comes at last,
Ere on her lap we lie
In wearied nature's sweet repose,
At peace with all her waking foes,
Our lips shall murmur, ere they close,
Good-night! and not Good-by!
The Old Player
THE curtain rose; in thunders long and loud
The galleries rung; the veteran actor bowed.
In flaming line the telltales of the stage
Showed on his brow the autograph of age;
Pale, hueless waves amid his clustered hair,
And umbered shadows, prints of toil and care;
Round the wide circle glanced his vacant eye,--
He strove to speak,--his voice was but a sigh.
Year after year had seen its short-lived race
Flit past the scenes and others take their place;
Yet the old prompter watched his accents still,
His name still flaunted on the evening's bill.
Heroes, the monarchs of the scenic floor,
Had died in earnest and were heard no more;
Beauties, whose cheeks such roseate bloom o'er-spread
They faced the footlights in unborrowed red,
Had faded slowly through successive shades
To gray duennas, foils of younger maids;
Sweet voices lost the melting tones that start
With Southern throbs the sturdy Saxon heart,
While fresh sopranos shook the painted sky
With their long, breathless, quivering locust-cry.
Yet there he stood,--the man of other days,
In the clear present's full, unsparing blaze,
As on the oak a faded leaf that clings
While a new April spreads its burnished wings.
How bright yon rows that soared in triple tier,
Their central sun the flashing chandelier!
How dim the eye that sought with doubtful aim
Some friendly smile it still might dare to claim
How fresh these hearts! his own how worn and cold!
Such the sad thoughts that long-drawn sigh had told.
No word yet faltered on his trembling tongue;
Again, again, the crashing galleries rung.
As the old guardsman at the bugle's blast
Hears in its strain the echoes of the past,
So, as the plaudits rolled and thundered round,
A life of memories startled at the sound.
He lived again,--the page of earliest days,--
Days of small fee and parsimonious praise;
Then lithe young Romeo--hark that silvered tone,
From those smooth lips--alas! they were his own.
Then the bronzed Moor, with all his love and woe,
Told his strange tale of midnight melting snow;
And dark--plumed Hamlet, with his cloak and blade,
Looked on the royal ghost, himself a shade.
All in one flash, his youthful memories came,
Traced in bright hues of evanescent flame,
As the spent swimmer's in the lifelong dream,
While the last bubble rises through the stream.
Call him not old, whose visionary brain
Holds o'er the past its undivided reign.
For him in vain the envious seasons roll
Who bears eternal summer in his soul.
If yet the minstrel's song, the poet's lay,
Spring with her birds, or children at their play,
Or maiden's smile, or heavenly dream of art,
Stir the few life-drops creeping round his heart,
Turn to the record where his years are told,--
Count his gray hairs,--they cannot make him old!
What magic power has changed the faded mime?
One breath of memory on the dust of time.
As the last window in the buttressed wall
Of some gray minster tottering to its fall,
Though to the passing crowd its hues are spread,
A dull mosaic, yellow, green, and red,
Viewed from within, a radiant glory shows
When through its pictured screen the sunlight flows,
And kneeling pilgrims on its storied pane
See angels glow in every shapeless stain;
So streamed the vision through his sunken eye,
Clad in the splendors of his morning sky.
All the wild hopes his eager boyhood knew,
All the young fancies riper years proved true,
The sweet, low-whispered words, the winning glance
From queens of song, from Houris of the dance,
Wealth's lavish gift, and Flattery's soothing phrase,
And Beauty's silence when her blush was praise,
And melting Pride, her lashes wet with tears,
Triumphs and banquets, wreaths and crowns and cheers,
Pangs of wild joy that perish on the tongue,
And all that poets dream, but leave unsung!
In every heart some viewless founts are fed
From far-off hillsides where the dews were shed;
On the worn features of the weariest face
Some youthful memory leaves its hidden trace,
As in old gardens left by exiled kings
The marble basins tell of hidden springs,
But, gray with dust, and overgrown with weeds,
Their choking jets the passer little heeds,
Till time's revenges break their seals away,
And, clad in rainbow light, the waters play.
Good night, fond dreamer! let the curtain fall
The world's a stage, and we are players all.
A strange rehearsal! Kings without their crowns,
And threadbare lords, and jewel-wearing clowns,
Speak the vain words that mock their throbbing hearts,
As Want, stern prompter! spells them out their parts.
The tinselled hero whom we praise and pay
Is twice an actor in a twofold play.
We smile at children when a painted screen
Seems to their simple eyes a real scene;
Ask the poor hireling, who has left his throne
To seek the cheerless home he calls his own,
Which of his double lives most real seems,
The world of solid fact or scenic dreams?
Canvas, or clouds,--the footlights, or the spheres,--
The play of two short hours, or seventy years?
Dream on! Though Heaven may woo our open eyes,
Through their closed lids we look on fairer skies;
Truth is for other worlds, and hope for this;
The cheating future lends the present's bliss;
Life is a running shade, with fettered hands,
That chases phantoms over shifting sands;
Death a still spectre on a marble seat,
With ever clutching palms and shackled feet;
The airy shapes that mock life's slender chain,
The flying joys he strives to clasp in vain,
Death only grasps; to live is to pursue,--
Dream on! there 's nothing but illusion true!
The Banker’s Secret
THE Banker's dinner is the stateliest feast
The town has heard of for a year, at least;
The sparry lustres shed their broadest blaze,
Damask and silver catch and spread the rays;
The florist's triumphs crown the daintier spoil
Won from the sea, the forest, or the soil;
The steaming hot-house yields its largest pines,
The sunless vaults unearth their oldest wines;
With one admiring look the scene survey,
And turn a moment from the bright display.
Of all the joys of earthly pride or power,
What gives most life, worth living, in an hour?
When Victory settles on the doubtful fight
And the last foeman wheels in panting flight,
No thrill like this is felt beneath the sun;
Life's sovereign moment is a battle won.
But say what next? To shape a Senate's choice,
By the strong magic of the master's voice;
To ride the stormy tempest of debate
That whirls the wavering fortunes of the state.
Third in the list, the happy lover's prize
Is won by honeyed words from women's eyes.
If some would have it first instead of third,
So let it be,--I answer not a word.
The fourth,--sweet readers, let the thoughtless half
Have its small shrug and inoffensive laugh;
Let the grave quarter wear its virtuous frown,
The stern half-quarter try to scowl us down;
But the last eighth, the choice and sifted few,
Will hear my words, and, pleased, confess them true.
Among the great whom Heaven has made to shine,
How few have learned the art of arts,--to dine!
Nature, indulgent to our daily need,
Kind-hearted mother! taught us all to feed;
But the chief art,--how rarely Nature flings
This choicest gift among her social kings
Say, man of truth, has life a brighter hour
Than waits the chosen guest who knows his power?
He moves with ease, itself an angel charm,--
Lifts with light touch my lady's jewelled arm,
Slides to his seat, half leading and half led,
Smiling but quiet till the grace is said,
Then gently kindles, while by slow degrees
Creep softly out the little arts that please;
Bright looks, the cheerful language of the eye,
The neat, crisp question and the gay reply,--
Talk light and airy, such as well may pass
Between the rested fork and lifted glass;--
With play like this the earlier evening flies,
Till rustling silks proclaim the ladies rise.
His hour has come,--he looks along the chairs,
As the Great Duke surveyed his iron squares.
That's the young traveller,--is n't much to show,--
Fast on the road, but at the table slow.
Next him,--you see the author in his look,--
His forehead lined with wrinkles like a book,--
Wrote the great history of the ancient Huns,--
Holds back to fire among the heavy guns.
Oh, there's our poet seated at his side,
Beloved of ladies, soft, cerulean-eyed.
Poets are prosy in their common talk,
As the fast trotters, for the most part, walk.
And there's our well-dressed gentleman, who sits,
By right divine, no doubt, among the wits,
Who airs his tailor's patterns when he walks,
The man that often speaks, but never talks.
Why should he talk, whose presence lends a grace
To every table where he shows his face?
He knows the manual of the silver fork,
Can name his claret--if he sees the cork,--
Remark that 'White-top' was considered fine,
But swear the 'Juno' is the better wine;--
Is not this talking? Ask Quintilian's rules;
If they say No, the town has many fools.
Pause for a moment,--for our eyes behold
The plain unsceptred king, the man of gold,
The thrice illustrious threefold millionnaire;
Mark his slow-creeping, dead, metallic stare;
His eyes, dull glimmering, like the balance-pan
That weighs its guinea as he weighs his man.
Who's next? An artist in a satin tie
Whose ample folds defeat the curious eye.
And there 's the cousin,--must be asked, you know,--
Looks like a spinster at a baby-show.
Hope he is cool,--they set him next the door,--
And likes his place, between the gap and bore.
Next comes a Congressman, distinguished guest
We don't count him,--they asked him with the rest;
And then some white cravats, with well-shaped ties,
And heads above them which their owners prize.
Of all that cluster round the genial board,
Not one so radiant as the banquet's lord.
Some say they fancy, but they know not why,
A shade of trouble brooding in his eye,
Nothing, perhaps,--the rooms are overhot,--
Yet see his cheek,--the dull-red burning spot,--
Taste the brown sherry which he does not pass,--
Ha! That is brandy; see him fill his glass!
But not forgetful of his feasting friends,
To each in turn some lively word he sends;
See how he throws his baited lines about,
And plays his men as anglers play their trout.
A question drops among the listening crew
And hits the traveller, pat on Timbuctoo.
We're on the Niger, somewhere near its source,--
Not the least hurry, take the river's course
Through Kissi, Foota, Kankan, Bammakoo,
Bambarra, Sego, so to Timbuctoo,
Thence down to Youri;--stop him if we can,
We can't fare worse,--wake up the Congressman!
The Congressman, once on his talking legs,
Stirs up his knowledge to its thickest dregs;
Tremendous draught for dining men to quaff!
Nothing will choke him but a purpling laugh.
A word,--a shout,--a mighty roar,--'t is done;
Extinguished; lassoed by a treacherous pun.
A laugh is priming to the loaded soul;
The scattering shots become a steady roll,
Broke by sharp cracks that run along the line,
The light artillery of the talker's wine.
The kindling goblets flame with golden dews,
The hoarded flasks their tawny fire diffuse,
And the Rhine's breast-milk gushes cold and bright,
Pale as the moon and maddening as her light;
With crimson juice the thirsty southern sky
Sucks from the hills where buried armies lie,
So that the dreamy passion it imparts
Is drawn from heroes' bones and lovers' hearts.
But lulls will come; the flashing soul transmits
Its gleams of light in alternating fits.
The shower of talk that rattled down amain
Ends in small patterings like an April's rain;
With the dry sticks all bonfires are begun;
Bring the first fagot, proser number one
The voices halt; the game is at a stand;
Now for a solo from the master-hand
'T is but a story,--quite a simple thing,--
An aria touched upon a single string,
But every accent comes with such a grace
The stupid servants listen in their place,
Each with his waiter in his lifted hands,
Still as a well-bred pointer when he stands.
A query checks him: 'Is he quite exact?'
(This from a grizzled, square-jawed man of fact.)
The sparkling story leaves him to his fate,
Crushed by a witness, smothered with a date,
As a swift river, sown with many a star,
Runs brighter, rippling on a shallow bar.
The smooth divine suggests a graver doubt;
A neat quotation bowls the parson out;
Then, sliding gayly from his own display,
He laughs the learned dulness all away.
So, with the merry tale and jovial song,
The jocund evening whirls itself along,
Till the last chorus shrieks its loud encore,
And the white neckcloths vanish through the door.
One savage word!--The menials know its tone,
And slink away; the master stands alone.
'Well played, by ---'; breathe not what were best unheard;
His goblet shivers while he speaks the word,--
'If wine tells truth,--and so have said the wise,--
It makes me laugh to think how brandy lies!
Bankrupt to-morrow,--millionnaire to-day,--
The farce is over,--now begins the play!'
The spring he touches lets a panel glide;
An iron closet harks beneath the slide,
Bright with such treasures as a search might bring
From the deep pockets of a truant king.
Two diamonds, eyeballs of a god of bronze,
Bought from his faithful priest, a pious bonze;
A string of brilliants; rubies, three or four;
Bags of old coin and bars of virgin ore;
A jewelled poniard and a Turkish knife,
Noiseless and useful if we come to strife.
Gone! As a pirate flies before the wind,
And not one tear for all he leaves behind
From all the love his better years have known
Fled like a felon,--ah! but not alone!
The chariot flashes through a lantern's glare,--
Oh the wild eyes! the storm of sable hair!
Still to his side the broken heart will cling,--
The bride of shame, the wife without the ring
Hark, the deep oath,--the wail of frenzied woe,--
Lost! lost to hope of Heaven and peace below!
He kept his secret; but the seed of crime
Bursts of itself in God's appointed time.
The lives he wrecked were scattered far and wide;
One never blamed nor wept,--she only died.
None knew his lot, though idle tongues would say
He sought a lonely refuge far away,
And there, with borrowed name and altered mien,
He died unheeded, as he lived unseen.
The moral market had the usual chills
Of Virtue suffering from protested bills;
The White Cravats, to friendship's memory true,
Sighed for the past, surveyed the future too;
Their sorrow breathed in one expressive line,--
'Gave pleasant dinners; who has got his wine?'
. . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The reader paused,--the Teacups knew his ways,--
He, like the rest, was not averse to praise.
Voices and hands united; every one
Joined in approval: 'Number Three, well done!'
'Now for the Exile's story; if my wits
Are not at fault, his curious record fits
Neatly as sequel to the tale we've heard;
Not wholly wild the fancy, nor absurd
That this our island hermit well might be
That story's hero, fled from over sea.
Come, Number Seven, we would not have you strain
The fertile powers of that inventive brain.
Read us 'The Exile's Secret'; there's enough
Of dream-like fiction and fantastic stuff
In the strange web of mystery that invests
The lonely isle where sea birds build their nests.'
'Lies! naught but lies!' so Number Seven began,--
No harm was known of that secluded man.
He lived alone,--who would n't if he might,
And leave the rogues and idiots out of sight?
A foolish story,--still, I'll do my best,--
The house was real,--don't believe the rest.
How could a ruined dwelling last so long
Without its legends shaped in tale and song?
Who was this man of whom they tell the lies?
Perhaps--why not?--NAPOLEON! in disguise,--
So some said, kidnapped from his ocean coop,
Brought to this island in a coasting sloop,--
Meanwhile a sham Napoleon in his place
Played Nap. and saved Sir Hudson from disgrace.
Such was one story; others used to say,
'No,--not Napoleon,--it was Marshal Ney.'
'Shot?' Yes, no doubt, but not with balls of lead,
But balls of pith that never shoot folks dead.
He wandered round, lived South for many a year,
At last came North and fixed his dwelling here.
Choose which you will of all the tales that pile
Their mingling fables on the tree-crowned isle.
Who wrote this modest version I suppose
That truthful Teacup, our Dictator, knows;
Made up of various legends, it would seem,
The sailor's yarn, the crazy poet's dream.
Such tales as this, by simple souls received,
At first are stared at and at last believed;
From threads like this the grave historians try
To weave their webs, and never know they lie.
Hear, then, the fables that have gathered round
The lonely home an exiled stranger found.
THESE hallowed precincts, long to memory dear,
Smile with fresh welcome as our feet draw near;
With softer gales the opening leaves are fanned,
With fairer hues the kindling flowers expand,
The rose-bush reddens with the blush of June,
The groves are vocal with their minstrels' tune,
The mighty elm, beneath whose arching shade
The wandering children of the forest strayed,
Greets the bright morning in its bridal dress,
And spreads its arms the gladsome dawn to bless.
Is it an idle dream that nature shares
Our joys, our griefs, our pastimes, and our cares?
Is there no summons when, at morning's call,
The sable vestments of the darkness fall?
Does not meek evening's low-voiced Ave blend
With the soft vesper as its notes ascend?
Is there no whisper in the perfumed air
When the sweet bosom of the rose is bare?
Does not the sunshine call us to rejoice?
Is there no meaning in the storm-cloud's voice?
No silent message when from midnight skies
Heaven looks upon us with its myriad eyes?
Or shift the mirror; say our dreams diffuse
O'er life's pale landscape their celestial hues,
Lend heaven the rainbow it has never known,
And robe the earth in glories not its own,
Sing their own music in the summer breeze,
With fresher foliage clothe the stately trees,
Stain the June blossoms with a livelier dye
And spread a bluer azure on the sky,--
Blest be the power that works its lawless will
And finds the weediest patch an Eden still;
No walls so fair as those our fancies build,--
No views so bright as those our visions gild!
So ran my lines, as pen and paper met,
The truant goose-quill travelling like Planchette;
Too ready servant, whose deceitful ways
Full many a slipshod line, alas! betrays;
Hence of the rhyming thousand not a few
Have builded worse--a great deal--than they knew.
What need of idle fancy to adorn
Our mother's birthplace on her birthday morn?
Hers are the blossoms of eternal spring,
From these green boughs her new-fledged birds take wing,
These echoes hear their earliest carols sung,
In this old nest the brood is ever young.
If some tired wanderer, resting from his flight,
Amid the gay young choristers alight,
These gather round him, mark his faded plumes
That faintly still the far-off grove perfumes,
And listen, wondering if some feeble note
Yet lingers, quavering in his weary throat:--
I, whose fresh voice yon red-faced temple knew,
What tune is left me, fit to sing to you?
Ask not the grandeurs of a labored song,
But let my easy couplets slide along;
Much could I tell you that you know too well;
Much I remember, but I will not tell;
Age brings experience; graybeards oft are wise,
But oh! how sharp a youngster's ears and eyes!
My cheek was bare of adolescent down
When first I sought the academic town;
Slow rolls the coach along the dusty road,
Big with its filial and parental load;
The frequent hills, the lonely woods are past,
The school-boy's chosen home is reached at last.
I see it now, the same unchanging spot,
The swinging gate, the little garden plot,
The narrow yard, the rock that made its floor,
The flat, pale house, the knocker-garnished door,
The small, trim parlor, neat, decorous, chill,
The strange, new faces, kind, but grave and still;
Two, creased with age,--or what I then called age,--
Life's volume open at its fiftieth page;
One, a shy maiden's, pallid, placid, sweet
As the first snow-drop, which the sunbeams greet;
One, the last nursling's; slight she was, and fair,
Her smooth white forehead warmed with auburn hair;
Last came the virgin Hymen long had spared,
Whose daily cares the grateful household shared,
Strong, patient, humble; her substantial frame
Stretched the chaste draperies I forbear to name.
Brave, but with effort, had the school-boy come
To the cold comfort of a stranger's home;
How like a dagger to my sinking heart
Came the dry summons, 'It is time to part;
Good-by!' 'Goo-ood-by!' one fond maternal kiss. . . .
Homesick as death! Was ever pang like this?
Too young as yet with willing feet to stray
From the tame fireside, glad to get away,--
Too old to let my watery grief appear,--
And what so bitter as a swallowed tear!
One figure still my vagrant thoughts pursue;
First boy to greet me, Ariel, where are you?
Imp of all mischief, heaven alone knows how
You learned it all,--are you an angel now,
Or tottering gently down the slope of years,
Your face grown sober in the vale of tears?
Forgive my freedom if you are breathing still;
If in a happier world, I know you will.
You were a school-boy--what beneath the sun
So like a monkey? I was also one.
Strange, sure enough, to see what curious shoots
The nursery raises from the study's roots!
In those old days the very, very good
Took up more room--a little--than they should;
Something too much one's eyes encountered then
Of serious youth and funeral-visaged men;
The solemn elders saw life's mournful half,--
Heaven sent this boy, whose mission was to laugh,
Drollest of buffos, Nature's odd protest,
A catbird squealing in a blackbird's nest.
Kind, faithful Nature! While the sour-eyed Scot--
Her cheerful smiles forbidden or forgot--
Talks only of his preacher and his kirk,--
Hears five-hour sermons for his Sunday work,--
Praying and fasting till his meagre face
Gains its due length, the genuine sign of grace,--
An Ayrshire mother in the land of Knox
Her embryo poet in his cradle rocks;--
Nature, long shivering in her dim eclipse,
Steals in a sunbeam to those baby lips;
So to its home her banished smile returns,
And Scotland sweetens with the song of Burns!
The morning came; I reached the classic hall;
A clock-face eyed me, staring from the wall;
Beneath its hands a printed line I read
YOUTH IS LIFE'S SEED-TIME: so the clock-face said:
Some took its counsel, as the sequel showed,--
Sowed,--their wild oats,--and reaped as they had sowed.
How all comes back! the upward slanting floor,--
The masters' thrones that flank the central door,--
The long, outstretching alleys that divide
The rows of desks that stand on either side,--
The staring boys, a face to every desk,
Bright, dull, pale, blooming, common, picturesque.
Grave is the Master's look; his forehead wears
Thick rows of wrinkles, prints of worrying cares;
Uneasy lie the heads of all that rule,
His most of all whose kingdom is a school.
Supreme he sits; before the awful frown
That bends his brows the boldest eye goes down;
Not more submissive Israel heard and saw
At Sinai's foot the Giver of the Law.
Less stern he seems, who sits in equal Mate
On the twin throne and shares the empire's weight;
Around his lips the subtle life that plays
Steals quaintly forth in many a jesting phrase;
A lightsome nature, not so hard to chafe,
Pleasant when pleased; rough-handled, not so safe;
Some tingling memories vaguely I recall,
But to forgive him. God forgive us all!
One yet remains, whose well-remembered name
Pleads in my grateful heart its tender claim;
His was the charm magnetic, the bright look
That sheds its sunshine on the dreariest book;
A loving soul to every task he brought
That sweetly mingled with the lore he taught;
Sprung from a saintly race that never could
From youth to age be anything but good,
His few brief years in holiest labors spent,
Earth lost too soon the treasure heaven had lent.
Kindest of teachers, studious to divine
Some hint of promise in my earliest line,
These faint and faltering words thou canst not hear
Throb from a heart that holds thy memory dear.
As to the traveller's eye the varied plain
Shows through the window of the flying train,
A mingled landscape, rather felt than seen,
A gravelly bank, a sudden flash of green,
A tangled wood, a glittering stream that flows
Through the cleft summit where the cliff once rose,
All strangely blended in a hurried gleam,
Rock, wood, waste, meadow, village, hill-side, stream,--
So, as we look behind us, life appears,
Seen through the vista of our bygone years.
Yet in the dead past's shadow-filled domain,
Some vanished shapes the hues of life retain;
Unbidden, oft, before our dreaming eyes
From the vague mists in memory's path they rise.
So comes his blooming image to my view,
The friend of joyous days when life was new,
Hope yet untamed, the blood of youth unchilled,
No blank arrear of promise unfulfilled,
Life's flower yet hidden in its sheltering fold,
Its pictured canvas yet to be unrolled.
His the frank smile I vainly look to greet,
His the warm grasp my clasping hand should meet;
How would our lips renew their school-boy talk,
Our feet retrace the old familiar walk!
For thee no more earth's cheerful morning shines
Through the green fringes of the tented pines;
Ah me! is heaven so far thou canst not hear,
Or is thy viewless spirit hovering near,
A fair young presence, bright with morning's glow,
The fresh-cheeked boy of fifty years ago?
Yes, fifty years, with all their circling suns,
Behind them all my glance reverted runs;
Where now that time remote, its griefs, its joys,
Where are its gray-haired men, its bright-haired boys?
Where is the patriarch time could hardly tire,--
The good old, wrinkled, immemorial 'squire '?
(An honest treasurer, like a black-plumed swan,
Not every day our eyes may look upon.)
Where the tough champion who, with Calvin's sword,
In wordy conflicts battled for the Lord?
Where the grave scholar, lonely, calm, austere,
Whose voice like music charmed the listening ear,
Whose light rekindled, like the morning star
Still shines upon us through the gates ajar?
Where the still, solemn, weary, sad-eyed man,
Whose care-worn face and wandering eyes would scan,--
His features wasted in the lingering strife
With the pale foe that drains the student's life?
Where my old friend, the scholar, teacher, saint,
Whose creed, some hinted, showed a speck of taint;
He broached his own opinion, which is not
Lightly to be forgiven or forgot;
Some riddle's point,--I scarce remember now,--
Homoi-, perhaps, where they said homo-ou.
(If the unlettered greatly wish to know
Where lies the difference betwixt oi and o,
Those of the curious who have time may search
Among the stale conundrums of their church.)
Beneath his roof his peaceful life I shared,
And for his modes of faith I little cared,--
I, taught to judge men's dogmas by their deeds,
Long ere the days of india-rubber creeds.
Why should we look one common faith to find,
Where one in every score is color-blind?
If here on earth they know not red from green,
Will they see better into things unseen!
Once more to time's old graveyard I return
And scrape the moss from memory's pictured urn.
Who, in these days when all things go by steam,
Recalls the stage-coach with its four-horse team?
Its sturdy driver,--who remembers him?
Or the old landlord, saturnine and grim,
Who left our hill-top for a new abode
And reared his sign-post farther down the road?
Still in the waters of the dark Shawshine
Do the young bathers splash and think they're clean?
Do pilgrims find their way to Indian Ridge,
Or journey onward to the far-off bridge,
And bring to younger ears the story back
Of the broad stream, the mighty Merrimac?
Are there still truant feet that stray beyond
These circling bounds to Pomp's or Haggett's Pond,
Or where the legendary name recalls
The forest's earlier tenant,--'Deerjump Falls'?
Yes, every nook these youthful feet explore,
Just as our sires and grand sires did of yore;
So all life's opening paths, where nature led
Their father's feet, the children's children tread.
Roll the round century's fivescore years away,
Call from our storied past that earliest day
When great Eliphalet (I can see him now,--
Big name, big frame, big voice, and beetling brow),
Then young Eliphalet,--ruled the rows of boys
In homespun gray or old-world corduroys,--
And save for fashion's whims, the benches show
The self-same youths, the very boys we know.
Time works strange marvels: since I trod the green
And swung the gates, what wonders I have seen!
But come what will,--the sky itself may fall,--
As things of course the boy accepts them all.
The prophet's chariot, drawn by steeds of flame,
For daily use our travelling millions claim;
The face we love a sunbeam makes our own;
No more the surgeon hears the sufferer's groan;
What unwrit histories wrapped in darkness lay
Till shovelling Schliemann bared them to the day!
Your Richelieu says, and says it well, my lord,
The pen is (sometimes) mightier than the sword;
Great is the goosequill, say we all; Amen!
Sometimes the spade is mightier than the pen;
It shows where Babel's terraced walls were raised,
The slabs that cracked when Nimrod's palace blazed,
Unearths Mycenee, rediscovers Troy,--
Calmly he listens, that immortal boy.
A new Prometheus tips our wands with fire,
A mightier Orpheus strains the whispering wire,
Whose lightning thrills the lazy winds outrun
And hold the hours as Joshua stayed the sun,--
So swift, in truth, we hardly find a place
For those dim fictions known as time and space.
Still a new miracle each year supplies,--
See at his work the chemist of the skies,
Who questions Sirius in his tortured rays
And steals the secret of the solar blaze;
Hush! while the window-rattling bugles play
The nation's airs a hundred miles away!
That wicked phonograph! hark! how it swears!
Turn it again and make it say its prayers!
And was it true, then, what the story said
Of Oxford's friar and his brazen head?
While wondering Science stands, herself perplexed
At each day's miracle, and asks 'What next?'
The immortal boy, the coming heir of all,
Springs from his desk to 'urge the flying ball,'
Cleaves with his bending oar the glassy waves,
With sinewy arm the dashing current braves,
The same bright creature in these haunts of ours
That Eton shadowed with her 'antique towers.'
Boy! Where is he? the long-limbed youth inquires,
Whom his rough chin with manly pride inspires;
Ah, when the ruddy cheek no longer glows,
When the bright hair is white as winter snows,
When the dim eye has lost its lambent flame,
Sweet to his ear will be his school-boy name
Nor think the difference mighty as it seems
Between life's morning and its evening dreams;
Fourscore, like twenty, has its tasks and toys;
In earth's wide school-house all are girls and boys.
Brothers, forgive my wayward fancy. Who
Can guess beforehand what his pen will do?
Too light my strain for listeners such as these,
Whom graver thoughts and soberer speech shall please.
Is he not here whose breath of holy song
Has raised the downcast eyes of Faith so long?
Are they not here, the strangers in your gates,
For whom the wearied ear impatient waits,--
The large-brained scholars whom their toils release,--
The bannered heralds of the Prince of Peace?
Such was the gentle friend whose youth unblamed
In years long past our student-benches claimed;
Whose name, illumined on the sacred page,
Lives in the labors of his riper age;
Such he whose record time's destroying march
Leaves uneffaced on Zion's springing arch
Not to the scanty phrase of measured song,
Cramped in its fetters, names like these belong;
One ray they lend to gild my slender line,--
Their praise I leave to sweeter lips than mine.
Homes of our sires, where Learning's temple rose,
While vet they struggled with their banded foes,
As in the West thy century's sun descends,
One parting gleam its dying radiance lends.
Darker and deeper though the shadows fall
From the gray towers on Doubting Castle's wall,
Though Pope and Pagan re-array their hosts,
And her new armor youthful Science boasts,
Truth, for whose altar rose this holy shrine,
Shall fly for refuge to these bowers of thine;
No past shall chain her with its rusted vow,
No Jew's phylactery bind her Christian brow,
But Faith shall smile to find her sister free,
And nobler manhood draw its life from thee.
Long as the arching skies above thee spread,
As on thy groves the dews of heaven are shed,
With currents widening still from year to year,
And deepening channels, calm, untroubled, clear,
Flow the twin streamlets from thy sacred hill--
Pieria's fount and Siloam's shaded rill!
The tale I tell is gospel true,
As all the bookmen know,
And pilgrims who have strayed to view
The wrecks still left to show.
The old, old story,â€”Âfair, and young,
And fond,â€”Âand not too wise,â€”Â
That matrons tell, with sharpened tongue,
To maids with downcast eyes.
Ah! maidens err and matrons warn
Beneath the coldest sky;
Love lurks amid the tasselled corn
As in the bearded rye!
But who would dream our sober sires
Had learned the old worldâ€™s ways,
And warmed their hearths with lawless fires
In Shirleyâ€™s homespun days?
â€™T is like some poetâ€™s pictured trance
His idle rhymes recite,â€”Â
This old New England-born romance
Of Agnes and the Knight;
Yet, known to all the country round,
Their home is standing still,
Between Wachusettâ€™s lonely mound
And Shawmutâ€™s threefold hill.
One hour we rumble on the rail,
One half-hour guide the rein,
We reach at last, oâ€™er hill and dale,
The village on the plain.
With blackening wall and mossy roof,
With stained and warping floor,
A stately mansion stands aloof
And bars its haughty door.
This lowlier portal may be tried,
That breaks the gable wall;
And lo! with arches opening wide,
Sir Harry Franklandâ€™s hall!
â€™T was in the second Georgeâ€™s day
They sought the forest shade,
The knotted trunks they cleared away,
The massive beams they laid,
They piled the rock-hewn chimney tall,
They smoothed the terraced ground,
They reared the marble-pillared wall
That fenced the mansion round.
Far stretched beyond the village bound
The Masterâ€™s broad domain;
With page and valet, horse and hound,
He kept a goodly train.
And, all the midland county through,
The ploughman stopped to gaze
Wheneâ€™er his chariot swept in view
Behind the shining bays,
With mute obeisance, grave and slow,
Repaid by nod polite,â€”Â
For such the way with high and low
Till after Concord fight.
Nor less to courtly circles known
That graced the three-hilled town
With far-off splendors of the Throne,
And glimmerings from the Crown;
Wise Phipps, who held the seals of state
For Shirley over sea;
Brave Knowles, whose press-gang moved of late
The King Street mobâ€™s decree;
And judges grave, and colonels grand,
Fair dames and stately men,
The mighty people of the land,
The â€œWorldâ€ of there and then.
â€™T was strange no Chloeâ€™s â€œbeauteous Form,â€
And â€œEyesâ€™ celestial Blew,â€
This Strephon of the West could warm,
No Nymph his Heart subdue.
Perchance he wooed as gallants use,
Whom fleeting loves enchain,
But still unfettered, free to choose,
Would brook no bridle-rein.
He saw the fairest of the fair,
But smiled alike on all;
No band his roving foot might snare,
No ring his hand enthrall.
Why seeks the knight that rocky cape
Beyond the Bay of Lynn?
What chance his wayward course may shape
To reach its village inn?
No story tells; whateâ€™er we guess,
The past lies deaf and still,
But Fate, who rules to blight or bless,
Can lead us where she will.
Make way! Sir Harryâ€™s coach and four,
And liveried grooms that ride!
They cross the ferry, touch the shore
On Winnisimmetâ€™s side.
They hear the wash on Chelsea Beach,â€”Â
The level marsh they pass,
Where miles on miles the desert reach
Is rough with bitter grass.
The shining horses foam and pant,
And now the smells begin
Of fishy Swampscott, salt Nahant,
And leather-scented Lynn.
Next, on their left, the slender spires
And glittering vanes that crown
The home of Salemâ€™s frugal sires,
The old, witch-haunted town.
So onward, oâ€™er the rugged way
That runs through rocks and sand,
Showered by the tempest-driven spray,
From bays on either hand,
That shut between their outstretched arms
The crews of Marblehead,
The lords of oceanâ€™s watery farms,
Who plough the waves for bread.
At last the ancient inn appears,
The spreading elm below,
Whose flapping sign these fifty years
Has seesawed to and fro.
How fair the azure fields in sight
Before the low-browed inn
The tumbling billows fringe with light
The crescent shore of Lynn;
Nahant thrusts outward through the waves
Her arm of yellow sand,
And breaks the roaring surge that braves
The gauntlet on her hand;
With eddying whirl the waters lock
Yon treeless mound forlorn,
The sharp-winged sea-fowlâ€™s breeding-rock,
That fronts the Spouting Horn;
Then free the white-sailed shallops glide,
And wide the ocean smiles,
Till, shoreward bent, his streams divide
The two bare Misery Isles.
The masterâ€™s silent signal stays
The wearied cavalcade;
The coachman reins his smoking bays
Beneath the elm-treeâ€™s shade.
A gathering on the village green!
The cocked-hats crowd to see,
On legs in ancient velveteen,
With buckles at the knee.
A clustering round the tavern-door
Of square-toed village boys,
Still wearing, as their grandsires wore,
The old-world corduroys!
A scampering at the â€œFountainâ€ inn,â€”â€“Â
A rush of great and small,â€”Â
With hurrying servantsâ€™ mingled din
And screaming matronâ€™s call.
Poor Agnes! with her work half done
They caught her unaware;
As, humbly, like a praying nun,
She knelt upon the stair;
Bent oâ€™er the steps, with lowliest mien
She knelt, but not to pray,â€”Â
Her little hands must keep them clean,
And wash their stains away.
A foot, an ankle, bare and white,
Her girlish shapes betrayed,â€”Â
â€œHa! Nymphs and Graces!â€ spoke the Knight;
â€œLook up, my beauteous Maid!â€
She turned,â€”Âa reddening rose in bud,
Its calyx half withdrawn,â€”Â
Her cheek on fire with damasked blood
Of girlhoodâ€™s glowing dawn!
He searched her features through and through,
As royal lovers look
On lowly maidens, when they woo
Without the ring and book.
â€œCome hither, Fair one! Here, my Sweet!
Nay, prithee, look not down!
Take this to shoe those little feet,â€â€”Â
He tossed a silver crown.
A sudden paleness struck her brow,â€”Â
A swifter blush succeeds;
It burns her cheek; it kindles now
Beneath her golden beads.
She flitted, but the glittering eye
Still sought the lovely face.
Who was she? What, and whence? and why
Doomed to such menial place?
A skipperâ€™s daughter,â€”Âso they said,â€”Â
Left orphan by the gale
That cost the fleet of Marblehead
And Gloucester thirty sail.
Ah! many a lonely home is found
Along the Essex shore,
That cheered its goodman outward bound,
And sees his face no more!
â€œNot so,â€ the matron whispered,â€”Ââ€œsure
No orphan girl is she,â€”Â
The Surriage folk are deadly poor
Since Edward left the sea,
â€œAnd Mary, with her growing brood,
Has work enough to do
To find the children clothes and food
With Thomas, John, and Hugh.
â€œThis girl of Maryâ€™s, growing tall,â€”Â
(Just turned her sixteenth year,)â€”Â
To earn her bread and help them all,
Would work as housemaid here.â€
So Agnes, with her golden beads,
And naught beside as dower,
Grew at the wayside with the weeds,
Herself a garden-flower.
â€™T was strange, â€™t was sad,â€”Âso fresh, so fair!
Thus Pityâ€™s voice began.
Such grace! an angelâ€™s shape and air!
The half-heard whisper ran.
For eyes could see in Georgeâ€™s time,
As now in later days,
And lips could shape, in prose and rhyme,
The honeyed breath of praise.
No time to woo! The train must go
Long ere the sun is down,
To reach, before the night-winds blow,
The many-steepled town.
â€™T is midnight,â€”Âstreet and square are still;
Dark roll the whispering waves
That lap the piers beneath the hill
Ridged thick with ancient graves.
Ah, gentle sleep! thy hand will smooth
The weary couch of pain,
When all thy poppies fail to soothe
The loverâ€™s throbbing brain!
â€™T is morn,â€”Âthe orange-mantled sun
Breaks through the fading gray,
And long and loud the Castle gun
Peals oâ€™er the glistening bay.
â€œThank God â€™t is day!â€ With eager eye
He hails the morning shine:â€”Â
â€œIf art can win, or gold can buy,
The maiden shall be mine!â€
â€œWho saw this hussy when she came?
What is the wench, and who?â€
They whisper. â€œAgnesâ€”Âis her name?
Pray what has she to do?â€
The housemaids parley at the gate,
The scullions on the stair,
And in the footmenâ€™s grave debate
The butler deigns to share.
Black Dinah, stolen when a child,
And sold on Boston pier,
Grown up in service, petted, spoiled,
Speaks in the coachmanâ€™s ear:
â€œWhat, all this household at his will?
And all are yet too few?
More servants, and more servants still,â€”Â
This pert young madam too!â€
â€œServant! fine servant!â€ laughed aloud
The man of coach and steeds;
â€œShe looks too fair, she steps too proud,
This girl with golden beads!
â€œI tell you, you may fret and frown,
And call her what you choose,
You â€™ll find my Lady in her gown,
Your Mistress in her shoes!â€
Ah, gentle maidens, free from blame,
God grant you never know
The little whisper, loud with shame,
That makes the world your foe!
Why tell the lordly flattererâ€™s art,
That won the maidenâ€™s ear,â€”Â
The fluttering of the frightened heart,
The blush, the smile, the tear?
Alas! it were the saddening tale
That every language knows,â€”Â
The wooing wind, the yielding sail,
The sunbeam and the rose.
And now the gown of sober stuff
Has changed to fair brocade,
With broidered hem, and hanging cuff,
And flower of silken braid;
And clasped around her blanching wrist
A jewelled bracelet shines,
Her flowing tressesâ€™ massive twist
A glittering net confines;
And mingling with their truant wave
A fretted chain is hung;
But ah! the gift her mother gave,â€”Â
Its beads are all unstrung!
Her place is at the masterâ€™s board,
Where none disputes her claim;
She walks beside the mansionâ€™s lord,
His bride in all but name.
The busy tongues have ceased to talk,
Or speak in softened tone,
So gracious in her daily walk
The angel light has shown.
No want that kindness may relieve
Assails her heart in vain,
The lifting of a ragged sleeve
Will check her palfreyâ€™s rein.
A thoughtful calm, a quiet grace
In every movement shown,
Reveal her moulded for the place
She may not call her own.
And, save that on her youthful brow
There broods a shadowy care,
No matron sealed with holy vow
In all the land so fair.
A ship comes foaming up the bay,
Along the pier she glides;
Before her furrow melts away,
A courier mounts and rides.
â€œHaste, Haste, post Haste!â€ the letters bear;
â€œSir Harry Frankland, These.â€
Sad news to tell the loving pair!
The knight must cross the seas.
â€œAlas! we part!â€â€”Âthe lips that spoke
Lost all their rosy red,
As when a crystal cup is broke,
And all its wine is shed.
â€œNay, droop not thus,â€”Âwhereâ€™er,â€ he cried,
â€œI go by land or sea,
My love, my life, my joy, my pride,
Thy place is still by me!â€
Through town and city, far and wide,
Their wandering feet have strayed,
From Alpine lake to ocean tide,
And cold Sierraâ€™s shade.
At length they see the waters gleam
Amid the fragrant bowers
Where Lisbon mirrors in the stream
Her belt of ancient towers.
Red is the orange on its bough,
To-morrowâ€™s sun shall fling
Oâ€™er Cintraâ€™s hazel-shaded brow
The flush of Aprilâ€™s wing.
The streets are loud with noisy mirth,
They dance on every green;
The morningâ€™s dial marks the birth
Of proud Braganzaâ€™s queen.
At eve beneath their pictured dome
The gilded courtiers throng;
The broad moidores have cheated Rome
Of all her lords of song.
AH! Lisbon dreams not of the dayâ€”Â
Pleased with her painted scenesâ€”Â
When all her towers shall slide away
As now these canvas screens!
The spring has passed, the summer fled,
And yet they linger still,
Though autumnâ€™s rustling leaves have spread
The flank of Cintraâ€™s hill.
The town has learned their Saxon name,
And touched their English gold,
Nor tale of doubt nor hint of blame
From over sea is told.
Three hours the first November dawn
Has climbed with feeble ray
Through mists like heavy curtains drawn
Before the darkened day.
How still the muffled echoes sleep!
Hark! hark! a hollow sound,â€”Â
A noise like chariots rumbling deep
Beneath the solid ground.
The channel lifts, the water slides
And bares its bar of sand,
Anon a mountain billow strides
And crashes oâ€™er the land.
The turrets lean, the steeples reel
Like masts on oceanâ€™s swell,
And clash a long discordant peal,
The death-doomed cityâ€™s knell.
The pavement bursts, the earth upheaves
Beneath the staggering town!
The turrets crackâ€”Âthe castle cleavesâ€”Â
The spires come rushing down.
Around, the lurid mountains glow
With strange unearthly gleams;
While black abysses gape below,
Then close in jagged seams.
And all is over. Street and square
In ruined heaps are piled;
Ah! where is she, so frail, so fair,
Amid the tumult wild?
Unscathed, she treads the wreck-piled street,
Whose narrow gaps afford
A pathway for her bleeding feet,
To seek her absent lord.
A templeâ€™s broken walls arrest
Her wild and wandering eyes;
Beneath its shattered portal pressed,
Her lord unconscious lies.
The power that living hearts obey
Shall lifeless blocks withstand?
Love led her footsteps where he lay,â€”Â
Love nerves her womanâ€™s hand.
One cry,â€”Âthe marble shaft she grasps,â€”Â
Up heaves the ponderous stone:â€”Â
He breathes,â€”Âher fainting form he clasps,â€”Â
Her life has bought his own!
How like the starless night of death
Our beingâ€™s brief eclipse,
When faltering heart and failing breath
Have bleached the fading lips!
The earth has folded like a wave,
And thrice a thousand score,
Clasped, shroudless, in their closing grave,
The sun shall see no more!
She lives! What guerdon shall repay
His debt of ransomed life?
One word can charm all wrongs away,â€”Â
The sacred name of WIFE!
The love that won her girlish charms
Must shield her matron fame,
And write beneath the Frankland arms
The village beautyâ€™s name.
Go, call the priest! no vain delay
Shall dim the sacred ring!
Who knows what change the passing day,
The fleeting hour, may bring?
Before the holy altar bent,
There kneels a goodly pair;
A stately man, of high descent,
A woman, passing fair.
No jewels lend the blinding sheen
That meaner beauty needs,
But on her bosom heaves unseen
A string of golden beads.
The vow is spoke,â€”Âthe prayer is said,â€”Â
And with a gentle pride
The Lady Agnes lifts her head,
Sir Harry Franklandâ€™s bride.
No more her faithful heart shall bear
Those griefs so meekly borne,â€”Â
The passing sneer, the freezing stare,
The icy look of scorn;
No more the blue-eyed English dames
Their haughty lips shall curl,
Wheneâ€™er a hissing whisper names
The poor New England girl.
But stay!â€”Âhis motherâ€™s haughty brow,â€”Â
The pride of ancient race,â€”Â
Will plighted faith, and holy vow,
Win back her fond embrace?
Too well she knew the saddening tale
Of love no vow had blest,
That turned his blushing honors pale
And stained his knightly crest.
They seek his Northern home,â€”Âalas
He goes alone before;â€”Â
His own dear Agnes may not pass
The proud, ancestral door.
He stood before the stately dame;
He spoke; she calmly heard,
But not to pity, nor to blame;
She breathed no single word.
He told his love,â€”Âher faith betrayed;
She heard with tearless eyes;
Could she forgive the erring maid?
She stared in cold surprise.
How fond her heart, he told,â€”Âhow true;
The haughty eyelids fell;â€”Â
The kindly deeds she loved to do;
She murmured, â€œIt is well.â€
But when he told that fearful day,
And how her feet were led
To where entombed in life he lay,
The breathing with the dead,
And how she bruised her tender breasts
Against the crushing stone,
That still the strong-armed clown protests
No man can lift alone,â€”Â
Oh! then the frozen spring was broke;
By turns she wept and smiled;â€”Â
â€œSweet Agnes!â€ so the mother spoke,
â€œGod bless my angel child.
â€œShe saved thee from the jaws of death,â€”Â
â€™T is thine to right her wrongs;
I tell thee,â€”ÂI, who gave thee breath,â€”Â
To her thy life belongs!â€
Thus Agnes won her noble name,
Her lawless loverâ€™s hand;
The lowly maiden so became
A lady in the land!
The tale is done; it little needs
To track their after ways,
And string again the golden beads
Of loveâ€™s uncounted days.
They leave the fair ancestral isle
For bleak New Englandâ€™s shore;
How gracious is the courtly smile
Of all who frowned before!
Again through Lisbonâ€™s orange bowers
They watch the riverâ€™s gleam,
And shudder as her shadowy towers
Shake in the trembling stream.
Fate parts at length the fondest pair;
His cheek, alas! grows pale;
The breast that trampling death could spare
His noiseless shafts assail.
He longs to change the heaven of blue
For Englandâ€™s clouded sky,â€”Â
To breathe the air his boyhood knew;
He seeks then but to die.
Hard by the terraced hillside town,
Where healing streamlets run,
Still sparkling with their old renown,â€”Â
The â€œWaters of the Sun,â€â€”Â
The Lady Agnes raised the stone
That marks his honored grave,
And there Sir Harry sleeps alone
By Wiltshire Avonâ€™s wave.
The home of early love was dear;
She sought its peaceful shade,
And kept her state for many a year,
With none to make afraid.
At last the evil days were come
That saw the red cross fall;
She hears the rebelsâ€™ rattling drum,â€”Â
Farewell to Frankland Hall!
I tell you, as my tale began,
The hall is standing still;
And you, kind listener, maid or man,
May see it if you will.
The box is glistening huge and green,
Like trees the lilacs grow,
Three elms high-arching still are seen,
And one lies stretched below.
The hangings, rough with velvet flowers,
Flap on the latticed wall;
And oâ€™er the mossy ridge-pole towers
The rock-hewn chimney tall.
The doors on mighty hinges clash
With massive bolt and bar,
The heavy English-moulded sash
Scarce can the night-winds jar.
Behold the chosen room he sought
Alone, to fast and pray,
Each year, as chill November brought
The dismal earthquake day.
There hung the rapier blade he wore,
Bent in its flattened sheath;
The coat the shrieking woman tore
Caught in her clenching teeth;â€”Â
The coat with tarnished silver lace
She snapped at as she slid,
And down upon her death-white face
Crashed the huge coffinâ€™s lid.
A graded terrace yet remains;
If on its turf you stand
And look along the wooded plains
That stretch on either hand,
The broken forest walls define
A dim, receding view,
Where, on the far horizonâ€™s line,
He cut his vista through.
If further story you shall crave,
Or ask for living proof,
Go see old Julia, born a slave
Beneath Sir Harryâ€™s roof.
She told me half that I have told,
And she remembers well
The mansion as it looked of old
Before its glories fell;â€”Â
The box, when round the terraced square
Its glossy wall was drawn;
The climbing vines, the snow-balls fair,
The roses on the lawn.
And Julia says, with truthful look
Stamped on her wrinkled face,
That in her own black hands she took
The coat with silver lace.
And you may hold the story light,
Or, if you like, believe;
But there it was, the womanâ€™s bite,â€”Â
A mouthful from the sleeve.
Now go your ways;â€”ÂI need not tell
The moral of my rhyme;
But, youths and maidens, ponder well
This tale of olden time!
Poetry: A Metrical Essay, Read Before The Phi Beta Kappa Society, Harvard
To Charles Wentworth Upham, the Following Metrical Essay is Affectionately Inscribed.
Scenes of my youth! awake its slumbering fire!
Ye winds of Memory, sweep the silent lyre!
Ray of the past, if yet thou canst appear,
Break through the clouds of Fancyâ€™s waning year;
Chase from her breast the thin autumnal snow,
If leaf or blossom still is fresh below!
Long have I wandered; the returning tide
Brought back an exile to his cradleâ€™s side;
And as my bark her time-worn flag unrolled,
To greet the land-breeze with its faded fold,
So, in remembrance of my boyhoodâ€™s time,
I lift these ensigns of neglected rhyme;
Oh, more than blest, that, all my wanderings through,
My anchor falls where first my pennons flew!
The morning light, which rains its quivering beams
Wide oâ€™er the plains, the summits, and the streams,
In one broad blaze expands its golden glow
On all that answers to its glance below;
Yet, changed on earth, each far reflected ray
Braids with fresh hues the shining brow of day;
Now, clothed in blushes by the painted flowers,
Tracks on their cheeks the rosy-fingered hours;
Now, lost in shades, whose dark entangled leaves
Drip at the noontide from their pendent eaves,
Fades into gloom, or gleams in light again
From every dew-drop on the jewelled plain.
We, like the leaf, the summit, or the wave,
Reflect the light our common nature gave,
But every sunbeam, falling from her throne,
Wears on our hearts some coloring of our own
Chilled in the slave, and burning in the free,
Like the sealed cavern by the sparkling sea;
Lost, like the lightning in the sullen clod,
Or shedding radiance, like the smiles of God;
Pure, pale in Virtue, as the star above,
Or quivering roseate on the leaves of Love;
Glaring like noontide, where it glows upon
Ambitionâ€™s sands,â€”Âthe desert in the sun,â€”Â
Or soft suffusing oâ€™er the varied scene
Lifeâ€™s common coloring,â€”Âintellectual green.
Thus Heaven, repeating its material plan,
Arched over all the rainbow mind of man;
But he who, blind to universal laws,
Sees but effects, unconscious of their cause,â€”Â
Believes each image in itself is bright,
Not robed in drapery of reflected light,â€”Â
Is like the rustic who, amidst his toil,
Has found some crystal in his meagre soil,
And, lost in rapture, thinks for him alone
Earth worked her wonders on the sparkling stone,
Nor dreams that Nature, with as nice a line,
Carved countless angles through the boundless mine.
Thus err the many, who, entranced to find
Unwonted lustre in some clearer mind,
Believe that Genius sets the laws at naught
Which chain the pinions of our wildest thought;
Untaught to measure, with the eye of art,
The wandering fancy or the wayward heart;
Who match the little only with the less,
And gaze in rapture at its slight excess,
Proud of a pebble, as the brightest gem
Whose light might crown an emperorâ€™s diadem.
And, most of all, the pure ethereal fire
Which seems to radiate from the poetâ€™s lyre
Is to the world a mystery and a charm,
An AEgis wielded on a mortalâ€™s arm,
While Reason turns her dazzled eye away,
And bows her sceptre to her subjectâ€™s sway;
And thus the poet, clothed with godlike state,
Usurped his Makerâ€™s titleâ€”Âto create;
He, whose thoughts differing not in shape, but dress,
What others feel more fitly can express,
Sits like the maniac on his fancied throne,
Peeps through the bars, and calls the world his own.
There breathes no being but has some pretence
To that fine instinct called poetic sense
The rudest savage, roaming through the wild;
The simplest rustic, bending oâ€™er his child;
The infant, listening to the warbling bird;
The mother, smiling at its half-formed word;
The boy uncaged, who tracks the fields at large;
The girl, turned matron to her babe-like charge;
The freeman, casting with unpurchased hand
The vote that shakes the turret of the land;
The slave, who, slumbering on his rusted chain,
Dreams of the palm-trees on his burning plain;
The hot-cheeked reveller, tossing down the wine,
To join the chorus pealing â€œAuld lang syneâ€;
The gentle maid, whose azure eye grows dim,
While Heaven is listening to her evening hymn;
The jewelled beauty, when her steps draw near
The circling dance and dazzling chandelier;
Eâ€™en trembling age, when Springâ€™s renewing air
Waves the thin ringlets of his silvered hair;â€”Â
All, all are glowing with the inward flame,
Whose wider halo wreathes the poetâ€™s name,
While, unenbalmed, the silent dreamer dies,
His memory passing with his smiles and sighs!
If glorious visions, born for all mankind,
The bright auroras of our twilight mind;
If fancies, varying as the shapes that lie
Stained on the windows of the sunset sky;
If hopes, that beckon with delusive gleams,
Till the eye dances in the void of dreams;
If passions, following with the winds that urge
Earthâ€™s wildest wanderer to her farthest verge;â€”Â
If these on all some transient hours bestow
Of rapture tingling with its hectic glow,
Then all are poets; and if earth had rolled
Her myriad centuries, and her doom were told,
Each moaning billow of her shoreless wave
Would wail its requiem oâ€™er a poetâ€™s grave!
If to embody in a breathing word
Tones that the spirit trembled when it heard;
To fix the image all unveiled and warm,
And carve in language its ethereal form,
So pure, so perfect, that the lines express
No meagre shrinking, no unlaced excess;
To feel that art, in living truth, has taught
Ourselves, reflected in the sculptured thought;â€”Â
If this alone bestow the right to claim
The deathless garland and the sacred name,
Then none are poets save the saints on high,
Whose harps can murmur all that words deny!
But though to none is granted to reveal
In perfect semblance all that each may feel,
As withered flowers recall forgotten love,
So, warmed to life, our faded passions move
In every line, where kindling fancy throws
The gleam of pleasures or the shade of woes.
When, schooled by time, the stately queen of art
Had smoothed the pathways leading to the heart,
Assumed her measured tread, her solemn tone,
And round her courts the clouds of fable thrown,
The wreaths of heaven descended on her shrine,
And wondering earth proclaimed the Muse divine.
Yet if her votaries had but dared profane
The mystic symbols of her sacred reign,
How had they smiled beneath the veil to find
What slender threads can chain the mighty mind!
Poets, like painters, their machinery claim,
And verse bestows the varnish and the frame;
Our grating English, whose Teutonic jar
Shakes the racked axle of Artâ€™s rattling car,
Fits like mosaic in the lines that gird
Fast in its place each many-angled word;
From Saxon lips Anacreonâ€™s numbers glide,
As once they melted on the Teian tide,
And, fresh transfused, the Iliad thrills again
From Albionâ€™s cliffs as oâ€™er Achaiaâ€™s plain
The proud heroic, with, its pulse-like beat,
Rings like the cymbals clashing as they meet;
The sweet Spenserian, gathering as it flows,
Sweeps gently onward to its dying close,
Where waves on waves in long succession pour,
Till the ninth billow melts along the shore;
The lonely spirit of the mournful lay,
Which lives immortal as the verse of Gray,
In sable plumage slowly drifts along,
On eagle pinion, through the air of song;
The glittering lyric bounds elastic by,
With flashing ringlets and exulting eye,
While every image, in her airy whirl,
Gleams like a diamond on a dancing girl!
Born with mankind, with manâ€™s expanded range
And varying fates the poetâ€™s numbers change;
Thus in his history may we hope to find
Some clearer epochs of the poetâ€™s mind,
As from the cradle of its birth we trace,
Slow wandering forth, the patriarchal race.
When the green earth, beneath the zephyrâ€™s wing,
Wears on her breast the varnished buds of Spring;
When the loosed current, as its folds uncoil,
Slides in the channels of the mellowed soil;
When the young hyacinth returns to seek
The air and sunshine with her emerald beak;
When the light snowdrops, starting from their cells,
Hang each pagoda with its silver bells;
When the frail willow twines her trailing bow
With pallid leaves that sweep the soil below;
When the broad elm, sole empress of the plain,
Whose circling shadow speaks a centuryâ€™s reign,
Wreathes in the clouds her regal diadem,â€”Â
A forest waving on a single stem;â€”Â
Then mark the poet; though to him unknown
The quaint-mouthed titles, such as scholars own,
See how his eye in ecstasy pursues
The steps of Nature tracked in radiant hues;
Nay, in thyself, whateâ€™er may be thy fate,
Pallid with toil or surfeited with state,
Mark how thy fancies, with the vernal rose,
Awake, all sweetness, from their long repose;
Then turn to ponder oâ€™er the classic page,
Traced with the idyls of a greener age,
And learn the instinct which arose to warm
Artâ€™s earliest essay and her simplest form.
To themes like these her narrow path confined
The first-born impulse moving in the mind;
In vales unshaken by the trumpetâ€™s sound,
Where peaceful Labor tills his fertile ground,
The silent changes of the rolling years,
Marked on the soil or dialled on the spheres,
The crested forests and the colored flowers,
The dewy grottos and the blushing bowers,â€”Â
These, and their guardians, who, with liquid names,
Strephons and Chloes, melt in mutual flames,
Woo the young Muses from their mountain shade,
To make Arcadias in the lonely glade.
Nor think they visit only with their smiles
The fabled valleys and Elysian isles;
He who is wearied of his village plain
May roam the Edens of the world in vain.
â€™T is not the star-crowned cliff, the cataractâ€™s flow,
The softer foliage or the greener glow,
The lake of sapphire or the spar-hung cave,
The brighter sunset or the broader wave,
Can warm his heart whom every wind has blown
To every shore, forgetful of his own.
Home of our childhood! how affection clings
And hovers round thee with her seraph wings!
Dearer thy hills, though clad in autumn brown,
Than fairest summits which the cedars crown!
Sweeter the fragrance of thy summer breeze
Than all Arabia breathes along the seas!
The strangerâ€™s gale wafts home the exileâ€™s sigh,
For the heartâ€™s temple is its own blue sky!
Oh happiest they, whose early love unchanged,
Hopes undissolved, and friendship unestranged,
Tired of their wanderings, still can deign to see
Love, hopes, and friendship, centring all in thee!
And thou, my village! as again I tread
Amidst thy living and above thy dead;
Though some fair playmates guard with charter fears
Their cheeks, grown holy with the lapse of years;
Though with the dust some reverend locks may blend,
Where lifeâ€™s last mile-stone marks the journeyâ€™s end;
On every bud the changing year recalls,
The brightening glance of morning memory falls,
Still following onward as the months unclose
The balmy lilac or the bridal rose;
And still shall follow, till they sink once more
Beneath the snow-drifts of the frozen shore,
As when my bark, long tossing in the gale,
Furled in her port her tempest-rended sail!
What shall I give thee? Can a simple lay,
Flung on thy bosom like a girlâ€™s bouquet,
Do more than deck thee for an idle hour,
Then fall unheeded, fading like the flower?
Yet, when I trod, with footsteps wild and free,
The crackling leaves beneath yon linden-tree,
Panting from play or dripping from the stream,
How bright the visions of my boyish dream
Or, modest Charles, along thy broken edge,
Black with soft ooze and fringed with arrowy sedge,
As once I wandered in the morning sun,
With reeking sandal and superfluous gun,
How oft, as Fancy whispered in the gale,
Thou wast the Avon of her flattering tale!
Ye hills, whose foliage, fretted on the skies,
Prints shadowy arches on their evening dyes,
How should my song with holiest charm invest
Each dark ravine and forest-lifting crest!
How clothe in beauty each familiar scene,
Till all was classic on my native green!
As the drained fountain, filled with autumn leaves,
The field swept naked of its garnered sheaves,
So wastes at noon the promise of our dawn,
The springs all choking, and the harvest gone.
Yet hear the lay of one whose natal star
Still seemed the brightest when it shone afar;
Whose cheek, grown pallid with ungracious toil,
Glows in the welcome of his parent soil;
And ask no garlands sought beyond the tide,
But take the leaflets gathered at your side.
But times were changed; the torch of terror came,
To light the summits with the beaconâ€™s flame;
The streams ran crimson, the tall mountain pines
Rose a new forest oâ€™er embattled lines;
The bloodless sickle lent the warriorâ€™s steel,
The harvest bowed beneath his chariot wheel;
Where late the wood-dove sheltered her repose
The raven waited for the conflictâ€™s close;
The cuirassed sentry walked his sleepless round
Where Daphne smiled or Amaryllis frowned;
Where timid minstrels sung their blushing charms,
Some wild Tyrtaeus called aloud, â€œTo arms!â€
When Glory wakes, when fiery spirits leap,
Roused by her accents from their tranquil sleep,
The ray that flashes from the soldierâ€™s crest
Lights, as it glances, in the poetâ€™s breast;â€”Â
Not in pale dreamers, whose fantastic lay
Toys with smooth trifles like a child at play,
But men, who act the passions they inspire,
Who wave the sabre as they sweep the lyre!
Ye mild enthusiasts, whose pacific frowns
Are lost like dew-drops caught in burning towns,
Pluck as ye will the radiant plumes of fame,
Break Caesarâ€™s bust to make yourselves a name;
But if your country bares the avengerâ€™s blade
For wrongs unpunished or for debts unpaid,
When the roused nation bids her armies form,
And screams her eagle through the gathering storm,
When from your ports the bannered frigate rides,
Her black bows scowling to the crested tides,
Your hour has past; in vain your feeble cry
As the babeâ€™s wailings to the thundering sky!
Scourge of mankind! with all the dread array
That wraps in wrath thy desolating way,
As the wild tempest wakes the slumbering sea,
Thou only teachest all that man can be.
Alike thy tocsin has the power to charm
The toil-knit sinews of the rusticâ€™s arm,
Or swell the pulses in the poetâ€™s veins,
And bid the nations tremble at his strains.
The city slept beneath the moonbeamâ€™s glance,
Her white walls gleaming through the vines of France,
And all was hushed, save where the footsteps fell,
On some high tower, of midnight sentinel.
But one still watched; no self-encircled woes
Chased from his lids the angel of repose;
He watched, he wept, for thoughts of bitter years
Bowed his dark lashes, wet with burning tears
His countryâ€™s sufferings and her childrenâ€™s shame
Streamed oâ€™er his memory like a forestâ€™s flame;
Each treasured insult, each remembered wrong,
Rolled through his heart and kindled into song.
His taper faded; and the morning gales
Swept through the world the war-song of Marseilles!
Now, while around the smiles of Peace expand,
And Plentyâ€™s wreaths festoon the laughing land;
While France ships outward her reluctant ore,
And half our navy basks upon the shore;
From ruder themes our meek-eyed Muses turn
To crown with roses their enamelled urn.
If eâ€™er again return those awful days
Whose clouds were crimsoned with the beaconâ€™s blaze,
Whose grass was trampled by the soldierâ€™s heel,
Whose tides were reddened round the rushing keel,
God grant some lyre may wake a nobler strain
To rend the silence of our tented plain!
When Galliaâ€™s flag its triple fold displays,
Her marshalled legions peal the Marseillaise;
When round the German close the war-clouds dim,
Far through their shadows floats his battle-hymn;
When, crowned with joy, the campsâ€™ of England ring,
A thousand voices shout, â€œGod save the King!â€
When victory follows with our eagleâ€™s glance,
Our nationâ€™s anthem pipes a country dance!
Some prouder Muse, when comes the hour at last,
May shake our hillsides with her bugle-blast;
Not ours the task; but since the lyric dress
Relieves the statelier with its sprightliness,
Hear an old song, which some, perchance, have seen
In stale gazette or cobwebbed magazine.
There was an hour when patriots dared profane
The mast that Britain strove to bow in vain;
And one, who listened to the tale of shame,
Whose heart still answered to that sacred name,
Whose eye still followed oâ€™er his countryâ€™s tides
Thy glorious flag, our brave Old Ironsides
From yon lone attic, on a smiling morn,
Thus mocked the spoilers with his school-boy scorn.
When florid Peace resumed her golden reign,
And arts revived, and valleys bloomed again,
While War still panted on his-broken blade,
Once more the Muse her heavenly wing essayed.
Rude was the song: some ballad, stern and wild,
Lulled the light slumbers of the soldierâ€™s child;
Or young romancer, with his threatening glance
And fearful fables of his bloodless lance,
Scared the soft fancy of the clinging girls,
Whose snowy fingers smoothed his raven curls.
But when long years the stately form had bent,
And faithless Memory her illusions lent,
So vast the outlines of Tradition grew
That History wondered at the shapes she drew,
And veiled at length their too ambitious hues
Beneath the pinions of the Epic Muse.
Far swept her wing; for stormier days had brought
With darker passions deeper tides of thought.
The campâ€™s harsh tumult and the conflictâ€™s glow,
The thrill of triumph and the gasp of woe,
The tender parting and the glad return,
The festal banquet and the funeral urn,
And all the drama which at once uprears
Its spectral shadows through the clash of spears,
From camp and field to echoing verse transferred,
Swelled the proud song that listening nations heard.
Why floats the amaranth in eternal bloom
Oâ€™er Iliumâ€™s turrets and Achillesâ€™ tomb?
Why lingers fancy where the sunbeams smile
On Circeâ€™s gardens and Calypsoâ€™s isle?
Why follows memory to the gate of Troy
Her plumed defender and his trembling boy?
Lo! the blind dreamer, kneeling on the sand
To trace these records with his doubtful hand;
In fabled tones his own emotion flows,
And other lips repeat his silent woes;
In Hectorâ€™s infant see the babes that shun
Those deathlike eyes, unconscious of the sun,
Or in his hero hear himself implore,
â€œGive me to see, and Ajax asks no more!â€
Thus live undying through the lapse of time
The solemn legends of the warriorâ€™s clime;
Like Egyptâ€™s pyramid or Paestumâ€™s fane,
They stand the heralds of the voiceless plain.
Yet not like them, for Time, by slow degrees,
Saps the gray stone and wears the embroidered frieze,
And Isis sleeps beneath her subject Nile,
And crumbled Neptune strews his Dorian pile;
But Artâ€™s fair fabric, strengthening as it rears
Its laurelled columns through the mist of years,
As the blue arches of the bending skies
Still gird the torrent, following as it flies,
Spreads, with the surges bearing on mankind,
Its starred pavilion oâ€™er the tides of mind!
In vain the patriot asks some lofty lay
To dress in state our wars of yesterday.
The classic days, those mothers of romance,
That roused a nation for a womanâ€™s glance;
The age of mystery, with its hoarded power,
That girt the tyrant in his storied tower,
Have passed and faded like a dream of youth,
And riper eras ask for historyâ€™s truth.
On other shores, above their mouldering towns,
In sullen pomp the tall cathedral frowns,
Pride in its aisles and paupers at the door,
Which feeds the beggars whom it fleeced of yore.
Simple and frail, our lowly temples throw
Their slender shadows on the paths below;
Scarce steal the winds, that sweep his woodland tracks,
The larchâ€™s perfume from the settlerâ€™s axe,
Ere, like a vision of the morning air,
His slightâ€”Âframed steeple marks the house of prayer;
Its planks all reeking and its paint undried,
Its rafters sprouting on the shady side,
It sheds the raindrops from its shingled eaves
Ere its green brothers once have changed their leaves.
Yet Faithâ€™s pure hymn, beneath its shelter rude,
Breathes out as sweetly to the tangled wood
As where the rays through pictured glories pour
On marble shaft and tessellated floor;â€”Â
Heaven asks no surplice round the heart that feels,
And all is holy where devotion kneels.
Thus on the soil the patriotâ€™s knee should bend
Which holds the dust once living to defend;
Whereâ€™er the hireling shrinks before the free,
Each pass becomes â€œa new Thermopylaeâ€!
Whereâ€™er the battles of the brave are won,
There every mountain â€œlooks on Marathonâ€!
Our fathers live; they guard in glory still
The grass-grown bastions of the fortressed hill;
Still ring the echoes of the trampled gorge,
With God and Freedom. England and Saint George!
The royal cipher on the captured gun
Mocks the sharp night-dews and the blistering sun;
The red-cross banner shades its captorâ€™s bust,
Its folds still loaded with the conflictâ€™s dust;
The drum, suspended by its tattered marge,
Once rolled and rattled to the Hessianâ€™s charge;
The stars have floated from Britanniaâ€™s mast,
The redcoatâ€™s trumpets blown the rebelâ€™s blast.
Point to the summits where the brave have bled,
Where every village claims its glorious dead;
Say, when their bosoms met the bayonetâ€™s shock,
Their only corselet was the rustic frock;
Say, when they mustered to the gathering horn,
The titled chieftain curled his lip in scorn,
Yet, when their leader bade his lines advance,
No musket wavered in the lionâ€™s glance;
Say, when they fainted in the forced retreat,
They tracked the snow-drifts with their bleeding feet,
Yet still their banners, tossing in the blast,
Bore Ever Ready, faithful to the last,
Through storm and battle, till they waved again
On Yorktownâ€™s hills and Saratogaâ€™s plain.
Then, if so fierce the insatiate patriotâ€™s flame,
Truth looks too pale and history seems too tame,
Bid him await some new Columbiadâ€™s page,
To gild the tablets of an iron age,
And save his tears, which yet may fall upon
Some fabled field, some fancied Washington!
But once again, from their AEolian cave,
The winds of Genius wandered on the wave.
Tired of the scenes the timid pencil drew,
Sick of the notes the sounding clarion blew,
Sated with heroes who had worn so long
The shadowy plumage of historic song,
The new-born poet left the beaten course,
To track the passions to their living source.
Then rose the Drama;â€”Âand the world admired
Her varied page with deeper thought inspired
Bound to no clime, for Passionâ€™s throb is one
In Greenlandâ€™s twilight or in Indiaâ€™s sun;
Born for no age, for all the thoughts that roll
In the dark vortex of the stormy soul,
Unchained in song, no freezing years can tame;
God gave them birth, and man is still the same.
So full on life her magic mirror shone,
Her sister Arts paid tribute to her throne;
One reared her temple, one her canvas warmed,
And Music thrilled, while Eloquence informed.
The weary rustic left his stinted task
For smiles and tears, the dagger and the mask;
The sage, turned scholar, half forgot his lore,
To be the woman he despised before.
Oâ€™er sense and thought she threw her golden chain,
And Time, the anarch, spares her deathless reign.
Thus lives Medea, in our tamer age,
As when her buskin pressed the Grecian stage;
Not in the cells where frigid learning delves
In Aldine folios mouldering on their shelves,
But breathing, burning in the glittering throng,
Whose thousand bravoes roll untired along,
Circling and spreading through the gilded halls,
From Londonâ€™s galleries to San Carloâ€™s walls!
Thus shall he live whose more than mortal name
Mocks with its ray the pallid torch of Fame;
So proudly lifted that it seems afar
No earthly Pharos, but a heavenly star,
Who, unconfined to Artâ€™s diurnal bound,
Girds her whole zodiac in his flaming round,
And leads the passions, like the orb that guides,
From pole to pole, the palpitating tides!
Though round the Muse the robe of song is thrown,
Think not the poet lives in verse alone.
Long ere the chisel of the sculptor taught
The lifeless stone to mock the living thought;
Long ere the painter bade the canvas glow
With every line the forms of beauty know;
Long ere the iris of the Muses threw
On every leaf its own celestial hue,
In fableâ€™s dress the breath of genius poured,
And warmed the shapes that later times adored.
Untaught by Science how to forge the keys
That loose the gates of Natureâ€™s mysteries;
Unschooled by Faith, who, with her angel tread,
Leads through the labyrinth with a single thread,
His fancy, hovering round her guarded tower,
Rained through its bars like Danaeâ€™s golden shower.
He spoke; the sea-nymph answered from her cave
He called; the naiad left her mountain wave
He dreamed of beauty; lo, amidst his dream,
Narcissus, mirrored in the breathless stream;
And nightâ€™s chaste empress, in her bridal play,
Laughed through the foliage where Endymion lay;
And ocean dimpled, as the languid swell
Kissed the red lip of Cythereaâ€™s shell.
Of power,â€”ÂBellona swept the crimson field,
And blue-eyed Pallas shook her Gorgon shield;
Oâ€™er the hushed waves their mightier monarch drove,
And Ida trembled to the tread of Jove!
So every grace that plastic language knows
To nameless poets its perfection owes.
The rough-hewn words to simplest thoughts confined
Were cut and polished in their nicer mind;
Caught on their edge, imaginationâ€™s ray
Splits into rainbows, shooting far away;â€”Â
From sense to soul, from soul to sense, it flies,
And through all nature links analogies;
He who reads right will rarely look upon
A better poet than his lexicon!
There is a race which cold, ungenial skies
Breed from decay, as fungous growths arise;
Though dying fast, yet springing fast again,
Which still usurps an unsubstantial reign,
With frames too languid for the charms of sense,
And minds worn down with action too intense;
Tired of a world whose joys they never knew,
Themselves deceived, yet thinking all untrue;
Scarce men without, and less than girls within,
Sick of their life before its cares begin;â€”Â
The dull disease, which drains their feeble hearts,
To lifeâ€™s decay some hectic thrillâ€™s imparts,
And lends a force which, like the maniacâ€™s power,
Pays with blank years the frenzy of an hour.
And this is Genius! Say, does Heaven degrade
The manly frame, for health, for action made?
Break down the sinews, rack the brow with pains,
Blanch the right cheek and drain the purple veins,
To clothe the mind with more extended sway,
Thus faintly struggling in degenerate clay?
No! gentle maid, too ready to admire,
Though false its notes, the pale enthusiastâ€™s lyre;
If this be genius, though its bitter springs
Glowed like the morn beneath Auroraâ€™s wings,
Seek not the source whose sullen bosom feeds
But fruitless flowers and dark, envenomed weeds.
But, if so bright the dear illusion seems,
Thou wouldst be partner of thy poetâ€™s dreams,
And hang in rapture on his bloodless charms,
Or die, like Raphael, in his angel arms,
Go and enjoy thy blessed lot,â€”Âto share
In Cowperâ€™s gloom or Chattertonâ€™s despair!
Not such were they whom, wandering oâ€™er the waves,
I looked to meet, but only found their graves;
If friendshipâ€™s smile, the better part of fame,
Should lend my song the only wreath I claim,
Whose voice would greet me with a sweeter tone,
Whose living hand more kindly press my own,
Than theirs,â€”Âcould Memory, as her silent tread
Prints the pale flowers that blossom oâ€™er the dead,
Those breathless lips, now closed in peace, restore,
Or wake those pulses hushed to beat no more?
Thou calm, chaste scholar! I can see thee now,
The first young laurels on thy pallid brow,
Oâ€™er thy slight figure floating lightly down
In graceful folds the academic gown,
On thy curled lip the classic lines that taught
How nice the mind that sculptured them with thought,
And triumph glistening in the clear blue eye,
Too bright to live,â€”Âbut oh, too fair to die!
And thou, dear friend, whom Science still deplores,
And Love still mourns, on ocean-severed shores,
Though the bleak forest twice has bowed with snow
Since thou wast laid its budding leaves below,
Thine image mingles with my closing strain,
As when we wandered by the turbid Seine,
Both blessed with hopes, which revelled, bright and free,
On all we longed or all we dreamed to be;
To thee the amaranth and the cypress fell,â€”Â
And I was spared to breathe this last farewell!
But lived there one in unremembered days,
Or lives there still, who spurns the poetâ€™s bays,
Whose fingers, dewy from Castaliaâ€™s springs,
Rest on the lyre, yet scorn to touch the strings?
Who shakes the senate with the silver tone
The groves of Pindus might have sighed to own?
Have such eâ€™er been? Remember Canningâ€™s name!
Do such still live? Let â€œAlaricâ€™s Dirgeâ€ proclaim!
Immortal Art! whereâ€™er the rounded sky
Bends oâ€™er the cradle where thy children lie,
Their home is earth, their herald every tongue
Whose accents echo to the voice that sung.
One leap of Ocean scatters on the sand
The quarried bulwarks of the loosening land;
One thrill of earth dissolves a centuryâ€™s toil
Strewed like the leaves that vanish in the soil;
One hill oâ€™erflows, and cities sink below,
Their marbles splintering in the lavaâ€™s glow;
But one sweet tone, scarce whispered to the air,
From shore to shore the blasts of ages bear;
One humble name, which oft, perchance, has borne
The tyrantâ€™s mockery and the courtierâ€™s scorn,
Towers oâ€™er the dust of earthâ€™s forgotten graves,
As once, emerging through the waste of waves,
The rocky Titan, round whose shattered spear
Coiled the last whirlpool of the drowning sphere!
Wind-Clouds And Star-Drifts
FROM THE YOUNG ASTRONOMER'S POEM
ANOTHER clouded night; the stars are hid,
The orb that waits my search is hid with them.
Patience! Why grudge an hour, a month, a year,
To plant my ladder and to gain the round
That leads my footsteps to the heaven of fame,
Where waits the wreath my sleepless midnights won?
Not the stained laurel such as heroes wear
That withers when some stronger conqueror's heel
Treads down their shrivelling trophies in the dust;
But the fair garland whose undying green
Not time can change, nor wrath of gods or men!
With quickened heart-beats I shall hear tongues
That speak my praise; but better far the sense
That in the unshaped ages, buried deep
In the dark mines of unaccomplished time
Yet to be stamped with morning's royal die
And coined in golden days,--in those dim years
I shall be reckoned with the undying dead,
My name emblazoned on the fiery arch,
Unfading till the stars themselves shall fade.
Then, as they call the roll of shining worlds,
Sages of race unborn in accents new
Shall count me with the Olympian ones of old,
Whose glories kindle through the midnight sky
Here glows the God of Battles; this recalls
The Lord of Ocean, and yon far-off sphere
The Sire of Him who gave his ancient name
To the dim planet with the wondrous rings;
Here flames the Queen of Beauty's silver lamp,
And there the moon-girt orb of mighty Jove;
But this, unseen through all earth's ions past,
A youth who watched beneath the western star
Sought in the darkness, found, and shewed to men;
Linked with his name thenceforth and evermore
So shall that name be syllabled anew
In all the tongues of all the tribes of men:
I that have been through immemorial years
Dust in the dust of my forgotten time
Shall live in accents shaped of blood-warm breath,
Yea, rise in mortal semblance, newly born
In shining stone, in undecaying bronze,
And stand on high, and look serenely down
On the new race that calls the earth its own.
Is this a cloud, that, blown athwart my soul,
Wears a false seeming of the pearly stain
Where worlds beyond the world their mingling rays
Blend in soft white,--a cloud that, born of earth,
Would cheat the soul that looks for light from heaven?
Must every coral-insect leave his sign
On each poor grain he lent to build the reef,
As Babel's builders stamped their sunburnt clay,
Or deem his patient service all in vain?
What if another sit beneath the shade
Of the broad elm I planted by the way,--
What if another heed the beacon light
I set upon the rock that wrecked my keel,--
Have I not done my task and served my kind?
Nay, rather act thy part, unnamed, unknown,
And let Fame blow her trumpet through the world
With noisy wind to swell a fool's renown,
Joined with some truth he stumbled blindly o'er,
Or coupled with some single shining deed
That in the great account of all his days
Will stand alone upon the bankrupt sheet
His pitying angel shows the clerk of Heaven.
The noblest service comes from nameless hands,
And the best servant does his work unseen.
Who found the seeds of fire and made them shoot,
Fed by his breath, in buds and flowers of flame?
Who forged in roaring flames the ponderous stone,
And shaped the moulded metal to his need?
Who gave the dragging car its rolling wheel,
And tamed the steed that whirls its circling round?
All these have left their work and not their names,--
Why should I murmur at a fate like theirs?
This is the heavenly light; the pearly stain
Was but a wind-cloud drifting o'er the stars!
BRIEF glimpses of the bright celestial spheres,
False lights, false shadows, vague, uncertain gleams,
Pale vaporous mists, wan streaks of lurid flame,
The climbing of the upward-sailing cloud,
The sinking of the downward-falling star,--
All these are pictures of the changing moods
Borne through the midnight stillness of my soul.
Here am I, bound upon this pillared rock,
Prey to the vulture of a vast desire
That feeds upon my life. I burst my bands
And steal a moment's freedom from the beak,
The clinging talons and the shadowing plumes;
Then comes the false enchantress, with her song;
'Thou wouldst not lay thy forehead in the dust
Like the base herd that feeds and breeds and dies
Lo, the fair garlands that I weave for thee,
Unchanging as the belt Orion wears,
Bright as the jewels of the seven-starred Crown,
The spangled stream of Berenice's hair!'
And so she twines the fetters with the flowers
Around my yielding limbs, and the fierce bird
Stoops to his quarry,--then to feed his rage
Of ravening hunger I must drain my blood
And let the dew-drenched, poison-breeding night
Steal all the freshness from my fading cheek,
And leave its shadows round my caverned eyes.
All for a line in some unheeded scroll;
All for a stone that tells to gaping clowns,
'Here lies a restless wretch beneath a clod
Where squats the jealous nightmare men call
I marvel not at him who scorns his kind
And thinks not sadly of the time foretold
When the old hulk we tread shall be a wreck,
A slag, a cinder drifting through the sky
Without its crew of fools! We live too long,
And even so are not content to die,
But load the mould that covers up our bones
With stones that stand like beggars by the road
And show death's grievous wound and ask for tears;
Write our great books to teach men who we are,
Sing our fine songs that tell in artful phrase
The secrets of our lives, and plead and pray
For alms of memory with the after time,
Those few swift seasons while the earth shall wear
Its leafy summers, ere its core grows cold
And the moist life of all that breathes shall die;
Or as the new-born seer, perchance more wise,
Would have us deem, before its growing mass,
Pelted with star-dust, stoned with meteor-balls,
Heats like a hammered anvil, till at last
Man and his works and all that stirred itself
Of its own motion, in the fiery glow
Turns to a flaming vapor, and our orb
Shines a new sun for earths that shall be born.
I am as old as Egypt to myself,
Brother to them that squared the pyramids
By the same stars I watch. I read the page
Where every letter is a glittering world,
With them who looked from Shinar's clay-built towers,
Ere yet the wanderer of the Midland sea
Had missed the fallen sister of the seven.
I dwell in spaces vague, remote, unknown,
Save to the silent few, who, leaving earth,
Quit all communion with their living time.
I lose myself in that ethereal void,
Till I have tired my wings and long to fill
My breast with denser air, to stand, to walk
With eyes not raised above my fellow-men.
Sick of my unwalled, solitary realm,
I ask to change the myriad lifeless worlds
I visit as mine own for one poor patch
Of this dull spheroid and a little breath
To shape in word or deed to serve my kind.
Was ever giant's dungeon dug so deep,
Was ever tyrant's fetter forged so strong,
Was e'er such deadly poison in the draught
The false wife mingles for the trusting fool,
As he whose willing victim is himself,
Digs, forges, mingles, for his captive soul?
THE snows that glittered on the disk of Mars
Have melted, and the planet's fiery orb
Rolls in the crimson summer of its year;
But what to me the summer or the snow
Of worlds that throb with life in forms unknown,
If life indeed be theirs; I heed not these.
My heart is simply human; all my care
For them whose dust is fashioned like mine own;
These ache with cold and hunger, live in pain,
And shake with fear of worlds more full of woe;
There may be others worthier of my love,
But such I know not save through these I know.
There are two veils of language, hid beneath
Whose sheltering folds, we dare to be ourselves;
And not that other self which nods and smiles
And babbles in our name; the one is Prayer,
Lending its licensed freedom to the tongue
That tells our sorrows and our sins to Heaven;
The other, Verse, that throws its spangled web
Around our naked speech and makes it bold.
I, whose best prayer is silence; sitting dumb
In the great temple where I nightly serve
Him who is throned in light, have dared to claim
The poet's franchise, though I may not hope
To wear his garland; hear me while I tell
My story in such form as poets use,
But breathed in fitful whispers, as the wind
Sighs and then slumbers, wakes and sighs again.
Thou Vision, floating in the breathless air
Between me and the fairest of the stars,
I tell my lonely thoughts as unto thee.
Look not for marvels of the scholar's pen
In my rude measure; I can only show
A slender-margined, unillumined page,
And trust its meaning to the flattering eye
That reads it in the gracious light of love.
Ah, wouldst thou clothe thyself in breathing shape
And nestle at my side, my voice should lend
Whate'er my verse may lack of tender rhythm
To make thee listen.
I have stood entranced
When, with her fingers wandering o'er the keys,
The white enchantress with the golden hair
Breathed all her soul through some unvalued rhyme;
Some flower of song that long had lost its bloom;
Lo! its dead summer kindled as she sang!
The sweet contralto, like the ringdove's coo,
Thrilled it with brooding, fond, caressing tones,
And the pale minstrel's passion lived again,
Tearful and trembling as a dewy rose
The wind has shaken till it fills the air
With light and fragrance. Such the wondrous charm
A song can borrow when the bosom throbs
That lends it breath.
So from the poet's lips
His verse sounds doubly sweet, for none like him
Feels every cadence of its wave-like flow;
He lives the passion over, while he reads,
That shook him as he sang his lofty strain,
And pours his life through each resounding line,
As ocean, when the stormy winds are hushed,
Still rolls and thunders through his billowy caves.
MASTER AND SCHOLAR
LET me retrace the record of the years
That made me what I am. A man most wise,
But overworn with toil and bent with age,
Sought me to be his scholar,-me, run wild
From books and teachers,-kindled in my soul
The love of knowledge; led me to his tower,
Showed me the wonders of the midnight realm
His hollow sceptre ruled, or seemed to rule,
Taught me the mighty secrets of the spheres,
Trained me to find the glimmering specks of light
Beyond the unaided sense, and on my chart
To string them one by one, in order due,
As on a rosary a saint his beads.
I was his only scholar; I became
The echo to his thought; whate'er he knew
Was mine for asking; so from year to year
W e wrought together, till there came a time
When I, the learner, was the master half
Of the twinned being in the dome-crowned tower.
Minds roll in paths like planets; they revolve,
This in a larger, that a narrower ring,
But round they come at last to that same phase,
That selfsame light and shade they showed before.
I learned his annual and his monthly tale,
His weekly axiom and his daily phrase,
I felt them coming in the laden air,
And watched them laboring up to vocal breath,
Even as the first-born at his father's board
Knows ere he speaks the too familiar jest
Is on its way, by some mysterious sign
Forewarned, the click before the striking bell.
He shrivelled as I spread my growing leaves,
Till trust and reverence changed to pitying care;
He lived for me in what he once had been,
But I for him, a shadow, a defence,
The guardian of his fame, his guide, his staff,
Leaned on so long he fell if left alone.
I was his eye, his ear, his cunning hand,
Love was my spur and longing after fame,
But his the goading thorn of sleepless age
That sees its shortening span, its lengthening shades,
That clutches what it may with eager grasp,
And drops at last with empty, outstretched hands.
All this he dreamed not. He would sit him down
Thinking to work his problems as of old,
And find the star he thought so plain a blur,
The columned figures labyrinthine wilds
Without my comment, blind and senseless scrawls
That vexed him with their riddles; he would strive
And struggle for a while, and then his eye
Would lose its light, and over all his mind
The cold gray mist would settle; and erelong
The darkness fell, and I was left alone.
ALONE! no climber of an Alpine cliff,
No Arctic venturer on the waveless sea,
Feels the dread stillness round him as it chills
The heart of him who leaves the slumbering earth
To watch the silent worlds that crowd the sky.
Alone! And as the shepherd leaves his flock
To feed upon the hillside, he meanwhile
Finds converse in the warblings of the pipe
Himself has fashioned for his vacant hour,
So have I grown companion to myself,
And to the wandering spirits of the air
That smile and whisper round us in our dreams.
Thus have I learned to search if I may know
The whence and why of all beneath the stars
And all beyond them, and to weigh my life
As in a balance,--poising good and ill
Against each other,--asking of the Power
That flung me forth among the whirling worlds,
If I am heir to any inborn right,
Or only as an atom of the dust
That every wind may blow where'er it will.
I AM not humble; I was shown my place,
Clad in such robes as Nature had at hand;
Took what she gave, not chose; I know no shame,
No fear for being simply what I am.
I am not proud, I hold my every breath
At Nature's mercy. I am as a babe
Borne in a giant's arms, he knows not where;
Each several heart-beat, counted like the coin
A miser reckons, is a special gift
As from an unseen hand; if that withhold
Its bounty for a moment, I am left
A clod upon the earth to which I fall.
Something I find in me that well might claim
The love of beings in a sphere above
This doubtful twilight world of right and wrong;
Something that shows me of the self-same clay
That creeps or swims or flies in humblest form.
Had I been asked, before I left my bed
Of shapeless dust, what clothing I would wear,
I would have said, More angel and less worm;
But for their sake who are even such as I,
Of the same mingled blood, I would not choose
To hate that meaner portion of myself
Which makes me brother to the least of men.
I dare not be a coward with my lips
Who dare to question all things in my soul;
Some men may find their wisdom on their knees,
Some prone and grovelling in the dust like slaves;
Let the meek glowworm glisten in the dew;
I ask to lift my taper to the sky
As they who hold their lamps above their heads,
Trusting the larger currents up aloft,
Rather than crossing eddies round their breast,
Threatening with every puff the flickering blaze.
My life shall be a challenge, not a truce!
This is my homage to the mightier powers,
To ask my boldest question, undismayed
By muttered threats that some hysteric sense
Of wrong or insult will convulse the throne
Where wisdom reigns supreme; and if I err,
They all must err who have to feel their way
As bats that fly at noon; for what are we
But creatures of the night, dragged forth by day,
Who needs must stumble, and with stammering steps
Spell out their paths in syllables of pain?
Thou wilt not hold in scorn the child who dares
Look up to Thee, the Father,--dares to ask
More than thy wisdom answers. From thy hand
The worlds were cast; yet every leaflet claims
From that same hand its little shining sphere
Of star-lit dew; thine image, the great sun,
Girt with his mantle of tempestuous flame,
Glares in mid-heaven; but to his noon-tide blaze
The slender violet lifts its lidless eye,
And from his splendor steals its fairest hue,
Its sweetest perfume from his scorching fire.
FROM my lone turret as I look around
O'er the green meadows to the ring of blue,
From slope, from summit, and from half-hid vale
The sky is stabbed with dagger-pointed spires,
Their gilded symbols whirling in the wind,
Their brazen tongues proclaiming to the world,
'Here truth is sold, the only genuine ware;
See that it has our trade-mark! You will buy
Poison instead of food across the way,
The lies of -----' this or that, each several name
The standard's blazon and the battle-cry
Of some true-gospel faction, and again
The token of the Beast to all beside.
And grouped round each I see a huddling crowd
Alike in all things save the words they use;
In love, in longing, hate and fear the same.
Whom do we trust and serve? We speak of one
And bow to many; Athens still would find
The shrines of all she worshipped safe within
Our tall barbarian temples, and the thrones
That crowned Olympus mighty as of old.
The god of music rules the Sabbath choir;
The lyric muse must leave the sacred nine
To help us please the dilettante's ear;
Plutus limps homeward with us, as we leave
The portals of the temple where we knelt
And listened while the god of eloquence
(Hermes of ancient days, but now disguised
In sable vestments) with that other god
Somnus, the son of Erebus and Nox,
Fights in unequal contest for our souls;
The dreadful sovereign of the under world
Still shakes his sceptre at us, and we hear
The baying of the triple-throated hound;
Eros is young as ever, and as fair
The lovely Goddess born of ocean's foam.
These be thy gods, O Israel! Who is he,
The one ye name and tell us that ye serve,
Whom ye would call me from my lonely tower
To worship with the many-headed throng?
Is it the God that walked in Eden's grove
In the cool hour to seek our guilty sire?
The God who dealt with Abraham as the sons
Of that old patriarch deal with other men?
The jealous God of Moses, one who feels
An image as an insult, and is wroth
With him who made it and his child unborn?
The God who plagued his people for the sin
Of their adulterous king, beloved of him,--
The same who offers to a chosen few
The right to praise him in eternal song
While a vast shrieking world of endless woe
Blends its dread chorus with their rapturous hymn?
Is this the God ye mean, or is it he
Who heeds the sparrow's fall, whose loving heart
Is as the pitying father's to his child,
Whose lesson to his children is 'Forgive,'
Whose plea for all, 'They know not what they do'?
I CLAIM the right of knowing whom I serve,
Else is my service idle; He that asks
My homage asks it from a reasoning soul.
To crawl is not to worship; we have learned
A drill of eyelids, bended neck and knee,
Hanging our prayers on hinges, till we ape
The flexures of the many-jointed worm.
Asia has taught her Allahs and salaams
To the world's children,-we have grown to men!
We who have rolled the sphere beneath our feet
To find a virgin forest, as we lay
The beams of our rude temple, first of all
Must frame its doorway high enough for man
To pass unstooping; knowing as we do
That He who shaped us last of living forms
Has long enough been served by creeping things,
Reptiles that left their footprints in the sand
Of old sea-margins that have turned to stone,
And men who learned their ritual; we demand
To know Him first, then trust Him and then love
When we have found Him worthy of our love,
Tried by our own poor hearts and not before;
He must be truer than the truest friend,
He must be tenderer than a woman's love,
A father better than the best of sires;
Kinder than she who bore us, though we sin
Oftener than did the brother we are told
We--poor ill-tempered mortals--must forgive,
Though seven times sinning threescore times and
This is the new world's gospel: Be ye men!
Try well the legends of the children's time;
Ye are the chosen people, God has led
Your steps across the desert of the deep
As now across the desert of the shore;
Mountains are cleft before you as the sea
Before the wandering tribe of Israel's sons;
Still onward rolls the thunderous caravan,
Its coming printed on the western sky,
A cloud by day, by night a pillared flame;
Your prophets are a hundred unto one
Of them of old who cried, 'Thus saith the Lord;'
They told of cities that should fall in heaps,
But yours of mightier cities that shall rise
Where yet the lonely fishers spread their nets,
Where hides the fox and hoots the midnight owl;
The tree of knowledge in your garden grows
Not single, but at every humble door;
Its branches lend you their immortal food,
That fills you with the sense of what ye are,
No servants of an altar hewed and carved
From senseless stone by craft of human hands,
Rabbi, or dervish, brahmin, bishop, bonze,
But masters of the charm with which they work
To keep your hands from that forbidden tree!
Ye that have tasted that divinest fruit,
Look on this world of yours with opened eyes!
Y e are as gods! Nay, makers of your gods,--
Each day ye break an image in your shrine
And plant a fairer image where it stood
Where is the Moloch of your fathers' creed,
Whose fires of torment burned for span--long babes?
Fit object for a tender mother's love!
Why not? It was a bargain duly made
For these same infants through the surety's act
Intrusted with their all for earth and heaven,
By Him who chose their guardian, knowing well
His fitness for the task,--this, even this,
Was the true doctrine only yesterday
As thoughts are reckoned,--and to--day you hear
In words that sound as if from human tongues
Those monstrous, uncouth horrors of the past
That blot the blue of heaven and shame the earth
As would the saurians of the age of slime,
Awaking from their stony sepulchres
And wallowing hateful in the eye of day!
WHAT am I but the creature Thou hast made?
What have I save the blessings Thou hast lent?
What hope I but thy mercy and thy love?
Who but myself shall cloud my soul with fear?
Whose hand protect me from myself but thine?
I claim the rights of weakness, I, the babe,
Call on my sire to shield me from the ills
That still beset my path, not trying me
With snares beyond my wisdom or my strength,
He knowing I shall use them to my harm,
And find a tenfold misery in the sense
That in my childlike folly I have sprung
The trap upon myself as vermin use,
Drawn by the cunning bait to certain doom.
Who wrought the wondrous charm that leads us on
To sweet perdition, but the selfsame power
That set the fearful engine to destroy
His wretched offspring (as the Rabbis tell),
And hid its yawning jaws and treacherous springs
In such a show of innocent sweet flowers
It lured the sinless angels and they fell?
Ah! He who prayed the prayer of all mankind
Summed in those few brief words the mightiest plea
For erring souls before the courts of heaven,--
_Save us from being tempted_,--lest we fall!
If we are only as the potter's clay
Made to be fashioned as the artist wills,
And broken into shards if we offend
The eye of Him who made us, it is well;
Such love as the insensate lump of clay
That spins upon the swift-revolving wheel
Bears to the hand that shapes its growing form,--
Such love, no more, will be our hearts' return
To the great Master-workman for his care,--
Or would be, save that this, our breathing clay,
Is intertwined with fine innumerous threads
That make it conscious in its framer's hand;
And this He must remember who has filled
These vessels with the deadly draught of life,--
Life, that means death to all it claims. Our love
Must kindle in the ray that streams from heaven,
A faint reflection of the light divine;
The sun must warm the earth before the rose
Can show her inmost heart-leaves to the sun.
He yields some fraction of the Maker's right
Who gives the quivering nerve its sense of pain;
Is there not something in the pleading eye
Of the poor brute that suffers, which arraigns
The law that bids it suffer? Has it not
A claim for some remembrance in the book
That fills its pages with the idle words
Spoken of men? Or is it only clay,
Bleeding and aching in the potter's hand,
Yet all his own to treat it as He will
And when He will to cast it at his feet,
Shattered, dishonored, lost forevermore?
My dog loves me, but could he look beyond
His earthly master, would his love extend
To Him who--Hush! I will not doubt that He
Is better than our fears, and will not wrong
The least, the meanest of created things!
He would not trust me with the smallest orb
That circles through the sky; He would not give
A meteor to my guidance; would not leave
The coloring of a cloudlet to my hand;
He locks my beating heart beneath its bars
And keeps the key himself; He measures out
The draughts of vital breath that warm my blood,
Winds up the springs of instinct which uncoil,
Each in its season; ties me to my home,
My race, my time, my nation, and my creed
So closely that if I but slip my wrist
Out of the band that cuts it to the bone,
Men say, 'He hath a devil;' He has lent
All that I hold in trust, as unto one
By reason of his weakness and his years
Not fit to hold the smallest shred in fee
Of those most common things he calls his own,--
And yet--my Rabbi tells me--He has left
The care of that to which a million worlds
Filled with unconscious life were less than naught,
Has left that mighty universe, the Soul,
To the weak guidance of our baby hands,
Let the foul fiends have access at their will,
Taking the shape of angels, to our hearts,--
Our hearts already poisoned through and through
With the fierce virus of ancestral sin;
Turned us adrift with our immortal charge,
To wreck ourselves in gulfs of endless woe.
If what my Rabbi tells me is the truth
Why did the choir of angels sing for joy?
Heaven must be compassed in a narrow space,
And offer more than room enough for all
That pass its portals; but the under-world,
The godless realm, the place where demons forge
Their fiery darts and adamantine chains,
Must swarm with ghosts that for a little while
Had worn the garb of flesh, and being heirs
Of all the dulness of their stolid sires,
And all the erring instincts of their tribe,
Nature's own teaching, rudiments of 'sin,'
Fell headlong in the snare that could not fail
To trap the wretched creatures shaped of clay
And cursed with sense enough to lose their souls!
Brother, thy heart is troubled at my word;
Sister, I see the cloud is on thy brow.
He will not blame me, He who sends not peace,
But sends a sword, and bids us strike amain
At Error's gilded crest, where in the van
Of earth's great army, mingling with the best
And bravest of its leaders, shouting loud
The battle-cries that yesterday have led
The host of Truth to victory, but to-day
Are watchwords of the laggard and the slave,
He leads his dazzled cohorts. God has made
This world a strife of atoms and of spheres;
With every breath I sigh myself away
And take my tribute from the wandering wind
To fan the flame of life's consuming fire;
So, while my thought has life, it needs must burn,
And, burning, set the stubble-fields ablaze,
Where all the harvest long ago was reaped
And safely garnered in the ancient barns.
But still the gleaners, groping for their food,
Go blindly feeling through the close-shorn straw,
While the young reapers flash, their glittering steel
Where later suns have ripened nobler grain!
THE time is racked with birth-pangs; every hour
Brings forth some gasping truth, and truth newborn
Looks a misshapen and untimely growth,
The terror of the household and its shame,
A monster coiling in its nurse's lap
That some would strangle, some would only starve;
But still it breathes, and passed from hand to hand,
And suckled at a hundred half-clad breasts,
Comes slowly to its stature and its form,
Calms the rough ridges of its dragon-scales,
Changes to shining locks its snaky hair,
And moves transfigured into angel guise,
Welcomed by all that cursed its hour of birth,
And folded in the same encircling arms
That cast it like a serpent from their hold!
If thou wouldst live in honor, die in peace,
Have the fine words the marble-workers learn
To carve so well, upon thy funeral-stone,
And earn a fair obituary, dressed
In all the many-colored robes of praise,
Be deafer than the adder to the cry
Of that same foundling truth, until it grows
To seemly favor, and at length has won
The smiles of hard-mouthed men and light-lipped dames;
Then snatch it from its meagre nurse's breast,
Fold it in silk and give it food from gold;
So shalt thou share its glory when at last
It drops its mortal vesture, and, revealed
In all the splendor of its heavenly form,
Spreads on the startled air its mighty wings!
Alas! how much that seemed immortal truth
That heroes fought for, martyrs died to save,
Reveals its earth-born lineage, growing old
And limping in its march, its wings unplumed,
Its heavenly semblance faded like a dream!
Here in this painted casket, just unsealed,
Lies what was once a breathing shape like thine,
Once loved as thou art loved; there beamed the eyes
That looked on Memphis in its hour of pride,
That saw the walls of hundred-gated Thebes,
And all the mirrored glories of the Nile.
See how they toiled that all-consuming time
Might leave the frame immortal in its tomb;
Filled it with fragrant balms and odorous gums
That still diffuse their sweetness through the air,
And wound and wound with patient fold on fold
The flaxen bands thy hand has rudely torn!
Perchance thou yet canst see the faded stain
Of the sad mourner's tear.
BUT what is this?
The sacred beetle, bound upon the breast
Of the blind heathen! Snatch the curious prize,
Give it a place among thy treasured spoils,
Fossil and relic,--corals, encrinites,
The fly in amber and the fish in stone,
The twisted circlet of Etruscan gold,
Medal, intaglio, poniard, poison-ring,--
Place for the Memphian beetle with thine hoard!
AM longer than thy creed has blest the world
This toy, thus ravished from thy brother's breast,
Was to the heart of Mizraim as divine,
As holy, as the symbol that we lay
On the still bosom of our white-robed dead,
And raise above their dust that all may know
Here sleeps an heir of glory. Loving friends,
With tears of trembling faith and choking sobs,
And prayers to those who judge of mortal deeds,
Wrapped this poor image in the cerement's fold
That Isis and Osiris, friends of man,
Might know their own and claim the ransomed soul.
An idol? Man was born to worship such!
An idol is an image of his thought;
Sometimes he carves it out of gleaming stone,
And sometimes moulds it out of glittering gold,
Or rounds it in a mighty frescoed dome,
Or lifts it heavenward in a lofty spire,
Or shapes it in a cunning frame of words,
Or pays his priest to make it day by day;
For sense must have its god as well as soul;
A new-born Dian calls for silver shrines,
And Egypt's holiest symbol is our own,
The sign we worship as did they of old
When Isis and Osiris ruled the world.
Let us be true to our most subtle selves,
We long to have our idols like the rest.
Think! when the men of Israel had their God
Encamped among them, talking with their chief,
Leading them in the pillar of the cloud
And watching o'er them in the shaft of fire,
They still must have an image; still they longed
For somewhat of substantial, solid form
Whereon to hang their garlands, and to fix
Their wandering thoughts and gain a stronger hold
For their uncertain faith, not yet assured
If those same meteors of the day and night
Were not mere exhalations of the soil.
Are we less earthly than the chosen race?
Are we more neighbors of the living God
Than they who gathered manna every morn,
Reaping where none had sown, and heard the voice
Of him who met the Highest in the mount,
And brought them tables, graven with His hand?
Yet these must have their idol, brought their gold,
That star-browed Apis might be god again;
Yea, from their ears the women brake the rings
That lent such splendors to the gypsy brown
Of sunburnt cheeks,--what more could woman do
To show her pious zeal? They went astray,
But nature led them as it leads us all.
We too, who mock at Israel's golden calf
And scoff at Egypt's sacred scarabee,
Would have our amulets to clasp and kiss,
And flood with rapturous tears, and bear with us
To be our dear companions in the dust;
Such magic works an image in our souls.
Man is an embryo; see at twenty years
His bones, the columns that uphold his frame
Not yet cemented, shaft and capital,
Mere fragments of the temple incomplete.
At twoscore, threescore, is he then full grown?
Nay, still a child, and as the little maids
Dress and undress their puppets, so he tries
To dress a lifeless creed, as if it lived,
And change its raiment when the world cries shame!
We smile to see our little ones at play
So grave, so thoughtful, with maternal care
Nursing the wisps of rags they call their babes;--
Does He not smile who sees us with the toys
We call by sacred names, and idly feign
To be what we have called them? He is still
The Father of this helpless nursery-brood,
Whose second childhood joins so close its first,
That in the crowding, hurrying years between
We scarce have trained our senses to their task
Before the gathering mist has dimmed our eyes,
And with our hollowed palm we help our ear,
And trace with trembling hand our wrinkled names,
And then begin to tell our stories o'er,
And see--not hear--the whispering lips that say,
'You know? Your father knew him.--This is he,
Tottering and leaning on the hireling's arm,'--
And so, at length, disrobed of all that clad
The simple life we share with weed and worm,
Go to our cradles, naked as we came.
WHAT if a soul redeemed, a spirit that loved
While yet on earth and was beloved in turn,
And still remembered every look and tone
Of that dear earthly sister who was left
Among the unwise virgins at the gate,--
Itself admitted with the bridegroom's train,--
What if this spirit redeemed, amid the host
Of chanting angels, in some transient lull
Of the eternal anthem, heard the cry
Of its lost darling, whom in evil hour
Some wilder pulse of nature led astray
And left an outcast in a world of fire,
Condemned to be the sport of cruel fiends,
Sleepless, unpitying, masters of the skill
To wring the maddest ecstasies of pain
From worn-out souls that only ask to die,--
Would it not long to leave the bliss of heaven,--
Bearing a little water in its hand
To moisten those poor lips that plead in vain
With Him we call our Father? Or is all
So changed in such as taste celestial joy
They hear unmoved the endless wail of woe;
The daughter in the same dear tones that hushed
Her cradle slumbers; she who once had held
A babe upon her bosom from its voice
Hoarse with its cry of anguish, yet the same?
No! not in ages when the Dreadful Bird
Stamped his huge footprints, and the Fearful Beast
Strode with the flesh about those fossil bones
We build to mimic life with pygmy hands,--
Not in those earliest days when men ran wild
And gashed each other with their knives of stone,
When their low foreheads bulged in ridgy brows
And their flat hands were callous in the palm
With walking in the fashion of their sires,
Grope as they might to find a cruel god
To work their will on such as human wrath
Had wrought its worst to torture, and had left
With rage unsated, white and stark and cold,
Could hate have shaped a demon more malign
Than him the dead men mummied in their creed
And taught their trembling children to adore!
Made in his image! Sweet and gracious souls
Dear to my heart by nature's fondest names,
Is not your memory still the precious mould
That lends its form to Him who hears my prayer?
Thus only I behold Him, like to them,
Long-suffering, gentle, ever slow to wrath,
If wrath it be that only wounds to heal,
Ready to meet the wanderer ere he reach
The door he seeks, forgetful of his sin,
Longing to clasp him in a father's arms,
And seal his pardon with a pitying tear!
Four gospels tell their story to mankind,
And none so full of soft, caressing words
That bring the Maid of Bethlehem and her Babe
Before our tear-dimmed eyes, as his who learned
In the meek service of his gracious art
The tones which, like the medicinal balms
That calm the sufferer's anguish, soothe our souls.
Oh that the loving woman, she who sat
So long a listener at her Master's feet,
Had left us Mary's Gospel,--all she heard
Too sweet, too subtle for the ear of man!
Mark how the tender-hearted mothers read
The messages of love between the lines
Of the same page that loads the bitter tongue
Of him who deals in terror as his trade
With threatening words of wrath that scorch like flame
They tell of angels whispering round the bed
Of the sweet infant smiling in its dream,
Of lambs enfolded in the Shepherd's arms,
Of Him who blessed the children; of the land
Where crystal rivers feed unfading flowers,
Of cities golden-paved with streets of pearl,
Of the white robes the winged creatures wear,
The crowns and harps from whose melodious strings
One long, sweet anthem flows forevermore!
We too had human mothers, even as Thou,
Whom we have learned to worship as remote
From mortal kindred, wast a cradled babe.
The milk of woman filled our branching veins,
She lulled us with her tender nursery-song,
And folded round us her untiring arms,
While the first unremembered twilight yeas
Shaped us to conscious being; still we feel
Her pulses in our own,--too faintly feel;
Would that the heart of woman warmed our creeds!
Not from the sad-eyed hermit's lonely cell,
Not from the conclave where the holy men
Glare on each other, as with angry eyes
They battle for God's glory and their own,
Till, sick of wordy strife, a show of hands
Fixes the faith of ages yet unborn,--
Ah, not from these the listening soul can hear
The Father's voice that speaks itself divine!
Love must be still our Master; till we learn
What he can teach us of a woman's heart,
We know not His whose love embraces all.