Part 4 out of 5
In a phantom hulk that drifts alway
Through channels whose waters never fail.
It is but a foolish shipman's tale,
A theme for a poet's idle page;
But still, when the mists of Doubt prevail,
And we lie becalmed by the shores of Age,
We hear from the misty troubled shore
The voice of the children gone before,
Drawing the soul to its anchorage.
A NEWPORT ROMANCE
They say that she died of a broken heart
(I tell the tale as 'twas told to me);
But her spirit lives, and her soul is part
Of this sad old house by the sea.
Her lover was fickle and fine and French:
It was nearly a hundred years ago
When he sailed away from her arms--poor wench!--
With the Admiral Rochambeau.
I marvel much what periwigged phrase
Won the heart of this sentimental Quaker,
At what gold-laced speech of those modish days
She listened--the mischief take her!
But she kept the posies of mignonette
That he gave; and ever as their bloom failed
And faded (though with her tears still wet)
Her youth with their own exhaled.
Till one night, when the sea-fog wrapped a shroud
Round spar and spire and tarn and tree,
Her soul went up on that lifted cloud
From this sad old house by the sea.
And ever since then, when the clock strikes two,
She walks unbidden from room to room,
And the air is filled that she passes through
With a subtle, sad perfume.
The delicate odor of mignonette,
The ghost of a dead-and-gone bouquet,
Is all that tells of her story; yet
Could she think of a sweeter way?
I sit in the sad old house to-night,--
Myself a ghost from a farther sea;
And I trust that this Quaker woman might,
In courtesy, visit me.
For the laugh is fled from porch and lawn,
And the bugle died from the fort on the hill,
And the twitter of girls on the stairs is gone,
And the grand piano is still.
Somewhere in the darkness a clock strikes two:
And there is no sound in the sad old house,
But the long veranda dripping with dew,
And in the wainscot a mouse.
The light of my study-lamp streams out
From the library door, but has gone astray
In the depths of the darkened hall. Small doubt
But the Quakeress knows the way.
Was it the trick of a sense o'erwrought
With outward watching and inward fret?
But I swear that the air just now was fraught
With the odor of mignonette!
I open the window, and seem almost--
So still lies the ocean--to hear the beat
Of its Great Gulf artery off the coast,
And to bask in its tropic heat.
In my neighbor's windows the gas-lights flare,
As the dancers swing in a waltz of Strauss;
And I wonder now could I fit that air
To the song of this sad old house.
And no odor of mignonette there is,
But the breath of morn on the dewy lawn;
And mayhap from causes as slight as this
The quaint old legend is born.
But the soul of that subtle, sad perfume,
As the spiced embalmings, they say, outlast
The mummy laid in his rocky tomb,
Awakens my buried past.
And I think of the passion that shook my youth,
Of its aimless loves and its idle pains,
And am thankful now for the certain truth
That only the sweet remains.
And I hear no rustle of stiff brocade,
And I see no face at my library door;
For now that the ghosts of my heart are laid,
She is viewless for evermore.
But whether she came as a faint perfume,
Or whether a spirit in stole of white,
I feel, as I pass from the darkened room,
She has been with my soul to-night!
(FROM THE SEA)
Serene, indifferent of Fate,
Thou sittest at the Western Gate;
Upon thy height, so lately won,
Still slant the banners of the sun;
Thou seest the white seas strike their tents,
O Warder of two continents!
And, scornful of the peace that flies
Thy angry winds and sullen skies,
Thou drawest all things, small, or great,
To thee, beside the Western Gate.
O lion's whelp, that hidest fast
In jungle growth of spire and mast!
I know thy cunning and thy greed,
Thy hard high lust and willful deed,
And all thy glory loves to tell
Of specious gifts material.
Drop down, O Fleecy Fog, and hide
Her skeptic sneer and all her pride!
Wrap her, O Fog, in gown and hood
Of her Franciscan Brotherhood.
Hide me her faults, her sin and blame;
With thy gray mantle cloak her shame!
So shall she, cowled, sit and pray
Till morning bears her sins away.
Then rise, O Fleecy Fog, and raise
The glory of her coming days;
Be as the cloud that flecks the seas
Above her smoky argosies;
When forms familiar shall give place
To stranger speech and newer face;
When all her throes and anxious fears
Lie hushed in the repose of years;
When Art shall raise and Culture lift
The sensual joys and meaner thrift,
And all fulfilled the vision we
Who watch and wait shall never see;
Who, in the morning of her race,
Toiled fair or meanly in our place,
But, yielding to the common lot,
Lie unrecorded and forgot.
THE MOUNTAIN HEART'S-EASE
By scattered rocks and turbid waters shifting,
By furrowed glade and dell,
To feverish men thy calm, sweet face uplifting,
Thou stayest them to tell
The delicate thought that cannot find expression,
For ruder speech too fair,
That, like thy petals, trembles in possession,
And scatters on the air.
The miner pauses in his rugged labor,
And, leaning on his spade,
Laughingly calls unto his comrade-neighbor
To see thy charms displayed.
But in his eyes a mist unwonted rises,
And for a moment clear
Some sweet home face his foolish thought surprises,
And passes in a tear,--
Some boyish vision of his Eastern village,
Of uneventful toil,
Where golden harvests followed quiet tillage
Above a peaceful soil.
One moment only; for the pick, uplifting,
Through root and fibre cleaves,
And on the muddy current slowly drifting
Are swept by bruised leaves.
And yet, O poet, in thy homely fashion,
Thy work thou dost fulfill,
For on the turbid current of his passion
Thy face is shining still!
Coward,--of heroic size,
In whose lazy muscles lies
Strength we fear and yet despise;
Savage,--whose relentless tusks
Are content with acorn husks;
Robber,--whose exploits ne'er soared
O'er the bee's or squirrel's hoard;
Whiskered chin and feeble nose,
Claws of steel on baby toes,--
Here, in solitude and shade,
Shambling, shuffling plantigrade,
Be thy courses undismayed!
Here, where Nature makes thy bed,
Let thy rude, half-human tread
Point to hidden Indian springs,
Lost in ferns and fragrant grasses,
Hovered o'er by timid wings,
Where the wood-duck lightly passes,
Where the wild bee holds her sweets,--
Fit for thee, and better than
Fearful spoils of dangerous man.
In thy fat-jowled deviltry
Friar Tuck shall live in thee;
Thou mayst levy tithe and dole;
Thou shalt spread the woodland cheer,
From the pilgrim taking toll;
Match thy cunning with his fear;
Eat, and drink, and have thy fill;
Yet remain an outlaw still!
Captain of the Western wood,
Thou that apest Robin Hood!
Green above thy scarlet hose,
How thy velvet mantle shows!
Never tree like thee arrayed,
O thou gallant of the glade!
When the fervid August sun
Scorches all it looks upon,
And the balsam of the pine
Drips from stem to needle fine,
Round thy compact shade arranged,
Not a leaf of thee is changed!
When the yellow autumn sun
Saddens all it looks upon,
Spreads its sackcloth on the hills,
Strews its ashes in the rills,
Thou thy scarlet hose dost doff,
And in limbs of purest buff
Challengest the sombre glade
For a sylvan masquerade.
Where, oh, where, shall he begin
Who would paint thee, Harlequin?
With thy waxen burnished leaf,
With thy branches' red relief,
With thy polytinted fruit,--
In thy spring or autumn suit,--
Where begin, and oh, where end,
Thou whose charms all art transcend?
Blown out of the prairie in twilight and dew,
Half bold and half timid, yet lazy all through;
Loath ever to leave, and yet fearful to stay,
He limps in the clearing, an outcast in gray.
A shade on the stubble, a ghost by the wall,
Now leaping, now limping, now risking a fall,
Lop-eared and large-jointed, but ever alway
A thoroughly vagabond outcast in gray.
Here, Carlo, old fellow,--he's one of your kind,--
Go, seek him, and bring him in out of the wind.
What! snarling, my Carlo! So even dogs may
Deny their own kin in the outcast in gray.
Well, take what you will,--though it be on the sly,
Marauding or begging,--I shall not ask why,
But will call it a dole, just to help on his way
A four-footed friar in orders of gray!
TO A SEA-BIRD
(SANTA CRUZ, 1869)
Sauntering hither on listless wings,
Careless vagabond of the sea,
Little thou heedest the surf that sings,
The bar that thunders, the shale that rings,--
Give me to keep thy company.
Little thou hast, old friend, that's new;
Storms and wrecks are old things to thee;
Sick am I of these changes, too;
Little to care for, little to rue,--
I on the shore, and thou on the sea.
All of thy wanderings, far and near,
Bring thee at last to shore and me;
All of my journeyings end them here:
This our tether must be our cheer,--
I on the shore, and thou on the sea.
Lazily rocking on ocean's breast,
Something in common, old friend, have we:
Thou on the shingle seek'st thy nest,
I to the waters look for rest,--
I on the shore, and thou on the sea.
WHAT THE CHIMNEY SANG
Over the chimney the night-wind sang
And chanted a melody no one knew;
And the Woman stopped, as her babe she tossed,
And thought of the one she had long since lost,
And said, as her teardrops back she forced,
"I hate the wind in the chimney."
Over the chimney the night-wind sang
And chanted a melody no one knew;
And the Children said, as they closer drew,
"'Tis some witch that is cleaving the black night through,
'Tis a fairy trumpet that just then blew,
And we fear the wind in the chimney."
Over the chimney the night-wind sang
And chanted a melody no one knew;
And the Man, as he sat on his hearth below,
Said to himself, "It will surely snow,
And fuel is dear and wages low,
And I'll stop the leak in the chimney."
Over the chimney the night-wind sang
And chanted a melody no one knew;
But the Poet listened and smiled, for he
Was Man and Woman and Child, all three,
And said, "It is God's own harmony,
This wind we hear in the chimney."
DICKENS IN CAMP
Above the pines the moon was slowly drifting,
The river sang below;
The dim Sierras, far beyond, uplifting
Their minarets of snow.
The roaring camp-fire, with rude humor, painted
The ruddy tints of health
On haggard face and form that drooped and fainted
In the fierce race for wealth;
Till one arose, and from his pack's scant treasure
A hoarded volume drew,
And cards were dropped from hands of listless leisure
To hear the tale anew.
And then, while round them shadows gathered faster,
And as the firelight fell,
He read aloud the book wherein the Master
Had writ of "Little Nell."
Perhaps 'twas boyish fancy,--for the reader
Was youngest of them all,--
But, as he read, from clustering pine and cedar
A silence seemed to fall;
The fir-trees, gathering closer in the shadows,
Listened in every spray,
While the whole camp with "Nell" on English meadows
Wandered and lost their way.
And so in mountain solitudes--o'ertaken
As by some spell divine--
Their cares dropped from them like the needles shaken
From out the gusty pine.
Lost is that camp and wasted all its fire;
And he who wrought that spell?
Ah! towering pine and stately Kentish spire,
Ye have one tale to tell!
Lost is that camp, but let its fragrant story
Blend with the breath that thrills
With hop-vine's incense all the pensive glory
That fills the Kentish hills.
And on that grave where English oak and holly
And laurel wreaths entwine,
Deem it not all a too presumptuous folly,
This spray of Western pine!
Beg your pardon, old fellow! I think
I was dreaming just now when you spoke.
The fact is, the musical clink
Of the ice on your wine-goblet's brink
A chord of my memory woke.
And I stood in the pasture-field where
Twenty summers ago I had stood;
And I heard in that sound, I declare,
The clinking of bells in the air,
Of the cows coming home from the wood.
Then the apple-bloom shook on the hill;
And the mullein-stalks tilted each lance;
And the sun behind Rapalye's mill
Was my uttermost West, and could thrill
Like some fanciful land of romance.
Then my friend was a hero, and then
My girl was an angel. In fine,
I drank buttermilk; for at ten
Faith asks less to aid her than when
At thirty we doubt over wine.
Ah, well, it DOES seem that I must
Have been dreaming just now when you spoke,
Or lost, very like, in the dust
Of the years that slow fashioned the crust
On that bottle whose seal you last broke.
Twenty years was its age, did you say?
Twenty years? Ah, my friend, it is true!
All the dreams that have flown since that day,
All the hopes in that time passed away,
Old friend, I've been drinking with you!
"The sky is clouded, the rocks are bare,
The spray of the tempest is white in air;
The winds are out with the waves at play,
And I shall not tempt the sea to-day.
"The trail is narrow, the wood is dim,
The panther clings to the arching limb;
And the lion's whelps are abroad at play,
And I shall not join in the chase to-day."
But the ship sailed safely over the sea,
And the hunters came from the chase in glee;
And the town that was builded upon a rock
Was swallowed up in the earthquake shock.
(MASSACHUSETTS SHORE, 1800)
I mind it was but yesterday:
The sun was dim, the air was chill;
Below the town, below the hill,
The sails of my son's ship did fill,--
My Jacob, who was cast away.
He said, "God keep you, mother dear,"
But did not turn to kiss his wife;
They had some foolish, idle strife;
Her tongue was like a two-edged knife,
And he was proud as any peer.
Howbeit that night I took no note
Of sea nor sky, for all was drear;
I marked not that the hills looked near,
Nor that the moon, though curved and clear,
Through curd-like scud did drive and float.
For with my darling went the joy
Of autumn woods and meadows brown;
I came to hate the little town;
It seemed as if the sun went down
With him, my only darling boy.
It was the middle of the night:
The wind, it shifted west-by-south,--
It piled high up the harbor mouth;
The marshes, black with summer drouth,
Were all abroad with sea-foam white.
It was the middle of the night:
The sea upon the garden leapt,
And my son's wife in quiet slept,
And I, his mother, waked and wept,
When lo! there came a sudden light.
And there he stood! His seaman's dress
All wet and dripping seemed to be;
The pale blue fires of the sea
Dripped from his garments constantly,--
I could not speak through cowardness.
"I come through night and storm," he said.
"Through storm and night and death," said he,
"To kiss my wife, if it so be
That strife still holds 'twixt her and me,
For all beyond is peace," he said.
"The sea is His, and He who sent
The wind and wave can soothe their strife
And brief and foolish is our life."
He stooped and kissed his sleeping wife,
Then sighed, and like a dream he went.
Now, when my darling kissed not me,
But her--his wife--who did not wake,
My heart within me seemed to break;
I swore a vow, nor thenceforth spake
Of what my clearer eyes did see.
And when the slow weeks brought him not,
Somehow we spake of aught beside:
For she--her hope upheld her pride;
And I--in me all hope had died,
And my son passed as if forgot.
It was about the next springtide:
She pined and faded where she stood,
Yet spake no word of ill or good;
She had the hard, cold Edwards' blood
In all her veins--and so she died.
One time I thought, before she passed,
To give her peace; but ere I spake
Methought, "HE will be first to break
The news in heaven," and for his sake
I held mine back until the last.
And here I sit, nor care to roam;
I only wait to hear his call.
I doubt not that this day next fall
Shall see me safe in port, where all
And every ship at last comes home.
And you have sailed the Spanish Main,
And knew my Jacob? . . . Eh! Mercy!
Ah! God of wisdom! hath the sea
Yielded its dead to humble me?
My boy! . . . My Jacob! . . . Turn again!
[William Guild was engineer of the train which on the 19th of April,
1813, plunged into Meadow Brook, on the line of the Stonington and
Providence Railroad. It was his custom, as often as he passed his
home, to whistle an "All's well" to his wife. He was found, after
the disaster, dead, with his hand on the throttle-valve of his
Two low whistles, quaint and clear:
That was the signal the engineer--
That was the signal that Guild, 'tis said--
Gave to his wife at Providence,
As through the sleeping town, and thence,
Out in the night,
On to the light,
Down past the farms, lying white, he sped!
As a husband's greeting, scant, no doubt,
Yet to the woman looking out,
Watching and waiting, no serenade,
Love-song, or midnight roundelay
Said what that whistle seemed to say:
"To my trust true,
So, love, to you!
Working or waiting, good-night!" it said.
Brisk young bagmen, tourists fine,
Old commuters along the line,
Brakemen and porters glanced ahead,
Smiled as the signal, sharp, intense,
Pierced through the shadows of Providence:
Only Guild calling his wife," they said.
Summer and winter the old refrain
Rang o'er the billows of ripening grain,
Pierced through the budding boughs o'erhead,
Flew down the track when the red leaves burned
Like living coals from the engine spurned;
Sang as it flew,
"To our trust true,
First of all, duty. Good-night!" it said.
And then, one night, it was heard no more
From Stonington over Rhode Island shore,
And the folk in Providence smiled and said
As they turned in their beds, "The engineer
Has once forgotten his midnight cheer."
ONE only knew,
To his trust true,
Guild lay under his engine, dead.
ASPIRING MISS DE LAINE
(A CHEMICAL NARRATIVE)
Certain facts which serve to explain
The physical charms of Miss Addie De Laine,
Who, as the common reports obtain,
Surpassed in complexion the lily and rose;
With a very sweet mouth and a retrousse nose;
A figure like Hebe's, or that which revolves
In a milliner's window, and partially solves
That question which mentor and moralist pains,
If grace may exist minus feeling or brains.
Of course the young lady had beaux by the score,
All that she wanted,--what girl could ask more?
Lovers that sighed and lovers that swore,
Lovers that danced and lovers that played,
Men of profession, of leisure, and trade;
But one, who was destined to take the high part
Of holding that mythical treasure, her heart,--
This lover, the wonder and envy of town,
Was a practicing chemist, a fellow called Brown.
I might here remark that 'twas doubted by many,
In regard to the heart, if Miss Addie had any;
But no one could look in that eloquent face,
With its exquisite outline and features of grace,
And mark, through the transparent skin, how the tide
Ebbed and flowed at the impulse of passion or pride,--
None could look, who believed in the blood's circulation
As argued by Harvey, but saw confirmation
That here, at least, Nature had triumphed o'er art,
And as far as complexion went she had a heart.
But this par parenthesis. Brown was the man
Preferred of all others to carry her fan,
Hook her glove, drape her shawl, and do all that a belle
May demand of the lover she wants to treat well.
Folks wondered and stared that a fellow called Brown--
Abstracted and solemn, in manner a clown,
Ill dressed, with a lingering smell of the shop--
Should appear as her escort at party or hop.
Some swore he had cooked up some villainous charm,
Or love philter, not in the regular Pharm-
Acopoeia, and thus, from pure malice prepense,
Had bewitched and bamboozled the young lady's sense;
Others thought, with more reason, the secret to lie
In a magical wash or indelible dye;
While Society, with its censorious eye
And judgment impartial, stood ready to damn
What wasn't improper as being a sham.
For a fortnight the townfolk had all been agog
With a party, the finest the season had seen,
To be given in honor of Miss Pollywog,
Who was just coming out as a belle of sixteen.
The guests were invited; but one night before
A carriage drew up at the modest back door
Of Brown's lab'ratory, and, full in the glare
Of a big purple bottle, some closely veiled fair
Alighted and entered: to make matters plain,
Spite of veils and disguises, 'twas Addie De Laine.
As a bower for true love, 'twas hardly the one
That a lady would choose to be wooed in or won:
No odor of rose or sweet jessamine's sigh
Breathed a fragrance to hallow their pledge of troth by,
Nor the balm that exhales from the odorous thyme;
But the gaseous effusions of chloride of lime,
And salts, which your chemist delights to explain
As the base of the smell of the rose and the drain.
Think of this, O ye lovers of sweetness! and know
What you smell when you snuff up Lubin or Pinaud.
I pass by the greetings, the transports and bliss,
Which of course duly followed a meeting like this,
And come down to business,--for such the intent
Of the lady who now o'er the crucible leant,
In the glow of a furnace of carbon and lime,
Like a fairy called up in the new pantomime,--
And give but her words, as she coyly looked down
In reply to the questioning glances of Brown:
"I am taking the drops, and am using the paste,
And the little white powders that had a sweet taste,
Which you told me would brighten the glance of my eye,
And the depilatory, and also the dye,
And I'm charmed with the trial; and now, my dear Brown,
I have one other favor,--now, ducky, don't frown,--
Only one, for a chemist and genius like you
But a trifle, and one you can easily do.
Now listen: to-morrow, you know, is the night
Of the birthday soiree of that Pollywog fright;
And I'm to be there, and the dress I shall wear
Is TOO lovely; but"-- "But what then, ma chere?"
Said Brown, as the lady came to a full stop,
And glanced round the shelves of the little back shop.
"Well, I want--I want something to fill out the skirt
To the proper dimensions, without being girt
In a stiff crinoline, or caged in a hoop
That shows through one's skirt like the bars of a coop;
Something light, that a lady may waltz in, or polk,
With a freedom that none but you masculine folk
Ever know. For, however poor woman aspires,
She's always bound down to the earth by these wires.
Are you listening? Nonsense! don't stare like a spoon,
Idiotic; some light thing, and spacious, and soon--
Something like--well, in fact--something like a balloon!"
Here she paused; and here Brown, overcome by surprise,
Gave a doubting assent with still wondering eyes,
And the lady departed. But just at the door
Something happened,--'tis true, it had happened before
In this sanctum of science,--a sibilant sound,
Like some element just from its trammels unbound,
Or two substances that their affinities found.
The night of the anxiously looked for soiree
Had come, with its fair ones in gorgeous array;
With the rattle of wheels and the tinkle of bells,
And the "How do ye do's" and the "Hope you are well's;"
And the crush in the passage, and last lingering look
You give as you hang your best hat on the hook;
The rush of hot air as the door opens wide;
And your entry,--that blending of self-possessed pride
And humility shown in your perfect-bred stare
At the folk, as if wondering how they got there;
With other tricks worthy of Vanity Fair.
Meanwhile, the safe topic, the beat of the room,
Already was losing its freshness and bloom;
Young people were yawning, and wondering when
The dance would come off; and why didn't it then:
When a vague expectation was thrilling the crowd,
Lo! the door swung its hinges with utterance proud!
And Pompey announced, with a trumpet-like strain,
The entrance of Brown and Miss Addie De Laine.
She entered; but oh! how imperfect the verb
To express to the senses her movement superb!
To say that she "sailed in" more clearly might tell
Her grace in its buoyant and billowy swell.
Her robe was a vague circumambient space,
With shadowy boundaries made of point-lace;
The rest was but guesswork, and well might defy
The power of critical feminine eye
To define or describe: 'twere as futile to try
The gossamer web of the cirrus to trace,
Floating far in the blue of a warm summer sky.
'Midst the humming of praises and glances of beaux
That greet our fair maiden wherever she goes,
Brown slipped like a shadow, grim, silent, and black,
With a look of anxiety, close in her track.
Once he whispered aside in her delicate ear
A sentence of warning,--it might be of fear:
"Don't stand in a draught, if you value your life."
(Nothing more,--such advice might be given your wife
Or your sweetheart, in times of bronchitis and cough,
Without mystery, romance, or frivolous scoff.)
But hark to the music; the dance has begun.
The closely draped windows wide open are flung;
The notes of the piccolo, joyous and light,
Like bubbles burst forth on the warm summer night.
Round about go the dancers; in circles they fly;
Trip, trip, go their feet as their skirts eddy by;
And swifter and lighter, but somewhat too plain,
Whisks the fair circumvolving Miss Addie De Laine.
Taglioni and Cerito well might have pined
For the vigor and ease that her movements combined;
E'en Rigelboche never flung higher her robe
In the naughtiest city that's known on the globe.
'Twas amazing, 'twas scandalous; lost in surprise,
Some opened their mouths, and a few shut their eyes.
But hark! At the moment Miss Addie De Laine,
Circling round at the outer edge of an ellipse
Which brought her fair form to the window again,
From the arms of her partner incautiously slips!
And a shriek fills the air, and the music is still,
And the crowd gather round where her partner forlorn
Still frenziedly points from the wide window-sill
Into space and the night; for Miss Addie was gone!
Gone like the bubble that bursts in the sun;
Gone like the grain when the reaper is done;
Gone like the dew on the fresh morning grass;
Gone without parting farewell; and alas!
Gone with a flavor of hydrogen gas!
When the weather is pleasant, you frequently meet
A white-headed man slowly pacing the street;
His trembling hand shading his lack-lustre eye,
Half blind with continually scanning the sky.
Rumor points him as some astronomical sage,
Re-perusing by day the celestial page;
But the reader, sagacious, will recognize Brown,
Trying vainly to conjure his lost sweetheart down,
And learn the stern moral this story must teach,
That Genius may lift its love out of its reach.
A LEGEND OF COLOGNE
Above the bones
St. Ursula owns,
And those of the virgins she chaperons;
Above the boats,
And the bridge that floats,
And the Rhine and the steamers' smoky throats;
Above the chimneys and quaint-tiled roofs,
Above the clatter of wheels and hoofs;
Above Newmarket's open space,
Above that consecrated place
Where the genuine bones of the Magi seen are,
And the dozen shops of the real Farina;
Higher than even old Hohestrasse,
Whose houses threaten the timid passer,--
Above them all,
Through scaffolds tall,
And spires like delicate limbs in splinters,
The great Cologne's
Climb through the storms of eight hundred winters.
In high mid-air
The towers halt like a broken prayer;
Through years belated,
The hope of its architect quite frustrated.
Its very youth
They say, forsooth,
With a quite improper purpose mated;
And every stone
With a curse of its own
Instead of that sermon Shakespeare stated,
Since the day its choir,
Which all admire,
By Cologne's Archbishop was consecrated.
Ah! THAT was a day,
One well might say,
To be marked with the largest, whitest stone
To be found in the towers of all Cologne!
Along the Rhine,
From old Rheinstein,
The people flowed like their own good wine.
And every spot that is known to rhyme;
From the famed Cat's Castle of St. Goarshausen,
To the pictured roofs of Assmannshausen,
And down the track,
From quaint Schwalbach
To the clustering tiles of Bacharach;
From Bingen, hence
To old Coblentz:
From every castellated crag,
Where the robber chieftains kept their "swag,"
The folk flowed in, and Ober-Cassel
Shone with the pomp of knight and vassal;
And pouring in from near and far,
As the Rhine to its bosom draws the Ahr,
Or takes the arm of the sober Mosel,
So in Cologne, knight, squire, and losel,
Choked up the city's gates with men
From old St. Stephen to Zint Marjen.
What had they come to see? Ah me!
I fear no glitter of pageantry,
Nor sacred zeal
For Church's weal,
Nor faith in the virgins' bones to heal;
Nor childlike trust in frank confession
Drew these, who, dyed in deep transgression,
Still in each nest
On every crest
Kept stolen goods in their possession;
But only their gout
For something new,
More rare than the "roast" of a wandering Jew;
Or--to be exact--
To see--in fact--
A Christian soul, in the very act
Of being damned, secundum artem,
By the devil, before a soul could part 'em.
For a rumor had flown
That the church, in fact, was the devil's own;
That its architect
(Being long "suspect")
Had confessed to the Bishop that he had wrecked
Not only his OWN soul, but had lost
The VERY FIRST CHRISTIAN SOUL that crossed
The sacred threshold: and all, in fine,
For that very beautiful design
Of the wonderful choir
They were pleased to admire.
And really, he must be allowed to say--
To speak in a purely business way--
That, taking the ruling market prices
Of souls and churches, in such a crisis
It would be shown--
And his Grace must own--
It was really a BARGAIN for Cologne!
Such was the tale
That turned cheeks pale
With the thought that the enemy might prevail,
And the church doors snap
With a thunderclap
On a Christian soul in that devil's trap.
But a wiser few,
Who thought that they knew
Cologne's Archbishop, replied, "Pooh, pooh!
Just watch him and wait,
And as sure as fate,
You'll find that the Bishop will give checkmate."
One here might note
How the popular vote,
As shown in all legends and anecdote,
Declares that a breach
Of trust to o'erreach
The devil is something quite proper for each.
And, really, if you
Give the devil his due
In spite of the proverb--it's something you'll rue.
But to lie and deceive him,
To use and to leave him,
From Job up to Faust is the way to receive him,
Though no one has heard
It ever averred
That the "Father of Lies" ever yet broke HIS word,
But has left this position,
In every tradition,
To be taken alone by the "truth-loving" Christian!
Bom! from the tower!
It is the hour!
The host pours in, in its pomp and power
Of banners and pyx,
And high crucifix,
And crosiers and other processional sticks,
And no end of Marys
In quaint reliquaries,
To gladden the souls of all true antiquaries;
And an Osculum Pacis
(A myth to the masses
Who trusted their bones more to mail and cuirasses)--
All borne by the throng
Who are marching along
To the square of the Dom with processional song,
With the flaring of dips,
And bending of hips,
And the chanting of hundred perfunctory lips;
And some good little boys
Who had come up from Neuss
And the Quirinuskirche to show off their voice:
All march to the square
Of the great Dom, and there
File right and left, leaving alone and quite bare
A covered sedan,
The rumor--the victim to take off the ban.
They have left it alone,
They have sprinkled each stone
Of the porch with a sanctified Eau de Cologne,
Guaranteed in this case
To disguise every trace
Of a sulphurous presence in that sacred place.
Two Carmelites stand
On the right and left hand
Of the covered sedan chair, to wait the command
Of the prelate to throw
Up the cover and show
The form of the victim in terror below.
There's a pause and a prayer,
Then the signal, and there--
Is a WOMAN!--by all that is good and is fair!
A woman! and known
To them all--one must own
TOO WELL KNOWN to the many, to-day to be shown
As a martyr, or e'en
As a Christian! A queen
Of pleasance and revel, of glitter and sheen;
So bad that the worst
Of Cologne spake up first,
And declared 'twas an outrage to suffer one curst,
And already a fief
Of the Satanic chief,
To martyr herself for the Church's relief.
But in vain fell their sneer
On the mob, who I fear
On the whole felt a strong disposition to cheer.
A woman! and there
She stands in the glare
Of the pitiless sun and their pitying stare,--
A woman still young,
With garments that clung
To a figure, though wasted with passion and wrung
With remorse and despair,
Yet still passing fair,
With jewels and gold in her dark shining hair,
And cheeks that are faint
'Neath her dyes and her paint.
A woman most surely--but hardly a saint!
She moves. She has gone
From their pity and scorn;
She has mounted alone
The first step of stone,
And the high swinging doors she wide open has thrown,
Then pauses and turns,
As the altar blaze burns
On her cheeks, and with one sudden gesture she spurns
Archbishop and Prior,
Knight, ladye, and friar,
And her voice rings out high from the vault of the choir.
"O men of Cologne!
What I WAS ye have known;
What I AM, as I stand here, One knoweth alone.
If it be but His will
I shall pass from Him still,
Lost, curst, and degraded, I reckon no ill;
If still by that sign
Of His anger divine
One soul shall he saved, He hath blessed more than mine.
O men of Cologne!
Stand forth, if ye own
A faith like to this, or more fit to atone,
And take ye my place,
And God give you grace
To stand and confront Him, like me, face to face!"
She paused. Yet aloof
They all stand. No reproof
Breaks the silence that fills the celestial roof.
One instant--no more--
She halts at the door,
Then enters! . . . A flood from the roof to the floor
Fills the church rosy red.
She is gone!
Who is this leaning forward with glorified head
And hands stretched to save?
Sure this is no slave
Of the Powers of Darkness, with aspect so brave!
They press to the door,
But too late! All is o'er.
Naught remains but a woman's form prone on the floor;
But they still see a trace
Of that glow in her face
That they saw in the light of the altar's high blaze
On the image that stands
With the babe in its hands
Enshrined in the churches of all Christian lands.
A Te Deum sung,
A censer high swung,
With praise, benediction, and incense wide-flung,
Proclaim that the CURSE
IS REMOVED--and no worse
Is the Dom for the trial--in fact, the REVERSE;
For instead of their losing
A soul in abusing
The Evil One's faith, they gained one of his choosing.
Thus the legend is told:
You will find in the old
Vaulted aisles of the Dom, stiff in marble or cold
In iron and brass,
In gown and cuirass,
The knights, priests, and bishops who came to that Mass;
And high o'er the rest,
With her babe at her breast,
The image of Mary Madonna the blest.
But you look round in vain,
On each high pictured pane,
For the woman most worthy to walk in her train.
Yet, standing to-day
O'er the dust and the clay,
'Midst the ghosts of a life that has long passed away,
With the slow-sinking sun
Looking softly upon
That stained-glass procession, I scarce miss the one
That it does not reveal,
For I know and I feel
That these are but shadows--the woman was real!
THE TALE OF A PONY
Name of my heroine, simply "Rose;"
Surname, tolerable only in prose;
Habitat, Paris,--that is where
She resided for change of air;
Aetat twenty; complexion fair;
Rich, good looking, and debonnaire;
Smarter than Jersey lightning. There!
That's her photograph, done with care.
In Paris, whatever they do besides,
EVERY LADY IN FULL DRESS RIDES!
Moire antiques you never meet
Sweeping the filth of a dirty street
But every woman's claim to ton
The team she drives, whether phaeton,
Landau, or britzka. Hence it's plain
That Rose, who was of her toilet vain,
Should have a team that ought to be
Equal to any in all Paris!
"Bring forth the horse!" The commissaire
Bowed, and brought Miss Rose a pair
Leading an equipage rich and rare.
Why doth that lovely lady stare?
Why? The tail of the off gray mare
Is bobbed, by all that's good and fair!
Like the shaving-brushes that soldiers wear,
Scarcely showing as much back hair
As Tam O'Shanter's "Meg,"--and there,
Lord knows, she'd little enough to spare.
That stare and frown the Frenchman knew,
But did as well-bred Frenchmen do:
Raised his shoulders above his crown,
Joined his thumbs with the fingers down,
And said, "Ah, Heaven!"--then, "Mademoiselle,
Delay one minute, and all is well!"
He went--returned; by what good chance
These things are managed so well in France
I cannot say, but he made the sale,
And the bob-tailed mare had a flowing tail.
All that is false in this world below
Betrays itself in a love of show;
Indignant Nature hides her lash
In the purple-black of a dyed mustache;
The shallowest fop will trip in French,
The would-be critic will misquote Trench;
In short, you're always sure to detect
A sham in the things folks most affect;
Bean-pods are noisiest when dry,
And you always wink with your weakest eye:
And that's the reason the old gray mare
Forever had her tail in the air,
With flourishes beyond compare,
Though every whisk
Incurred the risk
Of leaving that sensitive region bare.
She did some things that you couldn't but feel
She wouldn't have done had her tail been real.
Champs Elysees: time, past five.
There go the carriages,--look alive!
Everything that man can drive,
Or his inventive skill contrive,--
Yankee buggy or English "chay,"
Dog-cart, droschky, and smart coupe,
A desobligeante quite bulky
(French idea of a Yankee sulky);
Band in the distance playing a march,
Footman standing stiff as starch;
Savans, lorettes, deputies, Arch-
Bishops, and there together range
Sous-lieutenants and cent-gardes (strange
Way these soldier-chaps make change),
Mixed with black-eyed Polish dames,
With unpronounceable awful names;
Laces tremble and ribbons flout,
Coachmen wrangle and gendarmes shout--
Bless us! what is the row about?
Ah! here comes Rosy's new turnout!
Smart! You bet your life 'twas that!
Nifty! (short for magnificat).
Mulberry panels,--heraldic spread,--
Ebony wheels picked out with red,
And two gray mares that were thoroughbred:
No wonder that every dandy's head
Was turned by the turnout,--and 'twas said
That Caskowhisky (friend of the Czar),
A very good whip (as Russians are),
Was tied to Rosy's triumphal car,
Entranced, the reader will understand,
By "ribbons" that graced her head and hand.
Alas! the hour you think would crown
Your highest wishes should let you down!
Or Fate should turn, by your own mischance,
Your victor's car to an ambulance,
From cloudless heavens her lightnings glance!
(And these things happen, even in France.)
And so Miss Rose, as she trotted by,
The cynosure of every eye,
Saw to her horror the off mare shy,
Flourish her tail so exceedingly high
That, disregarding the closest tie,
And without giving a reason why,
She flung that tail so free and frisky
Off in the face of Caskowhisky.
Excuses, blushes, smiles: in fine,
End of the pony's tail, and mine!
ON A CONE OF THE BIG TREES
Brown foundling of the Western wood,
Babe of primeval wildernesses!
Long on my table thou hast stood
Encounters strange and rude caresses;
Perchance contented with thy lot,
Surroundings new, and curious faces,
As though ten centuries were not
Imprisoned in thy shining cases.
Thou bring'st me back the halcyon days
Of grateful rest, the week of leisure,
The journey lapped in autumn haze,
The sweet fatigue that seemed a pleasure,
The morning ride, the noonday halt,
The blazing slopes, the red dust rising,
And then the dim, brown, columned vault,
With its cool, damp, sepulchral spicing.
Once more I see the rocking masts
That scrape the sky, their only tenant
The jay-bird, that in frolic casts
From some high yard his broad blue pennant.
I see the Indian files that keep
Their places in the dusty heather,
Their red trunks standing ankle-deep
In moccasins of rusty leather.
I see all this, and marvel much
That thou, sweet woodland waif, art able
To keep the company of such
As throng thy friend's--the poet's--table:
The latest spawn the press hath cast,--
The "modern popes," "the later Byrons,"--
Why, e'en the best may not outlast
Thy poor relation--Sempervirens.
Thy sire saw the light that shone
On Mohammed's uplifted crescent,
On many a royal gilded throne
And deed forgotten in the present;
He saw the age of sacred trees
And Druid groves and mystic larches;
And saw from forest domes like these
The builder bring his Gothic arches.
And must thou, foundling, still forego
Thy heritage and high ambition,
To lie full lowly and full low,
Adjusted to thy new condition?
Not hidden in the drifted snows,
But under ink-drops idly spattered,
And leaves ephemeral as those
That on thy woodland tomb were scattered?
Yet lie thou there, O friend! and speak
The moral of thy simple story:
Though life is all that thou dost seek,
And age alone thy crown of glory,
Not thine the only germs that fail
The purpose of their high creation,
If their poor tenements avail
For worldly show and ostentation.
(CEMETERY, SAN FRANCISCO)
This is that hill of awe
That Persian Sindbad saw,--
The mount magnetic;
And on its seaward face,
Scattered along its base,
The wrecks prophetic.
Here come the argosies
Blown by each idle breeze,
To and fro shifting;
Yet to the hill of Fate
All drawing, soon or late,--
Day by day drifting;
Drifting forever here
Barks that for many a year
Braved wind and weather;
Shallops but yesterday
Launched on yon shining bay,--
Drawn all together.
This is the end of all:
Sun thyself by the wall,
O poorer Hindbad!
Envy not Sindbad's fame:
Here come alike the same
Hindbad and Sindbad.
Here's yer toy balloons! All sizes!
Twenty cents for that. It rises
Jest as quick as that 'ere, Miss,
Twice as big. Ye see it is
Some more fancy. Make it square
Fifty for 'em both. That's fair.
That's the sixth I've sold since noon.
Trade's reviving. Just as soon
As this lot's worked off, I'll take
Wholesale figgers. Make or break,--
That's my motto! Then I'll buy
In some first-class lottery
One half ticket, numbered right--
As I dreamed about last night.
That'll fetch it. Don't tell me!
When a man's in luck, you see,
All things help him. Every chance
Hits him like an avalanche.
Here's your toy balloons, Miss. Eh?
You won't turn your face this way?
Mebbe you'll be glad some day.
With that clear ten thousand prize
This 'yer trade I'll drop, and rise
Into wholesale. No! I'll take
Stocks in Wall Street. Make or break,--
That's my motto! With my luck,
Where's the chance of being stuck?
Call it sixty thousand, clear,
Made in Wall Street in one year.
Sixty thousand! Umph! Let's see!
Bond and mortgage'll do for me.
Good! That gal that passed me by
Scornful like--why, mebbe I
Some day'll hold in pawn--why not?--
All her father's prop. She'll spot
What's my little game, and see
What I'm after's HER. He! he!
He! he! When she comes to sue--
Let's see! What's the thing to do?
Kick her? No! There's the perliss!
Sorter throw her off like this.
Hello! Stop! Help! Murder! Hey!
There's my whole stock got away,
Kiting on the house-tops! Lost!
All a poor man's fortin! Cost?
Twenty dollars! Eh! What's this?
Fifty cents! God bless ye, Miss!
THE TWO SHIPS
As I stand by the cross on the lone mountain's crest,
Looking over the ultimate sea,
In the gloom of the mountain a ship lies at rest,
And one sails away from the lea:
One spreads its white wings on a far-reaching track,
With pennant and sheet flowing free;
One hides in the shadow with sails laid aback,--
The ship that is waiting for me!
But lo! in the distance the clouds break away,
The Gate's glowing portals I see;
And I hear from the outgoing ship in the bay
The song of the sailors in glee.
So I think of the luminous footprints that bore
The comfort o'er dark Galilee,
And wait for the signal to go to the shore,
To the ship that is waiting for me.
(OPENING OF THE CALIFORNIA THEATRE, SAN FRANCISCO, JANUARY 19, 1870)
Brief words, when actions wait, are well:
The prompter's hand is on his bell;
The coming heroes, lovers, kings,
Are idly lounging at the wings;
Behind the curtain's mystic fold
The glowing future lies unrolled;
And yet, one moment for the Past,
One retrospect,--the first and last.
"The world's a stage," the Master said.
To-night a mightier truth is read:
Not in the shifting canvas screen,
The flash of gas or tinsel sheen;
Not in the skill whose signal calls
From empty boards baronial halls;
But, fronting sea and curving bay,
Behold the players and the play.
Ah, friends! beneath your real skies
The actor's short-lived triumph dies:
On that broad stage of empire won,
Whose footlights were the setting sun,
Whose flats a distant background rose
In trackless peaks of endless snows;
Here genius bows, and talent waits
To copy that but One creates.
Your shifting scenes: the league of sand,
An avenue by ocean spanned;
The narrow beach of straggling tents,
A mile of stately monuments;
Your standard, lo! a flag unfurled,
Whose clinging folds clasp half the world,--
This is your drama, built on facts,
With "twenty years between the acts."
One moment more: if here we raise
The oft-sung hymn of local praise,
Before the curtain facts must sway;
HERE waits the moral of your play.
Glassed in the poet's thought, you view
What money can, yet cannot do;
The faith that soars, the deeds that shine,
Above the gold that builds the shrine.
And oh! when others take our place,
And Earth's green curtain hides our face,
Ere on the stage, so silent now,
The last new hero makes his bow:
So may our deeds, recalled once more
In Memory's sweet but brief encore,
Down all the circling ages run,
With the world's plaudit of "Well done!"
Dear Dolly! who does not recall
The thrilling page that pictured all
Those charms that held our sense in thrall
Just as the artist caught her,--
As down that English lane she tripped,
In bowered chintz, hat sideways tipped,
Trim-bodiced, bright-eyed, roguish-lipped,--
The locksmith's pretty daughter?
Sweet fragment of the Master's art!
O simple faith! O rustic heart!
O maid that hath no counterpart
In life's dry, dog-eared pages!
Where shall we find thy like? Ah, stay!
Methinks I saw her yesterday
In chintz that flowered, as one might say,
Perennial for ages.
Her father's modest cot was stone,
Five stories high; in style and tone
Composite, and, I frankly own,
Within its walls revealing
Some certain novel, strange ideas:
A Gothic door with Roman piers,
And floors removed some thousand years,
From their Pompeian ceiling.
The small salon where she received
Was Louis Quatorze, and relieved
By Chinese cabinets, conceived
Grotesquely by the heathen;
The sofas were a classic sight,--
The Roman bench (sedilia hight);
The chairs were French in gold and white,
And one Elizabethan.
And she, the goddess of that shrine,
Two ringed fingers placed in mine,--
The stones were many carats fine,
And of the purest water,--
Then dropped a curtsy, far enough
To fairly fill her cretonne puff
And show the petticoat's rich stuff
That her fond parent bought her.
Her speech was simple as her dress,--
Not French the more, but English less,
She loved; yet sometimes, I confess,
I scarce could comprehend her.
Her manners were quite far from shy.
There was a quiet in her eye
Appalling to the Hugh who'd try
With rudeness to offend her.
"But whence," I cried, "this masquerade?
Some figure for to-night's charade,
A Watteau shepherdess or maid?"
She smiled and begged my pardon:
"Why, surely you must know the name,--
That woman who was Shakespeare's flame
Or Byron's,--well, it's all the same:
Why, Lord! I'm Dolly Varden!"
TELEMACHUS VERSUS MENTOR
Don't mind me, I beg you, old fellow,--I'll do very well here alone;
You must not be kept from your "German" because I've dropped in like
Leave all ceremony behind you, leave all thought of aught but
And leave, if you like, the Madeira, and a dozen cigars on the shelf.
As for me, you will say to your hostess--well, I scarcely need give
you a cue.
Chant my praise! All will list to Apollo, though Mercury pipe to a
Say just what you please, my dear boy; there's more eloquence lies
in youth's rash
Outspoken heart-impulse than ever growled under this grizzling
Go, don the dress coat of our tyrant,--youth's panoplied armor for
And tie the white neckcloth that rumples, like pleasure, and lasts
but a night;
And pray the Nine Gods to avert you what time the Three Sisters
And you'll lose your high-comedy figure, and sit more at ease in
He's off! There's his foot on the staircase. By Jove, what a bound!
Did I ever leap like this springald, with Love's chaplet green on my
Was I such an ass? No, I fancy. Indeed, I remember quite plain
A gravity mixed with my transports, a cheerfulness softened my pain.
He's gone! There's the slam of his cab door, there's the clatter
of hoofs and the wheels;
And while he the light toe is tripping, in this armchair I'll tilt
up my heels.
He's gone, and for what? For a tremor from a waist like a teetotum
For a rosebud that's crumpled by many before it is gathered by one.
Is there naught in the halo of youth but the glow of a passionate
race--'Midst the cheers and applause of a crowd--to the goal of a
A race that is not to the swift, a prize that no merits enforce,
But is won by some faineant youth, who shall simply walk over the
Poor boy! shall I shock his conceit? When he talks of her cheek's
Shall I say 'twas the air of the room, and was due to carbonic excess?
That when waltzing she drooped on his breast, and the veins of her
eyelids grew dim,
'Twas oxygen's absence she felt, but never the presence of him?
Shall I tell him first love is a fraud, a weakling that's strangled
Recalled with perfunctory tears, but lost in unsanctified mirth?
Or shall I go bid him believe in all womankind's charm, and forget
In the light ringing laugh of the world the rattlesnake's gay
Shall I tear out a leaf from my heart, from that book that forever
On the past? Shall I speak of my first love--Augusta--my Lalage?
I forget. Was it really Augusta? No. 'Twas Lucy! No. Mary!
Never mind! they were all first and faithless, and yet--I've forgotten
No, no! Let him dream on and ever. Alas! he will waken too soon;
And it doesn't look well for October to always be preaching at June.
Poor boy! All his fond foolish trophies pinned yonder--a bow from
A few billets-doux, invitations, and--what's this? My name, I
Humph! "You'll come, for I've got you a prize, with beauty and money
You know her, I think; 'twas on dit she once was engaged to your
But she says that's all over." Ah, is it? Sweet Ethel! incomparable
Or--what if the thing were a trick?--this letter so freely displayed!--
My opportune presence! No! nonsense! Will nobody answer the bell?
Call a cab! Half past ten. Not too late yet. Oh, Ethel! Why don't
you go? Well?
"Master said you would wait"-- Hang your master! "Have I ever a
message to send?"
Yes, tell him I've gone to the German to dance with the friend of
WHAT THE WOLF REALLY SAID TO LITTLE RED RIDING-HOOD
Wondering maiden, so puzzled and fair,
Why dost thou murmur and ponder and stare?
"Why are my eyelids so open and wild?"
Only the better to see with, my child!
Only the better and clearer to view
Cheeks that are rosy and eyes that are blue.
Dost thou still wonder, and ask why these arms
Fill thy soft bosom with tender alarms,
Swaying so wickedly? Are they misplaced
Clasping or shielding some delicate waist?
Hands whose coarse sinews may fill you with fear
Only the better protect you, my dear!
Little Red Riding-Hood, when in the street,
Why do I press your small hand when we meet?
Why, when you timidly offered your cheek,
Why did I sigh, and why didn't I speak?
Why, well: you see--if the truth must appear--
I'm not your grandmother, Riding-Hood, dear!
HALF AN HOUR BEFORE SUPPER
"So she's here, your unknown Dulcinea, the lady you met on the train,
And you really believe she would know you if you were to meet her
"Of course," he replied, "she would know me; there never was
Forgot the effect she inspired. She excuses, but does not forget."
"Then you told her your love?" asked the elder. The younger looked
up with a smile:
"I sat by her side half an hour--what else was I doing the while?
"What, sit by the side of a woman as fair as the sun in the sky,
And look somewhere else lest the dazzle flash back from your own to
"No, I hold that the speech of the tongue be as frank and as bold as
And I held up herself to herself,--that was more than she got from
"Young blood!" laughed the elder; "no doubt you are voicing the mode
But then we old fogies at least gave the lady some chance for delay.
"There's my wife (you must know),--we first met on the journey from
Florence to Rome:
It took me three weeks to discover who was she and where was her home;
"Three more to be duly presented; three more ere I saw her again;
And a year ere my romance BEGAN where yours ended that day on the
"Oh, that was the style of the stage-coach; we travel to-day by
Forty miles to the hour," he answered, "won't admit of a passion
"But what if you make a mistake?" quoth the elder. The younger half
"What happens when signals are wrong or switches misplaced?" he
"Very well, I must bow to your wisdom," the elder returned, "but
Your chances of winning this woman your boldness has bettered no whit.
"Why, you do not at best know her name. And what if I try your ideal
With something, if not quite so fair, at least more en regle and real?
"Let me find you a partner. Nay, come, I insist--you shall follow--
My dear, will you not add your grace to entreat Mr. Rapid to stay?
"My wife, Mr. Rapid-- Eh, what! Why, he's gone--yet he said he
How rude! I don't wonder, my dear, you are properly crimson and
WHAT THE BULLET SANG
O joy of creation
O rapture to fly
And be free!
Be the battle lost or won,
Though its smoke shall hide the sun,
I shall find my love,--the one
Born for me!
I shall know him where he stands,
With the power in his hands
I shall know him by his face,
By his godlike front and grace;
I shall hold him for a space,
All my own!
It is he--O my love!
It is I--all thy love
It is I. O love! what bliss!
Dost thou answer to my kiss?
O sweetheart! what is this
Lieth there so cold?
THE OLD CAMP-FIRE
Now shift the blanket pad before your saddle back you fling,
And draw your cinch up tighter till the sweat drops from the ring:
We've a dozen miles to cover ere we reach the next divide.
Our limbs are stiffer now than when we first set out to ride,
And worse, the horses know it, and feel the leg-grip tire,
Since in the days when, long ago, we sought the old camp-fire.
Yes, twenty years! Lord! how we'd scent its incense down the trail,
Through balm of bay and spice of spruce, when eye and ear would fail,
And worn and faint from useless quest we crept, like this, to rest,
Or, flushed with luck and youthful hope, we rode, like this, abreast.
Ay! straighten up, old friend, and let the mustang think he's nigher,
Through looser rein and stirrup strain, the welcome old camp-fire.
You know the shout that would ring out before us down the glade,
And start the blue jays like a flight of arrows through the shade,
And sift the thin pine needles down like slanting, shining rain,
And send the squirrels scampering back to their holes again,
Until we saw, blue-veiled and dim, or leaping like desire,
That flame of twenty years ago, which lit the old camp-fire.
And then that rest on Nature's breast, when talk had dropped, and slow
The night wind went from tree to tree with challenge soft and low!
We lay on lazy elbows propped, or stood to stir the flame,
Till up the soaring redwood's shaft our shadows danced and came,
As if to draw us with the sparks, high o'er its unseen spire,
To the five stars that kept their ward above the old camp-fire,--
Those picket stars whose tranquil watch half soothed, half shamed
What recked we then what beasts or men around might lurk or creep?
We lay and heard with listless ears the far-off panther's cry,
The near coyote's snarling snap, the grizzly's deep-drawn sigh,
The brown bear's blundering human tread, the gray wolves' yelping
Beyond the magic circle drawn around the old camp-fire.
And then that morn! Was ever morn so filled with all things new?
The light that fell through long brown aisles from out the kindling
The creak and yawn of stretching boughs, the jay-bird's early call,
The rat-tat-tat of woodpecker that waked the woodland hall,
The fainter stir of lower life in fern and brake and brier,
Till flashing leaped the torch of Day from last night's old camp-fire!
Well, well! we'll see it once again; we should be near it now;
It's scarce a mile to where the trail strikes off to skirt the slough,
And then the dip to Indian Spring, the wooded rise, and--strange!
Yet here should stand the blasted pine that marked our farther range;
And here--what's this? A ragged swab of ruts and stumps and mire!
Sure this is not the sacred grove that hid the old camp-fire!
Yet here's the "blaze" I cut myself, and there's the stumbling ledge,
With quartz "outcrop" that lay atop, now leveled to its edge,
And mounds of moss-grown stumps beside the woodman's rotting chips,
And gashes in the hillside, that gape with dumb red lips.
And yet above the shattered wreck and ruin, curling higher--
Ah yes!--still lifts the smoke that marked the welcome old camp-fire!
Perhaps some friend of twenty years still lingers there to raise
To weary hearts and tired eyes that beacon of old days.
Perhaps but stay; 'tis gone! and yet once more it lifts as though
To meet our tardy blundering steps, and seems to MOVE, and lo!
Whirls by us in a rush of sound,--the vanished funeral pyre
Of hopes and fears that twenty years burned in the old camp-fire!
For see, beyond the prospect spreads, with chimney, spire, and roof,--
Two iron bands across the trail clank to our mustang's hoof;
Above them leap two blackened threads from limb-lopped tree to tree,
To where the whitewashed station speeds its message to the sea.
Rein in! Rein in! The quest is o'er. The goal of our desire
Is but the train whose track has lain across the old camp-fire!
THE STATION-MASTER OF LONE PRAIRIE
An empty bench, a sky of grayest etching,
A bare, bleak shed in blackest silhouette,
Twelve years of platform, and before them stretching
Twelve miles of prairie glimmering through the wet.
North, south, east, west,--the same dull gray persistence,
The tattered vapors of a vanished train,
The narrowing rails that meet to pierce the distance,
Or break the columns of the far-off rain.
Naught but myself; nor form nor figure breaking
The long hushed level and stark shining waste;
Nothing that moves to fill the vision aching,
When the last shadow fled in sullen haste.
Nothing beyond. Ah yes! From out the station
A stiff, gaunt figure thrown against the sky,
Beckoning me with some wooden salutation
Caught from his signals as the train flashed by;
Yielding me place beside him with dumb gesture
Born of that reticence of sky and air.
We sit apart, yet wrapped in that one vesture
Of silence, sadness, and unspoken care:
Each following his own thought,--around us darkening
The rain-washed boundaries and stretching track,--
Each following those dim parallels and hearkening
For long-lost voices that will not come back.
Until, unasked,--I knew not why or wherefore,--
He yielded, bit by bit, his dreary past,
Like gathered clouds that seemed to thicken there for
Some dull down-dropping of their care at last.
Long had he lived there. As a boy had started
From the stacked corn the Indian's painted face;
Heard the wolves' howl the wearying waste that parted
His father's hut from the last camping-place.
Nature had mocked him: thrice had claimed the reaping,
With scythe of fire, of lands she once had sown;
Sent the tornado, round his hearthstone heaping
Rafters, dead faces that were like his own.
Then came the War Time. When its shadow beckoned
He had walked dumbly where the flag had led
Through swamp and fen,--unknown, unpraised, unreckoned,--
To famine, fever, and a prison bed.
Till the storm passed, and the slow tide returning
Cast him, a wreck, beneath his native sky;
Here, at his watch, gave him the chance of earning
Scant means to live--who won the right to die.
All this I heard--or seemed to hear--half blending
With the low murmur of the coming breeze,
The call of some lost bird, and the unending
And tireless sobbing of those grassy seas.
Until at last the spell of desolation
Broke with a trembling star and far-off cry.
The coming train! I glanced around the station,
All was as empty as the upper sky!
Naught but myself; nor form nor figure waking
The long hushed level and stark shining waste;
Naught but myself, that cry, and the dull shaking
Of wheel and axle, stopped in breathless haste!
"Now, then--look sharp! Eh, what? The Station-Master?
THAR'S NONE! We stopped here of our own accord.
The man got killed in that down-train disaster
This time last evening. Right there! All aboard!"
THE MISSION BELLS OF MONTEREY
O bells that rang, O bells that sang
Above the martyrs' wilderness,
Till from that reddened coast-line sprang
The Gospel seed to cheer and bless,
What are your garnered sheaves to-day?
O Mission bells! Eleison bells!
O Mission bells of Monterey!
O bells that crash, O bells that clash
Above the chimney-crowded plain,
On wall and tower your voices dash,
But never with the old refrain;
In mart and temple gone astray!
Ye dangle bells! Ye jangle bells!
Ye wrangle bells of Monterey!
O bells that die, so far, so nigh,
Come back once more across the sea;
Not with the zealot's furious cry,
Not with the creed's austerity;
Come with His love alone to stay,
O Mission bells! Eleison bells!
O Mission bells of Monterey!
NOTE. This poem was set to music by Monsieur Charles Gounod.
(RATTLESNAKE BAR, SIERRAS)
No life in earth, or air, or sky;
The sunbeams, broken silently,
On the bared rocks around me lie,--
Cold rocks with half-warmed lichens scarred,
And scales of moss; and scarce a yard
Away, one long strip, yellow-barred.
Lost in a cleft! 'Tis but a stride
To reach it, thrust its roots aside,
And lift it on thy stick astride!
Yet stay! That moment is thy grace!
For round thee, thrilling air and space,
A chattering terror fills the place!
A sound as of dry bones that stir
In the dead Valley! By yon fir
The locust stops its noonday whir!
The wild bird hears; smote with the sound,
As if by bullet brought to ground,
On broken wing, dips, wheeling round!
The hare, transfixed, with trembling lip,
Halts, breathless, on pulsating hip,
And palsied tread, and heels that slip.
Enough, old friend!--'tis thou. Forget
My heedless foot, nor longer fret
The peace with thy grim castanet!
I know thee! Yes! Thou mayst forego
That lifted crest; the measured blow
Beyond which thy pride scorns to go,
Or yet retract! For me no spell
Lights those slit orbs, where, some think, dwell
Machicolated fires of hell!
I only know thee humble, bold,
Haughty, with miseries untold,
And the old Curse that left thee cold,
And drove thee ever to the sun,
On blistering rocks; nor made thee shun
Our cabin's hearth, when day was done,
And the spent ashes warmed thee best;
We knew thee,--silent, joyless guest
Of our rude ingle. E'en thy quest
Of the rare milk-bowl seemed to be
Naught but a brother's poverty,
And Spartan taste that kept thee free