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Poems: Patriotic, Religious, Miscellaneous

Part 3 out of 6

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I nearly died, I almost touched the door
That swings between forever and no more;
I think I heard the awful hinges grate,
Hour after hour, while I did weary wait
Death's coming; but alas! 'twas all in vain:
The door half-opened and then closed again.

What were my thoughts? I had but one regret --
That I was doomed to live and linger yet
In this dark valley where the stream of tears
Flows, and, in flowing, deepens thro' the years.
My lips spake not -- my eyes were dull and dim,
But thro' my heart there moved a soundless hymn --
A triumph song of many chords and keys,
Transcending language -- as the summer breeze,
Which, through the forest mystically floats,
Transcends the reach of mortal music's notes.
A song of victory -- a chant of bliss:
Wedded to words, it might have been like this:

"Come, death! but I am fearless,
I shrink not from your frown;
The eyes you close are tearless;
Haste! strike this frail form down.
Come! there is no dissembling
In this last, solemn hour,
But you'll find my heart untrembling
Before your awful power.
My lips grow pale and paler,
My eyes are strangely dim,
I wail not as a wailer,
I sing a victor's hymn.
My limbs grow cold and colder,
My room is all in gloom;
Bold death! -- but I am bolder --
Come! lead me to my tomb!
'Tis cold, and damp, and dreary,
'Tis still, and lone, and deep;
Haste, death! my eyes are weary,
I want to fall asleep.

`Strike quick! Why dost thou tarry?
Of time why such a loss?
Dost fear the sign I carry?
'Tis but a simple cross.
Thou wilt not strike? Then hear me:
Come! strike in any hour,
My heart shall never fear thee
Nor flinch before thy power.
I'll meet thee -- time's dread lictor --
And my wasted lips shall sing:
`Dread death! I am the victor!
Strong death! where is thy sting?'"

Milan, January, 1873.

Old Trees

Old trees, old trees! in your mystic gloom
There's many a warrior laid,
And many a nameless and lonely tomb
Is sheltered beneath your shade.
Old trees, old trees! without pomp or prayer
We buried the brave and the true,
We fired a volley and left them there
To rest, old trees, with you.

Old trees, old trees! keep watch and ward
Over each grass-grown bed;
'Tis a glory, old trees, to stand as guard
Over the Southern dead;
Old trees, old trees! we shall pass away
Like the leaves you yearly shed,
But ye, lone sentinels, still must stay,
Old trees, to guard "our dead".

After Seeing Pius IX

I saw his face to-day; he looks a chief
Who fears not human rage, nor human guile;
Upon his cheeks the twilight of a grief,
But in that grief the starlight of a smile.
Deep, gentle eyes, with drooping lids that tell
They are the homes where tears of sorrow dwell;
A low voice -- strangely sweet -- whose very tone
Tells how these lips speak oft with God alone.
I kissed his hand, I fain would kiss his feet;
"No, no," he said; and then, in accents sweet,
His blessing fell upon my bended head.
He bade me rise; a few more words he said,
Then took me by the hand -- the while he smiled --
And, going, whispered: "Pray for me, my child."

Sentinel Songs

When falls the soldier brave,
Dead at the feet of wrong,
The poet sings and guards his grave
With sentinels of song.

Songs, march! he gives command,
Keep faithful watch and true;
The living and dead of the conquered land
Have now no guards save you.

Gray ballads! mark ye well!
Thrice holy is your trust!
Go! halt by the fields where warriors fell;
Rest arms! and guard their dust.

List, songs! your watch is long,
The soldiers' guard was brief;
Whilst right is right, and wrong is wrong,
Ye may not seek relief.

Go! wearing the gray of grief!
Go! watch o'er the dead in gray!
Go! guard the private and guard the chief,
And sentinel their clay!

And the songs, in stately rhyme
And with softly sounding tread,
Go forth, to watch for a time -- a time --
Where sleep the Deathless Dead.

And the songs, like funeral dirge,
In music soft and low,
Sing round the graves, whilst hot tears surge
From hearts that are homes of woe.

What tho' no sculptured shaft
Immortalize each brave?
What tho' no monument epitaphed
Be built above each grave?

When marble wears away
And monuments are dust,
The songs that guard our soldiers' clay
Will still fulfil their trust.

With lifted head and stately tread,
Like stars that guard the skies,
Go watch each bed where rest the dead,
Brave songs, with sleepless eyes.

* * * * *

When falls the cause of Right,
The poet grasps his pen,
And in gleaming letters of living light
Transmits the truth to men.

Go, songs! he says who sings;
Go! tell the world this tale;
Bear it afar on your tireless wings:
The Right will yet prevail.

Songs! sound like the thunder's breath!
Boom o'er the world and say:
Brave men may die -- Right has no death!
Truth never shall pass away!

Go! sing thro' a nation's sighs!
Go! sob thro' a people's tears!
Sweep the horizons of all the skies,
And throb through a thousand years!

* * * * *

And the songs, with brave, sad face,
Go proudly down their way,
Wailing the loss of a conquered race
And waiting an Easter-day.

Away! away! like the birds,
They soar in their flight sublime;
And the waving wings of the poet's words
Flash down to the end of time.

When the flag of justice fails,
Ere its folds have yet been furled,
The poet waves its folds in wails
That flutter o'er the world.

Songs, march! and in rank by rank
The low, wild verses go,
To watch the graves where the grass is dank,
And the martyrs sleep below.

Songs! halt where there is no name!
Songs! stay where there is no stone!
And wait till you hear the feet of Fame
Coming to where ye moan.

And the songs, with lips that mourn,
And with hearts that break in twain
At the beck of the bard -- a hope forlorn --
Watch the plain where sleep the slain.

* * * * *

When the warrior's sword is lowered
Ere its stainless sheen grows dim,
The bard flings forth its dying gleam
On the wings of a deathless hymn.

Songs, fly far o'er the world
And adown to the end of time:
Let the sword still flash, tho' its flag be furled,
Thro' the sheen of the poet's rhyme.

Songs! fly as the eagles fly!
The bard unbars the cage;
Go, soar away, and afar and high
Wave your wings o'er every age.

Shriek shrilly o'er each day,
As futureward ye fly,
That the men were right who wore the gray,
And Right can never die.

And the songs, with waving wing,
Fly far, float far away
From the ages' crest; o'er the world they fling
The shade of the stainless gray.

Might! sing your triumph-songs!
Each song but sounds a shame;
Go down the world, in loud-voiced throngs,
To win, from the future, fame.

Our ballads, born of tears,
Will track you on your way,
And win the hearts of the future years
For the men who wore the gray.

And so -- say what you will --
In the heart of God's own laws
I have a faith, and my heart believes still
In the triumph of our cause.

Such hope may all be vain,
And futile be such trust;
But the weary eyes that weep the slain,
And watch above such dust,

They cannot help but lift
Their visions to the skies;
They watch the clouds, but wait the rift
Through which their hope shall rise.

The victor wields the sword:
Its blade may broken be
By a thought that sleeps in a deathless word,
To wake in the years to be.

We wait a grand-voiced bard,
Who, when he sings, will send
Immortal songs' "Imperial Guard"
The Lost Cause to defend.

He has not come; he will.
But when he chants, his song
Will stir the world to its depths and thrill
The earth with its tale of wrong.

The fallen cause still waits --
Its bard has not come yet.
His sun through one of to-morrow's gates
Shall shine, but never set.

But when he comes he'll sweep
A harp with tears all stringed,
And the very notes he strikes will weep
As they come from his hand woe-winged.

Ah! grand shall be his strain,
And his songs shall fill all climes,
And the rebels shall rise and march again
Down the lines of his glorious rhymes.

And through his verse shall gleam
The swords that flashed in vain,
And the men who wore the gray shall seem
To be marshaling again.

But hush! between his words
Peer faces sad and pale,
And you hear the sound of broken chords
Beat through the poet's wail.

Through his verse the orphans cry --
The terrible undertone --
And the father's curse and the mother's sigh,
And the desolate young wife's moan.

* * * * *

But harps are in every land
That await a voice that sings,
And a master-hand -- but the humblest hand
May gently touch its strings.

I sing with a voice too low
To be heard beyond to-day,
In minor keys of my people's woe,
But my songs pass away.

To-morrow hears them not --
To-morrow belongs to Fame --
My songs, like the birds', will be forgot,
And forgotten shall be my name.

And yet who knows? Betimes
The grandest songs depart,
While the gentle, humble, and low-toned rhymes
Will echo from heart to heart.

But, oh! if in song or speech,
In major or minor key,
My voice could over the ages reach,
I would whisper the name of Lee.

In the night of our defeat
Star after star had gone,
But the way was bright to our soldiers' feet
Where the star of Lee led on.

But sudden there came a cloud,
Out rung a nation's knell;
Our cause was wrapped in its winding shroud,
All fell when the great Lee fell.

From his men, with scarce a word,
Silence when great hearts part!
But we know he sheathed his stainless sword
In the wound of a broken heart.

He fled from Fame; but Fame
Sought him in his retreat,
Demanding for the world one name
Made deathless by defeat.

Nay, Fame! success is best!
All lost! and nothing won:
North, keep the clouds that flush the West,
We have the sinking sun.

All lost! but by the graves
Where martyred heroes rest,
He wins the most who honor saves --
Success is not the test.

All lost! a nation weeps;
By all the tears that fall,
He loses naught who conscience keeps,
Lee's honor saves us all.

All lost! but e'en defeat
Hath triumphs of her own,
Wrong's paean hath no note so sweet
As trampled Right's proud moan.

The world shall yet decide,
In truth's clear, far-off light,
That the soldiers who wore the gray, and died
With Lee, were in the right.

And men, by time made wise,
Shall in the future see
No name hath risen, or ever shall rise,
Like the name of Robert Lee.

Ah, me! my words are weak,
This task surpasses me;
Dead soldiers! rise from your graves and speak,
And tell how you loved Lee.

The banner you bore is furled,
And the gray is faded, too!
But in all the colors that deck the world
Your gray blends not with blue.

The colors are far apart,
Graves sever them in twain;
The Northern heart and the Southern heart
May beat in peace again;

But still till time's last day,
Whatever lips may plight,
The blue is blue, but the gray is gray,
Wrong never accords with Right.

Go, Glory! and forever guard
Our chieftain's hallowed dust;
And Honor! keep eternal ward!
And Fame! be this thy trust!

Go! with your bright emblazoned scroll
And tell the years to be,
The first of names that flash your roll
Is ours -- great Robert Lee.

Lee wore the gray! since then
'Tis Right's and Honor's hue!
He honored it, that man of men,
And wrapped it round the true.

Dead! but his spirit breathes!
Dead! but his heart is ours!
Dead! but his sunny and sad land wreathes
His crown with tears for flowers.

A statue for his tomb!
Mould it of marble white!
For Wrong, a spectre of death and doom;
An angel of hope for Right.

But Lee has a thousand graves
In a thousand hearts, I ween;
And teardrops fall from our eyes in waves
That will keep his memory green.

Ah! Muse, you dare not claim
A nobler man than he,
Nor nobler man hath less of blame,
Nor blameless man hath purer name,
Nor purer name hath grander fame,
Nor fame -- another Lee.

Fragments from an Epic Poem

A Mystery

His face was sad; some shadow must have hung
Above his soul; its folds, now falling dark,
Now almost bright; but dark or not so dark,
Like cloud upon a mount, 'twas always there --
A shadow; and his face was always sad.

His eyes were changeful; for the gloom of gray
Within them met and blended with the blue,
And when they gazed they seemed almost to dream
They looked beyond you into far-away,
And often drooped; his face was always sad.

His eyes were deep; I often saw them dim,
As if the edges of a cloud of tears
Had gathered there, and only left a mist
That made them moist and kept them ever moist.
He never wept; his face was always sad.

I mean, not many saw him ever weep,
And yet he seemed as one who often wept,
Or always, tears that were too proud to flow
In outer streams, but shrunk within and froze --
Froze down into himself; his face was sad.

And yet sometimes he smiled -- a sudden smile,
As if some far-gone joy came back again,
Surprised his heart, and flashed across his face
A moment like a light through rifts in clouds,
Which falls upon an unforgotten grave;
He rarely laughed; his face was ever sad.

And when he spoke his words were sad as wails,
And strange as stories of an unknown land,
And full of meanings as the sea of moans.
At times he was so still that silence seemed
To sentinel his lips; and not a word
Would leave his heart; his face was strangely sad.

But then at times his speech flowed like a stream --
A deep and dreamy stream through lonely dells
Of lofty mountain-thoughts, and o'er its waves
Hung mysteries of gloom; and in its flow
It rippled on lone shores fair-fringed with flowers,
And deepened as it flowed; his face was sad.

He had his moods of silence and of speech.
I asked him once the reason, and he said:
"When I speak much, my words are only words,
When I speak least, my words are more than words,
When I speak not, I then reveal myself!"
It was his way of saying things -- he spoke
In quaintest riddles; and his face was sad.

And, when he wished, he wove around his words
A nameless spell that marvelously thrilled
The dullest ear. 'Twas strange that he so cold
Could warm the coldest heart; that he so hard
Could soften hardest soul; that he so still
Could rouse the stillest mind: his face was sad.

He spoke of death as if it were a toy
For thought to play with; and of life he spoke
As of a toy not worth the play of thought;
And of this world he spoke as captives speak
Of prisons where they pine; he spoke of men
As one who found pure gold in each of them.
He spoke of women just as if he dreamed
About his mother; and he spoke of God
As if he walked with Him and knew His heart --
But he was weary, and his face was sad.

He had a weary way in all he did,
As if he dragged a chain, or bore a cross;
And yet the weary went to him for rest.
His heart seemed scarce to know an earthly joy,
And yet the joyless were rejoiced by him.
He seemed to have two selves -- his outer self
Was free to any passer-by, and kind to all,
And gentle as a child's; that outer self
Kept open all its gates, that who so wished
Might enter them and find therein a place;
And many entered; but his face was sad.

The inner self he guarded from approach,
He kept it sealed and sacred as a shrine;
He guarded it with silence and reserve;
Its gates were locked and watched, and none might pass
Beyond the portals; and his face was sad.
But whoso entered there -- and few were they --
So very few -- so very, very few,
They never did forget; they said: "How strange!"
They murmured still: "How strange! how strangely strange!"
They went their ways, but wore a lifted look,
And higher meanings came to common words,
And lowly thoughts took on the grandest tones;
And, near or far, they never did forget
The "Shadow and the Shrine"; his face was sad.

He was not young nor old -- yet he was both;
Nor both by turns, but always both at once;
For youth and age commingled in his ways,
His words, his feelings, and his thoughts and acts.
At times the "old man" tottered in his thoughts,
The child played thro' his words; his face was sad.

I one day asked his age; he smiled and said:
"The rose that sleeps upon yon valley's breast,
Just born to-day, is not as young as I;
The moss-robed oak of twice a thousand storms --
An acorn cradled ages long ago --
Is old, in sooth, but not as old as I."
It was his way -- he always answered thus,
But when he did his face was very sad.

* * * * *

Spirit Song

Thou wert once the purest wave
Where the tempests roar;
Thou art now a golden wave
On the golden shore --
Ever -- ever -- evermore!

Thou wert once the bluest wave
Shadows e'er hung o'er;
Thou art now the brightest wave
On the brightest shore --
Ever -- ever -- evermore!

Thou wert once the gentlest wave
Ocean ever bore;
Thou art now the fairest wave
On the fairest shore --
Ever -- ever -- evermore!

Whiter foam than thine, O wave,
Wavelet never wore,
Stainless wave; and now you lave
The far and stormless shore --
Ever -- ever -- evermore!

Who bade thee go, O bluest wave,
Beyond the tempest's roar?
Who bade thee flow, O fairest wave,
Unto the golden shore,
Ever -- ever -- evermore?

Who waved a hand, O purest wave?
A hand that blessings bore,
And wafted thee, O whitest wave,
Unto the fairest shore,
Ever -- ever -- evermore?

Who winged thy way, O holy wave,
In days and days of yore?
And wept the words: "O winsome wave,
This earth is not thy shore!"
Ever -- ever -- evermore?

Who gave thee strength, O snowy wave --
The strength a great soul wore --
And said: "Float up to God! my wave,
His heart shall be thy shore!"
Ever -- ever -- evermore?

Who said to thee, O poor, weak wave:
"Thy wail shall soon be o'er,
Float on to God, and leave me, wave,
Upon this rugged shore!"
Ever -- ever -- evermore?

And thou hast reached His feet! Glad wave,
Dost dream of days of yore?
Dost yearn that we shall meet, pure wave,
Upon the golden shore,
Ever -- ever -- evermore?

Thou sleepest in the calm, calm wave,
Beyond the wild storm's roar!
I watch amid the storm, bright wave,
Like rock upon the shore;
Ever -- ever -- evermore!

Sing at the feet of God, white wave,
Song sweet as one of yore!
I would not bring thee back, heart wave,
To break upon this shore,
Ever -- ever -- evermore!

* * * * *

"No, no," he gently spoke: "You know me not;
My mind is like a temple, dim, vast, lone;
Just like a temple when the priest has gone,
And all the hymns that rolled along the vaults
Are buried deep in silence; when the lights
That flashed on altars died away in dark,
And when the flowers, with all their perfumed breath
And beauteous bloom, lie withered on the shrine.
My mind is like a temple, solemn, still,
Untenanted save by the ghosts of gloom
Which seem to linger in the holy place --
The shadows of the sinners who passed there,
And wept, and spirit-shriven left upon
The marble floor memorials of their tears."

And while he spake, his words sank low and low,
Until they hid themselves in some still depth
He would not open; and his face was sad.

When he spoke thus, his very gentleness
Passed slowly from him, and his look, so mild,
Grew marble cold; a pallor as of death
Whitened his lips, and clouds rose to his eyes,
Dry, rainless clouds, where lightnings seemed to sleep.
His words, as tender as a rose's smile,
Slow-hardened into thorns, but seemed to sting
Himself the most; his brow, at such times, bent
Most lowly down, and wore such look of pain
As though it bore an unseen crown of thorns.
Who knows? perhaps it did!

But he would pass
His hand upon his brow, or touch his eyes,
And then the olden gentleness, like light
Which seems transfigured by the touch of dark,
Would tremble on his face, and he would look
More gentle then than ever, and his tone
Would sweeten, like the winds when storms have passed.

I saw him, one day, thus most deeply moved
And darkened; ah! his face was like a tomb
That hid the dust of dead and buried smiles,
But, suddenly, his face flashed like a throne,
And all the smiles arose as from the dead,
And wore the glory of an Easter morn;
And passed beneath the sceptre of a hope
Which came from some far region of his heart,
Came up into his eyes, and reigned a queen.
I marveled much; he answered to my look
With all his own, and wafted me these words:

"There are transitions in the lives of all.
There are transcendent moments when we stand
In Thabor's glory with the chosen three,
And weak with very strength of human love
We fain would build our tabernacles there;
And, Peter-like, for very human joy
We cry aloud: `'Tis good that we are here;'
Swift are these moments, like the smile of God,
Which glorifies a shadow and is gone.

"And then we stand upon another mount --
Dark, rugged Calvary; and God keeps us there
For awful hours, to make us there His own
In Crucifixion's tortures; 'tis His way.
We wish to cling to Thabor; He says: `No.'
And what He says is best because most true.
We fain would fly from Calvary; He says: `No.'
And it is true because it is the best.
And yet, my friend, these two mounts are the same.

"They lie apart, distinct and separate,
And yet -- strange mystery! -- they are the same.
For Calvary is a Thabor in the dark,
And Thabor is a Calvary in the light.
It is the mystery of Holy Christ!
It is the mystery of you and me!
Earth's shadows move, as moves far-heaven's sun,
And, like the shadows of a dial, we
Tell, darkly, in the vale the very hours
The sun tells brightly in the sinless skies.
Dost understand?" I did not understand --
Or only half; his face was very sad.
"Dost thou not understand me? Then your life
Is shallow as a brook that brawls along
Between two narrow shores; you never wept --
You never wore great clouds upon your brow
As mountains wear them; and you never wore
Strange glories in your eyes, as sunset skies
Oft wear them; and your lips -- they never sighed
Grand sighs which bear the weight of all the soul;
You never reached your arms a-broad -- a-high --
To grasp far-worlds, or to enclasp the sky.
Life, only life, can understand a life;
Depth, only depth, can understand the deep.
The dewdrop glist'ning on the lily's face
Can never learn the story of the sea."

* * * * *

One day we strolled together to the sea.
Gray evening and the night had almost met,
We walked between them, silent, to the shore.
The feet of weird faced waves ran up the beach
Like children in mad play, then back again
As if the spirit of the land pursued;
Then up again -- and farther -- and they flung
White, foamy arms around each other's neck;
Then back again with sudden rush and shout,
As if the sea, their mother, called them home;
Then leaned upon her breast, as if so tired,
But swiftly tore themselves away and rushed
Away, and farther up the beach, and fell
For utter weariness; and loudly sobbed
For strength to rise and flow back to the deep.
But all in vain, for other waves swept on
And trampled them; the sea cried out in grief,
The gray beach laughed and clasped them to the sands.
It was the flood-tide and the even-tide --
Between the evening and the night we walked --
We walked between the billows and the beach,
We walked between the future and the past,
Down to the sea we twain had strolled -- to part.

The shore was low, with just the faintest rise
Of many-colored sands and shreds of shells,
Until about a stone's far throw they met
A fringe of faded grass, with here and there
A pale-green shrub; and farther into land --
Another stone's throw farther -- there were trees --
Tall, dark, wild trees, with intertwining arms,
Each almost touching each, as if they feared
To stand alone and look upon the sea.
The night was in the trees -- the evening on the shore.
We walked between the evening and the night --
Between the trees and tide we silent strolled.
There lies between man's silence and his speech
A shadowy valley, where thro' those who pass
Are never silent, tho' they may not speak;
And yet they more than breathe. It is the vale
Of wordless sighs, half uttered and half-heard.
It is the vale of the unutterable.
We walked between our silence and our speech,
And sighed between the sunset and the stars,
One hour beside the sea.

There was a cloud
Far o'er the reach of waters, hanging low
'Tween sea and sky -- the banner of the storm,
Its edges faintly bright, as if the rays
That fled far down the West had rested there
And slumbered, and had left a dream of light.
Its inner folds were dark -- its central, more.
It did not flutter; there it hung, as calm
As banner in a temple o'er a shrine.
Its shadow only fell upon the sea,
Above the shore the heavens bended blue.
We walked between the cloudless and the cloud,
That hour, beside the sea.

But, quick as thought,
There gleamed a sword of wild, terrific light --
Its hilt in heaven, its point hissed in the sea,
Its scabbard in the darkness -- and it tore
The bannered cloud into a thousand shreds,
Then quivered far away, and bent and broke
In flashing fragments;

And there came a peal
That shook the mighty sea from shore to shore,
But did not stir a sand-grain on the beach;
Then silence fell, and where the low cloud hung
Clouds darker gathered -- and they proudly waved
Like flags before a battle.

We twain walked --
We walked between the lightning's parted gleams,
We walked between the thunders of the skies,
We walked between the wavings of the clouds,
We walked between the tremblings of the sea,
We walked between the stillnesses and roars
Of frightened billows; and we walked between
The coming tempest and the dying calm --
Between the tranquil and the terrible --
That hour beside the sea.

There was a rock
Far up the winding beach that jutted in
The sea, and broke the heart of every wave
That struck its breast; not steep enough nor high
To be a cliff, nor yet sufficient rough
To be a crag; a simple, low, lone rock;
Yet not so low as that its brow was laved
By highest tide, yet not sufficient high
To rise beyond the reach of silver spray
That rained up from the waves -- their tears that fell
Upon its face, when they died at its feet.
Around its sides damp seaweed hung in long,
Sad tresses, dripping down into the sea.
A tuft or two of grass did green the rock,
A patch or so of moss; the rest was bare.

Adown the shore we walked 'tween eve and night;
But when we reached the rock the eve and night
Had met; light died; we sat down in the dark
Upon the rock.

Meantime a thousand clouds
Careered and clashed in air -- a thousand waves
Whirled wildly on in wrath -- a thousand winds
Howled hoarsely on the main, and down the skies
Into the hollow seas the fierce rain rushed,
As if its ev'ry drop were hot with wrath;
And, like a thousand serpents intercoiled,
The lightnings glared and hissed, and hissed and glared,
And all the horror shrank in horror back
Before the maddest peals that ever leaped
Out from the thunder's throat.

Within the dark
We silent sat. No rain fell on the rock,
Nor in on land, nor shore; only on sea
The upper and the lower waters met
In wild delirium, like a thousand hearts
Far parted -- parted long -- which meet to break,
Which rush into each other's arms and break
In terror and in tempests wild of tears.
No rain fell on the rock; but flakes of foam
Swept cold against our faces, where we sat
Between the hush and howling of the winds,
Between the swells and sinking of the waves,
Between the stormy sea and stilly shore,
Between the rushings of the maddened rains,
Between the dark beneath and dark above.

We sat within the dread heart of the night:
One, pale with terror; one, as calm and still
And stern and moveless as the lone, low rock.

* * * * *

Lake Como

Winter on the mountains
Summer on the shore,
The robes of sun-gleams woven,
The lake's blue wavelets wore.

Cold, white, against the heavens,
Flashed winter's crown of snow,
And the blossoms of the spring-tide
Waved brightly far below.

The mountain's head was dreary,
The cold and cloud were there,
But the mountain's feet were sandaled
With flowers of beauty rare.

And winding thro' the mountains
The lake's calm wavelets rolled,
And a cloudless sun was gilding
Their ripples with its gold.

Adown the lake we glided
Thro' all the sunlit day;
The cold snows gleamed above us,
But fair flowers fringed our way

The snows crept down the mountain,
The flowers crept up the slope,
Till they seemed to meet and mingle,
Like human fear and hope.

But the same rich, golden sunlight
Fell on the flowers and snow,
Like the smile of God that flashes
On hearts in joy or woe.

And on the lake's low margin
The trees wore stoles of green,
While here and there, amid them,
A convent cross was seen.

Anon a ruined castle,
Moss-mantled, loomed in view,
And cast its solemn shadow
Across the water's blue.

And chapel, cot, and villa,
Met here and there our gaze,
And many a crumbling tower
That told of other days.

And scattered o'er the waters
The fishing boats lay still,
And sound of song so softly
Came echoed from the hill.

At times the mountain's shadow
Fell dark across the scene,
And veiled with veil of purple
The wavelets' silver sheen.

But for a moment only
The lake would wind, and lo!
The waves would near the glory
Of the sunlight's brightest glow.

At times there fell a silence
Unbroken by a tone,
As if no sound of voices
Had ever there been known.

Through strange and lonely places
We glided thus for hours;
We saw no other faces
But the faces of the flowers.

The shores were sad and lonely
As hearts without a love,
While darker and more dreary
The mountains rose above.

But sudden round a headland
The lake would sweep again,
And voices from a village
Would meet us with their strain.

Thus all the day we glided,
Until the Vesper bell
Gave to the day, at sunset,
Its sweet and soft farewell.

Then back again we glided
Upon our homeward way,
When twilight wrapped the waters
And the mountains with its gray.

But brief the reign of twilight,
The night came quickly on;
The dark brow o'er the mountains,
Star-wreathed, brightly shone.

And down thro' all the shadows
The star-gleams softly crept,
And kissed, with lips all shining,
The wavelets ere they slept.

The lake lay in a slumber,
The shadows for its screen,
While silence waved her sceptre
Above the sleeping scene.

The spirit of the darkness
Moved, ghost-like, everywhere;
Wherever starlight glimmered,
Its shadow, sure, fell there.

The lone place grew more lonely,
And all along our way
The mysteries of the night-time
Held undisputed sway.

Thro' silence and thro' darkness
We glided down the tide
That wound around the mountains
That rose on either side.

No eyes would close in slumber
Within our little bark;
What charmed us so in daylight
So awed us in the dark.

Upon the deck we lingered,
A whisper scarce was heard;
When hearts are stirred profoundest,
Lips are without a word.

"Let's say the Chaplet," softly
A voice beside me spake.
"Christ walked once in the darkness
Across an Eastern lake,

"And to-night we know the secret
That will charm Him to our side:
If we call upon His Mother,
He will meet us on the tide."

So we said the beads together,
Up and down the little bark;
And I believe that Jesus met us,
With His Mother, in the dark.

And our prayers were scarcely ended
When, on mountain-top afar,
We beheld the morning meeting
With the night's last fading star.

And I left the lake; but never
Shall the years to come efface
From my heart the dream and vision
Of that strange and lonely place.

February 1, 1873.

"Peace! Be Still"

Sometimes the Saviour sleeps, and it is dark;
For, oh! His eyes are this world's only light,
And when they close wild waves rush on His bark,
And toss it through the dead hours of the night.

So He slept once upon an eastern lake,
In Peter's bark, while wild waves raved at will;
A cry smote on Him, and when He did wake,
He softly whispered, and the sea grew still.

It is a mystery: but He seems to sleep
As erst he slept in Peter's waved-rocked bark;
A storm is sweeping all across the deep,
While Pius prays, like Peter, in the dark.

The sky is darkened, and the shore is far,
The tempest's strength grows fiercer every hour:
Upon the howling deep there shines no star --
Why sleeps He still? Why does He hide His power?

Fear not! a holy hand is on the helm
That guides the bark thro' all the tempest's wrath;
Quail not! the wildest waves can never whelm
The ship of faith upon its homeward path.

The Master sleeps -- His pilot guards the bark;
He soon will wake, and at His mighty will
The light will shine where all before was dark --
The wild waves still remember: "Peace! be still."

Rome, 1873.

Good Friday

O Heart of Three-in-the evening,
You nestled the thorn-crowned head;
He leaned on you in His sorrow,
And rested on you when dead.

Ah! Holy Three-in-the evening
He gave you His richest dower;
He met you afar on Calvary,
And made you "His own last hour".

O Brow of Three-in-the evening,
Thou wearest a crimson crown;
Thou art Priest of the hours forever,
And thy voice, as thou goest down

The cycles of time, still murmurs
The story of love each day:
"I held in death the Eternal,
In the long and the far-away."

O Heart of Three-in-the evening,
Mine beats with thine to-day;
Thou tellest the olden story,
I kneel -- and I weep and pray.

Boulogne, sur mer.

My Beads

Sweet, blessed beads! I would not part
With one of you for richest gem
That gleams in kingly diadem;
Ye know the history of my heart.

For I have told you every grief
In all the days of twenty years,
And I have moistened you with tears,
And in your decades found relief.

Ah! time has fled, and friends have failed
And joys have died; but in my needs
Ye were my friends, my blessed beads!
And ye consoled me when I wailed.

For many and many a time, in grief,
My weary fingers wandered round
Thy circled chain, and always found
In some Hail Mary sweet relief.

How many a story you might tell
Of inner life, to all unknown;
I trusted you and you alone,
But ah! ye keep my secrets well.

Ye are the only chain I wear --
A sign that I am but the slave,
In life, in death, beyond the grave,
Of Jesus and His Mother fair.

At Night

Dreary! weary!
Weary! dreary!
Sighs my soul this lonely night.
Farewell gladness!
Welcome sadness!
Vanished are my visions bright.

Stars are shining!
Winds are pining!
In the sky and o'er the sea;
Shine forever
Stars! but never
Can the starlight gladden me.

Stars! you nightly
Sparkle brightly,
Scattered o'er your azure dome;
While earth's turning,
There you're burning,
Beacons of a better home.

Stars! you brighten
And you lighten
Many a heart-grief here below;
But your gleaming
And your beaming
Cannot chase away my woe.

Stars! you're shining,
I am pining --
I am dark, but you are bright;
Hanging o'er me
And before me
Is a night you cannot light.

Night of sorrow,
Whose to-morrow
I may never, never see,
Till upon me
And around me
Dawns a bright eternity.

Winds! you're sighing,
And you're crying,
Like a mourner o'er a tomb;
Whither go ye,
Whither blow ye,
Wailing through the midnight gloom?

Chanting lowly,
Softly, lowly,
Like the voice of one in woe;
Winds so lonely,
Why thus moan ye?
Say, what makes you sorrow so?

Are you grieving
For your leaving
Scenes where all is fair and gay?
For the flowers
In their bowers,
You have met with on your way?

For fond faces,
For dear places,
That you've seen as on you swept?
Are you sighing,
Are you crying,
O'er the memories they have left?

Earth is sleeping
While you're sweeping
Through night's solemn silence by;
On forever,
Pausing never --
How I love to hear you sigh!

Men are dreaming,
Stars are gleaming
In the far-off heaven's blue;
Bosom aching,
Musing, waking,
Midnight winds, I sigh with you!

Nocturne ["Betimes, I seem to see in dreams"]

Betimes, I seem to see in dreams
What when awake I may not see;
Can night be God's more than the day?
Do stars, not suns, best light his way?
Who knoweth? Blended lights and shades
Arch aisles down which He walks to me.

I hear him coming in the night
Afar, and yet I know not how;
His steps make music low and sweet;
Sometimes the nails are in his feet;
Does darkness give God better light
Than day, to find a weary brow?

Does darkness give man brighter rays
To find the God, in sunshine lost?
Must shadows wrap the trysting-place
Where God meets hearts with gentlest grace?
Who knoweth it? God hath His ways
For every soul here sorrow-tossed.

The hours of day are like the waves
That fret against the shores of sin:
They touch the human everywhere,
The Bright-Divine fades in their glare;
And God's sweet voice the spirit craves
Is heard too faintly in the din.

When all the senses are awake,
The mortal presses overmuch
Upon the great immortal part --
And God seems further from the heart.
Must souls, like skies, when day-dawns break,
Lose star by star at sunlight's touch?

But when the sun kneels in the west,
And grandly sinks as great hearts sink;
And in his sinking flings adown
Bright blessings from his fading crown,
The stars begin their song of rest,
And shadows make the thoughtless think.

The human seems to fade away;
And down the starred and shadowed skies
The heavenly comes -- as memories come
Of home to hearts afar from home;
And thro' the darkness after day
Many a winged angel flies.

And somehow, tho' the eyes see less,
Our spirits seem to see the more;
When we look thro' night's shadow-bars
The soul sees more than shining stars,
Yea -- sees the very loveliness
That rests upon the "Golden Shore".

Strange reveries steal o'er us then,
Like keyless chords of instruments,
With music's soul without the notes;
And subtle, sad, and sweet there floats
A melody not made by men,
Nor ever heard by outer sense.

And "what has been", and "what will be",
And "what is not", but "might have been",
The dim "to be", the "mournful gone",
The little things life rested on
In "Long-ago's", give tone, not key,
To reveries beyond our ken.

Sunless Days

They come to ev'ry life -- sad, sunless days,
With not a light all o'er their clouded skies;
And thro' the dark we grope along our ways
With hearts fear-filled, and lips low-breathing sighs.

What is the dark? Why cometh it? and whence?
Why does it banish all the bright away?
How does it weave a spell o'er soul and sense?
Why falls the shadow where'er gleams the ray?

Hast felt it? I have felt it, and I know
How oft and suddenly the shadows roll
From out the depths of some dim realm of woe,
To wrap their darkness round the human soul.

Those days are darker than the very night;
For nights have stars, and sleep, and happy dreams;
But these days bring unto the spirit-sight
The mysteries of gloom, until it seems

The light is gone forever, and the dark
Hangs like a pall of death above the soul,
Which rocks amid the gloom like storm-swept bark,
And sinks beneath a sea where tempests roll.

Winter on the Atlantic.

A Reverie ["Did I dream of a song? or sing in a dream?"]

Did I dream of a song? or sing in a dream?
Why ask when the night only knoweth?
The night -- and the angel of sleep!
But ever since then a music deep,
Like a stream thro' a shadow-land, floweth
Under each thought of my spirit that groweth
Into the blossom and bloom of speech --
Under each fancy that cometh and goeth --
Wayward, as waves when evening breeze bloweth
Out of the sunset and into the beach.
And is it a wonder I wept to-day?
For I mused and thought, but I cannot say
If I dreamed of a song, or sang in a dream.
In the silence of sleep, and the noon of night;
And now -- even now -- 'neath the words I write,
The flush of the dream or the flow of the song --
I cannot tell which -- moves strangely along.
But why write more? I am puzzled sore:
Did I dream of a song? or sing in a dream?
Ah! hush, heart! hush! 'tis of no avail;
The words of earth are a darksome veil,
The poet weaves it with artful grace;
Lifts it off from his thoughts at times,
Lets it rustle along his rhymes,
But gathers it close, covering the face
Of ev'ry thought that must not part
From out the keeping of his heart.

St. Mary's

Back to where the roses rest
Round a shrine of holy name,
(Yes -- they knew me when I came)
More of peace and less of fame
Suit my restless heart the best.

Back to where long quiets brood,
Where the calm is never stirred
By the harshness of a word,
But instead the singing bird
Sweetens all my solitude.

With the birds and with the flowers
Songs and silences unite,
From the morning unto night;
And somehow a clearer light
Shines along the quiet hours.

God comes closer to me here --
Back of ev'ry rose leaf there
He is hiding -- and the air
Thrills with calls to holy prayer;
Earth grows far, and heaven near.

Every single flower is fraught
With the very sweetest dreams,
Under clouds or under gleams
Changeful ever -- yet meseems
On each leaf I read God's thought.

Still, at times, as place of death,
Not a sound to vex the ear,
Yet withal it is not drear;
Better for the heart to hear,
Far from men -- God's gentle breath.

Where men clash, God always clings:
When the human passes by,
Like a cloud from summer sky,
God so gently draweth nigh,
And the brightest blessings brings.

List! e'en now a wild bird sings,
And the roses seem to hear
Every note that thrills my ear,
Rising to the heavens clear,
And my soul soars on its wings

Up into the silent skies
Where the sunbeams veil the star,
Up -- beyond the clouds afar,
Where no discords ever mar,
Where rests peace that never dies.

So I live within the calm,
And the birds and roses know
That the days that come and go
Are as peaceful as the flow
Of a prayer beneath a psalm.

De Profundis

Ah! days so dark with death's eclipse!
Woe are we! woe are we!
And the nights are ages long!
From breaking hearts, thro' pallid lips
O my God! woe are we!
Trembleth the mourner's song;
A blight is falling on the fair,
And hope is dying in despair,
And terror walketh everywhere.

All the hours are full of tears --
O my God! woe are we!
Grief keeps watch in brightest eyes --
Every heart is strung with fears,
Woe are we! woe are we!
All the light hath left the skies,
And the living awe struck crowds
See above them only clouds,
And around them only shrouds.

Ah! the terrible farewells!
Woe are they! woe are they!
When last words sink into moans,
While life's trembling vesper bells --
O my God! woe are we!
Ring the awful undertones!
Not a sun in any day!
In the night-time not a ray,
And the dying pass away!

Dark! so dark! above -- below --
O my God! woe are we!
Cowereth every human life.
Wild the wailing; to and fro!
Woe are all! woe are we!
Death is victor in the strife:
In the hut and in the hall
He is writing on the wall
Dooms for many -- fears for all.

Thro' the cities burns a breath,
Woe are they! woe are we!
Hot with dread and deadly wrath;
Life and love lock arms in death,
Woe are they! woe are all!
Victims strew the spectre's path;
Shy-eyed children softly creep
Where their mothers wail and weep --
In the grave their fathers sleep.

Mothers waft their prayers on high,
O my God! woe are we!
With their dead child on their breast.
And the altars ask the sky --
O my Christ! woe are we!
"Give the dead, O Father, rest!
Spare thy people! mercy! spare!"
Answer will not come to prayer --
Horror moveth everywhere.

And the temples miss the priest --
O my God! woe are we!
And the cradle mourns the child.
Husband at your bridal feast --
Woe are you! woe are you!
Think how those poor dead eyes smiled;
They will never smile again --
Every tie is cut in twain,
All the strength of love is vain.

Weep? but tears are weak as foam --
Woe are ye! woe are we!
They but break upon the shore
Winding between here and home --
Woe are ye! woe are we!
Wailing never! nevermore!
Ah! the dead! they are so lone,
Just a grave, and just a stone,
And the memory of a moan.

Pray! yes, pray! for God is sweet --
O my God! woe are we!
Tears will trickle into prayers
When we kneel down at His feet --
Woe are we! woe are we!
With our crosses and our cares.
He will calm the tortured breast,
He will give the troubled rest --
And the dead He watcheth best.

When? (Death)

Some day in Spring,
When earth is fair and glad,
And sweet birds sing,
And fewest hearts are sad --
Shall I die then?
Ah! me, no matter when;
I know it will be sweet
To leave the homes of men
And rest beneath the sod,
To kneel and kiss Thy feet
In Thy home, O my God!

Some Summer morn
Of splendors and of songs,
When roses hide the thorn
And smile -- the spirit's wrongs --
Shall I die then?
Ah! me, no matter when;
I know I will rejoice
To leave the haunts of men
And lie beneath the sod,
To hear Thy tender voice
In Thy home, O my God!

Some Autumn eve,
When chill clouds drape the sky,
When bright things grieve
Because all fair things die --
Shall I die then?
Ah! me, no matter when,
I know I shall be glad,
Away from the homes of men,
Adown beneath the sod,
My heart will not be sad
In Thy home, O my God!

Some Wintry day,
When all skies wear a gloom,
And beauteous May
Sleeps in December's tomb,
Shall I die then?
Ah! me, no matter when;
My soul shall throb with joy
To leave the haunts of men
And sleep beneath the sod.
Ah! there is no alloy
In Thy joys, O my God!

Haste, death! be fleet;
I know it will be sweet
To rest beneath the sod,
To kneel and kiss Thy feet
In heaven, O my God!

The Conquered Banner

Furl that Banner, for 'tis weary;
Round its staff 'tis drooping dreary;
Furl it, fold it, it is best;
For there's not a man to wave it,
And there's not a sword to save it,
And there's not one left to lave it
In the blood which heroes gave it;
And its foes now scorn and brave it;
Furl it, hide it -- let it rest!

Take that Banner down! 'tis tattered;
Broken is its staff and shattered;
And the valiant hosts are scattered
Over whom it floated high.
Oh! 'tis hard for us to fold it;
Hard to think there's none to hold it;
Hard that those who once unrolled it
Now must furl it with a sigh.

Furl that Banner! furl it sadly!
Once ten thousands hailed it gladly,
And ten thousands wildly, madly,
Swore it should forever wave;
Swore that foeman's sword should never
Hearts like theirs entwined dissever,
Till that flag should float forever
O'er their freedom or their grave!

Furl it! for the hands that grasped it,
And the hearts that fondly clasped it,
Cold and dead are lying low;
And that Banner -- it is trailing!
While around it sounds the wailing
Of its people in their woe.

For, though conquered, they adore it!
Love the cold, dead hands that bore it!
Weep for those who fell before it!
Pardon those who trailed and tore it!
But, oh! wildly they deplore it,
Now who furl and fold it so.

Furl that Banner! True, 'tis gory,
Yet 'tis wreathed around with glory,
And 'twill live in song and story,
Though its folds are in the dust:
For its fame on brightest pages,
Penned by poets and by sages,
Shall go sounding down the ages --
Furl its folds though now we must.

Furl that Banner, softly, slowly!
Treat it gently -- it is holy --
For it droops above the dead.
Touch it not -- unfold it never,
Let it droop there, furled forever,
For its people's hopes are dead!

A Christmas Chant

They ask me to sing them a Christmas song
That with musical mirth shall ring;
How know I that the world's great throng
Will care for the words I sing?

Let the young and the gay chant the Christmas lay,
Their voices and hearts are glad;
But I -- I am old, and my locks are gray,
And they tell me my voice is sad.

Ah! once I could sing, when my heart beat warm
With hopes, bright as life's first spring;
But the spring hath fled, and the golden charm
Hath gone from the songs I sing.

I have lost the spell that my verse could weave
O'er the souls of the old and young,
And never again -- how it makes me grieve --
Shall I sing as once I sung.

Why ask a song? ah! perchance you believe,
Since my days are so nearly past,
That the song you'll hear on this Christmas eve
Is the old man's best and last.

Do you want the jingle of rhythm and rhyme?
Art's sweet but meaningless notes?
Or the music of thought, that, like the chime
Of a grand cathedral, floats

Out of each word, and along each line,
Into the spirit's ear,
Lifting it up and making it pine
For a something far from here;

Bearing the wings of the soul aloft
From earth and its shadows dim;
Soothing the breast with a sound as soft
As a dream, or a seraph's hymn;

Evoking the solemnest hopes and fears
From our being's higher part;
Dimming the eyes with radiant tears
That flow from a spell bound heart?

Do they want a song that is only a song,
With no mystical meanings rife?
Or a music that solemnly moves along --
The undertone of a life!

Well, then, I'll sing, though I know no art,
Nor the poet's rhymes nor rules --
A melody moves through my aged heart
Not learned from the books or schools:

A music I learned in the days long gone --
I cannot tell where or how --
But no matter where, it still sounds on
Back of this wrinkled brow.

And down in my heart I hear it still,
Like the echoes of far-off bells;
Like the dreamy sound of a summer rill
Flowing through fairy dells.

But what shall I sing for the world's gay throng,
And what the words of the old man's song?

The world they tell me, is so giddy grown
That thought is rare;
And thoughtless minds and shallow hearts alone
Hold empire there;

That fools have prestige, place and power and fame;
Can it be true
That wisdom is a scorn, a hissing shame,
And wise are few?

They tell me, too, that all is venal, vain,
With high and low;
That truth and honor are the slaves of gain;
Can it be so?

That lofty principle hath long been dead
And in a shroud;
That virtue walks ashamed, with downcast head,
Amid the crowd.

They tell me, too, that few they are who own
God's law and love;
That thousands, living for this earth alone,
Look not above;

That daily, hourly, from the bad to worse,
Men tread the path,
Blaspheming God, and careless of the curse
Of his dead wrath.

And must I sing for slaves of sordid gain,
Or to the few
Shall I not dedicate this Christmas strain
Who still are true?

No; not for the false shall I strike the strings
Of the lyre that was mute so long;
If I sing at all, the gray bard sings
For the few and the true his song.

And ah! there is many a changeful mood
That over my spirit steals;
Beneath their spell, and in verses rude,
Whatever he dreams or feels.

Whatever the fancies this Christmas eve
Are haunting the lonely man,
Whether they gladden, or whether they grieve,
He'll sing them as best he can.

Though some of the strings of his lyre are broke
This holiest night of the year,
Who knows how its melody may wake
A Christmas smile or a tear?

So on with the mystic song,
With its meaning manifold --
Two tones in every word,
Two thoughts in every tone;
In the measured words that move along
One meaning shall be heard,
One thought to all be told;
But under it all, to be alone --
And under it all, to all unknown --
As safe as under a coffin-lid,
Deep meanings shall be hid.
Find them out who can!
The thoughts concealed and unrevealed
In the song of the lonely man.

* * * * *

I'm sitting alone in my silent room
This long December night,
Watching the fire-flame fill the gloom
With many a picture bright.
Ah! how the fire can paint!
Its magic skill, how strange!
How every spark
On the canvas dark
Draws figures and forms so quaint!
And how the pictures change!
One moment how they smile!
And in less than a little while,
In the twinkling of an eye,
Like the gleam of a summer sky,
The beaming smiles all die.

From gay to grave -- from grave to gay --
The faces change in the shadows gray;
And just as I wonder who they are,
Over them all,
Like a funeral pall,
The folds of the shadows droop and fall,
And the charm is gone,
And every one
Of the pictures fade away.

Ah! the fire within my grate
Hath more than Raphael's power,
Is more than Raphael's peer;
It paints for me in a little hour
More than he in a year;
And the pictures hanging 'round me here
This holy Christmas eve
No artist's pencil could create --
No painter's art conceive;

Ah! those cheerful faces,
Wearing youthful graces!
I gaze on them until I seem
Half awake and half in dream.
There are brows without a mark,
Features bright without a shade;
There are eyes without a tear;
There are lips unused to sigh.
Ah! never mind -- you soon shall die!
All those faces soon shall fade,
Fade into the dreary dark
Like their pictures hanging here.
-- Lo! those tearful faces,
Bearing age's traces!

I gaze on them, and they on me,
Until I feel a sorrow steal
Through my heart so drearily;
There are faces furrowed deep;
There are eyes that used to weep;
There are brows beneath a cloud;
There are hearts that want to sleep;
Never mind! the shadows creep
From the death-land; and a shroud,
Tenderly as mother's arm,
Soon shall shield the old from harm,
Soon shall wrap its robe of rest
Round each sorrow-haunted breast
Ah! that face of mother's,
Sister's, too, and brother's --
And so many others,
Dear is every name --
And Ethel! Thou art there,
With thy child-face sweet and fair,
And thy heart so bright
In its shroud so white;
Just as I saw you last
In the golden, happy past;
And you seem to wear
Upon your hair --
Your waving, golden hair --
The smile of the setting sun.
Ah! me, how years will run!
But all the years cannot efface
Your purest name, your sweetest grace,
From the heart that still is true
Of all the world to you;
The other faces shine,
But none so fair as thine;
And wherever they are to-night, I know
They look the very same
As in their pictures hanging here
This night, to memory dear,
And painted by the flames,
With tombstones in the background,
And shadows for their frames.

And thus with my pictures only,
And the fancies they unweave,
Alone, and yet not lonely,
I keep my Christmas eve.
I'm sitting alone in my pictured room --
But, no! they have vanished all --
I'm watching the fire-glow fade into gloom,
I'm watching the ashes fall.
And far away back of the cheerful blaze
The beautiful visions of by-gone days
Are rising before my raptured gaze.
Ah! Christmas fire, so bright and warm,
Hast thou a wizard's magic charm
To bring those far-off scenes so near
And make my past days meet me here?

Tell me -- tell me -- how is it?
The past is past, and here I sit,
And there, lo! there before me rise,
Beyond yon glowing flame,
The summer suns of childhood's skies,
Yes -- yes -- the very same!
I saw them rise long, long ago;
I played beneath their golden glow;
And I remember yet,
I often cried with strange regret
When in the west I saw them set
And there they are again;
The suns, the skies, the very days
Of childhood, just beyond that blaze!
But, ah! such visions almost craze
The old man's puzzled brain!
I thought the past was past!
But, no! it cannot be;
'Tis here to-night with me!

How is it, then? the past of men
Is part of one eternity --
The days of yore we so deplore,
They are not dead -- they are not fled,
They live and live for evermore.
And thus my past comes back to me
With all its visions fair.

O past! could I go back to thee,
And live forever there!
But, no! there's frost upon my hair;
My feet have trod a path of care;
And worn and wearied here I sit
I am too tired to go to it.

And thus with visions only,
And the fancies they unweave,
Alone, and yet not lonely,
I keep my Christmas eve.

I am sitting alone in my fire-lit room;
But, no! the fire is dying,

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