Part 1 out of 4
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Poems of Henry Timrod
The Late Judge George S. Bryan
The Cotton Boll
A Year's Courtship
Youth and Manhood
Hark to the Shouting Wind
Too Long, O Spirit of Storm
The Lily Confidante
The Stream is Flowing from the West
Vox et Pr|aeterea Nihil
La Belle Juive
A Mother's Wail
Address Delivered at the Opening of the New Theatre at Richmond
A Vision of Poesy
The Arctic Voyager
The Summer Bower
A Rhapsody of a Southern Winter Night
A Summer Shower
The Messenger Rose
On Pressing Some Flowers
1866 -- Addressed to the Old Year
Stanzas: A Mother Gazes Upon Her Daughter, Arrayed for an Approaching Bridal.
Written in Illustration of a Tableau Vivant
Hymn Sung at an Anniversary of the Asylum of Orphans at Charleston
To a Captive Owl
Hymn Sung at the Consecration of Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston, S.C.
Hymn Sung at a Sacred Concert at Columbia, S.C.
Lines to R. L.
Storm and Calm
A Common Thought
Poems Written in War Times
A Cry to Arms
The Unknown Dead
The Two Armies
Ode Sung on the Occasion of Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead,
at Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston, S.C., 1867
I "Poet! If on a Lasting Fame Be Bent"
II "Most Men Know Love But as a Part of Life"
III "Life Ever Seems as from Its Present Site"
IV "They Dub Thee Idler, Smiling Sneeringly"
V "Some Truths There Be Are Better Left Unsaid"
VI "I Scarcely Grieve, O Nature! at the Lot"
VII "Grief Dies Like Joy; the Tears Upon My Cheek"
VIII "At Last, Beloved Nature! I Have Met"
IX "I Know Not Why, But All This Weary Day"
X "Were I the Poet-Laureate of the Fairies"
XI "Which Are the Clouds, and Which the Mountains? See"
XII "What Gossamer Lures Thee Now? What Hope, What Name"
XIII "I Thank You, Kind and Best Beloved Friend"
XIV "Are These Wild Thoughts, Thus Fettered in My Rhymes"
XV In Memoriam -- Harris Simons
Poems Now First Collected
Song Composed for Washington's Birthday, and Respectfully Inscribed
to the Officers and Members of the Washington Light Infantry of Charleston,
February 22, 1859
Lines: "I Stooped from Star-Bright Regions"
Lines: "I Saw, or Dreamed I Saw, Her Sitting Lone"
Sonnet: "If I Have Graced No Single Song of Mine"
To Rosa ----: Acrostic
"A true poet is one of the most precious gifts that can be bestowed
on a generation." He speaks for it and he speaks to it.
Reflecting and interpreting his age and its thoughts, feelings, and purposes,
he speaks for it; and with a love of truth, with a keener moral insight
into the universal heart of man, and with the intuition of inspiration,
he speaks to it, and through it to the world. It is thus
"The poet to the whole wide world belongs,
Even as the Teacher is the child's."
"Nor is it to the great masters alone that our homage and thankfulness
are due. Wherever a true child of song strikes his harp, we love to listen.
All that we ask is that the music be native, born of impassioned impulse
that will not be denied, heartfelt, like the lark when she soars up
to greet the morning and pours out her song by the same quivering ecstasy
that impels her flight." For though the voices be many, the oracle is one,
for "God gave the poet his song."
Such was Henry Timrod, the Southern poet. A child of nature,
his song is the voice of the Southland. Born in Charleston, S.C.,
December 8th, 1829, his life cast in the seething torrent of civil war,
his voice was also the voice of Carolina, and through her of the South,
in all the rich glad life poured out in patriotic pride into
that fatal struggle, in all the valor and endurance of that dark conflict,
in all the gloom of its disaster, and in all the sacred tenderness
that clings about its memories. He was the poet of the Lost Cause,
the finest interpreter of the feelings and traditions of the splendid heroism
of a brave people. Moreover, by his catholic spirit, his wide range,
and world-wide sympathies, he is a true American poet.
The purpose of the TIMROD MEMORIAL ASSOCIATION of his native city and State,
in undertaking this new edition of his poems, is to erect
a suitable public memorial to the poet, and also to let his own words
renew and keep his own memory in his land's literature.
The earliest edition of Timrod's poems was a small volume by Ticknor & Fields,
of Boston, in 1860, just before the Civil War. This contained only
the poems of the first eight or nine years previous, and was warmly welcomed
North and South. The "New York Tribune" then greeted this small first volume
in these words: "These poems are worthy of a wide audience,
and they form a welcome offering to the common literature of our country."
In this first volume was evinced the culture, the lively fancy,
the delicate and vigorous imagination, and the finished artistic power
of his mind, even then rejoicing in the fullness and freshness
of its creations and in the unwearied flow of its natural music.
But it fell then on the great world of letters almost unheeded,
shut out by the war cloud that soon broke upon the land,
enveloping all in darkness.
The edition of his complete poems was not issued until the South
was recovering from the ravage of war, and was entitled
"The Poems of Henry Timrod, edited with a sketch of the Poet's life
by Paul H. Hayne. E. J. Hale & Son, publishers, New York, 1873."
And immediately, in 1874, there followed a second edition of this volume,
which contained the noble series of war poems and other lyrics
written since the edition of 1860. In 1884 an illustrated edition of "Katie"
was published by Hale & Son, New York. All of these editions
were long ago exhausted by an admiring public.
The present edition contains the poems of all the former editions,
and also some earlier poems not heretofore published.
The name of Timrod has been closely identified with the history
of South Carolina for over a century. Before the Revolution,
Henry Timrod, of German birth, the founder of the family in America,
was a prominent citizen of Charleston, and the president of
that historic association, the German Friendly Society, still existing,
a century and a quarter old. We find his name first on the roll
of the German Fusiliers of Charleston, volunteers formed in May, 1775,
for the defense of the country, immediately on hearing of
the battle of Lexington. Again in the succeeding generation,
in the Seminole war and in the peril of St. Augustine,
the German Fusiliers were commanded by his son, Captain William Henry Timrod,
who was the father of the poet, and who himself published a volume of poems
in the early part of the century. He was the editor of a literary periodical
published in Charleston, to which he himself largely contributed.
He was of strong intellect and delicate feelings, and an ardent patriot.
Some of the more striking of the poems of the elder Timrod are the following.
Washington Irving said of these lines that Tom Moore had written
no finer lyric: --
To Time, the Old Traveler
They slander thee, Old Traveler,
Who say that thy delight
Is to scatter ruin, far and wide,
In thy wantonness of might:
For not a leaf that falleth
Before thy restless wings,
But in thy flight, thou changest it
To a thousand brighter things.
Thou passest o'er the battlefield
Where the dead lie stiff and stark,
Where naught is heard save the vulture's scream,
And the gaunt wolf's famished bark;
But thou hast caused the grain to spring
From the blood-enrich|\ed clay,
And the waving corn-tops seem to dance
To the rustic's merry lay.
Thou hast strewed the lordly palace
In ruins on the ground,
And the dismal screech of the owl is heard
Where the harp was wont to sound;
But the selfsame spot thou coverest
With the dwellings of the poor,
And a thousand happy hearts enjoy
What ONE usurped before.
'T is true thy progress layeth
Full many a loved one low,
And for the brave and beautiful
Thou hast caused our tears to flow;
But always near the couch of death
Nor thou, nor we can stay;
AND THE BREATH OF THY DEPARTING WINGS,
DRIES ALL OUR TEARS AWAY!
Nor did lack
Sweet music to the magic of the scene:
The little crimson-breasted Nonpareil
Was there, his tiny feet scarce bending down
The silken tendril that he lighted on
To pour his love notes; and in russet coat,
Most homely, like true genius bursting forth
In spite of adverse fortune, a full choir
Within himself, the merry Mock Bird sate,
Filling the air with melody; and at times,
IN THE RAPT FAVOR OF HIS SWEETEST SONG,
HIS QUIVERING FORM WOULD SPRING INTO THE SKY,
IN SPIRAL CIRCLES, AS IF HE WOULD CATCH
NEW POWERS FROM KINDRED WARBLERS IN THE CLOUDS
WHO WOULD BEND DOWN TO GREET HIM!
These lines, addressed to the poet by his father, have a pathetic interest: --
Harry, my little blue-eyed boy,
I love to have thee playing near;
There's music in thy shouts of joy
To a fond father's ear.
I love to see the lines of mirth
Mantle thy cheek and forehead fair,
As if all pleasures of the earth
Had met to revel there;
For gazing on thee, do I sigh
That those most happy years must flee,
And thy full share of misery
Must fall in life on thee!
There is no lasting grief below,
My Harry! that flows not from guilt;
Thou canst not read my meaning now --
In after times thou wilt.
Thou'lt read it when the churchyard clay
Shall lie upon thy father's breast,
And he, though dead, will point the way
Thou shalt be always blest.
They'll tell thee this terrestrial ball,
To man for his enjoyment given,
Is but a state of sinful thrall
To keep the soul from heaven.
My boy! the verdure-crown|\ed hills,
The vales where flowers innumerous blow,
The music of ten thousand rills
Will tell thee, 't is not so.
God is no tyrant who would spread
Unnumbered dainties to the eyes,
Yet teach the hungering child to dread
That touching them he dies!
No! all can do his creatures good,
He scatters round with hand profuse --
The only precept understood,
ENJOY, BUT NOT ABUSE!
The poet's mother was the daughter of Mr. Charles Prince,
a citizen of Charleston, whose parents had come from England
just before the Revolution. Mr. Prince had married Miss French,
daughter of an officer in the Revolution, whose family were from Switzerland.
It was the influence of his mother also that helped to form
the poet's character, and his intense and passionate love of nature.
Her beautiful face and form, her purity and goodness, her delight in all
the sights and sounds of the country, her childish rapture in wood and field,
her love of flowers and trees, and all the mystery and gladness of nature,
are among the cherished memories of all her children, and vividly described
by the poet's sister.
William Henry Timrod, father of the poet, died of disease contracted in
the Florida war, and his family thereafter were in straitened circumstances.
Nevertheless, the early education of his gifted son was provided for.
Paul H. Hayne, the poet, was one of his earliest friends and schoolmates
at Charleston's best school. They sat together, and to his brother boy-poet
he first showed his earliest verses in exulting confidence.
This friendship and confidence lasted through life, and Hayne has tenderly
embalmed it in his sketch of the poet. We have this faithful picture of him
at that time: --
"Modest and diffident, with a nervous utterance, but with melody
ever in his heart and on his lip. Though always slow of speech,
he was yet, like Burns, quick to learn. The chariot wheels
might jar in the gate through which he tried to drive his winged steeds,
but the horses were of celestial temper and the car purest gold."
His school-fellows remember him as silent and shy, full of quick impulse,
and with an eager ambition, insatiable in his thirst for books,
yet mingling freely in all sports, and rejoicing unspeakably
in the weekly holiday and its long rambles through wood and field.
"The sweet security of streets" had no charm for him. He rejoiced in Nature
and her changing scenes and seasons. She was always to him comfort,
refreshment, balm. She never turned her face from him,
and through all his years he "leaned on her breast with loving trustfulness
as a little child."
But he had other teachers. He studied all classic literature.
"The |Aeschylean drama had no attraction for him; he reveled in
the rich and elegant strains of Virgil, and of the many toned lyre of Horace
and the silver lute of Catullus." From the full and inexhaustible fountain
of English letters he drank unceasingly. Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton,
Burns, Wordsworth, and, later, Tennyson were his immediate inspiration.
His college life at the University of Georgia was interrupted by sickness
and cramped by lack of means, and his literary plans were foiled by necessity.
Nevertheless, he left his Alma Mater with a mind stirred to its depths,
and with a large store of learning, and had already sounded with clear note
those chords which were afterwards so vocal in melody.
Dr. J. Dickson Bruns has left this graphic description of Timrod's
personal appearance, and of some prominent traits of his social character: --
"In stature," he says, "Timrod was far below the medium height.
He had always excelled in boyish sports, and, as he grew to manhood,
his unusual breadth of shoulder still seemed to indicate a physical vigor
which the slender wrists, thin, transparent hands, and habitually lax attitude
but too plainly contradicted.
"The square jaw was almost stern in its strongly pronounced lines,
the mouth large, the lips exquisitely sensitive, the gray eyes set deeply
under massive brows, and full of a melancholy and pleading tenderness,
which attracted attention to his face at once, as the face of one
who had thought and suffered much.
"His walk was quick and nervous, with an energy in it that betokened
decision of character, but ill sustained by the stammering speech;
for in society he was the shyest and most undemonstrative of men.
To a single friend whom he trusted, he would pour out his inmost heart;
but let two or three be gathered together, above all, introduce a stranger,
and he instantly became a quiet, unobtrusive listener,
though never a moody or uncongenial one!
"Among men of letters, he was always esteemed as a most sympathetic companion;
timid, reserved, unready, if taken by surprise, but highly cultivated,
and still more highly endowed.
"The key to his social character was to be found in the feminine gentleness
of his temperament. He shrank from noisy debate, and the wordy
clash of argument, as from a blow. It stunned and bewildered him,
and left him, in the m|^el|/ee, alike incapable of defense or attack.
And yet, when some burly protagonist would thrust himself too rudely into
the ring, and try to bear down opposition by sheer vehemence of declamation,
from the corner where he sat ensconced in unregarded silence,
HE WOULD SUDDENLY SLING OUT SOME SHARP, SWIFT PEBBLE OF THOUGHT,
which he had been slowly rounding, and smite with an aim so keen and true
as rarely failed to bring down the boastful Anakim!"
In Charleston, as a first effort in life, for a brief period Timrod attempted
the law, but found that jealous mistress unsuited to his life work,
though he had all the opportunity afforded him in the office of his friend,
the Hon. J. L. Petigru, the great jurist. Leaving the bar,
he thenceforward devoted himself to literature and to his art.
Charleston to Timrod was home, and he always returned with kindling spirit
to the city of his love. There were all his happiest associations
and the delight of purest friendships, -- W. Gilmore Simms and Paul Hayne,
and the rest of the literary coterie that presided over "Russell's Magazine",
and Judge Bryan and Dr. Bruns (to whom Hayne dedicated
his edition of Timrod's poems), and others were of this glad fellowship,
and his social hours were bright in their intercourse and in
the cordial appreciation of his genius and the tender love they bore him.
These he never forgot, and returning after the ravage of war
to his impoverished and suffering city, he writes, in the last year
of his young life, "My eyes were blind to everything and everybody
but a few old friends."
Suited by endowment and prepared by special study for a professorship,
still all his efforts for the academic chair failed,
and, finally, he was compelled to become a private teacher,
an office the sacredness of which he profoundly realized.
In his leisure hours he now gave himself up to deeper study of nature,
literature, and man. It was in these few years of quiet retreat
that he wrote the poems contained in the first edition of his works, 1859-60,
which, laden with all the poet's longing to be heard, were little heeded
in the first great shock of war. Indeed, in such a storm, what shelter
could a poet find? An ardent Carolinian, devoted to his native State
with an allegiance as to his country, he left his books and study,
and threw himself into the struggle, a volunteer in the army.
In the first years of the war he was in and near Charleston, and wrote
those memorable poems and martial lyrics: "Carolina", "A Cry to Arms",
"Charleston", "Ripley", "Ethnogenesis", and "The Cotton Boll",
which deeply stirred the heart of his State, and, indeed, of the whole South.
His was the voice of his people. Under its spell the public response
was quick, and promised largest honor and world-wide fame for the poet.
The project formed by some of the most eminent men of the State, late in 1862,
was to publish an illustrated and highly embellished edition of his works
in London. The war correspondent of the "London Illustrated News", Vizitelly,
himself an artist, promised original illustrations, and the future seemed
bright for the gratification of his heart's desire, to be known and heard in
the great literary centre of the English-speaking world. But disappointment
again was his lot. Amid the increasing stress of the conflict,
every public and private energy in the South was absorbed in maintaining
the ever weakening struggle; and with all art and literature and learning
our poet's hopes were buried in the common grave of war;
not because he was not loved and cherished, and his genius appreciated,
but because a terrible need was upon his people, and desperate issues
were draining their life-blood. Then he went to the front.
Too weak for the field (for the fatal weakness that finally sapped his life
was then upon him), he was compelled, under medical direction,
to retire from the battle ranks, and made a last desperate effort
to serve the cause he loved as a war correspondent. In this capacity
he joined the great army of the West after the battle of Shiloh.
The story of his camp life was indeed pathetic. Dr. Bruns writes of him then:
"One can scarcely conceive of a situation more hopelessly wretched
than that of a mere child in the world's ways suddenly flung down
into the heart of that strong retreat, and tossed like a straw
on the crest of those refluent waves from which he escaped as by a miracle."
Home he came, baffled, dispirited, and sore hurt, to receive the succor
of generous friendship, and for a brief time a safe congenial refuge,
in 1864, in an editor's chair of the "South Carolinian",
at the capital of his native State. Here his strong pen wrote
the stirring editorials of that critical time, and there,
tempted by the passing hour of comparative calm, he married Miss Kate Goodwin,
"Katie, the fair Saxon" of his exquisite song. Here the war
that had broken all his plans, and wrecked his health and hopes,
and made literature for a time in the South a beggar's vocation,
left him with wife and child, the "darling Willie" of his verse,
dependent upon his already sapped and fast failing strength for support.
Here he saw the capital of his native State, marked for vengeance,
pitilessly destroyed by fire and sword. Here gaunt ruin stalked
and want entered his own home, made desolate as all the hearthstones
of his people. Here the peace that ensued was the peace of the desert!
Here the army, defeated and broken, came back after the long heroic struggle
to blackened chimneys, sole vestige of home, and the South,
with not even bread for her famished children, still stood in solemn silence
by those deeper furrows watered with blood. The suffering that he endured
was the common suffering of those around him, -- actual physical want
and lack of the commonest comforts of life, felt most keenly
by his sensitive nature and delicate constitution. In the midst of
this fierce stress, his darling boy, the crown of his life, died.
All his affections, it seemed, were poured out at once,
as water spilled upon the ground. He was dying of consumption,
and earth shadows crowded around him.
Though long in feeble health, his last illness was brief.
The best physicians lovingly gave their skillful ministration,
and the State's most eminent men, in their common need, tenderly cared
for him and his. With death before him, he clung passionately to his art,
absorbed in that alone and in the great Beyond. His latest occupation
was correcting the proof-sheets of his own poems, and he passed away
with them by his side, stained with his life-blood.
In the autumn of 1867 he was laid by his beloved child
in Trinity churchyard, Columbia, S.C. General Hampton, Governor Thompson,
and other great Carolinians bore him to the grave, --
a grave that, through the sackcloth of the Reconstruction period
in South Carolina, remained without a stone. But as he himself
wrote of the host of the Southern dead of the war, --
"In seeds of laurel in the earth
The blossom of your fame is blown,
And somewhere waiting for its birth,
The shaft is in the stone."
In later years loving friends reared a small memorial shaft to mark his grave.
It was in that dark period that Carl McKinley's genius was touched
to these fine lines.
At Timrod's Grave. 1877.
Harp of the South! no more, no more
Thy silvery strings shall quiver,
The one strong hand might win thy strains
Is chilled and stilled forever.
Our one sweet singer breaks no more
The silence sad and long,
The land is hushed from shore to shore,
It brooks no feebler song!
No other voice can charm our ears,
None other soothe our pain;
Better these echoes lingering yet,
Than any ruder strain.
For singing, Fate has given sighs,
For music we make moan;
Oh, who may touch the harp-strings since
That whisper -- "HE IS GONE!"
See where he lies -- his last sad home
Of all memorial bare,
Save for a little heap of leaves
The winds have gathered there!
One fair frail shell from some far sea
Lies lone above his breast,
Sad emblem and sole epitaph
To mark his place of rest.
The sweet winds murmur in its heart
A music soft and low,
As they would bring their secrets still
To him who sleeps below.
And lo! one tender, tearful bloom
Wins upward through the grass,
As some sweet thought he left unsung
Were blossoming at last.
Wild weeds grow rank about the place,
A dark, cold spot, and drear;
The dull neglect that marked his life
Has followed even here.
Around shine many a marble shaft
And polished pillars fair,
And strangers stand on Timrod's grave
To praise them, unaware!
"Hold up the glories of thy dead!"
To thine own self be true,
Land that he loved! Come, honor now
This grave that honors you!
The one characteristic above all others that marked the poet's life
was his unfaltering trust, -- the soul's unclouded sky,
a quenchless radiance of blessed sunlight amid the deep darkness
that encompassed him.
As in his poetry there is no false note, no doubtful sentiment,
no selfish grief, even when he sings with breast against the thorn,
so in his life do we find no word of bitterness or moaning or complaining.
Even amid the terrible blight of war and its final utter ruin, prophet-like,
he speaks in faith and hope and courage. His own heart breaking,
and life ebbing, he writes of Spring as the true Reconstructionist,
and pleads her message to his stricken people. It is so true and prophetic
that we quote the words written in April, 1866.
"For Spring is a true Reconstructionist, -- a reconstructionist
in the best and most practical sense. There is not a nook in the land
in which she is not at this moment exerting her influence in preparing a way
for the restoration of the South. No politician may oppose her;
her power defies embarrassment; but she is not altogether independent of help.
She brings us balmy airs and gentle dews, golden suns and silver rains;
and she says to us, `These are the materials of the only work
in which you need be at present concerned; avail yourselves of them
to reclothe your naked country and feed your impoverished people,
and you will find that, in the discharge of that task,
you have taken the course which will most certainly and most peacefully
conduct you to the position which you desire. Turn not aside
to bandy epithets with your enemies; stuff your ears, like the princess
in the Arabian Nights, against words of insult and wrong;
pause not to muse over your condition, or to question your prospects;
but toil on bravely, silently, surely. . . .'
"Such are the words of wise and kindly counsel, which, if we attend rightly,
we may all hear in the winds and read in the skies of Spring. Nowhere,
however, does she speak with so eloquent a voice or so pathetic an effect
as in this ruined town. She covers our devastated courts
with images of renovation in the shape of flowers; she hangs once more
in our blasted gardens the fragrant lamps of the jessamine;
in our streets she kindles the maple like a beacon; and from amidst
the charred and blackened ruins of once happy homes she pours,
through the mouth of her favorite musician, the mocking-bird,
a song of hope and joy. What is the lesson which she designs
by these means to convey? It may be summed in a single sentence, --
forgetfulness of the past, effort in the present, and trust for the future."
Such was the lofty creed and last hopeful, but dying message
to his brothers of the South, whose war songs he had written,
and the requiem of whose martyred hosts he had chanted.
Such was the tragedy that ended in October, 1867, with the hero
at the age of thirty-seven; glory, genius, anguish, tears,
but unconquerable faith and heroic fortitude. His larger life scarce begun,
his full power felt, but only half expressed, he realized deeply --
"The petty done, the vast undone!"
He yearned with passionate longing and hope and conscious might
to fulfill an even greater mission; but in the infinite providence of God
the full fruitage of this exquisite soul was for another sphere.
He was indeed "one of those who stirred us, a friend of man and a lover.
In no country of this earth could he long have been an alien,
and that may now be said of his spirit. In no part of this universe
could it feel lonely or unbefriended; it was in harmony with all
that flowers or gives perfume in life."
The story of his last days, as given by his poet-friend, Paul Hayne,
at the latter's cottage among the pines, is of tender and peculiar interest,
and we quote it here, as it was written in 1873: --
. . . In the latter summer-tide of this same year (1867),
I again persuaded him to visit me. Ah! how sacred now, how sad and sweet,
are the memories of that rich, clear, prodigal August of '67!
We would rest on the hillsides, in the swaying golden shadows,
watching together the Titanic masses of snow-white clouds
which floated slowly and vaguely through the sky, suggesting by their form,
whiteness, and serene motion, despite the season, flotillas of icebergs
upon Arctic seas. Like Lazzaroni we basked in the quiet noons,
sunk into the depths of reverie, or perhaps of yet more "charmed sleep".
Or we smoked, conversing lazily between the puffs,
"Next to some pine whose antique roots just peeped
From out the crumbling bases of the sand."
But the evenings, with their gorgeous sunsets "rolling down like a chorus"
and the "gray-eyed melancholy gloaming", were the favorite
hours of the day with him. He would often apostrophize twilight
in the language of Wordsworth's sonnet: --
"Hail, twilight! sovereign of one peaceful hour!
Not dull art thou as undiscerning night;
But only studious to remove from sight
Day's mutable distinctions."
"Yes," said he, "she is indeed sovereign of ONE PEACEFUL HOUR!
In the hardest, busiest time one feels the calm, merciful-minded queen
stealing upon one in the fading light, and `whispering', as Ford has it
(or is it Fletcher?), -- `WHISPERING tranquillity'."
When in-doors and disposed to read, he took much pleasure
in perusing the poems of Robert Buchanan and Miss Ingelow.
The latter's "Ballads" particularly delighted him. One,
written "in the old English manner", he quickly learned by heart,
repeating it with a relish and fervor indescribable.
Here is the opening stanza: --
"Come out and hear the waters shoot, the owlet hoot, the owlet hoot;
Yon crescent moon, a golden boat, hangs dim behind the tree, O!
The dropping thorn makes white the grass, O! sweetest lass,
and sweetest lass
Come out and smell the ricks of hay adown the croft with me, O!"
With but a slight effort of memory I can vividly recall his voice and manner
in repeating these simple yet beautiful lines.
They were the last verses I ever heard from the poet's lips.
Just as the woods were assuming their first delicate autumnal tints,
Timrod took his leave of us. In a conversation on the night but one previous
to his departure, we had been speaking of Dr. Parr and other literary persons
of unusual age, when he observed: "I haven't the slightest desire, P----,
to be an octogenarian, far less a centenarian, like old Parr;
but I hope that I may be spared until I am FIFTY or fifty-five."
"About Shakespeare's age," I suggested.
"Oh!" he replied, smiling, "I was not thinking of THAT;
but I'm sure that after fifty-five I would begin to wither, mind and body,
and one hates the idea of a mummy, intellectual or physical.
Do you remember that picture of extreme old age which Charles Reade gives us
in `Never Too Late to Mend'? George Fielding, the hero,
is about going away from England to try his luck in Australia.
All his friends and relations are around him, expressing their sorrow
at his enforced voyage; all but his grandfather, aged ninety-two,
who sits stolid and mumbling in his armchair.
"`Grandfather!' shouts George into the deafened ears,
`I'm going a long journey; mayhap shall never see you again;
speak a word to me before I go!' Grandfather looks up,
brightens for a moment, and cackles feebly out: `George,
fetch me some SNUFF from where you're going. See now' (half whimpering),
`I'm out of snuff.' A good point in the way of illustration,
but not a pleasant picture."
On the 13th of September, ten days after Timrod's return to Columbia,
he wrote me the following note: --
"Dear P----: I have been too sick to write before, and am still too sick
to drop you more than a few lines. You will be surprised and pained
to hear that I have had a severe hemorrhage of the lungs.
"I did not come home an instant too soon. I found them without
money or provisions. Fortunately I brought with me a small sum.
I won't tell you how small, but six dollars of it was from
the editor of the `Opinion' for my last poem.
"I left your climate to my injury. But not only for the sake of my health,
I begin already to look back with longing regret to `Copse Hill'.
You have all made me feel as if I had TWO beloved homes!
"I wish that I could divide myself between them; or that I had wings,
so that I might flit from one to other in a moment.
"I hope soon to write you at length. Yours," etc.
Again on the 16th I heard from him, thus: --
"Yesterday I had a still more copious hemorrhage! . . .
"I am lying supine in bed, forbidden to speak or make any exertion whatever.
But I can't resist the temptation of dropping you a line,
in the hope of calling forth a score or two from you in return.
"An awkward time this for me to be sick! We are destitute of funds,
almost of food. But God will provide!
"I send you a Sonnet, written the other day, as an Obituary
for Mr. Harris Simons. Tell me what you think of it -- be sure!
Love to your mother, wife, and my precious Willie [since the death
of his own child he had turned with a yearning affection to my boy].
Let me hear from you soon -- VERY soon! You'll do me more good
than medicines!" etc.
On the 25th of the month confidence in Timrod's recovery was confirmed
by a letter from Mrs. Goodwin: --
"Our brother," she writes, "is decidedly better; and if there be
no recurrence of the hemorrhage will, I hope, be soon convalescent!"
A week and upwards passed on in silence. I received no more communications
from Columbia. But early in October a vaguely threatening report
reached my ears. On the 9th it was mournfully confirmed.
Forty-eight hours before, Henry Timrod had expired!
On the 7th of October, the mortal remains of the poet, so worn and shattered,
were buried in the cemetery of Trinity Church, Columbia.
There, in the ruined capital of his native State, whence scholarship,
culture, and social purity have been banished to give place to the orgies
of semi-barbarians and the political trickery of adventurers and traitors;
there, tranquil amid the vulgar turmoil of factions,
reposes the dust of one of the truest and sweetest singers
this country has given to the world.
Nature, kinder to his senseless ashes than ever Fortune had been
to the living man, is prodigal around his grave -- unmarked and unrecorded
though it be -- of her flowers and verdant grasses, of her rains
that fertilize, and her purifying dews. The peace he loved,
and so vainly longed for through stormy years, has crept to him at last,
but only to fall upon the pallid eyelids, closed forever;
upon the pulseless limbs, and the breathless, broken heart.
Still it is good to know that
"After life's fitful fever, he sleeps well."
Yet, from this mere material repose, this quiet of decaying atoms,
surely the most skeptical of thinkers, in contemplation of SUCH a life
and SUCH a death, must instinctively look from earth to heaven;
from the bruised and mouldering clod to the spirit infinitely exalted,
and radiant in redemption.
"A calm, a beautiful, a sacred star."
The poetic creed of Timrod, expressed in his "Vision of Poesy",
set the impress upon all his work. Conscious of his power,
he reverently believed in the mission of the poet as prophet and teacher, --
"The mission of Genius on Earth! To uplift,
Purify, and confirm, by its own gracious gift,
The world," --
and he has consecrated his gift to its noblest uses
in the discharge of that "high and holy debt".
As lover of man and nature, his sympathy was universal;
no theme was too humble for his pen. "The same law that moulds a planet forms
a drop of dew." "Humility is power!" "We may trace the mighty sun above
even by the shadow of a slender flower." Yet he dealt not with the fleeting;
that was only the passing form of the abiding. Passionately fond
as he was of Nature, and nourished and refreshed by her always,
he never wrote a line of mere descriptive poetry. Nature is only the symbol,
the image, to interpret his spiritual meaning. He felt with Milton,
in his noble words, that the abiding work is not raised
in the heat of youth or the vapors of wine, or by "invocation to dame Memory
and her siren daughters, but by devout prayer to that Eternal Spirit
who can enrich with all utterance and knowledge, and send out his seraphim
with the hallowed fire of his altars to touch and purify
the lips of whom He pleases."
Under that inspiration and revelation the poet is a divine interpreter of
(in his own words) --
"All lovely things, and gentle -- the sweet laugh
Of children, Girlhood's kiss, and Friendship's clasp,
The boy that sporteth with the old man's staff,
The baby, and the breast its fingers grasp --
All that exalts the grounds of happiness,
All griefs that hallow, and all joys that bless,
"To me are sacred; at my holy shrine
Love breathes its latest dreams, its earliest hints;
I turn life's tasteless waters into wine,
And flush them through and through with purple tints.
Wherever Earth is fair, and Heaven looks down,
I rear my altars, and I wear my crown."
It was this mission of Poetry that filled his mind and heart and life
with abiding light, which made him cling passionately to life,
not because of any physical fear of death, but because in that mission
Art and Nature were so inexpressibly rich and sweet to him
to reveal his message to man. In the benediction of his dying words,
"Love is sweeter than rest!"
The moral purity of these poems is their distinctive quality,
as it was of the man. With a universal sympathy for all life, still he moved
always on the highest planes of thought and feeling and purpose. He seemed
always to be impressed in his art with the truth of his own lines, --
"There is no unimpressive spot on earth,
The beauty of the stars is over all."
His earnestness and deep poetic insight clothed all themes
with the beauty and light that is in and over all.
Timrod's melancholy, the finest test of high poetic quality,
when purified and spiritualized, has no Byronic bitterness,
no selfish morbidness, no impenetrable gloom, but in his own exquisite lines
it is, --
"A shadowy land, where joy and sorrow kiss,
Each still to each corrective and relief,
Where dim delights are brightened into bliss,
And nothing wholly perishes but Grief.
"Ah, me! -- not dies -- no more than spirit dies;
But in a change like death is clothed with wings;
A serious angel, with entranc|\ed eyes,
Looking to far off and celestial things."
Again, in all these poems there is a nameless spell of a simplicity,
fervid yet tender, and an imagination, strong yet delicate,
both in its perception and expression.
His style, "like noble music unto noble words," is elaborate,
yet perfectly natural. There is no trace of labor;
grace guides and power impels. So perfect is it at times in its natural power
that the mind is almost unconscious of the word-symbol in grasping immediately
the thought revealed.
There is in the verse a ceaseless melody and perfect finish.
At times there is "the easy elegance of Catullus", always his delight,
and a metrical translation of whose poems he had completed.
Rare endowment with broad culture is evinced in the high intellectual level
always maintained; and the evenness of quality that is always
of the mountain top. He always knows his power, and its range.
His song is always clear and true.
Moreover, with a universality of poetic feeling, he has struck every chord,
and always with a keen sensibility and delicacy of natural instinct.
Among the finest poems, how wide is this range and varied this power!
"The Vision of Poesy", his longest work, written in youth,
essaying the mission and the philosophy of the poetic art,
has some lofty passages, and all the promise of his later power,
felicity, and melody.
"A Year's Courtship" is in its glow, and grace, and music
the perfection of classic art.
The dainty voluptuousness in a "Serenade" kindles with
the luxuriousness of the South.
His "Pr|aeceptor Amat" is warm with the breath of rapturous feeling,
and rich with the fragrance of flowers.
"Ethnogenesis", "the birth of the nation", is regarded by some
his greatest poem. It is prophecy linked with the hope and aspiration
of the newborn nation of the South. A permanent image
of the Southern nature and character is thus richly portrayed: --
"But the type
Whereby we shall be known in every land
Is that vast gulf which lips our Southern strand,
And through the cold, untempered ocean pours
Its genial streams, that far off Arctic shores
May sometimes catch upon the softened breeze
Strange tropic warmth and hints of summer seas."
"The Cotton Boll", in "the snow of Southern summers", is a forerunner of
Lanier's "Corn". It reveals the mystic spell and kingly power of that
far-stretching tropic snow, and contains that glowing painting of Carolina
from sea to mountain, which closes
"No fairer land hath fired a poet's lays,
Or given a home to man!"
"Too Long, O Spirit of Storm", is the fused passion of the poet's heart
appalled at the moral death of stagnation. It has all the intensity
and subtlety of Shelley.
In "The Lily Confidante", delicate and fanciful as it is,
the reply of the Lily "is a simple yet sacred melody",
hallowing the purity of passion.
"The Arctic Voyager" suggests Tennyson's "Ulysses" in its high faith,
lofty purpose, and sustained power.
"Spring" is the burst of the Southern spring, in its flooding life
and glory and beauty. There is "a nameless pathos in the air."
A wonderful revelation is going on before our eyes! No miracle
could startle in the ever new creation, so strange and rapturous
is this joy of sense and spiritual rebirth.
Nor was his genius only reflective, and creative, and playful;
his was a trumpet voice also. When the blast of war sounded,
his voice rang like a clarion in "Carolina" and "Cry to Arms".
Beyond their local meaning, which kindles and thrills, now as then,
the men of the South, they have an abiding, universal power
from the standpoint of art; for there is nothing finer
in all the martial strains of the lyric.
Paul Hayne, his brother poet, speaking of "Carolina",
as "lines destined perhaps to outlive the political vitality of the State,
whose antique fame they celebrate," said: --
"I read them first, and was thrilled by their power and pathos,
upon a stormy March evening in Fort Sumter! Walking along the battlements,
under the red light of a tempestuous sunset, the wind steadily and loudly
blowing from off the bar across the tossing and moaning waste of waters,
driven inland; with scores of gulls and white sea-birds flying and shrieking
round me, -- those wild voices of Nature mingled strangely
with the rhythmic roll and beat of the poet's impassioned music.
The very spirit, or dark genius, of the troubled scene
appeared to take up and to repeat such verses as --
"`I hear a murmur as of waves
That grope their way through sunless caves,
Like bodies struggling in their graves,
And now it deepens; slow and grand
It swells, as rolling to the land,
An ocean broke upon the strand,
Shout! let it reach the startled Huns!
And roar with all thy festal guns!
It is the answer of thy sons,
Profoundly appealing as are Timrod's war strains, for they are
the heart-cry of a people, still it should be noted that there is
scarcely a battle ode that does not close with an invocation to peace,
such was the lofty nature of the poet. War to him was only the drawn sword
of right, and truth, and justice, which accomplished, the prayer for peace
was ever on his lips, as witness the noble invocation to Peace,
closing his "Christmas", that has so often stirred and hushed at once
the heart of the South.
The Ode, written for Memorial Day, April, 1867, of the Confederate graves
at Charleston, was his last production. He had sung in lofty strains
each phase of the struggle, its hope, its courage, its fear, its despair;
he now sings his latest song, a wreath of flowers upon the unmarked graves
of the Southern dead, and has hallowed these sacred mounds to his people
in the words, --
"There is no holier spot of ground
Than where defeated valor lies,
By mourning beauty crowned!"
These poems are written in the life-blood of the poet and his generation.
The patriotic fire, the devoted sacrifice and splendid achievement,
that "Carolina", "Cry to Arms", "Unknown Dead", "Carmen Triumphale",
"Charleston", "Storm and Calm", and the other of the war poems celebrate
were not only the rushing tide of earnest feeling of a noble people then,
but are now a part of the glory and heritage of the State, of the South,
and of the American republic. They were the mighty heart-beats
of that great epoch. They are now irrevocable history, and make these poems
a part of the abiding literature of America.
"A Common Thought" is the poet's premonition of his end; but he sees
no vision of the dying glory of sunset, no going out into the dark,
no presentiment of a vague and gloomy voyage on a homeless sea;
but in the sunshine, in the growing light of ever broadening day,
amid the joy and splendor of nature, bright prophecy and intuition
of immortality, is to come the sudden, solemn mystery of the whisper,
"He is gone!" And so it was. For as the sun broadened into glad day,
and the full radiance illumined and animated earth and sea and sky,
"as it purpled in the zenith, as it brightened on the lawn," this rich
young life, in its own fresh morning of genius and spiritual sunshine,
passed, and in his own triumphant words, --
"not dies, no more than Spirit dies;
But in a change like death was clothed with wings."
The Late Judge George S. Bryan
It would not be fitting that this memorial edition of Timrod's Poems
should go forth to the world without proper recognition, on the part of
the TIMROD MEMORIAL ASSOCIATION, of the relation occupied and the services
rendered to the poet in his lifetime by the late Hon. George S. Bryan,
of Charleston. During the whole of Timrod's career Judge Bryan was
his devoted friend, ever ready to assist him materially, morally,
and in every other respect.
His faith in Timrod's genius never wavered, and but for his early assistance,
sympathy, and encouragement, much of the fruit of that genius
would have been lost or wasted. He helped him in adversity,
cheered him in his hours of anxiety and despondency, and from first to last,
throughout the literary and spiritual history of the poet, he did more
than any other friend to keep alive in his heart the steadfast flame of faith
in his poetic destiny; Judge Bryan's name must always be inseparably connected
with Henry Timrod's in the literary annals of South Carolina.
Poems of Henry Timrod
Spring, with that nameless pathos in the air
Which dwells with all things fair,
Spring, with her golden suns and silver rain,
Is with us once again.
Out in the lonely woods the jasmine burns
Its fragrant lamps, and turns
Into a royal court with green festoons
The banks of dark lagoons.
In the deep heart of every forest tree
The blood is all aglee,
And there's a look about the leafless bowers
As if they dreamed of flowers.
Yet still on every side we trace the hand
Of Winter in the land,
Save where the maple reddens on the lawn,
Flushed by the season's dawn;
Or where, like those strange semblances we find
That age to childhood bind,
The elm puts on, as if in Nature's scorn,
The brown of Autumn corn.
As yet the turf is dark, although you know
That, not a span below,
A thousand germs are groping through the gloom,
And soon will burst their tomb.
Already, here and there, on frailest stems
Appear some azure gems,
Small as might deck, upon a gala day,
The forehead of a fay.
In gardens you may note amid the dearth
The crocus breaking earth;
And near the snowdrop's tender white and green,
The violet in its screen.
But many gleams and shadows need must pass
Along the budding grass,
And weeks go by, before the enamored South
Shall kiss the rose's mouth.
Still there's a sense of blossoms yet unborn
In the sweet airs of morn;
One almost looks to see the very street
Grow purple at his feet.
At times a fragrant breeze comes floating by,
And brings, you know not why,
A feeling as when eager crowds await
Before a palace gate
Some wondrous pageant; and you scarce would start,
If from a beech's heart,
A blue-eyed Dryad, stepping forth, should say,
"Behold me! I am May!"
Ah! who would couple thoughts of war and crime
With such a bless|"ed time!
Who in the west wind's aromatic breath
Could hear the call of Death!
Yet not more surely shall the Spring awake
The voice of wood and brake,
Than she shall rouse, for all her tranquil charms,
A million men to arms.
There shall be deeper hues upon her plains
Than all her sunlit rains,
And every gladdening influence around,
Can summon from the ground.
Oh! standing on this desecrated mould,
Methinks that I behold,
Lifting her bloody daisies up to God,
Spring kneeling on the sod,
And calling, with the voice of all her rills,
Upon the ancient hills
To fall and crush the tyrants and the slaves
Who turn her meads to graves.
The Cotton Boll
While I recline
At ease beneath
This immemorial pine,
(By dusky fingers brought this morning here
And shown with boastful smiles),
I turn thy cloven sheath,
Through which the soft white fibres peer,
That, with their gossamer bands,
Unite, like love, the sea-divided lands,
And slowly, thread by thread,
Draw forth the folded strands,
Than which the trembling line,
By whose frail help yon startled spider fled
Down the tall spear-grass from his swinging bed,
Is scarce more fine;
And as the tangled skein
Unravels in my hands,
Betwixt me and the noonday light,
A veil seems lifted, and for miles and miles
The landscape broadens on my sight,
As, in the little boll, there lurked a spell
Like that which, in the ocean shell,
With mystic sound,
Breaks down the narrow walls that hem us round,
And turns some city lane
Into the restless main,
With all his capes and isles!
Which floats, as if at rest,
In those blue tracts above the thunder, where
No vapors cloud the stainless air,
And never sound is heard,
Unless at such rare time
When, from the City of the Blest,
Rings down some golden chime,
Sees not from his high place
So vast a cirque of summer space
As widens round me in one mighty field,
Which, rimmed by seas and sands,
Doth hail its earliest daylight in the beams
Of gray Atlantic dawns;
And, broad as realms made up of many lands,
Is lost afar
Behind the crimson hills and purple lawns
Of sunset, among plains which roll their streams
Against the Evening Star!
To the remotest point of sight,
Although I gaze upon no waste of snow,
The endless field is white;
And the whole landscape glows,
For many a shining league away,
With such accumulated light
As Polar lands would flash beneath a tropic day!
Nor lack there (for the vision grows,
And the small charm within my hands --
More potent even than the fabled one,
Which oped whatever golden mystery
Lay hid in fairy wood or magic vale,
The curious ointment of the Arabian tale --
Beyond all mortal sense
Doth stretch my sight's horizon, and I see,
Beneath its simple influence,
As if with Uriel's crown,
I stood in some great temple of the Sun,
And looked, as Uriel, down!)
Nor lack there pastures rich and fields all green
With all the common gifts of God,
For temperate airs and torrid sheen
Weave Edens of the sod;
Through lands which look one sea of billowy gold
Broad rivers wind their devious ways;
A hundred isles in their embraces fold
A hundred luminous bays;
And through yon purple haze
Vast mountains lift their plumed peaks cloud-crowned;
And, save where up their sides the ploughman creeps,
An unhewn forest girds them grandly round,
In whose dark shades a future navy sleeps!
Ye Stars, which, though unseen, yet with me gaze
Upon this loveliest fragment of the earth!
Thou Sun, that kindlest all thy gentlest rays
Above it, as to light a favorite hearth!
Ye Clouds, that in your temples in the West
See nothing brighter than its humblest flowers!
And you, ye Winds, that on the ocean's breast
Are kissed to coolness ere ye reach its bowers!
Bear witness with me in my song of praise,
And tell the world that, since the world began,
No fairer land hath fired a poet's lays,
Or given a home to man!
But these are charms already widely blown!
His be the meed whose pencil's trace
Hath touched our very swamps with grace,
And round whose tuneful way
All Southern laurels bloom;
The Poet of "The Woodlands", unto whom
Alike are known
The flute's low breathing and the trumpet's tone,
And the soft west wind's sighs;
But who shall utter all the debt,
O Land wherein all powers are met
That bind a people's heart,
The world doth owe thee at this day,
And which it never can repay,
Yet scarcely deigns to own!
Where sleeps the poet who shall fitly sing
The source wherefrom doth spring
That mighty commerce which, confined
To the mean channels of no selfish mart,
Goes out to every shore
Of this broad earth, and throngs the sea with ships
That bear no thunders; hushes hungry lips
In alien lands;
Joins with a delicate web remotest strands;
And gladdening rich and poor,
Doth gild Parisian domes,
Or feed the cottage-smoke of English homes,
And only bounds its blessings by mankind!
In offices like these, thy mission lies,
My Country! and it shall not end
As long as rain shall fall and Heaven bend
In blue above thee; though thy foes be hard
And cruel as their weapons, it shall guard
Thy hearth-stones as a bulwark; make thee great
In white and bloodless state;
And haply, as the years increase --
Still working through its humbler reach
With that large wisdom which the ages teach --
Revive the half-dead dream of universal peace!
As men who labor in that mine
Of Cornwall, hollowed out beneath the bed
Of ocean, when a storm rolls overhead,
Hear the dull booming of the world of brine
Above them, and a mighty muffled roar
Of winds and waters, yet toil calmly on,
And split the rock, and pile the massive ore,
Or carve a niche, or shape the arch|"ed roof;
So I, as calmly, weave my woof
Of song, chanting the days to come,
Unsilenced, though the quiet summer air
Stirs with the bruit of battles, and each dawn
Wakes from its starry silence to the hum
Of many gathering armies. Still,
In that we sometimes hear,
Upon the Northern winds, the voice of woe
Not wholly drowned in triumph, though I know
The end must crown us, and a few brief years
Dry all our tears,
I may not sing too gladly. To Thy will
Resigned, O Lord! we cannot all forget
That there is much even Victory must regret.
And, therefore, not too long
From the great burthen of our country's wrong
Delay our just release!
And, if it may be, save
These sacred fields of peace
From stain of patriot or of hostile blood!
Oh, help us, Lord! to roll the crimson flood
Back on its course, and, while our banners wing
Northward, strike with us! till the Goth shall cling
To his own blasted altar-stones, and crave
Mercy; and we shall grant it, and dictate
The lenient future of his fate
There, where some rotting ships and crumbling quays
Shall one day mark the Port which ruled the Western seas.
It is time (it was time long ago) I should sever
This chain -- why I wear it I know not -- forever!
Yet I cling to the bond, e'en while sick of the mask
I must wear, as of one whom his commonplace task
And proof-armor of dullness have steeled to her charms!
Ah! how lovely she looked as she flung from her arms,
In heaps to this table (now starred with the stains
Of her booty yet wet with those yesterday rains),
These roses and lilies, and -- what? let me see!
Then was off in a moment, but turned with a glee,
That lit her sweet face as with moonlight, to say,
As 't was almost too late for a lesson to-day,
She meant to usurp, for this morning at least,
My office of Tutor; and instead of a feast
Of such mouthfuls as `poluphloisboio thalasses',
With which I fed her, I should study the grasses
(Love-grasses she called them), the buds, and the flowers
Of which I know nothing; and if "with MY powers",
I did not learn all she could teach in that time,
And thank her, perhaps, in a sweet English rhyme,
If I did not do this, and she flung back her hair,
And shook her bright head with a menacing air,
She'd be -- oh! she'd be -- a real Saracen Omar
To a certain much-valued edition of Homer!
But these flowers! I believe I could number as soon
The shadowy thoughts of a last summer's noon,
Or recall with their phases, each one after one,
The clouds that came down to the death of the Sun,
Cirrus, Stratus, or Nimbus, some evening last year,
As unravel the web of one genus! Why, there,
As they lie by my desk in that glistering heap,
All tangled together like dreams in the sleep
Of a bliss-fevered heart, I might turn them and turn
Till night, in a puzzle of pleasure, and learn
Not a fact, not a secret I prize half so much,
As, how rough is this leaf when I think of her touch.
There's one now blown yonder! what can be its name?
A topaz wine-colored, the wine in a flame;
And another that's hued like the pulp of a melon,
But sprinkled all o'er as with seed-pearls of Ceylon;
And a third! its white petals just clouded with pink!
And a fourth, that blue star! and then this, too! I think
If one brought me this moment an amethyst cup,
From which, through a liquor of amber, looked up,
With a glow as of eyes in their elfin-like lustre,
Stones culled from all lands in a sunshiny cluster,
From the ruby that burns in the sands of Mysore
To the beryl of Daunia, with gems from the core
Of the mountains of Persia (I talk like a boy
In the flush of some new, and yet half-tasted joy);
But I think if that cup and its jewels together
Were placed by the side of this child of the weather
(This one which she touched with her mouth, and let slip
From her fingers by chance, as her exquisite lip,
With a music befitting the language divine,
Gave the roll of the Greek's multitudinous line),
I should take -- not the gems -- but enough! let me shut
In the blossom that woke it, my folly, and put
Both away in my bosom -- there, in a heart-niche,
One shall outlive the other -- is 't hard to tell which?
In the name of all starry and beautiful things,
What is it? the cross in the centre, these rings,
And the petals that shoot in an intricate maze,
From the disk which is lilac -- or purple? like rays
In a blue Aureole!
And so now will she wot,
When I sit by her side with my brows in a knot,
And praise her so calmly, or chide her perhaps,
If her voice falter once in its musical lapse,
As I've done, I confess, just to gaze at a flush
In the white of her throat, or to watch the quick rush
Of the tear she sheds smiling, as, drooping her curls
O'er that book I keep shrined like a casket of pearls,
She reads on in low tones of such tremulous sweetness,
That (in spite of some faults) I am forced, in discreetness,
To silence, lest mine, growing hoarse, should betray
What I must not reveal -- will she guess now, I say,
How, for all his grave looks, the stern, passionless Tutor,
With more than the love of her youthfulest suitor,
Is hiding somewhere in the shroud of his vest,
By a heart that is beating wild wings in its nest,
This flower, thrown aside in the sport of a minute,
And which he holds dear as though folded within it
Lay the germ of the bliss that he dreams of! Ah, me!
It is hard to love thus, yet to seem and to be
A thing for indifference, faint praise, or cold blame,
When you long (by the right of deep passion, the claim,
On the loved of the loving, at least to be heard)
To take the white hand, and with glance, touch, and word,
Burn your way to the heart! That her step on the stair?
Be still thou fond flutterer!
How little I care
For your favorites, see! they are all of them, look!
On the spot where they fell, and -- but here is your book!
Not to win thy favor, maiden, not to steal away thy heart,
Have I ever sought thy presence, ever stooped to any art;
Thou wast but a wildering problem, which I aimed to solve, and then
Make it matter for my note-book, or a picture for my pen.
So, I daily conned thee over, thinking it no dangerous task,
Peeping underneath thy lashes, peering underneath thy mask --
For thou wear'st one -- no denial! there is much within thine eyes;
But those stars have other secrets than are patent in their skies.
And I read thee, read thee closely, every grace and every sin,
Looked behind the outward seeming to the strange wild world within,
Where thy future self is forming, where I saw -- no matter what!
There was something less than angel, there was many an earthly spot;
Yet so beautiful thy errors that I had no heart for blame,
And thy virtues made thee dearer than my dearest hopes of fame;
All so blended, that in wishing one peculiar trait removed,
We indeed might make thee better, but less lovely and less loved.
All my mind was in the study -- so two thrilling fortnights passed --
All my mind was in the study -- till my heart was touched at last.
Well! and then the book was finished, the absorbing task was done,
I awoke as one who had been dreaming in a noon-day sun;
With a fever on my forehead, and a throbbing in my brain,
In my soul delirious wishes, in my heart a lasting pain;
Yet so hopeless, yet so cureless -- as in every great despair --
I was very calm and silent, and I never stooped to prayer,
Like a sick man unattended, reckless of the coming death,
Only for he knows it certain, and he feels no sister's breath.
All the while as by an At|/e, with no pity in her face,
Yet with eyes of witching beauty, and with form of matchless grace,
I was haunted by thy presence, oh! for weary nights and days,
I was haunted by thy spirit, I was troubled by thy gaze,
And the question which to answer I had taxed a subtle brain,
What thou art, and what thou wilt be, came again and yet again;
With its opposite deductions, it recurred a thousand times,
Like a coward's apprehensions, like a madman's favorite rhymes.
But to-night my thoughts flow calmer -- in thy room I think I stand,
See a fair white page before thee, and a pen within thy hand;
And thy fingers sweep the paper, and a light is in thine eyes,
Whilst I read thy secret fancies, whilst I hear thy secret sighs.
What they are I will not whisper, those are lovely, these are deep,
But one name is left unwritten, that is only breathed in sleep.
Is it wonder that my passion bursts at once from out its nest?
I have bent my knee before thee, and my love is all confessed;
Though I knew that name unwritten was another name than mine,
Though I felt those sighs half murmured what I could but half divine.
Aye! I hear thy haughty answer! Aye! I see thy proud lip curl!
"What presumption, and what folly!" why, I only love a girl
With some very winning graces, with some very noble traits,
But no better than a thousand who have bent to humbler fates.
That I ask not; I have, maiden, just as haught a soul as thine;
If thou think'st thy place above me, thou shalt never stoop to mine.
Yet as long as blood runs redly, yet as long as mental worth
Is a nobler gift than fortune, is a holier thing than birth,
I will claim the right to utter, to the high and to the low,
That I love them, or I hate them, that I am a friend or foe.
Nor shall any slight unman me; I have yet some little strength,
Yet my song shall sound as sweetly, yet a power be mine at length!
Then, oh, then! but moans are idle -- hear me, pitying saints above!
With a chaplet on my forehead, I will justify my love.
And perhaps when thou art leaning on some less devoted breast,
Thou shalt murmur, "He was worthier than my blinded spirit guessed."
A Year's Courtship
I saw her, Harry, first, in March --
You know the street that leadeth down
By the old bridge's crumbling arch? --
Just where it leaves the dusty town
A lonely house stands grim and dark --
You've seen it? then I need not say
How quaint the place is -- did you mark
An ivied window? Well! one day,
I, chasing some forgotten dream,
And in a poet's idlest mood,
Caught, as I passed, a white hand's gleam --
A shutter opened -- there she stood
Training the ivy to its prop.
Two dark eyes and a brow of snow
Flashed down upon me -- did I stop? --
She says I did -- I do not know.
But all that day did something glow
Just where the heart beats; frail and slight,
A germ had slipped its shell, and now
Was pushing softly for the light.
And April saw me at her feet,
Dear month of sunshine and of rain!
My very fears were sometimes sweet,
And hope was often touched with pain.
For she was frank, and she was coy,
A willful April in her ways;
And in a dream of doubtful joy
I passed some truly April days.
May came, and on that arch, sweet mouth,
The smile was graver in its play,
And, softening with the softening South,
My April melted into May.
She loved me, yet my heart would doubt,
And ere I spoke the month was June --
One warm still night we wandered out
To watch a slowly setting moon.
Something which I saw not -- my eyes
Were not on heaven -- a star, perchance,
Or some bright drapery of the skies,
Had caught her earnest, upper glance.
And as she paused -- Hal! we have played
Upon the very spot -- a fir
Just touched me with its dreamy shade,
But the full moonlight fell on her --
And as she paused -- I know not why --
I longed to speak, yet could not speak;
The bashful are the boldest -- I --
I stooped and gently kissed her cheek.
A murmur (else some fragrant air
Stirred softly) and the faintest start --
O Hal! we were the happiest pair!
O Hal! I clasped her heart to heart!
And kissed away some tears that gushed;
But how she trembled, timid dove,
When my soul broke its silence, flushed
With a whole burning June of love.
Since then a happy year hath sped
Through months that seemed all June and May,
And soon a March sun, overhead,
Will usher in the crowning day.
Twelve blessed moons that seemed to glow
All summer, Hal! -- my peerless Kate!
She is the dearest -- "Angel?" -- no!
Thank God! -- but you shall see her -- wait.
So all is told! I count on thee
To see the Priest, Hal! Pass the wine!
Here's to my darling wife to be!
And here's to -- when thou find'st her -- thine!
Hide, happy damask, from the stars,
What sleep enfolds behind your veil,
But open to the fairy cars
On which the dreams of midnight sail;
And let the zephyrs rise and fall
About her in the curtained gloom,
And then return to tell me all
The silken secrets of the room.
Ah, dearest! may the elves that sway
Thy fancies come from emerald plots,
Where they have dozed and dreamed all day
In hearts of blue forget-me-nots.
And one perhaps shall whisper thus:
Awake! and light the darkness, Sweet!
While thou art reveling with us,
He watches in the lonely street.
Youth and Manhood
Another year! a short one, if it flow
Like that just past,
And I shall stand -- if years can make me so --
A man at last.
Yet, while the hours permit me, I would pause
The lot whereto unalterable laws
Have bound my fate.
Yet, from the starry regions of my youth,
The empyreal height
Where dreams are happiness, and feeling truth,
And life delight --
From that ethereal and serene abode
My soul would gaze
Downward upon the wide and winding road,
Where manhood plays;
Plays with the baubles and the gauds of earth --
Wealth, power, and fame --
Nor knows that in the twelvemonth after birth
He did the same.
Where the descent begins, through long defiles
I see them wind;
And some are looking down with hopeful smiles,
And some are -- blind.
And farther on a gay and glorious green
Dazzles the sight,
While noble forms are moving o'er the scene,
Like things of light.
Towers, temples, domes of perfect symmetry
Rise broad and high,
With pinnacles among the clouds; ah, me!
None touch the sky.
None pierce the pure and lofty atmosphere
Which I breathe now,
And the strong spirits that inhabit there,
Live -- God sees how.
Sick of the very treasure which they heap;
Their tearless eyes
Sealed ever in a heaven-forgetting sleep,
Whose dreams are lies;
And so, a motley, unattractive throng,
They toil and plod,
Dead to the holy ecstasies of song,
To love, and God.
Dear God! if that I may not keep through life
My trust, my truth,
And that I must, in yonder endless strife,
Lose faith with youth;
If the same toil which indurates the hand
Must steel the heart,
Till, in the wonders of the ideal land,
It have no part;
Oh! take me hence! I would no longer stay
Beneath the sky;
Give me to chant one pure and deathless lay,
And let me die!
Hark to the Shouting Wind
Hark to the shouting Wind!
Hark to the flying Rain!
And I care not though I never see
A bright blue sky again.
There are thoughts in my breast to-day
That are not for human speech;
But I hear them in the driving storm,
And the roar upon the beach.
And oh, to be with that ship
That I watch through the blinding brine!
O Wind! for thy sweep of land and sea!
O Sea! for a voice like thine!
Shout on, thou pitiless Wind,
To the frightened and flying Rain!
I care not though I never see
A calm blue sky again.
Too Long, O Spirit of Storm
Too long, O Spirit of Storm,
Thy lightning sleeps in its sheath!
I am sick to the soul of yon pallid sky,
And the moveless sea beneath.
Come down in thy strength on the deep!
Worse dangers there are in life,
When the waves are still, and the skies look fair,
Than in their wildest strife.
A friend I knew, whose days
Were as calm as this sky overhead;
But one blue morn that was fairest of all,
The heart in his bosom fell dead.
And they thought him alive while he walked
The streets that he walked in youth --
Ah! little they guessed the seeming man
Was a soulless corpse in sooth.
Come down in thy strength, O Storm!
And lash the deep till it raves!
I am sick to the soul of that quiet sea,
Which hides ten thousand graves.
The Lily Confidante
Lily! lady of the garden!
Let me press my lip to thine!
Love must tell its story, Lily!
Listen thou to mine.
Two I choose to know the secret --
Thee, and yonder wordless flute;
Dragons watch me, tender Lily,
And thou must be mute.
There's a maiden, and her name is . . .
Hist! was that a rose-leaf fell?
See, the rose is listening, Lily,
And the rose may tell.
Lily-browed and lily-hearted,
She is very dear to me;
Lovely? yes, if being lovely
Is -- resembling thee.
Six to half a score of summers
Make the sweetest of the "teens" --
Not too young to guess, dear Lily,
What a lover means.
Laughing girl, and thoughtful woman,
I am puzzled how to woo --
Shall I praise, or pique her, Lily?
Tell me what to do.
"Silly lover, if thy Lily
Like her sister lilies be,
Thou must woo, if thou wouldst wear her,
With a simple plea.
"Love's the lover's only magic,
Truth the very subtlest art;
Love that feigns, and lips that flatter,
Win no modest heart.
"Like the dewdrop in my bosom,
Be thy guileless language, youth;
Falsehood buyeth falsehood only,
Truth must purchase truth.
"As thou talkest at the fireside,
With the little children by --
As thou prayest in the darkness,
When thy God is nigh --
"With a speech as chaste and gentle,
And such meanings as become
Ear of child, or ear of angel,
Speak, or be thou dumb.
"Woo her thus, and she shall give thee
Of her heart the sinless whole,
All the girl within her bosom,
And her woman's soul."
The Stream is Flowing from the West
The stream is flowing from the west;
As if it poured from yonder skies,
It wears upon its rippling breast
The sunset's golden dyes;
And bearing onward to the sea,
'T will clasp the isle that holdeth thee.
I dip my hand within the wave;
Ah! how impressionless and cold!
I touch it with my lip, and lave
My forehead in the gold.
It is a trivial thought, but sweet,
Perhaps the wave will kiss thy feet.
Alas! I leave no trace behind --
As little on the senseless stream
As on thy heart, or on thy mind;
Which was the simpler dream,
To win that warm, wild love of thine,
Or make the water whisper mine?
Dear stream! some moons must wax and wane
Ere I again shall cross thy tide,
And then, perhaps, a viewless chain
Will drag me to her side,
To love with all my spirit's scope,
To wish, do everything but -- hope.
Vox et Pr|aeterea Nihil
I've been haunted all night, I've been haunted all day,
By the ghost of a song, by the shade of a lay,
That with meaningless words and profusion of rhyme,
To a dreamy and musical rhythm keeps time.
A simple, but still a most magical strain,
Its dim monotones have bewildered my brain
With a specious and cunning appearance of thought,
I seem to be catching but never have caught.
I know it embodies some very sweet things,
And can almost divine the low burden it sings;
But again, and again, and still ever again,
It has died on my ear at the touch of my pen.
And so it keeps courting and shunning my quest,
As a bird that has just been aroused from her nest,
Too fond to depart, and too frightened to stay,
Now circles about you, now flutters away.
Oh! give me fit words for that exquisite song,
And thou couldst not, proud beauty! be obdurate long;
It would come like the voice of a saint from above,
And win thee to kindness, and melt thee to love.
Not gilded with fancy, nor frigid with art,
But simple as feeling, and warm as the heart,
It would murmur my name with so charming a tone,
As would almost persuade thee to wish it thine own.
O lady! if, until this hour,
I've gazed in those bewildering eyes,
Yet never owned their touching power,
But when thou couldst not hear my sighs;
It has not been that love has slept
One single moment in my soul,
Or that on lip or look I kept
A stern and stoical control;
But that I saw, but that I felt,
In every tone and glance of thine,
Whate'er they spoke, where'er they dwelt,
How small, how poor a part was mine;
And that I deeply, dearly knew,
THAT hidden, hopeless love confessed,
The fatal words would lose me, too,
Even the weak friendship I possessed.
And so, I masked my secret well;
The very love within my breast
Became the strange, but potent spell
By which I forced it into rest.
Yet there were times -- I scarce know how
These eager lips refrained to speak, --
Some kindly smile would light thy brow,
And I grew passionate and weak;
The secret sparkled at my eyes,
And love but half repressed its sighs, --
Then had I gazed an instant more,
Or dwelt one moment on that brow,
I might have changed the smile it wore,
To what perhaps it weareth now,
And spite of all I feared to meet,
Confessed that passion at thy feet.
To save my heart, to spare thine own,
There was one remedy alone.
I fled, I shunned thy very touch, --
It cost me much, O God! how much!
But if some burning tears were shed,
Lady! I let them freely flow;
At least, they left unbreathed, unsaid,
A worse and wilder woe.
But now, -- NOW that we part indeed,
And that I may not think as then,
That as I wish, or as I need,
I may return again, --
Now that for months, perhaps for years --
I see no limit in my fears --
My home shall be some distant spot,
Where thou -- where even thy name is not,
And since I shall not see the frown,
Such wild, mad language must bring down,
Could I -- albeit I may not sue
In hope to bend thy steadfast will --
Could I have breathed this word, adieu,
And kept my secret still?
Doubtless thou know'st the Hebrew story --
The tale 's with me a favorite one --
How Raphael left the Courts of Glory,
And walked with Judah's honored Son;
And how the twain together dwelt,
And how they talked upon the road,
How often too they must have knelt
As equals to the same kind God;
And still the mortal never guessed,
How much and deeply he was blessed,
Till when -- the Angel's mission done --
The spell which drew him earthwards, riven --
The lover saved -- the maiden won --
He plumed again his wings for Heaven;
O Madeline! as unaware
Thou hast been followed everywhere,
And girt and guarded by a love,
As warm, as tender in its care,
As pure, ay, powerful in prayer,
As any saint above!
Like the bright inmate of the skies,