Part 2 out of 4
It only looked with friendly eyes,
And still had worn the illusive guise,
And thus at least been half concealed;
But at this parting, painful hour,
It spreads its wings, unfolds its power,
And stands, like Raphael, revealed.
More, Lady! I would wish to speak, --
But it were vain, and words are weak,
And now that I have bared my breast,
Perchance thou wilt infer the rest.
So, so, farewell! I need not say
I look, I ask for no reply,
The cold and scarcely pitying "nay"
I read in that unmelted eye;
Yet one dear favor, let me pray!
Days, months, however slow to me,
Must drag at last their length away,
And I return -- if not to thee --
At least to breathe the same sweet air
That wooes thy lips and waves thy hair.
Oh, then! -- these daring lines forgot --
Look, speak, as thou hadst read them not.
So, Lady, may I still retain
A right I would not lose again,
For all that gold or guilt can buy,
Or all that Heaven itself deny,
A right such love may justly claim,
Of seeing thee in friendship's name.
Give me but this, and still at whiles,
A portion of thy faintest smiles,
It were enough to bless;
I may not, dare not ask for more
Than boon so rich, and yet so poor,
But I should die with less.
To K. S. G.
Fair Saxon, in my lover's creed,
My love were smaller than your meed,
And you might justly deem it slight,
As wanting truth as well as sight,
If, in that image which is shrined
Where thoughts are sacred, you could find
A single charm, or more or less,
Than you to all kind eyes possess.
To me, even in the happiest dreams,
Where, flushed with love's just dawning gleams,
My hopes their radiant wings unfurl,
You're but a simple English girl,
No fairer, grace for grace arrayed,
Than many a simple Southern maid;
With faults enough to make the good
Seem sweeter far than else it would;
Frank in your anger and your glee,
And true as English natures be,
Yet not without some maiden art
Which hides a loving English heart.
Still there are moments, brief and bright,
When fancy, by a poet's light,
Beholds you clothed with loftier charms
Than love e'er gave to mortal arms.
A spell is woven on the air
From your brown eyes and golden hair,
And all at once you seem to stand
Before me as your native land,
With all her greatness in your guise,
And all her glory in your eyes;
And sometimes, as if angels sung,
I hear her poets on your tongue.
And, therefore, I, who from a boy
Have felt an almost English joy
In England's undecaying might,
And England's love of truth and right,
Next to my own young country's fame
Holding her honor and her name,
I -- who, though born where not a vale
Hath ever nursed a nightingale,
Have fed my muse with English song
Until her feeble wing grew strong --
Feel, while with all the reverence meet
I lay this volume at your feet,
As if through your dear self I pay,
For many a deep and deathless lay,
For noble lessons nobly taught,
For tears, for laughter, and for thought,
A portion of the mighty debt
We owe to Shakespeare's England yet!
It may be through some foreign grace,
And unfamiliar charm of face;
It may be that across the foam
Which bore her from her childhood's home,
By some strange spell, my Katie brought,
Along with English creeds and thought --
Entangled in her golden hair --
Some English sunshine, warmth, and air!
I cannot tell -- but here to-day,
A thousand billowy leagues away
From that green isle whose twilight skies
No darker are than Katie's eyes,
She seems to me, go where she will,
An English girl in England still!
I meet her on the dusty street,
And daisies spring about her feet;
Or, touched to life beneath her tread,
An English cowslip lifts its head;
And, as to do her grace, rise up
The primrose and the buttercup!
I roam with her through fields of cane,
And seem to stroll an English lane,
Which, white with blossoms of the May,
Spreads its green carpet in her way!
As fancy wills, the path beneath
Is golden gorse, or purple heath:
And now we hear in woodlands dim
Their unarticulated hymn,
Now walk through rippling waves of wheat,
Now sink in mats of clover sweet,
Or see before us from the lawn
The lark go up to greet the dawn!
All birds that love the English sky
Throng round my path when she is by:
The blackbird from a neighboring thorn
With music brims the cup of morn,
And in a thick, melodious rain
The mavis pours her mellow strain!
But only when my Katie's voice
Makes all the listening woods rejoice
I hear -- with cheeks that flush and pale --
The passion of the nightingale!
Anon the pictures round her change,
And through an ancient town we range,
Whereto the shadowy memory clings
Of one of England's Saxon kings,
And which to shrine his fading fame
Still keeps his ashes and his name.
Quaint houses rise on either hand,
But still the airs are fresh and bland,
As if their gentle wings caressed
Some new-born village of the West.
A moment by the Norman tower
We pause; it is the Sabbath hour!
And o'er the city sinks and swells
The chime of old St. Mary's bells,
Which still resound in Katie's ears
As sweet as when in distant years
She heard them peal with jocund din
A merry English Christmas in!
We pass the abbey's ruined arch,
And statelier grows my Katie's march,
As round her, wearied with the taint
Of Transatlantic pine and paint,
She sees a thousand tokens cast
Of England's venerable Past!
Our reverent footsteps lastly claims
The younger chapel of St. James,
Which, though, as English records run,
Not old, had seen full many a sun,
Ere to the cold December gale
The thoughtful Pilgrim spread his sail.
There Katie in her childish days
Spelt out her prayers and lisped her praise,
And doubtless, as her beauty grew,
Did much as other maidens do --
Across the pews and down the aisle
Sent many a beau-bewildering smile,
And to subserve her spirit's need
Learned other things beside the creed!
There, too, to-day her knee she bows,
And by her one whose darker brows
Betray the Southern heart that burns
Beside her, and which only turns
Its thoughts to Heaven in one request,
Not all unworthy to be blest,
But rising from an earthlier pain
Than might beseem a Christian fane.
Ah! can the guileless maiden share
The wish that lifts that passionate prayer?
Is all at peace that breast within?
Good angels! warn her of the sin!
Alas! what boots it? who can save
A willing victim of the wave?
Who cleanse a soul that loves its guilt?
Or gather wine when wine is spilt?
We quit the holy house and gain
The open air; then, happy twain,
Adown familiar streets we go,
And now and then she turns to show,
With fears that all is changing fast,
Some spot that's sacred to her Past.
Here by this way, through shadows cool,
A little maid, she tripped to school;
And there each morning used to stop
Before a wonder of a shop
Where, built of apples and of pears,
Rose pyramids of golden spheres;
While, dangling in her dazzled sight,
Ripe cherries cast a crimson light,
And made her think of elfin lamps,
And feast and sport in fairy camps,
Whereat, upon her royal throne
(Most richly carved in cherry-stone),
Titania ruled, in queenly state,
The boisterous revels of the f|^ete!
'T was yonder, with their "horrid" noise,
Dismissed from books, she met the boys,
Who, with a barbarous scorn of girls,
Glanced slightly at her sunny curls,
And laughed and leaped as reckless by
As though no pretty face were nigh!
But -- here the maiden grows demure --
Indeed she's not so VERY sure,
That in a year, or haply twain,
Who looked e'er failed to look again,
And sooth to say, I little doubt
(Some azure day, the truth will out!)
That certain baits in certain eyes
Caught many an unsuspecting prize;
And somewhere underneath these eaves
A budding flirt put forth its leaves!
Has not the sky a deeper blue,
Have not the trees a greener hue,
And bend they not with lordlier grace
And nobler shapes above the place
Where on one cloudless winter morn
My Katie to this life was born?
Ah, folly! long hath fled the hour
When love to sight gave keener power,
And lovers looked for special boons
In brighter flowers and larger moons.
But wave the foliage as it may,
And let the sky be ashen gray,
Thus much at least a manly youth
May hold -- and yet not blush -- as truth:
If near that blessed spot of earth
Which saw the cherished maiden's birth
No softer dews than usual rise,
And life there keeps its wonted guise,
Yet not the less that spot may seem
As lovely as a poet's dream;
And should a fervid faith incline
To make thereof a sainted shrine,
Who may deny that round us throng
A hundred earthly creeds as wrong,
But meaner far, which yet unblamed
Stalk by us and are not ashamed?
So, therefore, Katie, as our stroll
Ends at this portal, while you roll
Those lustrous eyes to catch each ray
That may recall some vanished day,
I -- let them jeer and laugh who will --
Stoop down and kiss the sacred sill!
So strongly sometimes on the sense
These fancies hold their influence,
That in long well-known streets I stray
Like one who fears to lose his way.
The stranger, I, the native, she,
Myself, not Kate, had crossed the sea;
And changing place, and mixing times,
I walk in unfamiliar climes!
These houses, free to every breeze
That blows from warm Floridian seas,
Assume a massive English air,
And close around an English square;
While, if I issue from the town,
An English hill looks greenly down,
Or round me rolls an English park,
And in the Broad I hear the Larke!
Thus when, where woodland violets hide,
I rove with Katie at my side,
It scarce would seem amiss to say:
"Katie! my home lies far away,
Beyond the pathless waste of brine,
In a young land of palm and pine!
There, by the tropic heats, the soul
Is touched as if with living coal,
And glows with such a fire as none
Can feel beneath a Northern sun,
Unless -- my Katie's heart attest! --
'T is kindled in an English breast!
Such is the land in which I live,
And, Katie! such the soul I give.
Come! ere another morning beam,
We'll cleave the sea with wings of steam;
And soon, despite of storm or calm,
Beneath my native groves of palm,
Kind friends shall greet, with joy and pride,
The Southron and his English bride!"
Why am I silent from year to year?
Needs must I sing on these blue March days?
What will you say, when I tell you here,
That already, I think, for a little praise,
I have paid too dear?
For, I know not why, when I tell my thought,
It seems as though I fling it away;
And the charm wherewith a fancy is fraught,
When secret, dies with the fleeting lay
Into which it is wrought.
So my butterfly-dreams their golden wings
But seldom unfurl from their chrysalis;
And thus I retain my loveliest things,
While the world, in its worldliness, does not miss
What a poet sings.
You say, as one who shapes a life,
That you will never be a wife,
And, laughing lightly, ask my aid
To paint your future as a maid.
This is the portrait; and I take
The softest colors for your sake:
The springtime of your soul is dead,
And forty years have bent your head;
The lines are firmer round your mouth,
But still its smile is like the South.
Your eyes, grown deeper, are not sad,
Yet never more than gravely glad;
And the old charm still lurks within
The cloven dimple of your chin.
Some share, perhaps, of youthful gloss
Your cheek hath shed; but still across
The delicate ear are folded down
Those silken locks of chestnut brown;
Though here and there a thread of gray
Steals through them like a lunar ray.
One might suppose your life had passed
Unvexed by any troubling blast;
And such -- for all that I foreknow --
May be the truth! The deeper woe!
A loveless heart is seldom stirred;
And sorrow shuns the mateless bird;
But ah! through cares alone we reach
The happiness which mocketh speech;
In the white courts beyond the stars
The noblest brow is seamed with scars;
And they on earth who've wept the most
Sit highest of the heavenly host.
Grant that your maiden life hath sped
In music o'er a golden bed,
With rocks, and winds, and storms at truce,
And not without a noble use;
Yet are you happy? In your air
I see a nameless want appear,
And a faint shadow on your cheek
Tells what the lips refuse to speak.
You have had all a maid could hope
In the most cloudless horoscope:
The strength that cometh from above;
A Christian mother's holy love;
And always at your soul's demand
A brother's, sister's heart and hand.
Small need your heart hath had to roam
Beyond the circle of your home;
And yet upon your wish attends
A loving throng of genial friends.
What, in a lot so sweet as this,
Is wanting to complete your bliss?
And to what secret shall I trace
The clouds that sometimes cross your face,
And that sad look which now and then
Comes, disappears, and comes again,
And dies reluctantly away
In those clear eyes of azure gray?
At best, and after all, the place
You fill with such a serious grace,
Hath much to try a woman's heart,
And you but play a painful part.
The world around, with little ruth,
Still laughs at maids who have not youth,
And, right or wrong, the old maid rests
The victim of its paltry jests,
And still is doomed to meet and bear
Its pitying smile or furtive sneer.
These are indeed but petty things,
And yet they touch some hearts like stings.
But I acquit you of the shame
Of being unresisting game;
For you are of such tempered clay
As turns far stronger shafts away,
And all that foes or fools could guide
Would only curl that lip of pride.
How then, O weary one! explain
The sources of that hidden pain?
Alas! you have divined at length
How little you have used your strength,
Which, with who knows what human good,
Lies buried in that maidenhood,
Where, as amid a field of flowers,
You have but played with April showers.
Ah! we would wish the world less fair,
If Spring alone adorned the year,
And Autumn came not with its fruit,
And Autumn hymns were ever mute.
So I remark without surprise
That, as the unvarying season flies,
From day to night and night to day,
You sicken of your endless May.
In this poor life we may not cross
One virtuous instinct without loss,
And the soul grows not to its height
Till love calls forth its utmost might.
Not blind to all you might have been,
And with some consciousness of sin --
Because with love you sometimes played,
And choice, not fate, hath kept you maid --
You feel that you must pass from earth
But half-acquainted with its worth,
And that within your heart are deeps
In which a nobler woman sleeps;
That not the maiden, but the wife
Grasps the whole lesson of a life,
While such as you but sit and dream
Along the surface of its stream.
And doubtless sometimes, all unsought,
There comes upon your hour of thought,
Despite the struggles of your will,
A sense of something absent still;
And then you cannot help but yearn
To love and be beloved in turn,
As they are loved, and love, who live
As love were all that life could give;
And in a transient clasp or kiss
Crowd an eternity of bliss;
They who of every mortal joy
Taste always twice, nor feel them cloy,
Or, if woes come, in Sorrow's hour
Are strengthened by a double power.
Here ends my feeble sketch of what
Might, but will never be your lot;
And I foresee how oft these rhymes
Shall make you smile in after-times.
If I have read your nature right,
It only waits a spark of light;
And when that comes, as come it must,
It will not fall on arid dust,
Nor yet on that which breaks to flame
In the first blush of maiden shame;
But on a heart which, even at rest,
Is warmer than an April nest,
Where, settling soft, that spark shall creep
About as gently as a sleep;
Still stealing on with pace so slow
Yourself will scarcely feel the glow,
Till after many and many a day,
Although no gleam its course betray,
It shall attain the inmost shrine,
And wrap it in a fire divine!
I know not when or whence indeed
Shall fall and burst the burning seed,
But oh! once kindled, it will blaze,
I know, forever! By its rays
You will perceive, with subtler eyes,
The meaning in the earth and skies,
Which, with their animated chain
Of grass and flowers, and sun and rain,
Of green below, and blue above,
Are but a type of married love.
You will perceive that in the breast
The germs of many virtues rest,
Which, ere they feel a lover's breath,
Lie in a temporary death;
And till the heart is wooed and won
It is an earth without a sun.
But now, stand forth as sweet as life!
And let me paint you as a wife.
I note some changes in your face,
And in your mien a graver grace;
Yet the calm forehead lightly bears
Its weight of twice a score of years;
And that one love which on this earth
Can wake the heart to all its worth,
And to their height can lift and bind
The powers of soul, and sense, and mind,
Hath not allowed a charm to fade --
And the wife's lovelier than the maid.
An air of still, though bright repose
Tells that a tender hand bestows
All that a generous manhood may
To make your life one bridal day,
While the kind eyes betray no less,
In their blue depths of tenderness,
That you have learned the truths which lie
Behind that holy mystery,
Which, with its blisses and its woes,
Nor man nor maiden ever knows.
If now, as to the eyes of one
Whose glance not even thought can shun,
Your soul lay open to my view,
I, looking all its nature through,
Could see no incompleted part,
For the whole woman warms your heart.
I cannot tell how many dead
You number in the cycles fled,
And you but look the more serene
For all the griefs you may have seen,
As you had gathered from the dust
The flowers of Peace, and Hope, and Trust.
Your smile is even sweeter now
Than when it lit your maiden brow,
And that which wakes this gentler charm
Coos at this moment on your arm.
Your voice was always soft in youth,
And had the very sound of truth,
But never were its tones so mild
Until you blessed your earliest child;
And when to soothe some little wrong
It melts into a mother's song,
The same strange sweetness which in years
Long vanished filled the eyes with tears,
And (even when mirthful) gave always
A pathos to your girlish lays,
Falls, with perchance a deeper thrill,
Upon the breathless listener still.
I cannot guess in what fair spot
The chance of Time hath fixed your lot,
Nor can I name what manly breast
Gives to that head a welcome rest;
I cannot tell if partial Fate
Hath made you poor, or rich, or great;
But oh! whatever be your place,
I never saw a form or face
To which more plainly hath been lent
The blessing of a full content!
La Belle Juive
Is it because your sable hair
Is folded over brows that wear
At times a too imperial air;
Or is it that the thoughts which rise
In those dark orbs do seek disguise
Beneath the lids of Eastern eyes;
That choose whatever pose or place
May chance to please, in you I trace
The noblest woman of your race?
The crowd is sauntering at its ease,
And humming like a hive of bees --
You take your seat and touch the keys:
I do not hear the giddy throng;
The sea avenges Israel's wrong,
And on the wind floats Miriam's song!
You join me with a stately grace;
Music to Poesy gives place;
Some grand emotion lights your face:
At once I stand by Mizpeh's walls:
With smiles the martyred daughter falls,
And desolate are Mizpeh's halls!
Intrusive babblers come between;
With calm, pale brow and lofty mien,
You thread the circle like a queen!
Then sweeps the royal Esther by;
The deep devotion in her eye
Is looking "If I die, I die!"
You stroll the garden's flowery walks;
The plants to me are grainless stalks,
And Ruth to old Naomi talks.
Adopted child of Judah's creed,
Like Judah's daughters, true at need,
I see you mid the alien seed.
I watch afar the gleaner sweet;
I wake like Boaz in the wheat,
And find you lying at my feet!
My feet! Oh! if the spell that lures
My heart through all these dreams endures,
How soon shall I be stretched at yours!
Not in a climate near the sun
Did the cloud with its trailing fringes float,
Whence, white as the down of an angel's plume,
Fell the snow of her brow and throat.
And the ground had been rich for a thousand years
With the blood of heroes, and sages, and kings,
Where the rose that blooms in her exquisite cheek
Unfolded the flush of its wings.
On a land where the faces are fair, though pale
As a moonlit mist when the winds are still,
She breaks like a morning in Paradise
Through the palms of an orient hill.
Her beauty, perhaps, were all too bright,
But about her there broods some delicate spell,
Whence the wondrous charm of the girl grows soft
As the light in an English dell.
There is not a story of faith and truth
On the starry scroll of her country's fame,
But has helped to shape her stately mien,
And to touch her soul with flame.
I sometimes forget, as she sweeps me a bow,
That I gaze on a simple English maid,
And I bend my head, as if to a queen
Who is courting my lance and blade.
Once, as we read, in a curtained niche,
A poet who sang of her sea-throned isle,
There was something of Albion's mighty Bess
In the flash of her haughty smile.
She seemed to gather from every age
All the greatness of England about her there,
And my fancy wove a royal crown
Of the dusky gold of her hair.
But it was no queen to whom that day,
In the dim green shade of a trellised vine,
I whispered a hope that had somewhat to do
With a small white hand in mine.
The Tudor had vanished, and, as I spoke,
'T was herself looked out of her frank brown eye,
And an answer was burning upon her face,
Ere I caught the low reply.
What was it! Nothing the world need know --
The stars saw our parting! Enough, that then
I walked from the porch with the tread of a king,
And she was a queen again!
Yes, in that dainty ivory shrine,
With those three pallid buds, I twine
And fold away a dream divine!
One night they lay upon a breast
Where Love hath made his fragrant nest,
And throned me as a life-long guest.
Near that chaste heart they seemed to me
Types of far fairer flowers to be --
The rosebuds of a human tree!
Buds that shall bloom beside my hearth,
And there be held of richer worth
Than all the kingliest gems of earth.
Ah me! the pathos of the thought!
I had not deemed she wanted aught;
Yet what a tenderer charm it wrought!
I know not if she marked the flame
That lit my cheek, but not from shame,
When one sweet image dimly came.
There was a murmur soft and low;
White folds of cambric, parted slow;
And little fingers played with snow!
How far my fancy dared to stray,
A lover's reverence needs not say --
Enough -- the vision passed away!
Passed in a mist of happy tears,
While something in my tranc|\ed ears
Hummed like the future in a seer's!
A Mother's Wail
My babe! my tiny babe! my only babe!
My single rose-bud in a crown of thorns!
My lamp that in that narrow hut of life,
Whence I looked forth upon a night of storm!
Burned with the lustre of the moon and stars!
My babe! my tiny babe! my only babe!
Behold the bud is gone! the thorns remain!
My lamp hath fallen from its niche -- ah, me!
Earth drinks the fragrant flame, and I am left
Forever and forever in the dark!
My babe! my babe! my own and only babe!
Where art thou now? If somewhere in the sky
An angel hold thee in his radiant arms,
I challenge him to clasp thy tender form
With half the fervor of a mother's love!
Forgive me, Lord! forgive my reckless grief!
Forgive me that this rebel, selfish heart
Would almost make me jealous for my child,
Though thy own lap enthroned him. Lord, thou hast
So many such! I have -- ah! had but one!
O yet once more, my babe, to hear thy cry!
O yet once more, my babe, to see thy smile!
O yet once more to feel against my breast
Those cool, soft hands, that warm, wet, eager mouth,
With the sweet sharpness of its budding pearls!
But it must never, never more be mine
To mark the growing meaning in thine eyes,
To watch thy soul unfolding leaf by leaf,
Or catch, with ever fresh surprise and joy,
Thy dawning recognitions of the world.
Three different shadows of thyself, my babe,
Change with each other while I weep. The first,
The sweetest, yet the not least fraught with pain,
Clings like my living boy around my neck,
Or purrs and murmurs softly at my feet!
Another is a little mound of earth;
That comes the oftenest, darling! In my dreams,
I see it beaten by the midnight rain,
Or chilled beneath the moon. Ah! what a couch
For that which I have shielded from a breath
That would not stir the violets on thy grave!
The third, my precious babe! the third, O Lord!
Is a fair cherub face beyond the stars,
Wearing the roses of a mystic bliss,
Yet sometimes not unsaddened by a glance
Turned earthward on a mother in her woe!
This is the vision, Lord, that I would keep
Before me always. But, alas! as yet,
It is the dimmest and the rarest, too!
O touch my sight, or break the cloudy bars
That hide it, lest I madden where I kneel!
'T was merry Christmas when he came,
Our little boy beneath the sod;
And brighter burned the Christmas flame,
And merrier sped the Christmas game,
Because within the house there lay
A shape as tiny as a fay --
The Christmas gift of God!
In wreaths and garlands on the walls
The holly hung its ruby balls,
The mistletoe its pearls;
And a Christmas tree's fantastic fruits
Woke laughter like a choir of flutes
From happy boys and girls.
For the mirth, which else had swelled as shrill
As a school let loose to its errant will,
Was softened by the thought,
That in a dim hushed room above
A mother's pains in a mother's love
Were only just forgot.
The jest, the tale, the toast, the glee,
All took a sober tone;
We spoke of the babe upstairs, as we
Held festival for him alone.
When the bells rang in the Christmas morn,
It scarcely seemed a sin to say
That they rang because that babe was born,
Not less than for the sacred day.
Ah! Christ forgive us for the crime
Which drowned the memories of the time
In a merely mortal bliss!
We owned the error when the mirth
Of another Christmas lit the hearth
Of every home but this.
When, in that lonely burial-ground,
With every Christmas sight and sound
Removed or shunned, we kept
A mournful Christmas by the mound
Where little Willie slept!
Ah, hapless mother! darling wife!
I might say nothing more,
And the dull cold world would hold
The story of that precious life
As amply told!
Shall we, shall you and I, before
That world's unsympathetic eyes
Lay other relics from our store
Of tender memories?
What could it know of the joy and love
That throbbed and smiled and wept above
An unresponsive thing?
And who could share the ecstatic thrill
With which we watched the upturned bill
Of our bird at its living spring?
Shall we tell how in the time gone by,
Beneath all changes of the sky,
And in an ordinary home
Amid the city's din,
Life was to us a crystal dome,
Our babe the flame therein?
Ah! this were jargon on the mart;
And though some gentle friend,
And many and many a suffering heart,
Would weep and comprehend,
Yet even these might fail to see
What we saw daily in the child --
Not the mere creature undefiled,
But the winged cherub soon to be.
That wandering hand which seemed to reach
At angel finger-tips,
And that murmur like a mystic speech
Upon the rosy lips,
That something in the serious face
Holier than even its infant grace,
And that rapt gaze on empty space,
Which made us, half believing, say,
"Ah, little wide-eyed seer! who knows
But that for you this chamber glows
With stately shapes and solemn shows?"
Which touched us, too, with vague alarms,
Lest in the circle of our arms
We held a being less akin
To his parents in a world of sin
Than to beings not of clay:
How could we speak in human phrase,
Of such scarce earthly traits and ways,
What would not seem
A doting dream,
In the creed of these sordid days?
No! let us keep
In sorrowing heart and aching brain,
This story hidden with the pain,
Which since that blue October night
When Willie vanished from our sight,
Must haunt us even in our sleep.
In the gloom of the chamber where he died,
And by that grave which, through our care,
From Yule to Yule of every year,
Is made like Spring to bloom;
And where, at times, we catch the sigh
As of an angel floating nigh,
Who longs but has not power to tell
That in that violet-shrouded cell
Lies nothing better than the shell
Which he had cast aside --
By that sweet grave, in that dark room,
We may weave at will for each other's ear,
Of that life, and that love, and that early doom,
The tale which is shadowed here:
To us alone it will always be
As fresh as our own misery;
But enough, alas! for the world is said,
In the brief "Here lieth" of the dead!
Address Delivered at the Opening of the New Theatre at Richmond
A Prize Poem
A fairy ring
Drawn in the crimson of a battle-plain --
From whose weird circle every loathsome thing
And sight and sound of pain
Are banished, while about it in the air,
And from the ground, and from the low-hung skies,
Throng, in a vision fair
As ever lit a prophet's dying eyes,
Gleams of that unseen world
That lies about us, rainbow-tinted shapes
With starry wings unfurled,
Poised for a moment on such airy capes
As pierce the golden foam
Of sunset's silent main --
Would image what in this enchanted dome,
Amid the night of war and death
In which the arm|\ed city draws its breath,
We have built up!
For though no wizard wand or magic cup
The spell hath wrought,
Within this charm|"ed fane, we ope the gates
Of that divinest Fairy-land,
Where under loftier fates
Than rule the vulgar earth on which we stand,
Move the bright creatures of the realm of thought.
Shut for one happy evening from the flood
That roars around us, here you may behold --
As if a desert way
Could blossom and unfold
A garden fresh with May --
Substantialized in breathing flesh and blood,
Souls that upon the poet's page
Have lived from age to age,
And yet have never donned this mortal clay.
A golden strand
Shall sometimes spread before you like the isle
Where fair Miranda's smile
Met the sweet stranger whom the father's art
Had led unto her heart,
Which, like a bud that waited for the light,
Burst into bloom at sight!
Love shall grow softer in each maiden's eyes
As Juliet leans her cheek upon her hand,
And prattles to the night.
Anon, a reverend form,
With tattered robe and forehead bare,
That challenge all the torments of the air,
And the pent feelings choke in one long sigh,
While, as the mimic thunder rolls, you hear
The noble wreck of Lear
Reproach like things of life the ancient skies,
And commune with the storm!
Lo! next a dim and silent chamber where,
Wrapt in glad dreams in which, perchance, the Moor
Tells his strange story o'er,
The gentle Desdemona chastely lies,
Unconscious of the loving murderer nigh.
Then through a hush like death
Stalks Denmark's mail|"ed ghost!
And Hamlet enters with that thoughtful breath
Which is the trumpet to a countless host
Of reasons, but which wakes no deed from sleep;
For while it calls to strife,
He pauses on the very brink of fact
To toy as with the shadow of an act,
And utter those wise saws that cut so deep
Into the core of life!
Nor shall be wanting many a scene
Where forms of more familiar mien,
Moving through lowlier pathways, shall present
The world of every day,
Such as it whirls along the busy quay,
Or sits beneath a rustic orchard wall,
Or floats about a fashion-freighted hall,
Or toils in attics dark the night away.
Love, hate, grief, joy, gain, glory, shame, shall meet,
As in the round wherein our lives are pent;
Chance for a while shall seem to reign,
While Goodness roves like Guilt about the street,
And Guilt looks innocent.
But all at last shall vindicate the right,
Crime shall be meted with its proper pain,
Motes shall be taken from the doubter's sight,
And Fortune's general justice rendered plain.
Of honest laughter there shall be no dearth,
Wit shall shake hands with humor grave and sweet,
Our wisdom shall not be too wise for mirth,
Nor kindred follies want a fool to greet.
As sometimes from the meanest spot of earth
A sudden beauty unexpected starts,
So you shall find some germs of hidden worth
Within the vilest hearts;
And now and then, when in those moods that turn
To the cold Muse that whips a fault with sneers,
You shall, perchance, be strangely touched to learn
You've struck a spring of tears!
But while we lead you thus from change to change,
Shall we not find within our ample range
Some type to elevate a people's heart --
Some hero who shall teach a hero's part
In this distracted time?
Rise from thy sleep of ages, noble Tell!
And, with the Alpine thunders of thy voice,
As if across the billows unenthralled
Thy Alps unto the Alleghanies called,
Bid Liberty rejoice!
Proclaim upon this trans-Atlantic strand
The deeds which, more than their own awful mien,
Make every crag of Switzerland sublime!
And say to those whose feeble souls would lean,
Not on themselves, but on some outstretched hand,
That once a single mind sufficed to quell
The malice of a tyrant; let them know
That each may crowd in every well-aimed blow,
Not the poor strength alone of arm and brand,
But the whole spirit of a mighty land!
Bid Liberty rejoice! Aye, though its day
Be far or near, these clouds shall yet be red
With the large promise of the coming ray.
Meanwhile, with that calm courage which can smile
Amid the terrors of the wildest fray,
Let us among the charms of Art awhile
Fleet the deep gloom away;
Nor yet forget that on each hand and head
Rest the dear rights for which we fight and pray.
A Vision of Poesy
In a far country, and a distant age,
Ere sprites and fays had bade farewell to earth,
A boy was born of humble parentage;
The stars that shone upon his lonely birth
Did seem to promise sovereignty and fame --
Yet no tradition hath preserved his name.
'T is said that on the night when he was born,
A beauteous shape swept slowly through the room;
Its eyes broke on the infant like a morn,
And his cheek brightened like a rose in bloom;
But as it passed away there followed after
A sigh of pain, and sounds of elvish laughter.
And so his parents deemed him to be blest
Beyond the lot of mortals; they were poor
As the most timid bird that stored its nest
With the stray gleanings at their cottage-door:
Yet they contrived to rear their little dove,
And he repaid them with the tenderest love.
The child was very beautiful in sooth,
And as he waxed in years grew lovelier still;
On his fair brow the aureole of truth
Beamed, and the purest maidens, with a thrill,
Looked in his eyes, and from their heaven of blue
Saw thoughts like sinless Angels peering through.
Need there was none of censure or of praise
To mould him to the kind parental hand;
Yet there was ever something in his ways,
Which those about him could not understand;
A self-withdrawn and independent bliss,
Beside the father's love, the mother's kiss.
For oft, when he believed himself alone,
They caught brief snatches of mysterious rhymes,
Which he would murmur in an undertone,
Like a pleased bee's in summer; and at times
A strange far look would come into his eyes,
As if he saw a vision in the skies.
And he upon a simple leaf would pore
As if its very texture unto him
Had some deep meaning; sometimes by the door,
From noon until a summer-day grew dim,
He lay and watched the clouds; and to his thought
Night with her stars but fitful slumbers brought.
In the long hours of twilight, when the breeze
Talked in low tones along the woodland rills,
Or the loud North its stormy minstrelsies
Blent with wild noises from the distant hills,
The boy -- his rosy hand against his ear
Curved like a sea-shell -- hushed as some rapt seer,
Followed the sounds, and ever and again,
As the wind came and went, in storm or play,
He seemed to hearken as to some far strain
Of mingled voices calling him away;
And they who watched him held their breath to trace
The still and fixed attention in his face.
Once, on a cold and loud-voiced winter night,
The three were seated by their cottage-fire --
The mother watching by its flickering light
The wakeful urchin, and the dozing sire;
There was a brief, quick motion like a bird's,
And the boy's thought thus rippled into words:
"O mother! thou hast taught me many things,
But none I think more beautiful than speech --
A nobler power than even those broad wings
I used to pray for, when I longed to reach
That distant peak which on our vale looks down,
And wears the star of evening for a crown.
"But, mother, while our human words are rife
To us with meaning, other sounds there be
Which seem, and are, the language of a life
Around, yet unlike ours: winds talk; the sea
Murmurs articulately, and the sky
Listens, and answers, though inaudibly.
"By stream and spring, in glades and woodlands lone,
Beside our very cot I've gathered flowers
Inscribed with signs and characters unknown;
But the frail scrolls still baffle all my powers:
What is this language and where is the key
That opes its weird and wondrous mystery?
"The forests know it, and the mountains know,
And it is written in the sunset's dyes;
A revelation to the world below
Is daily going on before our eyes;
And, but for sinful thoughts, I do not doubt
That we could spell the thrilling secret out.
"O mother! somewhere on this lovely earth
I lived, and understood that mystic tongue,
But, for some reason, to my second birth
Only the dullest memories have clung,
Like that fair tree that even while blossoming
Keeps the dead berries of a former spring.
"Who shall put life in these? -- my nightly dreams
Some teacher of supernal powers foretell;
A fair and stately shape appears, which seems
Bright with all truth; and once, in a dark dell
Within the forest, unto me there came
A voice that must be hers, which called my name."
Puzzled and frightened, wondering more and more,
The mother heard, but did not comprehend;
"So early dallying with forbidden lore!
Oh, what will chance, and wherein will it end?
My child! my child!" she caught him to her breast,
"Oh, let me kiss these wildering thoughts to rest!
"They cannot come from God, who freely gives
All that we need to have, or ought to know;
Beware, my son! some evil influence strives
To grieve thy parents, and to work thee woe;
Alas! the vision I misunderstood!
It could not be an angel fair and good."
And then, in low and tremulous tones, she told
The story of his birth-night; the boy's eyes,
As the wild tale went on, were bright and bold,
With a weird look that did not seem surprise:
"Perhaps," he said, "this lady and her elves
Will one day come, and take me to themselves."
"And wouldst thou leave us?" "Dearest mother, no!
Hush! I will check these thoughts that give thee pain;
Or, if they flow, as they perchance must flow,
At least I will not utter them again;
Hark! didst thou hear a voice like many streams?
Mother! it is the spirit of my dreams!"
Thenceforth, whatever impulse stirred below,
In the deep heart beneath that childish breast,
Those lips were sealed, and though the eye would glow,
Yet the brow wore an air of perfect rest;
Cheerful, content, with calm though strong control
He shut the temple-portals of his soul.
And when too restlessly the mighty throng
Of fancies woke within his teeming mind,
All silently they formed in glorious song,
And floated off unheard, and undivined,
Perchance not lost -- with many a voiceless prayer
They reached the sky, and found some record there.
Softly and swiftly sped the quiet days;
The thoughtful boy has blossomed into youth,
And still no maiden would have feared his gaze,
And still his brow was noble with the truth:
Yet, though he masks the pain with pious art,
There burns a restless fever in his heart.
A childish dream is now a deathless need
Which drives him to far hills and distant wilds;
The solemn faith and fervor of his creed
Bold as a martyr's, simple as a child's;
The eagle knew him as she knew the blast,
And the deer did not flee him as he passed.
But gentle even in his wildest mood,
Always, and most, he loved the bluest weather,
And in some soft and sunny solitude
Couched like a milder sunshine on the heather,
He communed with the winds, and with the birds,
As if they might have answered him in words.
Deep buried in the forest was a nook
Remote and quiet as its quiet skies;
He knew it, sought it, loved it as a book
Full of his own sweet thoughts and memories;
Dark oaks and fluted chestnuts gathering round,
Pillared and greenly domed a sloping mound.
Whereof -- white, purple, azure, golden, red,
Confused like hues of sunset -- the wild flowers
Wove a rich dais; through crosslights overhead
Glanced the clear sunshine, fell the fruitful showers,
And here the shyest bird would fold her wings;
Here fled the fairest and the gentlest things.
Thither, one night of mist and moonlight, came
The youth, with nothing deeper in his thoughts
Than to behold beneath the silver flame
New aspects of his fair and favorite spot;
A single ray attained the ground, and shed
Just light enough to guide the wanderer's tread.
And high and hushed arose the stately trees,
Yet shut within themselves, like dungeons, where
Lay fettered all the secrets of the breeze;
Silent, but not as slumbering, all things there
Wore to the youth's aroused imagination
An air of deep and solemn expectation.
"Hath Heaven," the youth exclaimed, "a sweeter spot,
Or Earth another like it? -- yet even here
The old mystery dwells! and though I read it not,
Here most I hope -- it is, or seems so near;
So many hints come to me, but, alas!
I cannot grasp the shadows as they pass.
"Here, from the very turf beneath me, I
Catch, but just catch, I know not what faint sound,
And darkly guess that from yon silent sky
Float starry emanations to the ground;
These ears are deaf, these human eyes are blind,
I want a purer heart, a subtler mind.
"Sometimes -- could it be fancy? -- I have felt
The presence of a spirit who might speak;
As down in lowly reverence I knelt,
Its very breath hath kissed my burning cheek;
But I in vain have hushed my own to hear
A wing or whisper stir the silent air!"
Is not the breeze articulate? Hark! Oh, hark!
A distant murmur, like a voice of floods;
And onward sweeping slowly through the dark,
Bursts like a call the night-wind from the woods!
Low bow the flowers, the trees fling loose their dreams,
And through the waving roof a fresher moonlight streams.
"Mortal!" -- the word crept slowly round the place
As if that wind had breathed it! From no star
Streams that soft lustre on the dreamer's face.
Again a hushing calm! while faint and far
The breeze goes calling onward through the night.
Dear God! what vision chains that wide-strained sight?
Over the grass and flowers, and up the slope
Glides a white cloud of mist, self-moved and slow,
That, pausing at the hillock's moonlit cope,
Swayed like a flame of silver; from below
The breathless youth with beating heart beholds
A mystic motion in its argent folds.
Yet his young soul is bold, and hope grows warm,
As flashing through that cloud of shadowy crape,
With sweep of robes, and then a gleaming arm,
Slowly developing, at last took shape
A face and form unutterably bright,
That cast a golden glamour on the night.
But for the glory round it it would seem
Almost a mortal maiden; and the boy,
Unto whom love was yet an innocent dream,
Shivered and crimsoned with an unknown joy;
As to the young Spring bounds the passionate South,
He could have clasped and kissed her mouth to mouth.
Yet something checked, that was and was not dread,
Till in a low sweet voice the maiden spake;
She was the Fairy of his dreams, she said,
And loved him simply for his human sake;
And that in heaven, wherefrom she took her birth,
They called her Poesy, the angel of the earth.
"And ever since that immemorial hour,
When the glad morning-stars together sung,
My task hath been, beneath a mightier Power,
To keep the world forever fresh and young;
I give it not its fruitage and its green,
But clothe it with a glory all unseen.
"I sow the germ which buds in human art,
And, with my sister, Science, I explore
With light the dark recesses of the heart,
And nerve the will, and teach the wish to soar;
I touch with grace the body's meanest clay,
While noble souls are nobler for my sway.
"Before my power the kings of earth have bowed;
I am the voice of Freedom, and the sword
Leaps from its scabbard when I call aloud;
Wherever life in sacrifice is poured,
Wherever martyrs die or patriots bleed,
I weave the chaplet and award the meed.
"Where Passion stoops, or strays, is cold, or dead,
I lift from error, or to action thrill!
Or if it rage too madly in its bed,
The tempest hushes at my `Peace! be still!'
I know how far its tides should sink or swell,
And they obey my sceptre and my spell.
"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.
"I am the unseen spirit thou hast sought,
I woke those shadowy questionings that vex
Thy young mind, lost in its own cloud of thought,
And rouse the soul they trouble and perplex;
I filled thy days with visions, and thy nights
Blessed with all sweetest sounds and fairy sights.
"Not here, not in this world, may I disclose
The mysteries in which this life is hearsed;
Some doubts there be that, with some earthly woes,
By Death alone shall wholly be dispersed;
Yet on those very doubts from this low sod
Thy soul shall pass beyond the stars to God.
"And so to knowledge, climbing grade by grade,
Thou shalt attain whatever mortals can,
And what thou mayst discover by my aid
Thou shalt translate unto thy brother man;
And men shall bless the power that flings a ray
Into their night from thy diviner day.
"For, from thy lofty height, thy words shall fall
Upon their spirits like bright cataracts
That front a sunrise; thou shalt hear them call
Amid their endless waste of arid facts,
As wearily they plod their way along,
Upon the rhythmic zephyrs of thy song.
"All this is in thy reach, but much depends
Upon thyself -- thy future I await;
I give the genius, point the proper ends,
But the true bard is his own only Fate;
Into thy soul my soul have I infused;
Take care thy lofty powers be wisely used.
"The Poet owes a high and holy debt,
Which, if he feel, he craves not to be heard
For the poor boon of praise, or place, nor yet
Does the mere joy of song, as with the bird
Of many voices, prompt the choral lay
That cheers that gentle pilgrim on his way.
"Nor may he always sweep the passionate lyre,
Which is his heart, only for such relief
As an impatient spirit may desire,
Lest, from the grave which hides a private grief,
The spells of song call up some pallid wraith
To blast or ban a mortal hope or faith.
"Yet over his deep soul, with all its crowd
Of varying hopes and fears, he still must brood;
As from its azure height a tranquil cloud
Watches its own bright changes in the flood;
Self-reading, not self-loving -- they are twain --
And sounding, while he mourns, the depths of pain.
"Thus shall his songs attain the common breast,
Dyed in his own life's blood, the sign and seal,
Even as the thorns which are the martyr's crest,
That do attest his office, and appeal
Unto the universal human heart
In sanction of his mission and his art.
"Much yet remains unsaid -- pure must he be;
Oh, bless|"ed are the pure! for they shall hear
Where others hear not, see where others see
With a dazed vision: who have drawn most near
My shrine, have ever brought a spirit cased
And mail|"ed in a body clean and chaste.
"The Poet to the whole wide world belongs,
Even as the teacher is the child's -- I said
No selfish aim should ever mar his songs,
But self wears many guises; men may wed
Self in another, and the soul may be
Self to its centre, all unconsciously.
"And therefore must the Poet watch, lest he,
In the dark struggle of this life, should take
Stains which he might not notice; he must flee
Falsehood, however winsome, and forsake
All for the Truth, assured that Truth alone
Is Beauty, and can make him all my own.
"And he must be as arm|"ed warrior strong,
And he must be as gentle as a girl,
And he must front, and sometimes suffer wrong,
With brow unbent, and lip untaught to curl;
For wrath, and scorn, and pride, however just,
Fill the clear spirit's eyes with earthly dust."
The story came to me -- it recks not whence --
In fragments. Oh! if I could tell it all,
If human speech indeed could tell it all,
'T were not a whit less wondrous, than if I
Should find, untouched in leaf and stem, and bright,
As when it bloomed three thousand years ago,
On some Idalian slope, a perfect rose.
Alas! a leaf or two, and they perchance
Scarce worth the hiving, one or two dead leaves
Are the sole harvest of a summer's toil.
There was a moment, ne'er to be recalled,
When to the Poet's hope within my heart,
They wore a tint like life's, but in my hand,
I know not why, they withered. I have heard
Somewhere, of some dead monarch, from the tomb,
Where he had slept a century and more,
Brought forth, that when the coffin was laid bare,
Albeit the body in its mouldering robes
Was fleshless, yet one feature still remained
Perfect, or perfect seemed at least; the eyes
Gleamed for a second on the startled crowd,
And then went out in ashes. Even thus
The story, when I drew it from the grave
Where it had lain so long, did seem, I thought,
Not wholly lifeless; but even while I gazed
To fix its features on my heart, and called
The world to wonder with me, lo! it proved
I looked upon a corpse!
What further fell
In that lone forest nook, how much was taught,
How much was only hinted, what the youth
Promised, if promise were required, to do
Or strive for, what the gifts he bore away --
Or added powers or blessings -- how at last,
The vision ended and he sought his home,
How lived there, and how long, and when he passed
Into the busy world to seek his fate,
I know not, and if any ever knew,
The tale hath perished from the earth; for here
The slender thread on which my song is strung
Breaks off, and many after years of life
Are lost to sight, the life to reappear
Only towards its close -- as of a dream
We catch the end and opening, but forget
That which had joined them in the dreaming brain;
Or as a mountain with a belt of mist
That shows his base, and far above, a peak
With a blue plume of pines.
But turn the page
And read the only hints that yet remain.
It is not winter yet, but that sweet time
In autumn when the first cool days are past;
A week ago, the leaves were hoar with rime,
And some have dropped before the North wind's blast;
But the mild hours are back, and at mid-noon,
The day hath all the genial warmth of June.
What slender form lies stretched along the mound?
Can it be his, the Wanderer's, with that brow
Gray in its prime, those eyes that wander round
Listlessly, with a jaded glance that now
Seems to see nothing where it rests, and then
Pores on each trivial object in its ken?
See how a gentle maid's wan fingers clasp
The last fond love-notes of some faithless hand;
Thus, with a transient interest, his weak grasp
Holds a few leaves as when of old he scanned
The meaning in their gold and crimson streaks;
But the sweet dream has vanished! hush! he speaks!
"Once more, once more, after long pain and toil,
And yet not long, if I should count by years,
I breathe my native air, and tread the soil
I trod in childhood; if I shed no tears,
No happy tears, 't is that their fount is dry,
And joy that cannot weep must sigh, must sigh.
"These leaves, my boyish books in days of yore,
When, as the weeks sped by, I seemed to stand
Ever upon the brink of some wild lore --
These leaves shall make my bed, and -- for the hand
Of God is on me, chilling brain and breath --
I shall not ask a softer couch in death.
"Here was it that I saw, or dreamed I saw,
I know not which, that shape of love and light.
Spirit of Song! have I not owned thy law?
Have I not taught, or striven to teach the right,
And kept my heart as clean, my life as sweet,
As mortals may, when mortals mortals meet?
"Thou know'st how I went forth, my youthful breast
On fire with thee, amid the paths of men;
Once in my wanderings, my lone footsteps pressed
A mountain forest; in a sombre glen,
Down which its thundrous boom a cataract flung,
A little bird, unheeded, built and sung.
"So fell my voice amid the whirl and rush
Of human passions; if unto my art
Sorrow hath sometimes owed a gentler gush,
I know it not; if any Poet-heart
Hath kindled at my songs its light divine,
I know it not; no ray came back to mine.
"Alone in crowds, once more I sought to make
Of senseless things my friends; the clouds that burn
Above the sunset, and the flowers that shake
Their odors in the wind -- these would not turn
Their faces from me; far from cities, I
Forgot the scornful world that passed me by.
"Yet even the world's cold slights I might have borne,
Nor fled, though sorrowing; but I shrank at last
When one sweet face, too sweet, I thought, for scorn,
Looked scornfully upon me; then I passed
From all that youth had dreamed or manhood planned,
Into the self that none would understand.
"She was -- I never wronged her womanhood
By crowning it with praises not her own --
She was all earth's, and earth's, too, in that mood
When she brings forth her fairest; I atone
Now, in this fading brow and failing frame,
That such a soul such soul as mine could tame.
"Clay to its kindred clay! I loved, in sooth,
Too deeply and too purely to be blest;
With something more of lust and less of truth
She would have sunk all blushes on my breast;
And -- but I must not blame her -- in my ear
Death whispers! and the end, thank God! draws near!"
Hist! on the perfect silence of the place
Comes and dies off a sound like far-off rain
With voices mingled; on the Poet's face
A shadow, where no shadow should have lain,
Falls the next moment: nothing meets his sight,
Yet something moves betwixt him and the light.
And a voice murmurs, "Wonder not, but hear!
ME to behold again thou need'st not seek;
Yet by the dim-felt influence on the air,
And by the mystic shadow on thy cheek,
Know, though thou mayst not touch with fleshly hands,
The genius of thy life beside thee stands!
"Unto no fault, O weary-hearted one!
Unto no fault of man's thou ow'st thy fate;
All human hearts that beat this earth upon,
All human thoughts and human passions wait
Upon the genuine bard, to him belong,
And help in their own way the Poet's song.
"How blame the world? for the world hast thou wrought?
Or wast thou but as one who aims to fling
The weight of some unutterable thought
Down like a burden? what from questioning
Too subtly thy own spirit, and to speech
But half subduing themes beyond the reach
"Of mortal reason; what from living much
In that dark world of shadows, where the soul
Wanders bewildered, striving still to clutch
Yet never clutching once, a shadowy goal,
Which always flies, and while it flies seems near,
Thy songs were riddles hard to mortal ear.
"This was the hidden selfishness that marred
Thy teachings ever; this the false key-note
That on such souls as might have loved thee jarred
Like an unearthly language; thou didst float
On a strange water; those who stood on land
Gazed, but they could not leave their beaten strand.
"Your elements were different, and apart --
The world's and thine -- and even in those intense
And watchful broodings o'er thy inmost heart,
It was thy own peculiar difference
That thou didst seek; nor didst thou care to find
Aught that would bring thee nearer to thy kind.
"Not thus the Poet, who in blood and brain
Would represent his race and speak for all,
Weaves the bright woof of that impassioned strain
Which drapes, as if for some high festival
Of pure delights -- whence few of human birth
May rightly be shut out -- the common earth.
"As the same law that moulds a planet, rounds
A drop of dew, so the great Poet spheres
Worlds in himself; no selfish limit bounds
A sympathy that folds all characters,
All ranks, all passions, and all life almost
In its wide circle. Like some noble host,
"He spreads the riches of his soul, and bids
Partake who will. Age has its saws of truth,
And love is for the maiden's drooping lids,
And words of passion for the earnest youth;
Wisdom for all; and when it seeks relief,
Tears, and their solace for the heart of grief.
"Nor less on him than thee the mysteries
Within him and about him ever weigh --
The meanings in the stars, and in the breeze,
All the weird wonders of the common day,
Truths that the merest point removes from reach,
And thoughts that pause upon the brink of speech;
"But on the surface of his song these lie
As shadows, not as darkness; and alway,
Even though it breathe the secrets of the sky,
There is a human purpose in the lay;
Thus some tall fir that whispers to the stars
Shields at its base a cotter's lattice-bars.
"Even such my Poet! for thou still art mine!
Thou mightst have been, and now have calmly died,
A priest, and not a victim at the shrine;
Alas! yet was it all thy fault? I chide,
Perchance, myself within thee, and the fate
To which thy power was solely consecrate.
"Thy life hath not been wholly without use,
Albeit that use is partly hidden now;
In thy unmingled scorn of any truce
With this world's specious falsehoods, often thou
Hast uttered, through some all unworldly song,
Truths that for man might else have slumbered long.
"And these not always vainly on the crowd
Have fallen; some are cherished now, and some,
In mystic phrases wrapped as in a shroud,
Wait the diviner, who as yet is dumb
Upon the breast of God -- the gate of birth
Closed on a dreamless ignorance of earth.
"And therefore, though thy name shall pass away,
Even as a cloud that hath wept all its showers,
Yet as that cloud shall live again one day
In the glad grass, and in the happy flowers,
So in thy thoughts, though clothed in sweeter rhymes,