Part 5 out of 5
He kissed her lip, she kissed his battle-scar.
They quarrelled soon, and went two ways, afar.
O Life! I laughed, Nirvana.
And never a king but had some king above,
And never a law to right the wrongs of Love,
And ever a fanged snake beneath a dove,
Saw I on earth, Nirvana.
But I, with kingship over kings, am free.
I love not, hate not: right and wrong agree:
And fangs of snakes and lures of doves to me
Are vain, are vain, Nirvana.
So by mine inner contemplation long,
By thoughts that need no speech nor oath nor song,
My spirit soars above the motley throng
Of days and nights, Nirvana.
O Suns, O Rains, O Day and Night, O Chance,
O Time besprent with seven-hued circumstance,
I float above ye all into the trance
That draws me nigh Nirvana.
Gods of small worlds, ye little Deities
Of humble Heavens under my large skies,
And Governor-Spirits, all, I rise, I rise,
I rise into Nirvana.
The storms of Self below me rage and die.
On the still bosom of mine ecstasy,
A lotus on a lake of balm, I lie
Forever in Nirvana.
Macon, Georgia, 1869.
| The two poems which follow "The Raven Days" have not |
| been included in earlier editions. All three are calls |
| from those desperate years for the South just after the Civil War. |
| The reader of to-day, seeing that forlorn period |
| in the just perspective of half a century, will not wonder |
| at the tone of anguished remonstrance; but, rather, |
| that so few notes of mourning have come from a poet |
| who missed nothing of what the days of Reconstruction |
| brought to his people. |
The Raven Days.
Our hearths are gone out and our hearts are broken,
And but the ghosts of homes to us remain,
And ghastly eyes and hollow sighs give token
From friend to friend of an unspoken pain.
O Raven days, dark Raven days of sorrow,
Bring to us in your whetted ivory beaks
Some sign out of the far land of To-morrow,
Some strip of sea-green dawn, some orange streaks.
Ye float in dusky files, forever croaking.
Ye chill our manhood with your dreary shade.
Dumb in the dark, not even God invoking,
We lie in chains, too weak to be afraid.
O Raven days, dark Raven days of sorrow,
Will ever any warm light come again?
Will ever the lit mountains of To-morrow
Begin to gleam athwart the mournful plain?
Prattville, Alabama, February, 1868.
Of Titan birth,
Yon hills are your large breasts, and often I
Have climbed to their top-nipples, fain and dry
To drink my mother's-milk so near the sky.
O ye hill-stains,
Red, for all rains!
The blood that made you has all bled for us,
The hearts that paid you are all dead for us,
The trees that shade you groan with lead, for us!
And O, hill-sides,
Like giants' brides
Ye sleep in ravine-rumpled draperies,
And weep your springs in tearful memories
Of days that stained your robes with stains like these!
Sleep on, ye hills!
Weep on, ye rills!
The stainers have decreed the stains shall stay.
They chain the hands might wash the stains away.
They wait with cold hearts till we "rue the day".
Of Titan birth,
Thy mother's-milk is curdled with aloe.
-- Like hills, Men, lift calm heads through any woe,
And weep, but bow not an inch, for any foe!
We climb by night,
Thou hast no hell-deep chasm save Disgrace.
To stoop, will fling us down its fouled space:
Stand proud! The Dawn will meet us, face to face,
For down steep hills the Dawn loves best to race!
Laughter in the Senate.
In the South lies a lonesome, hungry Land;
He huddles his rags with a cripple's hand;
He mutters, prone on the barren sand,
What time his heart is breaking.
He lifts his bare head from the ground;
He listens through the gloom around:
The winds have brought him a strange sound
Of distant merrymaking.
Comes now the Peace so long delayed?
Is it the cheerful voice of Aid?
Begins the time his heart has prayed,
When men may reap and sow?
Ah, God! Back to the cold earth's breast!
The sages chuckle o'er their jest;
Must they, to give a people rest,
Their dainty wit forego?
The tyrants sit in a stately hall;
They jibe at a wretched people's fall;
The tyrants forget how fresh is the pall
Over their dead and ours.
Look how the senators ape the clown,
And don the motley and hide the gown,
But yonder a fast-rising frown
On the people's forehead lowers.
He's fast asleep. See how, O Wife,
Night's finger on the lip of life
Bids whist the tongue, so prattle-rife,
Of busy Baby Charley.
One arm stretched backward round his head,
Five little toes from out the bed
Just showing, like five rosebuds red,
-- So slumbers Baby Charley.
Heaven-lights, I know, are beaming through
Those lucent eyelids, veined with blue,
That shut away from mortal view
Large eyes of Baby Charley.
O sweet Sleep-Angel, throned now
On the round glory of his brow,
Wave thy wing and waft my vow
Breathed over Baby Charley.
I vow that my heart, when death is nigh,
Shall never shiver with a sigh
For act of hand or tongue or eye
That wronged my Baby Charley!
Macon, Georgia, December, 1869.
A Sea-Shore Grave. To M. J. L.
By Sidney and Clifford Lanier.
O wish that's vainer than the plash
Of these wave-whimsies on the shore:
"Give us a pearl to fill the gash --
God, let our dead friend live once more!"
O wish that's stronger than the stroke
Of yelling wave and snapping levin;
"God, lift us o'er the Last Day's smoke,
All white, to Thee and her in Heaven!"
O wish that's swifter than the race
Of wave and wind in sea and sky;
Let's take the grave-cloth from her face
And fall in the grave, and kiss, and die!
Look! High above a glittering calm
Of sea and sky and kingly sun,
She shines and smiles, and waves a palm --
And now we wish -- Thy will be done!
Montgomery, Alabama, 1866.
Souls and Rain-Drops.
Light rain-drops fall and wrinkle the sea,
Then vanish, and die utterly.
One would not know that rain-drops fell
If the round sea-wrinkles did not tell.
So souls come down and wrinkle life
And vanish in the flesh-sea strife.
One might not know that souls had place
Were't not for the wrinkles in life's face.
A rose of perfect red, embossed
With silver sheens of crystal frost,
Yet warm, nor life nor fragrance lost.
High passion throbbing in a sphere
That Art hath wrought of diamond clear,
-- A great heart beating in a tear.
The listening soul is full of dreams
That shape the wondrous-varying themes
As cries of men or plash of streams.
Or noise of summer rain-drops round
That patter daintily a-ground
With hints of heaven in the sound.
Or noble wind-tones chanting free
Through morning-skies across the sea
Wild hymns to some strange majesty.
O, if one trope, clear-cut and keen,
May type the art of Song's best queen,
White-hot of soul, white-chaste of mien,
On Music's heart doth Nilsson dwell
As if a Swedish snow-flake fell
Into a glowing flower-bell.
New York, 1871.
Night and Day.
The innocent, sweet Day is dead.
Dark Night hath slain her in her bed.
O, Moors are as fierce to kill as to wed!
-- Put out the light, said he.
A sweeter light than ever rayed
From star of heaven or eye of maid
Has vanished in the unknown Shade.
-- She's dead, she's dead, said he.
Now, in a wild, sad after-mood
The tawny Night sits still to brood
Upon the dawn-time when he wooed.
-- I would she lived, said he.
Star-memories of happier times,
Of loving deeds and lovers' rhymes,
Throng forth in silvery pantomimes.
-- Come back, O Day! said he.
Montgomery, Alabama, 1866.
A Birthday Song. To S. G.
For ever wave, for ever float and shine
Before my yearning eyes, oh! dream of mine
Wherein I dreamed that time was like a vine,
A creeping rose, that clomb a height of dread
Out of the sea of Birth, all filled with dead,
Up to the brilliant cloud of Death o'erhead.
This vine bore many blossoms, which were years.
Their petals, red with joy, or bleached by tears,
Waved to and fro i' the winds of hopes and fears.
Here all men clung, each hanging by his spray.
Anon, one dropped; his neighbor 'gan to pray;
And so they clung and dropped and prayed, alway.
But I did mark one lately-opened bloom,
Wherefrom arose a visible perfume
That wrapped me in a cloud of dainty gloom.
And rose -- an odor by a spirit haunted --
And drew me upward with a speed enchanted,
Swift floating, by wild sea or sky undaunted,
Straight through the cloud of death, where men are free.
I gained a height, and stayed and bent my knee.
Then glowed my cloud, and broke and unveiled thee.
"O flower-born and flower-souled!" I said,
"Be the year-bloom that breathed thee ever red,
Nor wither, yellow, down among the dead.
"May all that cling to sprays of time, like me,
Be sweetly wafted over sky and sea
By rose-breaths shrining maidens like to thee!"
Then while we sat upon the height afar
Came twilight, like a lover late from war,
With soft winds fluting to his evening star.
And the shy stars grew bold and scattered gold,
And chanting voices ancient secrets told,
And an acclaim of angels earthward rolled.
Montgomery, Alabama, October, 1866.
Sometimes in morning sunlights by the river
Where in the early fall long grasses wave,
Light winds from over the moorland sink and shiver
And sigh as if just blown across a grave.
And then I pause and listen to this sighing.
I look with strange eyes on the well-known stream.
I hear wild birth-cries uttered by the dying.
I know men waking who appear to dream.
Then from the water-lilies slow uprises
The still vast face of all the life I know,
Changed now, and full of wonders and surprises,
With fire in eyes that once were glazed with snow.
Fair now the brows old Pain had erewhile wrinkled,
And peace and strength about the calm mouth dwell.
Clean of the ashes that Repentance sprinkled,
The meek head poises like a flower-bell.
All the old scars of wanton wars are vanished;
And what blue bruises grappling Sense had left
And sad remains of redder stains are banished,
And the dim blotch of heart-committed theft.
O still vast vision of transfigured features
Unvisited by secret crimes or dooms,
Remain, remain amid these water-creatures,
Stand, shine among yon water-lily blooms.
For eighteen centuries ripple down the river,
And windy times the stalks of empires wave,
-- Let the winds come from the moor and sigh and shiver,
Fain, fain am I, O Christ, to pass the grave.
The Day was dying; his breath
Wavered away in a hectic gleam;
And I said, if Life's a dream, and Death
And Love and all are dreams -- I'll dream.
A mist came over the bay
Like as a dream would over an eye.
The mist was white and the dream was grey
And both contained a human cry,
The burthen whereof was "Love",
And it filled both mist and dream with pain,
And the hills below and the skies above
Were touched and uttered it back again.
The mist broke: down the rift
A kind ray shot from a holy star.
Then my dream did waver and break and lift --
Through it, O Love, shone thy face, afar.
So Boyhood sets: comes Youth,
A painful night of mists and dreams;
That broods till Love's exquisite truth,
The star of a morn-clear manhood, beams.
Boykin's Bluff, Virginia, 1863.
O marriage-bells, your clamor tells
Two weddings in one breath.
SHE marries whom her love compels:
-- And I wed Goodman Death!
My brain is blank, my tears are red;
Listen, O God: -- "I will," he said: --
And I would that I were dead.
Come groomsman Grief and bridesmaid Pain
Come and stand with a ghastly twain.
My Bridegroom Death is come o'er the meres
To wed a bride with bloody tears.
Ring, ring, O bells, full merrily:
Life-bells to her, death-bells to me:
O Death, I am true wife to thee!
Macon, Georgia, 1865.
The Palm and the Pine.
From the German of Heine.
In the far North stands a Pine-tree, lone,
Upon a wintry height;
It sleeps: around it snows have thrown
A covering of white.
It dreams forever of a Palm
That, far i' the Morning-land,
Stands silent in a most sad calm
Midst of the burning sand.
Point Lookout Prison, 1864.
From the German of Herder.
All faintly through my soul to-day,
As from a bell that far away
Is tinkled by some frolic fay,
Floateth a lovely chiming.
Thou magic bell, to many a fell
And many a winter-saddened dell
Thy tongue a tale of Spring doth tell,
Too passionate-sweet for rhyming.
Chime out, thou little song of Spring,
Float in the blue skies ravishing.
Thy song-of-life a joy doth bring
That's sweet, albeit fleeting.
Float on the Spring-winds e'en to my home:
And when thou to a rose shalt come
That hath begun to show her bloom,
Say, I send her greeting!
Point Lookout Prison, 1864.
Bright shone the lists, blue bent the skies,
And the knights still hurried amain
To the tournament under the ladies' eyes,
Where the jousters were Heart and Brain.
Flourished the trumpets: entered Heart,
A youth in crimson and gold.
Flourished again: Brain stood apart,
Steel-armored, dark and cold.
Heart's palfrey caracoled gayly round,
Heart tra-li-ra'd merrily;
But Brain sat still, with never a sound,
So cynical-calm was he.
Heart's helmet-crest bore favors three
From his lady's white hand caught;
While Brain wore a plumeless casque; not he
Or favor gave or sought.
The herald blew; Heart shot a glance
To find his lady's eye,
But Brain gazed straight ahead his lance
To aim more faithfully.
They charged, they struck; both fell, both bled.
Brain rose again, ungloved,
Heart, dying, smiled and faintly said,
"My love to my beloved!"
Camp French, Wilmington, N.C., May, 1862.
A-many sweet eyes wept and wept,
A-many bosoms heaved again;
A-many dainty dead hopes slept
With yonder Heart-knight prone o' the plain.
Yet stars will burn through any mists,
And the ladies' eyes, through rains of fate,
Still beamed upon the bloody lists
And lit the joust of Love and Hate.
O strange! or ere a trumpet blew,
Or ere a challenge-word was given,
A knight leapt down i' the lists; none knew
Whether he sprang from earth or heaven.
His cheek was soft as a lily-bud,
His grey eyes calmed his youth's alarm;
Nor helm nor hauberk nor even a hood
Had he to shield his life from harm.
No falchion from his baldric swung,
He wore a white rose in its place.
No dagger at his girdle hung,
But only an olive-branch, for grace.
And "Come, thou poor mistaken knight,"
Cried Love, unarmed, yet dauntless there,
"Come on, God pity thee! -- I fight
Sans sword, sans shield; yet, Hate, beware!"
Spurred furious Hate; he foamed at mouth,
His breath was hot upon the air,
His breath scorched souls, as a dry drought
Withers green trees and burns them bare.
Straight drives he at his enemy,
His hairy hands grip lance in rest,
His lance it gleams full bitterly,
God! -- gleams, true-point, on Love's bare breast!
Love's grey eyes glow with a heaven-heat,
Love lifts his hand in a saintly prayer;
Look! Hate hath fallen at his feet!
Look! Hate hath vanished in the air!
Then all the throng looked kind on all;
Eyes yearned, lips kissed, dumb souls were freed;
Two magic maids' hands lifted a pall
And the dead knight, Heart, sprang on his steed.
Then Love cried, "Break me his lance, each knight!
Ye shall fight for blood-athirst Fame no more!"
And the knights all doffed their mailed might
And dealt out dole on dole to the poor.
Then dove-flights sanctified the plain,
And hawk and sparrow shared a nest.
And the great sea opened and swallowed Pain,
And out of this water-grave floated Rest!
Macon, Georgia, 1865.
The Dying Words of Stonewall Jackson.
"Order A. P. Hill to prepare for battle."
"Tell Major Hawks to advance the Commissary train."
"Let us cross the river and rest in the shade."
The stars of Night contain the glittering Day
And rain his glory down with sweeter grace
Upon the dark World's grand, enchanted face --
All loth to turn away.
And so the Day, about to yield his breath,
Utters the stars unto the listening Night,
To stand for burning fare-thee-wells of light
Said on the verge of death.
O hero-life that lit us like the sun!
O hero-words that glittered like the stars
And stood and shone above the gloomy wars
When the hero-life was done!
The phantoms of a battle came to dwell
I' the fitful vision of his dying eyes --
Yet even in battle-dreams, he sends supplies
To those he loved so well.
His army stands in battle-line arrayed:
His couriers fly: all's done: now God decide!
-- And not till then saw he the Other Side
Or would accept the shade.
Thou Land whose sun is gone, thy stars remain!
Still shine the words that miniature his deeds.
O thrice-beloved, where'er thy great heart bleeds,
Solace hast thou for pain!
Georgia, September, 1865.
A white face, drooping, on a bending neck:
A tube-rose that with heavy petal curves
Her stem: a foam-bell on a wave that swerves
Back from the undulating vessel's deck.
From out the whitest cloud of summer steals
The wildest lightning: from this face of thine
Thy soul, a fire-of-heaven, warm and fine,
In marvellous flashes its fair self reveals.
As when one gazes from the summer sea
On some far gossamer cloud, with straining eye,
Fearing to see it vanish in the sky,
So, floating, wandering Cloud-Soul, I watch thee.
Montgomery, Alabama, 1866.
Thou God, whose high, eternal Love
Is the only blue sky of our life,
Clear all the Heaven that bends above
The life-road of this man and wife.
May these two lives be but one note
In the world's strange-sounding harmony,
Whose sacred music e'er shall float
Through every discord up to Thee.
As when from separate stars two beams
Unite to form one tender ray:
As when two sweet but shadowy dreams
Explain each other in the day:
So may these two dear hearts one light
Emit, and each interpret each.
Let an angel come and dwell to-night
In this dear double-heart, and teach!
Macon, Georgia, September, 1865.
In the Foam.
Life swelleth in a whitening wave,
And dasheth thee and me apart.
I sweep out seaward: -- be thou brave.
And reach the shore, Sweetheart.
Beat back the backward-thrusting sea.
Thy weak white arm his blows may thwart,
Christ buffet the wild surge for thee
Till thou'rt ashore, Sweetheart.
Ah, now thy face grows dim apace,
And seems of yon white foam a part.
Canst hear me through the water-bass,
Cry: "To the Shore, Sweetheart?"
Now Christ thee soothe upon the Shore,
My lissome-armed sea-Britomart.
I sweep out seaward, never more
To find the Shore, Sweetheart.
Prattville, Alabama, December, 1867.
My soul is sailing through the sea,
But the Past is heavy and hindereth me.
The Past hath crusted cumbrous shells
That hold the flesh of cold sea-mells
About my soul.
The huge waves wash, the high waves roll,
Each barnacle clingeth and worketh dole
And hindereth me from sailing!
Old Past let go, and drop i' the sea
Till fathomless waters cover thee!
For I am living but thou art dead;
Thou drawest back, I strive ahead
The Day to find.
Thy shells unbind! Night comes behind,
I needs must hurry with the wind
And trim me best for sailing.
Macon, Georgia, 1867.
Fair is the wedded reign of Night and Day.
Each rules a half of earth with different sway,
Exchanging kingdoms, East and West, alway.
Like the round pearl that Egypt drunk in wine,
The sun half sinks i' the brimming, rosy brine:
The wild Night drinks all up: how her eyes shine!
Now the swift sail of straining life is furled,
And through the stillness of my soul is whirled
The throbbing of the hearts of half the world.
I hear the cries that follow Birth and Death.
I hear huge Pestilence draw his vaporous breath:
"Beware, prepare, or else ye die," he saith.
I hear a haggard student turn and sigh:
I hear men begging Heaven to let them die:
And, drowning all, a wild-eyed woman's cry.
So Night takes toll of Wisdom as of Sin.
The student's and the drunkard's cheek is thin:
But flesh is not the prize we strive to win.
Now airy swarms of fluttering dreams descend
On souls, like birds on trees, and have no end.
O God, from vulture-dreams my soul defend!
Let fall on Her a rose-leaf rain of dreams,
All passionate-sweet, as are the loving beams
Of starlight on the glimmering woods and streams.
Montgomery, Alabama, April, 1866.
June Dreams, in January.
"So pulse, and pulse, thou rhythmic-hearted Noon
That liest, large-limbed, curved along the hills,
In languid palpitation, half a-swoon
With ardors and sun-loves and subtle thrills;
"Throb, Beautiful! while the fervent hours exhale
As kisses faint-blown from thy finger-tips
Up to the sun, that turn him passion-pale
And then as red as any virgin's lips.
"O tender Darkness, when June-day hath ceased,
-- Faint Odor from the day-flower's crushing born,
-- Dim, visible Sigh out of the mournful East
That cannot see her lord again till morn:
"And many leaves, broad-palmed towards the sky
To catch the sacred raining of star-light:
And pallid petals, fain, all fain to die,
Soul-stung by too keen passion of the night:
"And short-breath'd winds, under yon gracious moon
Doing mild errands for mild violets,
Or carrying sighs from the red lips of June
What aimless way the odor-current sets:
"And stars, ringed glittering in whorls and bells,
Or bent along the sky in looped star-sprays,
Or vine-wound, with bright grapes in panicles,
Or bramble-tangled in a sweetest maze,
"Or lying like young lilies in a lake
About the great white Lotus of the moon,
Or blown and drifted, as if winds should shake
Star blossoms down from silver stems too soon,
"Or budding thick about full open stars,
Or clambering shyly up cloud-lattices,
Or trampled pale in the red path of Mars,
Or trim-set in quaint gardener's fantasies:
"And long June night-sounds crooned among the leaves,
And whispered confidence of dark and green,
And murmurs in old moss about old eaves,
And tinklings floating over water-sheen!"
Then he that wrote laid down his pen and sighed;
And straightway came old Scorn and Bitterness,
Like Hunnish kings out of the barbarous land,
And camped upon the transient Italy
That he had dreamed to blossom in his soul.
"I'll date this dream," he said; "so: `Given, these,
On this, the coldest night in all the year,
From this, the meanest garret in the world,
In this, the greatest city in the land,
To you, the richest folk this side of death,
By one, the hungriest poet under heaven,
-- Writ while his candle sputtered in the gust,
And while his last, last ember died of cold,
And while the mortal ice i' the air made free
Of all his bones and bit and shrunk his heart,
And while soft Luxury made show to strike
Her gloved hands together and to smile
What time her weary feet unconsciously
Trode wheels that lifted Avarice to power,
-- And while, moreover, -- O thou God, thou God --
His worshipful sweet wife sat still, afar,
Within the village whence she sent him forth
Into the town to make his name and fame,
Waiting, all confident and proud and calm,
Till he should make for her his name and fame,
Waiting -- O Christ, how keen this cuts! -- large-eyed,
With Baby Charley till her husband make
For her and him a poet's name and fame.'
-- Read me," he cried, and rose, and stamped his foot
Impatiently at Heaven, "read me this,"
(Putting th' inquiry full in the face of God)
"Why can we poets dream us beauty, so,
But cannot dream us bread? Why, now, can I
Make, aye, create this fervid throbbing June
Out of the chill, chill matter of my soul,
Yet cannot make a poorest penny-loaf
Out of this same chill matter, no, not one
For Mary though she starved upon my breast?"
And then he fell upon his couch, and sobbed,
And, late, just when his heart leaned o'er
The very edge of breaking, fain to fall,
God sent him sleep.
There came his room-fellow,
Stout Dick, the painter, saw the written dream,
Read, scratched his curly pate, smiled, winked, fell on
The poem in big-hearted comic rage,
Quick folded, thrust in envelope, addressed
To him, the critic-god, that sitteth grim
And giant-grisly on the stone causeway
That leadeth to his magazine and fame.
Him, by due mail, the little Dream of June
Encountered growling, and at unawares
Stole in upon his poem-battered soul
So that he smiled, -- then shook his head upon 't
-- Then growled, then smiled again, till at the last,
As one that deadly sinned against his will,
He writ upon the margin of the Dream
A wondrous, wondrous word that in a day
Did turn the fleeting song to very bread,
-- Whereat Dick Painter leapt, the poet wept,
And Mary slept with happy drops a-gleam
Upon long lashes of her serene eyes
From twentieth reading of her poet's news
Quick-sent, "O sweet my Sweet, to dream is power,
And I can dream thee bread and dream thee wine,
And I will dream thee robes and gems, dear Love,
To clothe thy holy loveliness withal,
And I will dream thee here to live by me,
Thee and my little man thou hold'st at breast,
-- Come, Name, come, Fame, and kiss my Sweetheart's feet!"
Notes to Poems.
`Sunrise', Mr. Lanier's latest completed poem, was written
while his sun of life seemed fairly at the setting,
and the hand which first pencilled its lines had not strength
to carry nourishment to the lips.
The three `Hymns of the Marshes' which open this collection
are the only written portions of a series of six `Marsh Hymns'
that were designed by the author to form a separate volume.
The `Song' of the Marshes, `At Sunset', does not belong to this group,
but is inserted among the `Hymns' as forming a true accord with them.
IV. The Marshes of Glynn.
The salt marshes of Glynn County, Georgia, immediately around
the sea-coast city of Brunswick.
`Clover' is placed as the initial poem of a volume which was left
in orderly arrangement among the author's papers. His own grouping
in that volume has been followed as far as possible in this fuller collection.
" . . . yon trim Shakespeare on the tree"
leads back, almost twenty years from its writing,
to the poet's college note-book where we find the boy reflecting:
"A poet is the mocking-bird of the spiritual universe.
In him are collected all the individual songs of all individual natures."
`Corn' will hold a distinct interest for those who study
the gathering forces in the author's growth: for it was the first outcome
of his consciously-developing art-life. This life, the musician's and poet's,
he entered upon -- after years of patient denial and suppression --
in September, 1873, uncertain of his powers but determined to give them wing.
His "fieldward-faring eyes took harvest" "among the stately corn-ranks",
in a portion of middle Georgia sixty miles to the north of Macon.
It is a high tract of country from which one looks across the lower reaches
to the distant Blue Ridge mountains, whose wholesome breath, all unobstructed,
here blends with the woods-odors of the beech, the hickory and the muscadine:
a part of a range recalled elsewhere by Mr. Lanier, as "that ample stretch
of generous soil, where the Appalachian ruggednesses calm themselves
into pleasant hills before dying quite away into the sea-board levels" --
where "a man can find such temperances of heaven and earth --
enough of struggle with nature to draw out manhood, with enough of bounty
to sanction the struggle -- that a more exquisite co-adaptation
of all blessed circumstances for man's life need not be sought."
Of this newly-written poem Mr. Lanier says in a letter of March, 1874:
"Of course, since I have written it to print I cannot make it such
as *I* desire in artistic design: for the forms of to-day
require a certain trim smugness and clean-shaven propriety
in the face and dress of a poem, and I must win a hearing
by conforming in some degree to these tyrannies, with a view
to overturning them in the future. Written so, it is not nearly so beautiful
as I would have it; and I therefore have another still in my heart,
which I will some day write for myself."
VII. A Song of Love.
`A Song of Love', like `Betrayal', belongs to the early plan
of `The Jacquerie'. It was written for one of the Fool's songs and,
after several recastings, took its present shape in 1879.
To Nannette Falk-Auerbach.
This sonnet was originally written in the German and published
in a German daily of Baltimore, while the author's translation
appeared at the same time in the Baltimore `Gazette'.
To Our Mocking-Bird.
The history of this bird's life is given at length under the title of "Bob",
in `The Independent' of August 3, 1882, and will show that he deserved
to be immortal -- as we hope he is.
Ode to the Johns Hopkins University.
" . . . the soaring genius'd Sylvester
That earlier loosed the knot great Newton tied,"
An algebraic theorem announced by Newton was demonstrated and extended
by Sylvester. -- Sidney Lanier.
A Ballad of Trees and the Master.
`A Ballad of Trees and the Master' was conceived as an interlude
of the latest `Hymn of the Marshes', `Sunrise', although written earlier.
In the author's first copy and first revision of that `Hymn',
the `Ballad' was incorporated, following the invocation to the trees
which closes with:
"And there, oh there
As ye hang with your myriad palms upturned in the air,
Pray me a myriad prayer."
In Mr. Lanier's final copy the `Ballad' is omitted.
It was one of several interludes which he at first designed,
but, for some reason, afterwards abandoned.
To My Class: On Certain Fruits and Flowers Sent Me in Sickness.
A class in English Literature, composed of young girls
who had been studying with Mr. Lanier `The Knighte's Tale' of Chaucer.
The sonnet `On Violet's Wafers' was addressed to a member of the same class,
and is similarly conceived.
Under the Cedarcroft Chestnut.
"This chestnut-tree (at Cedarcroft, the estate of Mr. Bayard Taylor,
in Pennsylvania), is estimated to be more than eight hundred years old."
-- Sidney Lanier, 1877.
Hard by stood its mate, apparently somewhat younger.
It is related in a letter of 1882, from Mrs. Taylor, that in 1880,
a year after Mr. Taylor's death, one of these majestic trees
gave the first signs of decay: while his comrade lingered two years longer --
to follow as closely the footsteps of Mr. Lanier: the two,
faithful-hearted "to their master and to him who sang of them."
A Florida Ghost.
The incidents recorded of this storm are matter of history
in and around Tampa.
"Nine from Eight".
The local expression "under the hack" is kindly explained
by an authority in middle Georgia dialect, Richard Malcolm Johnston,
author of `The Dukesborough Tales' and other Georgia stories. He says:
"`Under the hack' is a well-known phrase among the country-people,
and is applied, generally in a humorous sense, to those who have been cowed
by any accident. A man who is overruled by his wife,
I have often heard described as `under the hack': `She's got him
under the hack.' So, when a man has lost spirit from any cause,
he is said to be `under the hack'. The phrase is possibly derived
from `hackle', an instrument used in the breaking of flax."
"Thar's more in the Man than thar is in the Land".
"Jones" designates Jones County, Ga., one of the counties
adjoining Bibb County, in which Macon is located.
The Jacquerie. A Fragment.
Although `The Jacquerie' remained a fragment for thirteen years
Mr. Lanier's interest in the subject never abated. Far on in this interval
he is found planning for leisure to work out in romance
the story of that savage insurrection of the French peasantry,
which the Chronicles of Froissart had impressed upon his boyish imagination.
The era of verse-writing with Mr. Lanier reopens in this dream
of the Virginia bay where poet's reveries and war's awakenings
He presents it for a friend's criticism -- at the age of twenty-one --
in these words: "I send you a little poem which sang itself through me
the other day. 'Tis the first I've written in many years."
This poem was not published by the writer and the simile of the second verse
was appropriated to `An Evening Song'. This partial repetition --
like that of portions of `The Tournament' and of `A Dream of June',
which occur in the `Psalm of the West' -- will be pardoned as affording
a favorable opportunity to observe Mr. Lanier's growth in artistic form.
The Centennial Cantata.
The Centennial Meditation of Columbia. 1776-1876. A Cantata.
From this hundred-terraced height,
Sight more large with nobler light
Ranges down yon towering years.
Humbler smiles and lordlier tears
Shine and fall, shine and fall,
While old voices rise and call
Yonder where the to-and-fro
Weltering of my Long-Ago
Moves about the moveless base
Far below my resting-place.
Mayflower, Mayflower, slowly hither flying,
Trembling westward o'er yon balking sea,
Hearts within `Farewell dear England' sighing,
Winds without `But dear in vain' replying,
Gray-lipp'd waves about thee shouted, crying
"No! It shall not be!"
Jamestown, out of thee --
Plymouth, thee -- thee, Albany --
Winter cries, `Ye freeze:' away!
Fever cries, `Ye burn:' away!
Hunger cries, `Ye starve:' away!
Vengeance cries, `Your graves shall stay!'
at the last line.>
Then old Shapes and Masks of Things,
Framed like Faiths or clothed like Kings
Ghosts of Goods once fleshed and fair,
Grown foul Bads in alien air --
War, and his most noisy lords,
Tongued with lithe and poisoned swords --
Error, Terror, Rage and Crime,
All in a windy night of time
Cried to me from land and sea,
`No! Thou shalt not be!'
Huguenots whispering `yea' in the dark,
Puritans answering `yea' in the dark!
`Yea' like an arrow shot true to his mark,
Darts through the tyrannous heart of Denial.
Patience and Labor and solemn-souled Trial,
Foiled, still beginning,
Soiled, but not sinning,
Toil through the stertorous death of the Night,
Toil when wild brother-wars new-dark the Light,
Toil, and forgive, and kiss o'er, and replight.
Now Praise to God's oft-granted grace,
Now Praise to Man's undaunted face,
Despite the land, despite the sea,
I was: I am: and I shall be --
How long, Good Angel, O how long?
Sing me from Heaven a man's own song!
"Long as thine Art shall love true love,
Long as thy Science truth shall know,
Long as thine Eagle harms no Dove,
Long as thy Law by law shall grow,
Long as thy God is God above,
Thy brother every man below,
So long, dear Land of all my love,
Thy name shall shine, thy fame shall glow!"
O Music, from this height of time my Word unfold:
In thy large signals all men's hearts Man's heart behold:
Mid-heaven unroll thy chords as friendly flags unfurled,
And wave the world's best lover's welcome to the world.
Note to the Cantata.
The annotated musical directions which here accompany `The Cantata',
arranged for the composer's use, were first sent with the newly-completed text
in a private letter to Mr. Gibson Peacock, of Philadelphia.
I am enabled to give these annotations and the author's own introduction
to his work through the kindness of Mr. Peacock: the friend who,
while yet an entire stranger, awakened and led the public recognition
of Mr. Lanier's place in the world of art. M. D. L.
"Baltimore, January 18, 1876.
" . . . The enclosed will show you partly what I have been doing. . . .
The Centennial Commission has invited me to write a poem
which shall serve as the text for a Cantata (the music to be by Dudley Buck,
of New York), to be sung at the opening of the Exhibition,
under Thomas' direction. . . . I've written the enclosed.
Necessarily I had to think out the musical conceptions as well as the poem,
and I have briefly indicated these along the margin of each movement.
I have tried to make the whole as simple and as candid
as a melody of Beethoven's: at the same time expressing
the largest ideas possible, and expressing them in such a way
as could not be offensive to any modern soul. I particularly hope
you'll like the Angel's song, where I have endeavored to convey,
in one line each, the philosophies of Art, of Science, of Power,
of Government, of Faith, and of Social Life. Of course I shall not expect
that this will instantly appeal to tastes peppered and salted
by [certain of our contemporary writers]; but one cannot forget Beethoven,
and somehow all my inspiration came in these large and artless forms,
in simple Saxon words, in unpretentious and purely intellectual conceptions,
while nevertheless I felt, all through, the necessity of making
a genuine song -- and not a rhymed set of good adages -- out of it.
I adopted the trochees of the first movement because they COMPEL
a measured, sober, and meditative movement of the mind;
and because, too, they are not the genius of our language.
When the troubles cease, and the land emerges as a distinct unity,
then I fall into our native iambics. . . ."
"Baltimore, January 25, 1876.
"My Dear Friend: -- Your praise, and your wife's, give me a world of comfort.
I really do not believe anything was ever written under an equal number
of limitations; and when I first came to know all the conditions of the poem
I was for a moment inclined to think that no genuine work
could be produced under them.
"As for the friend who was the cause of the compliment, it was, directly,
Mr. Taylor. . . . INDIRECTLY, YOU are largely concerned in it. . . .
I fancy [all] this must have been owing much to the reputation
which you set a-rolling so recently. . . .
"So, God bless you both.
"Your friend, S. L."
[End of original text.]
Differences between the editions of 1891 & 1916 (printings of 1898 & 1918).
Other than errors resulting from corruption of the plates over 20 years,
the following differences are the only changes:
1) The 1898 copy was printed by Trow's Printing and Bookbinding Company,
New York. The 1918 copy was printed by The Scribner Press.
2) The dedication of the poem "Sunrise", at the beginning of this volume,
is in the 1918 copy, but not in the 1898 copy.
3) In the 1898 copy, the last line of "From the Flats" is:
"`Lull' sings a little brook!"
In the 1918 copy the last line has been changed to:
"Bright leaps a living brook!"
4) In the 1898 copy, the 5th line of "Laus Mariae" is:
"So mixt each morn and night rise salient heaps:"
In the 1918 copy the 5th line has been changed to:
"So twixt each morn and night rise salient heaps:"
5) The footnote to "The Raven Days" (preceding it in this etext)
is in the 1918 copy, but not in the 1898 copy.
6) Two poems, "Our Hills" and "Laughter in the Senate",
are in the 1918 copy, but not in the 1898 copy.
Other notes to the text:
1) The Charlotte Cushman referred to in several poems
is most likely Charlotte Saunders Cushman, an American actress, 1816-76.
2) In "The Hard Times in Elfland", the last line of the 50th stanza
read in the original as:
"Thus we become the sport of Fate."
This has been changed to:
"Thus we became the sport of Fate."
This is because, in context, the past tense seems to fit better,
and therefore this change allows the text to flow better.
It should not alter the content in any meaningful sense.
3) Several mentions are made in this text to Shakespeare.
The variant spelling `Shakspere' was originally used in some occurrences.