Part 12 out of 21
Tanto intentius imprimere est opus ergo statuta;
Nemo propterea pejor, melior, sine doubto,
Obtineat qui contractum, si et postea rhino;
Ergo Polardus, si quis, inexsuperabilis heros, 80
Colemanus impavidus nondum, atque in purpure natus
Tylerus Iohanides celerisque in flito Nathaniel,
Quisque optans digitos in tantum stickere pium,
Adstant accincti imprimere aut perrumpere leges:
Quales os miserum rabidi tres aegre molossi,
Quales aut dubium textum atra in veste ministri,
Tales circumstabant nunc nostri inopes hoc job.
Hisque Polardus voce canoro talia fatus:
Primum autem, veluti est mos, praeceps quisque liquorat,
Quisque et Nicotianum ingens quid inserit atrum, 90
Heroum nitidum decus et solamen avitum,
Masticat ac simul altisonans, spittatque profuse:
Quis de Virginia meruit praestantius unquam?
Quis se pro patria curavit impigre tutum?
Speechisque articulisque hominum quis fortior ullus,
Ingeminans pennae lickos et vulnera vocis?
Quisnam putidius (hic) sarsuit Yankinimicos,
Saepius aut dedit ultro datam et broke his parolam?
Mente inquassatus solidaque, tyranno minante,
Horrisonis (hic) bombis moenia et alta quatente, 100
Sese promptum (hic) jactans Yankos lickere centum,
Atque ad lastum invictus non surrendidit unquam?
Ergo haud meddlite, posco, mique relinquite (hic) hoc job,
Si non--knifumque enormem mostrat spittatque tremendus.
Dixerat: ast alii reliquorant et sine pauso
Pluggos incumbunt maxillis, uterque vicissim
Certamine innocuo valde madidam inquinat assem:
Tylerus autem, dumque liquorat aridus hostis,
Mirum aspicit duplumque bibentem, astante Lyaeo;
Ardens impavidusque edidit tamen impia verba; 110
Duplum quamvis te aspicio, esses atque viginti,
Mendacem dicerem totumque (hic) thrasherem acervum;
Nempe et thrasham, doggonatus (hic) sim nisi faxem;
Lambastabo omnes catawompositer-(hic) que chawam!
Dixit et impulsus Ryeo ruitur bene titus,
Illi nam gravidum caput et laterem habet in hatto.
Hunc inhiat titubansque Polardus, optat et illum
Stickere inermem, protegit autem rite Lyaeus,
Et pronos geminos, oculis dubitantibus, heros
Cernit et irritus hostes, dumque excogitat utrum 120
Primum inpitchere, corruit, inter utrosque recumbit,
Magno asino similis nimio sub pondere quassus:
Colemanus hos moestus, triste ruminansque solamen,
Inspicit hiccans, circumspittat terque cubantes;
Funereisque his ritibus humidis inde solutis,
Sternitur, invalidusque illis superincidit infans;
Hos sepelit somnus et snorunt cornisonantes,
Watchmanus inscios ast calybooso deinde reponit.
[The Editors of the 'Atlantic' have received so many letters of inquiry
concerning the literary remains of the late Mr. Wilbur, mentioned by his
colleague and successor, Rev. Jeduthun Hitchcock, in a communication
from which we made some extracts in our number for February, 1863, and
have been so repeatedly urged to print some part of them for the
gratification of the public, that they felt it their duty at least to
make some effort to satisfy so urgent a demand. They have accordingly
carefully examined the papers intrusted to them, but find most of the
productions of Mr. Wilbur's pen so fragmentary, and even chaotic,
written as they are on the backs of letters in an exceedingly cramped
chirography,--here a memorandum for a sermon; there an observation of
the weather; now the measurement of an extraordinary head of cabbage,
and then of the cerebral capacity of some reverend brother deceased; a
calm inquiry into the state of modern literature, ending in a method of
detecting if milk be impoverished with water, and the amount thereof;
one leaf beginning with a genealogy, to be interrupted halfway down with
an entry that the brindle cow had calved,--that any attempts at
selection seemed desperate. His only complete work, 'An Enquiry
concerning the Tenth Horn of the Beast,' even in the abstract of it
given by Mr. Hitchcock, would, by a rough computation of the printers,
fill five entire numbers of our journal, and as he attempts, by a new
application of decimal fractions, to identify it with the Emperor
Julian, seems hardly of immediate concern to the general reader. Even
the Table-Talk, though doubtless originally highly interesting in the
domestic circle, is so largely made up of theological discussion and
matters of local or preterite interest, that we have found it hard to
extract anything that would at all satisfy expectation. But, in order to
silence further inquiry, we subjoin a few passages as illustrations of
its general character.]
I think I could go near to be a perfect Christian if I were always a
visitor, as I have sometimes been, at the house of some hospitable
friend. I can show a great deal of self-denial where the best of
everything is urged upon me with kindly importunity. It is not so very
hard to turn the other cheek for a kiss. And when I meditate upon the
pains taken for our entertainment in this life, on the endless variety
of seasons, of human character and fortune, on the costliness of the
hangings and furniture of our dwelling here, I sometimes feel a singular
joy in looking upon myself as God's guest, and cannot but believe that
we should all be wiser and happier, because more grateful, if we were
always mindful of our privilege in this regard. And should we not rate
more cheaply any honor that men could pay us, if we remembered that
every day we sat at the table of the Great King? Yet must we not forget
that we are in strictest bonds His servants also; for there is no
impiety so abject as that which expects to be _deadheaded (ut ita
dicam)_ through life, and which, calling itself trust in Providence, is
in reality asking Providence to trust us and taking up all our goods on
false pretences. It is a wise rule to take the world as we find it, not
always to leave it so.
It has often set me thinking when I find that I can always pick up
plenty of empty nuts under my shagbark-tree. The squirrels know them by
their lightness, and I have seldom seen one with the marks of their
teeth in it. What a school-house is the world, if our wits would only
not play truant! For I observe that men set most store by forms and
symbols in proportion as they are mere shells. It is the outside they
want and not the kernel. What stores of such do not many, who in
material things are as shrewd as the squirrels, lay up for the spiritual
winter-supply of themselves and their children! I have seen churches
that seemed to me garners of these withered nuts, for it is wonderful
how prosaic is the apprehension of symbols by the minds of most men. It
is not one sect nor another, but all, who, like the dog of the fable,
have let drop the spiritual substance of symbols for their material
shadow. If one attribute miraculous virtues to mere holy water, that
beautiful emblem of inward purification at the door of God's house,
another cannot comprehend the significance of baptism without being
ducked over head and ears in the liquid vehicle thereof.
[Perhaps a word of historical comment may be permitted here. My late
reverend predecessor was, I would humbly affirm, as free from prejudice
as falls to the lot of the most highly favored individuals of our
species. To be sure, I have heard Him say that 'what were called strong
prejudices were in fact only the repulsion of sensitive organizations
from that moral and even physical effluvium through which some natures
by providential appointment, like certain unsavory quadrupeds, gave
warning of their neighborhood. Better ten mistaken suspicions of this
kind than one close encounter.' This he said somewhat in heat, on being
questioned as to his motives for always refusing his pulpit to those
itinerant professors of vicarious benevolence who end their discourses
by taking up a collection. But at another time I remember his saying,
'that there was one large thing which small minds always found room for,
and that was great prejudices.' This, however, by the way. The statement
which I purposed to make was simply this. Down to A.D. 1830, Jaalam had
consisted of a single parish, with one house set apart for religions
services. In that year the foundations of a Baptist Society were laid by
the labors of Elder Joash Q. Balcom, 2d. As the members of the new body
were drawn from the First Parish, Mr. Wilbur was for a time considerably
exercised in mind. He even went so far as on one occasion to follow the
reprehensible practice of the earlier Puritan divines in choosing a
punning text, and preached from Hebrews xiii, 9: 'Be not carried about
with _divers_ and strange doctrines.' He afterwards, in accordance with
one of his own maxims,--'to get a dead injury out of the mind as soon as
is decent, bury it, and then ventilate,'--in accordance with this maxim,
I say, he lived on very friendly terms with Rev. Shearjashub Scrimgour,
present pastor of the Baptist Society in Jaalam. Yet I think it was
never unpleasing to him that the church edifice of that society (though
otherwise a creditable specimen of architecture) remained without a
bell, as indeed it does to this day. So much seemed necessary to do away
with any appearance of acerbity toward a respectable community of
professing Christians, which might be suspected in the conclusion of the
In lighter moods he was not averse from an innocent play upon words.
Looking up from his newspaper one morning, as I entered his study, he
said, 'When I read a debate in Congress, I feel as if I were sitting at
the feet of Zeno in the shadow of the Portico.' On my expressing a
natural surprise, he added, smiling, 'Why, at such times the only view
which honorable members give me of what goes on in the world is through
their intercalumniations.' I smiled at this after a moment's reflection,
and he added gravely, 'The most punctilious refinement of manners is the
only salt that will keep a democracy from stinking; and what are we to
expect from the people, if their representatives set them such lessons?
Mr. Everett's whole life has been a sermon from this text. There was, at
least, this advantage in duelling, that it set a certain limit on the
tongue. When Society laid by the rapier, it buckled on the more subtle
blade of etiquette wherewith to keep obtrusive vulgarity at bay.' In
this connection, I may be permitted to recall a playful remark of his
upon another occasion. The painful divisions in the First Parish, A.D.
1844, occasioned by the wild notions in respect to the rights of (what
Mr. Wilbur, so far as concerned the reasoning faculty, always called)
the unfairer part of creation, put forth by Miss Parthenia Almira Fitz,
are too well known to need more than a passing allusion. It was during
these heats, long since happily allayed, that Mr. Wilbur remarked that
'the Church had more trouble in dealing with one _she_resiarch than with
twenty _he_resiarchs,' and that the men's _conscia recti_, or certainty
of being right, was nothing to the women's.
When I once asked his opinion of a poetical composition on which I had
expended no little pains, he read it attentively, and then remarked
'Unless one's thought pack more neatly in verse than in prose, it is
wiser to refrain. Commonplace gains nothing by being translated into
rhyme, for it is something which no hocus-pocus can transubstantiate
with the real presence of living thought. You entitle your piece, "My
Mother's Grave," and expend four pages of useful paper in detailing your
emotions there. But, my dear sir, watering does not improve the quality
of ink, even though you should do it with tears. To publish a sorrow to
Tom, Dick, and Harry is in some sort to advertise its unreality, for I
have observed in my intercourse with the afflicted that the deepest
grief instinctively hides its face with its hands and is silent. If your
piece were printed, I have no doubt it would be popular, for people like
to fancy that they feel much better than the trouble of feeling. I would
put all poets on oath whether they have striven to say everything they
possibly could think of, or to leave out all they could not help saying.
In your own case, my worthy young friend, what you have written is
merely a deliberate exercise, the gymnastic of sentiment. For your
excellent maternal relative is still alive, and is to take tea with me
this evening, D.V. Beware of simulated feeling; it is hypocrisy's first
cousin; it is especially dangerous to a preacher; for he who says one
day, "Go to, let me seem to be pathetic," may be nearer than he thinks
to saying, "Go to, let me seem to be virtuous, or earnest, or under
sorrow for sin." Depend upon it, Sappho loved her verses more sincerely
than she did Phaon, and Petrarch his sonnets better than Laura, who was
indeed but his poetical stalking-horse. After you shall have once heard
that muffled rattle of clods on the coffin-lid of an irreparable loss,
you will grow acquainted with a pathos that will make all elegies
hateful. When I was of your age, I also for a time mistook my desire to
write verses for an authentic call of my nature in that direction. But
one day as I was going forth for a walk, with my head full of an "Elegy
on the Death of Flirtilla," and vainly groping after a rhyme for _lily_
that should not be _silly_ or _chilly_, I saw my eldest boy Homer busy
over the rain-water hogshead, in that childish experiment at
parthenogenesis, the changing a horse-hair into a water-snake. All
immersion of six weeks showed no change in the obstinate filament. Here
was a stroke of unintended sarcasm. Had I not been doing in my study
precisely what my boy was doing out of doors? Had my thoughts any more
chance of coming to life by being submerged in rhyme than his hair by
soaking in water? I burned my elegy and took a course of Edwards on the
Will. People do not make poetry; it is made out of _them_ by a process
for which I do not find myself fitted. Nevertheless, the writing of
verses is a good rhetorical exercitation, as teaching us what to shun
most carefully in prose. For prose bewitched is like window-glass with
bubbles in it, distorting what it should show with pellucid veracity.'
It is unwise to insist on doctrinal points as vital to religion. The
Bread of Life is wholesome and sufficing in itself, but gulped down with
these kickshaws cooked up by theologians, it is apt to produce an
indigestion, nay, eyen at last an incurable dyspepsia of scepticism.
One of the most inexcusable weaknesses of Americans is in signing their
names to what are called credentials. But for my interposition, a person
who shall be nameless would have taken from this town a recommendation
for an office of trust subscribed by the selectmen and all the voters of
both parties, ascribing to him as many good qualities as if it had been
his tombstone. The excuse was that it would be well for the town to be
rid of him, as it would erelong be obliged to maintain him. I would not
refuse my name to modest merit, but I would be as cautious as in signing
a bond. [I trust I shall be subjected to no imputation of unbecoming
vanity, if I mention the fact that Mr. W. indorsed my own qualifications
as teacher of the high-school at Pequash Junction. J.H.] When I see a
certificate of character with everybody's name to it, I regard it as a
letter of introduction from the Devil. Never give a man your name unless
you are willing to trust him with your reputation.
There seem nowadays to be two sources of literary inspiration,--fulness
of mind and emptiness of pocket.
I am often struck, especially in reading Montaigne, with the obviousness
and familiarity of a great writer's thoughts, and the freshness they
gain because said by him. The truth is, we mix their greatness with all
they say and give it our best attention. Johannes Faber sic cogitavit
would be no enticing preface to a book, but an accredited name gives
credit like the signature to a note of hand. It is the advantage of fame
that it is always privileged to take the world by the button, and a
thing is weightier for Shakespeare's uttering it by the whole amount of
It is singular how impatient men are with overpraise of others, how
patient with overpraise of themselves; and yet the one does them no
injury while the other may he their ruin.
People are apt to confound mere alertness of mind with attention. The
one is but the flying abroad of all the faculties to the open doors and
windows at every passing rumor; the other is the concentration of every
one of them in a single focus, as in the alchemist over his alembic at
the moment of expected projection. Attention is the stuff that memory is
made of, and memory is accumulated genius.
Do not look for the Millennium as imminent. One generation is apt to get
all the wear it can out of the cast clothes of the last, and is always
sure to use up every paling of the old fence that will hold a nail in
building the new.
You suspect a kind of vanity in my genealogical enthusiasm. Perhaps you
are right; but it is a universal foible. Where it does not show itself
in a personal and private way, it becomes public and gregarious. We
flatter ourselves in the Pilgrim Fathers, and the Virginian offshoot of
a transported convict swells with the fancy ef a cavalier ancestry.
Pride of birth, I have noticed, takes two forms. One complacently traces
himself up to a coronet; another, defiantly, to a lapstone. The
sentiment is precisely the same in both cases, only that one is the
positive and the other the negative pole of it.
Seeing a goat the other day kneeling in order to graze with less
trouble, it seemed to me a type of the common notion of prayer. Most
people are ready enough to go down on their knees for material
blessings, but how few for those spiritual gifts which alone are an
answer to our orisons, if we but knew it!
Some people, nowadays, seem to have hit upon a new moralization of the
moth and the candle. They would lock up the light of Truth, lest poor
Psyche should put it out in her effort to draw nigh, to it.
MR. HOSEA BIGLOW TO THE EDITOR OF THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY
DEAR SIR,--Your letter come to han'
Requestin' me to please be funny;
But I ain't made upon a plan
Thet knows wut's comin', gall or honey:
Ther' 's times the world does look so queer,
Odd fancies come afore I call 'em;
An' then agin, for half a year,
No preacher 'thout a call's more solemn.
You're 'n want o' sunthin' light an' cute,
Rattlin' an' shrewd an' kin' o' jingleish, 10
An' wish, pervidin' it 'ould suit,
I'd take an' citify my English.
I _ken_ write long-tailed, ef I please,--
But when I'm jokin', no, I thankee;
Then, fore I know it, my idees
Run helter-skelter into Yankee.
Sence I begun to scribble rhyme,
I tell ye wut, I hain't ben foolin';
The parson's books, life, death, an' time
Hev took some trouble with my schoolin'; 20
Nor th' airth don't git put out with me,
Thet love her 'z though she wuz a woman;
Why, th' ain't a bird upon the tree
But half forgives my bein' human.
An' yit I love th' unhighschooled way
Ol' farmers hed when I wuz younger;
Their talk wuz meatier, an' 'ould stay,
While book-froth seems to whet your hunger;
For puttin' in a downright lick
'twixt Humbug's eyes, ther' 's few can metch it, 30
An' then it helves my thoughts ez slick
Ez stret-grained hickory does a hetchet.
But when I can't, I can't, thet's all,
For Natur' won't put up with gullin';
Idees you hev to shove an' haul
Like a druv pig ain't wuth a mullein:
Live thoughts ain't sent for; thru all rifts
O' sense they pour an' resh ye onwards,
Like rivers when south-lyin' drifts
Feel thet th' old arth's a-wheelin' sunwards. 40
Time wuz, the rhymes come crowdin' thick
Ez office-seekers arter 'lection,
An' into ary place 'ould stick
Without no bother nor objection;
But sence the war my thoughts hang back
Ez though I wanted to enlist 'em,
An' subs'tutes,--_they_ don't never lack,
But then they'll slope afore you've mist 'em.
Nothin' don't seem like wut it wuz;
I can't see wut there is to hender, 50
An' yit my brains jes' go buzz, buzz,
Like bumblebees agin a winder;
'fore these times come, in all airth's row,
Ther' wuz one quiet place, my head in,
Where I could hide an' think,--but now
It's all one teeter, hopin', dreadin'.
Where's Peace? I start, some clear-blown night,
When gaunt stone walls grow numb an' number,
An' creakin' 'cross the snow-crus' white,
Walk the col' starlight into summer; 60
Up grows the moon, an' swell by swell
Thru the pale pasturs silvers dimmer
Than the last smile thet strives to tell
O' love gone heavenward in its shimmer.
I hev been gladder o' sech things
Than cocks o' spring or bees o' clover,
They filled my heart with livin' springs,
But now they seem to freeze 'em over;
Sights innercent ez babes on knee,
Peaceful ez eyes o' pastur'd cattle, 70
Jes' coz they be so, seem to me
To rile me more with thoughts o' battle.
Indoors an' out by spells I try;
Ma'am Natur' keeps her spin-wheel goin',
But leaves my natur' stiff and dry
Ez fiel's o' clover arter mowin';
An' her jes' keepin' on the same,
Calmer 'n a clock, an' never carin'
An' findin' nary thing to blame,
Is wus than ef she took to swearin'. 80
Snow-flakes come whisperin' on the pane
The charm makes blazin' logs so pleasant,
But I can't hark to wut they're say'n',
With Grant or Sherman ollers present;
The chimbleys shudder in the gale,
Thet lulls, then suddin takes to flappin'
Like a shot hawk, but all's ez stale
To me ez so much sperit-rappin'.
Under the yaller-pines I house,
When sunshine makes 'em all sweet-scented, 90
An' hear among their furry boughs
The baskin' west-wind purr contented,
While 'way o'erhead, ez sweet an' low
Ez distant bells thet ring for meetin',
The wedged wil' geese their bugles blow,
Further an' further South retreatin'.
Or up the slippery knob I strain
An' see a hundred hills like islan's
Lift their blue woods in broken chain
Out o' the sea o' snowy silence; 100
The farm-smokes, sweetes' sight on airth,
Slow thru the winter air a-shrinkin'
Seem kin' o' sad, an' roun' the hearth
Of empty places set me thinkin'.
Beaver roars hoarse with meltin' snows,
An' rattles di'mon's from his granite;
Time wuz, he snatched away my prose,
An' into psalms or satires ran it;
But he, nor all the rest thet once
Started my blood to country-dances, 110
Can't set me goin' more 'n a dunce
Thet hain't no use for dreams an' fancies.
Rat-tat-tat-tattle thru the street
I hear the drummers makin' riot,
An' I set thinkin' o' the feet
Thet follered once an' now are quiet,--
White feet ez snowdrops innercent,
Thet never knowed the paths o' Satan,
Whose comin' step ther' 's ears thet won't,
No, not lifelong, leave off awaitin', 120
Why, hain't I held 'em on my knee?
Didn't I love to see 'em growin',
Three likely lads ez wal could be,
Hahnsome an' brave an' not tu knowin'?
I set an' look into the blaze
Whose natur', jes' like theirn, keeps climbin',
Ez long 'z it lives, in shinin' ways,
An' half despise myself for rhymin'.
Wut's words to them whose faith an' truth
On War's red techstone rang true metal, 130
Who ventered life an' love an' youth
For the gret prize o' death in battle?
To him who, deadly hurt, agen
Flashed on afore the charge's thunder,
Tippin' with fire the bolt of men
Thet rived the Rebel line asunder?
'Tain't right to hev the young go fust,
All throbbin' full o' gifts an' graces,
Leavin' life's paupers dry ez dust
To try an' make b'lieve fill their places: 140
Nothin' but tells us wut we miss,
Ther' 's gaps our lives can't never fay in,
An' _thet_ world seems so fur from this
Lef' for us loafers to grow gray in!
My eyes cloud up for rain; my mouth
Will take to twitchin' roun' the corners;
I pity mothers, tu, down South,
For all they sot among the scorners:
I'd sooner take my chance to stan'
At Jedgment where your meanest slave is, 150
Than at God's bar hol' up a han'
Ez drippin' red ez yourn, Jeff Davis!
Come, Peace! not like a mourner bowed
For honor lost an' dear ones wasted,
But proud, to meet a people proud,
With eyes thet tell o' triumph tasted!
Come, with han' grippin' on the hilt,
An' step thet proves ye Victory's daughter!
Longin' for you, our sperits wilt
Like shipwrecked men's on raf's for water. 160
Come, while our country feels the lift
Of a gret instinct shoutin' 'Forwards!'
An' knows thet freedom ain't a gift
Thet tarries long in han's o' cowards!
Come, sech ez mothers prayed for, when
They kissed their cross with lips thet quivered,
An' bring fair wages for brave men,
A nation saved, a race delivered!
MR. HOSEA BIGLOW'S SPEECH IN MARCH MEETING
TO THE EDITOR OF THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY
JAALAM, April 5, 1866.
MY DEAR SIR,--
(an' noticin' by your kiver thet you're some dearer than wut you wuz, I
enclose the deffrence) I dunno ez I know Jest how to interdoose this
las' perduction of my mews, ez Parson Wilber allus called 'em, which is
goin' to _be_ the last an' _stay_ the last onless sunthin' pertikler
sh'd interfear which I don't expec' ner I wun't yield tu ef it wuz ez
pressin' ez a deppity Shiriff. Sence Mr. Wilbur's disease I hevn't hed
no one thet could dror out my talons. He ust to kind o' wine me up an'
set the penderlum agoin' an' then somehow I seemed to go on tick as it
wear tell I run down, but the noo minister ain't of the same brewin' nor
I can't seem to git ahold of no kine of huming nater in him but sort of
slide rite off as you du on the eedge of a mow. Minnysteeril natur is
wal enough an' a site better'n most other kines I know on, but the other
sort sech as Welbor hed wuz of the Lord's makin' an' naterally more
wonderfle an' sweet tastin' leastways to me so fur as heerd from. He
used to interdooce 'em smooth ez ile athout sayin' nothin' in pertickler
an' I misdoubt he didn't set so much by the sec'nd Ceres as wut he done
by the Fust, fact, he let on onct thet his mine misgive him of a sort of
fallin' off in spots. He wuz as outspoken as a norwester _he_ wuz, but I
tole him I hoped the fall wuz from so high up thet a feller could ketch
a good many times fust afore comin' bunt onto the ground as I see Jethro
C. Swett from the meetin' house steeple up to th' old perrish, an' took
up for dead but he's alive now an' spry as wut you be. Turnin' of it
over I recelected how they ust to put wut they called Argymunce onto the
frunts of poymns, like poorches afore housen whare you could rest ye a
spell whilst you wuz concludin' whether you'd go in or nut espeshully
ware tha wuz darters, though I most allus found it the best plen to go
in fust an' think afterwards an' the gals likes it best tu. I dno as
speechis ever hez any argimunts to 'em, I never see none thet hed an' I
guess they never du but tha must allus be a B'ginnin' to everythin'
athout it is Etarnity so I'll begin rite away an' anybody may put it
afore any of his speeches ef it soots an' welcome. I don't claim no
Interducshin, w'ich may be skipt. Begins by talkin' about himself:
thet's jest natur an' most gin'ally allus pleasin', I b'leeve I've
notist, to _one_ of the cumpany, an' thet's more than wut you can say of
most speshes of talkin'. Nex' comes the gittin' the goodwill of the
orjunce by lettin' 'em gether from wut you kind of ex'dentally let drop
thet they air about East, A one, an' no mistaik, skare 'em up an' take
'em as they rise. Spring interdooced with a fiew approput flours. Speach
finally begins witch nobuddy needn't feel obolygated to read as I never
read 'em an' never shell this one ag'in. Subjick staited; expanded;
delayted; extended. Pump lively. Subjick staited ag'in so's to avide all
mistaiks. Ginnle remarks; continooed; kerried on; pushed furder; kind o'
gin out. Subjick _re_staited; dielooted; stirred up permiscoous. Pump
ag'in. Gits back to where he sot out. Can't seem to stay thair. Ketches
into Mr. Seaward's hair. Breaks loose ag'in an' staits his subjick;
stretches it; turns it; folds it; onfolds it; folds it ag'in so's't, no
one can't find it. Argoos with an imedginary bean thet ain't aloud to
say nothin' in replye. Gives him a real good dressin' an' is settysfide
he's rite. Gits into Johnson's hair. No use tryin' to git into his head.
Gives it up. Hez to stait his subjick ag'in; doos it back'ards,
sideways, eendways, criss-cross, bevellin', noways. Gits finally red on
it. Concloods. Concloods more. Reads some xtrax. Sees his subjick
a-nosin' round arter him ag'in. Tries to avide it. Wun't du. _Mis_states
it. Can't conjectur' no other plawsable way of staytin' on it. Tries
pump. No fx. Finely concloods to conclood. Yeels the flore.
You kin spall an' punctooate thet as you please. I allus do, it kind of
puts a noo soot of close onto a word, thisere funattick spellin' doos
an' takes 'em out of the prissen dress they wair in the Dixonary. Ef I
squeeze the cents out of 'em it's the main thing, an' wut they wuz made
for: wut's left's jest pummis.
Mistur Wilbur sez he to me onct, sez he, 'Hosee,' sez he, 'in
litterytoor the only good thing is Natur. It's amazin' hard to come at,'
sez he, 'but onct git it an' you've gut everythin'. Wut's the sweetest
small on airth?' sez he. 'Noomone hay,' sez I, pooty bresk, for he wuz
allus hankerin' round in hayin'. 'Nawthin' of the kine,' sez he. 'My
leetle Huldy's breath,' sez I ag'in. 'You're a good lad,' sez he, his
eyes sort of ripplin' like, for he lost a babe onct nigh about her
age,--'you're a good lad; but 'tain't thet nuther,' sez he. 'Ef you want
to know,' sez he, 'open your winder of a mornin' et ary season, and
you'll larn thet the best of perfooms is jest fresh air, _fresh air_,'
sez he, emphysizin', 'athout no mixtur. Thet's wut _I_ call natur in
writin', and it bathes my lungs and washes 'em sweet whenever I git a
whiff on 't.' sez he. I often think o' thet when I set down to write but
the winders air so ept to git stuck, an' breakin' a pane costs sunthin'.
Yourn for the last time,
_Nut_ to be continooed,
I don't much s'pose, hows'ever I should plen it,
I could git boosted into th' House or Sennit,--
Nut while the twolegged gab-machine's so plenty,
'nablin' one man to du the talk o' twenty;
I'm one o' them thet finds it ruther hard
To mannyfactur' wisdom by the yard,
An' maysure off, accordin' to demand,
The piece-goods el'kence that I keep on hand,
The same ole pattern runnin' thru an' thru,
An' nothin' but the customer thet's new. 10
I sometimes think, the furder on I go,
Thet it gits harder to feel sure I know,
An' when I've settled my idees, I find
'twarn't I sheered most in makin' up my mind;
'twuz this an' thet an' t'other thing thet done it,
Sunthin' in th' air, I couldn' seek nor shun it.
Mos' folks go off so quick now in discussion,
All th' ole flint-locks seems altered to percussion,
Whilst I in agin' sometimes git a hint,
Thet I'm percussion changin' back to flint; 20
Wal, ef it's so, I ain't agoin' to werrit,
For th' ole Queen's-arm hez this pertickler merit,--
It gives the mind a hahnsome wedth o' margin
To kin' o make its will afore dischargin':
I can't make out but jest one ginnle rule,--
No man need go an' _make_ himself a fool,
Nor jedgment ain't like mutton, thet can't bear
Cookin' tu long, nor be took up tu rare.
Ez I wuz say'n', I hain't no chance to speak
So's't all the country dreads me onct a week, 30
But I've consid'ble o' thet sort o' head
Thet sets to home an' thinks wut _might_ be said,
The sense thet grows an' werrits underneath,
Comin' belated like your wisdom-teeth,
An' git so el'kent, sometimes, to my gardin
Thet I don' vally public life a fardin'.
Our Parson Wilbur (blessin's on his head!)
'mongst other stories of ole times he hed,
Talked of a feller thet rehearsed his spreads
Beforehan' to his rows o' kebbige-heads, 40
(Ef 'twarn't Demossenes, I guess 'twuz Sisro,)
Appealin' fust to thet an' then to this row,
Accordin' ez he thought thet his idees
Their diff'runt ev'riges o' brains 'ould please;
'An',' sez the Parson, 'to hit right, you must
Git used to maysurin' your hearers fust;
For, take my word for 't, when all's come an' past,
The kebbige-heads'll cair the day et last;
Th' ain't ben a meetin' sence the worl' begun
But they made (raw or biled ones) ten to one.' 50
I've allus foun' 'em, I allow, sence then
About ez good for talkin' tu ez men;
They'll take edvice, like other folks, to keep,
(To use it 'ould be holdin' on 't tu cheap,)
They listen wal, don' kick up when you scold 'em,
An' ef they've tongues, hev sense enough to hold 'em;
Though th' ain't no denger we shall lose the breed,
I gin'lly keep a score or so for seed,
An' when my sappiness gits spry in spring,
So's't my tongue itches to run on full swing, 60
I fin' 'em ready-planted in March-meetin',
Warm ez a lyceum-audience in their greetin',
An' pleased to hear my spoutin' frum the fence,--
Comin', ez 't doos, entirely free 'f expense.
This year I made the follerin' observations
Extrump'ry, like most other tri'ls o' patience,
An', no reporters bein' sent express
To work their abstrac's up into a mess
Ez like th' oridg'nal ez a woodcut pictur'
Thet chokes the life out like a boy-constrictor, 70
I've writ 'em out, an' so avide all jeal'sies
'twixt nonsense o' my own an' some one's else's.
(N.B. Reporters gin'lly git a hint
To make dull orjunces seem 'live in print,
An', ez I hev t' report myself, I vum,
I'll put th' applauses where they'd _ough' to_ come!)
MY FELLER KEBBIGE-HEADS, who look so green,
I vow to gracious thet ef I could dreen
The world of all its hearers but jest you,
'twould leave 'bout all tha' is wuth talkin' to, 80
An' you, my ven'able ol' frien's, thet show
Upon your crowns a sprinklin' o' March snow,
Ez ef mild Time had christened every sense
For wisdom's church o' second innocence.
Nut Age's winter, no, no sech a thing,
But jest a kin' o' slippin'-back o' spring,--
[Sev'ril noses blowed.]
We've gathered here, ez ushle, to decide
Which is the Lord's an' which is Satan's side,
Coz all the good or evil thet can heppen
Is 'long o' which on 'em you choose for Cappen.
[Cries o' 'Thet's so.']
Aprul's come back; the swellin' buds of oak 91
Dim the fur hillsides with a purplish smoke;
The brooks are loose an', singing to be seen,
(Like gals,) make all the hollers soft an' green;
The birds are here, for all the season's late;
They take the sun's height an' don' never wait;
Soon 'z he officially declares it's spring
Their light hearts lift 'em on a north'ard wing,
An' th' ain't an acre, fur ez you can hear,
Can't by the music tell the time o' year; 100
But thet white dove Carliny seared away,
Five year ago, jes' sech an Aprul day;
Peace, that we hoped 'ould come an' build last year
An' coo by every housedoor, isn't here,--
No, nor wun't never be, for all our jaw,
Till we're ez brave in pol'tics ez in war!
O Lord, ef folks wuz made so's't they could see
The begnet-pint there is to an idee! [Sensation.]
Ten times the danger in 'em th' is in steel;
They run your soul thru an' you never feel, 110
But crawl about an' seem to think you're livin',
Poor shells o' men, nut wuth the Lord's forgivin',
Tell you come bunt ag'in a real live feet,
An' go to pieces when you'd ough' to ect!
Thet kin' o' begnet's wut we're crossin' now,
An' no man, fit to nevvigate a scow,
'ould stan' expectin' help from Kingdom Come,
While t'other side druv their cold iron home.
My frien's, you never gethered from my mouth,
No, nut one word ag'in the South ez South, 120
Nor th' ain't a livin' man, white, brown, nor black,
Gladder 'n wut I should be to take 'em back;
But all I ask of Uncle Sam is fust
To write up on his door, 'No goods on trust';
[Cries o' 'Thet's the ticket!']
Give us cash down in ekle laws for all,
An' they'll be snug inside afore nex' fall.
Give wut they ask, an' we shell hev Jamaker,
Wuth minus some consid'able an acre;
Give wut they need, an' we shell git 'fore long
A nation all one piece, rich, peacefle, strong; 130
Make 'em Amerikin, an' they'll begin
To love their country ez they loved their sin;
Let 'em stay Southun, an' you've kep' a sore
Ready to fester ez it done afore.
No mortle man can boast of perfic' vision,
But the one moleblin' thing is Indecision,
An' th' ain't no futur' for the man nor state
Thet out of j-u-s-t can't spell great.
Some folks 'ould call thet reddikle, do you?
'Twas commonsense afore the war wuz thru; 140
_Thet_ loaded all our guns an' made 'em speak
So's't Europe heared 'em clearn acrost the creek;
'They're drivin' o' their spiles down now,' sez she,
'To the hard grennit o' God's fust idee;
Ef they reach thet, Democ'cy needn't fear
The tallest airthquakes _we_ can git up here.'
Some call 't insultin' to ask _ary_ pledge,
An' say 'twill only set their teeth on edge,
But folks you've jest licked, fur 'z I ever see,
Are 'bout ez mad 'z they wal know how to be; 150
It's better than the Rebs themselves expected
'fore they see Uncle Sam wilt down henpected;
Be kind 'z you please, but fustly make things fast,
For plain Truth's all the kindness thet'll last;
Ef treason is a crime, ez _some_ folks say,
How could we punish it in a milder way
Than sayin' to 'em, 'Brethren, lookee here,
We'll jes' divide things with ye, sheer an' sheer,
An' sence both come o' pooty strong-backed daddies,
You take the Darkies, ez we've took the Paddies; 160
Ign'ant an' poor we took 'em by the hand,
An' they're the bones an' sinners o' the land,'
I ain't o' them thet fancy there's a loss on
Every inves'ment thet don't start from Bos'on;
But I know this: our money's safest trusted
In sunthin', come wut will, thet _can't_ be busted,
An' thet's the old Amerikin idee,
To make a man a Man an' let him be. [Gret applause.]
Ez for their l'yalty, don't take a goad to 't,
But I do' want to block their only road to 't 170
By lettin' 'em believe thet they can git
Mor'n wut they lost, out of our little wit:
I tell ye wut, I'm 'fraid we'll drif' to leeward
'thout we can put more stiffenin' into Seward;
He seems to think Columby'd better ect
Like a scared widder with a boy stiff-necked
Thet stomps an' swears he wun't come in to supper;
She mus' set up for him, ez weak ez Tupper,
Keepin' the Constitootion on to warm,
Tell he'll eccept her 'pologies in form: 180
The neighbors tell her he's a cross-grained cuss
Thet needs a hidin' 'fore he comes to wus;
'No,' sez Ma Seward, 'he's ez good 'z the best,
All he wants now is sugar-plums an' rest;'
'He sarsed my Pa,' sez one; 'He stoned my son,'
Another edds, 'Oh wal, 'twuz jes' his fun.'
'He tried to shoot our Uncle Samwell dead.'
''Twuz only tryin' a noo gun he hed.'
'Wal, all we ask's to hev it understood
You'll take his gun away from him for good; 190
We don't, wal, nut exac'ly, like his play,
Seem' he allus kin' o' shoots our way.
You kill your fatted calves to no good eend,
'thout his fust sayin', "Mother, I hev sinned!"'
['Amen!' frum Deac'n Greenleaf]
The Pres'dunt _he_ thinks thet the slickest plan
'ould be t' allow thet he's our on'y man,
An' thet we fit thru all thet dreffle war
Jes' for his private glory an' eclor;
'Nobody ain't a Union man,' sez he,
''thout he agrees, thru thick an' thin, with me; 200
Warn't Andrew Jackson's 'nitials jes' like mine?
An' ain't thet sunthin' like a right divine
To cut up ez kentenkerous ez I please,
An' treat your Congress like a nest o' fleas?'
Wal, I expec' the People wouldn' care, if
The question now wuz techin' bank or tariff,
But I conclude they've 'bout made up their min'
This ain't the fittest time to go it blin',
Nor these ain't metters thet with pol'tics swings,
But goes 'way down amongst the roots o' things; 210
Coz Sumner talked o' whitewashin' one day
They wun't let four years' war be throwed away.
'Let the South hev her rights?' They say, 'Thet's you!
But nut greb hold of other folks's tu.'
Who owns this country, is it they or Andy?
Leastways it ough' to be the People _and_ he;
Let him be senior pardner, ef he's so,
But let them kin' o' smuggle in ez Co; [Laughter.]
Did he diskiver it? Consid'ble numbers
Think thet the job wuz taken by Columbus. 220
Did he set tu an' make it wut it is?
Ef so, I guess the One-Man-power _hez_ riz.
Did he put thru the rebbles, clear the docket,
An' pay th' expenses out of his own pocket?
Ef thet's the case, then everythin' I exes
Is t' hev him come an' pay my ennooal texes.
Was 't he thet shou'dered all them million guns?
Did he lose all the fathers, brothers, sons?
Is this ere pop'lar gov'ment thet we run
A kin' o' sulky, made to kerry one? 230
An' is the country goin' to knuckle down
To hev Smith sort their letters 'stid o'Brown?
Who wuz the 'Nited States 'fore Richmon' fell?
Wuz the South needfle their full name to spell?
An' can't we spell it in thet short-han' way
Till th' underpinnin's settled so's to stay?
Who cares for the Resolves of '61,
Thet tried to coax an airthquake with a bun?
Hez act'ly nothin' taken place sence then
To larn folks they must hendle fects like men? 240
Ain't _this_ the true p'int? Did the Rebs accep' 'em?
Ef nut, whose fault is 't thet we hevn't kep 'em?
Warn't there _two_ sides? an' don't it stend to reason
Thet this week's 'Nited States ain't las' week's treason?
When all these sums is done, with nothin' missed,
An' nut afore, this school 'll be dismissed.
I knowed ez wal ez though I'd seen 't with eyes
Thet when the war wuz over copper'd rise,
An' thet we'd hev a rile-up in our kettle
'twould need Leviathan's whole skin to settle: 250
I thought 'twould take about a generation
'fore we could wal begin to be a nation,
But I allow I never did imegine
'twould be our Pres'dunt thet 'ould drive a wedge in
To keep the split from closin' ef it could.
An' healin' over with new wholesome wood;
For th' ain't no chance o' healin' while they think
Thet law an' gov'ment's only printer's ink;
I mus' confess I thank him for discoverin'
The curus way in which the States are sovereign; 260
They ain't nut _quite_ enough so to rebel,
But, when they fin' it's costly to raise h----,
[A groan from Deac'n G.]
Why, then, for jes' the same superl'tive reason,
They're 'most too much so to be tetched for treason;
They _can't_ go out, but ef they somehow _du_,
Their sovereignty don't noways go out tu;
The State goes out, the sovereignty don't stir,
But stays to keep the door ajar for her.
He thinks secession never took 'em out,
An' mebby he's correc', but I misdoubt? 270
Ef they warn't out, then why, 'n the name o' sin,
Make all this row 'bout lettin' of 'em in?
In law, p'r'aps nut; but there's a diffurence, ruther,
Betwixt your mother-'n-law an' real mother,
An' I, for one, shall wish they'd all ben _som'eres_,
Long 'z U.S. Texes are sech reg'lar comers.
But, O my patience! must we wriggle back
Into th' ole crooked, pettyfoggin' track,
When our artil'ry-wheels a road hev cut
Stret to our purpose ef we keep the rut? 280
War's jes' dead waste excep' to wipe the slate
Clean for the cyph'rin' of some nobler fate.
Ez for dependin' on their oaths an' thet,
'twun't bind 'em more 'n the ribbin roun' my het:
I heared a fable once from Othniel Starns,
That pints it slick ez weathercocks do barns;
Onct on a time the wolves hed certing rights
Inside the fold; they used to sleep there nights,
An' bein' cousins o' the dogs, they took
Their turns et watchin', reg'lar ez a book; 290
But somehow, when the dogs hed gut asleep,
Their love o' mutton beat their love o' sheep,
Till gradilly the shepherds come to see
Things warn't agoin' ez they'd ough' to be;
So they sent off a deacon to remonstrate
Along 'th the wolves an' urge 'em to go on straight;
They didn't seem to set much by the deacon,
Nor preachin' didn' cow 'em, nut to speak on;
Fin'ly they swore thet they'd go out an' stay,
An' hev their fill o' mutton every day; 300
Then dogs an' shepherds, after much hard dammin',
[Groan from Deac'n G.]
Turned tu an' give 'em a tormented lammin',
An' sez, 'Ye sha'n't go out, the murrain rot ye,
To keep us wastin' half our time to watch ye!'
But then the question come, How live together
'thout losin' sleep, nor nary yew nor wether?
Now there wuz some dogs (noways wuth their keep)
Thet sheered their cousins' tastes an' sheered the sheep;
They sez, 'Be gin'rous, let 'em swear right in,
An', ef they backslide, let 'em swear ag'in; 310
Jes' let 'em put on sheep-skins whilst they're swearin';
To ask for more 'ould be beyond all bearin'.'
'Be gin'rous for yourselves, where _you_'re to pay,
Thet's the best prectice,' sez a shepherd gray;
'Ez for their oaths they wun't be wuth a button,
Long 'z you don't cure 'em o' their taste for mutton;
Th' ain't but one solid way, howe'er you puzzle:
Tell they're convarted, let 'em wear a muzzle.'
[Cries of 'Bully for you!']
I've noticed thet each half-baked scheme's abetters
Are in the hebbit o' producin' letters 320
Writ by all sorts o' never-heared-on fellers,
'bout ez oridge'nal ez the wind in bellers;
I've noticed, tu, it's the quack med'cine gits
(An' needs) the grettest heaps o' stiffykits;
[Two pothekeries goes out.]
Now, sence I lef off creepin' on all fours,
I hain't ast no man to endorse my course;
It's full ez cheap to be your own endorser,
An' ef I've made a cup, I'll fin' the saucer;
But I've some letters here from t'other side,
An' them's the sort thet helps me to decide; 330
Tell me for wut the copper-comp'nies hanker,
An' I'll tell you jest where it's safe to anchor. [Faint hiss.]
Fus'ly the Hon'ble B.O. Sawin writes
Thet for a spell he couldn't sleep o' nights,
Puzzlin' which side wuz preudentest to pin to,
Which wuz th' ole homestead, which the temp'ry leanto;
Et fust he jedged 'twould right-side-up his pan
To come out ez a 'ridge'nal Union man,
'But now,' he sez, 'I ain't nut quite so fresh;
The winnin' horse is goin' to be Secesh; 340
You might, las' spring, hev eas'ly walked the course,
'fore we contrived to doctor th' Union horse;
Now _we_'re the ones to walk aroun' the nex' track:
Jest you take hol' an' read the follerin' extrac',
Out of a letter I received last week
From an ole frien' thet never sprung a leak,
A Nothun Dem'crat o' th' ole Jarsey blue,
Born copper-sheathed an' copper-fastened tu.'
'These four years past it hez ben tough
To say which side a feller went for; 350
Guideposts all gone, roads muddy 'n' rough,
An' nothin' duin' wut 'twuz meant for;
Pickets a-firin' left an' right,
Both sides a lettin' rip et sight,--
Life warn't wuth hardly payin' rent for.
'Columby gut her back up so,
It warn't no use a-tryin' to stop her,--
War's emptin's riled her very dough
An' made it rise an' act improper;
'Twuz full ez much ez I could du 360
To jes' lay low an' worry thru,
'Thout hevin' to sell out my copper.
'Afore the war your mod'rit men,
Could set an' sun 'em on the fences,
Cyph'rin' the chances up, an' then
Jump off which way bes' paid expenses;
Sence, 'twuz so resky ary way,
_I_ didn't hardly darst to say
I 'greed with Paley's Evidences.
[Groan from Deac'n G.]
'Ask Mac ef tryin' to set the fence 370
Warn't like bein' rid upon a rail on 't,
Headin' your party with a sense
O' bein' tipjint in the tail on 't,
An' tryin' to think thet, on the whole,
You kin' o' quasi own your soul
When Belmont's gut a bill o' sale on 't?
[Three cheers for Grant and Sherman.]
'Come peace, I sposed thet folks 'ould like
Their pol'tics done ag'in by proxy;
Give their noo loves the bag an' strike
A fresh trade with their reg'lar doxy; 380
But the drag's broke, now slavery's gone,
An' there's gret resk they'll blunder on,
Ef they ain't stopped, to real Democ'cy.
'We've gut an awful row to hoe
In this 'ere job o' reconstructin';
Folks dunno skurce which way to go,
Where th' ain't some boghole to be ducked in;
But one thing's clear; there _is_ a crack,
Ef we pry hard, 'twixt white an' black,
Where the ole makebate can be tucked in. 390
'No white man sets in airth's broad aisle
Thet I ain't willin' t' own ez brother,
An' ef he's happened to strike ile,
I dunno, fin'ly, but I'd ruther;
An' Paddies, long 'z they vote all right,
Though they ain't jest a nat'ral white,
I hold one on 'em good 'z another,
'Wut _is_ there lef I'd like to know,
Ef 'tain't the defference o' color,
To keep up self-respec' an' show 400
The human natur' of a fullah?
Wut good in bein' white, onless
It's fixed by law, nut lef' to guess,
We're a heap smarter an' they duller?
'Ef we're to hev our ekle rights,
'twun't du to 'low no competition;
Th' ole debt doo us for bein' whites
Ain't safe onless we stop th' emission
O' these noo notes, whose specie base
Is human natur', thout no trace 410
O' shape, nor color, nor condition.
'So fur I'd writ an' couldn' jedge
Aboard wut boat I'd best take pessige,
My brains all mincemeat, 'thout no edge
Upon 'em more than tu a sessige,
But now it seems ez though I see
Sunthin' resemblin' an idee,
Sence Johnson's speech an' veto message.
'I like the speech best, I confess,
The logic, preudence, an' good taste on 't; 420
An' it's so mad, I ruther guess
There's some dependence to be placed on 't; [Laughter.]
It's narrer, but 'twixt you an' me,
Out o' the allies o' J.D.
A temp'ry party can be based on 't.
'Jes' to hold on till Johnson's thru
An' dug his Presidential grave is,
An' _then!_--who knows but we could slew
The country roun' to put in----?
Wun't some folks rare up when we pull 430
Out o' their eyes our Union wool
An' larn 'em wut a p'lit'cle shave is!
'Oh, did it seem 'z ef Providunce
_Could_ ever send a second Tyler?
To see the South all back to once,
Reapin' the spiles o' the Free-siler,
Is cute ez though an ingineer
Should claim th' old iron for his sheer
Coz 'twas himself that bust the biler!'
Thet tells the story! Thet's wut we shall git 440
By tryin' squirtguns on the burnin' Pit;
For the day never comes when it'll du
To kick off Dooty like a worn-out shoe.
I seem to hear a whisperin' in the air,
A sighin' like, of unconsoled despair,
Thet comes from nowhere an' from everywhere,
An' seems to say, 'Why died we? warn't it, then,
To settle, once for all, thet men wuz men?
Oh, airth's sweet cup snetched from us barely tasted,
The grave's real chill is feelin' life wuz wasted! 450
Oh, you we lef', long-lingerin' et the door,
Lovin' you best, coz we loved Her the more,
Thet Death, not we, had conquered, we should feel
Ef she upon our memory turned her heel,
An' unregretful throwed us all away
To flaunt it in a Blind Man's Holiday!'
My frien's, I've talked nigh on to long enough.
I hain't no call to bore ye coz ye're tough;
My lungs are sound, an' our own v'ice delights
Our ears, but even kebbige-heads hez rights. 460
It's the las' time thet I shell e'er address ye,
But you'll soon fin' some new tormentor: bless ye!
[Tumult'ous applause and cries of 'Go on!' 'Don't stop!']
UNDER THE WILLOWS AND OTHER POEMS
TO CHARLES ELIOT NORTON
The wind is roistering out of doors,
My windows shake and my chimney roars;
My Elmwood chimneys seem crooning to me,
As of old, in their moody, minor key,
And out of the past the hoarse wind blows,
As I sit in my arm-chair, and toast my toes.
'Ho! ho! nine-and-forty,' they seem to sing,
'We saw you a little toddling thing.
We knew you child and youth and man,
A wonderful fellow to dream and plan,
With a great thing always to come,--who knows?
Well, well! 'tis some comfort to toast one's toes.
'How many times have you sat at gaze
Till the mouldering fire forgot to blaze,
Shaping among the whimsical coals
Fancies and figures and shining goals!
What matters the ashes that cover those?
While hickory lasts you can toast your toes.
'O dream-ship-builder: where are they all,
Your grand three-deckers, deep-chested and tall,
That should crush the waves under canvas piles,
And anchor at last by the Fortunate Isles?
There's gray in your beard, the years turn foes,
While you muse in your arm-chair, and toast your toes.'
I sit and dream that I hear, as of yore,
My Elmwood chimneys' deep-throated roar;
If much be gone, there is much remains;
By the embers of loss I count my gains,
You and yours with the best, till the old hope glows
In the fanciful flame, as I toast my toes.
Instead of a fleet of broad-browed ships,
To send a child's armada of chips!
Instead of the great gun, tier on tier,
A freight of pebbles and grass-blades sere!
'Well, maybe more love with the less gift goes,'
I growl, as, half moody, I toast my toes.
UNDER THE WILLOWS
Frank-hearted hostess of the field and wood,
Gypsy, whose roof is every spreading tree,
June is the pearl of our New England year.
Still a surprisal, though expected long.
Her coming startles. Long she lies in wait,
Makes many a feint, peeps forth, draws coyly back,
Then, from some southern ambush in the sky,
With one great gush of blossom storms the world.
A week ago the sparrow was divine;
The bluebird, shifting his light load of song 10
From post to post along the cheerless fence,
Was as a rhymer ere the poet come;
But now, oh rapture! sunshine winged and voiced,
Pipe blown through by the warm wild breath of the West
Shepherding his soft droves of fleecy cloud,
Gladness of woods, skies, waters, all in one,
The bobolink has come, and, like the soul
Of the sweet season vocal in a bird,
Gurgles in ecstasy we know not what
Save _June! Dear June! Now God be praised for June_. 20
May is a pious fraud of the almanac,
A ghastly parody of real Spring
Shaped out of snow and breathed with eastern wind;
Or if, o'er-confident, she trust the date,
And, with her handful of anemones,
Herself as shivery, steal into the sun,
The season need but turn his hour-glass round,
And Winter suddenly, like crazy Lear,
Reels back, and brings the dead May in his arms,
Her budding breasts and wan dislustred front 30
With frosty streaks and drifts of his white beard
All overblown. Then, warmly walled with books,
While my wood-fire supplies the sun's defect,
Whispering old forest-sagas in its dreams,
I take my May down from the happy shelf
Where perch the world's rare song-birds in a row,
Waiting my choice to open with full breast,
And beg an alms of springtime, ne'er denied
Indoors by vernal Chaucer, whose fresh woods
Throb thick with merle and mavis all the year. 40
July breathes hot, sallows the crispy fields,
Curls up the wan leaves of the lilac-hedge,
And every eve cheats us with show of clouds
That braze the horizon's western rim, or hang
Motionless, with heaped canvas drooping idly,
Like a dim fleet by starving men besieged,
Conjectured half, and half descried afar,
Helpless of wind, and seeming to slip back
Adown the smooth curve of the oily sea.
But June is full of invitations sweet, 50
Forth from the chimney's yawn and thrice-read tomes
To leisurely delights and sauntering thoughts
That brook no ceiling narrower than the blue.
The cherry, drest for bridal, at my pane
Brushes, then listens, _Will he come?_ The bee,
All dusty as a miller, takes his toll
Of powdery gold, and grumbles. What a day
To sun me and do nothing! Nay, I think
Merely to bask and ripen is sometimes
The student's wiser business; the brain 60
That forages all climes to line its cells,
Ranging both worlds on lightest wings of wish,
Will not distil the juices it has sucked
To the sweet substance of pellucid thought,
Except for him who hath the secret learned
To mix his blood with sunshine, and to take
The winds into his pulses. Hush! 'tis he!
My oriole, my glance of summer fire,
Is come at last, and, ever on the watch,
Twitches the packthread I had lightly wound 70
About the bough to help his housekeeping,--
Twitches and scouts by turns, blessing his luck,
Yet fearing me who laid it in his way,
Nor, more than wiser we in our affairs,
Divines the providence that hides and helps.
_Heave, ho! Heave, ho!_ he whistles as the twine
Slackens its hold; _once more, now!_ and a flash
Lightens across the sunlight to the elm
Where his mate dangles at her cup of felt.
Nor all his booty is the thread; he trails 80
My loosened thought with it along the air,
And I must follow, would I ever find
The inward rhyme to all this wealth of life.
I care not how men trace their ancestry,
To ape or Adam: let them please their whim;
But I in June am midway to believe
A tree among my far progenitors,
Such sympathy is mine with all the race,
Such mutual recognition vaguely sweet
There is between us. Surely there are times 90
When they consent to own me of their kin,
And condescend to me, and call me cousin,
Murmuring faint lullabies of eldest time,
Forgotten, and yet dumbly felt with thrills
Moving the lips, though fruitless of all words.
And I have many a lifelong leafy friend,
Never estranged nor careful of my soul,
That knows I hate the axe, and welcomes me
Within his tent as if I were a bird,
Or other free companion of the earth, 100
Yet undegenerate to the shifts of men.
Among them one, an ancient willow, spreads
Eight balanced limbs, springing at once all round
His deep-ridged trunk with upward slant diverse,
In outline like enormous beaker, fit
For hand of Jotun, where mid snow and mist
He holds unwieldy revel. This tree, spared,
I know not by what grace,--for in the blood
Of our New World subduers lingers yet
Hereditary feud with trees, they being 110
(They and the red-man most) our fathers' foes,--
Is one of six, a willow Pleiades,
The seventh fallen, that lean along the brink
Where the steep upland dips into the marsh,
Their roots, like molten metal cooled in flowing,
Stiffened in coils and runnels down the bank.
The friend of all the winds, wide-armed he towers
And glints his steely aglets in the sun,
Or whitens fitfully with sudden bloom
Of leaves breeze-lifted, much as when a shoal 120
Of devious minnows wheel from where a pike
Lurks balanced 'neath the lily-pads, and whirl
A rood of silver bellies to the day.
Alas! no acorn from the British oak
'Neath which slim fairies tripping wrought those rings
Of greenest emerald, wherewith fireside life
Did with the invisible spirit of Nature wed,
Was ever planted here! No darnel fancy
Might choke one useful blade in Puritan fields;
With horn and hoof the good old Devil came, 130
The witch's broomstick was not contraband,
But all that superstition had of fair,
Or piety of native sweet, was doomed.
And if there be who nurse unholy faiths,
Fearing their god as if he were a wolf
That snuffed round every home and was not seen,
There should be some to watch and keep alive
All beautiful beliefs. And such was that,--
By solitary shepherd first surmised
Under Thessalian oaks, loved by some maid 140
Of royal stirp, that silent came and vanished,
As near her nest the hermit thrush, nor dared
Confess a mortal name,--that faith which gave
A Hamadryed to each tree; and I
Will hold it true that in this willow dwells
The open-handed spirit, frank and blithe,
Of ancient Hospitality, long since,
With ceremonious thrift, bowed out of doors.
In June 'tis good to lie beneath a tree
While the blithe season comforts every sense, 150
Steeps all the brain in rest, and heals the heart,
Brimming it o'er with sweetness unawares,
Fragrant and silent as that rosy snow
Wherewith the pitying apple-tree fills up
And tenderly lines some last-year robin's nest.
There muse I of old times, old hopes, old friends,--
Old friends! The writing of those words has borne
My fancy backward to the gracious past,
The generous past, when all was possible.
For all was then untried; the years between 160
Have taught some sweet, some bitter lessons, none
Wiser than this,--to spend in all things else,
But of old friends to be most miserly.
Each year to ancient friendships adds a ring,
As to an oak, and precious more and more,
Without deservingness or help of ours,
They grow, and, silent, wider spread, each year,
Their unbought ring of shelter or of shade,
Sacred to me the lichens on the bark,
Which Nature's milliners would scrape away; 170
Most dear and sacred every withered limb!
'Tis good to set them early, for our faith
Pines as we age, and, after wrinkles come,
Few plant, but water dead ones with vain tears.
This willow is as old to me as life;
And under it full often have I stretched,
Feeling the warm earth like a thing alive,
And gathering virtue in at every pore
Till it possessed me wholly, and thought ceased,
Or was transfused in something to which thought 180
Is coarse and dull of sense. Myself was lost.
Gone from me like an ache, and what remained
Become a part of the universal joy.
My soul went forth, and, mingling with the tree,
Danced in the leaves; or, floating in the cloud,
Saw its white double in the stream below;
Or else, sublimed to purer ecstasy,
Dilated in the broad blue over all.
I was the wind that dappled the lush grass,
The tide that crept with coolness to its roots, 190
The thin-winged swallow skating on the air;
The life that gladdened everything was mine.
Was I then truly all that I beheld?
Or is this stream of being but a glass
Where the mind sees its visionary self,
As, when the kingfisher flits o'er his bay,
Across the river's hollow heaven below
His picture flits,--another, yet the same?
But suddenly the sound of human voice
Or footfall, like the drop a chemist pours, 200
Doth in opacous cloud precipitate
The consciousness that seemed but now dissolved
Into an essence rarer than its own.
And I am narrowed to myself once more.
For here not long is solitude secure,
Nor Fantasy left vacant to her spell.
Here, sometimes, in this paradise of shade,
Rippled with western winds, the dusty Tramp,
Seeing the treeless causey burn beyond,
Halts to unroll his bundle of strange food 210
And munch an unearned meal. I cannot help
Liking this creature, lavish Summer's bedesman,
Who from the almshouse steals when nights grow warm,
Himself his large estate and only charge,
To be the guest of haystack or of hedge,
Nobly superior to the household gear
That forfeits us our privilege of nature.
I bait him with my match-box and my pouch,
Nor grudge the uncostly sympathy of smoke,
His equal now, divinely unemployed. 220
Some smack of Robin Hood is in the man,
Some secret league with wild wood-wandering things;
He is our ragged Duke, our barefoot Earl,
By right of birth exonerate from toil,
Who levies rent from us his tenants all,
And serves the state by merely being. Here
The Scissors-grinder, pausing, doffs his hat,
And lets the kind breeze, with its delicate fan,
Winnow the heat from out his dank gray hair,--
A grimy Ulysses, a much-wandered man, 230
Whose feet are known to all the populous ways,
And many men and manners he hath seen,
Not without fruit of solitary thought.
He, as the habit is of lonely men,--
Unused to try the temper of their mind
In fence with others,--positive and shy,
Yet knows to put an edge upon his speech,
Pithily Saxon in unwilling talk.
Him I entrap with my long-suffering knife,
And, while its poor blade hums away in sparks, 240
Sharpen my wit upon his gritty mind,
In motion set obsequious to his wheel,
And in its quality not much unlike.
Nor wants my tree more punctual visitors.
The children, they who are the only rich,
Creating for the moment, and possessing
Whate'er they choose to feign,--for still with them
Kind Fancy plays the fairy godmother,
Strewing their lives with cheap material
For winged horses and Aladdin's lamps, 250
Pure elfin-gold, by manhood's touch profane
To dead leaves disenchanted,--long ago
Between the branches of the tree fixed seats,
Making an o'erturned box their table. Oft
The shrilling girls sit here between school hours,
And play at _What's my thought like?_ while the boys,
With whom the age chivalric ever bides,
Pricked on by knightly spur of female eyes,
Climb high to swing and shout on perilous boughs,
Or, from the willow's armory equipped 260
With musket dumb, green banner, edgeless sword,
Make good the rampart of their tree-redoubt
'Gainst eager British storming from below,
And keep alive the tale of Bunker's Hill.
Here, too, the men that mend our village ways,
Vexing Macadam's ghost with pounded slate,
Their nooning take; much noisy talk they spend
On horses and their ills; and, as John Bull
Tells of Lord This or That, who was his friend,
So these make boast of intimacies long 270
With famous teams, and add large estimates,
By competition swelled from mouth to mouth.
Of how much they could draw, till one, ill pleased
To have his legend overbid, retorts:
'You take and stretch truck-horses in a string
From here to Long Wharf end, one thing I know,
Not heavy neither, they could never draw,--
Ensign's long bow!' Then laughter loud and long.
So they in their leaf-shadowed microcosm
Image the larger world; for wheresoe'er 280
Ten men are gathered, the observant eye
Will find mankind in little, as the stars
Glide up and set, and all the heavens revolve
In the small welkin of a drop of dew.
I love to enter pleasure by a postern,
Not the broad popular gate that gulps the mob;
To find my theatres in roadside nooks,
Where men are actors, and suspect it not;
Where Nature all unconscious works her will,
And every passion moves with easy gait, 290
Unhampered by the buskin or the train.
Hating the crowd, where we gregarious men
Lead lonely lives, I love society,
Nor seldom find the best with simple souls
Unswerved by culture from their native bent,
The ground we meet on being primal man,
And nearer the deep bases of our lives.
But oh, half heavenly, earthly half, my soul,
Canst thou from those late ecstasies descend,
Thy lips still wet with the miraculous wine 300
That transubstantiates all thy baser stuff
To such divinity that soul and sense,
Once more commingled in their source, are lost,--
Canst thou descend to quench a vulgar thirst
With the mere dregs and rinsings of the world?
Well, if my nature find her pleasure so,
I am content, nor need to blush; I take
My little gift of being clean from God,
Not haggling for a better, holding it
Good as was ever any in the world, 310
My days as good and full of miracle.
I pluck my nutriment from any bush,
Finding out poison as the first men did
By tasting and then suffering, if I must.
Sometimes my bush burns, and sometimes it is
A leafless wilding shivering by the wall;
But I have known when winter barberries
Pricked the effeminate palate with surprise
Of savor whose mere harshness seemed divine.
Oh, benediction of the higher mood 320
And human-kindness of the lower! for both
I will be grateful while I live, nor question
The wisdom that hath made us what we are,
With such large range as from the ale-house bench
Can reach the stars and be with both at home.
They tell us we have fallen on prosy days,
Condemned to glean the leavings of earth's feast
Where gods and heroes took delight of old;
But though our lives, moving in one dull round
Of repetition infinite, become 330
Stale as a newspaper once read, and though
History herself, seen in her workshop, seem
To have lost the art that dyed those glorious panes,
Rich with memorial shapes of saint and sage,
That pave with splendor the Past's dusky aisles,--
Panes that enchant the light of common day
With colors costly as the blood of kings,
Till with ideal hues it edge our thought,--
Yet while the world is left, while nature lasts,
And man the best of nature, there shall be 340
Somewhere contentment for these human hearts,
Some freshness, some unused material
For wonder and for song. I lose myself
In other ways where solemn guide-posts say,
_This way to Knowledge, This way to Repose_,
But here, here only, I am ne'er betrayed,
For every by-path leads me to my love.
God's passionless reformers, influences,
That purify and heal and are not seen,
Shall man say whence your virtue is, or how 350
Ye make medicinal the wayside weed?
I know that sunshine, through whatever rift,
How shaped it matters not, upon my walls
Paints discs as perfect-rounded as its source,
And, like its antitype, the ray divine,
However finding entrance, perfect still,
Repeats the image unimpaired of God.
We, who by shipwreck only find the shores
Of divine wisdom, can but kneel at first;
Can but exult to feel beneath our feet, 360
That long stretched vainly down the yielding deeps,
The shock and sustenance of solid earth;
Inland afar we see what temples gleam
Through immemorial stems of sacred groves,
And we conjecture shining shapes therein;
Yet for a space we love to wander here
Among the shells and seaweed of the beach.
So mused I once within my willow-tent
One brave June morning, when the bluff northwest,
Thrusting aside a dank and snuffling day 370
That made us bitter at our neighbors' sins,
Brimmed the great cup of heaven with sparkling cheer
And roared a lusty stave; the sliding Charles,
Blue toward the west, and bluer and more blue,
Living and lustrous as a woman's eyes
Look once and look no more, with southward curve
Ran crinkling sunniness, like Helen's hair
Glimpsed in Elysium, insubstantial gold;
From blossom-clouded orchards, far away
The bobolink tinkled; the deep meadows flowed 380
With multitudinous pulse of light and shade
Against the bases of the southern hills,
While here and there a drowsy island rick
Slept and its shadow slept; the wooden bridge
Thundered, and then was silent; on the roofs
The sun-warped shingles rippled with the heat;
Summer on field and hill, in heart and brain,
All life washed clean in this high tide of June.
When Persia's sceptre trembled in a hand
Wilted with harem-heats, and all the land
Was hovered over by those vulture ills
That snuff decaying empire from afar,
Then, with a nature balanced as a star,
Dara arose, a shepherd of the hills.
He who had governed fleecy subjects well
Made his own village by the selfsame spell
Secure and quiet as a guarded fold;
Then, gathering strength by slow and wise degrees 10
Under his sway, to neighbor villages
Order returned, and faith and justice old.
Now when it fortuned that a king more wise
Endued the realm with brain and hands and eyes,
He sought on every side men brave and just;
And having heard our mountain shepherd's praise,
How he refilled the mould of elder days,
To Dara gave a satrapy in trust.
So Dara shepherded a province wide,
Nor in his viceroy's sceptre took more pride 20
Than in his crook before; but envy finds
More food in cities than on mountains bare;
And the frank sun of natures clear and rare
Breeds poisonous fogs in low and marish minds.
Soon it was hissed into the royal ear,
That, though wise Dara's province, year by year,
Like a great sponge, sucked wealth and plenty up,
Yet, when he squeezed it at the king's behest,
Some yellow drops, more rich than all the rest,
Went to the filling of his private cup. 30
For proof, they said, that, wheresoe'er he went,
A chest, beneath whose weight the camel bent,
Went with him; and no mortal eye had seen
What was therein, save only Dara's own;
But, when 'twas opened, all his tent was known
To glow and lighten with heaped jewels' sheen.
The King set forth for Dara's province straight;
There, as was fit, outside the city's gate,
The viceroy met him with a stately train,
And there, with archers circled, close at hand, 40
A camel with the chest was seen to stand:
The King's brow reddened, for the guilt was plain.
'Open me here,' he cried, 'this treasure-chest!'
'Twas done; and only a worn shepherd's vest
Was found therein. Some blushed and hung the head;
Not Dara; open as the sky's blue roof
He stood, and 'O my lord, behold the proof
That I was faithful to my trust,' he said.
'To govern men, lo all the spell I had!'
My soul in these rude vestments ever clad 50
Still to the unstained past kept true and leal,
Still on these plains could breathe her mountain air,
And fortune's heaviest gifts serenely bear,
Which bend men from their truth and make them reel.
'For ruling wisely I should have small skill,
Were I not lord of simple Dara still;
That sceptre kept, I could not lose my way.'
Strange dew in royal eyes grew round and bright,
And strained the throbbing lids; before 'twas night
Two added provinces blest Dara's sway. 60
THE FIRST SNOW-FALL
The snow had begun in the gloaming,
And busily all the night
Had been heaping field and highway
With a silence deep and white.
Every pine and fir and hemlock
Wore ermine too dear for an earl,
And the poorest twig on the elm-tree
Was ridged inch deep with pearl.
From sheds new-roofed with Carrara
Came Chanticleer's muffled crow,
The stiff rails softened to swan's-down,
And still fluttered down the snow.
I stood and watched by the window
The noiseless work of the sky,
And the sudden flurries of snowbirds,
Like brown leaves whirling by.
I thought of a mound in sweet Auburn
Where a little headstone stood;
How the flakes were folding it gently,
As did robins the babes in the wood.
Up spoke our own little Mabel,
Saying, 'Father, who makes it snow?'
And I told of the good All-father
Who cares for us here below.
Again I looked at the snow-fall,
And thought of the leaden sky
That arched o'er our first great sorrow,
When that mound was heaped so high.
I remembered the gradual patience
That fell from that cloud like snow,
Flake by flake, healing and hiding
The scar that renewed our woe.
And again to the child I whispered,
'The snow that husheth all,
Darling, the merciful Father
Alone can make it fall!'
Then, with eyes that saw not, I kissed her:
And she, kissing back, could not know
That _my_ kiss was given to her sister,
Folded close under deepening snow.
THE SINGING LEAVES
'What fairings will ye that I bring?'
Said the King to his daughters three;
'For I to Vanity Fair am bound,
Now say what shall they be?'
Then up and spake the eldest daughter,
That lady tall and grand:
'Oh, bring me pearls and diamonds great,
And gold rings for my hand.'
Thereafter spake the second daughter,
That was both white and red: 10
'For me bring silks that will stand alone,
And a gold comb for my head.'
Then came the turn of the least daughter,
That was whiter than thistle-down,
And among the gold of her blithesome hair
Dim shone the golden crown.
'There came a bird this morning,
And sang 'neath my bower eaves,
Till I dreamed, as his music made me,
"Ask thou for the Singing Leaves."' 20
Then the brow of the King swelled crimson
With a flush of angry scorn:
'Well have ye spoken, my two eldest,
And chosen as ye were born;
'But she, like a thing of peasant race,
That is happy binding the sheaves;'
Then he saw her dead mother in her face,
And said, 'Thou shalt have thy leaves.'
He mounted and rode three days and nights
Till he came to Vanity Fair, 30
And 'twas easy to buy the gems and the silk,
But no Singing Leaves were there.
Then deep in the greenwood rode he,
And asked of every tree,
'Oh, if you have ever a Singing Leaf,
I pray you give it me!'
But the trees all kept their counsel,
And never a word said they,
Only there sighed from the pine-tops
A music of seas far away. 40
Only the pattering aspen
Made a sound of growing rain,
That fell ever faster and faster,
Then faltered to silence again.
'Oh, where shall I find a little foot-page
That would win both hose and shoon,
And will bring to me the Singing Leaves
If they grow under the moon?'
Then lightly turned him Walter the page,
By the stirrup as he ran: 50
'Now pledge you me the truesome word
Of a king and gentleman,
'That you will give me the first, first thing
You meet at your castle-gate,
And the Princess shall get the Singing Leaves,
Or mine be a traitor's fate.'
The King's head dropt upon his breast
A moment, as it might be;
'Twill be my dog, he thought, and said,
'My faith I plight to thee.' 60
Then Walter took from next his heart
A packet small and thin,
'Now give you this to the Princess Anne,
The Singing Leaves are therein.'
As the King rode in at his castle-gate,
A maiden to meet him ran,
And 'Welcome, father!' she laughed and cried
Together, the Princess Anne.
'Lo, here the Singing Leaves,' quoth he,
'And woe, but they cost me dear!' 70
She took the packet, and the smile
Deepened down beneath the tear.
It deepened down till it reached her heart,
And then gushed up again,
And lighted her tears as the sudden sun
Transfigures the summer rain.
And the first Leaf, when it was opened,
Sang: 'I am Walter the page,
And the songs I sing 'neath thy window
Are my only heritage.' 80
And the second Leaf sang: 'But in the land
That is neither on earth nor sea,
My lute and I are lords of more
Than thrice this kingdom's fee.'
And the third Leaf sang, 'Be mine! Be mine!'
And ever it sang, 'Be mine!'
Then sweeter it sang and ever sweeter,
And said, 'I am thine, thine, thine!'
At the first Leaf she grew pale enough,
At the second she turned aside, 90
At the third, 'twas as if a lily flushed
With a rose's red heart's tide.
'Good counsel gave the bird,' said she,
'I have my hope thrice o'er,
For they sing to my very heart,' she said,
'And it sings to them evermore.'
She brought to him her beauty and truth,
But and broad earldoms three,
And he made her queen of the broader lands
He held of his lute in fee. 100
Not always unimpeded can I pray,
Nor, pitying saint, thine intercession claim;
Too closely clings the burden of the day,
And all the mint and anise that I pay
But swells my debt and deepens my self-blame.
Shall I less patience have than Thou, who know
That Thou revisit'st all who wait for thee,
Nor only fill'st the unsounded deeps below,
But dost refresh with punctual overflow
The rifts where unregarded mosses be?
The drooping seaweed hears, in night abyssed,
Far and more far the wave's receding shocks,
Nor doubts, for all the darkness and the mist,
That the pale shepherdess will keep her tryst,
And shoreward lead again her foam-fleeced flocks.
For the same wave that rims the Carib shore
With momentary brede of pearl and gold,
Goes hurrying thence to gladden with its roar
Lorn weeds bound fast on rocks of Labrador,
By love divine on one sweet errand rolled.
And, though Thy healing waters far withdraw,
I, too, can wait and feed on hope of Thee
And of the dear recurrence of Thy law,
Sure that the parting grace my morning saw
Abides its time to come in search of me.
THE FINDING OF THE LYRE
There lay upon the ocean's shore
What once a tortoise served to cover;
A year and more, with rush and roar,
The surf had rolled it over,
Had played with it, and flung it by,
As wind and weather might decide it,
Then tossed it high where sand-drifts dry
Cheap burial might provide it.
It rested there to bleach or tan,
The rains had soaked, the suns had burned it;
With many a ban the fisherman
Had stumbled o'er and spurned it;
And there the fisher-girl would stay,
Conjecturing with her brother
How in their play the poor estray
Might serve some use or other.
So there it lay, through wet and dry
As empty as the last new sonnet,
Till by and by came Mercury,
And, having mused upon it,
'Why, here,' cried he, 'the thing of things
In shape, material, and dimension!
Give it but strings, and, lo, it sings,
A wonderful invention!'
So said, so done; the chords he strained,
And, as his fingers o'er them hovered,
The shell disdained a soul had gained,
The lyre had been discovered.
O empty world that round us lies,
Dead shell, of soul and thought forsaken,
Brought we but eyes like Mercury's,
In thee what songs should waken!
NEW-YEAR'S EVE, 1850
This is the midnight of the century,--hark!
Through aisle and arch of Godminster have gone
Twelve throbs that tolled the zenith of the dark,
And mornward now the starry hands move on;
'Mornward!' the angelic watchers say,
'Passed is the sorest trial;
No plot of man can stay
The hand upon the dial;
Night is the dark stem of the lily Day.'
If we, who watched in valleys here below,
Toward streaks, misdeemed of morn, our faces turned
When volcan glares set all the east aglow,
We are not poorer that we wept and yearned;
Though earth swing wide from God's intent,
And though no man nor nation
Will move with full consent
In heavenly gravitation,
Yet by one Sun is every orbit bent.
FOR AN AUTOGRAPH
Though old the thought and oft exprest,
'Tis his at last who says it best,--
I'll try my fortune with the rest.
Life is a leaf of paper white
Whereon each one of us may write
His word or two, and then comes night.
'Lo, time and space enough,' we cry,
'To write an epic!' so we try
Our nibs upon the edge, and die.
Muse not which way the pen to hold,
Luck hates the slow and loves the bold,
Soon come the darkness and the cold.
Greatly begin! though thou have time
But for a line, be that sublime,--
Not failure, but low aim, is crime.
Ah, with what lofty hope we came!
But we forget it, dream of fame,
And scrawl, as I do here, a name.
The dandelions and buttercups
Gild all the lawn; the drowsy bee
Stumbles among the clover-tops,
And summer sweetens all but me:
Away, unfruitful lore of books,
For whose vain idiom we reject
The soul's more native dialect,
Aliens among the birds and brooks,
Dull to interpret or conceive
What gospels lost the woods retrieve! 10
Away, ye critics, city-bred,
Who springes set of thus and so,
And in the first man's footsteps tread,
Like those who toil through drifted snow!
Away, my poets, whose sweet spell
Can make a garden of a cell!
I need ye not, for I to-day
Will make one long sweet verse of play.
Snap, chord of manhood's tenser strain!
To-day I will be a boy again; 20
The mind's pursuing element,
Like a bow slackened and unbent,