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The Complete Poetical Works of James Russell Lowell by James Lowell

Part 14 out of 21

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Could vision be clearer? 120
Half I'm fain to draw nearer
Half tempted to flee it;
The sleeping Past wake not,
One forward step take not,
Ah! break not
That quietude rare!
By my step unaffrighted
A thrush hops before it,
And o'er it 130
A birch hangs delighted,
Dipping, dipping, dipping its tremulous hair;
Pure as the fountain, once
I came to the place,
(How dare I draw nearer?)
I bent o'er its mirror,
And saw a child's face
Mid locks of bright gold in it;
Yes, pure as this fountain once,--
Since, bow much error! 140
Too holy a mirror
For the man to behold in it
His harsh, bearded countenance!


'Tis a woodland enchanted!
Ah, fly unreturning!
Yet stay;--
'Tis a woodland enchanted,
Where wonderful chances
Have sway;
Luck flees from the cold one, 150
But leaps to the bold one
Why should I be daunted?
Still the smooth mirror glances,
Still the amber sand dances,
One look,--then away!
O magical glass!
Canst keep in thy bosom
Shades of leaf and of blossom
When summer days pass, 160
So that when thy wave hardens
It shapes as it pleases,
Unharmed by the breezes,
Its fine hanging gardens?
Hast those in thy keeping.
And canst not uncover,
Enchantedly sleeping,
The old shade of thy lover?
It is there! I have found it!
He wakes, the long sleeper! 170
The pool is grown deeper,
The sand dance is ending,
The white floor sinks, blending
With skies that below me
Are deepening and bending,
And a child's face alone
That seems not to know me,
With hair that fades golden
In the heaven-glow round it,
Looks up at my own; 180
Ah, glimpse through the portal
That leads to the throne,
That opes the child's olden
Regions Elysian!
Ah, too holy vision
For thy skirts to be holden
By soiled hand of mortal!
It wavers, it scatters,
'Tis gone past recalling!
A tear's sudden falling 190
The magic cup shatters,
Breaks the spell of the waters,
And the sand cone once more,
With a ceaseless renewing,
Its dance is pursuing
On the silvery floor,
O'er and o'er,
With a noiseless and ceaseless renewing.


'Tis a woodland enchanted!
If you ask me, _Where is it?_ 200
I can but make answer,
''Tis past my disclosing;'
Not to choice is it granted
By sure paths to visit
The still pool enclosing
Its blithe little dancer;
But in some day, the rarest
Of many Septembers,
When the pulses of air rest,
And all things lie dreaming 210
In drowsy haze steaming
From the wood's glowing embers,
Then, sometimes, unheeding,
And asking not whither,
By a sweet inward leading
My feet are drawn thither,
And, looking with awe in the magical mirror,
I see through my tears,
Half doubtful of seeing,
The face unperverted, 220
The warm golden being
Of a child of five years;
And spite of the mists and the error.
And the days overcast,
Can feel that I walk undeserted,
But forever attended
By the glad heavens that bended
O'er the innocent past;
Toward fancy or truth
Doth the sweet vision win me? 230
Dare I think that I cast
In the fountain of youth
The fleeting reflection
Of some bygone perfection
That still lingers in me?


A stranger came one night to Yussouf's tent,
Saying, 'Behold one outcast and in dread,
Against whose life the bow of power is bent,
Who flies, and hath not where to lay his head;
I come to thee for shelter and for food,
To Yussouf, called through all our tribes "The Good."

'This tent is mine,' said Yussouf, 'but no more
Than it is God's come in and be at peace;
Freely shall thou partake of all my store
As I of His who buildeth over these
Our tents his glorious roof of night and day,
And at whose door none ever yet heard Nay.'

So Yussouf entertained his guest that night,
And, waking him ere day, said: 'Here is gold;
My swiftest horse is saddled for thy flight;
Depart before the prying day grow bold.'
As one lamp lights another, nor grows less,
So nobleness enkindleth nobleness.

That inward light the stranger's face made grand,
Which shines from all self-conquest; kneeling low,
He bowed his forehead upon Yussouf's hand,
Sobbing: 'O Sheik, I cannot leave thee so;
I will repay thee; all this thou hast done
Unto that Ibrahim who slew thy son!'

'Take thrice the gold,' said Yussouf 'for with thee
Into the desert, never to return,
My one black thought shall ride away from me;
First-born, for whom by day and night I yearn,
Balanced and just are all of God's decrees;
Thou art avenged, my first-born, sleep in peace!'


The fire is turning clear and blithely,
Pleasantly whistles the winter wind;
We are about thee, thy friends and kindred,
On us all flickers the firelight kind;
There thou sittest in thy wonted corner
Lone and awful in thy darkened mind.

There thou sittest; now and then thou moanest;
Thou dost talk with what we cannot see,
Lookest at us with an eye so doubtful,
It doth put us very far from thee;
There thou sittest; we would fain be nigh thee,
But we know that it can never be.

We can touch thee, still we are no nearer;
Gather round thee, still thou art alone;
The wide chasm of reason is between us;
Thou confutest kindness with a moan;
We can speak to thee, and thou canst answer,
Like two prisoners through a wall of stone.

Hardest heart would call it very awful
When thou look'st at us and seest--oh, what?
If we move away, thou sittest gazing
With those vague eyes at the selfsame spot,
And thou mutterest, thy hands thou wringest,
Seeing something,--us thou seest not.

Strange it is that, in this open brightness,
Thou shouldst sit in such a narrow cell;
Strange it is that thou shouldst be so lonesome
Where those are who love thee all so well;
Not so much of thee is left among us
As the hum outliving the hushed bell.


Rabbi Jehosha used to say
That God made angels every day,
Perfect as Michael and the rest
First brooded in creation's nest,
Whose only office was to cry
_Hosanna!_ once, and then to die;
Or rather, with Life's essence blent,
To be led home from banishment.

Rabbi Jehosha had the skill
To know that Heaven is in God's will;
And doing that, though for a space
One heart-beat long, may win a grace
As full of grandeur and of glow
As Princes of the Chariot know.

'Twere glorious, no doubt, to be
One of the strong-winged Hierarchy,
To burn with Seraphs, or to shine
With Cherubs, deathlessly divine;
Yet I, perhaps, poor earthly clod,
Could I forget myself in God,
Could I but find my nature's clue
Simply as birds and blossoms do,
And but for one rapt moment know
'Tis Heaven must come, not we must go,
Should win my place as near the throne
As the pearl-angel of its zone.
And God would listen mid the throng
For my one breath of perfect song,
That, in its simple human way,
Said all the Host of Heaven could say.


One feast, of holy days the crest,
I, though no Churchman, love to keep,
All-Saints,--the unknown good that rest
In God's still memory folded deep;
The bravely dumb that did their deed,
And scorned to blot it with a name,
Men of the plain heroic breed,
That loved Heaven's silence more than fame.

Such lived not in the past alone,
But thread to-day the unheeding street,
And stairs to Sin and Famine known
Sing with the welcome of their feet;
The den they enter grows a shrine,
The grimy sash an oriel burns,
Their cup of water warms like wine,
Their speech is filled from heavenly urns.

About their brows to me appears
An aureole traced in tenderest light,
The rainbow-gleam of smiles through tears
In dying eyes, by them made bright,
Of souls that shivered on the edge
Of that chill ford repassed no more,
And in their mercy felt the pledge
And sweetness of the farther shore.



Beauty on my hearth-stone blazing!
To-night the triple Zoroaster
Shall my prophet be and master;
To-night will I pure Magian be,
Hymns to thy sole honor raising,
While thou leapest fast and faster,
Wild with self-delighted glee,
Or sink'st low and glowest faintly
As an aureole still and saintly,
Keeping cadence to my praising 10
Thee! still thee! and only thee!


Elfish daughter of Apollo!
Thee, from thy father stolen and bound
To serve in Vulcan's clangorous smithy,
Prometheus (primal Yankee) found,
And, when he had tampered with thee,
(Too confiding little maid!)
In a reed's precarious hollow
To our frozen earth conveyed:
For he swore I know not what; 20
Endless ease should be thy lot,
Pleasure that should never falter,
Lifelong play, and not a duty
Save to hover o'er the altar,
Vision of celestial beauty,
Fed with precious woods and spices;
Then, perfidious! having got
Thee in the net of his devices,
Sold thee into endless slavery,
Made thee a drudge to boil the pot, 30
Thee, Helios' daughter, who dost bear
His likeness in thy golden hair;
Thee, by nature wild and wavery,
Palpitating, evanescent
As the shade of Dian's crescent,
Life, motion, gladness, everywhere!


Fathom deep men bury thee
In the furnace dark and still.
There, with dreariest mockery, 39
Making thee eat, against thy will,
Blackest Pennsylvanian stone;
But thou dost avenge thy doom,
For, from out thy catacomb,
Day and night thy wrath is blown
In a withering simoom,
And, adown that cavern drear,
Thy black pitfall in the floor,
Staggers the lusty antique cheer,
Despairing, and is seen no more!


Elfish I may rightly name thee; 50
We enslave, but cannot tame thee;
With fierce snatches, now and then,
Thou pluckest at thy right again,
And thy down-trod instincts savage
To stealthy insurrection creep
While thy wittol masters sleep,
And burst in undiscerning ravage:
Then how thou shak'st thy bacchant locks!
While brazen pulses, far and near,
Throb thick and thicker, wild with fear 60
And dread conjecture, till the drear
Disordered clangor every steeple rocks!


But when we make a friend of thee,
And admit thee to the hall
On our nights of festival,
Then, Cinderella, who could see
In thee the kitchen's stunted thrall?
Once more a Princess lithe and tan,
Thou dancest with a whispering tread,
While the bright marvel of thy head 70
In crinkling gold floats all abroad,
And gloriously dost vindicate
The legend of thy lineage great,
Earth-exiled daughter of the Pythian god!
Now in the ample chimney-place,
To honor thy acknowledged race,
We crown thee high with laurel good,
Thy shining father's sacred wood,
Which, guessing thy ancestral right,
Sparkles and snaps its dumb delight, 80
And, at thy touch, poor outcast one,
Feels through its gladdened fibres go
The tingle and thrill and vassal glow
Of instincts loyal to the sun.


O thou of home the guardian Lar,
And, when our earth hath wandered far,
Into the cold, and deep snow covers
The walks of our New England lovers,
Their sweet secluded evening-star!
'Twas with thy rays the English Muse 90
Ripened her mild domestic hues;
'Twas by thy flicker that she conned
The fireside wisdom that enrings
With light from heaven familiar things;
By thee she found the homely faith
In whose mild eyes thy comfort stay'th
When Death, extinguishing his torch,
Gropes for the latch-string in the porch;
The love that wanders not beyond
His earliest nest, but sits and sings 100
While children smooth his patient wings;
Therefore with thee I love to read
Our brave old poets; at thy touch how stirs
Life in the withered words: how swift recede
Time's shadows; and how glows again
Through its dead mass the incandescent verse,
As when upon the anvils of the brain
It glittering lay, cyclopically wrought
By the fast-throbbing hammers of the poet's thought!
Thou murmurest, too, divinely stirred, 110
The aspirations unattained,
The rhythms so rathe and delicate,
They bent and strained
And broke, beneath the sombre weight
Of any airiest mortal word.


What warm protection dost thou bend
Round curtained talk of friend with friend,
While the gray snow-storm, held aloof,
To softest outline rounds the roof,
Or the rude North with baffled strain 120
Shoulders the frost-starred window-pane!
Now the kind nymph to Bacchus born
By Morpheus' daughter, she that seems
Gifted opon her natal morn
By him with fire, by her with dreams,
Nicotia, dearer to the Muse
Than all the grape's bewildering juice,
We worship, unforbid of thee;
And, as her incense floats and curls
In airy spires and wayward whirls, 130
Or poises on its tremulous stalk
A flower of frailest revery,
So winds and loiters, idly free,
The current of unguided talk,
Now laughter-rippled, and now caught
In smooth, dark pools of deeper thought.
Meanwhile thou mellowest every word,
A sweetly unobtrusive third;
For thou hast magic beyond wine,
To unlock natures each to each; 140
The unspoken thought thou canst divine;
Thou fill'st the pauses of the speech
With whispers that to dream-land reach
And frozen fancy-springs unchain
In Arctic outskirts of the brain:
Sun of all inmost confidences,
To thy rays doth the heart unclose
Its formal calyx of pretences,
That close against rude day's offences,
And open its shy midnight rose! 150


Thou holdest not the master key
With which thy Sire sets free the mystic gates
Of Past and Future: not for common fates
Do they wide open fling,
And, with a far heard ring,
Swing back their willing valves melodiously;
Only to ceremonial days,
And great processions of imperial song
That set the world at gaze,
Doth such high privilege belong; 160
But thou a postern-door canst ope
To humbler chambers of the selfsame palace
Where Memory lodges, and her sister Hope,
Whose being is but as a crystal chalice
Which, with her various mood, the elder fills
Of joy or sorrow,
So coloring as she wills
With hues of yesterday the unconscious morrow.


Thou sinkest, and my fancy sinks with thee:
For thee I took the idle shell, 170
And struck the unused chords again,
But they are gone who listened well;
Some are in heaven, and all are far from me:
Even as I sing, it turns to pain,
And with vain tears my eyelids throb and swell:
Enough; I come not of the race
That hawk their sorrows in the market-place.
Earth stops the ears I best had loved to please;
Then break, ye untuned chords, or rust in peace!
As if a white-haired actor should come back 180
Some midnight to the theatre void and black,
And there rehearse his youth's great part
Mid thin applauses of the ghosts.
So seems it now: ye crowd upon my heart,
And I bow down in silence, shadowy hosts!


How struggles with the tempest's swells
That warning of tumultuous bells!
The fire is loose! and frantic knells
Throb fast and faster,
As tower to tower confusedly tells
News of disaster.

But on my far-off solitude
No harsh alarums can intrude;
The terror comes to me subdued
And charmed by distance,
To deepen the habitual mood
Of my existence.

Are those, I muse, the Easter chimes?
And listen, weaving careless rhymes
While the loud city's griefs and crimes
Pay gentle allegiance
To the fine quiet that sublimes
These dreamy regions.

And when the storm o'erwhelms the shore,
I watch entranced as, o'er and o'er,
The light revolves amid the roar
So still and saintly,
Now large and near, now more and more
Withdrawing faintly.

This, too, despairing sailors see
Flash out the breakers 'neath their lee
In sudden snow, then lingeringly
Wane tow'rd eclipse,
While through the dark the shuddering sea
Gropes for the ships.

And is it right, this mood of mind
That thus, in revery enshrined,
Can in the world mere topics find
For musing stricture,
Seeing the life of humankind
Only as picture?

The events in line of battle go;
In vain for me their trumpets blow
As unto him that lieth low
In death's dark arches,
And through the sod hears throbbing slow
The muffled marches.

O Duty, am I dead to thee
In this my cloistered ecstasy,
In this lone shallop on the sea
That drifts tow'rd Silence?
And are those visioned shores I see
But sirens' islands?

My Dante frowns with lip-locked mien,
As who would say, ''Tis those, I ween,
Whom lifelong armor-chafe makes lean
That win the laurel;'
But where _is_ Truth? What does it mean,
The world-old quarrel?

Such questionings are idle air:
Leave what to do and what to spare
To the inspiring moment's care,
Nor ask for payment
Of fame or gold, but just to wear
Unspotted raiment.



Fit for an Abbot of Theleme,
For the whole Cardinals' College, or
The Pope himself to see in dream
Before his lenten vision gleam.
He lies there, the sogdologer!

His precious flanks with stars besprent,
Worthy to swim in Castaly!
The friend by whom such gifts are sent,
For him shall bumpers full be spent,
His health! be Luck his fast ally!

I see him trace the wayward brook
Amid the forest mysteries,
Where at their shades shy aspens look.
Or where, with many a gurgling crook,
It croons its woodland histories.

I see leaf-shade and sun-fleck lend
Their tremulous, sweet vicissitude
To smooth, dark pool, to crinkling bend,--
(Oh, stew him, Ann, as 'twere your friend,
With amorous solicitude!)

I see him step with caution due,
Soft as if shod with moccasins,
Grave as in church, for who plies you,
Sweet craft, is safe as in a pew
From all our common stock o' sins.

The unerring fly I see him cast,
That as a rose-leaf falls as soft,
A flash! a whirl! he has him fast!
We tyros, how that struggle last
Confuses and appalls us oft.

Unfluttered he: calm as the sky
Looks on our tragi-comedies,
This way and that he lets him fly,
A sunbeam-shuttle, then to die
Lands him, with cool _aplomb_, at ease.

The friend who gave our board such gust,
Life's care may he o'erstep it half,
And, when Death hooks him, as he must,
He'll do it handsomely, I trust,
And John H---- write his epitaph!

Oh, born beneath the Fishes' sign,
Of constellations happiest,
May he somewhere with Walton dine,
May Horace send him Massic wine,
And Burns Scotch drink, the nappiest!

And when they come his deeds to weigh,
And how he used the talents his,
One trout-scale in the scales he'll lay
(If trout had scales), and 'twill outsway
The wrong side of the balances.


Spirit, that rarely comest now
And only to contrast my gloom,
Like rainbow-feathered birds that bloom
A moment on some autumn bough
That, with the spurn of their farewell
Sheds its last leaves,--thou once didst dwell
With me year-long, and make intense
To boyhood's wisely vacant days
Their fleet but all-sufficing grace
Of trustful inexperience, 10
While soul could still transfigure sense,
And thrill, as with love's first caress,
At life's mere unexpectedness.
Days when my blood would leap and run
As full of sunshine as a breeze,
Or spray tossed up by Summer seas
That doubts if it be sea or sun!
Days that flew swiftly like the band
That played in Grecian games at strife,
And passed from eager hand to hand 20
The onward-dancing torch of life!

Wing-footed! thou abid'st with him
Who asks it not; but he who hath
Watched o'er the waves thy waning path,
Shall nevermore behold returning
Thy high-heaped canvas shoreward yearning!
Thou first reveal'st to us thy face
Turned o'er the shoulder's parting grace,
A moment glimpsed, then seen no more,--
Thou whose swift footsteps we can trace 30
Away from every mortal door.

Nymph of the unreturning feet,
How may I win thee back? But no,
I do thee wrong to call thee so;
'Tis I am changed, not thou art fleet:
The man thy presence feels again,
Not in the blood, but in the brain,
Spirit, that lov'st the upper air
Serene and passionless and rare,
Such as on mountain heights we find 40
And wide-viewed uplands of the mind;
Or such as scorns to coil and sing
Round any but the eagle's wing
Of souls that with long upward beat
Have won an undisturbed retreat
Where, poised like winged victories,
They mirror in relentless eyes.
The life broad-basking 'neath their feet,--
Man ever with his Now at strife,
Pained with first gasps of earthly air, 50
Then praying Death the last to spare,
Still fearful of the ampler life.

Not unto them dost thou consent
Who, passionless, can lead at ease
A life of unalloyed content,
A life like that of land-locked seas,
Who feel no elemental gush
Of tidal forces, no fierce rush
Of storm deep-grasping scarcely spent
'Twixt continent and continent. 60
Such quiet souls have never known
Thy truer inspiration, thou
Who lov'st to feel upon thy brow
Spray from the plunging vessel thrown
Grazing the tusked lee shore, the cliff
That o'er the abrupt gorge holds its breath,
Where the frail hair-breadth of an _if_
Is all that sunders life and death:
These, too, are cared for, and round these
Bends her mild crook thy sister Peace; 70
These in unvexed dependence lie,
Each 'neath his strip of household sky;
O'er these clouds wander, and the blue
Hangs motionless the whole day through;
Stars rise for them, and moons grow large
And lessen in such tranquil wise
As joys and sorrows do that rise
Within their nature's sheltered marge;
Their hours into each other flit
Like the leaf-shadows of the vine 80
And fig-tree under which they sit,
And their still lives to heaven incline
With an unconscious habitude,
Unhistoried as smokes that rise
From happy hearths and sight elude
In kindred blue of morning skies.

Wayward! when once we feel thy lack,
'Tis worse than vain to woo thee back!
Yet there is one who seems to be
Thine elder sister, in whose eyes 90
A faint far northern light will rise
Sometimes, and bring a dream of thee;
She is not that for which youth hoped,
But she hath blessings all her own,
Thoughts pure as lilies newly oped,
And faith to sorrow given alone:
Almost I deem that it is thou
Come back with graver matron brow,
With deepened eyes and bated breath,
Like one that somewhere hath met Death: 100
But 'No,' she answers, 'I am she
Whom the gods love, Tranquillity;
That other whom you seek forlorn
Half earthly was; but I am born
Of the immortals, and our race
Wears still some sadness on its face:
He wins me late, but keeps me long,
Who, dowered with every gift of passion,
In that fierce flame can forge and fashion
Of sin and self the anchor strong; 110
Can thence compel the driving force
Of daily life's mechanic course,
Nor less the nobler energies
Of needful toil and culture wise;
Whose soul is worth the tempter's lure,
Who can renounce, and yet endure,
To him I come, not lightly wooed,
But won by silent fortitude.'



Wait a little: do _we_ not wait?
Louis Napoleon is not Fate,
Francis Joseph is not Time;
There's One hath swifter feet than Crime;
Cannon-parliaments settle naught;
Venice is Austria's,--whose is Thought?
Minie is good, but, spite of change,
Gutenberg's gun has the longest range.
Spin, spin, Clotho, spin!
Lachesis, twist! and, Atropos, sever!
In the shadow, year out, year in,
The silent headsman waits forever.

Wait, we say: our years are long;
Men are weak, out Man is strong;
Since the stars first curved their rings,
We have looked on many things:
Great wars come and great wars go,
Wolf-tracks light on polar snow;
We shall see him come and gone,
This second-hand Napoleon.
Spin, spin, Clotho, spin!
Lachesis, twist! and, Atropos, sever!
In the shadow, year out, year in,
The silent headsman waits forever.

We saw the elder Corsican,
And Clotho muttered as she span,
While crowned lackeys bore the train,
Of the pinchbeck Charlemagne:
'Sister, stint not length of thread!
Sister, stay the scissors dread!
On Saint Helen's granite Weak,
Hark, the vulture whets his beak!'
Spin, spin, Clotho, spin!
Lachesis, twist! and, Atropos, sever!
In the shadow, year out, year in,
The silent headsman waits forever.

The Bonapartes, we know their bees
That wade in honey red to the knees;
Their patent reaper, its sheaves sleep sound
In dreamless garners underground:
We know false glory's spendthrift race
Pawning nations for feathers and lace;
It may be short, it may be long,
''Tis reckoning-day!' sneers unpaid Wrong.
Spin, spin, Clotho, spin!
Lachesis, twist! and, Atropos, sever!
In the shadow, year out, year in,
The silent headsman waits forever.

The Cock that wears the Eagle's skin
Can promise what he ne'er could win;
Slavery reaped for fine words sown,
System for all, and rights for none,
Despots atop, a wild clan below,
Such is the Gaul from long ago;
Wash the black from the Ethiop's face,
Wash the past out of man or race!
Spin, spin, Clotho, spin!
Lachesis, twist! and, Atropos, sever!
In the shadow, year out, year in,
The silent headsman waits forever.

'Neath Gregory's throne a spider swings,
And snares the people for the kings;
'Luther is dead; old quarrels pass:
The stake's black scars are healed with grass;'
So dreamers prate; did man e'er live
Saw priest or woman yet forgive?
But Luther's broom is left, and eyes
Peep o'er their creeds to where it lies.
Spin, spin, Clotho, spin!
Lachesis, twist! and, Atropos, sever!
In the shadow, year out, year in,
The silent headsman waits forever.

Smooth sails the ship of either realm,
Kaiser and Jesuit at the helm;
We look down the depths, and mark
Silent workers in the dark
Building slow the sharp-tusked reefs,
Old instincts hardening to new beliefs;
Patience a little; learn to wait;
Hours are long on the clock of Fate.
Spin, spin, Clotho, spin!
Lachesis, twist! and, Atropos, sever!
Darkness is strong, and so is Sin,
But surely God endures forever!


Down 'mid the tangled roots of things
That coil about the central fire,
I seek for that which giveth wings
To stoop, not soar, to my desire.

Sometimes I hear, as 'twere a sigh,
The sea's deep yearning far above,
'Thou hast the secret not,' I cry,
'In deeper deeps is hid my Love.'

They think I burrow from the sun,
In darkness, all alone, and weak;
Such loss were gain if He were won,
For 'tis the sun's own Sun I seek.

'The earth,' they murmur, 'is the tomb
That vainly sought his life to prison;
Why grovel longer in the gloom?
He is not here; he hath arisen.'

More life for me where he hath lain
Hidden while ye believed him dead,
Than in cathedrals cold and vain,
Built on loose sands of _It is said_.

My search is for the living gold;
Him I desire who dwells recluse,
And not his image worn and old,
Day-servant of our sordid use.

If him I find not, yet I find
The ancient joy of cell and church,
The glimpse, the surety undefined,
The unquenched ardor of the search.

Happier to chase a flying goal
Than to sit counting laurelled gains,
To guess the Soul within the soul
Than to be lord of what remains.

Hide still, best Good, in subtile wise,
Beyond my nature's utmost scope;
Be ever absent from mine eyes
To be twice present in my hope!



I swam with undulation soft,
Adrift on Vischer's ocean,
And, from my cockboat up aloft,
Sent down my mental plummet oft
In hope to reach a notion.

But from the metaphysic sea
No bottom was forthcoming,
And all the while (how drearily!)
In one eternal note of B
My German stove kept humming. 10

'What's Beauty?' mused I; 'is it told
By synthesis? analysis?
Have you not made us lead of gold?
To feed your crucible, not sold
Our temple's sacred chalices?'

Then o'er my senses came a change;
My book seemed all traditions,
Old legends of profoundest range,
Diablery, and stories strange
Of goblins, elves, magicians. 20

Old gods in modern saints I found,
Old creeds in strange disguises;
I thought them safely underground,
And here they were, all safe and sound,
Without a sign of phthisis.

Truth was, my outward eyes were closed,
Although I did not know it;
Deep into dream-land I had dozed,
And thus was happily transposed
From proser into poet. 30

So what I read took flesh and blood,
And turned to living creatures:
The words were but the dingy bud
That bloomed, like Adam, from the mud,
To human forms and features.

I saw how Zeus was lodged once more
By Baucis and Philemon;
The text said, 'Not alone of yore,
But every day, at every door
Knocks still the masking Demon.' 40

DAIMON 'twas printed in the book
And, as I read it slowly,
The letters stirred and changed, and took
Jove's stature, the Olympian look
Of painless melancholy.

He paused upon the threshold worn:
'With coin I cannot pay you;
Yet would I fain make some return;
The gift for cheapness do not spurn,
Accept this hen, I pray you. 50

'Plain feathers wears my Hemera,
And has from ages olden;
She makes her nest in common hay,
And yet, of all the birds that lay,
Her eggs alone are golden.'

He turned, and could no more be seen;
Old Bancis stared a moment,
Then tossed poor Partlet on the green,
And with a tone, half jest, half spleen,
Thus made her housewife's comment: 60

'The stranger had a queerish face,
His smile was hardly pleasant,
And, though he meant it for a grace,
Yet this old hen of barnyard race
Was but a stingy present.

'She's quite too old for laying eggs,
Nay, even to make a soup of;
One only needs to see her legs,--
You might as well boil down the pegs
I made the brood-hen's coop of! 70

'Some eighteen score of such do I
Raise every year, her sisters;
Go, in the woods your fortunes try,
All day for one poor earthworm pry,
And scratch your toes to blisters!'

Philemon found the rede was good,
And, turning on the poor hen,
He clapt his hands, and stamped, and shooed,
Hunting the exile tow'rd the wood,
To house with snipe and moorhen. 80

A poet saw and cried: 'Hold! hold!
What are you doing, madman?
Spurn you more wealth than can be told,
The fowl that lays the eggs of gold,
Because she's plainly clad, man?'

To him Philemon: 'I'll not balk
Thy will with any shackle;
Wilt add a harden to thy walk?
There! take her without further talk:
You're both but fit to cackle!' 90

But scarce the poet touched the bird,
It swelled to stature regal;
And when her cloud-wide wings she stirred,
A whisper as of doom was heard,
'Twas Jove's bolt-bearing eagle.

As when from far-off cloud-bergs springs
A crag, and, hurtling under,
From cliff to cliff the rumor flings,
So she from flight-foreboding wings
Shook out a murmurous thunder. 100

She gripped the poet to her breast,
And ever, upward soaring,
Earth seemed a new moon in the west,
And then one light among the rest
Where squadrons lie at mooring.

How tell to what heaven-hallowed seat
The eagle bent his courses?
The waves that on its bases beat,
The gales that round it weave and fleet,
Are life's creative forces. 110

Here was the bird's primeval nest,
High on a promontory
Star-pharosed, where she takes her rest
To brood new aeons 'neath her breast,
The future's unfledged glory.

I know not how, but I was there
All feeling, hearing, seeing;
It was not wind that stirred my hair
But living breath, the essence rare
Of unembodied being. 120

And in the nest an egg of gold
Lay soft in self-made lustre,
Gazing whereon, what depths untold
Within, what marvels manifold,
Seemed silently to muster!

Daily such splendors to confront
Is still to me and you sent?
It glowed as when Saint Peter's front,
Illumed, forgets its stony wont,
And seems to throb translucent. 130

One saw therein the life of man,
(Or so the poet found it,)
The yolk and white, conceive who can,
Were the glad earth, that, floating, span
In the glad heaven around it.

I knew this as one knows in dream,
Where no effects to causes
Are chained as in our work-day scheme,
And then was wakened by a scream
That seemed to come from Baucis. 140

'Bless Zeus!' she cried, 'I'm safe below!'
First pale, then red as coral;
And I, still drowsy, pondered slow,
And seemed to find, but hardly know,
Something like this for moral.

Each day the world is born anew
For him who takes it rightly;
Not fresher that which Adam knew,
Not sweeter that whose moonlit dew
Entranced Arcadia nightly. 150

Rightly? That's simply: 'tis to see
_Some_ substance casts these shadows
Which we call Life and History,
That aimless seem to chase and flee
Like wind-gleams over meadows.

Simply? That's nobly: 'tis to know
That God may still be met with,
Nor groweth old, nor doth bestow
These senses fine, this brain aglow,
To grovel and forget with. 160

Beauty, Herr Doctor, trust in me,
No chemistry will win you;
Charis still rises from the sea:
If you can't find her, _might_ it be
Because you seek within you?


Alike I hate to be your debtor,
Or write a mere perfunctory letter;
For letters, so it seems to me,
Our careless quintessence should be,
Our real nature's truant play
When Consciousness looks t'other way;
Not drop by drop, with watchful skill,
Gathered in Art's deliberate still,
But life's insensible completeness
Got as the ripe grape gets its sweetness, 10
As if it had a way to fuse
The golden sunlight into juice.
Hopeless my mental pump I try,
The boxes hiss, the tube is dry;
As those petroleum wells that spout
Awhile like M.C.'s, then give out,
My spring, once full as Arethusa,
Is a mere bore as dry's Creusa;
And yet you ask me why I'm glum,
And why my graver Muse is dumb. 20
Ah me! I've reasons manifold
Condensed in one,--I'm getting old!

When life, once past its fortieth year,
Wheels up its evening hemisphere,
The mind's own shadow, which the boy
Saw onward point to hope and joy,
Shifts round, irrevocably set
Tow'rd morning's loss and vain regret,
And, argue with it as we will,
The clock is unconverted still. 30

'But count the gains,' I hear you say,
'Which far the seeming loss out-weigh;
Friendships built firm 'gainst flood and wind
On rock foundations of the mind;
Knowledge instead of scheming hope;
For wild adventure, settled scope;
Talents, from surface-ore profuse,
Tempered and edged to tools for use;
Judgment, for passion's headlong whirls;
Old sorrows crystalled into pearls; 40
Losses by patience turned to gains,
Possessions now, that once were pains;
Joy's blossom gone, as go it must,
To ripen seeds of faith and trust;
Why heed a snow-flake on the roof
If fire within keep Age aloof,
Though blundering north-winds push and strain
With palms benumbed against the pane?'

My dear old Friend, you're very wise;
We always are with others' eyes, 50
And see _so_ clear! (our neighbor's deck on)
What reef the idiot's sure to wreck on;
Folks when they learn how life has quizzed 'em
Are fain to make a shift with Wisdom,
And, finding she nor breaks nor bends,
Give her a letter to their friends.
Draw passion's torrent whoso will
Through sluices smooth to turn a mill,
And, taking solid toll of grist,
Forget the rainbow in the mist, 60
The exulting leap, the aimless haste
Scattered in iridescent waste;
Prefer who likes the sure esteem
To cheated youth's midsummer dream,
When every friend was more than Damon,
Each quicksand safe to build a fame on;
Believe that prudence snug excels
Youth's gross of verdant spectacles,
Through which earth's withered stubble seen
Looks autumn-proof as painted green,-- 70
I side with Moses 'gainst the masses,
Take you the drudge, give me the glasses!
And, for your talents shaped with practice,
Convince me first that such the fact is;
Let whoso likes be beat, poor fool,
On life's hard stithy to a tool,
Be whoso will a ploughshare made,
Let me remain a jolly blade!

What's Knowledge, with her stocks and lands,
To gay Conjecture's yellow strands? 80
What's watching her slow flock's increase
To ventures for the golden fleece?
What her deep ships, safe under lee,
To youth's light craft, that drinks the sea,
For Flying Islands making sail,
And failing where 'tis gain to fail?
Ah me! Experience (so we're told),
Time's crucible, turns lead to gold;
Yet what's experience won but dross,
Cloud-gold transmuted to our loss? 90
What but base coin the best event
To the untried experiment!

'Twas an old couple, says the poet,
That lodged the gods and did not know it;
Youth sees and knows them as they were
Before Olympus' top was bare;
From Swampscot's flats his eye divine
Sees Venus rocking on the brine,
With lucent limbs, that somehow scatter a
Charm that turns Doll to Cleopatra; 100
Bacchus (that now is scarce induced
To give Eld's lagging blood a boost),
With cymbals' clang and pards to draw him,
Divine as Ariadne saw him,
Storms through Youth's pulse with all his train
And wins new Indies in his brain;
Apollo (with the old a trope,
A sort of finer Mister Pope),
Apollo--but the Muse forbids:
At his approach cast down thy lids, 110
And think it joy enough to hear
Far off his arrows singing clear;
He knows enough who silent knows
The quiver chiming as he goes;
He tells too much who e'er betrays
The shining Archer's secret ways.

Dear Friend, you're right and I am wrong;
My quibbles are not worth a song,
And I sophistically tease
My fancy sad to tricks like these. 120
I could not cheat you if I would;
You know me and my jesting mood,
Mere surface-foam, for pride concealing
The purpose of my deeper feeling.
I have not spilt one drop of joy
Poured in the senses of the boy,
Nor Nature fails my walks to bless
With all her golden inwardness;
And as blind nestlings, unafraid,
Stretch up wide-mouthed to every shade 130
By which their downy dream is stirred,
Taking it for the mother-bird,
So, when God's shadow, which is light,
Unheralded, by day or night,
My wakening instincts falls across,
Silent as sunbeams over moss,
In my heart's nest half-conscious things
Stir with a helpless sense of wings,
Lift themselves up, and tremble long
With premonitions sweet of song. 140

Be patient, and perhaps (who knows?)
These may be winged one day like those;
If thrushes, close-embowered to sing,
Pierced through with June's delicious sting;
If swallows, their half-hour to run
Star-breasted in the setting sun.
At first they're but the unfledged proem,
Or songless schedule of a poem;
When from the shell they're hardly dry
If some folks thrust them forth, must I? 150

But let me end with a comparison
Never yet hit upon by e'er a son
Of our American Apollo,
(And there's where I shall beat them hollow,
If he indeed's no courtly St. John,
But, as West said, a Mohawk Injun.)
A poem's like a cruise for whales:
Through untried seas the hunter sails,
His prow dividing waters known
To the blue iceberg's hulk alone; 160
At last, on farthest edge of day,
He marks the smoky puff of spray;
Then with bent oars the shallop flies
To where the basking quarry lies;
Then the excitement of the strife,
The crimsoned waves,--ah, this is life!

But, the dead plunder once secured
And safe beside the vessel moored,
All that had stirred the blood before
Is so much blubber, nothing more, 170
(I mean no pun, nor image so
Mere sentimental verse, you know,)
And all is tedium, smoke, and soil,
In trying out the noisome oil.

Yes, this _is_ life! And so the bard
Through briny deserts, never scarred
Since Noah's keel, a subject seeks,
And lies upon the watch for weeks;
That once harpooned and helpless lying,
What follows is but weary trying. 180

Now I've a notion, if a poet
Beat up for themes, his verse will show it;
I wait for subjects that hunt me,
By day or night won't let me be,
And hang about me like a curse,
Till they have made me into verse,
From line to line my fingers tease
Beyond my knowledge, as the bees
Build no new cell till those before
With limpid summer-sweet run o'er; 190
Then, if I neither sing nor shine,
Is it the subject's fault, or mine?


How strange are the freaks of memory!
The lessons of life we forget,
While a trifle, a trick of color,
In the wonderful web is set,--

Set by some mordant of fancy,
And, spite of the wear and tear
Of time or distance or trouble,
Insists on its right to be there.

A chance had brought us together;
Our talk was of matters-of-course;
We were nothing, one to the other,
But a short half-hour's resource.

We spoke of French acting and actors,
And their easy, natural way:
Of the weather, for it was raining,
As we drove home from the play.

We debated the social nothings
We bore ourselves so to discuss;
The thunderous rumors of battle
Were silent the while for us.

Arrived at her door, we left her
With a drippingly hurried adieu,
And our wheels went crunching the gravel
Of the oak-darkened avenue.

As we drove away through the shadow,
The candle she held in the door
From rain-varnished tree-trunk to tree-trunk
Flashed fainter, and flashed no more;--

Flashed fainter, then wholly faded
Before we had passed the wood;
But the light of the face behind it
Went with me and stayed for good.

The vision of scarce a moment,
And hardly marked at the time,
It comes unbidden to haunt me,
Like a scrap of ballad-rhyme.

Had she beauty? Well, not what they call so;
You may find a thousand as fair;
And yet there's her face in my memory
With no special claim to be there.

As I sit sometimes in the twilight,
And call back to life in the coals
Old faces and hopes and fancies
Long buried, (good rest to their souls!)

Her face shines out in the embers;
I see her holding the light,
And hear the crunch of the gravel
And the sweep of the rain that night.

'Tis a face that can never grow older,
That never can part with its gleam,
'Tis a gracious possession forever,
For is it not all a dream?



I need not praise the sweetness of his song,
Where limpid verse to limpid verse succeeds
Smooth as our Charles, when, fearing lest he wrong
The new moon's mirrored skiff, he slides along,
Full without noise, and whispers in his reeds.

With loving breath of all the winds his name
Is blown about the world, but to his friends
A sweeter secret hides behind his fame,
And Love steals shyly through the loud acclaim
To murmur a _God bless you!_ and there ends.

As I muse backward up the checkered years
Wherein so much was given, so much was lost,
Blessings in both kinds, such as cheapen tears,--
But hush! this is not for profaner ears;
Let them drink molten pearls nor dream the cost.

Some suck up poison from a sorrow's core,
As naught but nightshade grew upon earth's ground;
Love turned all his to heart's-ease, and the more
Fate tried his bastions, she but forced a door
Leading to sweeter manhood and more sound.

Even as a wind-waved fountain's swaying shade
Seems of mixed race, a gray wraith shot with sun,
So through his trial faith translucent rayed
Till darkness, halt disnatured so, betrayed
A heart of sunshine that would fain o'errun.

Surely if skill in song the shears may stay
And of its purpose cheat the charmed abyss,
If our poor life be lengthened by a lay,
He shall not go, although his presence may,
And the next age in praise shall double this.

Long days be his, and each as lusty-sweet
As gracious natures find his song to be;
May Age steal on with softly-cadenced feet
Falling in music, as for him were meet
Whose choicest verse is harsher-toned than he!


'Come forth!' my catbird calls to me,
'And hear me sing a cavatina
That, in this old familiar tree,
Shall hang a garden of Alcina.

'These buttercups shall brim with wine
Beyond all Lesbian juice or Massic;
May not New England be divine?
My ode to ripening summer classic?

'Or, if to me you will not hark,
By Beaver Brook a thrush is ringing
Till all the alder-coverts dark
Seem sunshine-dappled with his singing.

'Come out beneath the unmastered sky,
With its emancipating spaces,
And learn to sing as well as I,
Without premeditated graces.

'What boot your many-volumed gains,
Those withered leaves forever turning,
To win, at best, for all your pains,
A nature mummy-wrapt to learning?

'The leaves wherein true wisdom lies
On living trees the sun are drinking;
Those white clouds, drowsing through the skies,
Grew not so beautiful by thinking.

'"Come out!" with me the oriole cries,
Escape the demon that pursues you:
And, hark, the cuckoo weather-wise,
Still hiding farther onward, wooes you.'

'Alas, dear friend, that, all my days,
Hast poured from that syringa thicket
The quaintly discontinuous lays
To which I hold a season-ticket.

'A season-ticket cheaply bought
With a dessert of pilfered berries,
And who so oft my soul hast caught
With morn and evening voluntaries,

'Deem me not faithless, if all day
Among my dusty books I linger,
No pipe, like thee, for June to play
With fancy-led, half-conscious finger.

'A bird is singing in my brain
And bubbling o'er with mingled fancies,
Gay, tragic, rapt, right heart of Spain
Fed with the sap of old romances.

'I ask no ampler skies than those
His magic music rears above me,
No falser friends, no truer foes,--
And does not Dona Clara love me?

'Cloaked shapes, a twanging of guitars,
A rush of feet, and rapiers clashing,
Then silence deep with breathless stars,
And overhead a white hand flashing.

'O music of all moods and climes,
Vengeful, forgiving, sensuous, saintly,
Where still, between the Christian chimes,
The Moorish cymbal tinkles faintly!

'O life borne lightly in the hand,
For friend or foe with grace Castilian!
O valley safe in Fancy's land,
Not tramped to mud yet by the million!

'Bird of to-day, thy songs are stale
To his, my singer of all weathers,
My Calderon, my nightingale,
My Arab soul in Spanish feathers.

'Ah, friend, these singers dead so long,
And still, God knows, in purgatory,
Give its best sweetness to all song,
To Nature's self her better glory.'


Men say the sullen instrument,
That, from the Master's bow,
With pangs of joy or woe,
Feels music's soul through every fibre sent,
Whispers the ravished strings
More than he knew or meant;
Old summers in its memory glow;
The secrets of the wind it sings;
It hears the April-loosened springs;
And mixes with its mood
All it dreamed when it stood
In the murmurous pine-wood
Long ago!

The magical moonlight then
Steeped every bough and cone;
The roar of the brook in the glen
Came dim from the distance blown;
The wind through its glooms sang low,
And it swayed to and fro
With delight as it stood,
In the wonderful wood,
Long ago!

O my life, have we not had seasons
That only said, Live and rejoice?
That asked not for causes and reasons,
But made us all feeling and voice?
When we went with the winds in their blowing,
When Nature and we were peers,
And we seemed to share in the flowing
Of the inexhaustible years?
Have we not from the earth drawn juices
Too fine for earth's sordid uses?
Have I heard, have I seen
All I feel, all I know?
Doth my heart overween?
Or could it have been
Long ago?

Sometimes a breath floats by me,
An odor from Dreamland sent.
That makes the ghost seem nigh me
Of a splendor that came and went,
Of a life lived somewhere, I know not
In what diviner sphere,
Of memories that stay not and go not,
Like music heard once by an ear
That cannot forget or reclaim it,
A something so shy, it would shame it
To make it a show,
A something too vague, could I name it,
For others to know,
As if I had lived it or dreamed it,
As if I had acted or schemed it,
Long ago!

And yet, could I live it over,
This life that stirs in my brain,
Could I be both maiden and lover.
Moon and tide, bee and clover,
As I seem to have been, once again,
Could I but speak it and show it,
This pleasure more sharp than pain,
That baffles and lures me so,
The world should once more have a poet,
Such as it had
In the ages glad,
Long ago!


It mounts athwart the windy hill
Through sallow slopes of upland bare,
And Fancy climbs with foot-fall still
Its narrowing curves that end in air.

By day, a warmer-hearted blue
Stoops softly to that topmost swell;
Its thread-like windings seem a clue
To gracious climes where all is well.

By night, far yonder, I surmise
An ampler world than clips my ken,
Where the great stars of happier skies
Commingle nobler fates of men.

I look and long, then haste me home,
Still master of my secret rare;
Once tried, the path would end in Rome,
But now it leads me everywhere.

Forever to the new it guides,
From former good, old overmuch;
What Nature for her poets hides,
'Tis wiser to divine than clutch.

The bird I list hath never come
Within the scope of mortal ear;
My prying step would make him dumb,
And the fair tree, his shelter, sear.

Behind the hill, behind the sky,
Behind my inmost thought, he sings;
No feet avail; to hear it nigh,
The song itself must lend the wings.

Sing on, sweet bird close hid, and raise
Those angel stairways in my brain,
That climb from these low-vaulted days
To spacious sunshines far from pain.

Sing when thou wilt, enchantment fleet,
I leave thy covert haunt untrod,
And envy Science not her feat
To make a twice-told tale of God.

They said the fairies tript no more,
And long ago that Pan was dead;
'Twas but that fools preferred to bore
Earth's rind inch-deep for truth instead.

Pan leaps and pipes all summer long,
The fairies dance each full-mooned night,
Would we but doff our lenses strong,
And trust our wiser eyes' delight.

City of Elf-land, just without
Our seeing, marvel ever new,
Glimpsed in fair weather, a sweet doubt
Sketched-in, mirage-like, on the blue,

I build thee in yon sunset cloud,
Whose edge allures to climb the height;
I hear thy drowned bells, inly-loud,
From still pools dusk with dreams of night.

Thy gates are shut to hardiest will,
Thy countersign of long-lost speech,--
Those fountained courts, those chambers still,
Fronting Time's far East, who shall reach?

I know not, and will never pry,
But trust our human heart for all;
Wonders that from the seeker fly
Into an open sense may fall.

Hide in thine own soul, and surprise
The password of the unwary elves;
Seek it, thou canst not bribe their spies;
Unsought, they whisper it themselves.




Along a river-side, I know not where,
I walked one night in mystery of dream;
A chill creeps curdling yet beneath my hair,
To think what chanced me by the pallid gleam
Of a moon-wraith that waned through haunted air.

Pale fireflies pulsed within the meadow-mist
Their hales, wavering thistledowns of light;
The loon, that seemed to mock some goblin tryst,
Laughed; and the echoes, huddling in affright,
Like Odin's hounds, fled baying down the night. 10

Then all was silent, till there smote my ear
A movement in the stream that checked my breath:
Was it the slow plash of a wading deer?
But something said, 'This water is of Death!
The Sisters wash a shroud,--ill thing to hear!'

I, looking then, beheld the ancient Three
Known to the Greek's and to the Northman's creed,
That sit in shadow of the mystic Tree,
Still crooning, as they weave their endless brede,
One song: 'Time was, Time is, and Time shall be.' 20

No wrinkled crones were they, as I had deemed,
But fair as yesterday, to-day, to-morrow
To mourner, lover, poet, ever seemed;
Something too high for joy, too deep for sorrow,
Thrilled in their tones, and from their faces gleamed.

'Still men and nations reap as they have strawn,'
So sang they, working at their task the while;
'The fatal raiment must be cleansed ere dawn:
For Austria? Italy? the Sea-Queen's isle?
O'er what quenched grandeur must our shroud be drawn? 30

'Or is it for a younger, fairer corse,
That gathered States like children round his knees,
That tamed the wave to be his posting-horse,
Feller of forests, linker of the seas,
Bridge-builder, hammerer, youngest son of Thor's?

'What make we, murmur'st thou? and what are we?
When empires must be wound, we bring the shroud,
The time-old web of the implacable Three:
Is it too coarse for him, the young and proud?
Earth's mightiest deigned to wear it,--why not he?' 40

'Is there no hope?' I moaned, 'so strong, so fair!
Our Fowler whose proud bird would brook erewhile
No rival's swoop in all our western air!
Gather the ravens, then, in funeral file
For him, life's morn yet golden in his hair?

'Leave me not hopeless, ye unpitying dames!
I see, half seeing. Tell me, ye who scanned
The stars, Earth's elders, still must noblest aims
Be traced upon oblivious ocean-sands?
Must Hesper join the wailing ghosts of names?' 50

'When grass-blades stiffen with red battle-dew,
Ye deem we choose the victor and the slain:
Say, choose we them that shall be leal and true
To the heart's longing, the high faith of brain?
Yet there the victory lies, if ye but knew.

'Three roots bear up Dominion: Knowledge, Will,--
These twain are strong, but stronger yet the third,--
Obedience,--'tis the great tap-root that still,
Knit round the rock of Duty, is not stirred,
Though Heaven-loosed tempests spend their utmost skill. 60

'Is the doom sealed for Hesper? 'Tis not we
Denounce it, but the Law before all time:
The brave makes danger opportunity;
The waverer, paltering with the chance sublime,
Dwarfs it to peril: which shall Hesper be?

'Hath he let vultures climb his eagle's seat
To make Jove's bolts purveyors of their maw?
Hath he the Many's plaudits found more sweet
Than Wisdom? held Opinion's wind for Law?
Then let him hearken for the doomster's feet! 70

'Rough are the steps, slow-hewn in flintiest rock,
States climb to power by; slippery those with gold
Down which they stumble to eternal mock:
No chafferer's hand shall long the sceptre hold,
Who, given a Fate to shape, would sell the block.

'We sing old Sagas, songs of weal and woe,
Mystic because too cheaply understood;
Dark sayings are not ours; men hear and know,
See Evil weak, see strength alone in Good,
Yet hope to stem God's fire with walls of tow. 80

'Time Was unlocks the riddle of Time Is,
That offers choice of glory or of gloom;
The solver makes Time Shall Be surely his.
But hasten, Sisters! for even now the tomb
Grates its slow hinge and calls from the abyss.'

'But not for him,' I cried, 'not yet for him,
Whose large horizon, westering, star by star
Wins from the void to where on Ocean's rim
The sunset shuts the world with golden bar,
Not yet his thews shall fail, his eye grow dim! 90

'His shall be larger manhood, saved for those
That walk unblenching through the trial-fires;
Not suffering, but faint heart, is worst of woes,
And he no base-born son of craven sires,
Whose eye need blench confronted with his foes.

'Tears may be ours, but proud, for those who win
Death's royal purple in the foe-man's lines;
Peace, too, brings tears; and mid the battle-din,
The wiser ear some text of God divines,
For the sheathed blade may rust with darker sin. 100

'God, give us peace! not such as lulls to sleep,
But sword on thigh, and brow with purpose knit!
And let our Ship of State to harbor sweep,
Her ports all up, her battle-lanterns lit,
And her leashed thunders gathering for their leap!'

So cried I with clenched hands and passionate pain,
Thinking of dear ones by Potomac's side;
Again the loon laughed mocking, and again
The echoes bayed far down the night and died,
While waking I recalled my wandering brain. 110


AUTUMN, 1863

SCENE I.--_Near a castle in Germany._

'Twere no hard task, perchance, to win
The popular laurel for my song;
'Twere only to comply with sin,
And own the crown, though snatched by wrong:
Rather Truth's chaplet let me wear,
Though sharp as death its thorns may sting:
Loyal to Loyalty, I bear
No badge but of my rightful king.

Patient by town and tower I wait,
Or o'er the blustering moorland go; 10
I buy no praise at cheaper rate,
Or what faint hearts may fancy so;
For me, no joy in lady's bower,
Or hall, or tourney, will I sing,
Till the slow stars wheel round the hour
That crowns my hero and my king.

While all the land runs red with strife,
And wealth is won by pedler-crimes,
Let who will find content in life
And tinkle in unmanly rhymes; 20
I wait and seek; through dark and light,
Safe in my heart my hope I bring,
Till I once more my faith may plight
To him my whole soul owns her king.

When power is filched by drone and dolt,
And, with canght breath and flashing eye,
Her knuckles whitening round the bolt,
Vengeance leans eager from the sky,
While this and that the people guess,
And to the skirts of praters cling, 30
Who court the crowd they should compress,
I turn in scorn to seek my king.

Shut in what tower of darkling chance
Or dungeon of a narrow doom,
Dream'st thou of battle-axe and lance
That for the Cross make crashing room?
Come! with hushed breath the battle waits
In the wild van thy mace's swing;
While doubters parley with their fates,
Make thou thine own and ours, my king! 40

O strong to keep upright the old,
And wise to buttress with the new,
Prudent, as only are the bold,
Clear-eyed, as only are the true,
To foes benign, to friendship stern,
Intent to imp Law's broken wing,
Who would not die, if death might earn
The right to kiss thy hand, my king?

SCENE II.--_An Inn near the Chateau of Chalus_.

Well, the whole thing is over, and here I sit
With one arm in a sling and a milk-score of gashes, 50
And this flagon of Cyprus must e'en warm my wit,
Since what's left of youth's flame is a head flecked with ashes.
I remember I sat in this very same inn,--
I was young then, and one young man thought I was handsome,--
I had found out what prison King Richard was in,
And was spurring for England to push on the ransom.

How I scorned the dull souls that sat guzzling around
And knew not my secret nor recked my derision!
Let the world sink or swim, John or Richard be crowned,
All one, so the beer-tax got lenient revision. 60
How little I dreamed, as I tramped up and down,
That granting our wish one of Fate's saddest Jokes is!
I had mine with a vengeance,--my king got his crown,
And made his whole business to break other folks's.

I might as well join in the safe old _tum, tum_:
A hero's an excellent loadstar,--but, bless ye,
What infinite odds 'twixt a hero to come
And your only too palpable hero _in esse!_
Precisely the odds (such examples are rife)
'Twixt the poem conceived and the rhyme we make show of, 70
'Twixt the boy's morning dream and the wake-up of life,
'Twixt the Blondel God meant and a Blondel I know of!

But the world's better off, I'm convinced of it now,
Than if heroes, like buns, could be bought for a penny
To regard all mankind as their haltered milch-cow,
And just care for themselves. Well, God cares for the many;
For somehow the poor old Earth blunders along,
Each son of hers adding his mite of unfitness,
And, choosing the sure way of coming out wrong,
Gets to port as the next generation will witness. 80

You think her old ribs have come all crashing through,
If a whisk of Fate's broom snap your cobweb asunder;
But her rivets were clinched by a wiser than you.
And our sins cannot push the Lord's right hand from under.
Better one honest man who can wait for God's mind
In our poor shifting scene here though heroes were plenty!
Better one bite, at forty, of Truth's bitter rind,
Than the hot wine that gushed from the vintage of twenty!

I see it all now: when I wanted a king,
'Twas the kingship that failed in myself I was seeking,-- 90
'Tis so much less easy to do than to sing,
So much simpler to reign by a proxy than _be_ king!
Yes, I think I _do_ see; after all's said and sung,
Take this one rule of life and you never will rue it,--
'Tis but do your own duty and hold your own tongue
And Blondel were royal himself, if he knew it!




Beneath the trees,
My lifelong friends in this dear spot,
Sad now for eyes that see them not,
I hear the autumnal breeze
Wake the dry leaves to sigh for gladness gone,
Whispering vague omens of oblivion,
Hear, restless as the seas,
Time's grim feet rustling through the withered grace
Of many a spreading realm and strong-stemmed race,
Even as my own through these. 10

Why make we moan
For loss that doth enrich us yet
With upward yearning of regret?
Bleaker than unmossed stone
Our lives were but for this immortal gain
Of unstilled longing and inspiring pain!
As thrills of long-hushed tone
Live in the viol, so our souls grow fine
With keen vibrations from the touch divine
Of noble natures gone. 20

'Twere indiscreet
To vex the shy and sacred grief
With harsh obtrusions of relief;
Yet, Verse, with noiseless feet,
Go whisper: '_This_ death hath far choicer ends
Than slowly to impearl to hearts of friends;
These obsequies 'tis meet
Not to seclude in closets of the heart,
But, church-like, with wide doorways, to impart
Even to the heedless street.' 30


Brave, good, and true,
I see him stand before me now.
And read again on that young brow,
Where every hope was new,
_How sweet were life!_ Yet, by the mouth firm-set,
And look made up for Duty's utmost debt,
I could divine he knew

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