Part 17 out of 21
His heaven is bare,--ah, were its hollow crost
Even with a cloud whose light were yet to lose!
TO MISS D.T.
ON HER GIVING ME A DRAWING OF LITTLE STREET ARABS
As, cleansed of Tiber's and Oblivion's slime,
Glow Farnesina's vaults with shapes again
That dreamed some exiled artist from his pain
Back to his Athens and the Muse's clime,
So these world-orphaned waifs of Want and Crime,
Purged by Art's absolution from the stain
Of the polluting city-flood, regain
Ideal grace secure from taint of time.
An Attic frieze you give, a pictured song;
For as with words the poet paints, for you
The happy pencil at its labor sings,
Stealing his privilege, nor does him wrong,
Beneath the false discovering the true,
And Beauty's best in unregarded things.
WITH A COPY OF AUCASSIN AND NICOLETE
Leaves fit to have been poor Juliet's cradle-rhyme,
With gladness of a heart long quenched in mould
They vibrate still, a nest not yet grown cold
From its fledged burthen. The numb hand of Time
Vainly his glass turns; here is endless prime;
Here lips their roses keep and locks their gold;
Here Love in pristine innocency bold
Speaks what our grosser conscience makes a crime.
Because it tells the dream that all have known
Once in their lives, and to life's end the few;
Because its seeds o'er Memory's desert blown
Spring up in heartsease such as Eden knew;
Because it hath a beauty all its own,
Dear Friend, I plucked this herb of grace for you.
ON PLANTING A TREE AT INVERARAY
Who does his duty is a question
Too complex to be solved by me,
But he, I venture the suggestion,
Does part of his that plants a tree.
For after he is dead and buried,
And epitaphed, and well forgot,
Nay, even his shade by Charon ferried
To--let us not inquire to what,
His deed, its author long outliving,
By Nature's mother-care increased,
Shall stand, his verdant almoner, giving
A kindly dole to man and beast.
The wayfarer, at noon reposing,
Shall bless its shadow on the grass,
Or sheep beneath it huddle, dozing
Until the thundergust o'erpass.
The owl, belated in his plundering,
Shall here await the friendly night,
Blinking whene'er he wakes, and wondering
What fool it was invented light.
Hither the busy birds shall flutter,
With the light timber for their nests,
And, pausing from their labor, utter
The morning sunshine in their breasts.
What though his memory shall have vanished,
Since the good deed he did survives?
It is not wholly to be banished
Thus to be part of many lives.
Grow, then, my foster-child, and strengthen,
Bough over bough, a murmurous pile,
And, as your stately stem shall lengthen,
So may the statelier of Argyll!
AN EPISTLE TO GEORGE WILLIAM CURTIS
Des qu'il s'atorne a grant bonte
Ja n'iert tot dit ne tot conte,
Que leingue ne puet pas retraire
Tant d'enor com prodom set faire.'
CRESTIEN DE TROIES, _Li Romans dou
Chevalier au Lyon_, 784-788.
Curtis, whose Wit, with Fancy arm in arm,
Masks half its muscle in its skill to charm,
And who so gently can the Wrong expose
As sometimes to make converts, never foes,
Or only such as good men must expect,
Knaves sore with conscience of their own defect,
I come with mild remonstrance. Ere I start,
A kindlier errand interrupts my heart,
And I must utter, though it vex your ears,
The love, the honor, felt so many years. 10
Curtis, skilled equally with voice and pen
To stir the hearts or mould the minds of men,--
That voice whose music, for I've heard you sing
Sweet as Casella, can with passion ring,
That pen whose rapid ease ne'er trips with haste,
Nor scrapes nor sputters, pointed with good taste,
First Steele's, then Goldsmith's, next it came to you,
Whom Thackeray rated best of all our crew,--
Had letters kept you, every wreath were yours;
Had the World tempted, all its chariest doors 20
Had swung on flattered hinges to admit
Such high-bred manners, such good-natured wit;
At courts, in senates, who so fit to serve?
And both invited, but you would not swerve,
All meaner prizes waiving that you might
In civic duty spend your heat and light,
Unpaid, untrammelled, with a sweet disdain
Refusing posts men grovel to attain.
Good Man all own you; what is left me, then,
To heighten praise with but Good Citizen? 30
But why this praise to make you blush and stare,
And give a backache to your Easy-Chair?
Old Crestien rightly says no language can
Express the worth of a true Gentleman,
And I agree; but other thoughts deride
My first intent, and lure my pen aside.
Thinking of you, I see my firelight glow
On other faces, loved from long ago,
Dear to us both, and all these loves combine
With this I send and crowd in every line; 40
Fortune with me was in such generous mood
That all my friends were yours, and all were good;
Three generations come when one I call,
And the fair grandame, youngest of them all,
In her own Florida who found and sips
The fount that fled from Ponce's longing lips.
How bright they rise and wreathe my hearthstone round,
Divine my thoughts, reply without a sound,
And with them many a shape that memory sees,
As dear as they, but crowned with aureoles these! 50
What wonder if, with protest in my thought,
Arrived, I find 'twas only love I brought?
I came with protest; Memory barred the road
Till I repaid you half the debt I owed.
No, 'twas not to bring laurels that I came,
Nor would you wish it, daily seeing fame,
(Or our cheap substitute, unknown of yore,)
Dumped like a load of coal at every door,
Mime and hetaera getting equal weight
With him whose toils heroic saved the State. 60
But praise can harm not who so calmly met
Slander's worst word, nor treasured up the debt,
Knowing, what all experience serves to show,
No mud can soil us but the mud we throw.
You have heard harsher voices and more loud,
As all must, not sworn liegemen of the crowd,
And far aloof your silent mind could keep
As when, in heavens with winter-midnight deep,
The perfect moon hangs thoughtful, nor can know
What hounds her lucent calm drives mad below. 70
But to my business, while you rub your eyes
And wonder how you ever thought me wise.
Dear friend and old, they say you shake your head
And wish some bitter words of mine unsaid:
I wish they might be,--there we are agreed;
I hate to speak, still more what makes the need;
But I must utter what the voice within
Dictates, for acquiescence dumb were sin;
I blurt ungrateful truths, if so they be,
That none may need to say them after me. 80
'Twere my felicity could I attain
The temperate zeal that balances your brain;
But nature still o'erleaps reflection's plan,
And one must do his service as he can.
Think you it were not pleasanter to speak
Smooth words that leave unflushed the brow and cheek?
To sit, well-dined, with cynic smile, unseen
In private box, spectator of the scene
Where men the comedy of life rehearse,
Idly to judge which better and which worse 90
Each hireling actor spoiled his worthless part?
Were it not sweeter with a careless heart,
In happy commune with the untainted brooks,
To dream all day, or, walled with silent books,
To hear nor heed the World's unmeaning noise,
Safe in my fortress stored with lifelong joys?
I love too well the pleasures of retreat
Safe from the crowd and cloistered from the street;
The fire that whispers its domestic joy,
Flickering on walls that knew me still a boy, 100
And knew my saintly father; the full days,
Not careworn from the world's soul-squandering ways,
Calm days that loiter with snow-silent tread,
Nor break my commune with the undying dead;
Truants of Time, to-morrow like to-day,
That come unhid, and claimless glide away
By shelves that sun them in the indulgent Past,
Where Spanish castles, even, were built to last,
Where saint and sage their silent vigil keep,
And wrong hath ceased or sung itself to sleep. 110
Dear were my walks, too, gathering fragrant store
Of Mother Nature's simple-minded lore:
I learned all weather-signs of day or night;
No bird but I could name him by his flight,
No distant tree but by his shape was known,
Or, near at hand, by leaf or bark alone.
This learning won by loving looks I hived
As sweeter lore than all from books derived.
I know the charm of hillside, field, and wood,
Of lake and stream, and the sky's downy brood, 120
Of roads sequestered rimmed with sallow sod,
But friends with hardhack, aster, goldenrod,
Or succory keeping summer long its trust
Of heaven-blue fleckless from the eddying dust:
These were my earliest friends, and latest too,
Still unestranged, whatever fate may do.
For years I had these treasures, knew their worth,
Estate most real man can have on earth.
I sank too deep in this soft-stuffed repose
That hears but rumors of earth's wrongs and woes; 130
Too well these Capuas could my muscles waste,
Not void of toils, but toils of choice and taste;
These still had kept me could I but have quelled
The Puritan drop that in my veins rebelled.
But there were times when silent were my books
As jailers are, and gave me sullen looks,
When verses palled, and even the woodland path,
By innocent contrast, fed my heart with wrath,
And I must twist my little gift of words
Into a scourge of rough and knotted cords 140
Unmusical, that whistle as they swing
To leave on shameless backs their purple sting.
How slow Time comes! Gone who so swift as he?
Add but a year, 'tis half a century
Since the slave's stifled moaning broke my sleep,
Heard 'gainst my will in that seclusion deep,
Haply heard louder for the silence there,
And so my fancied safeguard made my snare.
After that moan had sharpened to a cry,
And a cloud, hand-broad then, heaped all our sky 150
With its stored vengeance, and such thunders stirred
As heaven's and earth's remotest chambers heard,
I looked to see an ampler atmosphere
By that electric passion-gust blown clear.
I looked for this; consider what I see--
But I forbear, 'twould please nor you nor me
To check the items in the bitter list
Of all I counted on and all I mist.
Only three instances I choose from all,
And each enough to stir a pigeon's gall: 160
Office a fund for ballot-brokers made
To pay the drudges of their gainful trade;
Our cities taught what conquered cities feel
By aediles chosen that they might safely steal;
And gold, however got, a title fair
To such respect as only gold can bear.
I seem to see this; how shall I gainsay
What all our journals tell me every day?
Poured our young martyrs their high-hearted blood
That we might trample to congenial mud 170
The soil with such a legacy sublimed?
Methinks an angry scorn is here well-timed:
Where find retreat? How keep reproach at bay?
Where'er I turn some scandal fouls the way.
Dear friend, if any man I wished to please,
'Twere surely you whose humor's honied ease
Flows flecked with gold of thought, whose generous mind
Sees Paradise regained by all mankind,
Whose brave example still to vanward shines,
Cheeks the retreat, and spurs our lagging lines. 180
Was I too bitter? Who his phrase can choose
That sees the life-blood of his dearest ooze?
I loved my Country so as only they
Who love a mother fit to die for may;
I loved her old renown, her stainless fame,--
What better proof than that I loathed her shame?
That many blamed me could not irk me long,
But, if you doubted, must I not be wrong?
'Tis not for me to answer; this I know.
That man or race so prosperously low 190
Sunk in success that wrath they cannot feel,
Shall taste the spurn of parting Fortune's heel;
For never land long lease of empire won
Whose sons sate silent when base deeds were done.
Curtis, so wrote I thirteen years ago,
Tost it unfinished by, and left it so;
Found lately, I have pieced it out, or tried,
Since time for callid juncture was denied.
Some of the verses pleased me, it is true,
And still were pertinent,--those honoring you. 200
These now I offer: take them, if you will,
Like the old hand-grasp, when at Shady Hill
We met, or Staten Island, in the days
When life was its own spur, nor needed praise.
If once you thought me rash, no longer fear;
Past my next milestone waits my seventieth year.
I mount no longer when the trumpets call;
My battle-harness idles on the wall,
The spider's castle, camping-ground of dust,
Not without dints, and all in front, I trust. 210
Shivering sometimes it calls me as it hears
Afar the charge's tramp and clash of spears;
But 'tis such murmur only as might be
The sea-shell's lost tradition of the sea,
That makes me muse and wonder Where? and When?
While from my cliff I watch the waves of men
That climb to break midway their seeming gain,
And think it triumph if they shake their chain.
Little I ask of Fate; will she refuse
Some days of reconcilement with the Muse? 220
I take my reed again and blow it free
Of dusty silence, murmuring, 'Sing to me!'
And, as its stops my curious touch retries,
The stir of earlier instincts I surprise,--
Instincts, if less imperious, yet more strong,
And happy in the toil that ends with song.
Home am I come: not, as I hoped might be,
To the old haunts, too full of ghosts for me,
But to the olden dreams that time endears,
And the loved books that younger grow with years; 230
To country rambles, timing with my tread
Some happier verse that carols in my head,
Yet all with sense of something vainly mist,
Of something lost, but when I never wist.
How empty seems to me the populous street,
One figure gone I daily loved to meet,--
The clear, sweet singer with the crown of snow
Not whiter than the thoughts that housed below!
And, ah, what absence feel I at my side,
Like Dante when he missed his laurelled guide, 240
What sense of diminution in the air
Once so inspiring, Emerson not there!
But life is sweet, though all that makes it sweet
Lessen like sound of friends' departing feet,
And Death is beautiful as feet of friend
Coming with welcome at our journey's end;
For me Fate gave, whate'er she else denied,
A nature sloping to the southern side;
I thank her for it, though when clouds arise
Such natures double-darken gloomy skies. 250
I muse upon the margin of the sea,
Our common pathway to the new To Be,
Watching the sails, that lessen more and more,
Of good and beautiful embarked before;
With bits of wreck I patch the boat shall bear
Me to that unexhausted Otherwhere,
Whose friendly-peopled shore I sometimes see,
By soft mirage uplifted, beckon me,
Nor sadly hear, as lower sinks the sun,
My moorings to the past snap one by one. 260
A MYSTICAL COMMENT ON TITIAN'S 'SACRED AND PROFANE LOVE'
My day began not till the twilight fell,
And, lo, in ether from heaven's sweetest well,
The New Moon swam divinely isolate
In maiden silence, she that makes my fate
Haply not knowing it, or only so
As I the secrets of my sheep may know;
Nor ask I more, entirely blest if she,
In letting me adore, ennoble me
To height of what the Gods meant making man,
As only she and her best beauty can. 10
Mine be the love that in itself can find
Seed of white thoughts, the lilies of the mind,
Seed of that glad surrender of the will
That finds in service self's true purpose still:
Love that in outward fairness sees the tent
Pitched for an inmate far more excellent;
Love with a light irradiate to the core,
Lit at her lamp, but fed from inborn store;
Love thrice-requited with the single joy
Of an immaculate vision naught could cloy, 20
Dearer because, so high beyond my scope,
My life grew rich with her, unbribed by hope
Of other guerdon save to think she knew
One grateful votary paid her all her due;
Happy if she, high-radiant there, resigned
To his sure trust her image in his mind.
O fairer even than Peace is when she comes
Hushing War's tumult, and retreating drums
Fade to a murmur like the sough of bees
Hidden among the noon-stilled linden-trees, 30
Bringer of quiet, thou that canst allay
The dust and din and travail of the day,
Strewer of Silence, Giver of the dew
That doth our pastures and our souls renew,
Still dwell remote, still on thy shoreless sea
Float unattained in silent empery,
Still light my thoughts, nor listen to a prayer
Would make thee less imperishably fair!
Can, then, my twofold nature find content
In vain conceits of airy blandishment? 40
Ask I no more? Since yesterday I task
My storm-strewn thoughts to tell me what I ask:
Faint premenitions of mutation strange
Steal o'er my perfect orb, and, with the change,
Myself am changed; the shadow of my earth
Darkens the disk of that celestial worth
Which only yesterday could still suffice
Upwards to waft my thoughts in sacrifice;
My heightened fancy with its touches warm
Moulds to a woman's that ideal form; 50
Nor yet a woman's wholly, but divine
With awe her purer essence bred in mine.
Was it long brooding on their own surmise,
Which, of the eyes engendered, fools the eyes,
Or have I seen through that translucent air
A Presence shaped in its seclusions bare,
My Goddess looking on me from above
As look our russet maidens when they love,
But high-uplifted, o'er our human heat
And passion-paths too rough for her pearl feet? 60
Slowly the Shape took outline as I gazed
At her full-orbed or crescent, till, bedazed
With wonder-working light that subtly wrought
My brain to its own substance, steeping thought
In trances such as poppies give, I saw
Things shut from vision by sight's sober law,
Amorphous, changeful, but defined at last
Into the peerless Shape mine eyes hold fast.
This, too, at first I worshipt: soon, like wine,
Her eyes, in mine poured, frenzy-philtred mine; 70
Passion put Worship's priestly raiment on
And to the woman knelt, the Goddess gone.
Was I, then, more than mortal made? or she
Less than divine that she might mate with me?
If mortal merely, could my nature cope
With such o'ermastery of maddening hope?
If Goddess, could she feel the blissful woe
That women in their self-surrender know?
Long she abode aloof there in her heaven,
Far as the grape-bunch of the Pleiad seven 80
Beyond my madness' utmost leap; but here
Mine eyes have feigned of late her rapture near,
Moulded of mind-mist that broad day dispels,
Here in these shadowy woods and brook-lulled dells.
Have no heaven-habitants e'er felt a void
In hearts sublimed with ichor unalloyed?
E'er longed to mingle with a mortal fate
Intense with pathos of its briefer date?
Could she partake, and live, our human stains?
Even with the thought there tingles through my veins 90
Sense of unwarned renewal; I, the dead,
Receive and house again the ardor fled,
As once Alcestis; to the ruddy brim
Feel masculine virtue flooding every limb,
And life, like Spring returning, brings the key
That sets my senses from their winter free,
Dancing like naked fauns too glad for shame.
Her passion, purified to palest flame,
Can it thus kindle? Is her purpose this?
I will not argue, lest I lose a bliss 100
That makes me dream Tithonus' fortune mine,
(Or what of it was palpably divine
Ere came the fruitlessly immortal gift;)
I cannot curb my hope's imperious drift
That wings with fire my dull mortality;
Though fancy-forged, 'tis all I feel or see.
My Goddess sinks; round Latmos' darkening brow
Trembles the parting of her presence now,
Faint as the perfume left upon the grass
By her limbs' pressure or her feet that pass 110
By me conjectured, but conjectured so
As things I touch far fainter substance show.
Was it mine eyes' imposture I have seen
Flit with the moonbeams on from shade to sheen
Through the wood-openings? Nay, I see her now
Out of her heaven new-lighted, from her brow
The hair breeze-scattered, like loose mists that blow
Across her crescent, goldening as they go
High-kirtled for the chase, and what was shown,
Of maiden rondure, like the rose half-blown. 120
If dream, turn real! If a vision, stay!
Take mortal shape, my philtre's spell obey!
If hags compel thee from thy secret sky
With gruesome incantations, why not I,
Whose only magic is that I distil
A potion, blent of passion, thought, and will,
Deeper in reach, in force of fate more rich,
Than e'er was juice wrung by Thessalian witch
From moon-enchanted herbs,--a potion brewed
Of my best life in each diviner mood? 130
Myself the elixir am, myself the bowl
Seething and mantling with my soul of soul.
Taste and be humanized: what though the cup,
With thy lips frenzied, shatter? Drink it up!
If but these arms may clasp, o'erquited so,
My world, thy heaven, all life means I shall know.
Sure she hath heard my prayer and granted half,
As Gods do who at mortal madness laugh.
Yet if life's solid things illusion seem,
Why may not substance wear the mask of dream? 140
In sleep she comes; she visits me in dreams,
And, as her image in a thousand streams,
So in my veins, that her obey, she sees,
Floating and flaming there, her images
Bear to my little world's remotest zone
Glad messages of her, and her alone.
With silence-sandalled Sleep she comes to me,
(But softer-footed, sweeter-browed, than she,)
In motion gracious as a seagull's wing,
And all her bright limbs, moving, seem to sing. 150
Let me believe so, then, if so I may
With the night's bounty feed my beggared day.
In dreams I see her lay the goddess down
With bow and quiver, and her crescent-crown
Flicker and fade away to dull eclipse
As down to mine she deigns her longed-for lips;
And as her neck my happy arms enfold,
Flooded and lustred with her loosened gold,
She whispers words each sweeter than a kiss:
Then, wakened with the shock of sudden bliss, 160
My arms are empty, my awakener fled,
And, silent in the silent sky o'erhead,
But coldly as on ice-plated snow, she gleams,
Herself the mother and the child of dreams.
Gone is the time when phantasms could appease
My quest phantasmal and bring cheated ease;
When, if she glorified my dreams, I felt
Through all my limbs a change immortal melt
At touch of hers illuminate with soul.
Not long could I be stilled with Fancy's dole; 170
Too soon the mortal mixture in me caught
Red fire from her celestial flame, and fought
For tyrannous control in all my veins:
My fool's prayer was accepted; what remains?
Or was it some eidolon merely, sent
By her who rules the shades in banishment,
To mock me with her semblance? Were it thus,
How 'scape I shame, whose will was traitorous?
What shall compensate an ideal dimmed?
How blanch again my statue virgin-limbed, 180
Soiled with the incense-smoke her chosen priest
Poured more profusely as within decreased
The fire unearthly, fed with coals from far
Within the soul's shrine? Could my fallen star
Be set in heaven again by prayers and tears
And quenchless sacrifice of all my years,
How would the victim to the flamen leap,
And life for life's redemption paid hold cheap!
But what resource when she herself descends
From her blue throne, and o'er her vassal bends 190
That shape thrice-deified by love, those eyes
Wherein the Lethe of all others lies?
When my white queen of heaven's remoteness tires,
Herself against her other self conspires,
Takes woman's nature, walks in mortal ways,
And finds in my remorse her beauty's praise?
Yet all would I renounce to dream again
The dream in dreams fulfilled that made my pain,
My noble pain that heightened all my years
With crowns to win and prowess-breeding tears; 200
Nay, would that dream renounce once more to see
Her from her sky there looking down at me!
Goddess, reclimb thy heaven, and be once more
An inaccessible splendor to adore,
A faith, a hope of such transcendent worth
As bred ennobling discontent with earth;
Give back the longing, back the elated mood
That, fed with thee, spurned every meaner good;
Give even the spur of impotent despair
That, without hope, still bade aspire and dare; 210
Give back the need to worship, that still pours
Down to the soul the virtue it adores!
Nay, brightest and most beautiful, deem naught
These frantic words, the reckless wind of thought;
Still stoop, still grant,--I live but in thy will;
Be what thou wilt, but be a woman still!
Vainly I cried, nor could myself believe
That what I prayed for I would fain receive;
My moon is set; my vision set with her;
No more can worship vain my pulses stir. 220
Goddess Triform, I own thy triple spell,
My heaven's queen,--queen, too, of my earth and hell!
THE BLACK PREACHER
A BRETON LEGEND
At Carnac in Brittany, close on the bay,
They show you a church, or rather the gray
Ribs of a dead one, left there to bleach
With the wreck lying near on the crest of the beach,
Roofless and splintered with thunder-stone,
'Mid lichen-blurred gravestones all alone;
'Tis the kind of ruin strange sights to see
That may have their teaching for you and me.
Something like this, then, my guide had to tell,
Perched on a saint cracked across when he fell; 10
But since I might chance give his meaning a wrench,
He talking his _patois_ and I English-French,
I'll put what he told me, preserving the tone,
In a rhymed prose that makes it half his, half my own.
An abbey-church stood here, once on a time,
Built as a death-bed atonement for crime:
'Twas for somebody's sins, I know not whose;
But sinners are plenty, and you can choose.
Though a cloister now of the dusk-winged bat,
'Twas rich enough once, and the brothers grew fat, 20
Looser in girdle and purpler in jowl,
Singing good rest to the founder's lost soul.
But one day came Northmen, and lithe tongues of fire
Lapped up the chapter-house, licked off the spire,
And left all a rubbish-heap, black and dreary,
Where only the wind sings _miserere_.
No priest has kneeled since at the altar's foot,
Whose crannies are searched by the nightshade's root,
Nor sound of service is ever heard,
Except from throat of the unclean bird, 30
Hooting to unassoiled shapes as they pass
In midnights unholy his witches' mass,
Or shouting 'Ho! ho!' from the belfry high
As the Devil's sabbath-train whirls by.
But once a year, on the eve of All-Souls,
Through these arches dishallowed the organ rolls,
Fingers long fleshless the bell-ropes work,
The chimes peal muffled with sea-mists mirk,
The skeleton windows are traced anew
On the baleful nicker of corpse-lights blue, 40
And the ghosts must come, so the legend saith,
To a preaching of Reverend Doctor Death.
Abbots, monks, barons, and ladies fair
Hear the dull summons and gather there:
No rustle of silk now, no clink of mail,
Nor ever a one greets his church-mate pale;
No knight whispers love in the _chatelaine's_ ear,
His next-door neighbor this five-hundred year;
No monk has a sleek _benedicite_
For the great lord shadowy now as he; 50
Nor needeth any to hold his breath,
Lest he lose the least word of Doctor Death.
He chooses his text in the Book Divine,
Tenth verse of the Preacher in chapter nine:
'"Whatsoever thy hand shall find thee to do,
That do with thy whole might, or thou shalt rue;
For no man is wealthy, or wise, or brave,
In that quencher of might-be's and would-be's, the grave."
Bid by the Bridegroom, "To-morrow," ye said,
And To-morrow was digging a trench for your bed; 60
Ye said, "God can wait; let us finish our wine;"
Ye had wearied Him, fools, and that last knock was mine!'
But I can't pretend to give you the sermon,
Or say if the tongue were French, Latin, or German;
Whatever he preached in, I give you my word
The meaning was easy to all that heard;
Famous preachers there have been and be,
But never was one so convincing as he;
So blunt was never a begging friar,
No Jesuit's tongue so barbed with fire, 70
Cameronian never, nor Methodist,
Wrung gall out of Scripture with such a twist.
And would you know who his hearers must be?
I tell you just what my guide told me:
Excellent teaching men have, day and night,
From two earnest friars, a black and a white,
The Dominican Death and the Carmelite Life;
And between these two there is never strife,
For each has his separate office and station,
And each his own work in the congregation; 80
Whoso to the white brother deafens his ears,
And cannot be wrought on by blessings or tears,
Awake In his coffin must wait and wait,
In that blackness of darkness that means _too late_,
And come once a year, when the ghost-bell tolls,
As till Doomsday it shall on the eve of All-Souls,
To hear Doctor Death, whose words smart with the brine
Of the Preacher, the tenth verse of chapter nine.
I, walking the familiar street,
While a crammed horse-car jingled through it,
Was lifted from my prosy feet
And in Arcadia ere I knew it.
Fresh sward for gravel soothed my tread,
And shepherd's pipes my ear delighted;
The riddle may be lightly read:
I met two lovers newly plighted.
They murmured by in happy care,
New plans for paradise devising, 10
Just as the moon, with pensive stare,
O'er Mistress Craigie's pines was rising.
Astarte, known nigh threescore years,
Me to no speechless rapture urges;
Them in Elysium she enspheres,
Queen, from of old, of thaumaturges.
The railings put forth bud and bloom,
The house-fronts all with myrtles twine them,
And light-winged Loves in every room
Make nests, and then with kisses line them. 20
O sweetness of untasted life!
O dream, its own supreme fulfillment!
O hours with all illusion rife,
As ere the heart divined what ill meant!
'_Et ego_', sighed I to myself,
And strove some vain regrets to bridle,
'Though now laid dusty on the shelf,
Was hero once of such an idyl!
'An idyl ever newly sweet,
Although since Adam's day recited, 30
Whose measures time them to Love's feet,
Whose sense is every ill requited.'
Maiden, if I may counsel, drain
Each drop of this enchanted season,
For even our honeymoons must wane,
Convicted of green cheese by Reason.
And none will seem so safe from change,
Nor in such skies benignant hover,
As this, beneath whose witchery strange
You tread on rose-leaves with your lover. 40
The glass unfilled all tastes can fit,
As round its brim Conjecture dances;
For not Mephisto's self hath wit
To draw such vintages as Fancy's.
When our pulse beats its minor key,
When play-time halves and school-time doubles,
Age fills the cup with serious tea,
Which once Dame Clicquot starred with bubbles.
'Fie, Mr. Graybeard! Is this wise?
Is this the moral of a poet, 50
Who, when the plant of Eden dies,
Is privileged once more to sow it!
'That herb of clay-disdaining root,
From stars secreting what it feeds on,
Is burnt-out passion's slag and soot
Fit soil to strew its dainty seeds on?
'Pray, why, if in Arcadia once,
Need one so soon forget the way there?
Or why, once there, be such a dunce
As not contentedly to stay there?' 60
Dear child, 'twas but a sorry jest,
And from my heart I hate the cynic
Who makes the Book of Life a nest
For comments staler than rabbinic.
If Love his simple spell but keep,
Life with ideal eyes to flatter,
The Grail itself were crockery cheap
To Every-day's communion-platter.
One Darby is to me well known,
Who, as the hearth between them blazes, 70
Sees the old moonlight shine on Joan,
And float her youthward in its hazes.
He rubs his spectacles, he stares,--
'Tis the same face that witched him early!
He gropes for his remaining hairs,--
Is this a fleece that feels so curly?
'Good heavens! but now 'twas winter gray,
And I of years had more than plenty;
The almanac's a fool! 'Tis May!
Hang family Bibles! I am twenty! 80
'Come, Joan, your arm; we'll walk the room--
The lane, I mean--do you remember?
How confident the roses bloom,
As if it ne'er could be December!
'Nor more it shall, while in your eyes
My heart its summer heat recovers,
And you, howe'er your mirror lies,
Find your old beauty in your lover's.'
When oaken woods with buds are pink,
And new-come birds each morning sing,
When fickle May on Summer's brink
Pauses, and knows not which to fling,
Whether fresh bud and bloom again,
Or hoar-frost silvering hill and plain,
Then from the honeysuckle gray
The oriole with experienced quest
Twitches the fibrous bark away,
The cordage of his hammock-nest.
Cheering his labor with a note
Rich as the orange of his throat.
High o'er the loud and dusty road
The soft gray cup in safety swings,
To brim ere August with its load
Of downy breasts and throbbing wings,
O'er which the friendly elm-tree heaves
An emerald roof with sculptured eaves.
Below, the noisy World drags by
In the old way, because it must,
The bride with heartbreak in her eye,
The mourner following hated dust:
Thy duty, winged flame of Spring,
Is but to love, and fly, and sing.
Oh, happy life, to soar and sway
Above the life by mortals led,
Singing the merry months away,
Master, not slave of daily bread,
And, when the Autumn comes, to flee
Wherever sunshine beckons thee!
Like some lorn abbey now, the wood
Stands roofless in the bitter air;
In ruins on its floor is strewed
The carven foliage quaint and rare,
And homeless winds complain along
The columned choir once thrilled with song.
And thou, dear nest, whence joy and praise
The thankful oriole used to pour,
Swing'st empty while the north winds chase
Their snowy swarms from Labrador:
But, loyal to the happy past,
I love thee still for what thou wast.
Ah, when the Summer graces flee
From other nests more dear than thou,
And, where June crowded once, I see
Only bare trunk and disleaved bough;
When springs of life that gleamed and gushed
Run chilled, and slower, and are hushed;
When our own branches, naked long,
The vacant nests of Spring betray,
Nurseries of passion, love, and song
That vanished as our year grew gray;
When Life drones o'er a tale twice told
O'er embers pleading with the cold,--
I'll trust, that, like the birds of Spring,
Our good goes not without repair,
But only flies to soar and sing
Far off in some diviner air,
Where we shall find it in the calms
Of that fair garden 'neath the palms.
A YOUTHFUL EXPERIMENT IN ENGLISH HEXAMETERS
IMPRESSIONS OF HOMER
Sometimes come pauses of calm, when the rapt bard, holding his heart back,
Over his deep mind muses, as when o'er awe-stricken ocean
Poises a heapt cloud luridly, ripening the gale and the thunder;
Slow rolls onward the verse with a long swell heaving and swinging,
Seeming to wait till, gradually wid'ning from far-off horizons,
Piling the deeps up, heaping the glad-hearted surges before it,
Gathers the thought as a strong wind darkening and cresting the tumult.
Then every pause, every heave, each trough in the waves, has its meaning;
Full-sailed, forth like a tall ship steadies the theme, and around it,
Leaping beside it in glad strength, running in wild glee beyond it,
Harmonies billow exulting and floating the soul where it lists them,
Swaying the listener's fantasy hither and thither like drift-weed.
WRITTEN IN A CHILD'S ALBUM
'Twas sung of old in hut and hall
How once a king in evil hour
Hung musing o'er his castle wall,
And, lost in idle dreams, let fall
Into the sea his ring of power.
Then, let him sorrow as he might,
And pledge his daughter and his throne
To who restored the jewel bright,
The broken spell would ne'er unite;
The grim old ocean held its own.
Those awful powers on man that wait,
On man, the beggar or the king,
To hovel bare or hall of state
A magic ring that masters fate
With each succeeding birthday bring.
Therein are set four jewels rare:
Pearl winter, summer's ruby blaze,
Spring's emerald, and, than all more fair,
Fall's pensive opal, doomed to bear
A heart of fire bedreamed with haze.
To him the simple spell who knows
The spirits of the ring to sway,
Fresh power with every sunrise flows,
And royal pursuivants are those
That fly his mandates to obey.
But he that with a slackened will
Dreams of things past or things to be,
From him the charm is slipping still,
And drops, ere he suspect the ill,
Into the inexorable sea.
The path from me to you that led,
Untrodden long, with grass is grown,
Mute carpet that his lieges spread
Before the Prince Oblivion
When he goes visiting the dead.
And who are they but who forget?
You, who my coming could surmise
Ere any hint of me as yet
Warned other ears and other eyes,
See the path blurred without regret.
But when I trace its windings sweet
With saddened steps, at every spot
That feels the memory in my feet,
Each grass-blade turns forget-me-not,
Where murmuring bees your name repeat.
Ere pales in Heaven the morning star,
A bird, the loneliest of its kind,
Hears Dawn's faint footfall from afar
While all its mates are dumb and blind.
It is a wee sad-colored thing,
As shy and secret as a maid,
That, ere in choir the robins sing,
Pipes its own name like one afraid.
It seems pain-prompted to repeat
The story of some ancient ill,
But _Phoebe! Phoebe!_ sadly sweet
Is all it says, and then is still.
It calls and listens. Earth and sky,
Hushed by the pathos of its fate,
Listen: no whisper of reply
Comes from its doom-dissevered mate.
_Phoebe!_ it calls and calls again,
And Ovid, could he but have heard,
Had hung a legendary pain
About the memory of the bird;
A pain articulate so long,
In penance of some mouldered crime
Whose ghost still flies the Furies' thong
Down the waste solitudes of time.
Waif of the young World's wonder-hour,
When gods found mortal maidens fair,
And will malign was joined with power
Love's kindly laws to overbear,
Like Progne, did it feel the stress
And coil of the prevailing words
Close round its being, and compress
Man's ampler nature to a bird's?
One only memory left of all
The motley crowd of vanished scenes,
Hers, and vain impulse to recall
By repetition what it means.
_Phoebe!_ is all it has to say
In plaintive cadence o'er and o'er,
Like children that have lost their way,
And know their names, but nothing more.
Is it a type, since Nature's Lyre
Vibrates to every note in man,
Of that insatiable desire,
Meant to be so since life began?
I, in strange lands at gray of dawn,
Wakeful, have heard that fruitless plaint
Through Memory's chambers deep withdrawn
Renew its iterations faint.
So nigh! yet from remotest years
It summons back its magic, rife
With longings unappeased, and tears
Drawn from the very source of life.
How was I worthy so divine a loss,
Deepening my midnights, kindling all my morns?
Why waste such precious wood to make my cross,
Such far-sought roses for my crown of thorns?
And when she came, how earned I such a gift?
Why spend on me, a poor earth-delving mole,
The fireside sweetnesses, the heavenward lift,
The hourly mercy, of a woman's soul?
Ah, did we know to give her all her right,
What wonders even in our poor clay were done!
It is not Woman leaves us to our night,
But our brute earth that grovels from her sun.
Our nobler cultured fields and gracious domes
We whirl too oft from her who still shines on
To light in vain our caves and clefts, the homes
Of night-bird instincts pained till she be gone.
Still must this body starve our souls with shade;
But when Death makes us what we were before,
Then shall her sunshine all our depths invade,
And not a shadow stain heaven's crystal floor.
Come back before the birds are flown,
Before the leaves desert the tree,
And, through the lonely alleys blown,
Whisper their vain regrets to me
Who drive before a blast more rude,
The plaything of my gusty mood,
In vain pursuing and pursued!
Nay, come although the boughs be bare,
Though snowflakes fledge the summer's nest,
And in some far Ausonian air
The thrush, your minstrel, warm his breast.
Come, sunshine's treasurer, and bring
To doubting flowers their faith in spring,
To birds and me the need to sing!
Sleep is Death's image,--poets tell us so;
But Absence is the bitter self of Death,
And, you away, Life's lips their red forego,
Parched in an air unfreshened by your breath.
Light of those eyes that made the light of mine,
Where shine you? On what happier fields and flowers?
Heaven's lamps renew their lustre less divine,
But only serve to count my darkened hours.
If with your presence went your image too,
That brain-born ghost my path would never cross
Which meets me now where'er I once met you,
Then vanishes, to multiply my loss.
She gave me all that woman can,
Nor her soul's nunnery forego,
A confidence that man to man
Without remorse can never show.
Rare art, that can the sense refine
Till not a pulse rebellious stirs,
And, since she never can be mine,
Makes it seem sweeter to be hers!
Turbid from London's noise and smoke,
Here I find air and quiet too;
Air filtered through the beech and oak,
Quiet by nothing harsher broke
Than wood-dove's meditative coo.
The Truce of God is here; the breeze
Sighs as men sigh relieved from care,
Or tilts as lightly in the trees
As might a robin: all is ease,
With pledge of ampler ease to spare.
Time, leaning on his scythe, forgets
To turn the hour-glass in his hand,
And all life's petty cares and frets,
Its teasing hopes and weak regrets,
Are still as that oblivious sand.
Repose fills all the generous space
Of undulant plain; the rook and crow
Hush; 'tis as if a silent grace,
By Nature murmured, calmed the face
Of Heaven above and Earth below.
From past and future toils I rest,
One Sabbath pacifies my year;
I am the halcyon, this my nest;
And all is safely for the best
While the World's there and I am here.
So I turn tory for the nonce,
And think the radical a bore,
Who cannot see, thick-witted dunce,
That what was good for people once
Must be as good forevermore.
Sun, sink no deeper down the sky;
Earth, never change this summer mood;
Breeze, loiter thus forever by,
Stir the dead leaf or let it lie;
Since I am happy, all is good.
ON BURNING SOME OLD LETTERS
With what odorous woods and spices
Spared for royal sacrifices,
With what costly gums seld-seen,
Hoarded to embalm a queen,
With what frankincense and myrrh,
Burn these precious parts of her,
Full of life and light and sweetness
As a summer day's completeness,
Joy of sun and song of bird
Running wild in every word,
Full of all the superhuman
Grace and winsomeness of woman?
O'er these leaves her wrist has slid,
Thrilled with veins where fire is hid
'Neath the skin's pellucid veil,
Like the opal's passion pale;
This her breath has sweetened; this
Still seems trembling with the kiss
She half-ventured on my name,
Brow and cheek and throat aflame;
Over all caressing lies
Sunshine left there by her eyes;
From them all an effluence rare
With her nearness fills the air,
Till the murmur I half-hear
Of her light feet drawing near.
Rarest woods were coarse and rough,
Sweetest spice not sweet enough,
Too impure all earthly fire
For this sacred funeral-pyre;
These rich relics must suffice
For their own dear sacrifice.
Seek we first an altar fit
For such victims laid on it:
It shall be this slab brought home
In old happy days from Rome,--
Lazuli, once blest to line
Dian's inmost cell and shrine.
Gently now I lay them there.
Pure as Dian's forehead bare,
Yet suffused with warmer hue,
Such as only Latmos knew.
Fire I gather from the sun
In a virgin lens; 'tis done!
Mount the flames, red, yellow, blue,
As her moods were shining through,
Of the moment's impulse born,--
Moods of sweetness, playful scorn,
Half defiance, half surrender,
More than cruel, more than tender,
Flouts, caresses, sunshine, shade,
Gracious doublings of a maid
Infinite in guileless art,
Playing hide-seek with her heart.
On the altar now, alas,
There they lie a crinkling mass,
Writhing still, as if with grief
Went the life from every leaf;
Then (heart-breaking palimpsest!)
Vanishing ere wholly guessed,
Suddenly some lines flash back,
Traced in lightning on the black,
And confess, till now denied,
All the fire they strove to hide.
What they told me, sacred trust,
Stays to glorify my dust,
There to burn through dust and damp
Like a mage's deathless lamp,
While an atom of this frame
Lasts to feed the dainty flame.
All is ashes now, but they
In my soul are laid away,
And their radiance round me hovers
Soft as moonlight over lovers,
Shutting her and me alone
In dream-Edens of our own;
First of lovers to invent
Love, and teach men what it meant.
I could not bear to see those eyes
On all with wasteful largess shine,
And that delight of welcome rise
Like sunshine strained through amber wine,
But that a glow from deeper skies,
From conscious fountains more divine,
Is (is it?) mine.
Be beautiful to all mankind,
As Nature fashioned thee to be;
'Twould anger me did all not find
The sweet perfection that's in thee:
Yet keep one charm of charms behind,--
Nay, thou'rt so rich, keep two or three
For (is it?) me!
Oh, tell me less or tell me more,
Soft eyes with mystery at the core,
That always seem to melt my own
Frankly as pansies fully grown,
Yet waver still 'tween no and yes!
So swift to cavil and deny,
Then parley with concessions shy,
Dear eyes, that make their youth be mine
And through my inmost shadows shine,
Oh, tell me more or tell me less!
FACT OR FANCY?
In town I hear, scarce wakened yet,
My neighbor's clock behind the wall
Record the day's increasing debt,
And _Cuckoo! Cuckoo!_ faintly call.
Our senses run in deepening grooves,
Thrown out of which they lose their tact,
And consciousness with effort moves
From habit past to present fact.
So, in the country waked to-day,
I hear, unwitting of the change,
A cuckoo's throb from far away
Begin to strike, nor think it strange.
The sound creates its wonted frame:
My bed at home, the songster hid
Behind the wainscoting,--all came
As long association bid.
Then, half aroused, ere yet Sleep's mist
From the mind's uplands furl away,
To the familiar sound I list,
Disputed for by Night and Day.
I count to learn how late it is,
Until, arrived at thirty-four,
I question, 'What strange world is this
Whose lavish hours would make me poor?'
_Cuckoo! Cuckoo!_ Still on it went,
With hints of mockery in its tone;
How could such hoards of time be spent
By one poor mortal's wit alone?
I have it! Grant, ye kindly Powers,
I from this spot may never stir,
If only these uncounted hours
May pass, and seem too short, with Her!
But who She is, her form and face,
These to the world of dream belong;
She moves through fancy's visioned space,
Unbodied, like the cuckoo's song.
One kiss from all others prevents me,
And sets all my pulses astir,
And burns on my lips and torments me:
'Tis the kiss that I fain would give her.
One kiss for all others requites me,
Although it is never to be,
And sweetens my dreams and invites me:
'Tis the kiss that she dare not give me.
Ah, could it he mine, it were sweeter
Than honey bees garner in dream,
Though its bliss on my lips were fleeter
Than a swallow's dip to the stream.
And yet, thus denied, it can never
In the prose of life vanish away;
O'er my lips it must hover forever,
The sunshine and shade of my day.
THE BROKEN TRYST
Walking alone where we walked together,
When June was breezy and blue,
I watch in the gray autumnal weather
The leaves fall inconstant as you.
If a dead leaf startle behind me,
I think 'tis your garment's hem,
And, oh, where no memory could find me,
Might I whirl away with them!
CASA SIN ALMA
RECUERDO DE MADRID
Silencioso por la puerta
Voy de su casa desierta
Do siempre feliz entre,
Y la encuentro en vano abierta
Cual la boca de una muerta
Despues que el alma se fue.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
FOR THE SUNDAY-SCHOOL CHILDREN OF THE CHURCH OF THE DISCIPLES
'What means this glory round our feet,'
The Magi mused, 'more bright than morn?'
And voices chanted clear and sweet,
'To-day the Prince of Peace is born!'
'What means that star,' the Shepherds said,
'That brightens through the rocky glen?'
And angels, answering overhead,
Sang, 'Peace on earth, good-will to men!'
'Tis eighteen hundred years and more
Since those sweet oracles were dumb;
We wait for Him, like them of yore;
Alas, He seems so slow to come!
But it was said, in words of gold
No time or sorrow e'er shall dim,
That little children might be bold
In perfect trust to come to Him.
All round about our feet shall shine
A light like that the wise men saw,
If we our loving wills incline
To that sweet Life which is the Law.
So shall we learn to understand
The simple faith of shepherds then,
And, clasping kindly hand in hand,
Sing, 'Peace on earth, good-will to men!'
And they who do their souls no wrong,
But keep at eve the faith of morn,
Shall daily hear the angel-song,
'To-day the Prince of Peace is born!'
MY PORTRAIT GALLERY
Oft round my hall of portraiture I gaze,
By Memory reared, the artist wise and holy,
From stainless quarries of deep-buried days.
There, as I muse in soothing melancholy,
Your faces glow in more than mortal youth,
Companions of my prime, now vanished wholly,
The loud, impetuous boy, the low-voiced maiden,
Now for the first time seen in flawless truth.
Ah, never master that drew mortal breath
Can match thy portraits, just and generous Death,
Whose brush with sweet regretful tints is laden!
Thou paintest that which struggled here below
Half understood, or understood for woe,
And with a sweet forewarning
Mak'st round the sacred front an aureole glow
Woven of that light that rose on Easter morning.
PAOLO TO FRANCESCA
I was with thee in Heaven: I cannot tell
If years or moments, so the sudden bliss,
When first we found, then lost, us in a kiss.
Abolished Time, abolished Earth and Hell,
Left only Heaven. Then from our blue there fell
The dagger's flash, and did not fall amiss,
For nothing now can rob my life of this,--
That once with thee in Heaven, all else is well.
Us, undivided when man's vengeance came,
God's half-forgives that doth not here divide;
And, were this bitter whirl-blast fanged with flame,
To me 'twere summer, we being side by side:
This granted, I God's mercy will not blame,
For, given thy nearness, nothing is denied.
As sinks the sun behind yon alien hills
Whose heather-purple slopes, in glory rolled,
Flush all my thought with momentary gold,
What pang of vague regret my fancy thrills?
Here 'tis enchanted ground the peasant tills,
Where the shy ballad dared its blooms unfold,
And memory's glamour makes new sights seem old,
As when our life some vanished dream fulfils.
Yet not to thee belong these painless tears,
Land loved ere seen: before my darkened eyes,
From far beyond the waters and the years,
Horizons mute that wait their poet rise;
The stream before me fades and disappears,
And in the Charles the western splendor dies.
ON BEING ASKED FOR AN AUTOGRAPH IN VENICE
Amid these fragments of heroic days
When thought met deed with mutual passion's leap,
There sits a Fame whose silent trump makes cheap
What short-lived rumor of ourselves we raise.
They had far other estimate of praise
Who stamped the signet of their souls so deep
In art and action, and whose memories keep
Their height like stars above our misty ways:
In this grave presence to record my name
Something within me hangs the head and shrinks.
Dull were the soul without some joy in fame;
Yet here to claim remembrance were, methinks,
Like him who, in the desert's awful frame,
Notches his cockney initials on the Sphinx.
THE DANCING BEAR
Far over Elf-land poets stretch their sway,
And win their dearest crowns beyond the goal
Of their own conscious purpose; they control
With gossamer threads wide-flown our fancy's play,
And so our action. On my walk to-day,
A wallowing bear begged clumsily his toll,
When straight a vision rose of Atta Troll,
And scenes ideal witched mine eyes away.
'_Merci, Mossieu!_' the astonished bear-ward cried,
Grateful for thrice his hope to me, the slave
Of partial memory, seeing at his side
A bear immortal. The glad dole I gave
Was none of mine; poor Heine o'er the wide
Atlantic welter stretched it from his grave.
The Maple puts her corals on in May,
While loitering frosts about the lowlands cling,
To be in tune with what the robins sing,
Plastering new log-huts 'mid her branches gray;
But when the Autumn southward turns away,
Then in her veins burns most the blood of Spring.
And every leaf, intensely blossoming,
Makes the year's sunset pale the set of day.
O Youth unprescient, were it only so
With trees you plant, and in whose shade reclined,
Thinking their drifting blooms Fate's coldest snow,
You carve dear names upon the faithful rind,
Nor in that vernal stem the cross foreknow
That Age shall bear, silent, yet unresigned!
While the slow clock, as they were miser's gold,
Counts and recounts the mornward steps of Time,
The darkness thrills with conscience of each crime
By Death committed, daily grown more bold.
Once more the list of all my wrongs is told,
And ghostly hands stretch to me from my prime
Helpless farewells, as from an alien clime;
For each new loss redoubles all the old.
This morn 'twas May; the blossoms were astir
With southern wind; but now the boughs are bent
With snow instead of birds, and all things freeze.
How much of all my past is dumb with her,
And of my future, too, for with her went
Half of that world I ever cared to please!
DEATH OF QUEEN MERCEDES
Hers all that Earth could promise or bestow,--
Youth, Beauty, Love, a crown, the beckoning years,
Lids never wet, unless with joyous tears,
A life remote from every sordid woe,
And by a nation's swelled to lordlier flow.
What lurking-place, thought we, for doubts or fears,
When, the day's swan, she swam along the cheers
Of the Alcala, five happy months ago?
The guns were shouting Io Hymen then
That, on her birthday, now denounce her doom;
The same white steeds that tossed their scorn of men
To-day as proudly drag her to the tomb.
Grim jest of fate! Yet who dare call it blind,
Knowing what life is, what our human-kind?
PRISON OF CERVANTES
Seat of all woes? Though Nature's firm decree
The narrowing soul with narrowing dungeon bind,
Yet was his free of motion as the wind,
And held both worlds, of spirit and sense, in fee.
In charmed communion with his dual mind
He wandered Spain, himself both knight and hind,
Redressing wrongs he knew must ever be.
His humor wise could see life's long deceit,
Man's baffled aims, nor therefore both despise;
His knightly nature could ill fortune greet
Like an old friend. Whose ever such kind eyes
That pierced so deep, such scope, save his whose feet
By Avon ceased 'neath the same April's skies?
TO A LADY PLAYING ON THE CITHERN
So dreamy-soft the notes, so far away
They seem to fall, the horns of Oberon
Blow their faint Hunt's-up from the good-time gone;
Or, on a morning of long-withered May,
Larks tinkle unseen o'er Claudian arches gray,
That Romeward crawl from Dreamland; and anon
My fancy flings her cloak of Darkness on,
To vanish from the dungeon of To-day.
In happier times and scenes I seem to be,
And, as her fingers flutter o'er the strings,
The days return when I was young as she,
And my fledged thoughts began to feel their wings
With all Heaven's blue before them: Memory
Or Music is it such enchantment sings?
THE EYE'S TREASURY
Gold of the reddening sunset, backward thrown
In largess on my tall paternal trees,
Thou with false hope or fear didst never tease
His heart that hoards thee; nor is childhood flown
From him whose life no fairer boon hath known
Than that what pleased him earliest still should please:
And who hath incomes safe from chance as these,
Gone in a moment, yet for life his own?
All other gold is slave of earthward laws;
This to the deeps of ether takes its flight,
And on the topmost leaves makes glorious pause
Of parting pathos ere it yield to night:
So linger, as from me earth's light withdraws,
Dear touch of Nature, tremulously bright!
Ye little think what toil it was to build
A world of men imperfect even as this,
Where we conceive of Good by what we miss,
Of ill by that wherewith best days are filled;
A world whose every atom is self-willed,
Whose corner-stone is propt on artifice,
Whose joy is shorter-lived than woman's kiss,
Whose wisdom hoarded is but to be spilled.
Yet this is better than a life of caves,
Whose highest art was scratching on a bone,
Or chipping toilsome arrowheads of flint;
Better, though doomed to hear while Cleon raves,
To see wit's want eterned in paint or stone,
And wade the drain-drenched shoals of daily print.
What countless years and wealth of brain were spent
To bring us hither from our caves and huts,
And trace through pathless wilds the deep-worn ruts
Of faith and habit, by whose deep indent
Prudence may guide if genius be not lent,
Genius, not always happy when it shuts
Its ears against the plodder's ifs and buts,
Hoping in one rash leap to snatch the event.
The coursers of the sun, whose hoofs of flame
Consume morn's misty threshold, are exact
As bankers' clerks, and all this star-poised frame,
One swerve allowed, were with convulsion rackt;
This world were doomed, should Dulness fail, to tame
Wit's feathered heels in the stern stocks of fact.
What were the whole void world, if thou wert dead,
Whose briefest absence can eclipse my day,
And make the hours that danced with Time away
Drag their funereal steps with muffled head?
Through thee, meseems, the very rose is red,
From thee the violet steals its breath in May,
From thee draw life all things that grow not gray,
And by thy force the happy stars are sped.
Thou near, the hope of thee to overflow
Fills all my earth and heaven, as when in Spring,
Ere April come, the birds and blossoms know,
And grasses brighten round her feet to cling;
Nay, and this hope delights all nature so
That the dumb turf I tread on seems to sing.
UNDER THE OCTOBER MAPLES
What mean these banners spread,
These paths with royal red
So gaily carpeted?
Comes there a prince to-day?
Such footing were too fine
For feet less argentine
Than Dian's own or thine,
Queen whom my tides obey.
Surely for thee are meant
These hues so orient
That with a sultan's tent
Each tree invites the sun;
Our Earth such homage pays,
So decks her dusty ways,
And keeps such holidays,
For one and only one.
My brain shapes form and face,
Throbs with the rhythmic grace
And cadence of her pace
To all fine instincts true;
Her footsteps, as they pass,
Than moonbeams over grass
Fall lighter,--but, alas,
More insubstantial too!
'O Dryad feet,
Be doubly fleet,
Timed to my heart's expectant beat
While I await her!
"At four," vowed she;
'Tis scarcely three,
Yet by _my_ time it seems to be
A good hour later!'
'Bid me not stay!
Hear reason, pray!
'Tis striking six! Sure never day
Was short as this is!'
'Reason nor rhyme
Is in the chime!
It can't be five; I've scarce had time
To beg two kisses!'
'Early or late,
When lovers wait,
And Love's watch gains, if Time a gait
So snail-like chooses,
Why should his feet
Become more fleet
Than cowards' are, when lovers meet
And Love's watch loses?'
ELEANOR MAKES MACAROONS
Light of triumph in her eyes,
Eleanor her apron ties;
As she pushes back her sleeves,
High resolve her bosom heaves.
Hasten, cook! impel the fire
To the pace of her desire;
As you hope to save your soul,
Bring a virgin casserole,
Brightest bring of silver spoons,--
Eleanor makes macaroons!
Almond-blossoms, now adance
In the smile of Southern France,
Leave your sport with sun and breeze,
Think of duty, not of ease;
Fashion, 'neath their jerkins brown,
Kernels white as thistle-down,
Tiny cheeses made with cream
From the Galaxy's mid-stream,
Blanched in light of honeymoons,--
Eleanor makes macaroons!
Now for sugar,--nay, our plan
Tolerates no work of man.
Hurry, then, ye golden bees;
Fetch your clearest honey, please,
Garnered on a Yorkshire moor,
While the last larks sing and soar,
From the heather-blossoms sweet
Where sea-breeze and sunshine meet,
And the Augusts mask as Junes,--
Eleanor makes macaroons!
Next the pestle and mortar find.
Pure rock-crystal,--these to grind
Into paste more smooth than silk,
Whiter than the milkweed's milk:
Spread it on a rose-leaf, thus,
Cate to please Theocritus;
Then the fire with spices swell,
While, for her completer spell,
Mystic canticles she croons,--
Eleanor makes macaroons!
Perfect! and all this to waste
On a graybeard's palsied taste!
Poets so their verses write,
Heap them full of life and light,
And then fling them to the rude
Mumbling of the multitude.
Not so dire her fate as theirs,
Since her friend this gift declares
Choicest of his birthday boons,--
Eleanor's dear macaroons!
_February_ 22, 1884.
'And how could you dream of meeting?'
Nay, how can you ask me, sweet?
All day my pulse had been beating
The tune of your coming feet.
And as nearer and ever nearer
I felt the throb of your tread,
To be in the world grew clearer,
And my blood ran rosier red.
Love called, and I could not linger,
But sought the forbidden tryst,
As music follows the finger
Of the dreaming lutanist
And though you had said it and said it,
'We must not be happy to-day,'
Was I not wiser to credit
The fire in my feet than your Nay?
When the down is on the chin
And the gold-gleam in the hair,
When the birds their sweethearts win
And champagne is in the air,
Love is here, and Love is there,
Love is welcome everywhere.
Summer's cheek too soon turns thin,
Days grow briefer, sunshine rare;
Autumn from his cannekin
Blows the froth to chase Despair:
Love is met with frosty stare,
Cannot house 'neath branches bare.
When new life is in the leaf
And new red is in the rose,
Though Love's Maytlme be as brief
As a dragon-fly's repose,
Never moments come like those,
Be they Heaven or Hell: who knows?
All too soon comes Winter's grief,
Spendthrift Love's false friends turn foes;
Softly comes Old Age, the thief,
Steals the rapture, leaves the throes:
Love his mantle round him throws,--
'Time to say Good-by; it snows.'
'FRANCISCUS DE VERULAMIO SIC COGITAVIT'
That's a rather bold speech, my Lord Bacon,
For, indeed, is't so easy to know
Just how much we from others have taken,
And how much our own natural flow?
Since your mind bubbled up at its fountain,
How many streams made it elate,
While it calmed to the plain from the mountain,
As every mind must that grows great?
While you thought 'twas You thinking as newly
As Adam still wet with God's dew,
You forgot in your self-pride that truly
The whole Past was thinking through you.
Greece, Rome, nay, your namesake, old Roger,
With Truth's nameless delvers who wrought
In the dark mines of Truth, helped to prod your
Fine brain with the goad of their thought.
As mummy was prized for a rich hue
The painter no elsewhere could find,
So 'twas buried men's thinking with which you
Gave the ripe mellow tone to your mind.
I heard the proud strawberry saying,
'Only look what a ruby I've made!'
It forgot how the bees in their maying
Had brought it the stuff for its trade.
And yet there's the half of a truth in it,
And my Lord might his copyright sue;
For a thought's his who kindles new youth in it,
Or so puts it as makes it more true.
The birds but repeat without ending
The same old traditional notes,
Which some, by more happily blending,
Seem to make over new in their throats;
And we men through our old bit of song run,
Until one just improves on the rest,
And we call a thing his, in the long run,
Who utters it clearest and best.