Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

The Complete Poetical Works of James Russell Lowell by James Lowell

Part 5 out of 21

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 2.2 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Unto the service of the inner shrine,
Doth waken thy beloved with a kiss.


Heaven's cup held down to me I drain,
The sunshine mounts and spurs my brain;
Bathing in grass, with thirsty eye
I suck the last drop of the sky;
With each hot sense I draw to the lees
The quickening out-door influences,
And empty to each radiant comer
A supernaculum of summer:
Not, Bacchus, all thy grosser juice
Could bring enchantment so profuse, 10
Though for its press each grape-bunch had
The white feet of an Oread.
Through our coarse art gleam, now and then,
The features of angelic men:
'Neath the lewd Satyr's veiling paint
Glows forth the Sibyl, Muse, or Saint;
The dauber's botch no more obscures
The mighty master's portraitures.
And who can say what luckier beam
The hidden glory shall redeem, 20
For what chance clod the soul may wait
To stumble on its nobler fate,
Or why, to his unwarned abode,
Still by surprises comes the God?
Some moment, nailed on sorrow's cross,
May meditate a whole youth's loss,
Some windfall joy, we know not whence,
Redeem a lifetime's rash expense,
And, suddenly wise, the soul may mark, 29
Stripped of their simulated dark,
Mountains of gold that pierce the sky,
Girdling its valleyed poverty.

I feel ye, childhood's hopes, return,
With olden heats my pulses burn,--
Mine be the self-forgetting sweep,
The torrent impulse swift and wild,
Wherewith Taghkanic's rockborn child
Dares gloriously the dangerous leap.
And, in his sky-descended mood,
Transmutes each drop of sluggish blood, 40
By touch of bravery's simple wand,
To amethyst and diamond,
Proving himself no bastard slip,
But the true granite-cradled one,
Nursed with the rock's primeval drip,
The cloud-embracing mountain's son!

Prayer breathed in vain I no wish's sway
Rebuilds the vanished yesterday;
For plated wares of Sheffield stamp
We gave the old Aladdin's lamp;
'Tis we are changed; ah, whither went 51
That undesigned abandonment,
That wise, unquestioning content,
Which could erect its microcosm
Out of a weed's neglected blossom,
Could call up Arthur and his peers
By a low moss's clump of spears,
Or, in its shingle trireme launched,
Where Charles in some green inlet-branched,
Could venture for the golden fleece 60
And dragon-watched Hesperides,
Or, from its ripple-shattered fate,
Ulysses' chances re-create?
When, heralding life's every phase,
There glowed a goddess-veiling haze,
A plenteous, forewarning grace,
Like that more tender dawn that flies
Before the full moon's ample rise?
Methinks thy parting glory shines
Through yonder grove of singing pines; 70
At that elm-vista's end I trace
Dimly thy sad leave-taking face,
Eurydice! Eurydice!
The tremulous leaves repeat to me
Eurydice! Eurydice!
No gloomier Orcus swallows thee
Than the unclouded sunset's glow;
Thine is at least Elysian woe;
Thou hast Good's natural decay,
And fadest like a star away 80
Into an atmosphere whose shine
With fuller day o'ermasters thine,
Entering defeat as 't were a shrine;
For us,--we turn life's diary o'er
To find but one word,--Nevermore.


As a twig trembles, which a bird
Lights on to sing, then leaves unbent,
So is my memory thrilled and stirred;--
I only know she came and went.

As clasps some lake, by gusts unriven,
The blue dome's measureless content,--
So my soul held, that moment's heaven;--
I only know she came and went.

As, at one bound, our swift spring heaps
The orchards full of bloom and scent,
So clove her May my wintry sleeps;--
I only know she came and went.

An angel stood and met my gaze,
Through the low doorway of my tent;
The tent is struck, the vision stays;--
I only know she came and went

Oh, when the room grows slowly dim,
And life's last oil is nearly spent,
One gush of light these eyes will brim,
Only to think she came and went.


I had a little daughter,
And she was given to me
To lead me gently backward
To the Heavenly Father's knee,
That I, by the force of nature.
Might in some dim wise divine
The depth of his infinite patience
To this wayward soul of mine.

I know not how others saw her,
But to me she was wholly fair,
And the light of the heaven she came from
Still lingered and gleamed in her hair;
For it was as wavy and golden,
And as many changes took,
As the shadows of sun-gilt ripples
On the yellow bed of a brook.

To what can I liken her smiling
Upon me, her kneeling lover,
How it leaped from her lips to her eyelids,
And dimpled her wholly over,
Till her outstretched hands smiled also,
And I almost seemed to see
The very heart of her mother
Sending sun through her veins to me!

She had been with us scarce a twelvemonth,
And it hardly seemed a day,
When a troop of wandering angels
Stole my little daughter away;
Or perhaps those heavenly Zingari
But loosed the hampering strings,
And when they had opened her cage-door.
My little bird used her wings.

But they left in her stead a changeling
A little angel child,
That seems like her bud in full blossom,
And smiles as she never smiled:
When I wake in the morning, I see it
Where she always used to lie,
And I feel as weak as a violet
Alone 'neath the awful sky.

As weak, yet as trustful also;
For the whole year long I see
All the wonders of faithful Nature
Still worked for the love of me;
Winds wander, and dews drip earthward,
Rain falls, suns rise and set,
Earth whirls, and all but to prosper
A poor little violet.

This child is not mine as the first was,
I cannot sing it to rest,
I cannot lift it up fatherly
And bliss it upon my breast:
Yet it lies in my little one's cradle
And sits in my little one's chair,
And the light of the heaven she's gone to
Transfigures its golden hair.


What man would live coffined with brick and stone,
Imprisoned from the healing touch of air,
And cramped with selfish landmarks everywhere,
When all before him stretches, furrowless and lone,
The unmapped prairie none can fence or own?

What man would read and read the self-same faces,
And, like the marbles which the windmill grinds,
Rub smooth forever with the same smooth minds,
This year retracing last year's, every year's, dull traces,
When there are woods and unpenfolded spaces?

What man o'er one old thought would pore and pore,
Shut like a book between its covers thin
For every fool to leave his dog's ears in,
When solitude is his, and God forevermore,
Just for the opening of a paltry door?

What man would watch life's oozy element
Creep Letheward forever, when he might
Down some great river drift beyond men's sight,
To where the undethroned forest's royal tent
Broods with its hush o'er half a continent?

What man with men would push and altercate,
Piecing out crooked means to crooked ends,
When he can have the skies and woods for friends,
Snatch back the rudder of his undismantled fate,
And in himself be ruler, church, and state?

Cast leaves and feathers rot in last year's nest,
The winged brood, flown thence, new dwellings plan;
The serf of his own Past is not a man;
To change and change is life, to move and never rest;--
Not what we are, but what we hope, is best.

The wild, free woods make no man halt or blind;
Cities rob men of eyes and hands and feet,
Patching one whole of many incomplete;
The general preys upon the individual mind,
And each alone is helpless as the wind.

Each man is some man's servant; every soul
Is by some other's presence quite discrowned;
Each owes the next through all the imperfect round,
Yet not with mutual help; each man is his own goal,
And the whole earth must stop to pay him toll.

Here, life the undiminished man demands;
New faculties stretch out to meet new wants;
What Nature asks, that Nature also grants;
Here man is lord, not drudge, of eyes and feet and hands,
And to his life is knit with hourly bands.

Come out, then, from the old thoughts and old ways,
Before you harden to a crystal cold
Which the new life can shatter, but not mould;
Freedom for you still waits, still looking backward, stays,
But widens still the irretrievable space.


Of all the myriad moods of mind
That through the soul come thronging,
Which one was e'er so dear, so kind,
So beautiful as Longing?
The thing we long for, that we are
For one transcendent moment,
Before the Present poor and bare
Can make its sneering comment.

Still, through our paltry stir and strife,
Glows down the wished ideal,
And Longing moulds in clay what Life
Carves in the marble Real;
To let the new life in, we know,
Desire must ope the portal;
Perhaps the longing to be so
Helps make the soul immortal.

Longing is God's fresh heavenward will.
With our poor earthward striving;
We quench it that we may be still
Content with merely living;
But, would we learn that heart's full scope
Which we are hourly wronging,
Our lives must climb from hope to hope
And realize our longing.

Ah! let us hope that to our praise
Good God not only reckons
The moments when we tread his ways,
But when the spirit beckons,--
That some slight good is also wrought
Beyond self-satisfaction,
When we are simply good in thought,
Howe'er we fail in action.




As, flake by flake, the beetling avalanches
Build up their imminent crags of noiseless snow,
Till some chance thrill the loosened ruin launches
In unwarned havoc on the roofs below,
So grew and gathered through the silent years
The madness of a People, wrong by wrong.
There seemed no strength in the dumb toiler's tears,
No strength in suffering; but the Past was strong:
The brute despair of trampled centuries
Leaped up with one hoarse yell and snapped its bands, 10
Groped for its right with horny, callous hands,
And stared around for God with bloodshot eyes.
What wonder if those palms were all too hard
For nice distinctions,--if that maenad throng--
They whose thick atmosphere no bard
Had shivered with the lightning of his song,
Brutes with the memories and desires of men,
Whose chronicles were writ with iron pen,
In the crooked shoulder and the forehead low,
Set wrong to balance wrong, 20
And physicked woe with woe?


They did as they were taught; not theirs the blame,
If men who scattered firebrands reaped the flame:
They trampled Peace beneath their savage feet,
And by her golden tresses drew
Mercy along the pavement of the street.
O Freedom! Freedom! is thy morning-dew
So gory red? Alas, thy light had ne'er
Shone in upon the chaos of their lair!
They reared to thee such symbol as they knew, 30
And worshipped it with flame and blood,
A Vengeance, axe in hand, that stood
Holding a tyrant's head up by the clotted hair.


What wrongs the Oppressor suffered, these we know;
These have found piteous voice in song and prose;
But for the Oppressed, their darkness and their woe,
Their grinding centuries,--what Muse had those?
Though hall and palace had nor eyes nor ears,
Hardening a people's heart to senseless stone,
Thou knewest them, O Earth, that drank their tears, 40
O Heaven, that heard their inarticulate moan!
They noted down their fetters, link by link;
Coarse was the hand that scrawled, and red the ink;
Rude was their score, as suits unlettered men,
Notched with a headsman's axe upon a block:
What marvel if, when came the avenging shock,
'Twas Ate, not Urania, held the pen?


With eye averted, and an anguished frown,
Loathingly glides the Muse through scenes of strife,
Where, like the heart of Vengeance up and down, 50
Throbs in its framework the blood-muffled knife;
Slow are the steps of Freedom, but her feet
Turn never backward: hers no bloody glare;
Her light is calm, and innocent, and sweet,
And where it enters there is no despair:
Not first on palace and cathedral spire
Quivers and gleams that unconsuming fire;
While these stand black against her morning skies,
The peasant sees it leap from peak to peak
Along his hills; the craftsman's burning eyes 60
Own with cool tears its influence mother-meek;
It lights the poet's heart up like a star;
Ah! while the tyrant deemed it still afar,
And twined with golden threads his futile snare.
That swift, convicting glow all round him ran;
'Twas close beside him there,
Sunrise whose Memnon is the soul of man.


O Broker-King, is this thy wisdom's fruit?
A dynasty plucked out as 't were a weed
Grown rankly in a night, that leaves no seed! 70
Could eighteen years strike down no deeper root?
But now thy vulture eye was turned on Spain;
A shout from Paris, and thy crown falls off,
Thy race has ceased to reign,
And thou become a fugitive and scoff:
Slippery the feet that mount by stairs of gold,
And weakest of all fences one of steel;
Go and keep school again like him of old,
The Syracusan tyrant;--thou mayst feel
Royal amid a birch-swayed commonweal! 80


Not long can he be ruler who allows
His time to run before him; thou wast naught
Soon as the strip of gold about thy brows
Was no more emblem of the People's thought:
Vain were thy bayonets against the foe
Thou hadst to cope with; thou didst wage
War not with Frenchmen merely;--no,
Thy strife was with the Spirit of the Age,
The invisible Spirit whose first breath divine 89
Scattered thy frail endeavor,
And, like poor last year's leaves, whirled thee and thine
Into the Dark forever!


Is here no triumph? Nay, what though
The yellow blood of Trade meanwhile should pour
Along its arteries a shrunken flow,
And the idle canvas droop around the shore?
These do not make a state,
Nor keep it great;
I think God made
The earth for man, not trade; 100
And where each humblest human creature
Can stand, no more suspicious or afraid,
Erect and kingly in his right of nature,
To heaven and earth knit with harmonious ties,--
Where I behold the exultation
Of manhood glowing in those eyes
That had been dark for ages,
Or only lit with bestial loves and rages,
There I behold a Nation:
The France which lies 110
Between the Pyrenees and Rhine
Is the least part of France;
I see her rather in the soul whose shine
Burns through the craftsman's grimy countenance,
In the new energy divine
Of Toil's enfranchised glance.


And if it be a dream,
If the great Future be the little Past
'Neath a new mask, which drops and shows at last
The same weird, mocking face to balk and blast, 120
Yet, Muse, a gladder measure suits the theme,
And the Tyrtaean harp
Loves notes more resolute and sharp,
Throbbing, as throbs the bosom, hot and fast:
Such visions are of morning,
Theirs is no vague forewarning,
The dreams which nations dream come true.
And shape the world anew;
If this be a sleep, 129
Make it long, make it deep,
O Father, who-sendest the harvests men reap!
While Labor so sleepeth,
His sorrow is gone,
No longer he weepeth,
But smileth and steepeth
His thoughts in the dawn;
He heareth Hope yonder
Rain, lark-like, her fancies,
His dreaming hands wander
Mid heart's-ease and pansies; 140
''Tis a dream! 'Tis a vision!'
Shrieks Mammon aghast;
'The day's broad derision
Will chase it at last;
Ye are mad, ye have taken
A slumbering kraken
For firm land of the Past!'
Ah! if he awaken,
God shield us all then, 149
If this dream rudely shaken
Shall cheat him again!


Since first I heard our Northwind blow,
Since first I saw Atlantic throw
On our grim rocks his thunderous snow,
I loved thee, Freedom; as a boy
The rattle of thy shield at Marathon
Did with a Grecian joy
Through all my pulses run;
But I have learned to love thee now
Without the helm upon thy gleaming brow, 160
A maiden mild and undefiled
Like her who bore the world's redeeming child;
And surely never did thine altars glance
With purer fires than now in France;
While, in their clear white flashes,
Wrong's shadow, backward cast,
Waves cowering o'er the ashes
Of the dead, blaspheming Past,
O'er the shapes of fallen giants,
His own unburied brood, 170
Whose dead hands clench defiance
At the overpowering Good:
And down the happy future runs a flood
Of prophesying light;
It shows an Earth no longer stained with blood,
Blossom and fruit where now we see the bud
Of Brotherhood and Right.


Praisest Law, friend? We, too, love it much as they that love it best;
'Tis the deep, august foundation, whereon Peace and Justice rest;
On the rock primeval, hidden in the Past its bases be,
Block by block the endeavoring Ages built it up to what we see.

But dig down: the Old unbury; thou shalt find on every stone
That each Age hath carved the symbol of what god to them was known,
Ugly shapes and brutish sometimes, but the fairest that they knew;
If their sight were dim and earthward, yet their hope and aim were true.

Surely as the unconscious needle feels the far-off loadstar draw,
So strives every gracious nature to at-one itself with law; 10
And the elder Saints and Sages laid their pious framework right
By a theocratic instinct covered from the people's sight.

As their gods were, so their laws were; Thor the strong could reave and
So through many a peaceful inlet tore the Norseman's eager keel;
But a new law came when Christ came, and not blameless, as before,
Can we, paying him our lip-tithes, give our lives and faiths to Thor.

Law is holy: ay, but what law? Is there nothing more divine
Than the patched-up broils of Congress, venal, full of meat and wine?
Is there, say you, nothing higher? Naught, God save us! that transcends
Laws of cotton texture, wove by vulgar men for vulgar ends? 20

Did Jehovah ask their counsel, or submit to them a plan,
Ere He filled with loves, hopes, longings, this aspiring heart of man?
For their edict does the soul wait, ere it swing round to the pole
Of the true, the free, the God-willed, all that makes it be a soul?

Law is holy; but not your law, ye who keep the tablets whole
While ye dash the Law to pieces, shatter it in life and soul;
Bearing up the Ark is lightsome, golden Apis hid within,
While we Levites share the offerings, richer by the people's sin.

Give to Caesar what is Caesar's? yes, but tell me, if you can,
Is this superscription Caesar's here upon our brother man? 30
Is not here some other's image, dark and sullied though it be,
In this fellow-soul that worships, struggles Godward even as we?

It was not to such a future that the Mayflower's prow was turned,
Not to such a faith the martyrs clung, exulting as they burned;
Not by such laws are men fashioned, earnest, simple, valiant, great
In the household virtues whereon rests the unconquerable state.

Ah! there is a higher gospel, overhead the God-roof springs,
And each glad, obedient planet like a golden shuttle sings
Through the web which Time is weaving in his never-resting loom,
Weaving seasons many-colored, bringing prophecy to doom. 40

Think you Truth a farthing rushlight, to be pinched out when you will
With your deft official fingers, and your politicians' skill?
Is your God a wooden fetish, to be hidden out of sight
That his block eyes may not see you do the thing that is not right?

But the Destinies think not so; to their judgment-chamber lone
Comes no noise of popular clamor, there Fame's trumpet is not blown;
Your majorities they reck not; that you grant, but then you say
That you differ with them somewhat,--which is stronger, you or they?

Patient are they as the insects that build islands in the deep;
They hurl not the bolted thunder, but their silent way they keep; 50
Where they have been that we know; where empires towered that were
not just;
Lo! the skulking wild fox scratches in a little heap of dust.


Said Christ our Lord, 'I will go and see
How the men, my brethren, believe in me.'
He passed not again through the gate of birth,
But made himself known to the children of earth.

Then said the chief priests, and rulers, and kings,
'Behold, now, the Giver of all good things;
Go to, let us welcome with pomp and state
Him who alone is mighty and great.'

With carpets of gold the ground they spread
Wherever the Son of Man should tread,
And in palace-chambers lofty and rare
They lodged him, and served him with kingly fare.

Great organs surged through arches dim
Their jubilant floods in praise of him;
And in church, and palace, and judgment-hall,
He saw his own image high over all.

But still, wherever his steps they led,
The Lord in sorrow bent down his head,
And from under the heavy foundation-stones,
The son of Mary heard bitter groans.

And in church, and palace, and judgment-hall,
He marked great fissures that rent the wall,
And opened wider and yet more wide
As the living foundation heaved and sighed.

'Have ye founded your thrones and altars, then,
On the bodies and souls of living men?
And think ye that building shall endure,
Which shelters the noble and crushes the poor?

'With gates of silver and bars of gold
Ye have fenced my sheep from their Father's fold;
I have heard the dropping of their tears
In heaven these eighteen hundred years.'

'O Lord and Master, not ours the guilt,
We build but as our fathers built;
Behold thine images, how they stand,
Sovereign and sole, through all our land.

'Our task is hard,--with sword and flame
To hold thine earth forever the same,
And with sharp crooks of steel to keep
Still, as thou leftest them, thy sheep.'

Then Christ sought out an artisan,
A low-browed, stunted, haggard man,
And a motherless girl, whose fingers thin
Pushed from her faintly want and sin.

These set he in the midst of them,
And as they drew back their garment-hem,
For fear of defilement, 'Lo, here,' said he,
'The images ye have made of me!'



My name is Water: I have sped
Through strange, dark ways, untried before,
By pure desire of friendship led,
Cochituate's ambassador;
He sends four royal gifts by me:
Long life, health, peace, and purity.

I'm Ceres' cup-bearer; I pour,
For flowers and fruits and all their kin,
Her crystal vintage, from of yore
Stored in old Earth's selectest bin,
Flora's Falernian ripe, since God
The wine-press of the deluge trod.

In that far isle whence, iron-willed,
The New World's sires their bark unmoored,
The fairies' acorn-cups I filled
Upon the toadstool's silver board,
And, 'neath Herne's oak, for Shakespeare's sight,
Strewed moss and grass with diamonds bright.

No fairies in the Mayflower came,
And, lightsome as I sparkle here,
For Mother Bay State, busy dame,
I've toiled and drudged this many a year,
Throbbed in her engines' iron veins,
Twirled myriad spindles for her gains.

I, too, can weave: the warp I set
Through which the sun his shuttle throws,
And, bright as Noah saw it, yet
For you the arching rainbow glows,
A sight in Paradise denied
To unfallen Adam and his bride.

When Winter held me in his grip,
You seized and sent me o'er the wave,
Ungrateful! in a prison-ship;
But I forgive, not long a slave,
For, soon as summer south-winds blew,
Homeward I fled, disguised as dew.

For countless services I'm fit,
Of use, of pleasure, and of gain,
But lightly from all bonds I flit,
Nor lose my mirth, nor feel a stain;
From mill and wash-tub I escape,
And take in heaven my proper shape.

So, free myself, to-day, elate
I come from far o'er hill and mead,
And here, Cochituate's envoy, wait
To be your blithesome Ganymede,
And brim your cups with nectar true
That never will make slaves of you.



The same good blood that now refills
The dotard Orient's shrunken veins,
The same whose vigor westward thrills,
Bursting Nevada's silver chains,
Poured here upon the April grass,
Freckled with red the herbage new;
On reeled the battle's trampling mass,
Back to the ash the bluebird flew.

Poured here in vain;--that sturdy blood
Was meant to make the earth more green,
But in a higher, gentler mood
Than broke this April noon serene;
Two graves are here: to mark the place,
At head and foot, an unhewn stone,
O'er which the herald lichens trace
The blazon of Oblivion.

These men were brave enough, and true
To the hired soldier's bull-dog creed;
What brought them here they never knew,
They fought as suits the English breed:
They came three thousand miles, and died,
To keep the Past upon its throne:
Unheard, beyond the ocean tide,
Their English mother made her moan.

The turf that covers them no thrill
Sends up to fire the heart and brain;
No stronger purpose nerves the will,
No hope renews its youth again:
From farm to farm the Concord glides,
And trails my fancy with its flow;
O'erhead the balanced hen-hawk slides,
Twinned in the river's heaven below.

But go, whose Bay State bosom stirs,
Proud of thy birth and neighbor's right,
Where sleep the heroic villagers
Borne red and stiff from Concord fight;
Thought Reuben, snatching down his gun,
Or Seth, as ebbed the life away,
What earthquake rifts would shoot and run
World-wide from that short April fray?

What then? With heart and hand they wrought,
According to their village light;
'Twas for the Future that they fought,
Their rustic faith in what was right.
Upon earth's tragic stage they burst
Unsummoned, in the humble sock;
Theirs the fifth act; the curtain first
Rose long ago on Charles's block.

Their graves have voices; if they threw
Dice charged with fates beyond their ken,
Yet to their instincts they were true,
And had the genius to be men.
Fine privilege of Freedom's host,
Of humblest soldiers for the Right!--
Age after age ye hold your post,
Your graves send courage forth, and might.


We, too, have autumns, when our leaves
Drop loosely through the dampened air,
When all our good seems bound in sheaves,
And we stand reaped and bare.

Our seasons have no fixed returns,
Without our will they come and go;
At noon our sudden summer burns,
Ere sunset all is snow.

But each day brings less summer cheer,
Crimps more our ineffectual spring,
And something earlier every year
Our singing birds take wing.

As less the olden glow abides,
And less the chillier heart aspires,
With drift-wood beached in past spring-tides
We light our sullen fires.

By the pinched rushlight's starving beam
We cower and strain our wasted sight,
To stitch youth's shroud up, seam by seam,
In the long arctic night.

It was not so--we once were young
When Spring, to womanly Summer turning,
Her dew-drops on each grass-blade strung,
In the red sunrise burning.

We trusted then, aspired, believed
That earth could be remade to-morrow;
Ah, why be ever undeceived?
Why give up faith for sorrow?

O thou, whose days are yet all spring,
Faith, blighted one, is past retrieving;
Experience is a dumb, dead thing;
The victory's in believing.


Are we, then, wholly fallen? Can it be
That thou, North wind, that from thy mountains bringest
Their spirit to our plains, and thou, blue sea,
Who on our rocks thy wreaths of freedom flingest,
As on an altar,--can it be that ye
Have wasted inspiration on dead ears,
Dulled with the too familiar clank of chains?
The people's heart is like a harp for years
Hung where some petrifying torrent rains
Its slow-incrusting spray: the stiffened chords 10
Faint and more faint make answer to the tears
That drip upon them: idle are all words:
Only a golden plectrum wakes the tone
Deep buried 'neath that ever-thickening stone.

We are not free: doth Freedom, then, consist
In musing with our faces toward the Past,
While petty cares and crawling interests twist
Their spider-threads about us, which at last
Grow strong as iron chains, to cramp and bind
In formal narrowness heart, soul and mind? 20
Freedom is re-created year by year,
In hearts wide open on the Godward side,
In souls calm-cadenced as the whirling sphere,
In minds that sway the future like a tide.
He broadest creeds can hold her, and no codes;
She chooses men for her august abodes,
Building them fair and fronting to the dawn;
Yet, when we seek her, we but find a few
Light footprints, leading mornward through the dew:
Before the day had risen, she was gone. 30

And we must follow: swiftly runs she on,
And, if our steps should slacken in despair,
Half turns her face, half smiles through golden hair,
Forever yielding, never wholly won:
That is not love which pauses in the race
Two close-linked names on fleeting sand to trace;
Freedom gained yesterday is no more ours;
Men gather but dry seeds of last year's flowers;
Still there's a charm uugranted, still a grace,
Still rosy Hope, the free, the unattained, 40
Makes us Possession's languid hand let fall;
'Tis but a fragment of ourselves is gained,
The Future brings us more, but never all.

And, as the finder of some unknown realm,
Mounting a summit whence he thinks to see
On either side of him the imprisoning sea,
Beholds, above the clouds that overwhelm
The valley-land, peak after snowy peak
Stretch out of sight, each like a silver helm
Beneath its plume of smoke, sublime and bleak, 50
And what he thought an island finds to be
A continent to him first oped,--so we
Can from our height of Freedom look along
A boundless future, ours if we be strong;
Or if we shrink, better remount our ships
And, fleeing God's express design, trace back
The hero-freighted Mayflower's prophet-track
To Europe entering her blood-red eclipse.

* * * * *

Therefore of Europe now I will not doubt,
For the broad foreheads surely win the day, 60
And brains, not crowns or soul-gelt armies, weigh
In Fortune's scales: such dust she brushes out.
Most gracious are the conquests of the Word,
Gradual and silent as a flower's increase,
And the best guide from old to new is Peace--
Yet, Freedom, than canst sanctify the sword!

Bravely to do whate'er the time demands,
Whether with pen or sword, and not to flinch,
This is the task that fits heroic hands;
So are Truth's boundaries widened inch by inch. 70

I do not love the Peace which tyrants make;
The calm she breeds let the sword's lightning break!
It is the tyrants who have beaten out
Ploughshares and pruning-hooks to spears and swords,
And shall I pause and moralize and doubt?
Whose veins run water let him mete his words!
Each fetter sundered is the whole world's gain!
And rather than humanity remain
A pearl beneath the feet of Austrian swine,
Welcome to me whatever breaks a chain. 80
_That_ surely is of God, and all divine!


Bowing thyself in dust before a Book,
And thinking the great God is thine alone,
O rash iconoclast, thou wilt not brook
What gods the heathen carves in wood and stone,
As if the Shepherd who from the outer cold
Leads all his shivering lambs to one sure fold
Were careful for the fashion of his crook.

There is no broken reed so poor and base,
No rush, the bending tilt of swamp-fly blue,
But He therewith the ravening wolf can chase,
And guide his flock to springs and pastures new;
Through ways unloosed for, and through many lands,
Far from the rich folds built with human hands,
The gracious footprints of his love I trace.

And what art thou, own brother of the clod,
That from his hand the crook wouldst snatch away
And shake instead thy dry and sapless rod,
To scare the sheep out of the wholesome day?
Yea, what art thou, blind, unconverted Jew,
That with thy idol-volume's covers two
Wouldst make a jail to coop the living God?

Thou hear'st not well the mountain organ-tone
By prophet ears from Hor and Sinai caught,
Thinking the cisterns of those Hebrew brains
Drew dry the springs of the All-knower's thought,
Nor shall thy lips be touched with living fire,
Who blow'st old altar-coals with sole desire
To weld anew the spirit's broken chains.

God is not dumb, that He should speak no more;
If thou hast wanderings in the wilderness
And find'st not Sinai, 'tis thy soul is poor;
There towers the Mountain of the Voice no less,
Which whoso seeks shall find, but he who bends,
Intent on manna still and mortal ends,
Sees it not, neither hears its thundered lore.

Slowly the Bible of the race is writ,
And not on paper leaves nor leaves of stone;
Each age, each kindred, adds a verse to it,
Texts of despair or hope, of joy or moan.
While swings the sea, while mists the mountains shroud,
While thunder's surges burst on cliffs and cloud,
Still at the prophets' feet the nations sit.


Hushed with broad sunlight lies the hill,
And, minuting the long day's loss,
The cedar's shadow, slow and still,
Creeps o'er its dial of gray moss.

Warm noon brims full the valley's cup,
The aspen's leaves are scarce astir;
Only the little mill sends up
Its busy, never-ceasing burr.

Climbing the loose-piled wall that hems
The road along the mill-pond's brink,
From 'neath the arching barberry-stems,
My footstep scares the shy chewink.

Beneath a bony buttonwood
The mill's red door lets forth the din;
The whitened miller, dust-imbued,
Flits past the square of dark within.

No mountain torrent's strength is here;
Sweet Beaver, child of forest still,
Heaps its small pitcher to the ear,
And gently waits the miller's will.

Swift slips Undine along the race
Unheard, and then, with flashing bound,
Floods the dull wheel with light and grace,
And, laughing, hunts the loath drudge round.

The miller dreams not at what cost
The quivering millstones hum and whirl,
Nor how for every turn are tost
Armfuls of diamond and of pearl.

But Summer cleared my happier eyes
With drops of some celestial juice,
To see how Beauty underlies
Forevermore each form of use.

And more; methought I saw that flood,
Which now so dull and darkling steals,
Thick, here and there, with human blood,
To turn the world's laborious wheels.

No more than doth the miller there,
Shut in our several cells, do we
Know with what waste of beauty rare
Moves every day's machinery.

Surely the wiser time shall come
When this fine overplus of might,
No longer sullen, slow, and dumb,
Shall leap to music and to light.

In that new childhood of the Earth
Life of itself shall dance and play,
Fresh blood in Time's shrunk veins make mirth,
And labor meet delight halfway.



A race of nobles may die out,
A royal line may leave no heir;
Wise Nature sets no guards about
Her pewter plate and wooden ware.

But they fail not, the kinglier breed,
Who starry diadems attain;
To dungeon, axe, and stake succeed
Heirs of the old heroic strain.

The zeal of Nature never cools,
Nor is she thwarted of her ends;
When gapped and dulled her cheaper tools,
Then she a saint and prophet spends.

Land of the Magyars! though it be
The tyrant may relink his chain,
Already thine the victory,
As the just Future measures gain.

Thou hast succeeded, thou hast won
The deathly travail's amplest worth;
A nation's duty thou hast done,
Giving a hero to our earth.

And he, let come what will of woe
Hath saved the land he strove to save;
No Cossack hordes, no traitor's blow,
Can quench the voice shall haunt his grave.

'I Kossuth am: O Future, thou
That clear'st the just and blott'st the vile,
O'er this small dust in reverence bow,
Remembering what I was erewhile.

'I was the chosen trump wherethrough
Our God sent forth awakening breath;
Came chains? Came death? The strain He blew
Sounds on, outliving chains and death.'



I did not praise thee when the crowd,
'Witched with the moment's inspiration,
Vexed thy still ether with hosannas loud,
And stamped their dusty adoration;
I but looked upward with the rest,
And, when they shouted Greatest, whispered Best.

They raised thee not, but rose to thee,
Their fickle wreaths about thee flinging;
So on some marble Phoebus the swol'n sea
Might leave his worthless seaweed clinging,
But pious hands, with reverent care,
Make the pure limbs once more sublimely bare.

Now thou'rt thy plain, grand self again,
Thou art secure from panegyric,
Thou who gav'st politics an epic strain,
And actedst Freedom's noblest lyric;
This side the Blessed Isles, no tree
Grows green enough to make a wreath for thee.

Nor can blame cling to thee; the snow
From swinish footprints takes no staining,
But, leaving the gross soils of earth below,
Its spirit mounts, the skies regaining,
And unresentful falls again,
To beautify the world with dews and rain.

The highest duty to mere man vouchsafed
Was laid on thee,--out of wild chaos,
When the roused popular ocean foamed and chafed
And vulture War from his Imaus
Snuffed blood, to summon homely Peace,
And show that only order is release.

To carve thy fullest thought, what though
Time was not granted? Aye in history,
Like that Dawn's face which baffled Angelo
Left shapeless, grander for its mystery,
Thy great Design shall stand, and day
Flood its blind front from Orients far away.

Who says thy day is o'er? Control,
My heart, that bitter first emotion;
While men shall reverence the steadfast soul,
The heart in silent self-devotion
Breaking, the mild, heroic mien,
Thou'lt need no prop of marble, Lamartine.

If France reject thee, 'tis not thine,
But her own, exile that she utters;
Ideal France, the deathless, the divine,
Will be where thy white pennon flutters,
As once the nobler Athens went
With Aristides into banishment.

No fitting metewand hath To-day
For measuring spirits of thy stature;
Only the Future can reach up to lay
The laurel on that lofty nature,
Bard, who with some diviner art
Hast touched the bard's true lyre, a nation's heart.

Swept by thy hand, the gladdened chords,
Crashed now in discords fierce by others,
Gave forth one note beyond all skill of words,
And chimed together, We are brothers.
O poem unsurpassed! it ran
All round the world, unlocking man to man.

France is too poor to pay alone
The service of that ample spirit;
Paltry seem low dictatorship and throne,
Weighed with thy self-renouncing merit;
They had to thee been rust and loss;
Thy aim was higher,--thou hast climbed a Cross!


There are who triumph in a losing cause,
Who can put on defeat, as 'twere a wreath
Unwithering in the adverse popular breath,
Safe from the blasting demagogue's applause;
'Tis they who stand for Freedom and God's laws.

And so stands Palfrey now, as Marvell stood,
Loyal to Truth dethroned, nor could be wooed
To trust the playful tiger's velvet paws:
And if the second Charles brought in decay
Of ancient virtue, if it well might wring
Souls that had broadened 'neath a nobler day,
To see a losel, marketable king
Fearfully watering with his realm's best blood
Cromwell's quenched bolts, that erst had cracked and flamed,
Scaring, through all their depths of courtier mud,
Europe's crowned bloodsuckers,--how more ashamed
Ought we to be, who see Corruption's flood
Still rise o'er last year's mark, to mine away
Our brazen idol's feet of treacherous clay!

O utter degradation! Freedom turned
Slavery's vile bawd, to cozen and betray
To the old lecher's clutch a maiden prey,
If so a loathsome pander's fee be earned!
And we are silent,--we who daily tread
A soil sublime, at least, with heroes' graves!--
Beckon no more, shades of the noble dead!
Be dumb, ye heaven-touched lips of winds and waves!
Or hope to rouse some Coptic dullard, hid
Ages ago, wrapt stiffly, fold on fold,
With cerements close, to wither in the cold,
Forever hushed, and sunless pyramid!

Beauty and Truth, and all that these contain,
Drop not like ripened fruit about our feet;
We climb to them through years of sweat and pain;
Without long struggle, none did e'er attain
The downward look from Quiet's blissful seat:
Though present loss may be the hero's part,
Yet none can rob him of the victor heart
Whereby the broad-realmed future is subdued,
And Wrong, which now insults from triumph's car,
Sending her vulture hope to raven far,
Is made unwilling tributary of Good.

O Mother State, how quenched thy Sinai fires!
Is there none left of thy stanch Mayflower breed?
No spark among the ashes of thy sires,
Of Virtue's altar-flame the kindling seed?
Are these thy great men, these that cringe and creep,
And writhe through slimy ways to place and power?--
How long, O Lord, before thy wrath shall reap
Our frail-stemmed summer prosperings in their flower?
Oh for one hour of that undaunted stock
That went with Vane and Sidney to the block!

Oh for a whiff of Naseby, that would sweep,
With its stern Puritan besom, all this chaff
From the Lord's threshing-floor! Yet more than half
The victory is attained, when one or two,
Through the fool's laughter and the traitor's scorn,
Beside thy sepulchre can bide the morn,
Crucified Truth, when thou shalt rise anew.


'Some time afterward, it was reported to me by the city officers that
they had ferreted out the paper and its editor; that his office was an
obscure hole, his only visible auxiliary a negro boy, and his supporters
a few very insignificant persons of all colors.'--_Letter of H.G.

In a small chamber, friendless and unseen,
Toiled o'er his types one poor, unlearned young man;
The place was dark, unfurnitured, and mean;
Yet there the freedom of a race began.

Help came but slowly; surely no man yet
Put lever to the heavy world with less:
What need of help? He knew how types were set,
He had a dauntless spirit, and a press.

Such earnest natures are the fiery pith,
The compact nucleus, round which systems grow;
Mass after mass becomes inspired therewith,
And whirls impregnate with the central glow.

O Truth! O Freedom! how are ye still born
In the rude stable, in the manger nurst!
What humble hands unbar those gates of morn
Through which the splendors of the New Day burst!

What! shall one monk, scarce known beyond his cell,
Front Rome's far-reaching bolts, and scorn her frown?
Brave Luther answered YES; that thunder's swell
Rocked Europe, and discharmed the triple crown.

Whatever can be known of earth we know,
Sneered Europe's wise men, in their snail-shells curled;
No! said one man in Genoa, and that No
Out of the darkness summoned this New World.

Who is it will not dare himself to trust?
Who is it hath not strength to stand alone?
Who is it thwarts and bilks the inward MUST?
He and his works, like sand, from earth are blown.

Men of a thousand shifts and wiles, look here!
See one straightforward conscience put in pawn
To win a world; see the obedient sphere
By bravery's simple gravitation drawn!

Shall we not heed the lesson taught of old,
And by the Present's lips repeated still,
In our own single manhood to be bold,
Fortressed in conscience and impregnable will?

We stride the river daily at its spring,
Nor, in our childless thoughtlessness, foresee
What myriad vassal streams shall tribute bring,
How like an equal it shall greet the sea.

O small beginnings, ye are great and strong,
Based on a faithful heart and weariless brain!
Ye build the future fair, ye conquer wrong,
Ye earn the crown, and wear it not in vain.


Woe worth the hour when it is crime
To plead the poor dumb bondman's cause,
When all that makes the heart sublime,
The glorious throbs that conquer time,
Are traitors to our cruel laws!

He strove among God's suffering poor
One gleam of brotherhood to send;
The dungeon oped its hungry door
To give the truth one martyr more,
Then shut,--and here behold the end!

O Mother State! when this was done,
No pitying throe thy bosom gave;
Silent thou saw'st the death-shroud spun,
And now thou givest to thy son
The stranger's charity,--a grave.

Must it be thus forever? No!
The hand of God sows not in vain,
Long sleeps the darkling seed below,
The seasons come, and change, and go,
And all the fields are deep with grain.

Although our brother lie asleep,
Man's heart still struggles, still aspires;
His grave shall quiver yet, while deep
Through the brave Bay State's pulses leap
Her ancient energies and fires.

When hours like this the senses' gush
Have stilled, and left the spirit room,
It hears amid the eternal hush
The swooping pinions' dreadful rush,
That bring the vengeance and the doom;--

Not man's brute vengeance, such as rends
What rivets man to man apart,--
God doth not so bring round his ends,
But waits the ripened time, and sends
His mercy to the oppressor's heart.


I do not come to weep above thy pall,
And mourn the dying-out of noble powers,
The poet's clearer eye should see, in all
Earth's seeming woe, seed of immortal flowers.

Truth needs no champions: in the infinite deep
Of everlasting Soul her strength abides,
From Nature's heart her mighty pulses leap,
Through Nature's veins her strength, undying, tides.

Peace is more strong than war, and gentleness,
Where force were vain, makes conquest o'er the wave; 10
And love lives on and hath a power to bless,
When they who loved are hidden in the grave.

The sculptured marble brags of deathstrewn fields,
And Glory's epitaph is writ in blood;
But Alexander now to Plato yields,
Clarkson will stand where Wellington hath stood.

I watch the circle of the eternal years,
And read forever in the storied page
One lengthened roll of blood, and wrong, and tears,
One onward step of Truth from age to age. 20

The poor are crushed: the tyrants link their chain;
The poet sings through narrow dungeon-grates;
Man's hope lies quenched; and, lo! with steadfast gain
Freedom doth forge her mail of adverse fates.

Men slay the prophets; fagot, rack, and cross
Make up the groaning record of the past;
But Evil's triumphs are her endless loss,
And sovereign Beauty wins the soul at last.

No power can die that ever wrought for Truth;
Thereby a law of Nature it became, 30
And lives unwithered in its blithesome youth,
When he who called it forth is but a name.

Therefore I cannot think thee wholly gone;
The better part of thee is with us still;
Thy soul its hampering clay aside hath thrown,
And only freer wrestles with the ill.

Thou livest in the life of all good things;
What words thou spak'st for Freedom shall not die;
Thou sleepest not, for now thy Love hath wings
To soar where hence thy Hope could hardly fly. 40

And often, from that other world, on this
Some gleams from great souls gone before may shine,
To shed on struggling hearts a clearer bliss,
And clothe the Right with lustre more divine.

Thou art not idle: in thy higher sphere
Thy spirit bends itself to loving tasks,
And strength to perfect what it dreamed of here
Is all the crown and glory that it asks.

For sure, in Heaven's wide chambers, there is room
For love and pity, and for helpful deeds; 50
Else were our summons thither but a doom
To life more vain than this in clayey weeds.

From off the starry mountain-peak of song,
Thy spirit shows me, in the coming time,
An earth unwithered by the foot of wrong,
A race revering its own soul sublime.

What wars, what martyrdoms, what crimes, may come,
Thou knowest not, nor I; but God will lead
The prodigal soul from want and sorrow home,
And Eden ope her gates to Adam's seed. 60

Farewell! good man, good angel now! this hand
Soon, like thine own, shall lose its cunning too;
Soon shall this soul, like thine, bewildered stand,
Then leap to thread the free, unfathomed blue:

When that day comes, oh, may this hand grow cold,
Busy, like thine, for Freedom and the Right;
Oh, may this soul, like thine, be ever bold
To face dark Slavery's encroaching blight!

This laurel-leaf I cast upon thy bier;
Let worthier hands than these thy wreath intwine; 70
Upon thy hearse I shed no useless tear,--
For us weep rather thou in calm divine!


Another star 'neath Time's horizon dropped,
To gleam o'er unknown lands and seas;
Another heart that beat for freedom stopped,--
What mournful words are these!

O Love Divine, that claspest our tired earth,
And lullest it upon thy heart,
Thou knowest how much a gentle soul is worth
To teach men what thou art!

His was a spirit that to all thy poor
Was kind as slumber after pain:
Why ope so soon thy heaven-deep Quiet's door
And call him home again?

Freedom needs all her poets: it is they
Who give her aspirations wings,
And to the wiser law of music sway
Her wild imaginings.

Yet thou hast called him, nor art thou unkind,
O Love Divine, for 'tis thy will
That gracious natures leave their love behind
To work for Mercy still.

Let laurelled marbles weigh on other tombs,
Let anthems peal for other dead,
Rustling the bannered depth of minster-glooms
With their exulting spread.

His epitaph shall mock the short-lived stone,
No lichen shall its lines efface,
He needs these few and simple lines alone
To mark his resting-place:

'Here lies a Poet. Stranger, if to thee
His claim to memory be obscure,
If thou wouldst learn how truly great was he,
Go, ask it of the poor.'


According to the mythology of the Romancers, the San Greal, or Holy
Grail, was the cup out of which Jesus partook of the Last Supper with
his disciples. It was brought into England by Joseph of Arimathea, and
remained there, an object of pilgrimage and adoration, for many years in
the keeping of his lineal descendants. It was incumbent upon those who
had charge of it to be chaste in thought, word, and deed; but one of the
keepers having broken this condition, the Holy Grail disappeared. From
that time it was a favorite enterprise of the knights of Arthur's court
to go in search of it. Sir Galahad was at last successful in finding it,
as may be read in the seventeenth book of the Romance of King Arthur.
Tennyson has made Sir Galahad the subject of one of the most exquisite
of his poems.

The plot (if I may give that name to anything so slight) of the
following poem is my own, and, to serve its purposes, I have enlarged
the circle of competition in search of the miraculous cup in such a
manner as to include, not only other persons than the heroes of the
Round Table, but also a period of time subsequent to the supposed date
of King Arthur's reign.


Over his keys the musing organist,
Beginning doubtfully and far away,
First lets his fingers wander as they list,
And builds a bridge from Dreamland for his lay:
Then, as the touch of his loved instrument
Gives hope and fervor, nearer draws his theme,
First guessed by faint auroral flushes sent
Along the wavering vista of his dream.

* * * * *

Not only around our infancy
Doth heaven with all its splendors lie; 10
Daily, with souls that cringe and plot,
We Sinais climb and know it not.

Over our manhood bend the skies;
Against our fallen and traitor lives
The great winds utter prophecies;
With our faint hearts the mountain strives;
Its arms outstretched, the druid wood
Waits with its benedicite;
And to our age's drowsy Wood
Still shouts the inspiring sea. 20

Earth gets its price for what Earth gives us;
The beggar is taxed for a corner to die in,
The priest hath his lee who comes and shrives us,
We bargain for the graves we lie in;
At the devil's booth are all things sold,
Each ounce of dross costs its ounce of gold;
For a cap and bells our lives we pay,
Bubbles we buy with a whole soul's tasking:
'Tis heaven alone that is given away,
'Tis only God may be had for the asking 30
No price is set on the lavish summer;
June may be had by the poorest comer.

And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune,
And over it softly her warm ear lays;
Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten;
Every clod feels a stir of might,
An instinct within it that reaches and towers, 40
And, groping blindly above it for light,
Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers;
The flush of life may well be seen
Thrilling back over hills and valleys;
The cowslip startles in meadows green,
The buttercup catches the sun in its chalice,
And there's never a leaf nor a blade too mean
To be some happy creature's palace;
The little bird sits at his door in the sun,
Atilt like a blossom among the leaves, 50
And lets his illumined being o'errun
With the deluge of summer it receives;
His mate feels the eggs beneath her wings,
And the heart in her dumb breast flutters and sings;
He sings to the wide world, and she to her nest,--
In the nice ear of Nature which song is the best?

Now is the high-tide of the year,
And whatever of life hath ebbed away
Comes flooding back with a ripply cheer,
Into every bare inlet and creek and bay; 60
Now the heart is so full that a drop overfills it,
We are happy now because God wills it;
No matter how barren the past may have been,
'Tis enough for us now that the leaves are green;
We sit in the warm shade and feel right well
How the sap creeps up and the blossoms swell;
We may shut our eyes, but we cannot help knowing
That skies are clear and grass is growing;
The breeze comes whispering in our ear,
That dandelions are blossoming near, 70
That maize has sprouted, that streams are flowing,
That the river is bluer than the sky,
That the robin is plastering his house hard by;
And if the breeze kept the good news back,
For other couriers we should not lack;
We could guess it all by yon heifer's lowing,--
And hark! how clear bold chanticleer,
Warmed with the new wine of the year,
Tells all in his lusty crowing!

Joy comes, grief goes, we know not how; 80
Everything is happy now,
Everything is upward striving;
'Tis as easy now for the heart to be true
As for grass to be green or skies to be blue,--
'Tis the natural way of living:
Who knows whither the clouds have fled?
In the unscarred heaven they leave no wake;
And the eyes forget the tears they have shed,
The heart forgets its sorrow and ache;
The soul partakes the season's youth, 90
And the sulphurous rifts of passion and woe
Lie deep 'neath a silence pure and smooth,
Like burnt-out craters healed with snow.
What wonder if Sir Launfal now
Remembered the keeping of his vow?



'My golden spurs now bring to me,
And bring to me my richest mail,
For to-morrow I go over land and sea
In search of the Holy Grail;
Shall never a bed for me be spread, 100
Nor shall a pillow be under my head,
Till I begin my vow to keep;
Here on the rushes will I sleep,
And perchance there may come a vision true
Ere day create the world anew.'
Slowly Sir Launfal's eyes grew dim,
Slumber fell like a cloud on him,
And into his soul the vision flew.


The crows flapped over by twos and threes,
In the pool drowsed the cattle up to their knees, 110
The little birds sang as if it were
The one day of summer in all the year,
And the very leaves seemed to sing on the trees:
The castle alone in the landscape lay
Like an outpost of winter, dull and gray:
'Twas the proudest hall in the North Countree,
And never its gates might opened be,
Save to lord or lady of high degree;
Summer besieged it on every side,
But the churlish stone her assaults defied; 120
She could not scale the chilly wall,
Though around it for leagues her pavilions tall
Stretched left and right,
Over the hills and out of sight;
Green and broad was every tent,
And out of each a murmur went
Till the breeze fell off at night.


The drawbridge dropped with a surly clang,
And through the dark arch a charger sprang,
Bearing Sir Launfal, the maiden knight, 130
In his gilded mail, that flamed so bright
It seemed the dark castle had gathered all
Those shafts the fierce sun had shot over its wall
In his siege of three hundred summers long,
And, binding them all in one blazing sheaf,
Had cast them forth: so, young and strong,
And lightsome as a locust-leaf,
Sir Launfal flashed forth in his maiden mail,
To seek in all climes for the Holy Grail.


It was morning on hill and stream and tree, 140
And morning in the young knight's heart;
Only the castle moodily
Rebuffed the gifts of the sunshine free,
And gloomed by itself apart;
The season brimmed all other things up
Full as the rain fills the pitcher-plant's cup.


As Sir Launfal made morn through the darksome gate,
He was 'ware of a leper, crouched by the same,
Who begged with his hand and moaned as he sate;
And a loathing over Sir Launfal came; 150
The sunshine went out of his soul with a thrill,
The flesh 'neath his armor 'gan shrink and crawl,
And midway its leap his heart stood still
Like a frozen waterfall;
For this man, so foul and bent of stature,
Rasped harshly against his dainty nature,
And seemed the one blot on the summer morn,--
So he tossed him a piece of gold in scorn.


The leper raised not the gold from the dust:
'Better to me the poor man's crust, 160
Better the blessing of the poor,
Though I turn me empty from his door;
That is no true alms which the hand can hold;
He gives only the worthless gold
Who gives from a sense of duty;
But he who gives but a slender mite,
And gives to that which is out of sight,
That thread of the all-sustaining Beauty
Which runs through all and doth all unite,--
The hand cannot clasp the whole of his alms, 170
The heart outstretches its eager palms,
For a god goes with it and makes it store
To the soul that was starving in darkness before.'


Down swept the chill wind from the mountain peak,
From the snow five thousand summers old;
On open wold and hilltop bleak
It had gathered all the cold,
And whirled it like sleet on the wanderer's cheek;
It carried a shiver everywhere
From the unleafed boughs and pastures bare; 180
The little brook heard it and built a roof
'Neath which he could house him, winter-proof;
All night by the white stars' frosty gleams
He groined his arches and matched his beams;
Slender and clear were his crystal spars
As the lashes of light that trim the stars:
He sculptured every summer delight
In his halls and chambers out of sight;
Sometimes his tinkling waters slipt
Down through a frost-leaved forest-crypt, 190
Long, sparkling aisles of steel-stemmed trees
Bending to counterfeit a breeze;
Sometimes the roof no fretwork knew
But silvery mosses that downward grew;
Sometimes it was carved in sharp relief
With quaint arabesques of ice-fern leaf;
Sometimes it was simply smooth and clear
For the gladness of heaven to shine through, and here
He had caught the nodding bulrush-tops
And hung them thickly with diamond drops, 200
That crystalled the beams of moon and sun,
And made a star of every one:
No mortal builder's most rare device
Could match this winter-palace of ice;
'Twas as if every image that mirrored lay
In his depths serene through the summer day,
Each fleeting shadow of earth and sky,
Lest the happy model should be lost,
Had been mimicked in fairy masonry
By the elfin builders of the frost. 210

Within the hall are song and laughter,
The cheeks of Christmas glow red and jolly,
And sprouting is every corbel and rafter
With lightsome green of ivy and holly;
Through the deep gulf of the chimney wide
Wallows the Yule-log's roaring tide;
The broad flame-pennons droop and flap
And belly and tug as a flag in the wind;
Like a locust shrills the imprisoned sap,
Hunted to death in its galleries blind; 220
And swift little troops of silent sparks,
Now pausing, now scattering away as in fear,
Go threading the soot-forest's tangled darks
Like herds of startled deer.

But the wind without was eager and sharp,
Of Sir Launfal's gray hair it makes a harp,
And rattles and wrings
The icy strings,
Singing, in dreary monotone,
A Christmas carol of its own, 230
Whose burden still, as he might guess,
Was 'Shelterless, shelterless, shelterless!'
The voice of the seneschal flared like a torch
As he shouted the wanderer away from the porch,
And he sat in the gateway and saw all night
The great hall-fire, so cheery and bold,
Through the window-slits of the castle old,
Build out its piers of ruddy light
Against the drift of the cold.



There was never a leaf on bush or tree, 240
The bare boughs rattled shudderingly;
The river was dumb and could not speak,
For the weaver Winter its shroud had spun;
A single crow on the tree-top bleak
From his shining feathers shed off the cold sun;
Again it was morning, but shrunk and cold,
As if her veins were sapless and old,
And she rose up decrepitly
For a last dim look at earth and sea.


Sir Launfal turned from his own hard gate, 250
For another heir in his earldom sate;
An old, bent man, worn out and frail,
He came back from seeking the Holy Grail;
Little he recked of his earldom's loss,
No more on his surcoat was blazoned the cross,
But deep in his soul the sign he wore,
The badge of the suffering and the poor.


Sir Launfal's raiment thin and spare
Was idle mail 'gainst the barbed air,
For it was just at the Christmas time; 260
So he mused, as he sat, of a sunnier clime,
And sought for a shelter from cold and snow
In the light and warmth of long-ago;
He sees the snake-like caravan crawl
O'er the edge of the desert, black and small,
Then nearer and nearer, till, one by one,
He can count the camels in the sun,
As over the red-hot sands they pass
To where, in its slender necklace of grass,
The little spring laughed and leapt in the shade, 270
And with its own self like an infant played,
And waved its signal of palms.


'For Christ's sweet sake, I beg an alms;'
The happy camels may reach the spring,
But Sir Launfal sees only the grewsome thing,
The leper, lank as the rain-blanched bone,
That cowers beside him, a thing as lone
And white as the ice-isles of Northern seas
In the desolate horror of his disease.


And Sir Launfal said, 'I behold in thee 280
An image of Him who died on the tree;
Thou also hast had thy crown of thorns,
Thou also hast had the world's buffets and scorns,
And to thy life were not denied
The wounds in the hands and feet and side:
Mild Mary's Son, acknowledge me;
Behold, through him, I give to thee!'


Then the soul of the leper stood up in his eyes
And looked at Sir Launfal, and straightway he
Remembered in what a haughtier guise 290
He had flung an alms to leprosie,
When he girt his young life up in gilded mail
And set forth in search of the Holy Grail.
The heart within him was ashes and dust;
He parted in twain his single crust,
He broke the ice on the streamlet's brink,
And gave the leper to eat and drink.
'Twas a mouldy crust of coarse brown bread,
'Twas water out of a wooden bowl,--
Yet with fine wheaten bread was the leper fed, 300
And 'twas red wine he drank with his thirsty soul.


As Sir Launfal mused with a downcast face,
A light shone round about the place;
The leper no longer crouched at his side,
But stood before him glorified,
Shining and tall and fair and straight
As the pillar that stood by the Beautiful Gate,--
Himself the Gate whereby men can
Enter the temple of God in Man.


His words were shed softer than leaves from the pine, 310
And they fell on Sir Launfal as snows on the brine,
That mingle their softness and quiet in one
With the shaggy unrest they float down upon;
And the voice that was softer than silence said,
'Lo, it is I, be not afraid!
In many climes, without avail,
Thou hast spent thy life for the Holy Grail;
Behold, it is here,--this cup which thou
Didst fill at the streamlet for me but now;
This crust is my body broken for thee, 320
This water his blood that died on the tree;
The Holy Supper is kept, indeed,
In whatso we share with another's need;
Not what we give, but what we share,
For the gift without the giver is bare;
Who gives himself with his alms feeds three,
Himself, his hungering neighbor, and me.'


Sir Launfal awoke as from a swound:
'The Grail in my castle here is found!
Hang my idle armor up on the wall, 330
Let it be the spider's banquet hall;
He must be fenced with stronger mail
Who would seek and find the Holy Grail.'


The castle gate stands open now,
And the wanderer is welcome to the hall
As the hangbird is to the elm-tree bough;
No longer scowl the turrets tall,
The Summer's long siege at last is o'er;
When the first poor outcast went in at the door,
She entered with him in disguise,
And mastered the fortress by surprise; 341
There is no spot she loves so well on ground,
She lingers and smiles there the whole year round;
The meanest serf on Sir Launfal's land
Has hall and bower at his command;
And there's no poor man in the North Countree
But is lord of the earldom as much as he.


_December, 1846._

Dear M----
By way of saving time,
I'll do this letter up in rhyme,
Whose slim stream through four pages flows
Ere one is packed with tight-screwed prose,
Threading the tube of an epistle,
Smooth as a child's breath through a whistle.

The great attraction now of all
Is the 'Bazaar' at Faneuil Hall,
Where swarm the anti-slavery folks
As thick, dear Miller, as your jokes. 10
There's GARRISON, his features very
Benign for an incendiary,
Beaming forth sunshine through his glasses
On the surrounding lads and lasses,
(No bee could blither be, or brisker,)--
A Pickwick somehow turned John Ziska,
His bump of firmness swelling up
Like a rye cupcake from its cup.
And there, too, was his English tea-set, 19
Which in his ear a kind of flea set,
His Uncle Samuel for its beauty
Demanding sixty dollars duty,
('Twas natural Sam should serve his trunk ill;
For G., you know, has cut his uncle,)
Whereas, had he but once made tea in't,
His uncle's ear had had the flea in't,
There being not a cent of duty
On any pot that ever drew tea.

There was MARIA CHAPMAN, too,
With her swift eyes of clear steel-blue, 30
The coiled-up mainspring of the Fair,
Originating everywhere
The expansive force without a sound
That whirls a hundred wheels around,
Herself meanwhile as calm and still
As the bare crown of Prospect Hill;
A noble woman, brave and apt,
Cumaean sibyl not more rapt,
Who might, with those fair tresses shorn,
The Maid of Orleans' casque have worn, 40
Herself the Joan of our Ark,
For every shaft a shining mark.

And there, too, was ELIZA FOLLEN,
Who scatters fruit-creating pollen

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest