Poems [Series 2]
Part 1 out of 3
Etext scanned by Jim Tinsley
by EMILY DICKINSON
Edited by two of her friends
MABEL LOOMIS TODD and T.W.HIGGINSON
The eagerness with which the first volume of Emily Dickinson's
poems has been read shows very clearly that all our alleged modern
artificiality does not prevent a prompt appreciation of the
qualities of directness and simplicity in approaching the greatest
themes,--life and love and death. That "irresistible needle-touch,"
as one of her best critics has called it, piercing at once the very
core of a thought, has found a response as wide and sympathetic as
it has been unexpected even to those who knew best her compelling
power. This second volume, while open to the same criticism as to
form with its predecessor, shows also the same shining beauties.
Although Emily Dickinson had been in the habit of sending
occasional poems to friends and correspondents, the full extent of
her writing was by no means imagined by them. Her friend "H.H."
must at least have suspected it, for in a letter dated 5th
September, 1884, she wrote:--
MY DEAR FRIEND,-- What portfolios full of verses
you must have! It is a cruel wrong to your "day and
generation" that you will not give them light.
If such a thing should happen as that I should outlive
you, I wish you would make me your literary legatee
and executor. Surely after you are what is called
"dead" you will be willing that the poor ghosts you
have left behind should be cheered and pleased by your
verses, will you not? You ought to be. I do not think
we have a right to withhold from the world a word or
a thought any more than a deed which might help a
single soul. . . .
The "portfolios" were found, shortly after Emily Dickinson's death,
by her sister and only surviving housemate. Most of the poems had
been carefully copied on sheets of note-paper, and tied in little
fascicules, each of six or eight sheets. While many of them bear
evidence of having been thrown off at white heat, still more had
received thoughtful revision. There is the frequent addition of
rather perplexing foot-notes, affording large choice of words and
phrases. And in the copies which she sent to friends, sometimes one
form, sometimes another, is found to have been used. Without
important exception, her friends have generously placed at the
disposal of the Editors any poems they had received from her; and
these have given the obvious advantage of comparison among several
renderings of the same verse.
To what further rigorous pruning her verses would have been
subjected had she published them herself, we cannot know. They
should be regarded in many cases as merely the first strong and
suggestive sketches of an artist, intended to be embodied at some
time in the finished picture.
Emily Dickinson appears to have written her first poems in the
winter of 1862. In a letter to one of the present Editors the
April following, she says, "I made no verse, but one or two, until
The handwriting was at first somewhat like the delicate, running
Italian hand of our elder gentlewomen; but as she advanced in
breadth of thought, it grew bolder and more abrupt, until in her
latest years each letter stood distinct and separate from its
fellows. In most of her poems, particularly the later ones,
everything by way of punctuation was discarded, except numerous
dashes; and all important words began with capitals. The effect of
a page of her more recent manuscript is exceedingly quaint and
strong. The fac-simile given in the present volume is from one of
the earlier transition periods. Although there is nowhere a date,
the handwriting makes it possible to arrange the poems with general
As a rule, the verses were without titles; but "A Country Burial,"
"A Thunder-Storm," "The Humming-Bird," and a few others were named
by their author, frequently at the end,--sometimes only in the
accompanying note, if sent to a friend.
The variation of readings, with the fact that she often wrote in
pencil and not always clearly, have at times thrown a good deal of
responsibility upon her Editors. But all interference not
absolutely inevitable has been avoided. The very roughness of her
rendering is part of herself, and not lightly to be touched; for it
seems in many cases that she intentionally avoided the smoother and
more usual rhymes.
Like impressionist pictures, or Wagner's rugged music, the very
absence of conventional form challenges attention. In Emily
Dickinson's exacting hands, the especial, intrinsic fitness of a
particular order of words might not be sacrificed to anything
virtually extrinsic; and her verses all show a strange cadence of
inner rhythmical music. Lines are always daringly constructed, and
the "thought-rhyme" appears frequently,--appealing, indeed, to an
unrecognized sense more elusive than hearing.
Emily Dickinson scrutinized everything with clear-eyed frankness.
Every subject was proper ground for legitimate study, even the
sombre facts of death and burial, and the unknown life beyond. She
touches these themes sometimes lightly, sometimes almost
humorously, more often with weird and peculiar power; but she is
never by any chance frivolous or trivial. And while, as one critic
has said, she may exhibit toward God "an Emersonian self-possession,"
it was because she looked upon all life with a candor as unprejudiced
as it is rare.
She had tried society and the world, and found them lacking. She
was not an invalid, and she lived in seclusion from no
love-disappointment. Her life was the normal blossoming of a nature
introspective to a high degree, whose best thought could not exist
Storm, wind, the wild March sky, sunsets and dawns; the birds and
bees, butterflies and flowers of her garden, with a few trusted
human friends, were sufficient companionship. The coming of the
first robin was a jubilee beyond crowning of monarch or birthday of
pope; the first red leaf hurrying through "the altered air," an
epoch. Immortality was close about her; and while never morbid or
melancholy, she lived in its presence.
MABEL LOOMIS TODD.
My nosegays are for captives;
Dim, long-expectant eyes,
Fingers denied the plucking,
Patient till paradise,
To such, if they should whisper
Of morning and the moor,
They bear no other errand,
And I, no other prayer.
I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there 's a pair of us -- don't tell!
They 'd banish us, you know.
How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!
I bring an unaccustomed wine
To lips long parching, next to mine,
And summon them to drink.
Crackling with fever, they essay;
I turn my brimming eyes away,
And come next hour to look.
The hands still hug the tardy glass;
The lips I would have cooled, alas!
Are so superfluous cold,
I would as soon attempt to warm
The bosoms where the frost has lain
Ages beneath the mould.
Some other thirsty there may be
To whom this would have pointed me
Had it remained to speak.
And so I always bear the cup
If, haply, mine may be the drop
Some pilgrim thirst to slake, --
If, haply, any say to me,
"Unto the little, unto me,"
When I at last awake.
The nearest dream recedes, unrealized.
The heaven we chase
Like the June bee
Before the school-boy
Invites the race;
Stoops to an easy clover --
Dips -- evades -- teases -- deploys;
Then to the royal clouds
Lifts his light pinnace
Heedless of the boy
Staring, bewildered, at the mocking sky.
Homesick for steadfast honey,
Ah! the bee flies not
That brews that rare variety.
We play at paste,
Till qualified for pearl,
Then drop the paste,
And deem ourself a fool.
The shapes, though, were similar,
And our new hands
I found the phrase to every thought
I ever had, but one;
And that defies me, -- as a hand
Did try to chalk the sun
To races nurtured in the dark; --
How would your own begin?
Can blaze be done in cochineal,
Or noon in mazarin?
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I 've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
THE WHITE HEAT.
Dare you see a soul at the white heat?
Then crouch within the door.
Red is the fire's common tint;
But when the vivid ore
Has sated flame's conditions,
Its quivering substance plays
Without a color but the light
Of unanointed blaze.
Least village boasts its blacksmith,
Whose anvil's even din
Stands symbol for the finer forge
That soundless tugs within,
Refining these impatient ores
With hammer and with blaze,
Until the designated light
Repudiate the forge.
Who never lost, are unprepared
A coronet to find;
Who never thirsted, flagons
And cooling tamarind.
Who never climbed the weary league --
Can such a foot explore
The purple territories
On Pizarro's shore?
How many legions overcome?
The emperor will say.
How many colors taken
On Revolution Day?
How many bullets bearest?
The royal scar hast thou?
Angels, write "Promoted"
On this soldier's brow!
I can wade grief,
Whole pools of it, --
I 'm used to that.
But the least push of joy
Breaks up my feet,
And I tip -- drunken.
Let no pebble smile,
'T was the new liquor, --
That was all!
Power is only pain,
Stranded, through discipline,
Till weights will hang.
Give balm to giants,
And they 'll wilt, like men.
Give Himmaleh, --
They 'll carry him!
I never hear the word "escape"
Without a quicker blood,
A sudden expectation,
A flying attitude.
I never hear of prisons broad
By soldiers battered down,
But I tug childish at my bars, --
Only to fail again!
For each ecstatic instant
We must an anguish pay
In keen and quivering ratio
To the ecstasy.
For each beloved hour
Sharp pittances of years,
Bitter contested farthings
And coffers heaped with tears.
Through the straight pass of suffering
The martyrs even trod,
Their feet upon temptation,
Their faces upon God.
A stately, shriven company;
Convulsion playing round,
Harmless as streaks of meteor
Upon a planet's bound.
Their faith the everlasting troth;
Their expectation fair;
The needle to the north degree
Wades so, through polar air.
I meant to have but modest needs,
Such as content, and heaven;
Within my income these could lie,
And life and I keep even.
But since the last included both,
It would suffice my prayer
But just for one to stipulate,
And grace would grant the pair.
And so, upon this wise I prayed, --
Great Spirit, give to me
A heaven not so large as yours,
But large enough for me.
A smile suffused Jehovah's face;
The cherubim withdrew;
Grave saints stole out to look at me,
And showed their dimples, too.
I left the place with all my might, --
My prayer away I threw;
The quiet ages picked it up,
And Judgment twinkled, too,
That one so honest be extant
As take the tale for true
That "Whatsoever you shall ask,
Itself be given you."
But I, grown shrewder, scan the skies
With a suspicious air, --
As children, swindled for the first,
All swindlers be, infer.
The thought beneath so slight a film
Is more distinctly seen, --
As laces just reveal the surge,
Or mists the Apennine.
The soul unto itself
Is an imperial friend, --
Or the most agonizing spy
An enemy could send.
Secure against its own,
No treason it can fear;
Itself its sovereign, of itself
The soul should stand in awe.
Surgeons must be very careful
When they take the knife!
Underneath their fine incisions
Stirs the culprit, -- Life!
THE RAILWAY TRAIN.
I like to see it lap the miles,
And lick the valleys up,
And stop to feed itself at tanks;
And then, prodigious, step
Around a pile of mountains,
And, supercilious, peer
In shanties by the sides of roads;
And then a quarry pare
To fit its sides, and crawl between,
Complaining all the while
In horrid, hooting stanza;
Then chase itself down hill
And neigh like Boanerges;
Then, punctual as a star,
Stop -- docile and omnipotent --
At its own stable door.
The show is not the show,
But they that go.
Menagerie to me
My neighbor be.
Fair play --
Both went to see.
Delight becomes pictorial
When viewed through pain, --
More fair, because impossible
That any gain.
The mountain at a given distance
In amber lies;
Approached, the amber flits a little, --
And that 's the skies!
A thought went up my mind to-day
That I have had before,
But did not finish, -- some way back,
I could not fix the year,
Nor where it went, nor why it came
The second time to me,
Nor definitely what it was,
Have I the art to say.
But somewhere in my soul, I know
I 've met the thing before;
It just reminded me -- 't was all --
And came my way no more.
Is Heaven a physician?
They say that He can heal;
But medicine posthumous
Is Heaven an exchequer?
They speak of what we owe;
But that negotiation
I 'm not a party to.
Though I get home how late, how late!
So I get home, 't will compensate.
Better will be the ecstasy
That they have done expecting me,
When, night descending, dumb and dark,
They hear my unexpected knock.
Transporting must the moment be,
Brewed from decades of agony!
To think just how the fire will burn,
Just how long-cheated eyes will turn
To wonder what myself will say,
And what itself will say to me,
Beguiles the centuries of way!
A poor torn heart, a tattered heart,
That sat it down to rest,
Nor noticed that the ebbing day
Flowed silver to the west,
Nor noticed night did soft descend
Nor constellation burn,
Intent upon the vision
Of latitudes unknown.
The angels, happening that way,
This dusty heart espied;
Tenderly took it up from toil
And carried it to God.
There, -- sandals for the barefoot;
There, -- gathered from the gales,
Do the blue havens by the hand
Lead the wandering sails.
I should have been too glad, I see,
Too lifted for the scant degree
Of life's penurious round;
My little circuit would have shamed
This new circumference, have blamed
The homelier time behind.
I should have been too saved, I see,
Too rescued; fear too dim to me
That I could spell the prayer
I knew so perfect yesterday, --
That scalding one, "Sabachthani,"
Recited fluent here.
Earth would have been too much, I see,
And heaven not enough for me;
I should have had the joy
Without the fear to justify, --
The palm without the Calvary;
So, Saviour, crucify.
Defeat whets victory, they say;
The reefs in old Gethsemane
Endear the shore beyond.
'T is beggars banquets best define;
'T is thirsting vitalizes wine, --
Faith faints to understand.
It tossed and tossed, --
A little brig I knew, --
O'ertook by blast,
It spun and spun,
And groped delirious, for morn.
It slipped and slipped,
As one that drunken stepped;
Its white foot tripped,
Then dropped from sight.
Ah, brig, good-night
To crew and you;
The ocean's heart too smooth, too blue,
To break for you.
Victory comes late,
And is held low to freezing lips
Too rapt with frost
To take it.
How sweet it would have tasted,
Just a drop!
Was God so economical?
His table 's spread too high for us
Unless we dine on tip-toe.
Crumbs fit such little mouths,
Cherries suit robins;
The eagle's golden breakfast
God keeps his oath to sparrows,
Who of little love
Know how to starve!
God gave a loaf to every bird,
But just a crumb to me;
I dare not eat it, though I starve, --
My poignant luxury
To own it, touch it, prove the feat
That made the pellet mine, --
Too happy in my sparrow chance
For ampler coveting.
It might be famine all around,
I could not miss an ear,
Such plenty smiles upon my board,
My garner shows so fair.
I wonder how the rich may feel, --
An Indiaman -- an Earl?
I deem that I with but a crumb
Am sovereign of them all.
Experiment to me
Is every one I meet.
If it contain a kernel?
The figure of a nut
Presents upon a tree,
But meat within is requisite,
To squirrels and to me.
MY COUNTRY'S WARDROBE.
My country need not change her gown,
Her triple suit as sweet
As when 't was cut at Lexington,
And first pronounced "a fit."
Great Britain disapproves "the stars;"
Disparagement discreet, --
There 's something in their attitude
That taunts her bayonet.
Faith is a fine invention
For gentlemen who see;
But microscopes are prudent
In an emergency!
Except the heaven had come so near,
So seemed to choose my door,
The distance would not haunt me so;
I had not hoped before.
But just to hear the grace depart
I never thought to see,
Afflicts me with a double loss;
'T is lost, and lost to me.
Portraits are to daily faces
As an evening west
To a fine, pedantic sunshine
In a satin vest.
I took my power in my hand.
And went against the world;
'T was not so much as David had,
But I was twice as bold.
I aimed my pebble, but myself
Was all the one that fell.
Was it Goliath was too large,
Or only I too small?
A shady friend for torrid days
Is easier to find
Than one of higher temperature
For frigid hour of mind.
The vane a little to the east
Scares muslin souls away;
If broadcloth breasts are firmer
Than those of organdy,
Who is to blame? The weaver?
Ah! the bewildering thread!
The tapestries of paradise
So notelessly are made!
Each life converges to some centre
Expressed or still;
Exists in every human nature
Admitted scarcely to itself, it may be,
For credibility's temerity
Adored with caution, as a brittle heaven,
Were hopeless as the rainbow's raiment
Yet persevered toward, surer for the distance;
Unto the saints' slow diligence
Ungained, it may be, by a life's low venture,
Eternity enables the endeavoring
Before I got my eye put out,
I liked as well to see
As other creatures that have eyes,
And know no other way.
But were it told to me, to-day,
That I might have the sky
For mine, I tell you that my heart
Would split, for size of me.
The meadows mine, the mountains mine, --
All forests, stintless stars,
As much of noon as I could take
Between my finite eyes.
The motions of the dipping birds,
The lightning's jointed road,
For mine to look at when I liked, --
The news would strike me dead!
So safer, guess, with just my soul
Upon the window-pane
Where other creatures put their eyes,
Incautious of the sun.
Talk with prudence to a beggar
Of 'Potosi' and the mines!
Reverently to the hungry
Of your viands and your wines!
Cautious, hint to any captive
You have passed enfranchised feet!
Anecdotes of air in dungeons
Have sometimes proved deadly sweet!
He preached upon "breadth" till it argued him narrow, --
The broad are too broad to define;
And of "truth" until it proclaimed him a liar, --
The truth never flaunted a sign.
Simplicity fled from his counterfeit presence
As gold the pyrites would shun.
What confusion would cover the innocent Jesus
To meet so enabled a man!
Good night! which put the candle out?
A jealous zephyr, not a doubt.
Ah! friend, you little knew
How long at that celestial wick
The angels labored diligent;
Extinguished, now, for you!
It might have been the lighthouse spark
Some sailor, rowing in the dark,
Had importuned to see!
It might have been the waning lamp
That lit the drummer from the camp
To purer reveille!
When I hoped I feared,
Since I hoped I dared;
As a church remain;
Spectre cannot harm,
Serpent cannot charm;
He deposes doom,
Who hath suffered him.
A deed knocks first at thought,
And then it knocks at will.
That is the manufacturing spot,
And will at home and well.
It then goes out an act,
Or is entombed so still
That only to the ear of God
Its doom is audible.
Mine enemy is growing old, --
I have at last revenge.
The palate of the hate departs;
If any would avenge, --
Let him be quick, the viand flits,
It is a faded meat.
Anger as soon as fed is dead;
'T is starving makes it fat.
Remorse is memory awake,
Her companies astir, --
A presence of departed acts
At window and at door.
It's past set down before the soul,
And lighted with a match,
Perusal to facilitate
Of its condensed despatch.
Remorse is cureless, -- the disease
Not even God can heal;
For 't is his institution, --
The complement of hell.
The body grows outside, --
The more convenient way, --
That if the spirit like to hide,
Its temple stands alway
Ajar, secure, inviting;
It never did betray
The soul that asked its shelter
In timid honesty.
Undue significance a starving man attaches
Far off; he sighs, and therefore hopeless,
And therefore good.
Partaken, it relieves indeed, but proves us
That spices fly
In the receipt. It was the distance
Heart not so heavy as mine,
Wending late home,
As it passed my window
Whistled itself a tune, --
A careless snatch, a ballad,
A ditty of the street;
Yet to my irritated ear
An anodyne so sweet,
It was as if a bobolink,
Sauntering this way,
Carolled and mused and carolled,
Then bubbled slow away.
It was as if a chirping brook
Upon a toilsome way
Set bleeding feet to minuets
Without the knowing why.
To-morrow, night will come again,
Weary, perhaps, and sore.
Ah, bugle, by my window,
I pray you stroll once more!
I many times thought peace had come,
When peace was far away;
As wrecked men deem they sight the land
At centre of the sea,
And struggle slacker, but to prove,
As hopelessly as I,
How many the fictitious shores
Before the harbor lie.
Unto my books so good to turn
Far ends of tired days;
It half endears the abstinence,
And pain is missed in praise.
As flavors cheer retarded guests
With banquetings to be,
So spices stimulate the time
Till my small library.
It may be wilderness without,
Far feet of failing men,
But holiday excludes the night,
And it is bells within.
I thank these kinsmen of the shelf;
Their countenances bland
Enamour in prospective,
And satisfy, obtained.
This merit hath the worst, --
It cannot be again.
When Fate hath taunted last
And thrown her furthest stone,
The maimed may pause and breathe,
And glance securely round.
The deer invites no longer
Than it eludes the hound.
I had been hungry all the years;
My noon had come, to dine;
I, trembling, drew the table near,
And touched the curious wine.
'T was this on tables I had seen,
When turning, hungry, lone,
I looked in windows, for the wealth
I could not hope to own.
I did not know the ample bread,
'T was so unlike the crumb
The birds and I had often shared
In Nature's dining-room.
The plenty hurt me, 't was so new, --
Myself felt ill and odd,
As berry of a mountain bush
Transplanted to the road.
Nor was I hungry; so I found
That hunger was a way
Of persons outside windows,
The entering takes away.
I gained it so,
By climbing slow,
By catching at the twigs that grow
Between the bliss and me.
It hung so high,
As well the sky
Attempt by strategy.
I said I gained it, --
This was all.
Look, how I clutch it,
Lest it fall,
And I a pauper go;
Unfitted by an instant's grace
For the contented beggar's face
I wore an hour ago.
To learn the transport by the pain,
As blind men learn the sun;
To die of thirst, suspecting
That brooks in meadows run;
To stay the homesick, homesick feet
Upon a foreign shore
Haunted by native lands, the while,
And blue, beloved air --
This is the sovereign anguish,
This, the signal woe!
These are the patient laureates
Whose voices, trained below,
Ascend in ceaseless carol,
To us, the duller scholars
Of the mysterious bard!
I years had been from home,
And now, before the door,
I dared not open, lest a face
I never saw before
Stare vacant into mine
And ask my business there.
My business, -- just a life I left,
Was such still dwelling there?
I fumbled at my nerve,
I scanned the windows near;
The silence like an ocean rolled,
And broke against my ear.
I laughed a wooden laugh
That I could fear a door,
Who danger and the dead had faced,
But never quaked before.
I fitted to the latch
My hand, with trembling care,
Lest back the awful door should spring,
And leave me standing there.
I moved my fingers off
As cautiously as glass,
And held my ears, and like a thief
Fled gasping from the house.
Prayer is the little implement
Through which men reach
Where presence is denied them.
They fling their speech
By means of it in God's ear;
If then He hear,
This sums the apparatus
Comprised in prayer.
I know that he exists
Somewhere, in silence.
He has hid his rare life
From our gross eyes.
'T is an instant's play,
'T is a fond ambush,
Just to make bliss
Earn her own surprise!
But should the play
Prove piercing earnest,
Should the glee glaze
In death's stiff stare,
Would not the fun
Look too expensive?
Would not the jest
Have crawled too far?
Musicians wrestle everywhere:
All day, among the crowded air,
I hear the silver strife;
And -- waking long before the dawn --
Such transport breaks upon the town
I think it that "new life!"
It is not bird, it has no nest;
Nor band, in brass and scarlet dressed,
Nor tambourine, nor man;
It is not hymn from pulpit read, --
The morning stars the treble led
On time's first afternoon!
Some say it is the spheres at play!
Some say that bright majority
Of vanished dames and men!
Some think it service in the place
Where we, with late, celestial face,
Please God, shall ascertain!
Just lost when I was saved!
Just felt the world go by!
Just girt me for the onset with eternity,
When breath blew back,
And on the other side
I heard recede the disappointed tide!
Therefore, as one returned, I feel,
Odd secrets of the line to tell!
Some sailor, skirting foreign shores,
Some pale reporter from the awful doors
Before the seal!
Next time, to stay!
Next time, the things to see
By ear unheard,
Unscrutinized by eye.
Next time, to tarry,
While the ages steal, --
Slow tramp the centuries,
And the cycles wheel.
Of all the souls that stand create
I have elected one.
When sense from spirit files away,
And subterfuge is done;
When that which is and that which was
Apart, intrinsic, stand,
And this brief tragedy of flesh
Is shifted like a sand;
When figures show their royal front
And mists are carved away, --
Behold the atom I preferred
To all the lists of clay!
I have no life but this,
To lead it here;
Nor any death, but lest
Dispelled from there;
Nor tie to earths to come,
Nor action new,
Except through this extent,
The realm of you.
Your riches taught me poverty.
Myself a millionnaire
In little wealths, -- as girls could boast, --
Till broad as Buenos Ayre,
You drifted your dominions
A different Peru;
And I esteemed all poverty,
For life's estate with you.
Of mines I little know, myself,
But just the names of gems, --
The colors of the commonest;
And scarce of diadems
So much that, did I meet the queen,
Her glory I should know:
But this must be a different wealth,
To miss it beggars so.
I 'm sure 't is India all day
To those who look on you
Without a stint, without a blame, --
Might I but be the Jew!
I 'm sure it is Golconda,
Beyond my power to deem, --
To have a smile for mine each day,
How better than a gem!
At least, it solaces to know
That there exists a gold,
Although I prove it just in time
Its distance to behold!
It 's far, far treasure to surmise,
And estimate the pearl
That slipped my simple fingers through
While just a girl at school!
I gave myself to him,
And took himself for pay.
The solemn contract of a life
Was ratified this way.
The wealth might disappoint,
Myself a poorer prove
Than this great purchaser suspect,
The daily own of Love
Depreciate the vision;
But, till the merchant buy,
Still fable, in the isles of spice,
The subtle cargoes lie.
At least, 't is mutual risk, --
Some found it mutual gain;
Sweet debt of Life, -- each night to owe,
Insolvent, every noon.
"GOING to him! Happy letter! Tell him --
Tell him the page I did n't write;
Tell him I only said the syntax,
And left the verb and the pronoun out.
Tell him just how the fingers hurried,
Then how they waded, slow, slow, slow;
And then you wished you had eyes in your pages,
So you could see what moved them so.
"Tell him it was n't a practised writer,
You guessed, from the way the sentence toiled;
You could hear the bodice tug, behind you,
As if it held but the might of a child;
You almost pitied it, you, it worked so.
Tell him -- No, you may quibble there,
For it would split his heart to know it,
And then you and I were silenter.
"Tell him night finished before we finished,
And the old clock kept neighing 'day!'
And you got sleepy and begged to be ended --
What could it hinder so, to say?
Tell him just how she sealed you, cautious,
But if he ask where you are hid
Until to-morrow, -- happy letter!
Gesture, coquette, and shake your head!"
The way I read a letter 's this:
'T is first I lock the door,
And push it with my fingers next,
For transport it be sure.
And then I go the furthest off
To counteract a knock;
Then draw my little letter forth
And softly pick its lock.
Then, glancing narrow at the wall,
And narrow at the floor,
For firm conviction of a mouse
Not exorcised before,
Peruse how infinite I am
To -- no one that you know!
And sigh for lack of heaven, -- but not
The heaven the creeds bestow.
Wild nights! Wild nights!
Were I with thee,
Wild nights should be
Futile the winds
To a heart in port, --
Done with the compass,
Done with the chart.
Rowing in Eden!
Ah! the sea!
Might I but moor
To-night in thee!
The night was wide, and furnished scant
With but a single star,
That often as a cloud it met
Blew out itself for fear.
The wind pursued the little bush,
And drove away the leaves
November left; then clambered up
And fretted in the eaves.
No squirrel went abroad;
A dog's belated feet
Like intermittent plush were heard
Adown the empty street.
To feel if blinds be fast,
And closer to the fire
Her little rocking-chair to draw,
And shiver for the poor,
The housewife's gentle task.
"How pleasanter," said she
Unto the sofa opposite,
"The sleet than May -- no thee!"
Did the harebell loose her girdle
To the lover bee,
Would the bee the harebell hallow
Much as formerly?
Did the paradise, persuaded,
Yield her moat of pearl,
Would the Eden be an Eden,
Or the earl an earl?
A charm invests a face
Imperfectly beheld, --
The lady dare not lift her veil
For fear it be dispelled.
But peers beyond her mesh,
And wishes, and denies, --
Lest interview annul a want
That image satisfies.
The rose did caper on her cheek,
Her bodice rose and fell,
Her pretty speech, like drunken men,
Did stagger pitiful.
Her fingers fumbled at her work, --
Her needle would not go;
What ailed so smart a little maid
It puzzled me to know,
Till opposite I spied a cheek
That bore another rose;
Just opposite, another speech
That like the drunkard goes;
A vest that, like the bodice, danced
To the immortal tune, --
Till those two troubled little clocks
Ticked softly into one.
In lands I never saw, they say,
Immortal Alps look down,
Whose bonnets touch the firmament,
Whose sandals touch the town, --
Meek at whose everlasting feet
A myriad daisies play.
Which, sir, are you, and which am I,
Upon an August day?
The moon is distant from the sea,
And yet with amber hands
She leads him, docile as a boy,
Along appointed sands.
He never misses a degree;
Obedient to her eye,
He comes just so far toward the town,
Just so far goes away.
Oh, Signor, thine the amber hand,
And mine the distant sea, --
Obedient to the least command
Thine eyes impose on me.
He put the belt around my life, --
I heard the buckle snap,
And turned away, imperial,
My lifetime folding up
Deliberate, as a duke would do
A kingdom's title-deed, --
Henceforth a dedicated sort,
A member of the cloud.
Yet not too far to come at call,
And do the little toils
That make the circuit of the rest,
And deal occasional smiles
To lives that stoop to notice mine
And kindly ask it in, --
Whose invitation, knew you not
For whom I must decline?
THE LOST JEWEL.
I held a jewel in my fingers
And went to sleep.
The day was warm, and winds were prosy;
I said: "'T will keep."
I woke and chid my honest fingers, --
The gem was gone;
And now an amethyst remembrance
Is all I own.
What if I say I shall not wait?
What if I burst the fleshly gate
And pass, escaped, to thee?
What if I file this mortal off,
See where it hurt me, -- that 's enough, --
And wade in liberty?
They cannot take us any more, --
Dungeons may call, and guns implore;
Unmeaning now, to me,
As laughter was an hour ago,
Or laces, or a travelling show,
Or who died yesterday!
Nature, the gentlest mother,
Impatient of no child,
The feeblest or the waywardest, --
Her admonition mild
In forest and the hill
By traveller is heard,
Restraining rampant squirrel
Or too impetuous bird.
How fair her conversation,
A summer afternoon, --
Her household, her assembly;
And when the sun goes down
Her voice among the aisles
Incites the timid prayer
Of the minutest cricket,
The most unworthy flower.
When all the children sleep
She turns as long away
As will suffice to light her lamps;
Then, bending from the sky
With infinite affection
And infiniter care,
Her golden finger on her lip,
Wills silence everywhere.
OUT OF THE MORNING.
Will there really be a morning?
Is there such a thing as day?
Could I see it from the mountains
If I were as tall as they?
Has it feet like water-lilies?
Has it feathers like a bird?
Is it brought from famous countries
Of which I have never heard?
Oh, some scholar! Oh, some sailor!
Oh, some wise man from the skies!
Please to tell a little pilgrim
Where the place called morning lies!
At half-past three a single bird
Unto a silent sky
Propounded but a single term
Of cautious melody.
At half-past four, experiment
Had subjugated test,
And lo! her silver principle
Supplanted all the rest.
At half-past seven, element
Nor implement was seen,
And place was where the presence was,
The day came slow, till five o'clock,
Then sprang before the hills
Like hindered rubies, or the light
A sudden musket spills.
The purple could not keep the east,
The sunrise shook from fold,
Like breadths of topaz, packed a night,
The lady just unrolled.
The happy winds their timbrels took;
The birds, in docile rows,
Arranged themselves around their prince
(The wind is prince of those).
The orchard sparkled like a Jew, --
How mighty 't was, to stay
A guest in this stupendous place,
The parlor of the day!
THE SUN'S WOOING.
The sun just touched the morning;
The morning, happy thing,
Supposed that he had come to dwell,
And life would be all spring.
She felt herself supremer, --
A raised, ethereal thing;
Henceforth for her what holiday!
Meanwhile, her wheeling king
Trailed slow along the orchards
His haughty, spangled hems,
Leaving a new necessity, --
The want of diadems!
The morning fluttered, staggered,
Felt feebly for her crown, --
Her unanointed forehead
Henceforth her only one.
The robin is the one
That interrupts the morn
With hurried, few, express reports
When March is scarcely on.
The robin is the one
That overflows the noon
With her cherubic quantity,
An April but begun.
The robin is the one
That speechless from her nest
Submits that home and certainty
And sanctity are best.
THE BUTTERFLY'S DAY.
From cocoon forth a butterfly
As lady from her door
Emerged -- a summer afternoon --
Without design, that I could trace,
Except to stray abroad
On miscellaneous enterprise
The clovers understood.
Her pretty parasol was seen
Contracting in a field
Where men made hay, then struggling hard
With an opposing cloud,
Where parties, phantom as herself,
To Nowhere seemed to go
In purposeless circumference,
As 't were a tropic show.
And notwithstanding bee that worked,
And flower that zealous blew,
This audience of idleness
Disdained them, from the sky,
Till sundown crept, a steady tide,
And men that made the hay,
And afternoon, and butterfly,
Extinguished in its sea.
Before you thought of spring,
Except as a surmise,
You see, God bless his suddenness,
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