Poems of Henry Timrod
Part 3 out of 4
Thy life shall bear its flowers in future times."
To-day's most trivial act may hold the seed
Of future fruitfulness, or future dearth;
Oh, cherish always every word and deed!
The simplest record of thyself hath worth.
If thou hast ever slighted one old thought,
Beware lest Grief enforce the truth at last;
The time must come wherein thou shalt be taught
The value and the beauty of the Past.
Not merely as a warner and a guide,
"A voice behind thee," sounding to the strife;
But something never to be put aside,
A part and parcel of thy present life.
Not as a distant and a darkened sky,
Through which the stars peep, and the moon-beams glow;
But a surrounding atmosphere, whereby
We live and breathe, sustained in pain and woe.
A shadowy land, where joy and sorrow kiss,
Each still to each corrective and relief,
Where dim delights are brightened into bliss,
And nothing wholly perishes but Grief.
Ah, me! -- not dies -- no more than spirit dies;
But in a change like death is clothed with wings;
A serious angel, with entranc|\ed eyes,
Looking to far-off and celestial things.
Who first said "false as dreams"? Not one who saw
Into the wild and wondrous world they sway;
No thinker who hath read their mystic law;
No Poet who hath weaved them in his lay.
Else had he known that through the human breast
Cross and recross a thousand fleeting gleams,
That, passed unnoticed in the day's unrest,
Come out at night, like stars, in shining dreams;
That minds too busy or too dull to mark
The dim suggestion of the noisier hours,
By dreams in the deep silence of the dark,
Are roused at midnight with their folded powers.
Like that old fount beneath Dodona's oaks,
That, dry and voiceless in the garish noon,
When the calm night arose with modest looks,
Caught with full wave the sparkle of the moon.
If, now and then, a ghastly shape glide in,
And fright us with its horrid gloom or glee,
It is the ghost of some forgotten sin
We failed to exorcise on bended knee.
And that sweet face which only yesternight
Came to thy solace, dreamer (didst thou read
The blessing in its eyes of tearful light?),
Was but the spirit of some gentle deed.
Each has its lesson; for our dreams in sooth,
Come they in shape of demons, gods, or elves,
Are allegories with deep hearts of truth
That tell us solemn secrets of ourselves.
The Arctic Voyager
Shall I desist, twice baffled? Once by land,
And once by sea, I fought and strove with storms,
All shades of danger, tides, and weary calms;
Head-currents, cold and famine, savage beasts,
And men more savage; all the while my face
Looked northward toward the pole; if mortal strength
Could have sustained me, I had never turned
Till I had seen the star which never sets
Freeze in the Arctic zenith. That I failed
To solve the mysteries of the ice-bound world,
Was not because I faltered in the quest.
Witness those pathless forests which conceal
The bones of perished comrades, that long march,
Blood-tracked o'er flint and snow, and one dread night
By Athabasca, when a cherished life
Flowed to give life to others. This, and worse,
I suffered -- let it pass -- it has not tamed
My spirit nor the faith which was my strength.
Despite of waning years, despite the world
Which doubts, the few who dare, I purpose now --
A purpose long and thoughtfully resolved,
Through all its grounds of reasonable hope --
To seek beyond the ice which guards the Pole,
A sea of open water; for I hold,
Not without proofs, that such a sea exists,
And may be reached, though since this earth was made
No keel hath ploughed it, and to mortal ear
No wind hath told its secrets. . . . With this tide
I sail; if all be well, this very moon
Shall see my ship beyond the southern cape
Of Greenland, and far up the bay through which,
With diamond spire and gorgeous pinnacle,
The fleets of winter pass to warmer seas.
Whether, my hardy shipmates! we shall reach
Our bourne, and come with tales of wonder back,
Or whether we shall lose the precious time,
Locked in thick ice, or whether some strange fate
Shall end us all, I know not; but I know
A lofty hope, if earnestly pursued,
Is its own crown, and never in this life
Is labor wholly fruitless. In this faith
I shall not count the chances -- sure that all
A prudent foresight asks we shall not want,
And all that bold and patient hearts can do
Ye will not leave undone. The rest is God's!
Let the boy have his will! I tell thee, brother,
We treat these little ones too much like flowers,
Training them, in blind selfishness, to deck
Sticks of our poor setting, when they might,
If left to clamber where themselves incline,
Find nobler props to cling to, fitter place,
And sweeter air to bloom in. It is wrong --
Thou striv'st to sow with feelings all thine own,
With thoughts and hopes, anxieties and aims,
Born of thine own peculiar self, and fed
Upon a certain round of circumstance,
A soul as different and distinct from thine
As love of goodness is from love of glory,
Or noble poesy from noble prose.
I could forgive thee, if thou wast of them
Who do their fated parts in this world's business,
Scarce knowing how or why -- for common minds
See not the difference 'twixt themselves and others --
But thou, thou, with the visions which thy youth did cherish
Substantialized upon thy regal brow,
Shouldst boast a deeper insight. We are born,
It is my faith, in miniature completeness,
And like each other only in our weakness.
Even with our mother's milk upon our lips,
Our smiles have different meanings, and our hands
Press with degrees of softness to her bosom.
It is not change -- whatever in the heart
That wears its semblance, we, in looking back,
With gratulation or regret, perceive --
It is not change we undergo, but only
Growth or development. Yes! what is childhood
But after all a sort of golden daylight,
A beautiful and blessed wealth of sunshine,
Wherein the powers and passions of the soul
Sleep starlike but existent, till the night
Of gathering years shall call the slumbers forth,
And they rise up in glory? Early grief,
A shadow like the darkness of eclipse,
Hath sometimes waked them sooner.
The Summer Bower
It is a place whither I've often gone
For peace, and found it, secret, hushed, and cool,
A beautiful recess in neighboring woods.
Trees of the soberest hues, thick-leaved and tall,
Arch it o'erhead and column it around,
Framing a covert, natural and wild,
Domelike and dim; though nowhere so enclosed
But that the gentlest breezes reach the spot
Unwearied and unweakened. Sound is here
A transient and unfrequent visitor;
Yet if the day be calm, not often then,
Whilst the high pines in one another's arms
Sleep, you may sometimes with unstartled ear
Catch the far fall of voices, how remote
You know not, and you do not care to know.
The turf is soft and green, but not a flower
Lights the recess, save one, star-shaped and bright --
I do not know its name -- which here and there
Gleams like a sapphire set in emerald.
A narrow opening in the branch|"ed roof,
A single one, is large enough to show,
With that half glimpse a dreamer loves so much,
The blue air and the blessing of the sky.
Thither I always bent my idle steps,
When griefs depressed, or joys disturbed my heart,
And found the calm I looked for, or returned
Strong with the quiet rapture in my soul.
But one day,
One of those July days when winds have fled
One knows not whither, I, most sick in mind
With thoughts that shall be nameless, yet, no doubt,
Wrong, or at least unhealthful, since though dark
With gloom, and touched with discontent, they had
No adequate excuse, nor cause, nor end,
I, with these thoughts, and on this summer day,
Entered the accustomed haunt, and found for once
No medicinal virtue.
Not a leaf
Stirred with the whispering welcome which I sought,
But in a close and humid atmosphere,
Every fair plant and implicated bough
Hung lax and lifeless. Something in the place,
Its utter stillness, the unusual heat,
And some more secret influence, I thought,
Weighed on the sense like sin. Above I saw,
Though not a cloud was visible in heaven,
The pallid sky look through a glaz|"ed mist
Like a blue eye in death.
The change, perhaps,
Was natural enough; my jaundiced sight,
The weather, and the time explain it all:
Yet have I drawn a lesson from the spot,
And shrined it in these verses for my heart.
Thenceforth those tranquil precincts I have sought
Not less, and in all shades of various moods;
But always shun to desecrate the spot
By vain repinings, sickly sentiments,
Or inconclusive sorrows. Nature, though
Pure as she was in Eden when her breath
Kissed the white brow of Eve, doth not refuse,
In her own way and with a just reserve,
To sympathize with human suffering;
But for the pains, the fever, and the fret
Engendered of a weak, unquiet heart,
She hath no solace; and who seeks her when
These be the troubles over which he moans,
Reads in her unreplying lineaments
Rebukes, that, to the guilty consciousness,
Strike like contempt.
A Rhapsody of a Southern Winter Night
Oh! dost thou flatter falsely, Hope?
The day hath scarcely passed that saw thy birth,
Yet thy white wings are plumed to all their scope,
And hour by hour thine eyes have gathered light,
And grown so large and bright,
That my whole future life unfolds what seems,
Beneath their gentle beams,
A path that leads athwart some guiltless earth,
To which a star is dropping from the night!
Not many moons ago,
But when these leafless beds were all aglow
With summer's dearest treasures, I
Was reading in this lonely garden-nook;
A July noon was cloudless in the sky,
And soon I put my shallow studies by;
Then, sick at heart, and angered by the book,
Which, in good sooth, was but the long-drawn sigh
Of some one who had quarreled with his kind,
Vexed at the very proofs which I had sought,
And all annoyed while all alert to find
A plausible likeness of my own dark thought,
I cast me down beneath yon oak's wide boughs,
And, shielding with both hands my throbbing brows,
Watched lazily the shadows of my brain.
The feeble tide of peevishness went down,
And left a flat dull waste of dreary pain,
Which seemed to clog the blood in every vein;
The world, of course, put on its darkest frown --
In all its realms I saw no mortal crown
Which did not wound or crush some restless head;
And hope, and will, and motive, all were dead.
So, passive as a stone, I felt too low
To claim a kindred with the humblest flower;
Even that would bare its bosom to a shower,
While I henceforth would take no pains to live,
Nor place myself where I might feel or give
A single impulse whence a wish could grow.
There was a tulip scarce a gossamer's throw
Beyond that platanus. A little child,
Most dear to me, looked through the fence and smiled
A hint that I should pluck it for her sake.
Ah, me! I trust I was not well awake --
The voice was very sweet,
Yet a faint languor kept me in my seat.
I saw a pouted lip, a toss, and heard
Some low expostulating tones, but stirred
Not even a leaf's length, till the pretty fay,
Wondering, and half abashed at the wild feat,
Climbed the low pales, and laughed my gloom away.
And here again, but led by other powers,
A morning and a golden afternoon,
These happy stars, and yonder setting moon,
Have seen me speed, unreckoned and untasked,
A round of precious hours.
Oh! here, where in that summer noon I basked,
And strove, with logic frailer than the flowers,
To justify a life of sensuous rest,
A question dear as home or heaven was asked,
And without language answered. I was blest!
Blest with those nameless boons too sweet to trust
Unto the telltale confidence of song.
Love to his own glad self is sometimes coy,
And even thus much doth seem to do him wrong;
While in the fears which chasten mortal joy,
Is one that shuts the lips, lest speech too free,
With the cold touch of hard reality,
Should turn its priceless jewels into dust.
Since that long kiss which closed the morning's talk,
I have not strayed beyond this garden walk.
As yet a vague delight is all I know,
A sense of joy so wild 't is almost pain,
And like a trouble drives me to and fro,
And will not pause to count its own sweet gain.
I am so happy! that is all my thought.
To-morrow I will turn it round and round,
And seek to know its limits and its ground.
To-morrow I will task my heart to learn
The duties which shall spring from such a seed,
And where it must be sown, and how be wrought.
But oh! this reckless bliss is bliss indeed!
And for one day I choose to seal the urn
Wherein is shrined Love's missal and his creed.
Meantime I give my fancy all it craves;
Like him who found the West when first he caught
The light that glittered from the world he sought,
And furled his sails till Dawn should show the land;
While in glad dreams he saw the ambient waves
Go rippling brightly up a golden strand.
Hath there not been a softer breath at play
In the long woodland aisles than often sweeps
At this rough season through their solemn deeps --
A gentle Ariel sent by gentle May,
Who knew it was the morn
On which a hope was born,
To greet the flower e'er it was fully blown,
And nurse it as some lily of her own?
And wherefore, save to grace a happy day,
Did the whole West at blushing sunset glow
With clouds that, floating up in bridal snow,
Passed with the festal eve, rose-crowned, away?
And now, if I may trust my straining sight,
The heavens appear with added stars to-night,
And deeper depths, and more celestial height,
Than hath been reached except in dreams or death.
Hush, sweetest South! I love thy delicate breath;
But hush! methought I felt an angel's kiss!
Oh! all that lives is happy in my bliss.
That lonely fir, which always seems
As though it locked dark secrets in itself,
Hideth a gentle elf,
Whose wand shall send me soon a frolic troop
Of rainbow visions, and of moonlit dreams.
Can joy be weary, that my eyelids droop?
To-night I shall not seek my curtained nest,
But even here find rest.
Who whispered then? And what are they that peep
Betwixt the foliage in the tree-top there?
Come, Fairy Shadows! for the morn is near,
When to your sombre pine ye all must creep;
Come, ye wild pilots of the darkness, ere
My spirit sinks into the gulf of Sleep;
Even now it circles round and round the deep --
I think that, next to your sweet eyes,
And pleasant books, and starry skies,
I love the world of flowers;
Less for their beauty of a day,
Than for the tender things they say,
And for a creed I've held alway,
That they are sentient powers.
It may be matter for a smile --
And I laugh secretly the while
I speak the fancy out --
But that they love, and that they woo,
And that they often marry too,
And do as noisier creatures do,
I've not the faintest doubt.
And so, I cannot deem it right
To take them from the glad sunlight,
As I have sometimes dared;
Though not without an anxious sigh
Lest this should break some gentle tie,
Some covenant of friendship, I
Had better far have spared.
And when, in wild or thoughtless hours,
My hand hath crushed the tiniest flowers,
I ne'er could shut from sight
The corpses of the tender things,
With other drear imaginings,
And little angel-flowers with wings
Would haunt me through the night.
Oh! say you, friend, the creed is fraught
With sad, and even with painful thought,
Nor could you bear to know
That such capacities belong
To creatures helpless against wrong,
At once too weak to fly the strong
Or front the feeblest foe?
So be it always, then, with you;
So be it -- whether false or true --
I press my faith on none;
If other fancies please you more,
The flowers shall blossom as before,
Dear as the Sibyl-leaves of yore,
But senseless, every one.
Yet, though I give you no reply,
It were not hard to justify
My creed to partial ears;
But, conscious of the cruel part,
My rhymes would flow with faltering art,
I could not plead against your heart,
Nor reason with your tears.
A Summer Shower
Welcome, rain or tempest
From yon airy powers,
We have languished for them
Many sultry hours,
And earth is sick and wan, and pines with all her flowers.
What have they been doing
In the burning June?
Riding with the genii?
Visiting the moon?
Or sleeping on the ice amid an arctic noon?
Bring they with them jewels
From the sunset lands?
What are these they scatter
With such lavish hands?
There are no brighter gems in Raolconda's sands.
Pattering on the gravel,
Dropping from the eaves,
Glancing in the grass, and
Tinkling on the leaves,
They flash the liquid pearls as flung from fairy sieves.
Earth like Dana|"e lies;
Listen! is it fancy,
That beneath us sighs,
As that warm lap receives the largesse of the skies?
Jove, it is, descendeth
In those crystal rills;
And this world-wide tremor
Is a pulse that thrills
To a god's life infused through veins of velvet hills.
Wait, thou jealous sunshine,
Break not on their bliss;
Earth will blush in roses
Many a day for this,
And bend a brighter brow beneath thy burning kiss.
She came with April blooms and showers;
We count her little life by flowers.
As buds the rose upon her cheek,
We choose a flower for every week.
A week of hyacinths, we say,
And one of heart's-ease, ushered May;
And then because two wishes met
Upon the rose and violet --
I liked the Beauty, Kate, the Nun --
The violet and the rose count one.
A week the apple marked with white;
A week the lily scored in light;
Red poppies closed May's happy moon,
And tulips this blue week in June.
Here end as yet the flowery links;
To-day begins the week of pinks;
But soon -- so grave, and deep, and wise
The meaning grows in Baby's eyes,
So VERY deep for Baby's age --
We think to date a week with sage!
The Messenger Rose
If you have seen a richer glow,
Pray, tell me where your roses blow!
Look! coral-leaved! and -- mark these spots
Red staining red in crimson clots,
Like a sweet lip bitten through
In a pique. There, where that hue
Is spilt in drops, some fairy thing
Hath gashed the azure of its wing,
Or thence, perhaps, this very morn,
Plucked the splinters of a thorn.
Rose! I make thy bliss my care!
In my lady's dusky hair
Thou shalt burn this coming night,
With even a richer crimson light.
To requite me thou shalt tell --
What I might not say as well --
How I love her; how, in brief,
On a certain crimson leaf
In my bosom, is a debt
Writ in deeper crimson yet.
If she wonder what it be --
But she'll guess it, I foresee --
Tell her that I date it, pray,
From the first sweet night in May.
On Pressing Some Flowers
So, they are dead! Love! when they passed
From thee to me, our fingers met;
O withered darlings of the May!
I feel those fairy fingers yet.
And for the bliss ye brought me then,
Your faded forms are precious things;
No flowers so fair, no buds so sweet
Shall bloom through all my future springs.
And so, pale ones! with hands as soft
As if I closed a baby's eyes,
I'll lay you in some favorite book
Made sacred by a poet's sighs.
Your lips shall press the sweetest song,
The sweetest, saddest song I know,
As ye had perished, in your pride,
Of some lone bard's melodious woe.
Oh, Love! hath love no holier shrine!
Oh, heart! could love but lend the power,
I'd lay thy crimson pages bare,
And every leaf should fold its flower.
1866 -- Addressed to the Old Year
Art thou not glad to close
Thy wearied eyes, O saddest child of Time,
Eyes which have looked on every mortal crime,
And swept the piteous round of mortal woes?
In dark Plutonian caves,
Beneath the lowest deep, go, hide thy head;
Or earth thee where the blood that thou hast shed
May trickle on thee from thy countless graves!
Take with thee all thy gloom
And guilt, and all our griefs, save what the breast,
Without a wrong to some dear shadowy guest,
May not surrender even to the tomb.
No tear shall weep thy fall,
When, as the midnight bell doth toll thy fate,
Another lifts the sceptre of thy state,
And sits a monarch in thine ancient hall.
HIM all the hours attend,
With a new hope like morning in their eyes;
Him the fair earth and him these radiant skies
Hail as their sovereign, welcome as their friend.
Him, too, the nations wait;
"O lead us from the shadow of the Past,"
In a long wail like this December blast,
They cry, and, crying, grow less desolate.
How he will shape his sway
They ask not -- for old doubts and fears will cling --
And yet they trust that, somehow, he will bring
A sweeter sunshine than thy mildest day.
Beneath his gentle hand
They hope to see no meadow, vale, or hill
Stained with a deeper red than roses spill,
When some too boisterous zephyr sweeps the land.
A time of peaceful prayer,
Of law, love, labor, honest loss and gain --
These are the visions of the coming reign
Now floating to them on this wintry air.
Stanzas: A Mother Gazes Upon Her Daughter, Arrayed for an Approaching Bridal.
Written in Illustration of a Tableau Vivant
Is she not lovely! Oh! when, long ago,
My own dead mother gazed upon my face,
As I stood blushing near in bridal snow,
I had not half her beauty and her grace.
Yet that fond mother praised, the world caressed,
And ONE adored me -- how shall HE who soon
Shall wear my gentle flower upon his breast,
Prize to its utmost worth the priceless boon?
Shall he not gird her, guard her, make her rich,
(Not as the world is rich, in outward show,)
With all the love and watchful kindness which
A wise and tender manhood may bestow?
Oh! I shall part from her with many tears,
My earthly treasure, pure and undefiled!
And not without a weight of anxious fears
For the new future of my darling child.
And yet -- for well I know that virgin heart --
No wifely duty will she leave undone;
Nor will her love neglect that woman's art
Which courts and keeps a love already won.
In no light girlish levity she goes
Unto the altar where they wait her now,
But with a thoughtful, prayerful heart that knows
The solemn purport of a marriage vow.
And she will keep, with all her soul's deep truth,
The lightest pledge which binds her love and life;
And she will be -- no less in age than youth
My noble child will be -- a noble wife.
And he, her lover! husband! what of him?
Yes, he will shield, I think, my bud from blight!
Yet griefs will come -- enough! my eyes are dim
With tears I must not shed -- at least, to-night.
Bless thee, my daughter! -- Oh! she is so fair! --
Heaven bend above thee with its starriest skies!
And make thee truly all thou dost appear
Unto a lover's and thy mother's eyes!
Hymn Sung at an Anniversary of the Asylum of Orphans at Charleston
We scarce, O God! could lisp thy name,
When those who loved us passed away,
And left us but thy love to claim,
With but an infant's strength to pray.
Thou gav'st that Refuge and that Shrine,
At which we learn to know thy ways;
Father! the fatherless are thine!
Thou wilt not spurn the orphan's praise.
Yet hear a single cry of pain!
Lord! whilst we dream in quiet beds,
The summer sun and winter rain
Beat still on many homeless heads.
And o'er this weary earth, we know,
Young outcasts roam the waste and wave;
And little hands are clasped in woe
Above some tender mother's grave.
Ye winds! keep every storm aloof,
And kiss away the tears they weep!
Ye skies, that make their only roof,
Look gently on their houseless sleep!
And thou, O Friend and Father! find
A home to shield their helpless youth!
Dear hearts to love -- sweet ties to bind --
And guide and guard them in the truth!
To a Captive Owl
I should be dumb before thee, feathered sage!
And gaze upon thy phiz with solemn awe,
But for a most audacious wish to gauge
The hoarded wisdom of thy learned craw.
Art thou, grave bird! so wondrous wise indeed?
Speak freely, without fear of jest or gibe --
What is thy moral and religious creed?
And what the metaphysics of thy tribe?
A Poet, curious in birds and brutes,
I do not question thee in idle play;
What is thy station? What are thy pursuits?
Doubtless thou hast thy pleasures -- what are THEY?
Or is 't thy wont to muse and mouse at once,
Entice thy prey with airs of meditation,
And with the unvarying habits of a dunce,
To dine in solemn depths of contemplation?
There may be much -- the world at least says so --
Behind that ponderous brow and thoughtful gaze;
Yet such a great philosopher should know,
It is by no means wise to think always.
And, Bird, despite thy meditative air,
I hold thy stock of wit but paltry pelf --
Thou show'st that same grave aspect everywhere,
And wouldst look thoughtful, stuffed, upon a shelf.
I grieve to be so plain, renown|"ed Bird --
Thy fame 's a flam, and thou an empty fowl;
And what is more, upon a Poet's word
I'd say as much, wert thou Minerva's owl.
So doff th' imposture of those heavy brows;
They do not serve to hide thy instincts base --
And if thou must be sometimes munching MOUSE,
Munch it, O Owl! with less profound a face.
And if I ask thee for a kiss,
I ask no more than this sweet breeze,
With far less title to the bliss,
Steals every minute at his ease.
And yet how placid is thy brow!
It seems to woo the bold caress,
While now he takes his kiss, and now
All sorts of freedoms with thy dress.
Or if I dare thy hand to touch,
Hath nothing pressed its palm before?
A flower, I'm sure, hath done as much,
And ah! some senseless diamond more.
It strikes me, love, the very rings,
Now sparkling on that hand of thine,
Could tell some truly startling things,
If they had tongues or touch like mine.
Indeed, indeed, I do not know
Of all that thou hast power to grant,
A boon for which I could not show
Some pretty precedent extant.
Suppose, for instance, I should clasp
Thus, -- so, -- and thus! -- thy slender waist --
I would not hold within my grasp
More than this loosened zone embraced.
Oh! put the anger from thine eyes,
Or shut them if they still must frown;
Those lids, despite yon garish skies,
Can bring a timely darkness down.
Then, if in that convenient night,
My lips should press thy dewy mouth,
The touch shall be so soft, so light,
Thou 'lt fancy me -- this gentle South.
Could I reveal the secret joy
Thy presence always with it brings,
The memories so strangely waked
Of long forgotten things,
The love, the hope, the fear, the grief,
Which with that voice come back to me, --
Thou wouldst forgive the impassioned gaze
So often turned on thee.
It was, indeed, that early love,
But foretaste of this second one, --
The soft light of the morning star
Before the morning sun.
The same dark beauty in her eyes,
The same blonde hair and placid brow,
The same deep-meaning, quiet smile
Thou bendest on me now,
She might have been, she WAS no more
Than what a prescient hope could make, --
A dear presentiment of thee
I loved but for thy sake.
Hymn Sung at the Consecration of Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston, S.C.
Whose was the hand that painted thee, O Death!
In the false aspect of a ruthless foe,
Despair and sorrow waiting on thy breath --
O gentle Power! who could have wronged thee so?
Thou rather shouldst be crowned with fadeless flowers,
Of lasting fragrance and celestial hue;
Or be thy couch amid funereal bowers,
But let the stars and sunlight sparkle through.
So, with these thoughts before us, we have fixed
And beautified, O Death! thy mansion here,
Where gloom and gladness -- grave and garden -- mixed,
Make it a place to love, and not to fear.
Heaven! shed thy most propitious dews around!
Ye holy stars! look down with tender eyes,
And gild and guard and consecrate the ground
Where we may rest, and whence we pray to rise.
Hymn Sung at a Sacred Concert at Columbia, S.C.
Faint falls the gentle voice of prayer
In the wild sounds that fill the air,
Yet, Lord, we know that voice is heard,
Not less than if Thy throne it stirred.
Thine ear, thou tender One, is caught,
If we but bend the knee in thought;
No choral song that shakes the sky
Floats farther than the Christian's sigh.
Not all the darkness of the land
Can hide the lifted eye and hand;
Nor need the clanging conflict cease,
To make Thee hear our cries for peace.
Lines to R. L.
That which we are and shall be is made up
Of what we have been. On the autumn leaf
The crimson stains bear witness of its spring;
And, on its perfect nodes, the ocean shell
Notches the slow, strange changes of its growth.
Ourselves are our own records; if we looked
Rightly into that blotted crimson page
Within our bosoms, then there were no need
To chronicle our stories; for the heart
Hath, like the earth, its strata, and contains
Its past within its present. Well for us,
And our most cherished secrets, that within
The round of being few there are who read
Beneath the surface. Else our very forms,
The merest gesture of our hands, might tell
Much we would hide forever. Know you not
Those eyes, in whose dark heaven I have gazed
More curiously than on my favorite stars,
Are deeper for such griefs as they have seen,
And brighter for the fancies they have shrined,
And sweeter for the loves which they have talked?
Oh! that I had the power to read their smiles,
Or sound the depth of all their glorious gloom.
So should I learn your history from its birth,
Through all its glad and grave experiences,
Better than if -- (your journal in my hand,
Written as only women write, with all
A woman's shades and shapes of feeling, traced
As with the fine touch of a needle's point) --
I followed you from that bright hour when first
I saw you in the garden 'mid the flowers,
To that wherein a letter from your hand
Made me all rich with the dear name of friend.
Awake upon a couch of pain,
I see a star betwixt the trees;
Across yon darkening field of cane,
Comes slow and soft the evening breeze.
My curtain's folds are faintly stirred;
And moving lightly in her rest,
I hear the chirrup of a bird,
That dreameth in some neighboring nest.
Last night I took no note of these --
How it was passed I scarce can say;
'T was not in prayers to Heaven for ease,
'T was not in wishes for the day.
Impatient tears, and passionate sighs,
Touched as with fire the pulse of pain, --
I cursed, and cursed the wildering eyes
That burned this fever in my brain.
Oh! blessings on the quiet hour!
My thoughts in calmer current flow;
She is not conscious of her power,
And hath no knowledge of my woe.
Perhaps, if like yon peaceful star,
She looked upon my burning brow,
She would not pity from afar,
But kiss me as the breeze does now.
Draw close the lattice and the door!
Shut out the very stars above!
No other eyes than mine shall pore
Upon this thrilling tale of love.
As, since the book was open last,
Along its dear and sacred text
No other eyes than thine have passed --
Be mine the eyes that trace it next!
Oh! very nobly is it wrought, --
This web of love's divinest light, --
But not to feed my soul with thought,
Hang I upon the book to-night;
I read it only for thy sake,
To every page my lips I press --
The very leaves appear to make
A silken rustle like thy dress.
And so, as each blest page I turn,
I seem, with many a secret thrill,
To touch a soft white hand, and burn
To clasp and kiss it at my will.
Oh! if a fancy be so sweet,
These shadowy fingers touching mine --
How wildly would my pulses beat,
If they COULD feel the beat of thine!
Storm and Calm
Sweet are these kisses of the South,
As dropped from woman's rosiest mouth,
And tenderer are those azure skies
Than this world's tenderest pair of eyes!
But ah! beneath such influence
Thought is too often lost in Sense;
And Action, faltering as we thrill,
Sinks in the unnerved arms of Will.
Awake, thou stormy North, and blast
The subtle spells around us cast;
Beat from our limbs these flowery chains
With the sharp scourges of thy rains!
Bring with thee from thy Polar cave
All the wild songs of wind and wave,
Of toppling berg and grinding floe,
And the dread avalanche of snow!
Wrap us in Arctic night and clouds!
Yell like a fiend amid the shrouds
Of some slow-sinking vessel, when
He hears the shrieks of drowning men!
Blend in thy mighty voice whate'er
Of danger, terror, and despair
Thou hast encountered in thy sweep
Across the land and o'er the deep.
Pour in our ears all notes of woe,
That, as these very moments flow,
Rise like a harsh discordant psalm,
While we lie here in tropic calm.
Sting our weak hearts with bitter shame,
Bear us along with thee like flame;
And prove that even to destroy
More God-like may be than to toy
And rust or rot in idle joy!
My gentle friend! I hold no creed so false
As that which dares to teach that we are born
For battle only, and that in this life
The soul, if it would burn with starlike power,
Must needs forsooth be kindled by the sparks
Struck from the shock of clashing human hearts.
There is a wisdom that grows up in strife,
And one -- I like it best -- that sits at home
And learns its lessons of a thoughtful ease.
So come! a lonely house awaits thee! -- there
Nor praise, nor blame shall reach us, save what love
Of knowledge for itself shall wake at times
In our own bosoms; come! and we will build
A wall of quiet thought, and gentle books,
Betwixt us and the hard and bitter world.
Sometimes -- for we need not be anchorites --
A distant friend shall cheer us through the Post,
Or some Gazette -- of course no partisan --
Shall bring us pleasant news of pleasant things;
Then, twisted into graceful allumettes,
Each ancient joke shall blaze with genuine flame
To light our pipes and candles; but to wars,
Whether of words or weapons, we shall be
Deaf -- so we twain shall pass away the time
Ev'n as a pair of happy lovers, who,
Alone, within some quiet garden-nook,
With a clear night of stars above their heads,
Just hear, betwixt their kisses and their talk,
The tumult of a tempest rolling through
A chain of neighboring mountains; they awhile
Pause to admire a flash that only shows
The smile upon their faces, but, full soon,
Turn with a quick, glad impulse, and perhaps
A conscious wile that brings them closer yet,
To dally with their own fond hearts, and play
With the sweet flowers that blossom at their feet.
A Common Thought
Somewhere on this earthly planet
In the dust of flowers to be,
In the dewdrop, in the sunshine,
Sleeps a solemn day for me.
At this wakeful hour of midnight
I behold it dawn in mist,
And I hear a sound of sobbing
Through the darkness -- hist! oh, hist!
In a dim and murky chamber,
I am breathing life away;
Some one draws a curtain softly,
And I watch the broadening day.
As it purples in the zenith,
As it brightens on the lawn,
There's a hush of death about me,
And a whisper, "He is gone!"
Poems Written in War Times
The despot treads thy sacred sands,
Thy pines give shelter to his bands,
Thy sons stand by with idle hands,
He breathes at ease thy airs of balm,
He scorns the lances of thy palm;
Oh! who shall break thy craven calm,
Thy ancient fame is growing dim,
A spot is on thy garment's rim;
Give to the winds thy battle hymn,
Call on thy children of the hill,
Wake swamp and river, coast and rill,
Rouse all thy strength and all thy skill,
Cite wealth and science, trade and art,
Touch with thy fire the cautious mart,
And pour thee through the people's heart,
Till even the coward spurns his fears,
And all thy fields and fens and meres
Shall bristle like thy palm with spears,
Hold up the glories of thy dead;
Say how thy elder children bled,
And point to Eutaw's battle-bed,
Tell how the patriot's soul was tried,
And what his dauntless breast defied;
How Rutledge ruled and Laurens died,
Cry! till thy summons, heard at last,
Shall fall like Marion's bugle-blast
Re-echoed from the haunted Past,
I hear a murmur as of waves
That grope their way through sunless caves,
Like bodies struggling in their graves,
And now it deepens; slow and grand
It swells, as, rolling to the land,
An ocean broke upon thy strand,
Shout! let it reach the startled Huns!
And roar with all thy festal guns!
It is the answer of thy sons,
They will not wait to hear thee call;
From Sachem's Head to Sumter's wall
Resounds the voice of hut and hall,
No! thou hast not a stain, they say,
Or none save what the battle-day
Shall wash in seas of blood away,
Thy skirts indeed the foe may part,
Thy robe be pierced with sword and dart,
They shall not touch thy noble heart,
Ere thou shalt own the tyrant's thrall
Ten times ten thousand men must fall;
Thy corpse may hearken to his call,
When, by thy bier, in mournful throngs
The women chant thy mortal wrongs,
'T will be their own funereal songs,
From thy dead breast by ruffians trod
No helpless child shall look to God;
All shall be safe beneath thy sod,
Girt with such wills to do and bear,
Assured in right, and mailed in prayer,
Thou wilt not bow thee to despair,
Throw thy bold banner to the breeze!
Front with thy ranks the threatening seas
Like thine own proud armorial trees,
Fling down thy gauntlet to the Huns,
And roar the challenge from thy guns;
Then leave the future to thy sons,
A Cry to Arms
Ho! woodsmen of the mountain side!
Ho! dwellers in the vales!
Ho! ye who by the chafing tide
Have roughened in the gales!
Leave barn and byre, leave kin and cot,
Lay by the bloodless spade;
Let desk, and case, and counter rot,
And burn your books of trade.
The despot roves your fairest lands;
And till he flies or fears,
Your fields must grow but arm|\ed bands,
Your sheaves be sheaves of spears!
Give up to mildew and to rust
The useless tools of gain;
And feed your country's sacred dust
With floods of crimson rain!
Come, with the weapons at your call --
With musket, pike, or knife;
He wields the deadliest blade of all
Who lightest holds his life.
The arm that drives its unbought blows
With all a patriot's scorn,
Might brain a tyrant with a rose,
Or stab him with a thorn.
Does any falter? let him turn
To some brave maiden's eyes,
And catch the holy fires that burn
In those sublunar skies.
Oh! could you like your women feel,
And in their spirit march,
A day might see your lines of steel
Beneath the victor's arch.
What hope, O God! would not grow warm
When thoughts like these give cheer?
The Lily calmly braves the storm,
And shall the Palm-tree fear?
No! rather let its branches court
The rack that sweeps the plain;
And from the Lily's regal port
Learn how to breast the strain!
Ho! woodsmen of the mountain side!
Ho! dwellers in the vales!
Ho! ye who by the roaring tide
Have roughened in the gales!
Come! flocking gayly to the fight,
From forest, hill, and lake;
We battle for our Country's right,
And for the Lily's sake!
Calm as that second summer which precedes
The first fall of the snow,
In the broad sunlight of heroic deeds,
The City bides the foe.
As yet, behind their ramparts stern and proud,
Her bolted thunders sleep --
Dark Sumter, like a battlemented cloud,
Looms o'er the solemn deep.
No Calpe frowns from lofty cliff or scar
To guard the holy strand;
But Moultrie holds in leash her dogs of war
Above the level sand.
And down the dunes a thousand guns lie couched,
Unseen, beside the flood --
Like tigers in some Orient jungle crouched
That wait and watch for blood.
Meanwhile, through streets still echoing with trade,
Walk grave and thoughtful men,
Whose hands may one day wield the patriot's blade
As lightly as the pen.
And maidens, with such eyes as would grow dim
Over a bleeding hound,
Seem each one to have caught the strength of him
Whose sword she sadly bound.
Thus girt without and garrisoned at home,
Day patient following day,
Old Charleston looks from roof, and spire, and dome,
Across her tranquil bay.
Ships, through a hundred foes, from Saxon lands
And spicy Indian ports,
Bring Saxon steel and iron to her hands,
And Summer to her courts.
But still, along yon dim Atlantic line,
The only hostile smoke
Creeps like a harmless mist above the brine,
From some frail, floating oak.
Shall the Spring dawn, and she still clad in smiles,
And with an unscathed brow,
Rest in the strong arms of her palm-crowned isles,
As fair and free as now?
We know not; in the temple of the Fates
God has inscribed her doom;
And, all untroubled in her faith, she waits
The triumph or the tomb.
Rich in red honors, that upon him lie
As lightly as the Summer dews
Fall where he won his fame beneath the sky
Of tropic Vera Cruz;
Bold scorner of the cant that has its birth
In feeble or in failing powers;
A lover of all frank and genial mirth
That wreathes the sword with flowers;
He moves amid the warriors of the day,
Just such a soldier as the art
That builds its trophies upon human clay
Moulds of a cheerful heart.
I see him in the battle that shall shake,
Ere long, old Sumter's haughty crown,
And from their dreams of peaceful traffic wake
The wharves of yonder town;
As calm as one would greet a pleasant guest,
And quaff a cup to love and life,
He hurls his deadliest thunders with a jest,
And laughs amid the strife.
Yet not the gravest soldier of them all
Surveys a field with broader scope;
And who behind that sea-encircled wall
Fights with a loftier hope?
Gay Chieftain! on the crimson rolls of Fame
Thy deeds are written with the sword;
But there are gentler thoughts which, with thy name,
Thy country's page shall hoard.
A nature of that rare and happy cast
Which looks, unsteeled, on murder's face;
Through what dark scenes of bloodshed hast thou passed,
Yet lost no social grace?
So, when the bard depicts thee, thou shalt wield
The weapon of a tyrant's doom,
Round which, inscribed with many a well-fought field,
The rose of joy shall bloom.
Written During the Meeting of the First Southern Congress, at Montgomery,
Hath not the morning dawned with added light?
And shall not evening call another star
Out of the infinite regions of the night,
To mark this day in Heaven? At last, we are
A nation among nations; and the world
Shall soon behold in many a distant port
Another flag unfurled!
Now, come what may, whose favor need we court?
And, under God, whose thunder need we fear?
Thank Him who placed us here
Beneath so kind a sky -- the very sun
Takes part with us; and on our errands run
All breezes of the ocean; dew and rain
Do noiseless battle for us; and the Year,
And all the gentle daughters in her train,
March in our ranks, and in our service wield
Long spears of golden grain!
A yellow blossom as her fairy shield,
June flings her azure banner to the wind,
While in the order of their birth
Her sisters pass, and many an ample field
Grows white beneath their steps, till now, behold,
Its endless sheets unfold
THE SNOW OF SOUTHERN SUMMERS! Let the earth
Rejoice! beneath those fleeces soft and warm
Our happy land shall sleep
In a repose as deep
As if we lay intrenched behind
Whole leagues of Russian ice and Arctic storm!
And what if, mad with wrongs themselves have wrought,
In their own treachery caught,
By their own fears made bold,
And leagued with him of old,
Who long since in the limits of the North
Set up his evil throne, and warred with God --
What if, both mad and blinded in their rage,
Our foes should fling us down their mortal gage,
And with a hostile step profane our sod!
We shall not shrink, my brothers, but go forth
To meet them, marshaled by the Lord of Hosts,
And overshadowed by the mighty ghosts
Of Moultrie and of Eutaw -- who shall foil
Auxiliars such as these? Nor these alone,
But every stock and stone
Shall help us; but the very soil,
And all the generous wealth it gives to toil,
And all for which we love our noble land,
Shall fight beside, and through us; sea and strand,
The heart of woman, and her hand,
Tree, fruit, and flower, and every influence,
Gentle, or grave, or grand;
The winds in our defence
Shall seem to blow; to us the hills shall lend
Their firmness and their calm;
And in our stiffened sinews we shall blend
The strength of pine and palm!
Nor would we shun the battle-ground,
Though weak as we are strong;
Call up the clashing elements around,
And test the right and wrong!
On one side, creeds that dare to teach
What Christ and Paul refrained to preach;
Codes built upon a broken pledge,
And Charity that whets a poniard's edge;
Fair schemes that leave the neighboring poor
To starve and shiver at the schemer's door,
While in the world's most liberal ranks enrolled,
He turns some vast philanthropy to gold;
Religion, taking every mortal form
But that a pure and Christian faith makes warm,
Where not to vile fanatic passion urged,
Or not in vague philosophies submerged,
Repulsive with all Pharisaic leaven,
And making laws to stay the laws of Heaven!
And on the other, scorn of sordid gain,
Unblemished honor, truth without a stain,
Faith, justice, reverence, charitable wealth,
And, for the poor and humble, laws which give,
Not the mean right to buy the right to live,
But life, and home, and health!
To doubt the end were want of trust in God,
Who, if he has decreed
That we must pass a redder sea
Than that which rang to Miriam's holy glee,
Will surely raise at need
A Moses with his rod!
But let our fears -- if fears we have -- be still,
And turn us to the future! Could we climb
Some mighty Alp, and view the coming time,
The rapturous sight would fill
Our eyes with happy tears!
Not only for the glories which the years
Shall bring us; not for lands from sea to sea,
And wealth, and power, and peace, though these shall be;
But for the distant peoples we shall bless,
And the hushed murmurs of a world's distress:
For, to give labor to the poor,
The whole sad planet o'er,
And save from want and crime the humblest door,
Is one among the many ends for which
God makes us great and rich!
The hour perchance is not yet wholly ripe
When all shall own it, but the type
Whereby we shall be known in every land
Is that vast gulf which lips our Southern strand,
And through the cold, untempered ocean pours
Its genial streams, that far off Arctic shores
May sometimes catch upon the softened breeze
Strange tropic warmth and hints of summer seas.
Go forth and bid the land rejoice,
Yet not too gladly, O my song!
Breathe softly, as if mirth would wrong
The solemn rapture of thy voice.
Be nothing lightly done or said
This happy day! Our joy should flow
Accordant with the lofty woe
That wails above the noble dead.
Let him whose brow and breast were calm
While yet the battle lay with God,
Look down upon the crimson sod
And gravely wear his mournful palm;
And him, whose heart still weak from fear
Beats all too gayly for the time,
Know that intemperate glee is crime
While one dead hero claims a tear.
Yet go thou forth, my song! and thrill,
With sober joy, the troubled days;
A nation's hymn of grateful praise
May not be hushed for private ill.
Our foes are fallen! Flash, ye wires!
The mighty tidings far and nigh!
Ye cities! write them on the sky
In purple and in emerald fires!
They came with many a haughty boast;
Their threats were heard on every breeze;
They darkened half the neighboring seas;
And swooped like vultures on the coast.
False recreants in all knightly strife,
Their way was wet with woman's tears;
Behind them flamed the toil of years,
And bloodshed stained the sheaves of life.
They fought as tyrants fight, or slaves;
God gave the dastards to our hands;
Their bones are bleaching on the sands,
Or mouldering slow in shallow graves.
What though we hear about our path
The heavens with howls of vengeance rent?
The venom of their hate is spent;
We need not heed their fangless wrath.
Meantime the stream they strove to chain
Now drinks a thousand springs, and sweeps
With broadening breast, and mightier deeps,
And rushes onward to the main;
While down the swelling current glides
Our Ship of State before the blast,
With streamers poured from every mast,
Her thunders roaring from her sides.
Lord! bid the frenzied tempest cease,
Hang out thy rainbow on the sea!
Laugh round her, waves! in silver glee,
And speed her to the port of peace!
The Unknown Dead
The rain is plashing on my sill,
But all the winds of Heaven are still;
And so it falls with that dull sound
Which thrills us in the church-yard ground,
When the first spadeful drops like lead
Upon the coffin of the dead.
Beyond my streaming window-pane,
I cannot see the neighboring vane,
Yet from its old familiar tower
The bell comes, muffled, through the shower.
What strange and unsuspected link
Of feeling touched, has made me think --
While with a vacant soul and eye
I watch that gray and stony sky --
Of nameless graves on battle-plains
Washed by a single winter's rains,
Where, some beneath Virginian hills,
And some by green Atlantic rills,
Some by the waters of the West,
A myriad unknown heroes rest.
Ah! not the chiefs, who, dying, see
Their flags in front of victory,
Or, at their life-blood's noble cost
Pay for a battle nobly lost,
Claim from their monumental beds
The bitterest tears a nation sheds.
Beneath yon lonely mound -- the spot
By all save some fond few forgot --
Lie the true martyrs of the fight
Which strikes for freedom and for right.
Of them, their patriot zeal and pride,
The lofty faith that with them died,
No grateful page shall farther tell
Than that so many bravely fell;
And we can only dimly guess
What worlds of all this world's distress,
What utter woe, despair, and dearth,
Their fate has brought to many a hearth.
Just such a sky as this should weep
Above them, always, where they sleep;
Yet, haply, at this very hour,
Their graves are like a lover's bower;
And Nature's self, with eyes unwet,
Oblivious of the crimson debt
To which she owes her April grace,
Laughs gayly o'er their burial-place.
The Two Armies
Two armies stand enrolled beneath
The banner with the starry wreath;
One, facing battle, blight and blast,
Through twice a hundred fields has passed;
Its deeds against a ruffian foe,
Stream, valley, hill, and mountain know,
Till every wind that sweeps the land
Goes, glory laden, from the strand.
The other, with a narrower scope,
Yet led by not less grand a hope,
Hath won, perhaps, as proud a place,
And wears its fame with meeker grace.
Wives march beneath its glittering sign,
Fond mothers swell the lovely line,
And many a sweetheart hides her blush
In the young patriot's generous flush.
No breeze of battle ever fanned
The colors of that tender band;
Its office is beside the bed,
Where throbs some sick or wounded head.
It does not court the soldier's tomb,
But plies the needle and the loom;
And, by a thousand peaceful deeds,
Supplies a struggling nation's needs.
Nor is that army's gentle might
Unfelt amid the deadly fight;
It nerves the son's, the husband's hand,
It points the lover's fearless brand;
It thrills the languid, warms the cold,
Gives even new courage to the bold;
And sometimes lifts the veriest clod
To its own lofty trust in God.
When Heaven shall blow the trump of peace,
And bid this weary warfare cease,
Their several missions nobly done,
The triumph grasped, and freedom won,
Both armies, from their toils at rest,
Alike may claim the victor's crest,
But each shall see its dearest prize
Gleam softly from the other's eyes.
How grace this hallowed day?
Shall happy bells, from yonder ancient spire,
Send their glad greetings to each Christmas fire
Round which the children play?
Alas! for many a moon,
That tongueless tower hath cleaved the Sabbath air,
Mute as an obelisk of ice, aglare
Beneath an Arctic noon.
Shame to the foes that drown
Our psalms of worship with their impious drum,
The sweetest chimes in all the land lie dumb
In some far rustic town.
There, let us think, they keep,
Of the dead Yules which here beside the sea
They've ushered in with old-world, English glee,
Some echoes in their sleep.
How shall we grace the day?
With feast, and song, and dance, and antique sports,
And shout of happy children in the courts,
And tales of ghost and fay?
Is there indeed a door,
Where the old pastimes, with their lawful noise,
And all the merry round of Christmas joys,
Could enter as of yore?
Would not some pallid face
Look in upon the banquet, calling up
Dread shapes of battles in the wassail cup,
And trouble all the place?
How could we bear the mirth,
While some loved reveler of a year ago
Keeps his mute Christmas now beneath the snow,
In cold Virginian earth?
How shall we grace the day?
Ah! let the thought that on this holy morn
The Prince of Peace -- the Prince of Peace was born,
Employ us, while we pray!
Pray for the peace which long
Hath left this tortured land, and haply now
Holds its white court on some far mountain's brow,
There hardly safe from wrong!
Let every sacred fane
Call its sad votaries to the shrine of God,
And, with the cloister and the tented sod,
Join in one solemn strain!
With pomp of Roman form,
With the grave ritual brought from England's shore,
And with the simple faith which asks no more
Than that the heart be warm!
He, who, till time shall cease,
Will watch that earth, where once, not all in vain,
He died to give us peace, may not disdain
A prayer whose theme is -- peace.
Perhaps ere yet the Spring
Hath died into the Summer, over all
The land, the peace of His vast love shall fall,
Like some protecting wing.
Oh, ponder what it means!
Oh, turn the rapturous thought in every way!
Oh, give the vision and the fancy play,
And shape the coming scenes!
Peace in the quiet dales,
Made rankly fertile by the blood of men,
Peace in the woodland, and the lonely glen,
Peace in the peopled vales!
Peace in the crowded town,
Peace in a thousand fields of waving grain,
Peace in the highway and the flowery lane,
Peace on the wind-swept down!
Peace on the farthest seas,
Peace in our sheltered bays and ample streams,
Peace wheresoe'er our starry garland gleams,
And peace in every breeze!
Peace on the whirring marts,
Peace where the scholar thinks, the hunter roams,
Peace, God of Peace! peace, peace, in all our homes,
And peace in all our hearts!
Ode Sung on the Occasion of Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead,
at Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston, S.C., 1867
Sleep sweetly in your humble graves,
Sleep, martyrs of a fallen cause;
Though yet no marble column craves
The pilgrim here to pause.
In seeds of laurel in the earth
The blossom of your fame is blown,
And somewhere, waiting for its birth,
The shaft is in the stone!
Meanwhile, behalf the tardy years
Which keep in trust your storied tombs,
Behold! your sisters bring their tears,
And these memorial blooms.
Small tributes! but your shades will smile
More proudly on these wreaths to-day,
Than when some cannon-moulded pile
Shall overlook this bay.
Stoop, angels, hither from the skies!
There is no holier spot of ground
Than where defeated valor lies,
By mourning beauty crowned!
I "Poet! If on a Lasting Fame Be Bent"
Poet! if on a lasting fame be bent
Thy unperturbing hopes, thou will not roam
Too far from thine own happy heart and home;
Cling to the lowly earth, and be content!
So shall thy name be dear to many a heart;
So shall the noblest truths by thee be taught;
The flower and fruit of wholesome human thought
Bless the sweet labors of thy gentle art.
The brightest stars are nearest to the earth,
And we may track the mighty sun above,
Even by the shadow of a slender flower.
Always, O bard, humility is power!
And thou mayst draw from matters of the hearth
Truths wide as nations, and as deep as love.
II "Most Men Know Love But as a Part of Life"
Most men know love but as a part of life;
They hide it in some corner of the breast,
Even from themselves; and only when they rest
In the brief pauses of that daily strife,
Wherewith the world might else be not so rife,
They draw it forth (as one draws forth a toy
To soothe some ardent, kiss-exacting boy)
And hold it up to sister, child, or wife.
Ah me! why may not love and life be one?
Why walk we thus alone, when by our side,
Love, like a visible God, might be our guide?
How would the marts grow noble! and the street,
Worn like a dungeon-floor by weary feet,
Seem then a golden court-way of the Sun!
III "Life Ever Seems as from Its Present Site"
Life ever seems as from its present site
It aimed to lure us. Mountains of the past
It melts, with all their crags and caverns vast,
Into a purple cloud! Across the night
Which hides what is to be, it shoots a light
All rosy with the yet unrisen dawn.
Not the near daisies, but yon distant height
Attracts us, lying on this emerald lawn.
And always, be the landscape what it may --
Blue, misty hill or sweep of glimmering plain --
It is the eye's endeavor still to gain
The fine, faint limit of the bounding day.
God, haply, in this mystic mode, would fain
Hint of a happier home, far, far away!
IV "They Dub Thee Idler, Smiling Sneeringly"
They dub thee idler, smiling sneeringly,
And why? because, forsooth, so many moons,
Here dwelling voiceless by the voiceful sea,
Thou hast not set thy thoughts to paltry tunes
In song or sonnet. Them these golden noons
Oppress not with their beauty; they could prate,
Even while a prophet read the solemn runes
On which is hanging some imperial fate.
How know they, these good gossips, what to thee
The ocean and its wanderers may have brought?
How know they, in their busy vacancy,
With what far aim thy spirit may be fraught?
Or that thou dost not bow thee silently
Before some great unutterable thought?
V "Some Truths There Be Are Better Left Unsaid"
Some truths there be are better left unsaid;
Much is there that we may not speak unblamed.
On words, as wings, how many joys have fled!
The jealous fairies love not to be named.
There is an old-world tale of one whose bed
A genius graced, to all, save him, unknown;
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