Poems of Henry Timrod
Part 4 out of 4
One day the secret passed his lips, and sped
As secrets speed -- thenceforth he slept alone.
Too much, oh! far too much is told in books;
Too broad a daylight wraps us all and each.
Ah! it is well that, deeper than our looks,
Some secrets lie beyond conjecture's reach.
Ah! it is well that in the soul are nooks
That will not open to the keys of speech.
VI "I Scarcely Grieve, O Nature! at the Lot"
I scarcely grieve, O Nature! at the lot
That pent my life within a city's bounds,
And shut me from thy sweetest sights and sounds.
Perhaps I had not learned, if some lone cot
Had nursed a dreamy childhood, what the mart
Taught me amid its turmoil; so my youth
Had missed full many a stern but wholesome truth.
Here, too, O Nature! in this haunt of Art,
Thy power is on me, and I own thy thrall.
There is no unimpressive spot on earth!
The beauty of the stars is over all,
And Day and Darkness visit every hearth.
Clouds do not scorn us: yonder factory's smoke
Looked like a golden mist when morning broke.
VII "Grief Dies Like Joy; the Tears Upon My Cheek"
Grief dies like joy; the tears upon my cheek
Will disappear like dew. Dear God! I know
Thy kindly Providence hath made it so,
And thank thee for the law. I am too weak
To make a friend of Sorrow, or to wear,
With that dark angel ever by my side
(Though to thy heaven there be no better guide),
A front of manly calm. Yet, for I hear
How woe hath cleansed, how grief can deify,
So weak a thing it seems that grief should die,
And love and friendship with it, I could pray,
That if it might not gloom upon my brow,
Nor weigh upon my arm as it doth now,
No grief of mine should ever pass away.
VIII "At Last, Beloved Nature! I Have Met"
At last, beloved Nature! I have met
Thee face to face upon thy breezy hills,
And boldly, where thy inmost bowers are set,
Gazed on thee naked in thy mountain rills.
When first I felt thy breath upon my brow,
Tears of strange ecstasy gushed out like rain,
And with a longing, passionate as vain,
I strove to clasp thee. But, I know not how,
Always before me didst thou seem to glide;
And often from one sunny mountain-side,
Upon the next bright peak I saw thee kneel,
And heard thy voice upon the billowy blast;
But, climbing, only reached that shrine to feel
The shadow of a Presence which had passed.
IX "I Know Not Why, But All This Weary Day"
I know not why, but all this weary day,
Suggested by no definite grief or pain,
Sad fancies have been flitting through my brain;
Now it has been a vessel losing way,
Rounding a stormy headland; now a gray
Dull waste of clouds above a wintry main;
And then, a banner, drooping in the rain,
And meadows beaten into bloody clay.
Strolling at random with this shadowy woe
At heart, I chanced to wander hither! Lo!
A league of desolate marsh-land, with its lush,
Hot grasses in a noisome, tide-left bed,
And faint, warm airs, that rustle in the hush,
Like whispers round the body of the dead!
X "Were I the Poet-Laureate of the Fairies"
(Written on a very small sheet of note-paper)
Were I the poet-laureate of the fairies,
Who in a rose-leaf finds too broad a page;
Or could I, like your beautiful canaries,
Sing with free heart and happy, in a cage;
Perhaps I might within this little space
(As in some Eastern tale, by magic power,
A giant is imprisoned in a flower)
Have told you something with a poet's grace.
But I need wider limits, ampler scope,
A world of freedom for a world of passion,
And even then, the glory of my hope
Would not be uttered in its stateliest fashion;
Yet, lady, when fit language shall have told it,
You'll find one little heart enough to hold it!
XI "Which Are the Clouds, and Which the Mountains? See"
Which are the clouds, and which the mountains? See,
They mix and melt together! Yon blue hill
Looks fleeting as the vapors which distill
Their dews upon its summit, while the free
And far-off clouds, now solid, dark, and still,
An aspect wear of calm eternity.
Each seems the other, as our fancies will --
The cloud a mount, the mount a cloud, and we
Gaze doubtfully. So everywhere on earth,
This foothold where we stand with slipping feet,
The unsubstantial and substantial meet,
And we are fooled until made wise by Time.
Is not the obvious lesson something worth,
Lady? or have I wov'n an idle rhyme?
XII "What Gossamer Lures Thee Now? What Hope, What Name"
What gossamer lures thee now? What hope, what name
Is on thy lips? What dreams to fruit have grown?
Thou who hast turned ONE Poet-heart to stone,
Is thine yet burning with its seraph flame?
Let me give back a warning of thine own,
That, falling from thee many moons ago,
Sank on my soul like the prophetic moan
Of some young Sibyl shadowing her own woe.
The words are thine, and will not do thee wrong,
I only bind their solemn charge to song.
Thy tread is on a quicksand -- oh! be wise!
Nor, in the passionate eagerness of youth,
MISTAKE THY BOSOM-SERPENT'S GLITTERING EYES
FOR THE CALM LIGHTS OF REASON AND OF TRUTH.
XIII "I Thank You, Kind and Best Beloved Friend"
I thank you, kind and best belov|"ed friend,
With the same thanks one murmurs to a sister,
When, for some gentle favor, he hath kissed her,
Less for the gifts than for the love you send,
Less for the flowers than what the flowers convey,
If I, indeed, divine their meaning truly,
And not unto myself ascribe, unduly,
Things which you neither meant nor wished to say,
Oh! tell me, is the hope then all misplaced?
And am I flattered by my own affection?
But in your beauteous gift, methought I traced
Something above a short-lived predilection,
And which, for that I know no dearer name,
I designate as love, without love's flame.
XIV "Are These Wild Thoughts, Thus Fettered in My Rhymes"
Are these wild thoughts, thus fettered in my rhymes,
Indeed the product of my heart and brain?
How strange that on my ear the rhythmic strain
Falls like faint memories of far-off times!
When did I feel the sorrow, act the part,
Which I have striv'n to shadow forth in song?
In what dead century swept that mingled throng
Of mighty pains and pleasures through my heart?
Not in the yesterdays of that still life
Which I have passed so free and far from strife,
But somewhere in this weary world I know,
In some strange land, beneath some orient clime,
I saw or shared a martyrdom sublime,
And felt a deeper grief than any later woe.
XV In Memoriam -- Harris Simons
True Christian, tender husband, gentle Sire,
A stricken household mourns thee, but its loss
Is Heaven's gain and thine; upon the cross
God hangs the crown, the pinion, and the lyre:
And thou hast won them all. Could we desire
To quench that diadem's celestial light,
To hush thy song and stay thy heavenward flight,
Because we miss thee by this autumn fire?
Ah, no! ah, no! -- chant on! -- soar on! -- Reign on!
For we are better -- thou art happier thus;
And haply from the splendor of thy throne,
Or haply from the echoes of thy psalm,
Something may fall upon us, like the calm
To which thou shalt hereafter welcome us!
Poems Now First Collected
Song Composed for Washington's Birthday, and Respectfully Inscribed
to the Officers and Members of the Washington Light Infantry of Charleston,
February 22, 1859
A hundred years and more ago
A little child was born --
To-day, with pomp of martial show,
We hail his natal morn.
Who guessed as that poor infant wept
Upon a woman's knee,
A nation from the centuries stept
As weak and frail as he?
Who saw the future on his brow
Upon that happy morn?
We are a mighty nation now
Because that child was born.
To him, and to his spirit's scope,
Besides a glorious home,
We owe that what we have and hope
Are more than Greece and Rome.
Take first a Cowslip, then an Asphodel,
A bridal Rose, some snowy Orange flowers;
A Lily next, and by its spotless bell
Place the bright Iris, darling of the showers;
Set gold Nasturtiums, Elder blooms between,
And Heart's-ease to the Orchis marry sweetly;
Then with red Pinks, and slips of Evergreen,
You will possess -- all folded up discreetly --
In one bouquet, that none but you may know,
The name I love beyond all names below.
Lines: "I Stooped from Star-Bright Regions"
I stooped from star-bright regions, where
Thou canst not enter even in prayer;
And thought to light thy heart and hearth
With all the poesy of earth.
Oh, foolish hope! those mystic gleams
To thee were unsubstantial dreams;
The paltry world had made thee blind,
And shut thy heart and dulled thy mind.
I was a vassal at thy feet,
And cringed more meanly than was meet,
And since I dared not to be free,
Was scouted as a slave should be.
I gave thee all -- my truth, my trust --
I bowed my spirit in the dust,
I put a crown upon thy brow,
And am its proper victim now.
I know not why, but ev'n to me
My songs seem sweet when read to thee.
Perhaps in this the pleasure lies --
I read my thoughts within thine eyes.
And so dare fancy that my art
May sink as deeply as thy heart.
Perhaps I love to make my words
Sing round thee like so many birds,
Or, maybe, they are only sweet
As they seem offerings at thy feet.
Or haply, Lily, when I speak,
I think, perchance, they touch thy cheek,
Or with a yet more precious bliss,
Die on thy red lips in a kiss.
Each reason here -- I cannot tell --
Or all perhaps may solve the spell.
But if she watch when I am by,
Lily may deeper see than I.
Lines: "I Saw, or Dreamed I Saw, Her Sitting Lone"
I saw, or dreamed I saw, her sitting lone,
Her neck bent like a swan's, her brown eyes thrown
On some sweet poem -- his, I think, who sings
|Oenone, or the hapless Maud: no rings
Flashed from the dainty fingers, which held back
Her beautiful blonde hair. Ah! would these black
Locks of mine own were mingling with it now,
And these warm lips were pressed against her brow!
And, as she turned a page, methought I heard --
Hush! could it be? -- a faintly murmured word,
It was so softly dwelt on -- such a smile
Played on her brow and wreathed her lip the while
That my heart leaped to hear it, and a flame
Burned on my forehead -- Sa'ra! -- 't was my name.
Sonnet: "If I Have Graced No Single Song of Mine"
If I have graced no single song of mine
With thy sweet name, they all are full of thee;
Thou art my Muse, my "May", my "Madeline":
But "Julia"! -- ah! that gentle name to me
Is something far too sacred for the throng
Of worldly listeners 'round me. Yet ev'n now
I weave a chaplet for thy sinless brow; --
Wilt thou not wear it? 'T is a fashionable song, --
I will not say of what, -- but on it I
Have wreaked heart, mind, my love, my hopes of fame,
Yet after all it hath no nobler aim
Than thy dear praise. Ere many moons pass by,
When the lost gem is set, the crown complete,
I'll lay a poet's tribute at thy feet.
To Rosa ----: Acrostic
I took a Rosebud from a certain bower,
And by its side placed an Orange flower,
Then with the Speedwell, blended the perfume
And the sweet beauty of an Apple-bloom,
And thus, 't is one of the loveliest feats,
Is spelled a gentle lady's name in sweets.
Do you recall -- I know you do --
A little gift once made to you --
A simple basket filled with flowers,
All favorites of our Southern bowers?
One was a snowy myrtle-bud,
Another blushed as if with blood,
A third was pink of softest tinge,
Then came a disk with purple fringe.
You took them with a happy smile,
And nursed them for a little while,
And once or twice perhaps you thought
Of the fond messages they brought.
And yet you could not then divine
The promise in that gift of mine, --
In those bright blooms and odors sweet,
I laid this volume at your feet.
At yours, my child, who scarcely know
How much to your dear self I owe, --
Too young and innocent as yet
To guess in what consists the debt.
Therefore to you henceforth belong
These Southern asphodels of song,
Less MY creations than your own,
What praise they win are yours alone.
For here no fancy finds a place
But is an affluence of your grace; --
And when my songs are sweetest, then
A Dream like you hath touched my pen.
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