Poets of the South
F.V.N. Painter

Part 3 out of 4

The vision vanished, as the strain
And daylight died together.

And memory, waked by music's art,
Expressed in simplest numbers,
Subdued the sternest Yankee's heart,
Made light the Rebel's slumbers.

And fair the form of music shines,
That bright celestial creature,
Who still, 'mid war's embattled lines,
Gave this one touch of Nature.

[Footnote 1: See sketch of John R. Thompson, page 23.]

[Footnote 2: The incident on which the poem is based may have occurred in
1862 or 1863. In both years the Union and Confederate forces occupied
opposite banks of the Rappahannock.]

* * * * *


Grateful acknowledgment is here made to Dr. George J. Preston of
Baltimore, for permission to use the two following poems.


The autumn air sweeps faint and chill
Across the maple-crested hill;
And on my ear
Falls, tingling clear,
A strange, mysterious, woodland thrill.

From utmost twig, from scarlet crown
Untouched with yet a tinct of brown,
Reluctant, slow,
As loath to go,
The loosened leaves come wavering down;

And not a hectic trembler there,
In its decadence, doomed to share
The fate of all,--
But in its fall
Flings something sob-like on the air.

No drift or dream of passing bell,
Dying afar in twilight dell,
Hath any heard,
Whose chimes have stirred
More yearning pathos of farewell.

A silent shiver as of pain,
Goes quivering through each sapless vein;
And there are moans,
Whose undertones
Are sad as midnight autumn rain.

Ah, if without its dirge-like sigh,
No lightest, clinging leaf can die,--
Let him who saith
Decay and death
Should bring no heart-break, tell me why.

Each graveyard gives the answer: there
I read _Resurgam_[2] everywhere,
So easy said
Above the dead--
So weak to anodyne despair.


We mean to do it. Some day, some day,
We mean to slacken this feverish rush
That is wearing our very souls away,
And grant to our hearts a hush
That is only enough to let them hear
The footsteps of angels drawing near.

We mean to do it. Oh, never doubt,
When the burden of daytime broil is o'er,
We'll sit and muse while the stars come out,
As the patriarchs sat in the door [3]
Of their tents with a heavenward-gazing eye,
To watch for angels passing by.

We've seen them afar at high noontide,
When fiercely the world's hot flashings beat;
Yet never have bidden them turn aside,
To tarry in converse sweet;
Nor prayed them to hallow the cheer we spread,
To drink of our wine and break our bread.

We promise our hearts that when the stress
Of the life work reaches the longed-for close,
When the weight that we groan with hinders less,
We'll welcome such calm repose
As banishes care's disturbing din,
And then--we'll call the angels in.

The day that we dreamed of comes at length,
When tired of every mocking guest,
And broken in spirit and shorn of strength,
We drop at the door of rest,
And wait and watch as the day wanes on--
But the angels we meant to call are gone!

[Footnote 1: See sketch of Mrs. Preston, page 25. This and the following
poem are good examples of her poetic art, and exhibit, at the same time,
her reflective religious temperament.]

[Footnote 2: _Resurgam_ (Latin), I shall rise again.]

[Footnote 3: "And Abraham sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;
and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him:
and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed
himself toward the ground, and said, My Lord, if now I have found favour
in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant."--_Genesis_
xviii. 1-3.]

* * * * *



Helen, thy beauty is to me
Like those Nicaean [2] barks of yore,
That gently, o'er a perfumed sea,
The weary, wayworn wanderer bore
To his own native shore.

On desperate seas long wont to roam,
Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face,
Thy Naiad airs, have brought me home
To the glory that was Greece,
And the grandeur that was Rome.[3]

Lo! in yon brilliant window-niche
How statue-like I see thee stand,
The agate lamp within thy hand!
Ah, Psyche, [4] from the regions which
Are Holy Land! [5]


It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea, [7]
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea:
But we loved with a love that was more than love,
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.[8]

And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsmen [9] came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulcher
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me;
Yes!--that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we,
Of many far wiser than we;
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee:
For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side [10]
Of my darling--my darling--my life and my bride,
In her sepulcher there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.


In the greenest of our valleys
By good angels tenanted,
Once a fair and stately palace--
Radiant palace--reared its head.
In the monarch Thought's dominion,
It stood there;
Never seraph spread a pinion
Over fabric half so fair.

Banners yellow, glorious, golden,
On its roof did float and flow
(This--all this--was in the olden
Time long ago),
And every gentle air that dallied,
In that sweet day,
Along the ramparts plumed and pallid,
A winged odor went away.
Wanderers in that happy valley
Through two luminous windows saw
Spirits moving musically,
To a lute's well-tuned law,
Round about a throne where, sitting,
In state his glory well befitting,
The ruler of the realm was seen.

And all with pearl and ruby glowing
Was the fair palace door,
Through which came flowing, flowing, flowing,
And sparkling evermore,
A troop of Echoes, whose sweet duty
Was but to sing,
In voices of surpassing beauty,
The wit and wisdom of their king.

But evil things, in robes of sorrow,
Assailed the monarch's high estate;
(Ah, let us mourn, for never morrow
Shall dawn upon him desolate!)
And round about his home the glory
That blushed and bloomed,
Is but a dim-remembered story
Of the old time entombed.

And travelers now within that valley
Through the red-litten windows see
Vast forms that move fantastically
To a discordant melody;
While like a ghastly rapid river,
Through the pale door
A hideous throng rush out forever,
And laugh--but smile no more.


Lo! 'tis a gala night
Within the lonesome latter years.
An angel throng, bewinged, bedight
In veils, and drowned in tears,
Sit in a theater to see
A play of hopes and fears,
While the orchestra breathes fitfully
The music of the spheres.

Mimes, in the form of God on high,
Mutter and mumble low,
And hither and thither fly;
Mere puppets they, who come and go
At bidding of vast formless things
That shift the scenery to and fro,
Flapping from out their condor wings
Invisible woe.

That motley drama--oh, be sure
It shall not be forgot!
With its Phantom chased for evermore
By a crowd that seize it not,
Through a circle that ever returneth in
To the self-same spot;
And much of Madness, and more of Sin,
And Horror the soul of the plot.

But see amid the mimic rout
A crawling shape intrude:
A blood-red thing that writhes from out
The scenic solitude!
It writhes--it writhes!--with mortal pangs
The mimes become its food,
And seraphs sob at vermin fangs
In human gore imbued.

Out--out are the lights--out all!
And over each quivering form
The curtain, a funeral pall,
Comes down with the rush of a storm,
While the angels, all pallid and wan,
Uprising, unveiling, affirm
That the play is the tragedy "Man,"
And its hero the Conqueror Worm.


Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,--
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
"'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door--
Only this and nothing more."

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow;--vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow--sorrow for the lost Lenore,
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore:
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me--filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
"'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door--
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door:
This it is and nothing more."

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
"Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you"--here I opened wide the door;--
Darkness there and nothing more.

Deep into the darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word "Lenore?"
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word "Lenore:"
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
"Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore--
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore:
'Tis the wind and nothing more."

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door--
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door:
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,--
"Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no
Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore:
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

Much I marveled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning--little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door--
Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as "Nevermore."

But the Raven, sitting lonely on that placid bust, spoke only
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing farther then he uttered; not a feather then he fluttered,
Till I scarcely more than muttered,--"Other friends have flown before;
On the morrow _he_ will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before."
Then the bird said, "Nevermore."

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
"Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore:
Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore
Of 'Never--nevermore.'"

But the Raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore,
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore--
Meant in croaking "Nevermore."

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamplight gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamplight gloating o'er
_She_ shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by seraphim whose footfalls tinkled on the tufted floor.
"Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee--by these angels he hath
sent thee
Respite--respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil! prophet still, if bird or devil!
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted--
On this home by Horror haunted--tell me truly, I implore:
Is there--_is_ there balm in Gilead?--tell me--tell me, I
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil--prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that heaven that bends above us--by that God we both adore:
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore:
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

"Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!" I shrieked,
"Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!"
Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."

And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door; [14]
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamplight o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;[15]
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted--nevermore!

For a general introduction to the selections from Poe, the biographical
and critical sketch in Chap. II should be read.

[Footnote 1: This was Mrs. Helen Stannard, the mother of one of Poe's
schoolmates in Richmond. Her kind and gracious manner made a deep
impression on his boyish heart, and soothed his passionate, turbulent
nature. In after years this poem was inspired, as the poet tells us, by
the memory of "the one idolatrous and purely ideal love" of his restless

[Footnote 2: The reference seems to be to the ancient Ligurian town of
Nicaea, now Nice, in France. The "perfumed sea" would then be the
Ligurian sea. But one half suspects that it was the scholarly and musical
sound of the word, rather than any aptness of classical reference, that
led to the use of the word "Nicaean."]

[Footnote 3: This appears to be Poe's indefinite and poetic way of saying
that the lady's beauty and grace brought him an uplifting sense of
happiness. After seeing her the first time, "He returned home in a dream,
with but one thought, one hope in life--to hear again the sweet and
gracious words that had made the desolate world so beautiful to him, and
filled his lonely heart with the oppression of a new joy."--Ingram's
_Edgar Allan Poe_, Vol. I, p. 32.]

[Footnote 4: Psyche was represented as so exquisitely beautiful that
mortals did not dare to love, but only to worship her. The poet could pay
no higher tribute to "Helen."]

[Footnote 5: This little poem--very beautiful in itself--illustrates
Poe's characteristics as a poet: it is indefinite, musical, and intense.]

[Footnote 6: This poem is a tribute to his wife, to whom his beautiful
devotion has already been spoken of. "I believe," says Mrs. Osgood, "she
was the only woman whom he ever truly loved; and this is evidenced by the
exquisite pathos of the little poem lately written, called 'Annabel Lee,'
of which she was the subject, and which is by far the most natural,
simple, tender, and touchingly beautiful of all his songs."]

[Footnote 7: This is Poe's poetic designation of America.]

[Footnote 8: "Virginia Clemm, born on the 13th of August, 1822, was still
a child when her handsome cousin Edgar revisited Baltimore after his
escapade at West Point. A more than cousinly affection, which gradually
grew in intensity, resulted from their frequent communion, and
ultimately, whilst one, at least, of the two cousins was but a child,
they were married."--Ingram's _Edgar Allan Poe_, Vol. I, p. 136.]

[Footnote 9: These were the angels, to whom "Annabel Lee" was akin in
sweet, gentle character. "A lady angelically beautiful in person, and not
less beautiful in spirit."--Captain Mayne Reid.]

[Footnote 10: This may be literally true. At all events, it is related
that he visited the tomb of "Helen"; and "when the autumnal rains fell,
and the winds wailed mournfully over the graves, he lingered longest, and
came away most regretfully."]

[Footnote 11: This admirable poem is an allegory. The "stately palace" is
a man who after a time loses his reason. With this fact in mind, the poem
becomes quite clear. The "banners yellow, glorious, golden" is the hair;
the "luminous windows" are the eyes; the "ruler of the realm" is reason;
"the fair palace door" is the mouth; and the "evil things" are the
madman's fantasies. The poem is found in _The Fall of the House of

Poe claimed that Longfellow's _Beleaguered City_ was an imitation of
_The Haunted Palace_. The former should be read in connection with
the latter. Though some resemblance may be discerned, Longfellow must be
acquitted of Poe's charge of plagiarism.]

[Footnote 12: This terrible lyric is also an allegory. The "theater" is
the world, and the "play" human life. The "mimes" are men, created in the
image of God, and are represented as the "mere puppets" of circumstance.
The "Phantom chased for evermore" is happiness; but for all, the end is
death and the grave.]

[Footnote 13: This poem was first published in the New York _Evening
Mirror_, January 29, 1845. "In our opinion," wrote the editor, N. P.
Willis, "it is the most effective single example of 'fugitive poetry'
ever published in this country; and unsurpassed in English poetry for
subtle conception, masterly ingenuity of versification, and consistent
sustaining of imaginative lift."

The story of _The Raven_ is given in prose by Poe in his
_Philosophy of Composition_, which contains the best analysis of its
structure: "A raven, having learned by rote the single word, 'Nevermore,'
and having escaped from the custody of its owner, is driven at midnight,
through the violence of a storm, to seek admission at a window from which
a light still gleams,--the chamber window of a student, occupied half in
poring over a volume, half in dreaming of a beloved mistress deceased.
The casement being thrown open at the fluttering of the bird's wings, the
bird itself perches on the most convenient seat out of the immediate
reach of the student, who, amused by the incident and the oddity of the
visitor's demeanor, demands of it, in jest and without looking for a
reply, its name. The raven addressed answers with its customary word,
'Nevermore'--a word which finds immediate echo in the melancholy heart
of the student, who, giving utterance aloud to certain thoughts suggested
by the occasion, is again startled by the fowl's repetition of
'Nevermore.' The student now guesses the state of the case, but is
impelled, by the human thirst for self-torture, and in part by
superstition, to propound such queries to the bird as will bring him, the
lover, the most of the luxury of sorrow, through the anticipated answer,

[Footnote 14: As Poe explains, the raven is "emblematical of mournful and
never-ending remembrance."]

[Footnote 15: From the position of the bird it has been held that the
shadow could not possibly fall upon the floor. But the author says:
"_My_ conception was that of the bracket candelabrum affixed against
the wall, high up above the door and bust, as is often seen in the
English palaces, and even in some of the better houses in New York."]

* * * * *


For their generous permission to use _Aethra, Under the Pines, Cloud
Pictures_, and _Lyric of Action_, the grateful acknowledgments of
the editor are due to The Lothrop Publishing Company, Boston, who hold
the copyright.


To have the will to soar, but not the wings,
Eyes fixed forever on a starry height,
Whence stately shapes of grand imaginings
Flash down the splendors of imperial light;

And yet to lack the charm [2] that makes them ours,
The obedient vassals of that conquering spell,
Whose omnipresent and ethereal powers
Encircle Heaven, nor fear to enter Hell;

This is the doom of Tantalus [3]--the thirst
For beauty's balmy fount to quench the fires
Of the wild passion that our souls have nurst
In hopeless promptings--unfulfilled desires.

Yet would I rather in the outward state
Of Song's immortal temple lay me down,
A beggar basking by that radiant gate, [4]
Than bend beneath the haughtiest empire's crown!

For sometimes, through the bars, my ravished eyes
Have caught brief glimpses of a life divine,
And seen a far, mysterious rapture rise
Beyond the veil [5] that guards the inmost shrine.


This is my world! within these narrow walls,
I own a princely service;[7] the hot care
And tumult of our frenzied life are here
But as a ghost and echo; what befalls
In the far mart to me is less than naught;
I walk the fields of quiet Arcadies,[8]
And wander by the brink of hoary seas,
Calmed to the tendance of untroubled thought;
Or if a livelier humor should enhance
The slow-time pulse, 'tis not for present strife,
The sordid zeal with which our age is rife,
Its mammon conflicts crowned by fraud or chance,
But gleamings of the lost, heroic life,
Flashed through the gorgeous vistas of romance.


It is a sweet tradition, with a soul
Of tenderest pathos! Hearken, love!--for all
The sacred undercurrents of the heart
Thrill to its cordial music:
Once a chief,
Philantus, king of Sparta, left the stern
And bleak defiles of his unfruitful land--
Girt by a band of eager colonists--
To seek new homes on fair Italian plains.[10]
Apollo's [11] oracle had darkly spoken:
_"Where'er from cloudless skies a plenteous shower
Outpours, the Fates decree that ye should pause
And rear your household deities!"_
Racked by doubt
Philantus traversed--with his faithful band
Full many a bounteous realm; but still defeat
Darkened his banners, and the strong-walled towns
His desperate sieges grimly laughed to scorn!
Weighed down by anxious thoughts, one sultry eve
The warrior--his rude helmet cast aside--
Rested his weary head upon the lap
Of his fair wife, who loved him tenderly;
And there he drank a generous draught of sleep.
She, gazing on his brow, all worn with toil,
And his dark locks, which pain had silvered over
With glistening touches of a frosty rime,
Wept on the sudden bitterly; her tears
Fell on his face, and, wondering, he woke.
"O blest art thou, my Aethra, _my clear sky_."
He cried exultant, "from whose pitying blue
A heart-rain falls to fertilize my fate:
Lo! the deep riddle's solved--the gods spake truth!"

So the next night he stormed Tarentum,[12] took
The enemy's host at vantage, and o'erthrew
His mightiest captains. Thence with kindly sway
He ruled those pleasant regions he had won,--
But dearer even than his rich demesnes
The love of her whose gentle tears unlocked
The close-shut mystery of the Oracle!


_To the memory of Henry Timrod_

The same majestic pine is lifted high
Against the twilight sky,
The same low, melancholy music grieves
Amid the topmost leaves,[14]
As when I watched, and mused, and dreamed with him,
Beneath these shadows dim.

O Tree! hast thou no memory at thy core
Of one who comes no more?
No yearning memory of those scenes that were
So richly calm and fair,
When the last rays of sunset, shimmering down,
Flashed like a royal crown?

And he, with hand outstretched and eyes ablaze,
Looked forth with burning [15] gaze,
And seemed to drink the sunset like strong wine,
Or, hushed in trance divine,
Hailed the first shy and timorous glance from far
Of evening's virgin star?

O Tree! against thy mighty trunk he laid
His weary head; thy shade
Stole o'er him like the first cool spell of sleep:
It brought a peace _so_ deep
The unquiet passion died from out his eyes,
As lightning from stilled skies.

And in that calm he loved to rest, and hear
The soft wind-angels, clear
And sweet, among the uppermost branches sighing:
Voices he heard replying
(Or so he dreamed) far up the mystic height,
And pinions rustling light.

O Tree! have not his poet-touch, his dreams
So full of heavenly gleams,
Wrought through the folded dullness of thy bark,
And all thy nature dark
Stirred to slow throbbings, and the fluttering fire
Of faint, unknown desire?

At least to me there sweeps no rugged ring
That girds the forest king,
No immemorial stain, or awful rent
(The mark of tempest spent),
No delicate leaf, no lithe bough, vine-o'ergrown,
No distant, flickering cone,

But speaks of him, and seems to bring once more
The joy, the love of yore;
But most when breathed from out the sunset-land
The sunset airs are bland,
That blow between the twilight and the night,
Ere yet the stars are bright;

For then that quiet eve comes back to me,
When deeply, thrillingly,
He spake of lofty hopes which vanquish Death;
And on his mortal breath
A language of immortal meanings hung,
That fired his heart and tongue.

For then unearthly breezes stir and sigh,
Murmuring, "Look up! 'tis I:
Thy friend is near thee! Ah, thou canst not see!"
And through the sacred tree
Passes what seems a wild and sentient thrill--
Passes, and all is still!--

Still as the grave which holds his tranquil form,
Hushed after many a storm,--
Still as the calm that crowns his marble brow,
No pain can wrinkle now,--
Still as the peace--pathetic peace of God--
That wraps the holy sod,

Where every flower from our dead minstrel's dust
Should bloom, a type of trust,--
That faith which waxed to wings of heavenward might
To bear his soul from night,--
That faith, dear Christ! whereby we pray to meet
His spirit at God's feet!


Here in these mellow grasses, the whole morn,
I love to rest; yonder, the ripening corn
Rustles its greenery; and his blithesome horn

Windeth the frolic breeze o'er field and dell,
Now pealing a bold stave with lusty swell,
Now falling to low breaths ineffable

Of whispered joyance. At calm length I lie,
Fronting the broad blue spaces of the sky,
Covered with cloud-groups, softly journeying by:

An hundred shapes, fantastic, beauteous, strange,
Are theirs, as o'er yon airy waves they range
At the wind's will, from marvelous change to change;

Castles, with guarded roof, and turret tall,
Great sloping archway, and majestic wall,
Sapped by the breezes to their noiseless fall!

Pagodas vague! above whose towers outstream
Banners that wave with motions of a dream--
Rising, or drooping in the noontide gleam;

Gray lines of Orient pilgrims: a gaunt band
On famished camels, o'er the desert sand
Plodding towards their prophet's Holy Land;

Mid-ocean,--and a shoal of whales at play,
Lifting their monstrous frontlets to the day,
Thro' rainbow arches of sun-smitten spray;

Followed by splintered icebergs, vast and lone,
Set in swift currents of some arctic zone,
Like fragments of a Titan's world o'erthrown;

Next, measureless breadths of barren, treeless moor,
Whose vaporous verge fades down a glimmering shore,
Round which the foam-capped billows toss and roar!

Calms of bright water--like a fairy's wiles,
Wooing with ripply cadence and soft smiles,
The golden shore-slopes of Hesperian Isles;

Their inland plains rife with a rare increase
Of plumed grain! and many a snowy fleece
Shining athwart the dew-lit hills of peace;

Wrecks of gigantic cities--to the tune
Of some wise air-god built!--o'er which the noon
Seems shuddering; caverns, such as the wan Moon

Shows in her desolate bosom; then, a crowd
Of awed and reverent faces, palely bowed
O'er a dead queen, laid in her ashy shroud--

A queen of eld--her pallid brow impearled
By gems barbaric! her strange beauty furled
In mystic cerements of the antique world.

Weird pictures, fancy-gendered!--one by one,
'Twixt blended beams and shadows, gold and dun,
These transient visions vanish in the sun.


'Tis the part of a coward to brood
O'er the past that is withered and dead:
What though the heart's roses are ashes and dust?
What though the heart's music be fled?
Still shine the grand heavens o'erhead,
Whence the voice of an angel thrills clear on the soul,
"Gird about thee thine armor, press on to the goal!"

If the faults or the crimes of thy youth
Are a burden too heavy to bear,
What hope can re-bloom on the desolate waste
Of a jealous and craven despair?
Down, down with the fetters of fear!
In the strength of thy valor and manhood arise,
With the faith that illumes and the will that defies.

"_Too late!_" through God's infinite world,
From his throne to life's nethermost fires,
"_Too late!_" is a phantom that flies at the dawn
Of the soul that repents and aspires.
If pure thou hast made thy desires,
There's no height the strong wings of immortals may gain
Which in striving to reach thou shalt strive for in vain.

Then, up to the contest with fate,
Unbound by the past, which is dead!
What though the heart's roses are ashes and dust?
What though the heart's music be fled?
Still shine the fair heavens o'erhead;
And sublime as the seraph [18] who rules in the sun
Beams the promise of joy when the conflict is won!

For a general introduction to the following poems, see Chapter III. The
selections are intended to exhibit the poet's various moods and themes.

[Footnote 1: This poem, which appeared in the volume of 1855 under the
title _Aspirations_, gives expression to a strong literary impulse.
It was genuine in sentiment, and its aspiring spirit and forceful
utterance gave promise of no ordinary achievement.]

[Footnote 2: An act or formula supposed to exert a magical influence or

"Then, in one moment, she put forth the charm
Of woven paces and of waving hands."
--Tennyson's _Merlin and Vivien_.

Compare the first scene in _Faust_ where the Earth-spirit comes in
obedience to a "conquering spell."]

[Footnote 3: Tantalus was a character of Greek mythology, who, for
divulging the secret counsels of Zeus, was afflicted in the lower world
with an insatiable thirst. He stood up to the chin in a lake, the waters
of which receded whenever he tried to drink of them.]

[Footnote 4: The poet evidently had in mind the lame man who was "laid
daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful."--_Acts_
iii. 2.]

[Footnote 5: A reference to the veil that hung before the Most Holy
Place, or "inmost shrine," of the temple. Compare _Exodus_ xxvi. 33.]

[Footnote 6: This sonnet, which appeared in the volume of 1859, reveals
the retiring, meditative temper of the poet. To him quiet reflection was
more than action. He loved to dwell in spirit with the good and great of
the past. The rude struggles of the market-place for wealth and power
were repugnant to his refined and sensitive nature.]

[Footnote 7: Something served for the refreshment of a person; here an
intellectual feast fit for a prince.]

[Footnote 8: Arcady, or Arcadia, is a place of ideal simplicity and
contentment; so called from a picturesque district in Greece, which was
noted for the simplicity and happiness of its people.]

[Footnote 9: This poem will serve to illustrate Hayne's skill in the use
of blank verse. It is a piece of rare excellence and beauty. The name of
the heroine is pronounced _Ee-thra_.]

[Footnote 10: This migration occurred about 708 B.C.]

[Footnote 11: Apollo was one of the major deities of Grecian mythology.
He was regarded, among other things, as the god of song or minstrelsy,
and also as the god of prophetic inspiration. The most celebrated oracle
of Apollo was at Delphi.]

[Footnote 12: A town in southern Italy, now Taranto. It was in ancient
times a place of great commercial importance.]

[Footnote 13: For the occasion of this poem, see page 61. The poet had a
peculiar fondness for the pine, which in one of his poems he calls--

"My sylvan darling! set 'twixt shade and sheen,
Soft as a maid, yet stately as a queen!"

It is the subject of a half-dozen poems,--_The Voice of the Pines,
Aspect of the Pines, In the Pine Barrens, The Dryad of the Pine, The
Pine's Mystery_, and _The Axe and the Pine_,--all of them in his
happiest vein.]

[Footnote 14: In _The Pine's Mystery_ we read:--

"Passion and mystery murmur through the leaves,
Passion and mystery, touched by deathless pain,
Whose monotone of long, low anguish grieves
For something lost that shall not live again."]

[Footnote 15: Hayne's very careful workmanship is rarely at fault; but
here there seems to be an infelicitous epithet that amounts to a sort of
tautology. "Eyes ablaze" would necessarily "look forth with _burning

[Footnote 16: This poem illustrates the poet's method of dealing with
Nature. He depicts its beauty as discerned by the artistic imagination.
He is less concerned with the messages of Nature than with its lovely
forms. This poem, in its felicitous word-painting, reminds us of
Tennyson, though it would be difficult to find in the English poet so
brilliant a succession of masterly descriptions.

With this poem may be compared Hayne's _Cloud Fantasies_, a sonnet
that brings before us, with great vividness, the somber appearance of the
clouds in autumn. See also _A Phantom in the Clouds_. No other of
our poets has dwelt so frequently and so delightfully on the changing
aspects of the sky.

Compare Shelley's _The Cloud_.]

[Footnote 17: It is not often that Hayne assumed the hortatory tone found
in this poem. In artistic temperament he was akin to Keats rather than to
Longfellow. Even in his didactic poems, he is meditative and descriptive
rather than hortatory. The artist in him hardly ever gave place to the

[Footnote 18: The seraph's name was Uriel, that is, God's Light. In
_Revelation_ (xix. 17) we read, "And I saw an angel standing in the
sun." Milton calls him--

"The Archangel Uriel--one of the seven
Who in God's presence, nearest to his throne,
Stand ready at command."
--_Paradise Lost_, Book III, 648-650.]

* * * * *



Too long, O Spirit of storm,
Thy lightning sleeps in its sheath!
I am sick to the soul of yon pallid sky,
And the moveless sea beneath.

Come down in thy strength on the deep!
Worse dangers there are in life,
When the waves are still, and the skies look fair,
Than in their wildest strife.

A friend I knew, whose days
Were as calm as this sky overhead;
But one blue morn that was fairest of all,
The heart in his bosom fell dead.

And they thought him alive while he walked
The streets that he walked in youth--
Ah! little they guessed the seeming man
Was a soulless corpse in sooth.

Come down in thy strength, O Storm!
And lash the deep till it raves!
I am sick to the soul of that quiet sea,
Which hides ten thousand graves.


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,[3] 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 armed 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 [4] 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!

ODE [5]


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![6]


Meanwhile, behalf [7] 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-molded pile [8]
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 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.[10]

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 [11] 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.


Poet! if on a lasting fame be bent
Thy unperturbing hopes, thou wilt 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 mayest draw from matters of the hearth
Truths wide as nations, and as deep as love.


Most men know love but as a part of life;[14]
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?[15]
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!


It is a place whither I have 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 branched 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.[17]
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 glazed 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;[18]
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.

For a general introduction to the following selections, see Chapter IV.
The poet's verse is perfectly clear. He prefers to

"Cling to the lowly and be content."

[Footnote 1: This poem, which first appeared in _Russell's Magazine_,
exhibits one of Timrod's characteristics: he does not describe Nature for
its own sake, as Hayne often does, but for the sake of some truth or
lesson in relation to man. The lesson of this poem is that a life of
uninterrupted ease and comfort is not favorable to the development of
noble character.]

[Footnote 2: This selection illustrates the fierce energy of the poet's
martial lyrics. Compare _Bannockburn_ by Burns, which Carlyle said
"should be sung with the throat of the whirlwind."]

[Footnote 3: _Byre_ is a cow-stable.]

[Footnote 4: _Rack_, usually _wrack_, signifies ruin or

[Footnote 5: This lyric, which was sung on the occasion of decorating the
graves of the Confederate dead in Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston, South
Carolina, in 1867, has been much admired, especially the last stanza.]

[Footnote 6: It is interesting to know that this prediction has been
fulfilled. A monument of granite now stands above the dead.]

[Footnote 7: _Behalf_, instead of _in behalf of_, is a rather
hazardous construction.]

[Footnote 8: A noble bronze figure of a color bearer on a granite
pedestal now commemorates the fallen heroes.]

[Footnote 9: This poem first appeared in the _Southern Literary Messenger_
in 1851. The first stanza of this half-playful, half-serious piece,
mentions the objects in which the poet most delighted.]

[Footnote 10: This belief has been frequently held, and has some support
from recent scientific experiments. But that this sentiency goes as far
as the poet describes, is of course pure fancy.]

[Footnote 11: The sibyls (Sybil is an incorrect form) were, according to
ancient mythology, prophetic women. The sibylline leaves or books
contained their teachings, and were preserved with the utmost care in
Rome. The sibyl of Cumae conducted Aeneas through the under world, as
narrated in the sixth book of Virgil's _Aeneid_.]

[Footnote 12: This sonnet expresses the poet's creed, to which his
practice was confirmed. This fact imparts unusual simplicity to his
verse--a simplicity that strikes us all the more at the present time,
when an over-refinement of thought and expression is in vogue.]

[Footnote 13: This sonnet, on the commonest of all poetic themes, treats
of love in a deep, serious way. It is removed as far as possible from the

[Footnote 14: This line reminds us of a well-known passage in Byron:--
"Man's love is of man's life a thing apart;
'Tis woman's whole existence. Man may range
The court, camp, church, the vessel and the mart;
Sword, gown, gain, glory, offer in exchange
Pride, fame, ambition, to fill up his heart,
And few there are whom these cannot estrange."]

[Footnote 15: This is the divine ideal, the realization of which will
bring the true "Golden Age." "God is love; and he that dwelleth in love
dwelleth in God, and God in him."--I _John_ iv. 16.]

[Footnote 16: This poem first appeared in the _Southern Literary Messenger_
in 1852. It will serve to show Timrod's manner of using blank verse. It
will be observed that "a lesson" is again the principal thing.]

[Footnote 17: This recalls the closing lines of Longfellow's _Sunrise
on the Hills_:--

"If thou art worn and hard beset
With sorrows that thou wouldst forget,
If thou wouldst read a lesson that will keep
Thy heart from fainting and thy soul from sleep,
Go to the woods and hills! No tears
Dim the sweet look that Nature wears."]

[Footnote 18: Compare the following lines from Bryant's _Thanatopsis_:--

"To him who in the love of Nature holds
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks
A various language; for his gayer hours
She has a voice of gladness, and a smile
And eloquence of beauty, and she glides
Into his darker musings, with a mild
And healing sympathy, that steals away
Their sharpness, ere he is aware."]

* * * * *



Out of the hills of Habersham,
Down the valleys of Hall,[2]
The hurrying rain,[3] to reach the plain,
Has run the rapid and leapt the fall,
Split at the rock and together again,
Accepted his bed, or narrow or wide,
And fled from folly on every side,
With a lover's pain to attain the plain,
Far from the hills of Habersham,
Far from the valleys of Hall.

All down the hills of Habersham,
All through the valleys of Hall,
The rushes cried, _Abide, abide_;
The wilful water weeds held me thrall,
The laurel, slow-laving,[4] turned my tide,
The ferns and the fondling grass said _stay_,
The dewberry dipped for to win delay,[5]
And the little reeds sighed _Abide, abide_,
_Here in the hills of Habersham,_
_Here in the valleys of Hall._

High over the hills of Habersham,
Veiling the valleys of Hall,
The hickory told me manifold
Fair tales of shade, the poplar tall
Wrought me her shadowy self to hold,
The chestnut, the oak, the walnut, the pine,
Overleaning, with flickering meaning and sign,
Said, _Pass not so cold these manifold
Deep shades of the hills of Habersham,
These glades in the valleys of Hall._

And oft in the hills of Habersham,
And oft in the valleys of Hall,
The white quartz shone, and the smooth brook-stone
Barred[6] me of passage with friendly brawl,
And many a metal lay sad, alone,
And the diamond, the garnet, the amethyst,
And the crystal that prisons a purple mist,
Showed lights like my own from each cordial stone[7]
In the clefts of the hills of Habersham,
In the beds of the valleys of Hall.

But oh, not the hills of Habersham,
And oh, not the valleys of Hall,
Shall hinder the rain from attaining the plain,[8]
For downward the voices of duty call--
Downward to toil and be mixed with the main.
The dry fields burn and the mills are to turn,
And a thousand meadows [9] mortally yearn,
And the final [10] main from beyond the plain
Calls o'er the hills of Habersham,
And calls through the valleys of Hall.


At midnight, death's and truth's unlocking time,
When far within the spirit's hearing rolls
The great soft rumble of the course of things--
A bulk of silence in a mask of sound--
When darkness clears our vision that by day
Is sun-blind, and the soul's a ravening owl
For truth, and flitteth here and there about
Low-lying woody tracts of time and oft
Is minded for to sit upon a bough,
Dry-dead and sharp, of some long-stricken tree
And muse in that gaunt place,--'twas then my heart,
Deep in the meditative dark, cried out:

Ye companies of governor-spirits grave,
Bards, and old bringers-down of flaming news
From steep-walled heavens, holy malcontents,
Sweet seers, and stellar visionaries, all
That brood about the skies of poesy,
Full bright ye shine, insuperable stars;
Yet, if a man look hard upon you, none
With total luster blazeth, no, not one
But hath some heinous freckle of the flesh
Upon his shining cheek, not one but winks
His ray, opaqued with intermittent mist
Of defect; yea, you masters all must ask
Some sweet forgiveness, which we leap to give,
We lovers of you, heavenly-glad to meet
Your largess so with love, and interplight
Your geniuses with our mortalities.

Thus unto thee, O sweetest Shakspere sole,[12]
A hundred hurts a day I do forgive
('Tis little, but, enchantment! 'tis for thee):
Small curious quibble; ... Henry's fustian roar
Which frights away that sleep he invocates;[13]
Wronged Valentine's [14] unnatural haste to yield;
Too-silly shifts of maids that mask as men
In faint disguises that could ne'er disguise--
Viola, Julia, Portia, Rosalind;[15]
Fatigues most drear, and needless overtax
Of speech obscure that had as lief be plain.

... Father Homer, thee,
Thee also I forgive thy sandy wastes
Of prose and catalogue,[16] thy drear harangues
That tease the patience of the centuries,
Thy sleazy scrap of story,--but a rogue's
Rape of a light-o'-love,[17]--too soiled a patch
To broider with the gods.

Thee, Socrates,[18]
Thou dear and very strong one, I forgive
Thy year-worn cloak, thine iron stringencies
That were but dandy upside-down,[19] thy words
Of truth that, mildlier spoke, had manlier wrought.

So, Buddha,[20] beautiful! I pardon thee
That all the All thou hadst for needy man
Was Nothing, and thy Best of being was
But not to be.

Worn Dante,[21] I forgive
The implacable hates that in thy horrid hells
Or burn or freeze thy fellows, never loosed
By death, nor time, nor love.

And I forgive
Thee, Milton, those thy comic-dreadful wars [22]
Where, armed with gross and inconclusive steel,
Immortals smite immortals mortalwise,
And fill all heaven with folly.

Also thee,
Brave Aeschylus,[23] thee I forgive, for that
Thine eye, by bare bright justice basilisked,
Turned not, nor ever learned to look where Love
Stands shining.

So, unto thee, Lucretius [24] mine,
(For oh, what heart hath loved thee like to this
That's now complaining?) freely I forgive
Thy logic poor, thine error rich, thine earth
Whose graves eat souls and all.

Yea, all you hearts
Of beauty, and sweet righteous lovers large:
Aurelius [25] fine, oft superfine; mild Saint
A Kempis,[26] overmild; Epictetus,[27]
Whiles low in thought, still with old slavery tinct;
Rapt Behmen,[28] rapt too far; high Swedenborg,[29]
O'ertoppling; Langley,[30] that with but a touch
Of art hadst sung Piers Plowman to the top
Of English songs, whereof 'tis dearest, now,
And most adorable; Caedmon,[31] in the morn
A-calling angels with the cowherd's call
That late brought up the cattle; Emerson,
Most wise, that yet, in finding Wisdom, lost
Thy Self, sometimes; tense Keats, with angels' nerves
Where men's were better; Tennyson, largest voice
Since Milton, yet some register of wit
Wanting,--all, all, I pardon, ere 'tis asked,
Your more or less, your little mole that marks
Your brother and your kinship seals to man.
But Thee, but Thee, O sovereign Seer of time,
But Thee, O poets' Poet, Wisdom's Tongue,
But Thee, O man's best Man, O love's best Love,
O perfect life in perfect labor writ,
O all men's Comrade, Servant, King, or Priest,--
What _if_ or _yet_, what mole, what flaw, what lapse,
What least defect or shadow of defect,
What rumor, tattled by an enemy,
Of inference loose, what lack of grace
Even in torture's grasp, or sleep's, or death's,--
Oh, what amiss may I forgive in Thee,
Jesus, good Paragon, thou Crystal Christ?[32]


In my sleep I was fain of their fellowship, fain
Of the live-oak, the marsh, and the main.
The little green leaves would not let me alone in my sleep;
Up breathed from the marshes, a message of range and of sweep,
Interwoven with waftures of wild sea-liberties, drifting,
Came through the lapped leaves sifting, sifting,
Came to the gates of sleep.

Then my thoughts, in the dark of the dungeon-keep
Of the Castle of Captives hid in the City of Sleep,
Upstarted, by twos and by threes assembling:
The gates of sleep fell a-trembling
Like as the lips of a lady that forth falter _yes_,
Shaken with happiness:
The gates of sleep stood wide.

I have waked, I have come, my beloved! I might not abide:
I have come ere the dawn, O beloved, my live-oaks, to hide
In your gospeling glooms,[34]--to be
As a lover in heaven, the marsh my marsh and the sea my sea.
Tell me, sweet burly-barked, man-bodied Tree
That mine arms in the dark are embracing, dost know
From what fount are these tears at thy feet which flow?
They rise not from reason, but deeper inconsequent deeps.
Reason's not one that weeps.
What logic of greeting lies
Betwixt dear over-beautiful trees and the rain of the eyes?

O cunning green leaves, little masters! like as ye gloss
All the dull-tissued dark with your luminous darks that emboss.
The vague blackness of night into pattern and plan,
(But would I could know, but would I could know,)
With your question embroid'ring the dark of the
question of man,--
So, with your silences purfling this silence of man
While his cry to the dead for some knowledge is
under the ban,
Under the ban,--
So, ye have wrought me
Designs on the night of our knowledge,--yea, ye
have taught me,
That haply we know somewhat more than we know.

Ye lispers, whisperers, singers in storms,
Ye consciences murmuring faiths under forms,
Ye ministers meet for each passion that grieves,
Friendly, sisterly, sweetheart leaves,[35]
Oh, rain me down from your darks that contain me
Wisdoms ye winnow from winds that pain me,--
Sift down tremors of sweet-within-sweet
That advise me of more than they bring,--repeat
Me the woods-smell that swiftly but now brought breath
From the heaven-side bank of the river of death,--
Teach me the terms of silence,--preach me
The passion of patience,--sift me,--impeach me,--
And there, oh there
As ye hang with your myriad palms upturned in the air,
Pray me a myriad prayer.[36]

My gossip, the owl,--is it thou
That out of the leaves of the low-hanging bough,
As I pass to the beach, art stirred?
Dumb woods, have ye uttered a bird?

Reverend Marsh, low-couched along the sea,
Old chemist, rapt in alchemy,
Distilling silence,--lo,
That which our father-age had died to know--
The menstruum that dissolves all matter--thou
Hast found it: for this silence, filling now
The globed clarity of receiving space,
This solves us all: man, matter, doubt, disgrace,
Death, love, sin, sanity,
Must in yon silence' clear solution lie.
Too clear! That crystal nothing who'll peruse?
The blackest night could bring us brighter news.
Yet precious qualities of silence haunt
Round these vast margins, ministrant.
Oh, if thy soul's at latter gasp for space,
With trying to breathe no bigger than thy race
Just to be fellowed, when that thou hast found
No man with room, or grace enough of bound
To entertain that New thou tell'st, thou art,--
'Tis here, 'tis here, thou canst unhand thy heart
And breathe it free, and breathe it free,
By rangy marsh, in lone sea-liberty.

The tide's at full: the marsh with flooded streams
Glimmers, a limpid labyrinth of dreams.
Each winding creek in grave entrancement lies
A rhapsody of morning-stars. The skies
Shine scant with one forked galaxy,--
The marsh brags ten: looped on his breast they lie.

Oh, what if a sound should be made!
Oh, what if a bound should be laid
To this bow-and-string tension of beauty and silence a-spring,--
To the bend of beauty the bow, or the hold of silence the string!
I fear me, I fear me yon dome of diaphanous gleam
Will break as a bubble o'erblown in a dream,--
Yon dome of too-tenuous tissues of space and of night,
Overweighted with stars, overfreighted with light,
Oversated with beauty and silence, will seem
But a bubble that broke in a dream,
If a bound of degree to this grace be laid,
Or a sound or a motion made.

But no: it is made: list! somewhere,--mystery,
In the leaves? in the air?
In my heart? is a motion made:
'Tis a motion of dawn, like a nicker of shade on shade.
In the leaves 'tis palpable: low multitudinous stirring
Upwinds through the woods; the little ones, softly conferring,
Have settled my lord's to be looked for; so; they are still;
But the air and my heart and the earth are a-thrill,--
And look where the wild duck sails round the bend of the river,--
And look where a passionate shiver
Expectant is bending the blades
Of the marsh-grass in serial shimmers and shades,--
And invisible wings, fast fleeting, fast fleeting,
Are beating
The dark overhead as my heart beats,--and steady and free
Is the ebb-tide flowing from marsh to sea--
(Run home, little streams,
With your lapfuls of stars and dreams),--
And a sailor unseen is hoisting a-peak,
For list, down the inshore curve of the creek
How merrily flutters the sail,--
And lo, in the East! Will the East unveil?
The East is unveiled, the East hath confessed
A flush: 'tis dead; 'tis alive; 'tis dead, ere the West
Was aware of it: nay, 'tis abiding, 'tis withdrawn:
Have a care, sweet Heaven! 'Tis Dawn.

Now a dream of a flame through that dream of a flush is uprolled:
To the zenith ascending, a dome of undazzling gold
Is builded, in shape as a beehive, from out of the sea:
The hive is of gold undazzling, but oh, the Bee,
The star-fed Bee, the build-fire Bee,
Of dazzling gold is the great Sun-Bee
That shall flash from the hive-hole over the sea.[37]
Yet now the dewdrop, now the morning gray,
Shall live their little lucid sober day
Ere with the sun their souls exhale away.
Now in each pettiest personal sphere of dew
The summ'd morn shines complete as in the blue
Big dewdrop of all heaven: with these lit shrines
O'er-silvered to the farthest sea-confines,
The sacramental marsh one pious plain
Of worship lies. Peace to the ante-reign
Of Mary Morning, blissful mother mild,
Minded of nought but peace, and of a child.

Not slower than Majesty moves, for a mean and a measure
Of motion,--not faster than dateless Olympian leisure [38]
Might pace with unblown ample garments from pleasure to pleasure,--
The wave-serrate sea-rim sinks unjarring, unreeling,
Forever revealing, revealing, revealing,
Edgewise, bladewise, halfwise, wholewise,--'tis done!
Good-morrow, lord Sun!
With several voice, with ascription one,
The woods and the marsh and the sea and my soul
Unto thee, whence the glittering stream of all morrows doth roll,
Cry good and past-good and most heavenly morrow, lord Sun.

O Artisan born in the purple,--Workman Heat,--
Parter of passionate atoms that travail to meet
And be mixed in the death-cold oneness,--innermost Guest
At the marriage of elements,--fellow of publicans,--blest
King in the blouse of flame, that loiterest o'er
The idle skies, yet laborest fast evermore,--
Thou in the fine forge-thunder, thou, in the beat
Of the heart of a man, thou Motive,--Laborer Heat:
Yea, Artist, thou, of whose art yon sea's all news,
With his inshore greens and manifold mid-sea blues,
Pearl-glint, shell-tint, ancientest perfectest hues,
Ever shaming the maidens,--lily and rose
Confess thee, and each mild flame that glows
In the clarified virginal bosoms of stones that shine,
It is thine, it is thine:

Thou chemist of storms, whether driving the winds a-swirl
Or a-flicker the subtiler essences polar that whirl
In the magnet earth,--yea, thou with a storm for a heart,
Rent with debate, many-spotted with question, part
From part oft sundered, yet ever a globed light,
Yet ever the artist, ever more large and bright
Than the eye of a man may avail of:--manifold One,
I must pass from thy face, I must pass from the face of the Sun:

Old Want is awake and agog, every wrinkle a-frown;
The worker must pass to his work in the terrible town:
But I fear not, nay, and I fear not the thing to be done;
I am strong with the strength of my lord the Sun:
How dark, how dark soever the race that must needs be run,
I am lit with the Sun.

Oh, never the mast-high run of the seas
Of traffic shall hide thee,
Never the hell-colored smoke of the factories
Hide thee,
Never the reek of the time's fen-politics
Hide thee,
And ever my heart through the night shall with knowledge abide thee,
And ever by day shall my spirit, as one that hath tried thee,
Labor, at leisure, in art,--till yonder beside thee
My soul shall float, friend Sun,
The day being done.

For a general introduction to Lanier's poetry, see Chapter V.

[Footnote 1: This poem was first published in _Scott's Magazine_, Atlanta,
Georgia, from which it is here taken. It at once became popular,
and was copied in many newspapers throughout the South. It was
subsequently revised, and the changes, which are pointed out below, are
interesting as showing the development of the poet's artistic sense.

The singularly rapid and musical lilt of this poem may be readily traced
to its sources. It is due to the skillful use of short vowels, liquid
consonants, internal rhyme, and constant alliteration. These are matters
of technique which Lanier studiously employed throughout his poetry.

This poem abounds in seeming irregularities of meter. The fundamental
measure is iambic tetrameter, as in the line--

"The rushes cried, _Abide, abide_";

but trochees, dactyls, or anapests are introduced in almost every line,
yet without interfering with the time element of the verse. These
irregularities were no doubt introduced in order to increase the musical

[Footnote 2: As may be seen by reference to a map, the Chattahoochee
rises in Habersham County, in northeastern Georgia, and in its south-
westerly course passes through the adjoining county of Hall. Its entire
length is about five hundred miles.]

[Footnote 3: Changed in the revision to "I hurry amain," with the present
tense of the following verbs. The pronoun "his" in line 6 becomes "my."]

[Footnote 4: This line was changed to--

"The laving laurel turned my tide."]

[Footnote 5: In this line the use of a needless antiquated form may be
fairly questioned. In the revised form "win" is changed to "work."]

[Footnote 6: "Barred" is changed to "did bar" in the revision--a doubtful

[Footnote 7: The preceding four lines show a decided poetic gain in the
revised form:--

"And many a luminous jewel lone--
Crystals clear or a-cloud with mist,
Ruby, garnet, and amethyst--
Made lures with the lightnings of streaming stone."]

[Footnote 8: The revised form, with an awkward pause after the first
foot, and also a useless antiquated phrase, reads--

"Avail! I am fain for to water the plain."]

[Footnote 9: Changed to "myriad of flowers."]

[Footnote 10: "Final" was changed to "lordly" with fine effect. This poem
challenges comparison with other pieces of similar theme. It lacks the
exquisite workmanship of Tennyson's _The Brook_, with its incomparable
onomatopoeic effects:--

"I chatter over stony ways,
In little sharps and trebles;
I bubble into eddying bays,
I babble on the pebbles."

It should be compared with Hayne's _The River_ and also with his _The
Meadow Brook_:--

"Tinkle, tinkle, tinkle,
Hark! the tiny swell;
Of wavelets softly, silverly
Toned like a fairy bell,
Whose every note, dropped sweetly
In mellow glamour round,
Echo hath caught and harvested
In airy sheaves of sound!"

But _The Song of the Chattahoochee_ has what the other poems lack,
--a lofty moral purpose. The noble stream consciously resists the
allurements of pleasure to heed "the voices of duty," and this spirit
imparts to it a greater dignity and weight.]

[Footnote 11: This poem appeared in The Independent, July 15, 1880, from
which it is taken. It illustrates the intellectual rather than the
musical side of Lanier's genius. It is purely didactic, and thought
rather than melody guides the poet's pen. The meter is quite regular,--an
unusual thing in our author's most characteristic work.

It shows Lanier's use of pentameter blank verse,--a use that is somewhat
lacking in ease and clearness. The first sentence is longer than that of
Paradise Lost, without Milton's unity and force. Such ponderous sentences
are all too frequent in Lanier, and as a result he is sometimes obscure.
Repeated readings are necessary to take in the full meaning of his best

This poem, though not bearing the distinctive marks of his genius, is
peculiarly interesting for two reasons,--it gives us an insight into his
wide range of reading and study, and it exhibits his penetration and
sanity as a critic. In the long list of great names he never fails to put
his finger on the vulnerable spot. Frequently he is exceedingly
felicitous, as when he speaks of "rapt Behmen, rapt too far," or of
"Emerson, Most wise, that yet, in finding Wisdom, lost Thy Self

[Footnote 12: It will be remembered that Lanier was a careful student of
Shakespeare, on whom he lectured to private classes in Baltimore.]

[Footnote 13: See second part of _King Henry IV_, iii. I. The
passage which the poet had in mind begins:--

"How many thousand of my poorest subjects
Are at this hour asleep!"]

[Footnote 14: See _The Two Gentlemen of Verona_.]

[Footnote 15: These characters are found as follows: Viola in _Twelfth
Night_; Julia in _The Two Gentlemen of Verona_; Portia in _The
Merchant of Venice_; and Rosalind in _As You Like It_.]

[Footnote 16: Referring to the well-known catalogue of ships in the
Second Book of the Illiad:--

"My song to fame shall give
The chieftains, and enumerate their ships."

It is in this passage in particular that Homer is supposed to nod.]

[Footnote 17: It will be recalled that Paris, son of Priam, king of Troy,
persuaded Helen, the fairest of women and wife of King Menelaus of
Greece, to elope with him to Troy. This incident gave rise to the famous
Trojan War.]

[Footnote 18: Socrates (469-399 B.C.) was an Athenian philosopher, of
whom Cicero said that he "brought down philosophy from the heavens to the
earth." His teachings are preserved in Xenophon's _Memorabilia_ and
Plato's _Dialogues_.]

[Footnote 19: That is to say, his needless austerity was as much affected
as the dandy's excessive and ostentatious refinement.]

[Footnote 20: Buddha, meaning _the enlightened one_, was Prince
Siddhartha of Hindustan, who died about 477 B.C. He was the founder of
the Buddhist religion, which teaches that the supreme attainment of
mankind is Nirvana or extinction. This doctrine naturally follows from
the Buddhist assumption that life is hopelessly evil. Many of the moral
precepts of Buddhism are closely akin to those of Christianity.]

[Footnote 21: Dante Alighieri (1265-1321), a native of Florence, is the
greatest poet of Italy and one of the greatest poets of the world. His
immortal poem, _The Divine Comedy_, is divided into three parts
--"Hell," "Purgatory," and "Paradise."]

[Footnote 22: This is a reference to the wars among the angels, which
ended with the expulsion of Satan and his hosts from heaven, as related
in the sixth book of Paradise Lost. This criticism of Milton is as just
as it is felicitous.]

[Footnote 23: Aeschylus (525-456 B.C.) was the father of Greek tragedy.
He presents _destiny_ in its sternest aspects. His _Prometheus
Bound_ has been translated by Mrs. Browning, and his _Agamemnon_
by Robert Browning--two dramas that exhibit his grandeur and power at
their best.]

[Footnote 24: Lucretius (about 95-51 B.C.) was the author of a didactic
poem in six books entitled _De Rerum Natura_. It is Epicurean in
morals and atheistic in philosophy. At the same time, as a work of art,
it is one of the most perfect poems that have descended to us from

[Footnote 25: Marcus Aurelius Antoninus (121-180 A.D.), one of the best
emperors of Rome, was a noble Stoic philosopher. His _Meditations_
is regarded by John Stuart Mill as almost equal to the Sermon on the
Mount in moral elevation.]

[Footnote 26: Thomas a Kempis (1379-1471) was the author of the famous
_Imitation of Christ_ in which, as Dean Milman says, "is gathered
and concentered all that is elevating, passionate, profoundly pious in
all the older mystics." No other book, except the Bible, has been so
often translated and printed.]

[Footnote 27: Epictetus (born about 50 A.D.) was a Stoic philosopher,
many of whose moral teachings resemble those of Christianity. But he
unduly emphasized renunciation, and wished to restrict human aspiration
to the narrow limits of the attainable.]

[Footnote 28: Jacob Behmen, or Boehme (1575-1624), was a devout mystic
philosopher, whose speculations, containing much that was beautiful and
profound, sometimes passed the bounds of intelligibility.]

[Footnote 29: Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) was a Swedish philosopher
and theologian. His principal work, _Arcana Caelestia_, is made up
of profound speculations and spiritualistic extravagance. He often
oversteps the bounds of sanity.]

[Footnote 30: William Langland, or Langley (about 1332-1400), a disciple
of Wycliffe, was a poet, whose _Vision of Piers Plowman_, written in
strong, alliterative verse, describes, in a series of nine visions, the
manifold corruptions of society, church, and state in England.]

[Footnote 31: Caedmon (lived about 670) was a cowherd attached to the
monastery of Whitby in England. Later he became a poet, and wrote on
Scripture themes in his native Anglo-Saxon. His _Paraphrase_, is, next
to _Beowulf_, the oldest Anglo-Saxon poem in existence.]

[Footnote 32: Lanier was deeply religious, but his beliefs were broader
than any creed. In _Remonstrance_ he exclaims,--

"Opinion, let me alone: I am not thine.
Prim Creed, with categoric point, forbear
To feature me my Lord by rule and line."

Yet, as shown in the conclusion of _The Crystal_ he had an exalted
sense of the unapproachable beauty of the life and teachings of Christ.
His tenderest poem is _A Ballad of Trees and the Master_:--

"Into the woods my Master went,
Clean forspent, forspent.
Into the woods my Master came,
Forspent with love and shame.
But the olives they were not blind to Him,
The little gray leaves were kind to Him;
The thorn-tree had a mind to Him,
When into the woods He came.

"Out of the woods my Master went,
And He was well content.
Out of the woods my Master came,
Content with death and shame.
When Death and Shame would woo Him last,
From under the trees they drew Him last:
'Twas on a tree they slew Him--last
When out of the woods He came."]

[Footnote 33: This poem was first published in _The Independent_, December
14, 1882, from which it is here taken. The editor said, "This poem, we do
not hesitate to say, is one of the few great poems that have been
written on this side of the ocean." With this judgment there will be
general agreement on the part of appreciative readers. On the emotional
side, it may be said to reach the high-water mark of poetic achievement
in this country. Its emotion at times reaches the summits of poetic
rapture; a little more, and it would have passed into the boundary of
hysterical ecstasy.


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