The Complete Poetical Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Part 18 out of 31
Of the sea-like mountain chain,
Like a phoenix from its shroud,
Came the red sun back again.
Now around them, white with snow,
Closed the mountain peaks. Below,
Headlong from the precipice
Down into the dark abyss,
Plunged the cataract, white with foam;
And it said, or seemed to say:
"Oh return, while yet you may,
Foolish children, to your home,
There the Holy City is!"
But the dauntless leader said:
"Faint not, though your bleeding feet
O'er these slippery paths of sleet
Move but painfully and slowly;
Other feet than yours have bled;
Other tears than yours been shed
Courage! lose not heart or hope;
On the mountains' southern slope
Lies Jerusalem the Holy!"
As a white rose in its pride,
By the wind in summer-tide
Tossed and loosened from the branch,
Showers its petals o'er the ground,
From the distant mountain's side,
Scattering all its snows around,
With mysterious, muffled sound,
Loosened, fell the avalanche.
Voices, echoes far and near,
Roar of winds and waters blending,
Mists uprising, clouds impending,
Filled them with a sense of fear,
Formless, nameless, never ending.
. . . . . . . . . .
The summer sun is sinking low;
Only the tree-tops redden and glow:
Only the weathercock on the spire
Of the neighboring church is a flame of fire;
All is in shadow below.
O beautiful, awful summer day,
What hast thou given, what taken away?
Life and death, and love and hate,
Homes made happy or desolate,
Hearts made sad or gay!
On the road of life one mile-stone more!
In the book of life one leaf turned o'er!
Like a red seal is the setting sun
On the good and the evil men have done,--
Naught can to-day restore!
Sweet chimes! that in the loneliness of night
Salute the passing hour, and in the dark
And silent chambers of the household mark
The movements of the myriad orbs of light!
Through my closed eyelids, by the inner sight,
I see the constellations in the arc
Of their great circles moving on, and hark!
I almost hear them singing in their flight.
Better than sleep it is to lie awake
O'er-canopied by the vast starry dome
Of the immeasurable sky; to feel
The slumbering world sink under us, and make
Hardly an eddy,--a mere rush of foam
On the great sea beneath a sinking keel.
FOUR BY THE CLOCK.
"NAHANT, September 8, 1880,
Four o'clock in the morning."
Four by the clock! and yet not day;
But the great world rolls and wheels away,
With its cities on land, and its ships at sea,
Into the dawn that is to be!
Only the lamp in the anchored bark
Sends its glimmer across the dark,
And the heavy breathing of the sea
Is the only sound that comes to me.
IN MEMORY OF J.T.F.
Until we meet again! That is the meaning
Of the familiar words, that men repeat
At parting in the street.
Ah yes, till then! but when death intervening
Rends us asunder, with what ceaseless pain
We wait for the Again!
The friends who leave us do not feel the sorrow
Of parting, as we feel it, who must stay
Lamenting day by day,
And knowing, when we wake upon the morrow,
We shall not find in its accustomed place
The one beloved face.
It were a double grief, if the departed,
Being released from earth, should still retain
A sense of earthly pain;
It were a double grief, if the true-hearted,
Who loved us here, should on the farther shore
Remember us no more.
Believing, in the midst of our afflictions,
That death is a beginning, not an end,
We cry to them, and send
Farewells, that better might be called predictions,
Being fore-shadowings of the future, thrown
Into the vast Unknown.
Faith overleaps the confines of our reason,
And if by faith, as in old times was said,
Women received their dead
Raised up to life, then only for a season
Our partings are, nor shall we wait in vain
Until we meet again!
Peradventure of old, some bard in Ionian Islands,
Walking alone by the sea, hearing the wash of the waves,
Learned the secret from them of the beautiful verse elegiac,
Breathing into his song motion and sound of the sea.
For as the wave of the sea, upheaving in long undulations,
Plunges loud on the sands, pauses, and turns, and retreats,
So the Hexameter, rising and singing, with cadence sonorous,
Falls; and in refluent rhythm back the Pentameter flows?
Not in his youth alone, but in age, may the heart of the poet
Bloom into song, as the gorse blossoms in autumn and spring.
Not in tenderness wanting, yet rough are the rhymes of our poet;
Though it be Jacob's voice, Esau's, alas! are the hands.
Let us be grateful to writers for what is left in the inkstand;
When to leave off is an art only attained by the few.
How can the Three be One? you ask me; I answer by asking,
Hail and snow and rain, are they not three, and yet one?
By the mirage uplifted the land floats vague in the ether,
Ships and the shadows of ships hang in the motionless air;
So by the art of the poet our common life is uplifted,
So, transfigured, the world floats in a luminous haze.
Like a French poem is Life; being only perfect in structure
When with the masculine rhymes mingled the feminine are.
Down from the mountain descends the brooklet, rejoicing in
Little it dreams of the mill hid in the valley below;
Glad with the joy of existence, the child goes singing and
Little dreaming what toils lie in the future concealed.
As the ink from our pen, so flow our thoughts and our feelings
When we begin to write, however sluggish before.
Like the Kingdom of Heaven, the Fountain of Youth is within us;
If we seek it elsewhere, old shall we grow in the search.
If you would hit the mark, you must aim a little above it;
Every arrow that flies feels the attraction of earth.
Wisely the Hebrews admit no Present tense in their language;
While we are speaking the word, it is is already the Past.
In the twilight of age all things seem strange and phantasmal,
As between daylight and dark ghost-like the landscape appears.
Great is the art of beginning, but greater the art is of ending;
Many a poem is marred by a superfluous verse.
THE CITY AND THE SEA
The panting City cried to the Sea,
"I am faint with heat,--O breathe on me!"
And the Sea said, "Lo, I breathe! but my breath
To some will be life, to others death!"
As to Prometheus, bringing ease
In pain, come the Oceanides,
So to the City, hot with the flame
Of the pitiless sun, the east wind came.
It came from the heaving breast of the deep,
Silent as dreams are, and sudden as sleep.
Life-giving, death-giving, which will it be;
O breath of the merciful, merciless Sea?
Oft I remember those whom I have known
In other days, to whom my heart was led
As by a magnet, and who are not dead,
But absent, and their memories overgrown
With other thoughts and troubles of my own,
As graves with grasses are, and at their head
The stone with moss and lichens so o'erspread,
Nothing is legible but the name alone.
And is it so with them? After long years,
Do they remember me in the same way,
And is the memory pleasant as to me?
I fear to ask; yet wherefore are my fears?
Pleasures, like flowers, may wither and decay,
And yet the root perennial may be.
As Seleucus narrates, Hermes describes the principles that rank
as wholes in two myriads of books; or, as we are informed by
Manetho, he perfectly unfolded these principles in three myriads
six thousand five hundred and twenty-five volumes. . . .
. . . Our ancestors dedicated the inventions of their wisdom to
this deity, inscribing all their own writings with the name of
Still through Egypt's desert places
Flows the lordly Nile,
From its banks the great stone faces
Gaze with patient smile.
Still the pyramids imperious
Pierce the cloudless skies,
And the Sphinx stares with mysterious,
Solemn, stony eyes.
But where are the old Egyptian
Demi-gods and kings?
Nothing left but an inscription
Graven on stones and rings.
Where are Helios and Hephaestus,
Gods of eldest eld?
Where is Hermes Trismegistus,
Who their secrets held?
Where are now the many hundred
Thousand books he wrote?
By the Thaumaturgists plundered,
Lost in lands remote;
In oblivion sunk forever,
As when o'er the land
Blows a storm-wind, in the river
Sinks the scattered sand.
Something unsubstantial, ghostly,
Seems this Theurgist,
In deep meditation mostly
Wrapped, as in a mist.
Vague, phantasmal, and unreal
To our thought he seems,
Walking in a world ideal,
In a land of dreams.
Was he one, or many, merging
Name and fame in one,
Like a stream, to which, converging
Many streamlets run?
Till, with gathered power proceeding,
Ampler sweep it takes,
Downward the sweet waters leading
From unnumbered lakes.
By the Nile I see him wandering,
Pausing now and then,
On the mystic union pondering
Between gods and men;
Half believing, wholly feeling,
With supreme delight,
How the gods, themselves concealing,
Lift men to their height.
Or in Thebes, the hundred-gated,
In the thoroughfare
Breathing, as if consecrated,
A diviner air;
And amid discordant noises,
In the jostling throng,
Hearing far, celestial voices
Of Olympian song.
Who shall call his dreams fallacious?
Who has searched or sought
All the unexplored and spacious
Universe of thought?
Who, in his own skill confiding,
Shall with rule and line
Mark the border-land dividing
Human and divine?
Trismegistus! three times greatest!
How thy name sublime
Has descended to this latest
Progeny of time!
Happy they whose written pages
Perish with their lives,
If amid the crumbling ages
Still their name survives!
Thine, O priest of Egypt, lately
Found I in the vast,
Weed-encumbered sombre, stately,
Grave-yard of the Past;
And a presence moved before me
On that gloomy shore,
As a waft of wind, that o'er me
Breathed, and was no more.
TO THE AVON
Flow on, sweet river! like his verse
Who lies beneath this sculptured hearse
Nor wait beside the churchyard wall
For him who cannot hear thy call.
Thy playmate once; I see him now
A boy with sunshine on his brow,
And hear in Stratford's quiet street
The patter of his little feet.
I see him by thy shallow edge
Wading knee-deep amid the sedge;
And lost in thought, as if thy stream
Were the swift river of a dream.
He wonders whitherward it flows;
And fain would follow where it goes,
To the wide world, that shall erelong
Be filled with his melodious song.
Flow on, fair stream! That dream is o'er;
He stands upon another shore;
A vaster river near him flows,
And still he follows where it goes.
"E venni dal martirio a questa pace."
These words the poet heard in Paradise,
Uttered by one who, bravely dying here,
In the true faith was living in that sphere
Where the celestial cross of sacrifice
Spread its protecting arms athwart the skies;
And set thereon, like jewels crystal clear,
The souls magnanimous, that knew not fear,
Flashed their effulgence on his dazzled eyes.
Ah me! how dark the discipline of pain,
Were not the suffering followed by the sense
Of infinite rest and infinite release!
This is our consolation; and again
A great soul cries to us in our suspense,
"I came from martyrdom unto this peace!"
Sadly as some old mediaeval knight
Gazed at the arms he could no longer wield,
The sword two-handed and the shining shield
Suspended in the hall, and full in sight,
While secret longings for the lost delight
Of tourney or adventure in the field
Came over him, and tears but half concealed
Trembled and fell upon his beard of white,
So I behold these books upon their shelf,
My ornaments and arms of other days;
Not wholly useless, though no longer used,
For they remind me of my other self,
Younger and stronger, and the pleasant ways
In which I walked, now clouded and confused.
IN THE WHITE MOUNTAINS
Why dost thou wildly rush and roar,
Mad River, O Mad River?
Wilt thou not pause and cease to pour
Thy hurrying, headlong waters o'er
This rocky shelf forever?
What secret trouble stirs thy breast?
Why all this fret and flurry?
Dost thou not know that what is best
In this too restless world is rest
From over-work and worry?
What wouldst thou in these mountains seek,
O stranger from the city?
Is it perhaps some foolish freak
Of thine, to put the words I speak
Into a plaintive ditty?
Yes; I would learn of thee thy song,
With all its flowing number;
And in a voice as fresh and strong
As thine is, sing it all day long,
And hear it in my slumbers.
A brooklet nameless and unknown
Was I at first, resembling
A little child, that all alone
Comes venturing down the stairs of stone,
Irresolute and trembling.
Later, by wayward fancies led,
For the wide world I panted;
Out of the forest dark and dread
Across the open fields I fled,
Like one pursued and haunted.
I tossed my arms, I sang aloud,
My voice exultant blending
With thunder from the passing cloud,
The wind, the forest bent and bowed,
The rush of rain descending.
I heard the distant ocean call,
Imploring and entreating;
Drawn onward, o'er this rocky wall
I plunged, and the loud waterfall
Made answer to the greeting.
And now, beset with many ills,
A toilsome life I follow;
Compelled to carry from the hills
These logs to the impatient mills
Below there in the hollow.
Yet something ever cheers and charms
The rudeness of my labors;
Daily I water with these arms
The cattle of a hundred farms,
And have the birds for neighbors.
Men call me Mad, and well they may,
When, full of rage and trouble,
I burst my banks of sand and clay,
And sweep their wooden bridge away,
Like withered reeds or stubble.
Now go and write thy little rhyme,
As of thine own creating.
Thou seest the day is past its prime;
I can no longer waste my time;
The mills are tired of waiting.
Where are the Poets, unto whom belong
The Olympian heights; whose singing shafts were sent
Straight to the mark, and not from bows half bent,
But with the utmost tension of the thong?
Where are the stately argosies of song,
Whose rushing keels made music as they went
Sailing in search of some new continent,
With all sail set, and steady winds and strong?
Perhaps there lives some dreamy boy, untaught
In schools, some graduate of the field or street,
Who shall become a master of the art,
An admiral sailing the high seas of thought,
Fearless and first and steering with his fleet
For lands not yet laid down in any chart.
Sleep, comrades, sleep and rest
On this Field of the Grounded Arms,
Where foes no more molest,
Nor sentry's shot alarms!
Ye have slept on the ground before,
And started to your feet
At the cannon's sudden roar,
Or the drum's redoubling beat.
But in this camp of Death
No sound your slumber breaks;
Here is no fevered breath,
No wound that bleeds and aches.
All is repose and peace,
Untrampled lies the sod;
The shouts of battle cease,
It is the Truce of God!
Rest, comrades, rest and sleep!
The thoughts of men shall be
As sentinels to keep
Your rest from danger free.
Your silent tents of green
We deck with fragrant flowers;
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours.
Awake! arise! the hour is late!
Angels are knocking at thy door!
They are in haste and cannot wait,
And once departed come no more.
Awake! arise! the athlete's arm
Loses its strength by too much rest;
The fallow land, the untilled farm
Produces only weeds at best.
LOSS AND GAIN
When I compare
What I have lost with what I have gained,
What I have missed with what attained,
Little room do I find for pride.
I am aware
How many days have been idly spent;
How like an arrow the good intent
Has fallen short or been turned aside.
But who shall dare
To measure loss and gain in this wise?
Defeat may be victory in disguise;
The lowest ebb is the turn of the tide.
INSCRIPTION ON THE SHANKLIN FOUNTAIN
O traveller, stay thy weary feet;
Drink of this fountain, pure and sweet;
It flows for rich and poor the same.
Then go thy way, remembering still
The wayside well beneath the hill,
The cup of water in His name.
THE BELLS OF SAN BLAS
What say the Bells of San Blas
To the ships that southward pass
From the harbor of Mazatlan?
To them it is nothing more
Than the sound of surf on the shore,--
Nothing more to master or man.
But to me, a dreamer of dreams,
To whom what is and what seems
Are often one and the same,--
The Bells of San Blas to me
Have a strange, wild melody,
And are something more than a name.
For bells are the voice of the church;
They have tones that touch and search
The hearts of young and old;
One sound to all, yet each
Lends a meaning to their speech,
And the meaning is manifold.
They are a voice of the Past,
Of an age that is fading fast,
Of a power austere and grand,
When the flag of Spain unfurled
Its folds o'er this western world,
And the Priest was lord of the land.
The chapel that once looked down
On the little seaport town
Has crumbled into the dust;
And on oaken beams below
The bells swing to and fro,
And are green with mould and rust.
"Is, then, the old faith dead,"
They say, "and in its stead
Is some new faith proclaimed,
That we are forced to remain
Naked to sun and rain,
Unsheltered and ashamed?
"Once, in our tower aloof,
We rang over wall and roof
Our warnings and our complaints;
And round about us there
The white doves filled the air,
Like the white souls of the saints.
"The saints! Ah, have they grown
Forgetful of their own?
Are they asleep, or dead,
That open to the sky
Their ruined Missions lie,
No longer tenanted?
"Oh, bring us back once more
The vanished days of yore,
When the world with faith was filled;
Bring back the fervid zeal,
The hearts of fire and steel,
The hands that believe and build.
"Then from our tower again
We will send over land and main
Our voices of command,
Like exiled kings who return
To their thrones, and the people learn
That the Priest is lord of the land!"
O Bells of San Blas in vain
Ye call back the Past again;
The Past is deaf to your prayer!
Out of the shadows of night
The world rolls into light;
It is daybreak everywhere.
October 22, 1838.
Neglected record of a mind neglected,
Unto what "lets and stops" art thou subjected!
The day with all its toils and occupations,
The night with its reflections and sensations,
The future, and the present, and the past,--
All I remember, feel, and hope at last,
All shapes of joy and sorrow, as they pass,--
Find but a dusty image in this glass.
August 18, 1847.
O faithful, indefatigable tides,
That evermore upon God's errands go,--
Now seaward bearing tidings of the land,--
Now landward bearing tidings of the sea,--
And filling every frith and estuary,
Each arm of the great sea, each little creek,
Each thread and filament of water-courses,
Full with your ministration of delight!
Under the rafters of this wooden bridge
I see you come and go; sometimes in haste
To reach your journey's end, which being done
With feet unrested ye return again
And recommence the never-ending task;
Patient, whatever burdens ye may bear,
And fretted only by the impeding rocks.
December 18, 1847.
Soft through the silent air descend the feathery snow-flakes;
White are the distant hills, white are the neighboring fields;
Only the marshes are brown, and the river rolling among them
Weareth the leaden hue seen in the eyes of the blind.
August 4, 1856.
A lovely morning, without the glare of the sun, the sea in great
commotion, chafing and foaming.
So from the bosom of darkness our days come roaring and gleaming,
Chafe and break into foam, sink into darkness again.
But on the shores of Time each leaves some trace of its passage,
Though the succeeding wave washes it out from the sand.
CHRISTUS: A MYSTERY
The ANGEL bearing the PROPHET HABAKKUK through the air.
Why dost thou bear me aloft,
O Angel of God, on thy pinions
O'er realms and dominions?
Softly I float as a cloud
In air, for thy right hand upholds me,
Thy garment enfolds me!
Lo! as I passed on my way
In the harvest-field I beheld thee,
When no man compelled thee,
Bearing with thine own hands
This food to the famishing reapers,
A flock without keepers!
The fragrant sheaves of the wheat
Made the air above them sweet;
Sweeter and more divine
Was the scent of the scattered grain,
That the reaper's hand let fall
To be gathered again
By the hand of the gleaner!
Sweetest, divinest of all,
Was the humble deed of thine,
And the meekness of thy demeanor!
Angel of Light,
I cannot gainsay thee,
I can but obey thee!
Beautiful was it in the lord's sight,
To behold his Prophet
Feeding those that toil,
The tillers of the soil.
But why should the reapers eat of it
And not the Prophet of Zion
In the den of the lion?
The Prophet should feed the Prophet!
Therefore I thee have uplifted,
And bear thee aloft by the hair
Of thy head, like a cloud that is drifted
Through the vast unknown of the air!
Five days hath the Prophet been lying
In Babylon, in the den
Of the lions, death-defying,
Defying hunger and thirst;
But the worst
Is the mockery of men!
Alas! how full of fear
Is the fate of Prophet and Seer!
It shall be as it hath been heretofore;
The age in which they live
Will not forgive
The splendor of the everlasting light,
That makes their foreheads bright,
Nor the sublime
Fore-running of their time!
Oh tell me, for thou knowest,
Wherefore and by what grace,
Have I, who am least and lowest,
Been chosen to this place,
To this exalted part?
Because thou art
The Struggler; and from thy youth
Thy humble and patient life
Hath been a strife
And battle for the Truth;
Nor hast thou paused nor halted,
Nor ever in thy pride
Turned from the poor aside,
But with deed and word and pen
Hast served thy fellow-men;
Therefore art thou exalted!
By thine arrow's light
Thou goest onward through the night,
And by the clear
Sheen of thy glittering spear!
When will our journey end?
Lo, it is ended!
Yon silver gleam
Is the Euphrates' stream.
Let us descend
Into the city splendid,
Into the City of Gold!
As if the stars had fallen from their places
Into the firmament below,
The streets, the gardens, and the vacant spaces
With light are all aglow;
As we draw near,
What sound is it I hear
Ascending through the dark?
The tumultuous noise of the nations,
Their rejoicings and lamentations,
The pleadings of their prayer,
The groans of their despair,
The cry of their imprecations,
Their wrath, their love, their hate!
Surely the world doth wait
The coming of its Redeemer!
Awake from thy sleep, O dreamer?
The hour is near, though late;
Awake! write the vision sublime,
The vision, that is for a time,
Though it tarry, wait; it is nigh;
In the end it will speak and not lie.
THE DIVINE TRAGEDY
THE FIRST PASSOVER
JOHN THE BAPTIST.
Repent! repent! repent!
For the kingdom of God is at hand,
And all the land
Full of the knowledge of the Lord shall be
As the waters cover the sea,
And encircle the continent!
Repent! repent! repent!
For lo, the hour appointed,
The hour so long foretold
By the Prophets of old,
Of the coming of the Anointed,
The Messiah, the Paraclete,
The Desire of the Nations, is nigh!
He shall not strive nor cry,
Nor his voice be heard in the street;
Nor the bruised reed shall He break,
Nor quench the smoking flax;
And many of them that sleep
In the dust of earth shall awake,
On that great and terrible day,
And the wicked shall wail and weep,
And be blown like a smoke away,
And be melted away like wax.
Repent! repent! repent!
O Priest, and Pharisee,
Who hath warned you to flee
From the wrath that is to be?
From the coming anguish and ire?
The axe is laid at the root
Of the trees, and every tree
That bringeth not forth good fruit
Is hewn down and cast into the fire!
Ye Scribes, why come ye hither?
In the hour that is uncertain,
In the day of anguish and trouble,
He that stretcheth the heavens as a curtain
And spreadeth them out as a tent,
Shall blow upon you, and ye shall wither,
And the whirlwind shall take you away as stubble!
Repent! repent! repent!
Who art thou, O man of prayer!
In raiment of camel's hair,
Begirt with leathern thong,
That here in the wilderness,
With a cry as of one in distress,
Preachest unto this throng?
Art thou the Christ?
Priest of Jerusalem,
In meekness and humbleness,
I deny not, I confess
I am not the Christ!
What shall we say unto them
That sent us here? Reveal
Thy name, and naught conceal!
Art thou Elias?
Art thou that Prophet, then,
Of lamentation and woe,
Who, as a symbol and sign
Of impending wrath divine
Upon unbelieving men,
Shattered the vessel of clay
In the Valley of Slaughter?
I am not he thou namest!
Who art thou, and what is the word
That here thou proclaimest?
I am the voice of one
Crying in the wilderness alone:
Prepare ye the way of the Lord;
Make his paths straight
In the land that is desolate!
If thou be not the Christ,
Nor yet Elias, nor he
That, in sign of the things to be,
Shattered the vessel of clay
In the Valley of Slaughter,
Then declare unto us, and say
By what authority now
I indeed baptize you with water
Unto repentance; but He,
That cometh after me,
Is mightier than I and higher;
The latchet of whose shoes
I an not worthy to unloose;
He shall baptize you with fire,
And with the Holy Ghost!
Whose fan is in his hand;
He will purge to the uttermost
His floor, and garner his wheat,
But will burn the chaff in the brand
And fire of unquenchable heat!
Repent! repent! repent!
Not in the lightning's flash, nor in the thunder,
Not in the tempest, nor the cloudy storm,
Will I array my form;
But part invisible these boughs asunder,
And move and murmur as the wind upheaves
And whispers in the leaves.
Not as a terror and a desolation,
Not in my natural shape, inspiring fear
And dread, will I appear;
But in soft tones of sweetness and persuasion,
A sound as of the fall of mountain streams,
Or voices heard in dreams.
He sitteth there in silence, worn and wasted
With famine, and uplifts his hollow eyes
To the unpitying skies;
For forty days and nights he hath not tasted
Of food or drink, his parted lips are pale,
Surely his strength must fail.
Wherefore dost thou in penitential fasting
Waste and consume the beauty of thy youth.
Ah, if thou be in truth
The Son of the Unnamed, the Everlasting,
Command these stones beneath thy feet to be
Changed into bread for thee!
'T is written! Man shall not live by bread alone,
But by each word that from God's mouth proceedeth!
Too weak, alas! too weak is the temptation
For one whose soul to nobler things aspires
Than sensual desires!
Ah, could I, by some sudden aberration,
Lend and delude to suicidal death
This Christ of Nazareth!
Unto the holy Temple on Moriah,
With its resplendent domes, and manifold
Bright pinnacles of gold,
Where they await thy coming, O Messiah!
Lo, I have brought thee! Let thy glory here
Be manifest and clear.
Reveal thyself by royal act and gesture
Descending with the bright triumphant host
Of all the hithermost
Archangels, and about thee as a vesture
The shining clouds, and all thy splendors show
Unto the world below!
Cast thyself down, it is the hour appointed;
And God hath given his angels charge and care
To keep thee and upbear
Upon their hands his only Son, the Anointed,
Lest he should dash his foot against a stone
And die, and be unknown.
'T is written: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God!
I cannot thus delude him to perdition!
But one temptation still remains untried,
The trial of his pride,
The thirst of power, the fever of ambition!
Surely by these a humble peasant's son
At last may be undone!
Above the yawning chasms and deep abysses,
Across the headlong torrents, I have brought
Thy footsteps, swift as thought;
And from the highest of these precipices,
The Kingdoms of the world thine eyes behold.
Like a great map unrolled.
From far-off Lebanon, with cedars crested,
To where the waters of the Asphalt Lake
On its white pebbles break,
And the vast desert, silent, sand-invested,
These kingdoms all are mine, and thine shall be,
If thou wilt worship me!
Get thee behind me, Satan! thou shalt worship
The Lord thy God; Him only shalt thou serve!
The sun goes down; the evening shadows lengthen,
The fever and the struggle of the day
Abate and pass away;
Thine Angels Miniatrant, we come to strengthen
And comfort thee, and crown thee with the palm,
The silence and the calm.
THE MARRIAGE IN CANA
Rise up, my love, my fair one,
Rise up, and come away,
For lo! the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone,
The flowers appear on the earth,
The time of the singing of birds is come,
And the voice of the turtle is heard in our land.
Sweetly the minstrels sing the Song of Songs!
My heart runs forward with it, and I say:
Oh set me as a seal upon thine heart,
And set me as a seal upon thine arm;
For love is strong as life, and strong as death,
And cruel as the grave is jealousy!
I sleep, but my heart awaketh;
'T is the voice of my beloved
Who knocketh, saying: Open to me,
My sister, my love, my dove,
For my head is filled with dew,
My locks with the drops of the night!
Ah yes, I sleep, and yet my heart awaketh.
It is the voice of my beloved who knocks.
O beautiful as Rebecca at the fountain,
O beautiful as Ruth among the sheaves!
O fairest among women! O undefiled!
Thou art all fair, my love, there's no spot in thee!
My beloved is white and ruddy,
The chiefest among ten thousand
His locks are black as a raven,
His eyes are the eyes of doves,
Of doves by the rivers of water,
His lips are like unto lilies,
Dropping sweet-smelling myrrh.
Who is that youth with the dark azure eyes,
And hair, in color like unto the wine,
Parted upon his forehead, and behind
Falling in flowing locks?
Who preacheth to the poor in field and village
The coming of God's Kingdom.
His aspect is! manly yet womanly.
Most beautiful among the sons of men!
Oft known to weep, but never known to laugh.
And tell me, she with eyes of olive tint,
And skin as fair as wheat, and pale brown hair,
The woman at his side?
His mother, Mary.
And the tall figure standing close behind them,
Clad all in white, with lace and beard like ashes,
As if he were Elias, the White Witness,
Come from his cave on Carmel to foretell
The end of all things?
That is Manahem
The Essenian, he who dwells among the palms
Near the Dead Sea.
He who foretold to Herod
He should one day be King?
Doth he come here to sadden with his presence
Our marriage feast, belonging to a sect
Haters of women, and that taste not wine?
My undefiled is but one,
The only one of her mother,
The choice of her that bare her;
The daughters saw her and blessed her;
The queens and the concubines praised her;
Saying, Lo! who is this
That looketh forth as the morning?
The Ruler of the Feast is gazing at me,
As if he asked, why is that old man here
Among the revellers? And thou, the Anointed!
Why art thou here? I see as in a vision
A figure clothed in purple, crowned with thorns;
I see a cross uplifted in the darkness,
And hear a cry of agony, that shall echo
Forever and forever through the world!
Give us more wine. These goblets are all empty.
MARY to CHRISTUS.
They have no wine!
O woman, what have I
To do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come.
MARY to the servants.
Whatever he shall say to you, that do.
Fill up these pots with water.
Come, my beloved,
Let us go forth into the field,
Let us lodge in the villages;
Let us get up early to the vineyards,
Let us see if the vine flourish,
Whether the tender grape appear,
And the pomegranates bud forth.
Draw out now
And bear unto the Ruler of the Feast.
O thou, brought up among the Essenians,
Nurtured in abstinence, taste not the wine!
It is the poison of dragons from the vineyards
Of Sodom, and the taste of death is in it!
ARCHITRICLINUS to the BRIDEGROOM.
All men set forth good wine at the beginning,
And when men have well drunk, that which is worse;
But thou hast kept the good wine until now.
The things that have been and shall be no more,
The things that are, and that hereafter shall he,
The things that might have been, and yet were not,
The fading twilight of great joys departed,
The daybreak of great truths as yet unrisen,
The intuition and the expectation
Of something, which, when come, is not the same,
But only like its forecast in men's dreams,
The longing, the delay, and the delight,
Sweeter for the delay; youth, hope, love, death,
And disappointment which is also death,
All these make up the sum of human life;
A dream within a dream, a wind at night
Howling across the desert in despair,
Seeking for something lost it cannot find.
Fate or foreseeing, or whatever name
Men call it, matters not; what is to be
Hath been fore-written in the thought divine
From the beginning. None can hide from it,
But it will find him out; nor run from it,
But it o'ertaketh him! The Lord hath said it.
THE BRIDEGROOM to the BRIDE, on the balcony.
When Abraham went with Sarah into Egypt,
The land was all illumined with her beauty;
But thou dost make the very night itself
Brighter than day! Behold, in glad procession,
Crowding the threshold of the sky above us,
The stars come forth to meet thee with their lamps;
And the soft winds, the ambassadors of flowers,
From neighboring gardens and from fields unseen,
Come laden with odors unto thee, my Queen!
Awake, O north-wind,
And come, thou wind of the South.
Blow, blow upon my garden,
That the spices thereof may flow out.
IN THE CORNFIELDS
Onward through leagues of sun-illumined corn,
As if through parted seas, the pathway runs,
And crowned with sunshine as the Prince of Peace
Walks the beloved Master, leading us,
As Moses led our fathers in old times
Out of the land of bondage! We have found
Him of whom Moses and the Prophets wrote,
Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Joseph.
Can any good come out of Nazareth?
Can this be the Messiah?
Come and see.
The summer sun grows hot: I am anhungered.
How cheerily the Sabbath-breaking quail
Pipes in the corn, and bids us to his Feast
Of Wheat Sheaves! How the bearded, ripening ears
Toss in the roofless temple of the air;
As if the unseen hand of some High-Priest
Waved them before Mount Tabor as an altar!
It were no harm, if we should pluck and eat.
How wonderful it is to walk abroad
With the Good Master! Since the miracle
He wrought at Cana, at the marriage feast,
His fame hath gone abroad through all the land,
And when we come to Nazareth, thou shalt see
How his own people will receive their Prophet,
And hail him as Messiah! See, he turns
And looks at thee.
Behold an Israelite
In whom there is no guile.
Whence knowest thou me?
Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast
Under the fig-tree, I beheld thee.
Thou art the Son of God, thou art the King
Because I said I saw thee
Under the fig-tree, before Philip called thee,
Believest thou? Thou shalt see greater things.
Hereafter thou shalt see the heavens unclosed,
The angels of God ascending and descending
Upon the Son of Man!
Behold how thy disciples do a thing
Which is not lawful on the Sabbath-day,
And thou forbiddest them not!
Have ye not read
What David did when he anhungered was,
And all they that were with him? How he entered
Into the house of God, and ate the shew-bread,
Which was not lawful, saving for the priests?
Have ye not read, how on the Sabbath-days
The priests profane the Sabbath in the Temple,
And yet are blameless? But I say to you,
One in this place is greater than the Temple!
And had ye known the meaning of the words,
I will have mercy and not sacrifice,
The guiltless ye would not condemn. The Sabbath
Was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.
Passes on with the disciples.
This is, alas! some poor demoniac
Wandering about the fields, and uttering
His unintelligible blasphemies
Among the common people, who receive
As prophecies the words they comprehend not!
Deluded folk! The incomprehensible
Alone excites their wonder. There is none
So visionary, or so void of sense,
But he will find a crowd to follow him!
CHRISTUS, reading in the Synagogue.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me.
He hath anointed me to preach good tidings
Unto the poor; to heal the broken-hearted;
To comfort those that mourn, and to throw open
The prison doors of captives, and proclaim
The Year Acceptable of the Lord, our God!
He closes the book and sits down.
Who is this youth? He hath taken the Teacher's seat!
Will he instruct the Elders?
Have I been Priest here in the Synagogue,
And never have I seen so young a man
Sit in the Teacher's seat!
This scripture is fulfilled. One is appointed
And hath been sent to them that mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes, and the oil
Of joy for mourning! They shall build again
The old waste-places; and again raise up
The former desolations, and repair
The cities that are wasted! As a bridegroom
Decketh himself with ornaments; as a bride
Adorneth herself with jewels, so the Lord
Hath clothed me with the robe of righteousness!
He speaks the Prophet's words; but with an air
As if himself had been foreshadowed in them!
For Zion's sake I will not hold my peace,
And for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest
Until its righteousness be as a brightness,
And its salvation as a lamp that burneth!
Thou shalt be called no longer the Forsaken,
Nor any more thy land the Desolate.
The Lord hath sworn, by his right hand hath sworn,
And by his arm of strength: I will no more
Give to thine enemies thy corn as meat;
The sons of strangers shall not drink thy wine.
Go through, go through the gates! Prepare a way
Unto the people! Gather out the stones!
Lift up a standard for the people!
These are seditious words!
And they shall call them
The holy people; the redeemed of God!
And thou, Jerusalem, shalt be called Sought out,
A city not forsaken!
Is not this
The carpenter Joseph's son? Is not his mother
Called Mary? and his brethren and his sisters
Are they not with us? Doth he make himself
To be a Prophet?
No man is a Prophet
In his own country, and among his kin.
In his own house no Prophet is accepted.
I say to you, in the land of Israel
Were many widows in Elijah's day,
When for three years and more the heavens were shut,
And a great famine was throughout the land;
But unto no one was Elijah sent
Save to Sarepta, to a city of Sidon,
And to a woman there that was a widow.
And many lepers were then in the land
Of Israel, in the time of Eliseus
The Prophet, and yet none of them was cleansed,
Save Naaman the Syrian!
Say no more!
Thou comest here into our Synagogue
And speakest to the Elders and the Priests,
As if the very mantle of Elijah
Had fallen upon thee! Are thou not ashamed?
We want no Prophets here! Let him be driven
From Synagogue and city! Let him go
And prophesy to the Samaritans!
The world is changed. We Elders are as nothing!
We are but yesterdays, that have no part
Or portion in to-day! Dry leaves that rustle,
That make a little sound, and then are dust!
A carpenter's apprentice! a mechanic,
Whom we have seen at work here in the town
Day after day; a stripling without learning,
Shall he pretend to unfold the Word of God
To men grown old in study of the Law?
CHRISTUS is thrust out.
THE SEA OF GALILEE.
PETER and ANDREW mending their nets.
Never was such a marvellous draught of fishes
Heard of in Galilee! The market-places
Both of Bethsaida and Capernaum
Are full of them! Yet we had toiled all night
And taken nothing, when the Master said:
Launch out into the deep, and cast your nets;
And doing this, we caught such multitudes,
Our nets like spiders' webs were snapped asunder,
And with the draught we filled two ships so full
That they began to sink. Then I knelt down
Amazed, and said: O Lord, depart from me,
I am a sinful man. And he made answer:
Simon, fear not; henceforth thou shalt catch men!
What was the meaning of those words?
I know not.
But here is Philip, come from Nazareth.
He hath been with the Master. Tell us, Philip,
What tidings dost thou bring?
As we drew near to Nain, out of the gate
Upon a bier was carried the dead body
Of a young man, his mother's only son,
And she a widow, who with lamentation
Bewailed her loss, and the much people with her;
And when the Master saw her he was filled
With pity; and he said to her: Weep not
And came and touched the bier, and they that bare it
Stood still; and then he said: Young man, arise!
And he that had been dead sat up, and soon
Began to speak; and he delivered him
Unto his mother. And there came a fear
On all the people, and they glorified
The Lord, and said, rejoicing: A great Prophet
Is risen up among us! and the Lord
Hath visited his people!
A great Prophet?
Ay, greater than a Prophet: greater even
Than John the Baptist!
Yet the Nazarenes
The Nazarenes are dogs!
As natural brute beasts, they growl at things
They do not understand; and they shall perish,
Utterly perish in their own corruption.
The Nazarenes are dogs!
They drave him forth
Out of their Synagogue, out of their city,
And would have cast him down a precipice,
But, passing through the midst of them, he vanished
Out of their hands.
Wells are they without water,
Clouds carried with a tempest, unto whom
The mist of darkness is reserved forever.
Behold, he cometh. There is one man with him
I am amazed to see!
What man is that?
Judas Iscariot; he that cometh last,
Girt with a leathern apron. No one knoweth
His history; but the rumor of him is
He had an unclean spirit in his youth.
It hath not left him yet.
Come unto me,
All ye that labor and are heavy laden,
And I will give you rest! Come unto me,
And take my yoke upon you and learn of me,
For I am meek, and I am lowly in heart,
And ye shall all find rest unto your souls!
Oh, there is something in that voice that reaches
The innermost recesses of my spirit!
I feel that it might say unto the blind:
Receive your sight! and straightway they would see!
I feel that it might say unto the dead,
Arise! and they would hear it and obey!
Behold, he beckons to us!
CHRISTUS to PETER and ANDREW.
Master, I will leave all and follow thee.
THE DEMONIAC OF GADARA
He hath escaped, hath plucked his chains asunder,
And broken his fetters; always night and day
Is in the mountains here, and in the tombs,
Crying aloud, and cutting himself with stones,
Exceeding fierce, so that no man can tame him!
THE DEMONIAC from above, unseen.
O Aschmedai! O Aschmedai, have pity!
Listen! It is his voice! Go warn the people
Just landing from the lake!
Thou angel of the bottomless pit, have pity!
It was enough to hurl King Solomon,
On whom be peace! two hundred leagues away
Into the country, and to make him scullion
In the kitchen of the King of Maschkemen!
Why dost thou hurl me here among these rocks,
And cut me with these stones?
He raves and mutters
He knows not what.
THE DEMONIAC, appearing from a tomb among the rocks.
The wild cock Tarnegal
Singeth to me, and bids me to the banquet,
Where all the Jews shall come; for they have slain
Behemoth the great ox, who daily cropped
A thousand hills for food, and at a draught
Drank up the river Jordan, and have slain
The huge Leviathan, and stretched his skin
Upon the high walls of Jerusalem,
And made them shine from one end of the world
Unto the other; and the fowl Barjuchne,
Whose outspread wings eclipse the sun, and make
Midnight at noon o'er all the continents!
And we shall drink the wine of Paradise
From Adam's cellars.
O thou unclean spirit!
THE DEMONIAC, hurling down a stone.
This is the wonderful Barjuchne's egg,
That fell out of her nest, and broke to pieces
And swept away three hundred cedar-trees,
And threescore villages!--Rabbi Eliezer,
How thou didst sin there in that seaport town
When thou hadst carried safe thy chest of silver
Over the seven rivers for her sake!
I too have sinned beyond the reach of pardon.
Ye hills and mountains, pray for mercy on me!
Ye stars and planets, pray for mercy on me!
Ye sun and moon, oh pray for mercy on me!
CHRISTUS and his disciples pass.
There is a man here of Decapolis,
Who hath an unclean spirit; so that none
Can pass this way. He lives among the tombs
Up there upon the cliffs, and hurls down stones
On those who pass beneath.
Come out of him,
Thou unclean spirit!
What have I to do
With thee, thou Son of God? Do not torment us.
What is thy name?
Legion; for we are many.
Cain, the first murderer; and the King Belshazzar,
And Evil Merodach of Babylon,
And Admatha, the death-cloud, prince of Persia
And Aschmedai the angel of the pit,
And many other devils. We are Legion.
Send us not forth beyond Decapolis;
Command us not to go into the deep!
There is a herd of swine here in the pastures,
Let us go into them.
Come out of him,
Thou unclean spirit!
See how stupefied,
How motionless he stands! He cries no more;
He seems bewildered and in silence stares
As one who, walking in his sleep, awakes
And knows not where he is, and looks about him,
And at his nakedness, and is ashamed.
Why am I here alone among the tombs?
What have they done to me, that I am naked?
Ah, woe is me!
Go home unto thy friends
And tell them how great things the Lord hath done
For thee, and how He had compassion on thee!
A SWINEHERD, running.
The herds! the herd! O most unlucky day!
They were all feeding quiet in the sun,
When suddenly they started, and grew savage
As the wild boars of Tabor, and together
Rushed down a precipice into the sea!
They are all drowned!
Thus righteously are punished
The apostate Jews, that eat the flesh of swine,
And broth of such abominable things!
GREEKS OF GADARA.
We sacrifice a sow unto Demeter
At the beginning of harvest and another
To Dionysus at the vintage-time.
Therefore we prize our herds of swine, and count them
Not as unclean, but as things consecrate
To the immortal gods. O great magician,
Depart out of our coasts; let us alone,
We are afraid of thee.
Let us depart;
For they that sanctify and purify
Themselves in gardens, eating flesh of swine.
And the abomination, and the mouse,
Shall be consumed together, saith the Lord!
JAIRUS at the feet of CHRISTUS.
O Master! I entreat thee! I implore thee!
My daughter lieth at the point of death;
I pray thee come and lay thy hands upon her,
And she shall live!
Who was it touched my garments?
Thou seest the multitude that throng and press thee,
And sayest thou: Who touched me? 'T was not I.
Some one hath touched my garments; I perceive
That virtue is gone out of me.
Forgive me! For I said within myself,
If I so much as touch his garment's hem,
I shall be whole.
Be of good comfort, daughter!
Thy faith hath made thee whole. Depart in peace.
A MESSENGER from the house.
Why troublest thou the Master? Hearest thou not
The flute players, and the voices of the women
Singing their lamentation? She is dead!
THE MINSTRELS AND MOURNERS.
We have girded ourselves with sackcloth!
We have covered our heads with ashes!
For our young men die, and our maidens
Swoon in the streets of the city;
And into their mother's bosom
They pour out their souls like water!
CHRISTUS, going in.
Give place. Why make ye this ado, and weep?
She is not dead, but sleepeth.
THE MOTHER, from within.
To take away front me this tender blossom!
To take away my dove, my lamb, my darling!
THE MINSTRELS AND MOURNERS.
He hath led me and brought into darkness,
Like the dead of old in dark places!
He hath bent his bow, and hath set me
Apart as a mark for his arrow!
He hath covered himself with a cloud,
That our prayer should not pass through and reach him!
He stands beside her bed! He takes her hand!
Listen, he speaks to her!
See, she obeys his voice! She stirs! She lives!
Her mother holds her folded in her arms!
O miracle of miracles! O marvel!
THE TOWER OF MAGDALA
Companionless, unsatisfied, forlorn,
I sit here in this lonely tower, and look
Upon the lake below me, and the hills
That swoon with heat, and see as in a vision
All my past life unroll itself before me.
The princes and the merchants come to me,
Merchants of Tyre and Princes of Damascus.
And pass, and disappear, and are no more;
But leave behind their merchandise and jewels,
Their perfumes, and their gold, and their disgust.
I loathe them, and the very memory of them
Is unto me as thought of food to one
Cloyed with the luscious figs of Dalmanutha!
What if hereafter, in the long hereafter
Of endless joy or pain, or joy in pain,
It were my punishment to be with them
Grown hideous and decrepit in their sins,
And hear them say: Thou that hast brought us here,
Be unto us as thou hast been of old!
I look upon this raiment that I wear,
These silks, and these embroideries, and they seem
Only as cerements wrapped about my limbs!
I look upon these rings thick set with pearls,
And emerald and amethyst and jasper,
And they are burning coals upon my flesh!
This serpent on my wrist becomes alive!
Away, thou viper! and away, ye garlands,
Whose odors bring the swift remembrance back
Of the unhallowed revels in these chambers!
But yesterday,--and yet it seems to me
Something remote, like a pathetic song
Sung long ago by minstrels in the street,--
But yesterday, as from this tower I gazed,
Over the olive and the walnut trees
Upon the lake and the white ships, and wondered
Whither and whence they steered, and who was in them,
A fisher's boat drew near the landing-place
Under the oleanders, and the people
Came up from it, and passed beneath the tower,
Close under me. In front of them, as leader,
Walked one of royal aspect, clothed in white,
Who lifted up his eyes, and looked at me,
And all at once the air seemed filled and living
With a mysterious power, that streamed from him,
And overflowed me with an atmosphere
Of light and love. As one entranced I stood,
And when I woke again, lo! he was gone;
So that I said: Perhaps it is a dream.
But from that very hour the seven demons
That had their habitation in this body
Which men call beautiful, departed from me!
This morning, when the first gleam of the dawn
Made Lebanon a glory in the air,
And all below was darkness, I beheld
An angel, or a spirit glorified,
With wind-tossed garments walking on the lake.
The face I could not see, but I distinguished
The attitude and gesture, and I knew
'T was he that healed me. And the gusty wind
Brought to mine ears a voice, which seemed to say:
Be of good cheer! 'T is I! Be not afraid!
And from the darkness, scarcely heard, the answer:
If it be thou, bid me come unto thee
Upon the water! And the voice said: Come!
And then I heard a cry of fear: Lord, save me!
As of a drowning man. And then the voice:
Why didst thou doubt, O thou of little faith!
At this all vanished, and the wind was hushed,
And the great sun came up above the hills,
And the swift-flying vapors hid themselves
In caverns among the rocks! Oh, I must find him
And follow him, and be with him forever!
Thou box of alabaster, in whose walls
The souls of flowers lie pent, the precious balm
And spikenard of Arabian farms, the spirits
Of aromatic herbs, ethereal natures
Nursed by the sun and dew, not all unworthy
To bathe his consecrated feet, whose step
Makes every threshold holy that he crosses;
Let us go forth upon our pilgrimage,
Thou and I only! Let us search for him
Until we find him, and pour out our souls
Before his feet, till all that's left of us
Shall be the broken caskets that once held us!
THE HOUSE OF SIMON THE PHARISEE
A GUEST at table.
Are ye deceived? Have any of the Rulers
Believed on him? or do they know indeed
This man to be the very Christ? Howbeit
We know whence this man is, but when the Christ
Shall come, none knoweth whence he is.
Whereunto shall I liken, then, the men
Of this generation? and what are they like?
They are like children sitting in the markets,
Back to Full Books