The Poems of Emma Lazarus, Vol.I, Narrative, Lyric, and Dramatic
Part 3 out of 6
There, in that thick-leaved twilight of high noon,
The quiet of the still, suspended air,
Once more my wandering thoughts were calmly ranged,
Shepherded by my will. I wept, I prayed
A solemn prayer, conceived in agony,
Blessed with response instant, miraculous;
For in that hour my spirit was at one
With Him who knows and satisfies her needs.
The supplication and the blessing sprang
From the same source, inspired divinely both.
I prayed for light, self-knowledge, guidance, truth,
And these like heavenly manna were rained down
To feed my hungered soul. His guilt was mine.
What angel had been sent to stay mine arm
Until the fateful moment passed away
That would have ushered an eternity
Of withering remorse? I found the germs
In mine own heart of every human sin,
That waited but occasion's tempting breath
To overgrow with poisoned bloom my life.
What God thus far had saved me from myself?
Here was the lofty truth revealed, that each
Must feel himself in all, must know where'er
The great soul acts or suffers or enjoys,
His proper soul in kinship there is bound.
Then my life-purpose dawned upon my mind,
Encouraging as morning. As I lay,
Crushed by the weight of universal love,
Which mine own thoughts had heaped upon myself,
I heard the clear chime of a slow, sweet bell.
I knew it--whence it came and what it sang.
From the gray convent nigh the wood it pealed,
And called the monks to prayer. Vigil and prayer,
Clean lives, white days of strict austerity:
Such were the offerings of these holy saints.
How far might such not tend to expiate
A riotous world's indulgence? Here my life,
Doubly austere and doubly sanctified,
Might even for that other one atone,
So bound to mine, till both should be forgiven.
They sheltered me, not questioning the need
That led me to their cloistered solitude.
How rich, how freighted with pure influence,
With dear security of perfect peace,
Was the first day I passed within those walls!
The holy habit of perpetual prayer,
The gentle greetings, the rare temperate speech,
The chastening discipline, the atmosphere
Of settled and profound tranquillity,
Were even as living waters unto one
Who perisheth of thirst. Was this the world
That yesterday seemed one huge battlefield
For brutish passions? Could the soul of man
Withdraw so easily, and erect apart
Her own fair temple for her own high ends?
But this serene contentment slowly waned
As I discerned the broad disparity
Betwixt the form and spirit of the laws
That bound the order in strait brotherhood.
Yet when I sought to gain a larger love,
More rigid discipline, severer truth,
And more complete surrender of the soul
Unto her God, this was to my reproach,
And scoffs and gibes beset me on all sides.
In mine own cell I mortified my flesh,
I held aloof from all my brethren's feasts
To wrestle with my viewless enemies,
Till they should leave their blessing on my head;
For nightly was I haunted by that face,
White, bloodless, as I saw it 'midst the ferns,
Now staring out of darkness, and it held
Mine eyes from slumber and my brain from rest
And drove me from my straw to weep and pray.
Rebellious thoughts such subtle torture wrought
Upon my spirit that I lay day-long
In dumb despair, until the blessed hope
Of mercy dawned again upon my soul,
As gradual as the slow gold moon that mounts
The airy steps of heaven. My faith arose
With sure perception that disaster, wrong,
And every shadow of man's destiny
Are merely circumstance, and cannot touch
The soul's fine essence: they exist or die
Only as she affirms them or denies.
This faith sustain me even to the end:
It floods my heart with peace as surely now
As on that day the friars drove me forth,
Urging that my asceticism, too harsh,
Endured through pride, would bring into reproach
Their customs and their order. Then began
My exile in the mountains, where I bode
A hunted man. The elements conspired
Against me, and I was the seasons' sport,
Drenched, parched, and scorched and frozen alternately,
Burned with shrewd frosts, prostrated by fierce heats,
Shivering 'neath chilling dews and gusty rains,
And buffeted by all the winds of heaven.
Yet was this period my time of joy:
My daily thoughts perpetual converse held
With angels ministrant; mine ears were charmed
With sweet accordance of celestial sounds,
Song, harp and choir, clear ringing through the air.
And visions were revealed unto mine eyes
By night and day of Heaven's very courts,
In shadowless, undimmed magnificence.
I gave God thanks, not that He sheltered me,
And fed me as He feeds the fowls of air--
For had I perished, this too had been well--
But for the revelation of His truth,
The glory, the beatitude vouchsafed
To exalt, to heal, to quicken, to inspire;
So that the pinched, lean excommunicate
Was crowned with joy more solid, more secure,
Than all the comfort of the vales could bring.
Then the good Lord touched certain fervid hearts,
Aspiring toward His love, to come to me,
Timid and few at first; but as they heard
From mine own lips the precious oracles,
That soothed the trouble of their souls, appeased
Their spiritual hunger, and disclosed
All of the God within them to themselves,
They flocked about me, and they hailed me saint,
And sware to follow and to serve the good
Which my word published and my life declared.
Thus the lone hermit of the mountain-top
Descended leader of a band of saints,
And midway 'twixt the summit and the vale
I perched my convent. Yet I bated not
One whit of strict restraint and abstinence.
And they who love me and who serve the truth
Have learned to suffer with me, and have won
The supreme joy that is not of the flesh,
Foretasting the delights of Paradise.
This faith, to them imparted, will endure
After my tongue hath ceased to utter it,
And the great peace hath settled on my soul.
Small, shapeless drifts of cloud
Sail slowly northward in the soft-hued sky,
With blur half-tints and rolling summits bright,
By the late sun caressed; slight hazes shroud
All things afar; shineth each leaf anigh
With its own warmth and light.
O'erblown by Southland airs,
The summer landscape basks in utter peace:
In lazy streams the lazy clouds are seen;
Low hills, broad meadows, and large, clear-cut squares
Of ripening corn-fields, rippled by the breeze,
With shifting shade and sheen.
Hark! and you may not hear
A sound less soothing than the rustle cool
Of swaying leaves, the steady wiry drone
Of unseen crickets, sudden chirpings clear
Of happy birds, the tinkle of the pool,
Chafed by a single stone.
What vague, delicious dreams,
Born of this golden hour of afternoon,
And air balm-freighted, fill the soul with bliss,
Transpierced like yonder clouds with lustrous gleams,
Fantastic, brief as they, and, like them, spun
Of gilded nothingness!
All things are well with her.
'T is good to be alive, to see the light
That plays upon the grass, to feel (and sigh
With perfect pleasure) the mild breezes stir
Among the garden roses, red and white,
With whiffs of fragrancy.
There is no troublous thought,
No painful memory, no grave regret,
To mar the sweet suggestions of the hour:
The soul, at peace, reflects the peace without,
Forgetting grief as sunset skies forget
The morning's transient shower.
(After Robert Schumann).
Rest, beauty, stillness: not a waif of a cloud
From gray-blue east sheer to the yellow west--
No film of mist the utmost slopes to shroud.
The earth lies grace, by quiet airs caressed,
And shepherdeth her shadows, but each stream,
Free to the sky, is by that glow possessed,
And traileth with the splendors of a dream
Athwart the dusky land. Uplift thine eyes!
Unbroken by a vapor or a gleam,
The vast clear reach of mild, wan twilight skies.
But look again, and lo, the evening star!
Against the pale tints black the slim elms rise,
The earth exhales sweet odors nigh and far,
And from the heavens fine influences fall.
Familiar things stand not for what they are:
What they suggest, foreshadow, or recall
The spirit is alert to apprehend,
Imparting somewhat of herself to all.
Labor and thought and care are at an end:
The soul is filled with gracious reveries,
And with her mood soft sounds and colors blend;
For simplest sounds ring forth like melodies
In this weird-lighted air--the monotone
Of some far bell, the distant farmyard cries,
A barking dog, the thin, persistent drone
Of crickets, and the lessening call of birds.
The apparition of yon star alone
Breaks on the sense like music. Beyond word
The peace that floods the soul, for night is here,
And Beauty still is guide and harbinger.
Dark lies the earth, and bright with worlds the sky:
That soft, large, lustrous star, that first outshone,
Still holds us spelled with potent sorcery.
Dilating, shrinking, lightening, it hath won
Our spirit with its strange strong influence,
And sways it as the tides beneath the moon.
What impulse this, o'ermastering heart and sense?
Exalted, thrilled, the freed soul fain would soar
Unto that point of shining prominence,
Craving new fields and some unheard-of shore,
Yea, all the heavens, for her activity,
To mount with daring flight, to hover o'er
Low hills of earth, flat meadows, level sea,
And earthly joy and trouble. In this hour
Of waning light and sound, of mystery,
Of shadowed love and beauty-veiled power,
She feels her wings: she yearns to grasp her own,
Knowing the utmost good to be her dower.
A dream! a dream! for at a touch 't is gone.
O mocking spirit! thy mere fools are we,
Unto the depths from heights celestial thrown.
From these blind gropings toward reality,
This thirst for truth, this most pathetic need
Of something to uplift, to justify,
To help and comfort while we faint and bleed,
May we not draw, wrung from the last despair,
Some argument of hope, some blessed creed,
That we can trust the faith which whispers prayer,
The vanishings, the ecstasy, the gleam,
The nameless aspiration, and the dream?
Deep languor overcometh mind and frame:
A listless, drowsy, utter weariness,
A trance wherein no thought finds speech or name,
The overstrained spirit doth possess.
She sinks with drooping wing--poor unfledged bird,
That fain had flown!--in fluttering breathlessness.
To what end those high hopes that wildly stirred
The beating heart with aspirations vain?
Why proffer prayers unanswered and unheard
To blank, deaf heavens that will not heed her pain?
Where lead these lofty, soaring tendencies,
That leap and fly and poise, to fall again,
Yet seem to link her with the utmost skies?
What mean these clinging loves that bind to earth,
And claim her with beseeching, wistful eyes?
This little resting-place 'twixt death and birth,
Why is it fretted with the ceaseless flow
Of flood and ebb, with overgrowth and dearth,
And vext with dreams, and clouded with strange woe?
Ah! she is tired of thought, she yearns for peace,
Seeing all things one equal end must know.
Wherefore this tangle of perplexities,
The trouble or the joy? the weary maze
Of narrow fears and hopes that may not cease?
A chill falls on her from the skyey ways,
Black with the night-tide, where is none to hear
The ancient cry, the Wherefore of our days.
The ceaseless whirr of crickets fills the ear
From underneath each hedge and bush and tree,
Deep in the dew-drenched grasses everywhere.
The simple sound dispels the fantasy
Of gloom and terror gathering round the mind.
It seems a pleasant thing to breathe, to be,
To hear the many-voiced, soft summer wind
Lisp through the dark thick leafage overhead--
To see the rosy half-moon soar behind
The black slim-branching elms. Sad thoughts have fled,
Trouble and doubt, and now strange reveries
And odd caprices fill us in their stead.
From yonder broken disk the redness dies,
Like gold fruit through the leaves the half-sphere gleams,
Then over the hoar tree-tops climbs the skies,
Blanched ever more and more, until it beams
Whiter than crystal. Like a scroll unfurled,
And shadowy as a landscape seen in dreams,
Reveals itself the sleeping, quiet world,
Painted in tender grays and whites subdued--
The speckled stream with flakes of light impearled,
The wide, soft meadow and the massive wood.
Naught is too wild for our credulity
In this weird hour: our finest dreams hold good.
Quaint elves and frolic flower-sprites we see,
And fairies weaving rings of gossamer,
And angels floating through the filmy air.
V. In the Night.
Let us go in: the air is dank and chill
With dewy midnight, and the moon rides high
O'er ghostly fields, pale stream, and spectral hill.
This hour the dawn seems farthest from the sky
So weary long the space that lies between
That sacred joy and this dark mystery
Of earth and heaven: no glimmering is seen,
In the star-sprinkled east, of coming day,
Nor, westward, of the splendor that hath been.
Strange fears beset us, nameless terrors sway
The brooding soul, that hungers for her rest,
Out worn with changing moods, vain hopes' delay,
With conscious thought o'erburdened and oppressed.
The mystery and the shadow wax too deep;
She longs to merge both sense and thought in sleep.
From the oped lattice glance once more abroad
While the ethereal moontide bathes with light
Hill, stream, and garden, and white-winding road.
All gracious myths born of the shadowy night
Recur, and hover in fantastic guise,
Airy and vague, before the drowsy sight.
On yonder soft gray hill Endymion lies
In rosy slumber, and the moonlit air
Breathes kisses on his cheeks and lips and eyes.
'Twixt bush and bush gleam flower-white limbs, left bare,
Of huntress-nymphs, and flying raiment thin,
Vanishing faces, and bright floating hair.
The quaint midsummer fairies and their kin,
Gnomes, elves, and trolls, on blossom, branch, and grass
Gambol and dance, and winding out and in
Leave circles of spun dew where'er they pass.
Through the blue ether the freed Ariel flies;
Enchantment holds the air; a swarming mass
Of myriad dusky, gold-winged dreams arise,
Throng toward the gates of sense, and so possess
The soul, and lull it to forgetfulness.
VII. Confused Dreams.
O strange, dim other-world revealed to us,
Beginning there where ends reality,
Lying 'twixt life and death, and populous
With souls from either sphere! now enter we
Thy twisted paths. Barred is the silver gate,
But the wild-carven doors of ivory
Spring noiselessly apart: between them straight
Flies forth a cloud of nameless shadowy things,
With harpies, imps, and monsters, small and great,
Blurring the thick air with darkening wings.
All humors of the blood and brain take shape,
And fright us with our own imaginings.
A trouble weighs upon us: no escape
From this unnatural region can there be.
Fixed eyes stare on us, wide mouths grin and gape,
Familiar faces out of reach we see.
Fain would we scream, to shatter with a cry
The tangled woof of hideous fantasy,
When, lo! the air grows clear, a soft fair sky
Shines over head: sharp pain dissolves in peace;
Beneath the silver archway quietly
We float away: all troublous visions cease.
By a strange sense of joy we are possessed,
Body and spirit soothed in perfect rest.
VIII. The End of the Song.
What dainty note of long-drawn melody
Athwart our dreamless sleep rings sweet and clear,
Till all the fumes of slumber are brushed by,
And with awakened consciousness we hear
The pipe of birds? Look forth! The sane, white day
Blesses the hilltops, and the sun is near.
All misty phantoms slowly roll away
With the night's vapors toward the western sky.
The Real enchants us, the fresh breath of hay
Blows toward us; soft the meadow-grasses lie,
Bearded with dew; the air is a caress;
The sudden sun o'ertops the boundary
Of eastern hills, the morning joyousness
Thrills tingling through the frame; life's pulse beats strong;
Night's fancies melt like dew. So ends the song!
ON THE PROPOSAL TO ERECT A MONUMENT
IN ENGLAND TO LORD BYRON.
The grass of fifty Aprils hath waved green
Above the spent heart, the Olympian head,
The hands crost idly, the shut eyes unseen,
Unseeing, the locked lips whose song hath fled;
Yet mystic-lived, like some rich, tropic flower,
His fame puts forth fresh blossoms hour by hour;
Wide spread the laden branches dropping dew
On the low, laureled brow misunderstood,
That bent not, neither bowed, until subdued
By the last foe who crowned while he o'erthrew.
Fair was the Easter Sabbath morn when first
Men heard he had not wakened to its light:
The end had come, and time had done its worst,
For the black cloud had fallen of endless night.
Then in the town, as Greek accosted Greek,
'T was not the wonted festal words to speak,
"Christ is arisen," but "Our chief is gone,"
With such wan aspect and grief-smitten head
As when the awful cry of "Pan is dead!"
Filled echoing hill and valley with its moan.
"I am more fit for death than the world deems,"
So spake he as life's light was growing dim,
And turned to sleep as unto soothing dreams.
What terrors could its darkness hold for him,
Familiar with all anguish, but with fear
Still unacquainted? On his martial bier
They laid a sword, a helmet, and a crown--
Meed of the warrior, but not these among
His voiceless lyre, whose silent chords unstrung
Shall wait--how long?--for touches like his own.
An alien country mourned him as her son,
And hailed him hero: his sole, fitting tomb
Were Theseus' temple or the Parthenon,
Fondly she deemed. His brethren bare him home,
Their exiled glory, past the guarded gate
Where England's Abbey shelters England's great.
Afar he rests whose very name hath shed
New lustre on her with the song he sings.
So Shakespeare rests who scorned to lie with kings,
Sleeping at peace midst the unhonored dead.
And fifty years suffice to overgrow
With gentle memories the foul weeds of hate
That shamed his grave. The world begins to know
Her loss, and view with other eyes his fate.
Even as the cunning workman brings to pass
The sculptor's thought from out the unwieldy mass
Of shapeless marble, so Time lops away
The stony crust of falsehood that concealed
His just proportions, and, at last revealed,
The statue issues to the light of day,
Most beautiful, most human. Let them fling
The first stone who are tempted even as he,
And have not swerved. When did that rare soul sing
The victim's shame, the tyrant's eulogy,
The great belittle, or exalt the small,
Or grudge his gift, his blood, to disenthrall
The slaves of tyranny or ignorance?
Stung by fierce tongues himself, whose rightful fame
Hath he reviled? Upon what noble name
Did the winged arrows of the barbed wit glance?
The years' thick, clinging curtains backward pull,
And show him as he is, crowned with bright beams,
"Beauteous, and yet not all as beautiful
As he hath been or might be; Sorrow seems
Half of his immortality."* He needs
No monument whose name and song and deeds
Are graven in all foreign hearts; but she
His mother, England, slow and last to wake,
Needs raise the votive shaft for her fame's sake:
Hers is the shame if such forgotten be!
*"Cain," Act I. Scene 1.
On a background of pale gold
I would trace with quaint design,
Brilliant-colored, Moorish scenes,
Mosques and crescents, pages, queens,
Line on line,
That the prose-world of to-day
Might the gorgeous Past's array
On the magic painted shield
Rich Granada's Vega green
Should be seen;
Crystal fountains, coolness flinging,
Hanging gardens' skyward springing
Ruddy when the daylight falls,
Crowned Alhambra's beetling walls
Balconies that overbrow
Field and city, vale and stream.
In a dream
Lulled the drowsy landscape basks;
Mark the gleam
Silvery of each white-swathed peak!
Mountain-airs caress the cheek,
Fresh from the snow.
Here in Lindaraxa's bower
The immortal roses bloom;
In the room
Still the fountain leaps to heaven.
But the doom
Of the banned and stricken race
Overshadows every place,
Where fair Lindaraxa dwelt
Flits the bat on velvet wings;
Mute the strings
Of the broken mandoline;
The Pavilion of the Queen
Vacant windows to the night;
Moonbeams kiss the floor with light
Where she knelt.
Through these halls that people stepped
Who through darkling centuries
Held the keys
Of all wisdom, truth, and art,
In a Paradise apart,
Lapped in ease,
Sagely pondering deathless themes,
While, befooled with monkish dreams,
Where shall they be found today?
Yonder hill that frets the sky
"The last Sigh
Of the Moor" is named still.
There the ill-starred Boabdil
To Granada and to Spain,
Where the Crescent ne'er again
Vanished like the wind that blows,
Whither shall we seek their trace
On earth's face?
The gigantic wheel of fate,
Crushing all things soon or late,
Now a race,
Now a single life o'erruns,
Now a universe of suns,
Now a rose.
Uplift the ponderous, golden mask of death,
And let the sun shine on him as it did
How many thousand years agone! Beneath
This worm-defying, uncorrupted lid,
Behold the young, heroic face, round-eyed,
Of one who in his full-flowered manhood died;
Of nobler frame than creatures of to-day,
Swathed in fine linen cerecloths fold on fold,
With carven weapons wrought of bronze and gold,
Accoutred like a warrior for the fray.
We gaze in awe at these huge-modeled limbs,
Shrunk in death's narrow house, but hinting yet
Their ancient majesty; these sightless rims
Whose living eyes the eyes of Helen met;
The speechless lips that ah! what tales might tell
Of earth's morning-tide when gods did dwell
Amidst a generous-fashioned, god-like race,
Who dwarf our puny semblance, and who won
The secret soul of Beauty for their own,
While all our art but crudely apes their grace.
We gather all the precious relics up,
The golden buttons chased with wondrous craft,
The sculptured trinkets and the crystal cup,
The sheathed, bronze sword, the knife with brazen haft.
Fain would we wrest with curious eyes from these
Unnumbered long-forgotten histories,
The deeds heroic of this mighty man,
On whom once more the living daylight beams,
To shame our littleness, to mock our dreams,
And the abyss of centuries to span.
Yet could we rouse him from his blind repose,
How might we meet his searching questionings,
Concerning all the follies, wrongs, and woes,
Since his great day whom men call King of Kings,
Victorious Agamemnon? How might we
Those large, clear eyes confront, which scornfully
Would view us as a poor, degenerate race,
Base-souled and mean-proportioned? What reply
Give to the beauty-loving Greek's heart-cry,
Seeking his ancient gods in vacant space?
What should he find within a world grown cold,
Save doubt and trouble? To his sunny creed
A thousand gloomy, warring sects succeed.
How of the Prince of Peace might he be told,
When over half the world the war-cloud lowers?
How would he mock these faltering hopes of ours,
Who knows the secret now of death and fate!
Humbly we gaze on the colossal frame,
And mutely we accept the mortal shame,
Of men degraded from a high estate.
SIC SEMPER LIBERATORIBUS!
March 13, 1881.
As one who feels the breathless nightmare grip
His heart-strings, and through visioned horrors fares,
Now on a thin-ledged chasm's rock-crumbling lip,
Now on a tottering pinnacle that dare
The front of heaven, while always unawares
Weird monsters start above, around, beneath,
Each glaring from some uglier mask of death,
So the White Czar imperial progress made
Through terror-haunted days. A shock, a cry
Whose echoes ring the globe--the spectre's laid.
Hurled o'er the abyss, see the crowned martyr lie
Resting in peace--fear, change, and death gone by.
Fit end for nightmare--mist of blood and tears,
Red climax to the slow, abortive years.
The world draws breath--one long, deep-shuddering sigh,
At that which dullest brain prefigured clear
As swift-sure bolt from thunder-threatening sky.
How heaven-anointed humblest lots appear
Beside his glittering eminence of fear;
His spiked crown, sackcloth purple, poisoned cates,
His golden palace honey-combed with hates.
Well is it done! A most heroic plan,
Which after myriad plots succeeds at last
In robbing of his life this poor old man,
Whose sole offense--his birthright--has but passed
To fresher blood, with younger strength recast.
What men are these, who, clamoring to be free,
Would bestialize the world to what they be?
Whose sons are they who made the snow-wreathed head
Their frenzy's target? In their Russian veins,
What alien current urged on to smite him dead,
Whose word had loosed a million Russian chains?
What brutes were they for whom such speechless pains,
So royally endured, no human thrill
Awoke, in hearts drunk with the lust to kill?
Not brutes! No tiger of the wilderness,
No jackal of the jungle, bears such brand
As man's black heart, who shrinks not to confess
The desperate deed of his deliberate hand.
Our kind, our kin, have done this thing. We stand
Bowed earthward, red with shame, to see such wrong
Prorogue Love's cause and Truth's--God knows how long!
"I would not have," he said,
"Tears, nor the black pall, nor the wormy grave,
Grief's hideous panoply I would not have
Round me when I am dead.
"Music and flowers and light,
And choric dances to guitar and flute,
Be these around me when my lips are mute,
Mine eyes are sealed from sight.
"So let me lie one day,
One long, eternal day, in sunshine bathed,
In cerements of silken tissue swathed,
Smothered 'neath flowers of May.
"One perfect day of peace,
Or ere clean flame consume my fleshly veil,
My life--a gilded vapor--shall exhale,
Brief as a sigh--and cease.
"But ere the torch be laid
To my unshrinking limbs by some true hand,
Athwart the orange-fragrant laughing land,
Bring many a dark-eyed maid
"From the bright, sea-kissed town;
My beautiful, beloved enemies,
Gemmed as the dew, voluptuous as the breeze,
Each in her festal gown.
"All those through whom I learned
The sweet of folly and the pains of love,
My Rose, my Star, my Comforter, my Dove,
For whom, poor moth, I burned.
"Loves of a day, and hour,
Or passions (vowed eternal) of a year,
Though each be strange to each, to me all dear
As to the bee the flower.
"Around me they shall move
In languid contra dances, and shall shed
Their smiling eyebeams as I were not dead,
But quick to flash back love.
"Something not alien quite
To tender ruth, perchance their breast shall fill,
Seeing him that was so mobile grown so still,
The fiery-veined so white.
"And when the dance is o'er,
The pinched guitar, the smitten tambourine,
Have ceased their rhythmic beat,--oh, friends of mine,
On my rich bier, then pour
"The garlands that ye wear,
The happy rose that on your bosom breathes,
The fresh-culled clusters and the dewy wreaths
That crown your fragrant hair.
"Though blind, I still shall see,
Though dead, shall feel your presence and shall know,
I who was beauty's life-long slave, shall so
Win her in death to me.
"Thanks, sisters, and farewell!
Back to your joys. My brother shall make room
For my tried sword upon the high-piled bloom,
And fire the pinnacle.
"My soul, pure flame, shall leap
To meet its parent essence once again
My body dust and ashes shall remain,
Tired heart and brain shall sleep.
"Life has one gate alone,
Obscure, beset with peril and fierce pain.
Large death has many portals to his fane,
Why choose we to make moan?
"Why dwell with worms and clay
When we may soar through air on wings of flame,
Dissolve to small, white dust our perfect frame,
And never know decay?
"A brother's pious hand
The pure, fire-winnowed ashes shall inurn,
And lay them in the orange grove where burn
Globed suns that scent the land.
"The leaf shall be more green,
Even for my dust--more snowy-soft the flower,
More juicy-sweet the fruit's live pulp--the bower
Richer that I have been.
"For I would not," he said,
"Tears and the black pall and the wormy grave,
Grief's hideous panoply I would not have
Round me when I am dead."
OFF ROUGH POINT.
We sat at twilight nigh the sea,
The fog hung gray and weird.
Through the thick film uncannily
The broken moon appeared.
We heard the billows crack and plunge,
We saw nor waves nor ships.
Earth sucked the vapors like a sponge,
The salt spray wet our lips.
Closer the woof of white mist drew,
Before, behind, beside.
How could that phantom moon break through,
Above that shrouded tide?
The roaring waters filled the ear,
A white blank foiled the sight.
Close-gathering shadows near, more near,
Brought the blind, awful night.
O friends who passed unseen, unknown!
O dashing, troubled sea!
Still stand we on a rock alone,
Walled round by mystery.
Down the goldenest of streams,
Tide of dreams,
The fair cradled man-child drifts;
Sways with cadenced motion slow,
To and fro,
As the mother-foot poised lightly, falls and lifts.
He, the firstling,--he, the light
Of her sight,--
He, the breathing pledge of love,
'Neath the holy passion lies,
Of her eyes,--
Smiles to feel the warm, life-giving ray above.
She believes that in his vision,
O'er an angel-people shine.
Back to gardens of delight,
His auroral spirit basks in dreams divine.
But she smiles through anxious tears;
Pressing forward, she perceives.
Shadowy muffled shapes, they come
Deaf and dumb,
Bringing what? dry chaff and tares, or full-eared sheaves?
What for him shall she invoke?
Shall the oak
Bind the man's triumphant brow?
Shall his daring foot alight
On the height?
Shall he dwell amidst the humble and the low?
Through what tears and sweat and pain,
Must he gain
Fruitage from the tree of life?
Shall it yield him bitter flavor?
Shall its savor
Be as manna midst the turmoil and the strife?
In his cradle slept and smiled
Thus the child
Who as Prince of Peace was hailed.
Thus anigh the mother breast,
Lulled to rest,
Child-Napoleon down the lilied river sailed.
Crowned or crucified--the same
Glows the flame
Of her deathless love divine.
Still the blessed mother stands,
In all lands,
As she watched beside thy cradle and by mine.
Whatso gifts the years bestow,
Still men know,
While she breathes, lives one who sees
(Stand they pure or sin-defiled)
But the child
Whom she crooned to sleep and rocked upon her knee.
Light silken curtain, colorless and soft,
Dreamlike before me floating! what abides
Behind thy pearly veil's
Opaque, mysterious woof?
Where sleek red kine, and dappled, crunch day-long
Thick, luscious blades and purple clover-heads,
Nigh me I still can mark
Cool fields of beaded grass.
No more; for on the rim of the globed world
I seem to stand and stare at nothingness.
But songs of unseen birds
And tranquil roll of waves
Bring sweet assurance of continuous life
Beyond this silvery cloud. Fantastic dreams,
Of tissue subtler still
Than the wreathed fog, arise,
And cheat my brain with airy vanishings
And mystic glories of the world beyond.
A whole enchanted town
Thy baffling folds conceal--
An Orient town, with slender-steepled mosques,
Turret from turret springing, dome from dome,
Fretted with burning stones,
And trellised with red gold.
Through spacious streets, where running waters flow,
Sun-screened by fruit-trees and the broad-leaved palm,
Past the gay-decked bazaars,
Walk turbaned, dark-eyed men.
Hark! you can hear the many murmuring tongues,
While loud the merchants vaunt their gorgeous wares.
The sultry air is spiced
With fragrance of rich gums,
And through the lattice high in yon dead wall,
See where, unveiled, an arch, young, dimpled face,
Flushed like a musky peach,
Peers down upon the mart!
From her dark, ringleted and bird-poised head
She hath cast back the milk-white silken veil:
'Midst the blank blackness there
She blossoms like a rose.
Beckons she not with those bright, full-orbed eyes,
And open arms that like twin moonbeams gleam?
Behold her smile on me
With honeyed, scarlet lips!
Divine Scheherazade! I am thine.
I come! I come!--Hark! from some far-off mosque
The shrill muezzin calls
The hour of silent prayer,
And from the lattice he hath scared my love.
The lattice vanisheth itself--the street,
The mart, the Orient town;
Only through still, soft air
That cry is yet prolonged. I wake to hear
The distant fog-horn peal: before mine eyes
Stands the white wall of mist,
Blending with vaporous skies.
Elusive gossamer, impervious
Even to the mighty sun-god's keen red shafts!
With what a jealous art
Thy secret thou dost guard!
Well do I know deep in thine inmost folds,
Within an opal hollow, there abides
The lady of the mist,
The Undine of the air--
A slender, winged, ethereal, lily form,
Dove-eyed, with fair, free-floating, pearl-wreathed hair,
In waving raiment swathed
Of changing, irised hues.
Where her feet, rosy as a shell, have grazed
The freshened grass, a richer emerald glows:
Into each flower-cup
Her cool dews she distills.
She knows the tops of jagged mountain-peaks,
She knows the green soft hollows of their sides,
And unafraid she floats
O'er the vast-circled seas.
She loves to bask within the moon's wan beams,
Lying, night-long upon the moist, dark earth,
And leave her seeded pearls
With morning on the grass.
Ah! that athwart these dim, gray outer courts
Of her fantastic palace I might pass,
And reach the inmost shrine
Of her chaste solitude,
And feel her cool and dewy fingers press
My mortal-fevered brow, while in my heart
She poured with tender love
Her healing Lethe-balm!
See! the close curtain moves, the spell dissolves!
Slowly it lifts: the dazzling sunshine streams
Upon a newborn world
And laughing summer seas.
Swift, snowy-breasted sandbirds twittering glance
Through crystal air. On the horizon's marge,
Like a huge purple wraith,
The dusky fog retreats.
"Oh brew me a potion strong and good!
One golden drop in his wine
Shall charm his sense and fire his blood,
And bend his will to mine."
Poor child of passion! ask of me
Elixir of death or sleep,
Or Lethe's stream; but love is free,
And woman must wait and weep.
Frosty lies the winter-landscape,
In the twilight golden-green.
Down the Park's deserted alleys,
Naked elms stand stark and lean.
Dumb the murmur of the fountain,
Birds have flown from lawn and hill.
But while yonder star's ascendant,
Love triumphal reigneth still.
See the keen flame throb and tremble,
Brightening in the darkening night,
Breathing like a thing of passion,
In the sky's smooth chrysolite.
Not beneath the moon, oh lover,
Thou shalt gain thy heart's desire.
Speak to-night! The gods are with thee
Burning with a kindred fire.
What art thou doing here, O Imagination? Go
away I entreat thee by the gods, as thou didst
come, for I want thee not. But thou art come
according to thy old fashion. I am not angry
with thee--only go away.
Lilac hazes veil the skies.
Breathes the mild, caressing air.
Pink as coral's branching sprays,
With the blossomed peach are fair.
Sunshine, cordial as a kiss,
In this craving soul of mine,
And my heart her flower-cup
Thirsting for the draught divine.
Swift the liquid golden flame
Through my frame
Sets my throbbing veins afire.
Bright, alluring dreams arise,
Brim mine eyes
With the tears of strong desire.
All familiar scenes anear
Homestead, orchard, field, and wold.
Moorish spires and turrets fair
Cleave the air,
Arabesqued on skies of gold.
Low, my spirit, this May morn,
Over seas hath taken wing:
Where the mediaeval town,
Like a crown,
Wears the garland of the Spring.
Light and sound and odors sweet
Fill the street;
Gypsy girls are selling flowers.
Lean hidalgos turn aside,
'Neath the grim cathedral towers.
Oh, to be in Spain to-day,
Where the May
Recks no whit of good or evil,
Love and only love breathes she!
Oh, to be
'Midst the olive-rows of Seville!
Or on such a day to glide
With the tide
Of the berylline lagoon,
Through the streets that mirror heaven,
In the warm Venetian noon.
At the prow the gondolier
May not hear,
May not see our furtive kiss;
But he lends with cadenced strain
To our ripe and silent bliss.
Golden shadows, silver light,
Air and water, domes and skies;
As in some ambrosial dream,
On the stream
Floats our bark in magic wise.
Oh, to float day long just so!
Naught to know
Of the trouble, toil, and fret!
This is love, and this is May:
And to-morrow to forget!
Whither hast thou, Fancy free,
Wild Bohemian sister dear?
All thy gypsy soul is stirred
Since yon bird
Warbled that the Spring was here.
Tempt no more! I may not follow,
Like the swallow,
Gayly on the track of Spring.
Bounden by an iron fate,
I must wait,
Dream and wonder, yearn and sing.
Night, and beneath star-blazoned summer skies
Behold the Spirit of the musky South,
A creole with still-burning, languid eyes,
Voluptuous limbs and incense-breathing mouth:
Swathed in spun gauze is she,
From fibres of her own anana tree.
Within these sumptuous woods she lies at ease,
By rich night-breezes, dewy cool, caressed:
'Twixt cypresses and slim palmetto trees,
Like to the golden oriole's hanging nest,
Her airy hammock swings,
And through the dark her mocking-bird yet sings.
How beautiful she is! A tulip-wreath
Twines round her shadowy, free-floating hair:
Young, weary, passionate, and sad as death,
Dark visions haunt for her the vacant air,
While movelessly she lies
With lithe, lax, folded hands and heavy eyes.
Full well knows she how wide and fair extend
Her groves bright-flowered, her tangled everglades,
Majestic streams that indolently wend
Through lush savanna or dense forest shades,
Where the brown buzzard flies
To broad bayou 'neath hazy-golden skies.
Hers is the savage splendor of the swamp,
With pomp of scarlet and of purple bloom,
Where blow warm, furtive breezes faint and damp,
Strange insects whir, and stalking bitterns boom--
Where from stale waters dead
Oft looms the great-jawed alligator's head.
Her wealth, her beauty, and the blight on these,--
Of all she is aware: luxuriant woods,
Fresh, living, sunlit, in her dream she sees;
And ever midst those verdant solitudes
The soldier's wooden cross,
O'ergrown by creeping tendrils and rank moss.
Was her a dream of empire? was it sin?
And is it well that all was borne in vain?
She knows no more than one who slow doth win,
After fierce fever, conscious life again,
Too tired, too weak, too sad,
By the new light to be stirred or glad.
From rich sea-islands fringing her green shore,
From broad plantations where swart freemen bend
Bronzed backs in willing labor, from her store
Of golden fruit, from stream, from town, ascend
Life-currents of pure health:
Her aims shall be subserved with boundless wealth.
Yet now how listless and how still she lies,
Like some half-savage, dusky Indian queen,
Rocked in her hammock 'neath her native skies,
With the pathetic, passive, broken mien
Of one who, sorely proved,
Great-souled, hath suffered much and much hath loved!
But look! along the wide-branched, dewy glade
Glimmers the dawn: the light palmetto-trees
And cypresses reissue from the shade,
And SHE hath wakened. Through clear air she sees
The pledge, the brightening ray,
And leaps from dreams to hail the coming day.
Over the lamp-lit street,
Trodden by hurrying feet,
Where mostly pulse and beat
Life's throbbing veins,
See where the April star,
Blue-bright as sapphires are,
Hangs in deep heavens far,
Waxes and wanes.
Strangely alive it seems,
Darting keen, dazzling gleams,
Veiling anon its beams,
Large, clear, and pure.
In the broad western sky
No orb may shine anigh,
No lesser radiancy
May there endure.
Spring airs are blowing sweet:
Low in the dusky street
Star-beams and eye-beams meet.
Rapt in his dreams,
All through the crowded mart
Poet with swift-stirred heart,
Passing beneath, must start,
Thrilled by those gleams.
Naught doth he note anear,
Fain through Night's veil to peer,
Reach that resplendent sphere,
Reading her sign.
Where point those sharp, thin rays,
Guiding his weary maze,
Blesseth she or betrays,
Who may divine?
"Guard me, celestial light,
Lofty, serenely bright:
Lead my halt feet aright,"
Prayerful he speaks.
"For a new ray hath shone
Over my spirit lone.
Be this new soul the one
whom my soul seeks."
Beside her casement oped the maiden sits,
Where the mild evening spirit of the Spring
Gently between the city's homesteads flits
To kiss her brows, and floats on languid wing,
Vague longings in her breast awakening.
While her heart trembles 'neath those dim, deep skies,
As the quick sea that 'neath the globed moon lies.
Where her eyes rest the full-orbed evening star
Burns with white flame: it beckons, shrinks, dilates.
She, dazzled by that shining world afar,
May not withdraw her gaze: breathless she waits.
Some promised joy from Heaven's very gates
Unto her soul seems proffered. When shall be
The bright fulfilment of that star's decree?
Nor glad nor sad is she: she doth not know
That through the city's throng one threads his way,
Thrilled likewise by that planet's mystic glow,
And hastes to seek her. What sweet change shall sway
Her spirit at his coming? What new ray
Upon his shadowy life from her shall fall?
The silent star burns on, and knoweth all.
A JUNE NIGHT.
Ten o'clock: the broken moon
Hangs not yet a half hour high,
Yellow as a shield of brass,
In the dewy air of June,
Poised between the vaulted sky
And the ocean's liquid glass.
Earth lies in the shadow still;
Low black bushes, trees, and lawn
Night's ambrosial dews absorb;
Through the foliage creeps a thrill,
Whispering of yon spectral dawn
And the hidden climbing orb.
Higher, higher, gathering light,
Veiling with a golden gauze
All the trembling atmosphere,
See, the rayless disk grows white!
Hark, the glittering billows pause!
Faint, far sounds possess the ear.
Elves on such a night as this
Spin their rings upon the grass;
On the beach the water-fay
Greets her lover with a kiss;
Through the air swift spirits pass,
Laugh, caress, and float away.
Shut thy lids and thou shalt see
Angel faces wreathed with light,
Mystic forms long vanished hence.
Ah, too fine, too rare, they be
For the grosser mortal sight,
And they foil our waking sense.
Yet we feel them floating near,
Know that we are not alone,
Though our open eyes behold
Nothing save the moon's bright sphere,
In the vacant heavens shown,
And the ocean's path of gold.
By the impulse of my will,
By the red flame in my blood,
By me nerves' electric thrill,
By the passion of my mood,
My concentrated desire,
My undying, desperate love,
I ignore Fate, I defy her,
Iron-hearted Death I move.
When the town lies numb with sleep,
Here, round-eyed I sit; my breath
Quickly stirred, my flesh a-creep,
And I force the gates of death.
I nor move nor speak--you'd deem
From my quiet face and hands,
I were tranced--but in her dream,
SHE responds, she understands.
I have power on what is not,
Or on what has ceased to be,
From that deep, earth-hollowed spot,
I can lift her up to me.
And, or ere I am aware
Through the closed and curtained door,
Comes my lady white and fair,
And embraces me once more.
Though the clay clings to her gown,
Yet all heaven is in her eyes;
Cool, kind fingers press mine eyes,
To my soul her soul replies.
But when breaks the common dawn,
And the city wakes--behold!
My shy phantom is withdrawn,
And I shiver lone and cold.
And I know when she has left,
She is stronger far than I,
And more subtly spun her weft,
Than my human wizardry.
Though I force her to my will,
By the red flame in my blood,
By my nerves' electric thrill,
By the passion of my mood,
Yet all day a ghost am I.
Nerves unstrung, spent will, dull brain.
I achieve, attain, but die,
And she claims me hers again.
Look! the round-cheeked moon floats high,
In the glowing August sky,
Quenching all her neighbor stars,
Save the steady flame of Mars.
White as silver shines the sea,
Far-off sails like phantoms be,
Gliding o'er that lake of light,
Vanishing in nether night.
Heavy hangs the tasseled corn,
Sighing for the cordial morn;
But the marshy-meadows bare,
Love this spectral-lighted air,
Drink the dews and lift their song,
Chirp of crickets all night long;
Earth and sea enchanted lie
'Neath that moon-usurped sky.
To the faces of our friends
Unfamiliar traits she lends--
Quaint, white witch, who looketh down
With a glamour all her own.
Hushed are laughter, jest, and speech,
Mute and heedless each of each,
In the glory wan we sit,
Visions vague before us flit;
Side by side, yet worlds apart,
Heart becometh strange to heart.
Slowly in a moved voice, then,
Ralph, the artist spake again--
"Does not that weird orb unroll
Scenes phantasmal to your soul?
As I gaze thereon, I swear,
Peopled grows the vacant air,
Fables, myths alone are real,
White-clad sylph-like figures steal
'Twixt the bushes, o'er the lawn,
Goddess, nymph, undine, and faun.
Yonder, see the Willis dance,
Faces pale with stony glance;
They are maids who died unwed,
And they quit their gloomy bed,
Hungry still for human pleasure,
Here to trip a moonlit measure.
Near the shore the mermaids play,
Floating on the cool, white spray,
Leaping from the glittering surf
To the dark and fragrant turf,
Where the frolic trolls, and elves
Daintily disport themselves.
All the shapes by poet's brain,
Fashioned, live for me again,
In this spiritual light,
Less than day, yet more than night.
What a world! a waking dream,
All things other than they seem,
Borrowing a finer grace,
From yon golden globe in space;
Touched with wild, romantic glory,
Foliage fresh and billows hoary,
Hollows bathed in yellow haze,
Hills distinct and fields of maize,
Ancient legends come to mind.
Who would marvel should he find,
In the copse or nigh the spring,
Summer fairies gamboling
Where the honey-bees do suck,
Mab and Ariel and Puck?
Ah! no modern mortal sees
Creatures delicate as these.
All the simple faith has gone
Which their world was builded on.
Now the moonbeams coldly glance
On no gardens of romance;
To prosaic senses dull,
Baldur's dead, the Beautiful,
Hark, the cry rings overhead,
'Universal Pan is dead!'"
"Requiescant!" Claude's grave tone
Thrilled us strangely. "I am one
Who would not restore that Past,
Beauty will immortal last,
Though the beautiful must die--
This the ages verify.
And had Pan deserved the name
Which his votaries misclaim,
He were living with us yet.
I behold, without regret,
Beauty in new forms recast,
Truth emerging from the vast,
Bright and orbed, like yonder sphere,
Making the obscure air clear.
He shall be of bards the king,
Who, in worthy verse, shall sing
All the conquests of the hour,
Stealing no fictitious power
From the classic types outworn,
But his rhythmic line adorn
With the marvels of the real.
He the baseless feud shall heal
That estrangeth wide apart
Science from her sister Art.
Hold! look through this glass for me?
Artist, tell me what you see?"
"I!" cried Ralph. "I see in place
Of Astarte's silver face,
Or veiled Isis' radiant robe,
Nothing but a rugged globe
Seamed with awful rents and scars.
And below no longer Mars,
Fierce, flame-crested god of war,
But a lurid, flickering star,
Fashioned like our mother earth,
Vexed, belike, with death and birth."
Rapt in dreamy thought the while,
With a sphinx-like shadowy smile,
Poet Florio sat, but now
Spake in deep-voiced accents slow,
More as one who probes his mind,
Than for us--"Who seeks, shall find--
Widening knowledge surely brings
Vaster themes to him who sings.
Was veiled Isis more sublime
Than yon frozen fruit of Time,
Hanging in the naked sky?
Death's domain--for worlds too die.
Lo! the heavens like a scroll
Stand revealed before my soul;
And the hieroglyphs are suns--
Changeless change the law that runs
Through the flame-inscribed page,
World on world and age on age,
Balls of ice and orbs of fire,
What abides when these expire?
Through slow cycles they revolve,
Yet at last like clouds dissolve.
Jove, Osiris, Brahma pass,
Races wither like the grass.
Must not mortals be as gods
To embrace such periods?
Yet at Nature's heart remains
One who waxes not nor wanes.
And our crowning glory still
Is to have conceived his will."
September 26, 1881.
Weep for the martyr! Strew his bier
With the last roses of the year;
Shadow the land with sables; knell
The harsh-tongued, melancholy bell;
Beat the dull muffled drum, and flaunt
The drooping banner; let the chant
Of the deep-throated organ sob--
One voice, one sorrow, one heart-throb,
From land to land, from sea to sea--
The huge world quires his elegy.
Tears, love, and honor he shall have,
Through ages keeping green his grave.
Too late approved, too early lost,
His story is the people's boast.
Tough-sinewed offspring of the soil,
Of peasant lineage, reared to toil,
In Europe he had been a thing
To the glebe tethered--here a king!
Crowned not for some transcendent gift,
Genius of power that may lift
A Caesar or a Bonaparte
Up to the starred goal of his heart;
But that he was the epitome
Of all the people aim to be.
Were they his dying trust? He was
No less their model and their glass.
In him the daily traits were viewed
Of the undistinguished multitude.
Brave as the silent myriads are,
Crushed by the juggernaut world-car;
Strong with the people's strength, yet mild,
Simple and tender as a child;
Wise with the wisdom of the heart,
Able in council, field, and mart;
Nor lacking in the lambent gleam,
The great soul's final stamp--the beam
Of genial fun, the humor sane
Wherewith the hero sports with pain.
His virtues hold within the span
Of his obscurest fellow-man.
To live without reproach, to die
Without a fear--in these words lie
His highest aims, for none too high.
No triumph his beyond the reach
Of patient courage, kindly speech;
And yet so brave the soul outbreathed,
The great example he bequeathed,
Were all to follow, we should see
A universal chivalry.
His trust, the People! They respond
From Maine to Florida, beyond
The sea-walled continent's broad scope,
Honor his pledge, confirm his hope.
Hark! over seas the echo hence,
The nations do him reverence.
An Empress lays her votive wreath
Where peoples weep with bated breath.
The world-clock strikes a fateful hour,
Bright with fair portents, big with power,--
The first since history's course has run,
When kings' and peoples' cause is one;
Those mourn a brother--these a son!
O how he loved them! That gray morn,
When his wound-wasted form was borne
North, from the White House to the sea,
Lifting his tired lids thankfully,
"How good," he murmured in his pain,
"To see the people once again!"
Oh, how they loved him! They stood there,
Thronging the road, the street, the square,
With hushed lips locked in silent prayer,
Uncovered heads and streaming eyes,
Breathless as when a father dies.
The records of the ghostly ride,
Past town and field at morning-tide.
When life's full stream is wont to gush
Through all its ways with boisterous rush,
--The records note that once a hound
Had barked, and once was heard the sound
Of cart-wheels rumbling on the stones--
And once, mid stifled sobs and groans,
One man dared audibly lament,
And cried, "God bless the president!"
Always the waiting crowds to send
A God-speed to his journey's end--
The anxious whisper, brow of gloom,
As in a sickness-sacred room,
Till his ear drank with ecstasy
The rhythmic thunders of the sea.
Tears for the smitten fatherless,
The wife's, the mother's life-distress,
To whom the million-throated moan
From throne and hut, may not atone
For one hushed voice, one empty chair,
One presence missing everywhere.
But only words of joy and sheer,
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