DREAMS AND DAYS
GEORGE PARSONS LATHROP
STRIKE HANDS, YOUNG MEN!
THE STAR TO ITS LIGHT
"THE SUNSHINE OF THINE EYES"
SAILOR'S SONG, RETURNING
THE SINGING WIRE
THE HEART OF A SONG
THE LOVER'S YEAR
NIGHT IN NEW YORK
I LOVED YOU, ONCE——
THE BRIDE OF WAR
A RUNE OF THE RAIN
BLACKMOUTH, OF COLORADO
BEFORE THE SNOW
YOUTH TO THE POET
THE SWORD DHAM
"AT THE GOLDEN GATE"
HELEN AT THE LOOM
THE CASKET OF OPALS
LOVE THAT LIVES
THE VOICE OF THE VOID
"O WHOLESOME DEATH"
FAMINE AND HARVEST
THE CHILD'S WISH GRANTED
THE FLOWN SOUL
SUNSET AND SHORE
A STRONG CITY
THE NAME OF WASHINGTON
MARTHY VIRGINIA'S HAND
GETTYSBURG: A BATTLE ODE
STRIKE HANDS, YOUNG MEN!
Strike hands, young men! We know not when Death or disaster comes, Mightier than battle-drums To summon us away. Death bids us say farewell To all we love, nor stay For tears;—and who can tell How soon misfortune's hand May smite us where we stand, Dragging us down, aloof, Under the swift world's hoof?
Strike hands for faith, and power To gladden the passing hour; To wield the sword, or raise a song;— To press the grape; or crush out wrong. And strengthen right. Give me the man of sturdy palm And vigorous brain; Hearty, companionable, sane, 'Mid all commotions calm, Yet filled with quick, enthusiastic fire;— Give me the man Whose impulses aspire, And all his features seem to say, "I can!"
Strike hands, young men! 'Tis yours to help rebuild the State, And keep the Nation great. With act and speech and pen 'Tis yours to spread The morning-red That ushers in a grander day: To scatter prejudice that blinds, And hail fresh thoughts in noble minds; To overthrow bland tyrannies That cheat the people, and with slow disease Change the Republic to a mockery. Your words can teach that liberty Means more than just to cry "We're free" While bending to some new-found yoke. So shall each unjust bond be broke, Each toiler gain his meet reward, And life sound forth a truer chord.
Ah, if we so have striven, And mutually the grasp have given Of brotherhood, To work each other and the whole race good; What matter if the dream Come only partly true, And all the things accomplished seem Feeble and few? At least, when summer's flame burns low And on our heads the drifting snow Settles and stays, We shall rejoice that in our earlier days We boldly then Struck hands, young men!
O jay— Blue-jay! What are you trying to say? I remember, in the spring You pretended you could sing; But your voice is now still queerer, And as yet you've come no nearer To a song. In fact, to sum the matter, I never heard a flatter Failure than your doleful clatter. Don't you think it's wrong? It was sweet to hear your note, I'll not deny, When April set pale clouds afloat O'er the blue tides of sky, And 'mid the wind's triumphant drums You, in your white and azure coat, A herald proud, came forth to cry, "The royal summer comes!"
But now that autumn's here, And the leaves curl up in sheer Disgust, And the cold rains fringe the pine, You really must Stop that supercilious whine—- Or you'll be shot, by some mephitic Angry critic.
You don't fulfill your early promise: You're not the smartest Kind of artist, Any more than poor Blind Tom is. Yet somehow, still, There's meaning in your screaming bill. What are you trying to say?
Sometimes your piping is delicious, And then again it's simply vicious; Though on the whole the varying jangle Weaves round me an entrancing tangle Of memories grave or joyous: Things to weep or laugh at; Love that lived at a hint, or Days so sweet, they'd cloy us; Nights I have spent with friends;— Glistening groves of winter, And the sound of vanished feet That walked by the ripening wheat; With other things.... Not the half that Your cry familiar blends Can I name, for it is mostly Very ghostly;— Such mixed-up things your voice recalls, With its peculiar quirks and falls.
Possibly, then, your meaning, plain, Is that your harsh and broken strain Tallies best with a world of pain.
Well, I'll admit There's merit in a voice that's truthful: Yours is not honey-sweet nor youthful, But querulously fit. And if we cannot sing, we'll say Something to the purpose, jay!
THE STAR TO ITS LIGHT
"Go," said the star to its light: "Follow your fathomless flight! Into the dreams of space Carry the joy of my face. Go," said the star to its light: "Tell me the tale of your flight."
As the mandate rang The heavens through, Quick the ray sprang: Unheard it flew, Sped by the touch of an unseen spur. It crumbled the dusk of the deep That folds the worlds in sleep, And shot through night with noiseless stir.
Then came the day; And all that swift array Of diamond-sparkles died. And lo! the far star cried: "My light has lost its way!" Ages on ages passed: The light returned, at last.
"What have you seen, What have you heard— O ray serene, O flame-winged bird I loosed on endless air? Why do you look so faint and white?"— Said the star to its light.
"O star," said the tremulous ray, "Grief and struggle I found. Horror impeded my way. Many a star and sun I passed and touched, on my round. Many a life undone I lit with a tender gleam: I shone in the lover's eyes, And soothed the maiden's dream. But alas for the stifling mist of lies! Alas, for the wrath of the battle-field Where my glance was mixed with blood! And woe for the hearts by hate congealed, And the crime that rolls like a flood! Too vast is the world for me; Too vast for the sparkling dew Of a force like yours to renew. Hopeless the world's immensity! The suns go on without end: The universe holds no friend: And so I come back to you."
"Go," said the star to its light: "You have not told me aright. This you have taught: I am one In a million of million others— Stars, or planets, or men;— And all of these are my brothers. Carry that message, and then My guerdon of praise you have won! Say that I serve in my place: Say I will hide my own face Ere the sorrows of others I shun. So, then, my trust you'll requite. Go!"—said the star to its light.
"THE SUNSHINE OF THINE EYES"
The sunshine of thine eyes, (O still, celestial beam!) Whatever it touches it fills With the life of its lambent gleam.
The sunshine of thine eyes, O let it fall on me! Though I be but a mote of the air, I could turn to gold for thee!
Here stands the great tree still, with broad bent head; Its wide arms grown aweary, yet outspread With their old blessing. But wan memory weaves Strange garlands, now, amongst the darkening leaves. And the moon hangs low in the elm.
Beneath these glimmering arches Jessamine Walked with her lover long ago; and in The leaf-dimmed light he questioned, and she spoke; Then on them both, supreme, love's radiance broke. And the moon hangs low in the elm.
Sweet Jessamine we called her; for she shone Like blossoms that in sun and shade have grown, Gathering from each alike a perfect white, Whose rich bloom breaks opaque through darkest night. And the moon hangs low in the elm.
For this her sweetness Walt, her lover, sought To win her; wooed her here, his heart o'er fraught With fragrance of her being; and gained his plea. So "We will wed," they said, "beneath this tree." And the moon hangs low in the elm.
Yet dreams of conquering greater prize for her Roused his wild spirit with a glittering spur. Eager for wealth, far, far from home he sailed; And life paused;—while she watched joy vanish, veiled. And the moon hangs low in the elm.
Ah, better at the elm-tree's sunbrowned feet If he had been content to let life fleet Its wonted way!—lord of his little farm, In zest of joys or cares unmixed with harm. And the moon hangs low in the elm.
For, as against a snarling sea one steers, He battled vainly with the surging years; While ever Jessamine must watch and pine, Her vision bounded by the bleak sea-line. And the moon hangs low in the elm.
Then silence fell; and all the neighbors said That Walt had married, faithless, or was dead: Unmoved in constancy, her tryst she kept, Each night beneath the tree, ere sorrow slept. And the moon hangs low in the elm.
So, circling years went by, till in her face Slow melancholy wrought a mingled grace, Of early joy with suffering's hard alloy— Refined and rare, no doom could e'er destroy. And the moon hangs low in the elm.
Sometimes at twilight, when sweet Jessamine Slow-footed, weary-eyed, passed by to win The elm, we smiled for pity of her, and mused On love that so could live, with love refused. And the moon hangs low in the elm.
And none could hope for her. But she had grown Too high in love, for hope. She bloomed alone, Aloft in proud devotion; and secure Against despair; so sweet her faith, so sure. And the moon hangs low in the elm.
Her wandering lover knew not well her soul. Discouraged, on disaster's changing shoal Stranding, he waited; starved on selfish pride, Long years; nor would obey love's homeward tide. And the moon hangs low in the elm.
But, bitterly repenting of his sin, Deeper at last he learned to look within Sweet Jessamine's true heart—when the past, dead, Mocked him with wasted years forever fled. And the moon hangs low in the elm.
Late, late, oh late, beneath the tree stood two; In trembling joy, and wondering "Is it true?"— Two that were each like some strange, misty wraith: Yet each on each gazed with a living faith. And the moon hangs low in the elm.
Even to the tree-top sang the wedding-bell: Even to the tree-top tolled the passing knell. Beneath it Walt and Jessamine were wed, Beneath it many a year has she lain dead. And the moon hangs low in the elm.
Here stands the great tree, still. But age has crept Through every coil, while Walt each night has kept The tryst alone. Hark! with what windy might The boughs chant o'er her grave their burial-rite! And the moon hangs low in the elm.
How sweetly sang the bobolink, When thou, my love, wast nigh! His liquid music from the brink Of some cloud-fountain seemed to sink, Far in the blue-domed sky.
How sadly sings the bobolink! No more my love is nigh: Yet rise, my spirit, rise, and drink Once more from that cloud-fountain's brink,— Once more before I die!
SAILOR'S SONG, RETURNING
The sea goes up; the sky comes down. Oh, can you spy the ancient town,— The granite hills so green and gray, That rib the land behind the bay? O ye ho, boys. Spread her wings! Fair winds, boys: send her home! O ye ho!
Three years? Is it so long that we Have lived upon the lonely sea? Oh, often I thought we'd see the town, When the sea went up, and the sky came down. O ye ho, boys. Spread her wings!
Even the winter winds would rouse A memory of my father's house; For round his windows and his door They made the same deep, mouthless roar. O ye ho, boys. Spread her wings!
And when the summer's breezes beat, Methought I saw the sunny street Where stood my Kate. Beneath her hand She gazed far out, far out from land. O ye ho, boys. Spread her wings!
Farthest away, I oftenest dreamed That I was with her. Then it seemed A single stride the ocean wide Had bridged, and brought me to her side. O ye ho, boys. Spread her wings!
But though so near we're drawing, now, 'T is farther off—I know not how. We sail and sail: we see no home. Would that we into port were come! O ye ho, boys. Spread her wings!
At night, the same stars o'er the mast: The mast sways round—however fast We fly—still sways and swings around One scanty circle's starry bound. O ye ho, boys. Spread her wings!
Ah, many a month those stars have shone, And many a golden morn has flown, Since that so solemn, happy morn, When, I away, my babe was born. O ye ho, boys. Spread her wings!
And, though so near we're drawing, now, 'T is farther off—I know not how:— I would not aught amiss had come To babe or mother there, at home! O ye ho, boys. Spread her wings!
'T is but a seeming: swiftly rush The seas, beneath. I hear the crush Of foamy ridges 'gainst the prow. Longing outspeeds the breeze, I know. O ye ho, boys. Spread her wings!
Patience, my mates! Though not this eve We cast our anchor, yet believe, If but the wind holds, short the run: We'll sail in with to-morrow's sun. O ye ho, boys. Spread her wings! Fair winds, boys: send her home! O ye ho!
A budding mouth and warm blue eyes; A laughing face; and laughing hair,— So ruddy was its rise From off that forehead fair;
Frank fervor in whate'er she said, And a shy grace when she was still; A bright, elastic tread; Enthusiastic will;
These wrought the magic of a maid As sweet and sad as the sun in spring;— Joyous, yet half-afraid Her joyousness to sing.
Wide as the sky Time spreads his hand, And blindly over us there blows A swarm of years that fill the land, Then fade, and are as fallen snows.
Behold, the flakes rush thick and fast; Or are they years, that come between,— When, peering back into the past, I search the legendary scene?
Nay. Marshaled down the open coast, Fearless of that low rampart's frown, The winter's white-winged, footless host Beleaguers ancient Saybrook town.
And when the settlers wake they stare On woods half-buried, white and green, A smothered world, an empty air: Never had such deep drifts been seen!
But "Snow lies light upon my heart! An thou," said merry Jonathan Rudd, "Wilt wed me, winter shall depart, And love like spring for us shall bud."
"Nay, how," said Mary, "may that be? No minister nor magistrate Is here, to join us solemnly; And snow-banks bar us, every gate."
"Winthrop at Pequot Harbor lies," He laughed. And with the morrow's sun He faced the deputy's dark eyes: "How soon, sir, may the rite be done?"
"At Saybrook? There the power's not mine," Said he. "But at the brook we'll meet, That ripples down the boundary line; There you may wed, and Heaven shall see't."
Forth went, next day, the bridal train Through vistas dreamy with gray light. The waiting woods, the open plain, Arrayed in consecrated white,
Received and ushered them, along. The very beasts before them fled, Charmed by the spell of inward song These lovers' hearts around them spread.
Four men with netted foot-gear shod Bore the maid's carrying-chair aloft; She swayed above, as roses nod On the lithe stem their bloom-weight soft.
At last beside the brook they stood, With Winthrop and his followers; The maid in flake-embroidered hood, The magistrate well cloaked in furs,
That, parting, showed a glimpse beneath Of ample, throat-encircling ruff As white as some wind-gathered wreath Of snow quilled into plait and puff.
A few grave words, a question asked; Eyelids that with the answer fell Like falling petals;—form that tasked Brief time;—and so was wrought the spell!
Then "Brooklet," Winthrop smiled and said, "Frost's finger on thy lip makes dumb The voice wherewith thou shouldst have sped These lovers on their way. But, come,
"Henceforth forever be thou known By memory of this day's fair bride: So shall thy slender music's moan Sweeter into the ocean glide!"
Then laughed they all, and sudden beams Of sunshine quivered through the sky. Below the ice, the unheard stream's Clear heart thrilled on in ecstasy;
And lo, a visionary blush Stole warmly o'er the voiceless wild; And in her rapt and wintry hush The lonely face of Nature smiled.
Ah, Time, what wilt thou? Vanished quite Is all that tender vision now; And, like lost snow-flakes in the night, Mute are the lovers as their vow.
And O thou little, careless brook, Hast thou thy tender trust forgot? Her modest memory forsook, Whose name, known once, thou utterest not?
Spring wakes the rill's blithe minstrelsy; In willow bough or alder bush Birds sing, o'er golden filigree Of pebbles 'neath the flood's clear gush;
But none can tell us of that name More than the "Mary." Men still say "Bride Brook" in honor of her fame; But all the rest has passed away.
[FOR A BIRTHDAY: MAY 20]
On this day to life she came— May-Rose, my May-Rose! With scented breeze, with flowered flame, She touched the earth and took her name Of May, Rose.
Here, to-day, she grows and flowers— May-Rose, my May-Rose. All my life with light she dowers, And colors all the coming hours With May, Rose!
THE SINGING WIRE
Ethereal, faint that music rang, As, with the bosom of the breeze, It rose and fell and murmuring sang Aeolian harmonies!
I turned; again the mournful chords, In random rhythm lightly flung From off the wire, came shaped in words; And thus meseemed, they sung:
"I, messenger of many fates, Strung to the tones of woe or weal, Fine nerve that thrills and palpitates With all men know or feel,—
"Is it so strange that I should wail? Leave me my tearless, sad refrain, When in the pine-top wakes the gale That breathes of coming rain.
"There is a spirit in the post; It, too, was once a murmuring tree; Its withered, sad, imprisoned ghost Echoes my melody.
"Come close, and lay your listening ear Against the bare and branchless wood. Can you not hear it crooning clear, As though it understood?"
I listened to the branchless pole That held aloft the singing wire; I heard its muffled music roll, And stirred with sweet desire:
"O wire more soft than seasoned lute, Hast thou no sunlit word for me? Though long to me so coyly mute, Her heart may speak through thee!"
I listened, but it was in vain. At first, the wind's old wayward will Drew forth the tearless, sad refrain. That ceased; and all was still.
But suddenly some kindling shock Struck flashing through the wire: a bird, Poised on it, screamed and flew; the flock Rose with him; wheeled and whirred.
Then to my soul there came this sense: "Her heart has answered unto thine; She comes, to-night. Go, speed thee hence: Meet her; no more repine!"
Perhaps the fancy was far-fetched; And yet, perhaps, it hinted true. Ere moonrise, Love, a hand was stretched In mine, that gave me—you!
And so more dear to me has grown Than rarest tones swept from the lyre, The minor movement of that moan In yonder singing wire.
Nor care I for the will of states, Or aught beside, that smites that string, Since then so close it knit our fates, What time the bird took wing!
THE HEART OF A SONG
Dear love, let this my song fly to you: Perchance forget it came from me. It shall not vex you, shall not woo you; But in your breast lie quietly.
Only beware, when once it tarries I cannot coax it from you, then. This little song my whole heart carries, And ne'er will bear it back again.
For if its silent passion grieve you, My heart would then too heavy grow;— And it can never, never leave you, If joy of yours must with it go!
Soft-throated South, breathing of summer's ease (Sweet breath, whereof the violet's life is made!) Through lips moist-warm, as thou hadst lately stayed 'Mong rosebuds, wooing to the cheeks of these Loth blushes faint and maidenly:—rich breeze, Still doth thy honeyed blowing bring a shade Of sad foreboding. In thy hand is laid The power to build or blight the fruit of trees, The deep, cool grass, and field of thick-combed grain.
Even so my Love may bring me joy or woe, Both measureless, but either counted gain Since given by her. For pain and pleasure flow Like tides upon us of the self-same sea. Tears are the gems of joy and misery.
THE LOVER'S YEAR
Thou art my morning, twilight, noon, and eve, My summer and my winter, spring and fall; For Nature left on thee a touch of all The moods that come to gladden or to grieve The heart of Time, with purpose to relieve From lagging sameness. So do these forestall In thee such o'erheaped sweetnesses as pall Too swiftly, and the taster tasteless leave.
Scenes that I love to me always remain Beautiful, whether under summer sun Beheld, or, storm-dark, stricken across with rain. So, through all humors, thou 'rt the same sweet one: Doubt not I love thee well in each, who see Thy constant change is changeful constancy.
With my beloved I lingered late one night. At last the hour when I must leave her came: But, as I turned, a fear I could not name Possessed me that the long sweet evening might Prelude some sudden storm, whereby delight Should perish. What if death, ere dawn, should claim One of us? What, though living, not the same Each should appear to each in morning-light?
Changed did I find her, truly, the next day: Ne'er could I see her as of old again. That strange mood seemed to draw a cloud away, And let her beauty pour through every vein Sunlight and life, part of me. Thus the lover With each new morn a new world may discover.
NIGHT IN NEW YORK
Haunted by unknown feet— Ways of the midnight hour! Strangely you murmur below me, Strange is your half-silent power. Places of life and of death, Numbered and named as streets, What, through your channels of stone, Is the tide that unweariedly beats? A whisper, a sigh-laden breath, Is all that I hear of its flowing. Footsteps of stranger and foe— Footsteps of friends, could we meet— Alike to me in my sorrow; Alike to a life left alone. Yet swift as my heart they throb, They fall thick as tears on the stone: My spirit perchance may borrow New strength from their eager tone.
Still ever that slip and slide Of the feet that shuffle or glide, And linger or haste through the populous waste Of the shadowy, dim-lit square! And I know not, from the sound, As I sit and ponder within, The goal to which those steps are bound,— On hest of mercy, or hest of sin, Or joy's short-measured round; Yet a meaning deep they bear In their vaguely muffled din.
Roar of the multitude, Chafe of the million-crowd, To this you are all subdued In the murmurous, sad night-air! Yet whether you thunder aloud, Or hush your tone to a prayer, You chant amain through the modern maze The only epic of our days.
Still as death are the places of life; The city seems crumbled and gone, Sunk 'mid invisible deeps— The city so lately rife With the stir of brain and brawn. Haply it only sleeps; But what if indeed it were dead, And another earth should arise To greet the gray of the dawn? Faint then our epic would wail To those who should come in our stead. But what if that earth were ours? What if, with holier eyes, We should meet the new hope, and not fail?
Weary, the night grows pale: With a blush as of opening flowers Dimly the east shines red. Can it be that the morn shall fulfil My dream, and refashion our clay As the poet may fashion his rhyme? Hark to that mingled scream Rising from workshop and mill— Hailing some marvelous sight; Mighty breath of the hours, Poured through the trumpets of steam; Awful tornado of time, Blowing us whither it will!
God has breathed in the nostrils of night, And behold, it is day!
Glimmers gray the leafless thicket Close beside my garden gate, Where, so light, from post to picket Hops the sparrow, blithe, sedate; Who, with meekly folded wing, Comes to sun himself and sing.
It was there, perhaps, last year, That his little house he built; For he seems to perk and peer, And to twitter, too, and tilt The bare branches in between, With a fond, familiar mien.
Once, I know, there was a nest, Held there by the sideward thrust Of those twigs that touch his breast; Though 'tis gone now. Some rude gust Caught it, over-full of snow,— Bent the bush,—and stole it so.
Thus our highest holds are lost, In the ruthless winter's wind, When, with swift-dismantling frost, The green woods we dwelt in, thinn'd Of their leafage, grow too cold For frail hopes of summer's mold.
But if we, with spring-days mellow, Wake to woeful wrecks of change, And the sparrow's ritornello Scaling still its old sweet range; Can we do a better thing Than, with him, still build and sing?
Oh, my sparrow, thou dost breed Thought in me beyond all telling; Shootest through me sunlight, seed, And fruitful blessing, with that welling Ripple of ecstatic rest Gurgling ever from thy breast!
And thy breezy carol spurs Vital motion in my blood, Such as in the sap-wood stirs, Swells and shapes the pointed bud Of the lilac; and besets The hollow thick with violets.
Yet I know not any charm That can make the fleeting time Of thy sylvan, faint alarm Suit itself to human rhyme: And my yearning rhythmic word Does thee grievous wrong, blithe bird.
So, however thou hast wrought This wild joy on heart and brain, It is better left untaught. Take thou up the song again: There is nothing sad afloat On the tide that swells thy throat!
I LOVED YOU, ONCE—
And did you think my heart Could keep its love unchanging, Fresh as the buds that start In spring, nor know estranging? Listen! The buds depart: I loved you once, but now— I love you more than ever.
'T is not the early love; With day and night it alters, And onward still must move Like earth, that never falters For storm or star above. I loved you once; but now— I love you more than ever.
With gifts in those glad days How eagerly I sought you! Youth, shining hope, and praise: These were the gifts I brought you. In this world little stays: I loved you once, but now— I love you more than ever.
A child with glorious eyes Here in our arms half sleeping— So passion wakeful lies; Then grows to manhood, keeping Its wistful, young surprise: I loved you once, but now— I love you more than ever.
When age's pinching air Strips summer's rich possession, And leaves the branches bare, My secret in confession Still thus with you I'll share: I loved you once, but now— I love you more than ever.
THE BRIDE OF WAR
(ARNOLD'S MARCH TO CANADA, 1775)
The trumpet, with a giant sound, Its harsh war-summons wildly sings; And, bursting forth like mountain-springs, Poured from the hillside camping-ground, Each swift battalion shouting flings Its force in line; where you may see The men, broad-shouldered, heavily Sway to the swing of the march; their heads Dark like the stones in river-beds.
Lightly the autumn breezes Play with the shining dust-cloud Rising to the sunset rays From feet of the moving column. Soft, as you listen, comes The echo of iterant drums, Brought by the breezes light From the files that follow the road. A moment their guns have glowed Sun-smitten: then out of sight They suddenly sink, Like men who touch a new grave's brink!
So it was the march began, The march of Morgan's riflemen, Who like iron held the van In unhappy Arnold's plan To win Wolfe's daring fame again. With them, by her husband's side, Jemima Warner, nobly free, Moved more fair than when, a bride, One year since, she strove to hide The blush it was a joy to see.
O distant, terrible forests of Maine, With huge trees numberless as the rain That falls on your lonely lakes! (It falls and sings through the years, but wakes No answering echo of joy or pain.)
Your tangled wilderness was tracked With struggle and sorrow and vengeful act 'Gainst Puritan, pagan, and priest. Where wolf and panther and serpent ceased, Man added the horrors your dark maze lacked.
The land was scarred with deeds not good, Like the fretting of worms on withered wood. What if its venomous spell Breathed into Arnold a prompting of Hell, With slow empoisoning force indued?
As through that dreary realm he went, Followed a shape of dark portent:— Pard-like, of furtive eye, with brain To treason narrowing, Aaron Burr, Moved loyal-seeming in the train, Led by the arch-conspirator. And craven Enos closed the rear, Whose honor's flame died out in fear. Not sooner does the dry bough burn And into fruitless ashes turn, Than he with whispered, false command Drew back the hundreds in his hand; Fled like a shade; and all forsook.
Wherever Arnold bent his look, Danger and doubt around him hung; And pale Disaster, shrouded, flung Black omens in his track, as though The fingers of a future woe Already clutched his life, to wring Some expiation for the thing That he was yet to do. A chill Struck helpless many a steadfast will Within the ranks; the very air Rang with a thunder-toned despair: The hills seemed wandering to and fro, Like lost guides blinded by the snow.
Yet faithful still 'mid woe and doubt One woman's loyal heart—whose pain Filled it with pure celestial light— Shone starry-constant like the North, Or that still radiance beaming forth From sacred lights in some lone fane. But he whose ring Jemima wore, By want and weariness all unstrung, Though strong and honest of heart and young, Shrank at the blast that pierced so frore— Like a huge, invisible bird of prey Furious launched from Labrador And the granite cliffs of Saguenay!
Along the bleak Dead River's banks They forced amain their frozen way; But ever from the thinning ranks Shapes of ice would reel and fall, Human shapes, whose dying prayer Floated, a mute white mist, in air; The crowding snow their pall.
Spectre-like Famine drew near; Her doom-word hummed in his ear: Ah, weak were woman's hands to reach And save him from the hellish charms And wizard motion of those arms! Yet only noble womanhood The wife her dauntless part could teach: She shared with him the last dry food And thronged with hopefulness her speech, As when hard by her home the flood Of rushing Conestoga fills Its depth afresh from springtide rills!
All, all in vain! For far behind the invading rout These two were left alone; And in the waste their wildest shout Seemed but a smothered groan. Like sheeted wanderers from the grave They moved, and yet seemed not to stir, As icy gorge and sere-leaf'd grove Of withered oak and shrouded fir Were passed, and onward still they strove; While the loud wind's artillery clave The air, and furious sleety rain Swung like a sword above the plain!
They crossed the hills; they came to where Through an arid gloom the river Chaudiere Fled like a Maenad with outstreaming hair; And there the soldier sank, and died. Death-dumb he fell; yet ere life sped, Child-like on her knee he laid his head. She strove to pray; but all words fled Save those their love had sanctified.
And then her voice rose waveringly To the notes of a mother's lullaby; But her song was only "Ah, must thou die?" And to her his eyes death-still replied.
Dead leaves and stricken boughs She heaped o'er the fallen form— Wolf nor hawk nor lawless storm Him from his rest should rouse; But first, with solemn vows, Took rifle, pouch, and horn, And the belt that he had worn. Then, onward pressing fast Through the forest rude and vast, Hunger-wasted, fever-parch'd, Many bitter days she marched With bleeding feet that spurned the flinty pain; One thought always throbbing through her brain: "They shall never say, 'He was afraid,'— They shall never cry, 'The coward stayed!'"
Now the wilderness is passed; Now the first hut reached, at last.
Ho, dwellers by the frontier trail, Come forth and greet the bride of war! From cabin and rough settlement They come to speed her on her way— Maidens, whose ruddy cheeks grow pale With pity never felt before; Children that cluster at the door; Mothers, whose toil-worn hands are lent To help, or bid her longer stay. But through them all she passes on, Strangely martial, fair and wan; Nor waits to listen to their cheers That sound so faintly in her ears. For now all scenes around her shift, Like those before a racer's eyes When, foremost sped and madly swift, Quick stretching toward the goal he flies, Yet feels his strength wane with his breath, And purpose fail 'mid fears of death,—
Till, like the flashing of a lamp, Starts forth the sight of Arnold's camp,— The bivouac flame, and sinuous gleam Of steel,—where, crouched, the army waits, Ere long, beyond the midnight stream, To storm Quebec's ice-mounded gates.
Then to the leader she was brought, And spoke her simply loyal thought. If, 'mid the shame of after-days, The man who wronged his country's trust (Yet now in worth outweighed all praise) Remembered what this woman wrought, It should have bowed him to the dust! "Humbly my soldier-husband tried To do his part. He served,—and died. But honor did not die. His name And honor—bringing both, I came; And this his rifle, here, to show, While far away the tired heart sleeps, To-day his faith with you he keeps!"
Proudly the war bride, ending so, Sank breathless in the dumb white snow.
A RUNE OF THE RAIN
O many-toned rain! O myriad sweet voices of the rain! How welcome is its delicate overture At evening, when the moist and glowing west Seals all things with cool promise of night's rest.
At first it would allure The earth to kinder mood, With dainty flattering Of soft, sweet pattering: Faintly now you hear the tramp Of the fine drops, falling damp On the dry, sun-seasoned ground And the thirsty leaves, resound. But anon, imbued With a sudden, bounding access Of passion, it relaxes All timider persuasion. And, with nor pretext nor occasion, Its wooing redoubles; And pounds the ground, and bubbles In sputtering spray, Flinging itself in a fury Of flashing white away; Till the dusty road, Dank-perfumed, is o'erflowed; And the grass, and the wide-hung trees, The vines, the flowers in their beds,— The virid corn that to the breeze Rustles along the garden-rows,— Visibly lift their heads, And, as the quick shower wilder grows, Upleap with answering kisses to the rain.
Then, the slow and pleasant murmur Of its subsiding, As the pulse of the storm beats firmer, And the steady rain Drops into a cadenced chiding! Deep-breathing rain, The sad and ghostly noise Wherewith thou dost complain—- Thy plaintive, spiritual voice, Heard thus at close of day Through vaults of twilight gray— Vexes me with sweet pain; And still my soul is fain To know the secret of that yearning Which in thine utterance I hear returning. Hush, oh hush! Break not the dreamy rush Of the rain: Touch not the marring doubt Words bring to the certainty Of its soft refrain; But let the flying fringes flout Their drops against the pane, And the gurgling throat of the water-spout Groan in the eaves amain.
The earth is wedded to the shower; Darkness and awe gird round the bridal hour!
O many-toned rain! It hath caught the strain Of a wilder tune, Ere the same night's noon, When dreams and sleep forsake me, And sudden dread doth wake me, To hear the booming drums of heaven beat The long roll to battle; when the knotted cloud, With an echoing loud, Bursts asunder At the sudden resurrection of the thunder; And the fountains of the air, Unsealed again, sweep, ruining, everywhere, To wrap the world in a watery winding-sheet.
O myriad sweet voices of the rain! When the airy war doth wane, And the storm to the east hath flown, Cloaked close in the whirling wind, There's a voice still left behind In each heavy-hearted tree, Charged with tearful memory Of the vanished rain: From their leafy lashes wet Drip the dews of fresh regret For the lover that's gone! All else is still; Yet the stars are listening, And low o'er the wooded hill Hangs, upon listless wing Outspread, a shape of damp, blue cloud, Watching, like a bird of evil That knows nor mercy nor reprieval, The slow and silent death of the pallid moon.
But soon, returning duly, Dawn whitens the wet hilltops bluely. To her vision pure and cold The night's wild tale is told On the glistening leaf, in the mid-road pool, The garden mold turned dark and cool, And the meadows' trampled acres. But hark, how fresh the song of the winged music-makers! For now the moanings bitter, Left by the rain, make harmony With the swallow's matin-twitter, And the robin's note, like the wind's in a tree. The infant morning breathes sweet breath, And with it is blent The wistful, wild, moist scent Of the grass in the marsh which the sea nourisheth: And behold! The last reluctant drop of the storm, Wrung from the roof, is smitten warm And turned to gold; For in its veins doth run The very blood of the bold, unsullied sun!
Far out at sea there has been a storm, And still, as they roll their liquid acres, High-heaped the billows lower and glisten. The air is laden, moist, and warm With the dying tempest's breath; And, as I walk the lonely strand With sea-weed strewn, my forehead fanned By wet salt-winds, I watch the breakers, Furious sporting, tossed and tumbling, Shatter here with a dreadful rumbling— Watch, and muse, and vainly listen To the inarticulate mumbling Of the hoary-headed deep; For who may tell me what it saith, Muttering, moaning as in sleep?
Slowly and heavily Comes in the sea, With memories of storm o'erfreighted, With heaving heart and breath abated, Pregnant with some mysterious, endless sorrow, And seamed with many a gaping, sighing furrow.
Slowly and heavily Grows the green water-mound; But drawing ever nigher, Towering ever higher, Swollen with an inward rage Naught but ruin can assuage, Swift, now, without sound, Creeps stealthily Up to the shore— Creeps, creeps and undulates; As one dissimulates Till, swayed by hateful frenzy, Through passion grown immense, he Bursts forth hostilely; And rising, a smooth billow— Its swelling, sunlit dome Thinned to a tumid ledge With keen, curved edge Like the scornful curl Of lips that snarl— O'ertops itself and breaks Into a raving foam; So springs upon the shore With a hungry roar; Its first fierce anger slakes On the stony shallow; And runs up on the land, Licking the smooth, hard sand, Relentless, cold, yet wroth; And dies in savage froth.
Then with its backward swirl The sands and the stones, how they whirl! O, fiercely doth it draw Them to its chasm'd maw, And against it in vain They linger and strain; And as they slip away Into the seething gray Fill all the thunderous air With the horror of their despair, And their wild terror wreak In one hoarse, wailing shriek.
But scarce is this done, When another one Falls like the bolt from a bellowing gun, And sucks away the shore As that did before: And another shall smother it o'er.
Then there's a lull—a half-hush; And forward the little waves rush, Toppling and hurrying, Each other worrying, And in their haste Run to waste.
Yet again is heard the trample Of the surges high and ample: Their dreadful meeting— The wild and sudden breaking— The dinting, and battering, and beating, And swift forsaking.
And ever they burst and boom, A numberless host; Like heralds of doom To the trembling coast; And ever the tangled spray Is tossed from the fierce affray, And, as with spectral arms That taunt and beckon and mock, And scatter vague alarms, Clasps and unclasps the rock; Listlessly over it wanders; Moodily, madly maunders, And hissingly falls From the glistening walls.
So all day along the shore Shout the breakers, green and hoar, Weaving out their weird tune; Till at night the full moon Weds the dark with that ring Of gold that you see her fling On the misty air. Then homeward slow returning To slumbers deep I fare, Filled with an infinite yearning, With thoughts that rise and fall To the sound of the sea's hollow call, Breathed now from white-lit waves that reach Cold fingers o'er the damp, dark beach, To scatter a spray on my dreams; Till the slow and measured rote Brings a drowsy ease To my spirit, and seems To set it soothingly afloat On broad and buoyant seas Of endless rest, lulled by the dirge Of the melancholy surge.
BLACKMOUTH, OF COLORADO
"Who is Blackmouth?" Well, that's hard to say. Mebbe he might ha' told you, 't other day, If you'd been here. Now,—he's gone away. Come to think on, 't wouldn't ha' been no use If you'd called here earlier. His excuse Always was, whenever folks would ask him Where he hailed from, an' would tease an' task him;— What d' you s'pose? He just said, "I don' know."
That was truth. He came here long ago; But, before that, he'd been born somewhere: The conundrum started first, right there. Little shaver—afore he knew his name Or the place from whereabouts he came— On a wagon-train the Apaches caught him. Killed the old folks! But this cus'—they brought him Safe away from fire an' knife an' arrows. So'thin' 'bout him must have touched their marrows: They was merciful;—treated him real good; Brought him up to man's age well's they could. Now, d' you b'lieve me, that there likely lad, For all they used him so, went to the bad: Leastways left the red men, that he knew, 'N' come to look for folks like me an' you;— Goldarned white folks that he never saw. Queerest thing was—though he loved a squaw, 'T was on her account he planned escape; Shook the Apaches, an' took up red tape With the U. S. gov'ment arter a while; Tho' they do say gov'ment may be vile, Mean an' treacherous an' deceivin'. Well, I ain't sayin' our gov'ment is a sell.
Bocanegra—Spanish term—I've heard Stands for "Blackmouth." Now this curious bird, Known as Bocanegra, gave his life Most for others. First, he saved his wife; Her I spoke of;—nothin' but a squaw. You might wonder by what sort of law He, a white man born, should come to love her. But 't was somehow so: he did discover Beauty in her, of the holding kind. Some men love the light, an' some the shade. Round that little Indian girl there played Soft an' shadowy tremblings, like the dark Under trees; yet now an' then a spark, Quick 's a firefly, flashing from her eyes, Made you think of summer-midnight skies. She was faithful, too, like midnight stars. As for Blackmouth, if you'd seen the scars Made by wounds he suffered for her sake, You'd have called him true, and no mistake.
Growin' up a man, he scarcely met Other white folks; an' his heart was set On this red girl. Yet he said: "We'll wait. You must never be my wedded mate Till we reach the white man's country. There, Everything that's done is fair and square." Patiently they stayed, thro' trust or doubt, Till tow'rds Colorado he could scout Some safe track. He told her: "You go first. All my joy goes with you:—that's the worst! But I wait, to guard or hide the trail."
Indians caught him; an' they gave him—hail; Cut an' tortured him, till he was bleeding; Yet they found that still they weren't succeeding. "Where's that squaw?" they asked. "We'll have her blood! Either that, or grind you into mud; Pick your eyes out, too, if you can't see Where she's gone to. Which, now, shall it be? Tell us where she's hid."
"I'll show the way," Blackmouth says; an' leads toward dawn of day, Till they come straight out beside the brink Of a precipice that seems to sink Into everlasting gulfs below. "Loose me!" Blackmouth tells 'em. "But go slow." Then they loosed him; and, with one swift leap, Blackmouth swooped right down into the deep;— Jumped out into space beyond the edge, While the Apaches cowered along the ledge. Seven hundred feet, they say. That's guff! Seventy foot, I tell you, 's 'bout enough. Indians called him a dead antelope; But they couldn't touch the bramble-slope Where he, bruised and stabbed, crawled under brush. Their hand was beat hollow: he held a flush.
Day and night he limped or crawled along: Winds blew hot, yet sang to him a song (So he told me, once) that gave him hope. Every time he saw a shadow grope Down the hillsides, from a flying cloud, Something touched his heart that made him proud: Seemed to him he saw her dusky face Watching over him, from place to place. Every time the dry leaves rustled near, Seemed to him she whispered, "Have no fear!"
So at last he found her:—they were married. But, from those days on, he always carried Marks of madness; actually—yes!— Trusted the good faith of these U. S.
Indian hate an' deviltry he braved; 'N' scores an' scores of white men's lives he saved. Just for that, his name should be engraved. But it won't be! U. S. gov'ment dreads Men who're taller 'n politicians' heads.
All the while, his wife—tho' half despised By the frontier folks that civilized An' converted her—served by his side, Helping faithfully, until she died. Left alone, he lay awake o' nights, Thinkin' what they'd both done for the whites. Then he thought of her, and Indian people; Tryin' to measure, by the church's steeple, Just how Christian our great nation's been Toward those native tribes so full of sin. When he counted all the wrongs we've done To the wild men of the setting sun, Seem'd to him the gov'ment wa'n't quite fair. When its notes came due, it wa'n't right there. U. S. gov'ment promised Indians lots, But at last it closed accounts with shots. Mouth was black, perhaps;—but he was white. Calling gov'ment black don't seem polite: Yet I'll swear, its actions wouldn't show 'Longside Blackmouth's better 'n soot with snow.
Yes, sir! Blackmouth took the other side: Honestly for years an' years he tried Getting justice for the Indians. He, Risking life an' limb for you an' me;— He, the man who proved his good intent By his deeds, an' plainly showed he meant He would die for us,—turned round an' said: "White men have been saved. Now, save the red!" But it didn't pan out. No one would hark. "Let the prairie-dogs an' Blackmouth bark," Said our folks. And—no, he wa'n't resigned, But concluded he had missed his find.
"Where is Blackmouth?" That I can't decide. Red an' white men, both, he tried to serve; But I guess, at last, he lost his nerve. Kind o' tired out. See? He had his pride: Gave his life for others, far 's he could, Hoping it would do 'em some small good. Didn't seem to be much use. An' so— Well; you see that man, dropped in the snow, Where the crowd is? Suicide, they say. Looks as though he had quit work, to stay. Bullet in the breast.—His body 's there; But poor Blackmouth's gone—I don't know where!
THE CHILD YEAR
"Dying of hunger and sorrow: I die for my youth I fear!" Murmured the midnight-haunting Voice of the stricken Year.
There like a child it perished In the stormy thoroughfare: The snow with cruel whiteness Had aged its flowing hair.
Ah, little Year so fruitful, Ah, child that brought us bliss, Must we so early lose you— Our dear hopes end in this?
"Too young am I, too tender, To bear earth's avalanche Of wrong, that grinds down life-hope, And makes my heart's-blood blanch.
"Tell him who soon shall follow Where my tired feet have bled, He must be older, shrewder, Hard, cold, and selfish-bred—
"Or else like me be trampled Under the harsh world's heel. 'Tis weakness to be youthful; 'Tis death to love and feel."
Then saw I how the New Year Came like a scheming man, With icy eyes, his forehead Wrinkled by care and plan
For trade and rule and profit. To him the fading child Looked up and cried, "Oh, brother!" But died even while it smiled.
Down bent the harsh new-comer To lift with loving arm The wanderer mute and fallen; And lo! his eyes were warm;
All changed he grew; the wrinkles Vanished: he, too, looked young— As if that lost child's spirit Into his breast had sprung.
So are those lives not wasted, Too frail to bear the fray. So Years may die, yet leave us Young hearts in a world grown gray.
To-day I saw a little, calm-eyed child,— Where soft lights rippled and the shadows tarried Within a church's shelter arched and aisled,— Peacefully wondering, to the altar carried;
White-robed and sweet, in semblance of a flower; White as the daisies that adorned the chancel; Borne like a gift, the young wife's natural dower, Offered to God as her most precious hansel.
Then ceased the music, and the little one Was silent, with the multitude assembled Hearkening; and when of Father and of Son He spoke, the pastor's deep voice broke and trembled.
But she, the child, knew not the solemn words, And suddenly yielded to a troublous wailing, As helpless as the cry of frightened birds Whose untried wings for flight are unavailing.
How much the same, I thought, with older folk! The blessing falls: we call it tribulation, And fancy that we wear a sorrow's yoke, Even at the moment of our consecration.
Pure daisy-child! Whatever be the form Of dream or doctrine,—or of unbelieving,— A hand may touch our heads, amid the storm Of grief and doubt, to bless beyond bereaving;
A voice may sound, in measured, holy rite Of speech we know not, tho' its earnest meaning Be clear as dew, and sure as starry light Gathered from some far-off celestial gleaning.
Wise is the ancient sacrament that blends This weakling cry of children in our churches With strength of prayer or anthem that ascends To Him who hearts of men and children searches;
Since we are like the babe, who, soothed again, Within her mother's cradling arm lay nested, Bright as a new bud, now, refreshed by rain: And on her hair, it seemed, heaven's radiance rested.
Valleys lay in sunny vapor, And a radiance mild was shed From each tree that like a taper At a feast stood. Then we said, "Our feast, too, shall soon be spread, Of good Thanksgiving turkey."
And already still November Drapes her snowy table here. Fetch a log, then; coax the ember; Fill your hearts with old-time cheer; Heaven be thanked for one more year, And our Thanksgiving turkey!
Welcome, brothers—all our party Gathered in the homestead old! Shake the snow off and with hearty Hand-shakes drive away the cold; Else your plate you'll hardly hold Of good Thanksgiving turkey.
When the skies are sad and murky, 'Tis a cheerful thing to meet Round this homely roast of turkey— Pilgrims, pausing just to greet, Then, with earnest grace, to eat A new Thanksgiving turkey.
And the merry feast is freighted With its meanings true and deep. Those we've loved and those we've hated, All, to-day, the rite will keep, All, to-day, their dishes heap With plump Thanksgiving turkey.
But how many hearts must tingle Now with mournful memories! In the festal wine shall mingle Unseen tears, perhaps from eyes That look beyond the board where lies Our plain Thanksgiving turkey.
See around us, drawing nearer, Those faint yearning shapes of air— Friends than whom earth holds none dearer! No—alas! they are not there: Have they, then, forgot to share Our good Thanksgiving turkey?
Some have gone away and tarried Strangely long by some strange wave; Some have turned to foes; we carried Some unto the pine-girt grave: They 'll come no more so joyous-brave To take Thanksgiving turkey.
Nay, repine not. Let our laughter Leap like firelight up again. Soon we touch the wide Hereafter, Snow-field yet untrod of men: Shall we meet once more—and when?— To eat Thanksgiving turkey.
BEFORE THE SNOW
Autumn is gone: through the blue woodlands bare Shatters the rainy wind. A myriad leaves, Like birds that fly the mournful Northern air. Flutter away from the old forest's eaves.
Autumn is gone: as yonder silent rill, Slow eddying o'er thick leaf-heaps lately shed, My spirit, as I walk, moves awed and still, By thronging fancies wild and wistful led.
Autumn is gone: alas, how long ago The grapes were plucked, and garnered was the grain! How soon death settles on us, and the snow Wraps with its white alike our graves, our gain!
Yea, autumn's gone! Yet it robs not my mood Of that which makes moods dear,—some shoot of spring Still sweet within me; or thoughts of yonder wood We walked in,—memory's rare environing.
And, though they die, the seasons only take A ruined substance. All that's best remains In the essential vision that can make One light for life, love, death, their joys, their pains.
YOUTH TO THE POET
(TO OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES)
Strange spell of youth for age, and age for youth, Affinity between two forms of truth!— As if the dawn and sunset watched each other, Like and unlike as children of one mother And wondering at the likeness. Ardent eyes Of young men see the prophecy arise Of what their lives shall be when all is told; And, in the far-off glow of years called old, Those other eyes look back to catch a trace Of what was once their own unshadowed grace. But here in our dear poet both are blended— Ripe age begun, yet golden youth not ended;— Even as his song the willowy scent of spring Doth blend with autumn's tender mellowing, And mixes praise with satire, tears with fun, In strains that ever delicately run; So musical and wise, page after page, The sage a minstrel grows, the bard a sage. The dew of youth fills yet his late-sprung flowers, And day-break glory haunts his evening hours. Ah, such a life prefigures its own moral: That first "Last Leaf" is now a leaf of laurel, Which—smiling not, but trembling at the touch— Youth gives back to the hand that gave so much.
EVENING OF DECEMBER 3, 1879.
THE SWORD DHAM
"How shall we honor the man who creates?" Asked the Bedouin chief, the poet Antar;— "Who unto the truth flings open our gates, Or fashions new thoughts from the light of a star; Or forges with craft of his finger and brain Some marvelous weapon we copy in vain; Or chants to the winds a wild song that shall wander forever undying?
"See! His reward is in envies and hates; In lips that deny, or in stabs that may kill." "Nay," said the smith; "for there's one here who waits Humbly to serve you with unmeasured skill, Sure that no utmost devotion can fail, Offered to you, nor unfriended assail The heart of the hero and poet Antar, whose fame is undying!"
"Speak," said the chief. Then the smith: "O Antar, It is I who would serve you! I know, by the soul Of the poet within you, no envy can bar The stream of your gratitude,—once let it roll. Listen. The lightning, your camel that slew, I caught, and wrought in this sword-blade for you;— Sword that no foe shall encounter unhurt, or depart from undying."
Burst from the eyes of Antar a swift rain,—Gratitude's glittering drops,—as he threw One shining arm round the smith, like a chain. Closer the man to his bosom he drew; Thankful, caressing, with "Great is my debt." "Yea," said the smith, and his eyelids were wet: "I knew the sword Dham would unite me with you in an honor undying."
"So?" asked the chief, as his thumb-point at will Silently over the sword's edge played. —"Ay!" said the smith, "but there's one thing, still: Who is the smiter, shall smite with this blade?" Jealous, their eyes met; and fury awoke. "I am the smiter!" Antar cried. One stroke Rolled the smith's head from his neck, and gave him remembrance undying.
"Seek now who may, no search will avail: No man the mate of this weapon shall own!" Yet, in his triumph, the chieftain made wail: "Slain is the craftsman, the one friend alone Able to honor the man who creates. I slew him—I, who am poet! O fates, Grant that the envious blade slaying artists shall make them undying!"
"AT THE GOLDEN GATE"
Before the golden gate she stands, With drooping head, with idle hands Loose-clasped, and bent beneath the weight Of unseen woe. Too late, too late! Those carved and fretted, Starred, resetted Panels shall not open ever To her who seeks the perfect mate.
Only the tearless enter there: Only the soul that, like a prayer, No bolt can stay, no wall may bar, Shall dream the dreams grief cannot mar. No door of cedar, Alas, shall lead her Unto the stream that shows forever Love's face like some reflected star!
They say that golden barrier hides A realm where deathless spring abides; Where flowers shall fade not, and there floats Thro' moon-rays mild or sunlit motes— 'Mid dewy alleys That gird the palace, And fountain'd spray's unceasing quiver— A dulcet rain of song-birds' notes.
The sultan lord knew not her name; But to the door that fair shape came: The hour had struck, the way was right, Traced by her lamp's pale, flickering light. But ah, whose error Has brought this terror? Whose fault has foiled her fond endeavor? The gate swings to: her hope takes flight.
The harp, the song, the nightingales She hears, beyond. The night-wind wails Without, to sound of feast within, While here she stands, shut out by sin. And be that revel Of angel or devil, She longs to sit beside the giver, That she at last her prize may win.
Her lamp has fallen; her eyes are wet; Frozen she stands, she lingers yet; But through the garden's gladness steals A whisper that each heart congeals— A moan of grieving Beyond relieving, Which makes the proudest of them shiver. And suddenly the sultan kneels!
The lamp was quenched; he found her dead, When dawn had turned the threshold red. Her face was calm and sad as fate: His sin, not hers, made her too late. Some think, unbidden She brought him, hidden, A truer bliss that came back never To him, unblest, who closed the gate.
Unarmed she goeth; yet her hands Strike deeper awe than steel-caparison'd bands. No fatal hurt of foe she fears,— Veiled, as with mail, in mist of gentle tears.
'Gainst her thou canst not bar the door: Like air she enters, where none dared before. Even to the rich she can forgive Their regal selfishness,—and let them live!
HELEN AT THE LOOM
Helen, in her silent room, Weaves upon the upright loom; Weaves a mantle rich and dark, Purpled over, deep. But mark How she scatters o'er the wool Woven shapes, till it is full Of men that struggle close, complex; Short-clipp'd steeds with wrinkled necks Arching high; spear, shield, and all The panoply that doth recall Mighty war; such war as e'en For Helen's sake is waged, I ween. Purple is the groundwork: good! All the field is stained with blood— Blood poured out for Helen's sake; (Thread, run on; and shuttle, shake!) But the shapes of men that pass Are as ghosts within a glass, Woven with whiteness of the swan, Pale, sad memories, gleaming wan From the garment's purple fold Where Troy's tale is twined and told. Well may Helen, as with tender Touch of rosy fingers slender She doth knit the story in Of Troy's sorrow and her sin, Feel sharp filaments of pain Reeled off with the well-spun skein, And faint blood-stains on her hands From the shifting, sanguine strands.
Gently, sweetly she doth sorrow: What has been must be to-morrow; Meekly to her fate she bows. Heavenly beauties still will rouse Strife and savagery in men: Shall the lucid heavens, then, Lose their high serenity, Sorrowing over what must be? If she taketh to her shame, Lo, they give her not the blame,— Priam's wisest counselors, Aged men, not loving wars. When she goes forth, clad in white, Day-cloud touched by first moonlight, With her fair hair, amber-hued As vapor by the moon imbued With burning brown, that round her clings, See, she sudden silence brings On the gloomy whisperers Who would make the wrong all hers. So, Helen, in thy silent room, Labor at the storied loom; (Thread, run on; and shuttle, shake!) Let thy aching sorrow make Something strangely beautiful Of this fabric; since the wool Comes so tinted from the Fates, Dyed with loves, hopes, fears, and hates. Thou shalt work with subtle force All thy deep shade of remorse In the texture of the weft, That no stain on thee be left;— Ay, false queen, shalt fashion grief, Grief and wrong, to soft relief. Speed the garment! It may chance, Long hereafter, meet the glance, Of Oenone; when her lord, Now thy Paris, shall go tow'rd Ida, at his last sad end, Seeking her, his early friend, Who alone can cure his ill, Of all who love him, if she will. It were fitting she should see In that hour thine artistry, And her husband's speechless corse In the garment of remorse!
But take heed that in thy work Naught unbeautiful may lurk. Ah, how little signifies Unto thee what fortunes rise, What others fall! Thou still shall rule, Still shalt twirl the colored spool. Though thy yearning woman's eyes Burn with glorious agonies, Pitying the waste and woe, And the heroes falling low In the war around thee, here, Yet the least, quick-trembling tear 'Twixt thy lids shall dearer be Than life, to friend or enemy.
There are people on the earth Doomed with doom of too great worth. Look on Helen not with hate, Therefore, but compassionate. If she suffer not too much, Seldom does she feel the touch Of that fresh, auroral joy Lighter spirits may decoy To their pure and sunny lives. Heavy honey 'tis she hives. To her sweet but burdened soul All that here she may control— What of bitter memories, What of coming fate's surmise, Paris' passion, distant din Of the war now drifting in To her quiet—idle seems; Idle as the lazy gleams Of some stilly water's reach, Seen from where broad vine-leaves pleach A heavy arch; and, looking through, Far away the doubtful blue Glimmers, on a drowsy day, Crowded with the sun's rich gray;— As she stands within her room, Weaving, weaving at the loom.
THE CASKET OF OPALS
Deep, smoldering colors of the land and sea Burn in these stones, that, by some mystery, Wrap fire in sleep and never are consumed. Scarlet of daybreak, sunset gleams half spent In thick white cloud; pale moons that may have lent Light to love's grieving; rose-illumined snows, And veins of gold no mine depth ever gloomed; All these, and green of thin-edged waves, are there. I think a tide of feeling through them flows With blush and pallor, as if some being of air,— Some soul once human,—wandering, in the snare Of passion had been caught, and henceforth doomed In misty crystal here to lie entombed.
And so it is, indeed. Here prisoned sleep The ardors and the moods and all the pain That once within a man's heart throbbed. He gave These opals to the woman whom he loved; And now, like glinting sunbeams through the rain, The rays of thought that through his spirit moved Leap out from these mysterious forms again.
The colors of the jewels laugh and weep As with his very voice. In them the wave Of sorrow and joy that, with a changing sweep, Bore him to misery or else made him blest Still surges in melodious, wild unrest. So when each gem in place I touch and take, It murmurs what he thought or what he spake.
My heart is like an opal Made to lie upon your breast In dreams of ardor, clouded o'er By endless joy's unrest.
And forever it shall haunt you With its mystic, changing ray: Its light shall live when we lie dead, With hearts at the heart of day!
If, from a careless hold, One gem of these should fall, No power of art or gold Its wholeness could recall: The lustrous wonder dies In gleams of irised rain, As light fades out from the eyes When a soul is crushed by pain. Take heed that from your hold My love you do not cast: Dim, shattered, vapor-cold— That day would be its last.
He won her love; and so this opal sings With all its tints in maze, that seem to quake And leap in light, as if its heart would break:
Gleam of the sea, Translucent air, Where every leaf alive with glee Glows in the sun without shadow of grief— You speak of spring, When earth takes wing And sunlight, sunlight is everywhere! Radiant life, Face so fair— Crowned with the gracious glory of wife— Your glance lights all this happy day, Your tender glow And murmurs low Make miracle, miracle, everywhere.
Earth takes wing With birds—do I care Whether of sorrow or joy they sing? No; for they make not my life nor destroy! My soul awakes At a smile that breaks In sun; and sunlight is everywhere!
Then dawned a mood of musing thoughtfulness; As if he doubted whether he could bless Her wayward spirit, through each fickle hour, With love's serenity of flawless power, Or she remain a vision, as when first She came to soothe his fancy all athirst.
We were alone: the perfumed night, Moonlighted, like a flower Grew round us and exhaled delight To bless that one sweet hour.
You stood where, 'mid the white and gold, The rose-fire through the gloom Touched hair and cheek and garment's fold With soft, ethereal bloom.
And when the vision seemed to swerve, 'T was but the flickering shine That gave new grace, a lovelier curve, To every dream-like line.
O perfect vision! Form and face Of womanhood complete! O rare ideal to embrace And hold, from head to feet!
Could I so hold you ever—could Your eye still catch the glow Of mine—it were an endless good: Together we should grow
One perfect picture of our love!... Alas, the embers old Fell, and the moonlight fell, above— Dim, shattered, vapor-cold.
What ill befell these lovers? Shall I say? What tragedy of petty care and sorrow? Ye all know, who have lived and loved: if nay, Then those will know who live and love tomorrow. But here at least is what this opal said, The fifth in number: and the next two bore My fancy toward that dim world of the dead, Where waiting spirits muse the past life o'er:
I dreamed my kisses on your hair Turned into roses. Circling bloom Crowned the loose-lifted tresses there. "O Love," I cried, "forever Dwell wreathed, and perfume-haunted By my heart's deep honey-breath!" But even as I bending looked, I saw The roses were not; and, instead, there lay Pale, feathered flakes and scentless Ashes upon your hair!
The love I gave, the love I gave, Wherewith I sought to win you— Ah, long and close to you it clave With life and soul and sinew! My gentleness with scorn you cursed: You knew not what I gave. The strongest man may die of thirst: My love is in its grave!
You say these jewels were accurst— With evil omen fraught. You should have known it from the first! This was the truth they taught:
No treasured thing in heaven or earth Holds potency more weird Than our hearts hold, that throb from birth With wavering flames insphered.
And when from me the gems you took, On that strange April day, My nature, too, I gave, that shook With passion's fateful play.
The mingled fate my love should give In these mute emblems shone, That more intensely burn and live— While I am turned to stone.
Listen now to what is said By the eighth opal, flashing red And pale, by turns, with every breath— The voice of the lover after death.
I did not know before That we dead could rise and walk; That our voices, as of yore, Would blend in gentle talk.
I did not know her eyes Would so haunt mine after death, Or that she could hear my sighs, Low as the harp-string's breath.
But, ah, last night we met! From our stilly trance we rose, Thrilled with all the old regret— The grieving that God knows.
She asked: "Am I forgiven?"— "And dost thou forgive?" I said, Ah! how long for joy we'd striven! But now our hearts were dead.
Alas, for the lips I kissed And the sweet hope, long ago! On her grave chill hangs the mist; On mine, white lies the snow.
Hearkening still, I hear this strain From the ninth opal's varied vein:
In the mountains of Mexico, Where the barren volcanoes throw Their fierce peaks high to the sky, With the strength of a tawny brute That sees heaven but to defy, And the soft, white hand of the snow Touches and makes them mute,—
Firm in the clasp of the ground The opal is found. By the struggle of frost and fire Created, yet caught in a spell From which only human desire Can free it, what passion profound In its dim, sweet bosom may dwell!
So was it with us, I think, Whose souls were formed on the brink Of a crater, where rain and flame Had mingled and crystallized. One venturous day Love came; Found us; and bound with a link Of gold the jewels he prized.
The agonies old of the earth, Its plenitude and its dearth, The torrents of flame and of tears, All these in our souls were inborn. And we must endure through the years The glory and burden of birth That filled us with fire of the morn.
Let the diamond lie in its mine; Let ruby and topaz shine; The beryl sleep, and the emerald keep Its sunned-leaf green! We know The joy of sufferings deep That blend with a love divine, And the hidden warmth of the snow!
Colors that tremble and perish, Atoms that follow the law, You mirror the truth which we cherish, You mirror the spirit we saw. Glow of the daybreak tender, Flushed with an opaline gleam, And passionate sunset-splendor— Ye both but embody a dream. Visions of cloud-hidden glory Breaking from sources of light Mimic the mist of life's story. Mingled of scarlet and white. Sunset-clouds iridescent, Opals, and mists of the day, Are thrilled alike with the crescent Delight of a deathless ray Shot through the hesitant trouble Of particles floating in space, And touching each wandering bubble With tints of a rainbowed grace. So through the veil of emotion Trembles the light of the truth; And so may the light of devotion Glorify life—age and youth. Sufferings,—pangs that seem cruel,— These are but atoms adrift: The light streams through, and a jewel Is formed for us, Heaven's own gift!
LOVE THAT LIVES
Dear face—bright, glinting hair; Dear life, whose heart is mine— The thought of you is prayer, The love of you divine.
In starlight, or in rain; In the sunset's shrouded glow; Ever, with joy or pain, To you my quick thoughts go
Like winds or clouds, that fleet Across the hungry space Between, and find you, sweet, Where life again wins grace.
Now, as in that once young Year that so softly drew My heart to where it clung, I long for, gladden in you.
And when in the silent hours I whisper your sacred name, Like an altar-fire it showers My blood with fragrant flame!
Perished is all that grieves; And lo, our old-new joys Are gathered as in sheaves, Held in love's equipoise.
Ours is the love that lives; Its springtime blossoms blow 'Mid the fruit that autumn gives, And its life outlasts the snow.
Over the mossy walls, Above the slumbering fields Where yet the ground no fruitage yields, Save as the sunlight falls In dreams of harvest-yellow, What voice remembered calls,— So bubbling fresh, so soft and mellow?
A darting, azure-feathered arrow From some lithe sapling's bow-curve, fleet The bluebird, springing light and narrow, Sings in flight, with gurglings sweet:
"Out of the South I wing, Blown on the breath of Spring: The little faltering song That in my beak I bring Some maiden shall catch and sing, Filling it with the longing And the blithe, unfettered thronging Of her spirit's blossoming.
"Warbling along In the sunny weather, Float, my notes, Through the sunny motes, Falling light as a feather! Flit, flit, o'er the fertile land 'Mid hovering insects' hums; Fall into the sower's hand: Then, when his harvest comes, The seed and the song shall have flowered together.
"From the Coosa and Altamaha, With a thought of the dim blue Gulf; From the Roanoke and Kanawha; From the musical Southern rivers, O'er the land where the fierce war-wolf Lies slain and buried in flowers; I come to your chill, sad hours And the woods where the sunlight shivers. I come like an echo: 'Awake!' I answer the sky and the lake And the clear, cool color that quivers In all your azure rills. I come to your wan, bleak hills For a greeting that rises dearer, To homely hearts draws me nearer Than the warmth of the rice-fields or wealth of the ranches.
"I will charm away your sorrow, For I sing of the dewy morrow: My melody sways like the branches My light feet set astir: I bring to the old, as I hover, The days and the joys that were, And hope to the waiting lover! Then, take my note and sing, Filling it with the longing And the blithe, unfettered thronging Of your spirit's blossoming!"
Not long that music lingers: Like the breath of forgotten singers It flies,—or like the March-cloud's shadow That sweeps with its wing the faded meadow Not long! And yet thy fleeting, Thy tender, flute-toned greeting, O bluebird, wakes an answer that remains The purest chord in all the year's refrains.
THE VOICE OF THE VOID
I warn, like the one drop of rain On your face, ere the storm; Or tremble in whispered refrain With your blood, beating warm. I am the presence that ever Baffles your touch's endeavor,— Gone like the glimmer of dust Dispersed by a gust. I am the absence that taunts you, The fancy that haunts you; The ever unsatisfied guess That, questioning emptiness, Wins a sigh for reply. Nay; nothing am I, But the flight of a breath— For I am Death!
"O WHOLESOME DEATH"
O wholesome Death, thy sombre funeral-car Looms ever dimly on the lengthening way Of life; while, lengthening still, in sad array, My deeds in long procession go, that are As mourners of the man they helped to mar. I see it all in dreams, such as waylay The wandering fancy when the solid day Has fallen in smoldering ruins, and night's star, Aloft there, with its steady point of light Mastering the eye, has wrapped the brain in sleep. Ah, when I die, and planets hold their flight Above my grave, still let my spirit keep Sometimes its vigil of divine remorse, 'Midst pity, praise, or blame heaped o'er my corse!
When the leaves, by thousands thinned, A thousand times have whirled in the wind, And the moon, with hollow cheek, Staring from her hollow height, Consolation seems to seek From the dim, reechoing night; And the fog-streaks dead and white Lie like ghosts of lost delight O'er highest earth and lowest sky; Then, Autumn, work thy witchery!
Strew the ground with poppy-seeds, And let my bed be hung with weeds, Growing gaunt and rank and tall, Drooping o'er me like a pall. Send thy stealthy, white-eyed mist Across my brow to turn and twist Fold on fold, and leave me blind To all save visions in the mind. Then, in the depth of rain-fed streams I shall slumber, and in dreams Slide through some long glen that burns With a crust of blood-red ferns And brown-withered wings of brake Like a burning lava-lake;— So, urged to fearful, faster flow By the awful gasp, "Hahk! hahk!" of the crow, Shall pass by many a haunted rood Of the nutty, odorous wood; Or, where the hemlocks lean and loom, Shall fill my heart with bitter gloom; Till, lured by light, reflected cloud, I burst aloft my watery shroud, And upward through the ether sail Far above the shrill wind's wail;— But, falling thence, my soul involve With the dust dead flowers dissolve; And, gliding out at last to sea, Lulled to a long tranquillity, The perfect poise of seasons keep With the tides that rest at neap. So must be fulfilled the rite That giveth me the dead year's might; And at dawn I shall arise A spirit, though with human eyes, A human form and human face; And where'er I go or stay, There the summer's perished grace Shall be with me, night and day.
FAMINE AND HARVEST
[PLYMOUTH PLANTATION: 1622]
The strong and the tender, The young and the old, Unto Death we must render;— Our silver, our gold.
To break their long sleeping No voice may avail: They hear not our weeping— Our famished love's wail.
Yea, those whom we cherish Depart, day by day. Soon we, too, shall perish And crumble to clay.
And the vine and the berry Above us will bloom; The wind shall make merry While we lie in gloom.
Fear not! Though thou starvest, Provision is made: God gathers His harvest When our hopes fade!
THE CHILD'S WISH GRANTED
Do you remember, my sweet, absent son, How in the soft June days forever done You loved the heavens so warm and clear and high; And when I lifted you, soft came your cry,— "Put me 'way up—'way, 'way up in blue sky"?
I laughed and said I could not;—set you down, Your gray eyes wonder-filled beneath that crown Of bright hair gladdening me as you raced by. Another Father now, more strong than I, Has borne you voiceless to your dear blue sky.
THE FLOWN SOUL
(FRANCIS HAWTHORNE LATHROP)
FEBRUARY 6, 1881
Come not again! I dwell with you Above the realm of frost and dew, Of pain and fire, and growth to death. I dwell with you where never breath Is drawn, but fragrance vital flows From life to life, even as a rose Unseen pours sweetness through each vein And from the air distills again. You are my rose unseen; we live Where each to other joy may give In ways untold, by means unknown And secret as the magnet-stone.
For which of us, indeed, is dead? No more I lean to kiss your head— The gold-red hair so thick upon it; Joy feels no more the touch that won it When o'er my brow your pearl-cool palm In tenderness so childish, calm, Crept softly, once. Yet, see, my arm Is strong, and still my blood runs warm. I still can work, and think and weep. But all this show of life I keep Is but the shadow of your shine, Flicker of your fire, husk of your vine; Therefore, you are not dead, nor I Who hear your laughter's minstrelsy. Among the stars your feet are set; Your little feet are dancing yet Their rhythmic beat, as when on earth. So swift, so slight are death and birth!
Come not again, dear child. If thou By any chance couldst break that vow Of silence at thy last hour made; If to this grim life unafraid Thou couldst return, and melt the frost Wherein thy bright limbs' power was lost; Still would I whisper—since so fair This silent comradeship we share— Yes, whisper 'mid the unbidden rain Of tears: "Come not, come not again!"
SUNSET AND SHORE
Birds that like vanishing visions go winging, White, white in the flame of the sunset's burning, Fly with the wild spray the billows are flinging, Blend, blend with the nightfall, and fade, unreturning!
Fire of the heaven, whose splendor all-glowing Soon, soon shall end, and in darkness must perish; Sea-bird and flame-wreath and foam lightly blowing;— Soon, soon tho' we lose you, your beauty we cherish.
Visions may vanish, the sweetest, the dearest; Hush'd, hush'd be the voice of love's echo replying; Spirits may leave us that clung to us nearest:— Love, love, only love dwells with us undying!
Yes, I was wrong about the phoebe-bird. Two songs it has, and both of them I've heard: I did not know those strains of joy and sorrow Came from one throat, or that each note could borrow Strength from the other, making one more brave And one as sad as rain-drops on a grave.
But thus it is. Two songs have men and maidens: One is for hey-day, one is sorrow's cadence. Our voices vary with the changing seasons Of life's long year, for deep and natural reasons. Therefore despair not. Think not you have altered, If, at some time, the gayer note has faltered. We are as God has made us. Gladness, pain, Delight and death, and moods of bliss or bane, With love and hate, or good and evil—all, At separate times, in separate accents call; Yet 't is the same heart-throb within the breast That gives an impulse to our worst and best. I doubt not when our earthly cries are ended, The Listener finds them in one music blended.
A STRONG CITY
For them that hope in Thee.... Thou shalt hide them in the secret of Thy face, from the disturbance of men.
Thou shalt protect them in Thy tabernacle from the contradiction of tongues.
Blessed be the Lord, for He hath shewn His wonderful mercy to me in a fortified city.—Psalm xxx.
Beauty and splendor were on every hand: Yet strangely crawled dark shadows down the lanes, Twisting across the fields, like dragon-shapes That smote the air with blackness, and devoured The life of light, and choked the smiling world Till it grew livid with a sudden age— The death of hope.
O squandered happiness; Vain dust of misery powdering life's fresh flower! The sky was holy, but the earth was not.
Men ruled, but ruled in vain; since wretchedness Of soul and body, for the mass of men, Made them like dead leaves in an idle drift Around the plough of progress as it drove Sharp through the glebe of modern days, to plant A civilized world. Ay; civilized—but not Christian!
Civilization is a clarion voice Crying in the wilderness; a prophet-word Still unfulfilled. And lo, along the ways Crowded with nations, there arose a strife; Disturbance of men; tongues contradicting tongues; Madness of noise, that scattered multitudes; A trample of blind feet, beneath whose tread Truth's bloom shrank withered; while incessant mouths Howled "Progress! Change!"—as though all moods of change Were fiats of truth eternal.
'Mid the din Two pilgrims, faring forward, saw the light In a strong city, fortified, and moved Patiently thither. "All your steps are vain," Cried scoffers. "There is mercy in the world; But chiefly mercy of man to man. For we Are good. We help our fellows, when we can. Our charity is enormous. Look at these Long rolls of rich subscriptions. We are good. 'T is true, God's mercy plays a part in things; But most is left to us; and we judge well. Stay with us in the field of endless war! Here only is health. Yon city fortified You dream of—why, its ramparts are as dust. It gives no safety. One assaulting sweep Of our huge cohorts would annul its power— Crush it in atoms; make it meaningless."
The pilgrims listened; but onward still they moved. They passed the gates; they stood upon a hill Enclosed, but in that strong enclosure free! Though earth opposed, they held the key to heaven. On came the turbulent multitude in war, Dashing against the city's walls; and swept Through all the streets, and robbed and burned and killed. The walls were strong; the gates were always open. And so the invader rioted, and was proud. But sudden, in seeming triumph, the enemy host Was stricken with death; and still the city stayed. Skyward the souls of its defenders rose, Returning soon in mist intangible That flashed with radiance of half-hidden swords; And those who still assaulted—though they crept Into the inmost vantage-points, with craft— Fell, blasted namelessly by this veiled flash, Even as they shouted out, "The place is ours!"
So those two pilgrims dwelt there, fortified In that strong city men had thought so frail. They died, and lived again. Fiercest attack Was as a perfumed breeze to them, which drew Their souls still closer unto God. And there Beauty and splendor bloomed untouched. The stars Spoke to them, bidding them be of good cheer, Though hostile hordes rushed over them in blood. And still the prayers of all that people rose As incense mingled with music of their hearts. For Christ was with them: angels were their aid. What though the enemy used their open gates? The children of the citadel conquered all Their conquerors, smiting them with the pure light That shone in that strong city fortified.
Seaward, at morn, my doves flew free; At eve they circled back to me. The first was Faith; the second, Hope; The third—the whitest—Charity.
Above the plunging surge's play Dream-like they hovered, day by day. At last they turned, and bore to me Green signs of peace thro' nightfall gray.
No shore forlorn, no loveliest land Their gentle eyes had left unscanned, 'Mid hues of twilight-heliotrope Or daybreak fires by heaven-breath fanned.
Quick visions of celestial grace,— Hither they waft, from earth's broad space, Kind thoughts for all humanity. They shine with radiance from God's face.
Ah, since my heart they choose for home, Why loose them,—forth again to roam? Yet look: they rise! with loftier scope They wheel in flight toward heaven's pure dome.
Fly, messengers that find no rest Save in such toil as makes man blest! Your home is God's immensity: We hold you but at his behest.
The soul of a nation awaking,— High visions of daybreak,—I saw; A people renewed; the forsaking Of sin, and the worship of law.
Sing, pine-tree; shout, to the hoarser Response of the jubilant sea! Rush, river, foam-flecked like a courser; Warn all who are honest and free!
Our birth-star beckons to trial The faith of the far-fled years, Ere scorn was our share, and denial, Or laughter for patriots' tears.
And Faith shall come forth the finer, From trampled thickets of fire, And the orient open diviner Before her, the heaven rise higher.
O deep, sweet eyes, but severer Than steel! See you yet, where he comes— Our hero? Bend your glance nearer; Speak, Faith! For, as wakening drums,
Your voice shall set his blood stirring; His heart shall grow strong like the main When the rowelled winds are spurring, And the broad tides landward strain.
O hero, art thou among us? O helper, hidest thou, still? Why hast thou no anthem sung us, Why workest thou not our will?
For a smirk of the face, or a favor, Still shelters the cheat where he crawls; And the truth we began with needs braver Upholders, and loftier walls.
Too long has the land's soul slumbered In wearying dreams of gain, With prosperous falsity cumbered And dulled with bribes, as a bane.
Yes, cunning is civilized evil, And crafty the gold-baited snare; But virtue, in fiery upheaval, May cast fine device to the air.
Bring us the simple and stalwart Purpose of earlier days. Come! Far better than all were't— Our precepts, our pride, and our lays—
That the people in spirit should tremble With heed of the God-given Word; That we cease from our boast, nor dissemble, But follow where truth's voice is heard.
Come to us, mountain-dweller, Leader, wherever thou art; Skilled from thy cradle, a queller Of serpents, and sound to the heart!
Modest and mighty and tender; Man of an iron mold; Honest, fine-grained, our defender;— American-souled!
THE NAME OF WASHINGTON
[Read before the Sons of the Revolution, New-York, February 22, 1887]
Sons of the youth and the truth of the nation, Ye that are met to remember the man Whose valor gave birth to a people's salvation, Honor him now; set his name in the van. A nobleness to try for, A name to live and die for— The name of Washington.
Calmly his face shall look down through the ages— Sweet yet severe with a spirit of warning; Charged with the wisdom of saints and of sages; Quick with the light of a life-giving morning. A majesty to try for, A name to live and die for— The name of Washington!
Though faction may rack us, or party divide us, And bitterness break the gold links of our story, Our father and leader is ever beside us. Live, and forgive! But forget not the glory Of him whose height we try for, A name to live and die for— The name of Washington!
Still in his eyes shall be mirrored our fleeting Days, with the image of days long ended; Still shall those eyes give, immortally, greeting Unto the souls from his spirit descended. His grandeur we will try for, His name we 'll live and die for— The name of Washington!
Ah, who shall sound the hero's funeral march? And what shall be the music of his dirge? No single voice may chant the Nation's grief, No formal strain can give its woe relief. The pent-up anguish of the loyal wife, The sobs of those who, nearest in this life, Still hold him closely in the life beyond;— These first, with threnody of memories fond. But look! Forth press a myriad mourners thronging, With hearts that throb in sorrow's exaltation, Moved by a strange, impassioned, hopeless longing To serve him with their love's last ministration. Make way! Make way, from wave-bound verge to verge Of all our land, that this great multitude With lamentation proud albeit subdued, Deep murmuring like the ocean's mighty surge, May pass beneath the heavens' triumphal arch!