By William Vaughn Moody
GLOUCESTER MOORS and Other Poems. 12mo, $1.25. THE FIRE-BRINGER. 12mo, $1.10, net. Postage 8 cents. THE MASQUE OF JUDGMENT. 12mo, $1.50.
THE GREAT DIVIDE. 12mo, $1.00, net. Postage 10 cents. THE FAITH HEALER. 12mo, $1.00, net. Postage 10 cents.
HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY BOSTON AND NEW YORK
AND OTHER POEMS
WILLIAM VAUGHN MOODY
BOSTON AND NEW YORK HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY The Riverside Press Cambridge
COPYRIGHT, 1901, BY WILLIAM VAUGHN MOODY
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Several poems of this collection, including "An Ode in Time of Hesitation," "The Brute," and "On a Soldier Fallen in the Philippines," have appeared in the Atlantic Monthly; "Gloucester Moors" and "Faded Pictures," in Scribner's Magazine; and "The Ride Back," under a different title in the Chap-Book. The author is indebted to the editors of these periodicals for leave to reprint.
GLOUCESTER MOORS 1
GOOD FRIDAY NIGHT 5
ROAD-HYMN FOR THE START 9
AN ODE IN TIME OF HESITATION 12
THE QUARRY 22
ON A SOLDIER FALLEN IN THE PHILIPPINES 24
UNTIL THE TROUBLING OF THE WATERS 26
THE BRUTE 49
THE MENAGERIE 55
THE GOLDEN JOURNEY 62
HEART'S WILD-FLOWER 65
ON THE RIVER 68
THE BRACELET OF GRASS 70
THE DEPARTURE 72
FADED PICTURES 74
A GREY DAY 75
THE RIDE BACK 76
SONG-FLOWER AND POPPY 80
I. IN NEW YORK
II. AT ASSISI
HOW THE MEAD-SLAVE WAS SET FREE 86
A DIALOGUE IN PURGATORY 89
THE DAGUERREOTYPE 98
A mile behind is Gloucester town Where the fishing fleets put in, A mile ahead the land dips down And the woods and farms begin. Here, where the moors stretch free In the high blue afternoon, Are the marching sun and talking sea, And the racing winds that wheel and flee On the flying heels of June.
Jill-o'er-the-ground is purple blue, Blue is the quaker-maid, The wild geranium holds its dew Long in the boulder's shade. Wax-red hangs the cup From the huckleberry boughs, In barberry bells the grey moths sup, Or where the choke-cherry lifts high up Sweet bowls for their carouse.
Over the shelf of the sandy cove Beach-peas blossom late. By copse and cliff the swallows rove Each calling to his mate. Seaward the sea-gulls go, And the land-birds all are here; That green-gold flash was a vireo, And yonder flame where the marsh-flags grow Was a scarlet tanager.
This earth is not the steadfast place We landsmen build upon; From deep to deep she varies pace, And while she comes is gone. Beneath my feet I feel Her smooth bulk heave and dip; With velvet plunge and soft upreel She swings and steadies to her keel Like a gallant, gallant ship.
These summer clouds she sets for sail, The sun is her masthead light, She tows the moon like a pinnace frail Where her phosphor wake churns bright. Now hid, now looming clear, On the face of the dangerous blue The star fleets tack and wheel and veer, But on, but on does the old earth steer As if her port she knew.
God, dear God! Does she know her port, Though she goes so far about? Or blind astray, does she make her sport To brazen and chance it out? I watched when her captains passed: She were better captainless. Men in the cabin, before the mast, But some were reckless and some aghast, And some sat gorged at mess.
By her battened hatch I leaned and caught Sounds from the noisome hold,— Cursing and sighing of souls distraught And cries too sad to be told. Then I strove to go down and see; But they said, "Thou art not of us!" I turned to those on the deck with me And cried, "Give help!" But they said, "Let be: Our ship sails faster thus."
Jill-o'er-the-ground is purple blue, Blue is the quaker-maid, The alder-clump where the brook comes through Breeds cresses in its shade. To be out of the moiling street With its swelter and its sin! Who has given to me this sweet, And given my brother dust to eat? And when will his wage come in?
Scattering wide or blown in ranks, Yellow and white and brown, Boats and boats from the fishing banks Come home to Gloucester town. There is cash to purse and spend, There are wives to be embraced, Hearts to borrow and hearts to lend, And hearts to take and keep to the end,— O little sails, make haste!
But thou, vast outbound ship of souls, What harbor town for thee? What shapes, when thy arriving tolls, Shall crowd the banks to see? Shall all the happy shipmates then Stand singing brotherly? Or shall a haggard ruthless few Warp her over and bring her to, While the many broken souls of men Fester down in the slaver's pen, And nothing to say or do?
GOOD FRIDAY NIGHT
At last the bird that sang so long In twilight circles, hushed his song: Above the ancient square The stars came here and there.
Good Friday night! Some hearts were bowed, But some amid the waiting crowd Because of too much youth Felt not that mystic ruth;
And of these hearts my heart was one: Nor when beneath the arch of stone With dirge and candle flame The cross of passion came,
Did my glad spirit feel reproof, Though on the awful tree aloof, Unspiritual, dead, Drooped the ensanguined Head.
To one who stood where myrtles made A little space of deeper shade (As I could half descry, A stranger, even as I),
I said, "These youths who bear along The symbols of their Saviour's wrong, The spear, the garment torn, The flaggel, and the thorn,—
"Why do they make this mummery? Would not a brave man gladly die For a much smaller thing Than to be Christ and king?"
He answered nothing, and I turned. Throned in its hundred candles burned The jeweled eidolon Of her who bore the Son.
The crowd was prostrate; still, I felt No shame until the stranger knelt; Then not to kneel, almost Seemed like a vulgar boast.
I knelt. The doll-face, waxen white, Flowered out a living dimness; bright Dawned the dear mortal grace Of my own mother's face.
When we were risen up, the street Was vacant; all the air hung sweet With lemon-flowers; and soon The sky would hold the moon.
More silently than new-found friends To whom much silence makes amends For the much babble vain While yet their lives were twain,
We walked along the odorous hill. The light was little yet; his will I could not see to trace Upon his form or face.
So when aloft the gold moon broke, I cried, heart-stung. As one who woke He turned unto my cries The anguish of his eyes.
"Friend! Master!" I cried falteringly, "Thou seest the thing they make of thee. Oh, by the light divine My mother shares with thine,
"I beg that I may lay my head Upon thy shoulder and be fed With thoughts of brotherhood!" So through the odorous wood,
More silently than friends new-found We walked. At the first meadow bound His figure ashen-stoled Sank in the moon's broad gold.
ROAD-HYMN FOR THE START
Leave the early bells at chime, Leave the kindled hearth to blaze, Leave the trellised panes where children linger out the waking-time, Leave the forms of sons and fathers trudging through the misty ways, Leave the sounds of mothers taking up their sweet laborious days.
Pass them by! even while our soul Yearns to them with keen distress. Unto them a part is given; we will strive to see the whole. Dear shall be the banquet table where their singing spirits press; Dearer be our sacred hunger, and our pilgrim loneliness.
We have felt the ancient swaying Of the earth before the sun, On the darkened marge of midnight heard sidereal rivers playing; Rash it was to bathe our souls there, but we plunged and all was done. That is lives and lives behind us—lo, our journey is begun!
Careless where our face is set, Let us take the open way. What we are no tongue has told us: Errand-goers who forget? Soldiers heedless of their harry? Pilgrim people gone astray? We have heard a voice cry "Wander!" That was all we heard it say.
Ask no more: 't is much, 't is much! Down the road the day-star calls; Touched with change in the wide heavens, like a leaf the frost winds touch, Flames the failing moon a moment, ere it shrivels white and falls; Hid aloft, a wild throat holdeth sweet and sweeter intervals.
Leave him still to ease in song Half his little heart's unrest: Speech is his, but we may journey toward the life for which we long. God, who gives the bird its anguish, maketh nothing manifest, But upon our lifted foreheads pours the boon of endless quest.
AN ODE IN TIME OF HESITATION
(After seeing at Boston the statue of Robert Gould Shaw, killed while storming Fort Wagner, July 18, 1863, at the head of the first enlisted negro regiment, the 54th Massachusetts.)
Before the solemn bronze Saint Gaudens made To thrill the heedless passer's heart with awe, And set here in the city's talk and trade To the good memory of Robert Shaw, This bright March morn I stand, And hear the distant spring come up the land; Knowing that what I hear is not unheard Of this boy soldier and his negro band, For all their gaze is fixed so stern ahead, For all the fatal rhythm of their tread. The land they died to save from death and shame Trembles and waits, hearing the spring's great name, And by her pangs these resolute ghosts are stirred.
Through street and mall the tides of people go Heedless; the trees upon the Common show No hint of green; but to my listening heart The still earth doth impart Assurance of her jubilant emprise, And it is clear to my long-searching eyes That love at last has might upon the skies. The ice is runneled on the little pond; A telltale patter drips from off the trees; The air is touched with southland spiceries, As if but yesterday it tossed the frond Of pendent mosses where the live-oaks grow Beyond Virginia and the Carolines, Or had its will among the fruits and vines Of aromatic isles asleep beyond Florida and the Gulf of Mexico.
Soon shall the Cape Ann children shout in glee, Spying the arbutus, spring's dear recluse; Hill lads at dawn shall hearken the wild goose Go honking northward over Tennessee; West from Oswego to Sault Sainte-Marie, And on to where the Pictured Rocks are hung, And yonder where, gigantic, willful, young, Chicago sitteth at the northwest gates, With restless violent hands and casual tongue Moulding her mighty fates, The Lakes shall robe them in ethereal sheen; And like a larger sea, the vital green Of springing wheat shall vastly be outflung Over Dakota and the prairie states. By desert people immemorial On Arizonan mesas shall be done Dim rites unto the thunder and the sun; Nor shall the primal gods lack sacrifice More splendid, when the white Sierras call Unto the Rockies straightway to arise And dance before the unveiled ark of the year, Sounding their windy cedars as for shawms, Unrolling rivers clear For flutter of broad phylacteries; While Shasta signals to Alaskan seas That watch old sluggish glaciers downward creep To fling their icebergs thundering from the steep, And Mariposa through the purple calms Gazes at far Hawaii crowned with palms Where East and West are met,— A rich seal on the ocean's bosom set To say that East and West are twain, With different loss and gain: The Lord hath sundered them; let them be sundered yet.
Alas! what sounds are these that come Sullenly over the Pacific seas,— Sounds of ignoble battle, striking dumb The season's half-awakened ecstasies? Must I be humble, then, Now when my heart hath need of pride? Wild love falls on me from these sculptured men; By loving much the land for which they died I would be justified. My spirit was away on pinions wide To soothe in praise of her its passionate mood And ease it of its ache of gratitude. Too sorely heavy is the debt they lay On me and the companions of my day. I would remember now My country's goodliness, make sweet her name. Alas! what shade art thou Of sorrow or of blame Liftest the lyric leafage from her brow, And pointest a slow finger at her shame?
Lies! lies! It cannot be! The wars we wage Are noble, and our battles still are won By justice for us, ere we lift the gage, We have not sold our loftiest heritage. The proud republic hath not stooped to cheat And scramble in the market-place of war; Her forehead weareth yet its solemn star. Here is her witness: this, her perfect son, This delicate and proud New England soul Who leads despised men, with just-unshackled feet, Up the large ways where death and glory meet, To show all peoples that our shame is done, That once more we are clean and spirit-whole.
Crouched in the sea fog on the moaning sand All night he lay, speaking some simple word From hour to hour to the slow minds that heard, Holding each poor life gently in his hand And breathing on the base rejected clay Till each dark face shone mystical and grand Against the breaking day; And lo, the shard the potter cast away Was grown a fiery chalice crystal-fine Fulfilled of the divine Great wine of battle wrath by God's ring-finger stirred. Then upward, where the shadowy bastion loomed Huge on the mountain in the wet sea light, Whence now, and now, infernal flowerage bloomed, Bloomed, burst, and scattered down its deadly seed,— They swept, and died like freemen on the height, Like freemen, and like men of noble breed; And when the battle fell away at night By hasty and contemptuous hands were thrust Obscurely in a common grave with him The fair-haired keeper of their love and trust. Now limb doth mingle with dissolved limb In nature's busy old democracy To flush the mountain laurel when she blows Sweet by the southern sea, And heart with crumbled heart climbs in the rose:— The untaught hearts with the high heart that knew This mountain fortress for no earthly hold Of temporal quarrel, but the bastion old Of spiritual wrong, Built by an unjust nation sheer and strong, Expugnable but by a nation's rue And bowing down before that equal shrine By all men held divine, Whereof his band and he were the most holy sign.
O bitter, bitter shade! Wilt thou not put the scorn And instant tragic question from thine eyes? Do thy dark brows yet crave That swift and angry stave— Unmeet for this desirous morn— That I have striven, striven to evade? Gazing on him, must I not deem they err Whose careless lips in street and shop aver As common tidings, deeds to make his cheek Flush from the bronze, and his dead throat to speak? Surely some elder singer would arise, Whose harp hath leave to threaten and to mourn Above this people when they go astray. Is Whitman, the strong spirit, overworn? Has Whittier put his yearning wrath away? I will not and I dare not yet believe! Though furtively the sunlight seems to grieve, And the spring-laden breeze Out of the gladdening west is sinister With sounds of nameless battle overseas; Though when we turn and question in suspense If these things be indeed after these ways, And what things are to follow after these, Our fluent men of place and consequence Fumble and fill their mouths with hollow phrase, Or for the end-all of deep arguments Intone their dull commercial liturgies— I dare not yet believe! My ears are shut! I will not hear the thin satiric praise And muffled laughter of our enemies, Bidding us never sheathe our valiant sword Till we have changed our birthright for a gourd Of wild pulse stolen from a barbarian's hut; Showing how wise it is to cast away The symbols of our spiritual sway, That so our hands with better ease May wield the driver's whip and grasp the jailer's keys.
Was it for this our fathers kept the law? This crown shall crown their struggle and their ruth? Are we the eagle nation Milton saw Mewing its mighty youth, Soon to possess the mountain winds of truth, And be a swift familiar of the sun Where aye before God's face his trumpets run? Or have we but the talons and the maw, And for the abject likeness of our heart Shall some less lordly bird be set apart?— Some gross-billed wader where the swamps are fat? Some gorger in the sun? Some prowler with the bat?
Ah no! We have not fallen so. We are our fathers' sons: let those who lead us know! 'T was only yesterday sick Cuba's cry Came up the tropic wind, "Now help us, for we die!" Then Alabama heard, And rising, pale, to Maine and Idaho Shouted a burning word. Proud state with proud impassioned state conferred, And at the lifting of a hand sprang forth, East, west, and south, and north, Beautiful armies. Oh, by the sweet blood and young Shed on the awful hill slope at San Juan, By the unforgotten names of eager boys Who might have tasted girls' love and been stung With the old mystic joys And starry griefs, now the spring nights come on, But that the heart of youth is generous,— We charge you, ye who lead us, Breathe on their chivalry no hint of stain! Turn not their new-world victories to gain! One least leaf plucked for chaffer from the bays Of their dear praise, One jot of their pure conquest put to hire, The implacable republic will require; With clamor, in the glare and gaze of noon, Or subtly, coming as a thief at night, But surely, very surely, slow or soon That insult deep we deeply will requite. Tempt not our weakness, our cupidity! For save we let the island men go free, Those baffled and dislaureled ghosts Will curse us from the lamentable coasts Where walk the frustrate dead. The cup of trembling shall be drained quite, Eaten the sour bread of astonishment, With ashes of the hearth shall be made white Our hair, and wailing shall be in the tent; Then on your guiltier head Shall our intolerable self-disdain Wreak suddenly its anger and its pain; For manifest in that disastrous light We shall discern the right And do it, tardily.—O ye who lead, Take heed! Blindness we may forgive, but baseness we will smite.
Between the rice swamps and the fields of tea I met a sacred elephant, snow-white. Upon his back a huge pagoda towered Full of brass gods and food of sacrifice. Upon his forehead sat a golden throne, The massy metal twisted into shapes Grotesque, antediluvian, such as move In myth or have their broken images Sealed in the stony middle of the hills. A peacock spread his thousand dyes to screen The yellow sunlight from the head of one Who sat upon the throne, clad stiff with gems, Heirlooms of dynasties of buried kings,— Himself the likeness of a buried king, With frozen gesture and unfocused eyes. The trappings of the beast were over-scrawled With broideries—sea-shapes and flying things, Fan-trees and dwarfed nodosities of pine, Mixed with old alphabets, and faded lore Fallen from ecstatic mouths before the Flood, Or gathered by the daughters when they walked Eastward in Eden with the Sons of God Whom love and the deep moon made garrulous. Between the carven tusks his trunk hung dead; Blind as the eyes of pearl in Buddha's brow His beaded eyes stared thwart upon the road; And feebler than the doting knees of eld, His joints, of size to swing the builder's crane Across the war-walls of the Anakim, Made vain and shaken haste. Good need was his To hasten: panting, foaming, on the slot Came many brutes of prey, their several hates Laid by until the sharing of the spoil. Just as they gathered stomach for the leap, The sun was darkened, and wide-balanced wings Beat downward on the trade-wind from the sea. A wheel of shadow sped along the fields And o'er the dreaming cities. Suddenly My heart misgave me, and I cried aloud, "Alas! What dost thou here? What dost thou here?" The great beasts and the little halted sharp, Eyed the grand circler, doubting his intent. Straightway the wind flawed and he came about, Stooping to take the vanward of the pack; Then turned, between the chasers and the chased, Crying a word I could not understand,— But stiller-tongued, with eyes somewhat askance, They settled to the slot and disappeared.
ON A SOLDIER FALLEN IN THE PHILIPPINES
Streets of the roaring town, Hush for him, hush, be still! He comes, who was stricken down Doing the word of our will. Hush! Let him have his state, Give him his soldier's crown. The grists of trade can wait Their grinding at the mill, But he cannot wait for his honor, now the trumpet has been blown. Wreathe pride now for his granite brow, lay love on his breast of stone.
Toll! Let the great bells toll Till the clashing air is dim. Did we wrong this parted soul? We will make it up to him. Toll! Let him never guess What work we set him to. Laurel, laurel, yes; He did what we bade him do. Praise, and never a whispered hint but the fight he fought was good; Never a word that the blood on his sword was his country's own heart's-blood.
A flag for the soldier's bier Who dies that his land may live; O, banners, banners here, That he doubt not nor misgive! That he heed not from the tomb The evil days draw near When the nation, robed in gloom, With its faithless past shall strive. Let him never dream that his bullet's scream went wide of its island mark, Home to the heart of his darling land where she stumbled and sinned in the dark.
UNTIL THE TROUBLING OF THE WATERS
Two hours, two hours: God give me strength for it! He who has given so much strength to me And nothing to my child, must give to-day What more I need to try and save my child And get for him the life I owe to him. To think that I may get it for him now, Before he knows how much he might have missed That other boys have got! The bitterest thought Of all that plagued me when he came was this, How some day he would see the difference, And drag himself to me with puzzled eyes To ask me why it was. He would have been Cruel enough to do it, knowing not That was the question my rebellious heart Cried over and over one whole year to God, And got no answer and no help at all. If he had asked me, what could I have said? What single word could I have found to say To hide me from his searching, puzzled gaze? Some coward thing at best, never the truth; The truth I never could have told him. No, I never could have said, "God gave you me To fashion you a body, right and strong, With sturdy little limbs and chest and neck For fun and fighting with your little mates, Great feats and voyages in the breathless world Of out-of-doors,—He gave you me for this, And I was such a bungler, that is all!" O, the old lie—that thought was not the worst. I never have been truthful with myself. For by the door where lurked one ghostly thought I stood with crazy hands to thrust it back If it should dare to peep and whisper out Unbearable things about me, hearing which The women passing in the streets would turn To pity me and scold me with their eyes, Who was so bad a mother and so slow To learn to help God do his wonder in her That she—O my sweet baby! It was not The fear that you would see the difference Between you and the other boys and girls; No, no, it was the dimmer, wilder fear, That you might never see it, never look Out of your tiny baby-house of mind, But sit your life through, quiet in the dark, Smiling and nodding at what was not there! A foolish fear: God could not punish so. Yet until yesterday I thought He would. My soul was always cowering at the blow I saw suspended, ready to be dealt The moment that I showed my fear too much. Therefore I hid it from Him all I could, And only stole a shaking glance at it Sometimes in the dead minutes before dawn When He forgets to watch. Till yesterday. For yesterday was wonderful and strange From the beginning. When I wakened first And looked out at the window, the last snow Was gone from earth; about the apple-trees Hung a faint mist of bloom; small sudden green Had run and spread and rippled everywhere Over the fields; and in the level sun Walked something like a presence and a power, Uttering hopes and loving-kindnesses To all the world, but chiefly unto me. It walked before me when I went to work, And all day long the noises of the mill Were spun upon a core of golden sound, Half-spoken words and interrupted songs Of blessed promise, meant for all the world, But most for me, because I suffered most. The shooting spindles, the smooth-humming wheels, The rocking webs, seemed toiling to some end Beneficent and human known to them, And duly brought to pass in power and love. The faces of the girls and men at work Met mine with intense greeting, veiled at once, As if they knew a secret they must keep For fear the joy would harm me if they told Before some inkling filtered to my mind In roundabout ways. When the day's work was done There lay a special silence on the fields; And, as I passed, the bushes and the trees, The very ruts and puddles of the road Spoke to each other, saying it was she, The happy woman, the elected one, The vessel of strange mercy and the sign Of many loving wonders done in Heaven To help the piteous earth.
At last I stopped And looked about me in sheer wonderment. What did it mean? What did they want with me? What was the matter with the evening now That it was just as bound to make me glad As morning and the live-long day had been? Me, who had quite forgot what gladness was, Who had no right to anything but toil, And food and sleep for strength to toil again, And that fierce frightened anguish of my love For the poor little spirit I had wronged With life that was no life. What had befallen Since yesterday? No need to stop and ask! Back there in the dark places of my mind Where I had thrust it, fearing to believe An unbelievable mercy, shone the news Told by the village neighbors coming home Last night from the great city, of a man Arisen, like the first evangelists, With power to heal the bodies of the sick, In testimony of his master Christ, Who heals the soul when it is sick with sin. Could such a thing be true in these hard days? Was help still sent in such a way as that? No, no! I did not dare to think of it, Feeling what weakness and despair would come After the crazy hope broke under me. I turned and started homeward, faster now, But never fast enough to leave behind The voices and the troubled happiness That still kept mounting, mounting like a sea, And singing far-off like a rush of wings. Far down the road a yellow spot of light Shone from my cottage window, rayless yet, Where the last sunset crimson caught the panes. Alice had lit the lamp before she went; Her day of pity and unmirthful play Was over, and her young heart free to live Until to-morrow brought her nursing-task Again, and made her feel how dark and still That life could be to others which to her Was full of dreams that beckoned, reaching hands, And thrilling invitations young girls hear. My boy was sleeping, little mind and frame More tired just lying there awake two hours Than with a whole day's romp he should have been. He would not know his mother had come home; But after supper I would sit awhile Beside his bed, and let my heart have time For that worst love that stabs and breaks and kills. This I thought over to myself by rote And habit, but I could not feel my thoughts; For still that dim unmeaning happiness Kept mounting, mounting round me like a sea, And singing inward like a wind of wings.
Before I lifted up the latch, I knew. I felt no fear; the One who waited there In the low lamplight by the bed, had come Because I was his sister and in need. My word had got to Him somehow at last, And He had come to help me or to tell Where help was to be found. It was not strange. Strange only He had stayed away so long; But that should be forgotten—He was here. I pushed the door wide open and looked in. He had been kneeling by the bed, and now, Half-risen, kissed my boy upon the lips, Then turned and smiled and pointed with his hand. I must have fallen on the threshold stone, For I remember that I felt, not saw, The resurrection glory and the peace Shed from his face and raiment as He went Out by the door into the evening street. But when I looked, the place about the bed Was yet all bathed in light, and in the midst My boy lay changed,—no longer clothed upon With scraps and shreds of life, but like the child Of some most fortunate mother. In a breath The image faded. There he lay again The same as always; and the light was gone. I sank with moans and cries beside the bed. The cruelty, O Christ, the cruelty! To come at last and then to go like that, Leaving the darkness deeper than before! Then, though I heard no sound, I grew aware Of some one standing by the open door Among the dry vines rustling in the porch. My heart laughed suddenly. He had come back! He had come back to make the vision true. He had not meant to mock me: God was God, And Christ was Christ; there was no falsehood there. I heard a quiet footstep cross the room And felt a hand laid gently on my hair,— A human hand, worn hard by daily toil, Heavy with life-long struggle after bread. Alice's father. The kind homely voice Had in it such strange music that I dreamed Perhaps it was the Other speaking in him, Because His own bright form had made me swoon With its too much of glory. What he brought Was news as good as ever heavenly lips Had the dear right to utter. He had been All day among the crowds of curious folk From the great city and the country-side Gathered to watch the Healer do his work Of mercy on the sick and halt and blind, And with his very eyes had seen such things As awestruck men had witnessed long ago In Galilee, and writ of in the Book. To-morrow morning he would take me there If I had strength and courage to believe. It might be there was hope; he could not say, But knew what he had seen. When he was gone I lay for hours, letting the solemn waves Thundering joy go over and over me.
Just before midnight baby fretted, woke; He never yet has slept a whole night through Without his food and petting. As I sat Feeding and petting him and singing soft, I felt a jealousy begin to ache And worry at my heartstrings, hushing down The gladness. Jealousy of what or whom? I hardly knew, or could not put in words; At least it seemed too foolish and too wrong When said, and so I shut the thought away. Only, next minute, it came stealing back. After the change, would my boy be the same As this one? Would he be my boy at all, And not another's—his who gave the life I could not give, or did not anyhow? How could I look in his new eyes to claim The whole of him, the body and the breath, When some one not his mother, a strange man, Had clothed him in that beauty of the flesh— Perhaps (for who could know?), perhaps, by some Hateful disfiguring miracle, had even Transformed his spirit to a better one, Better, but not the same I prayed for him Down out of Heaven through the sleepless nights,— The best that God would send to such as me. I tried to strangle back the wicked pain; Fancied him changed and tried to love him so. No use; it was another, not my child, Not my frail, broken, priceless little one, My cup of anguish, and my trembling star Hung small and sad and sweet above the earth, So sure to fall but for my cherishing!
When he had dropped asleep again, I rose And wrestled with the sinful selfishness, The dark injustice, the unnatural pain. Fevered at last with pacing to and fro, I raised the bedroom window and leaned out. The white moon, low behind the sycamores, Silvered the silent country; not a voice Of all the myriads summer moves to sing Had yet awakened; in the level moon Walked that same presence I had heard at dawn Uttering hopes and loving-kindnesses, But now, dispirited and reticent, It walked the moonlight like a homeless thing. O, how to cleanse me of the cowardice! How to be just! Was I a mother, then, A mother, and not love her child as well As her own covetous and morbid love? Was it for this the Comforter had come, Smiling at me and pointing with His hand? —What had He meant to have me think or do, Smiling and pointing?
All at once I saw A way to save my darling from myself And make atonement for my grudging love! Under the sycamores and up the hill And down across the river, the wet road Went stretching cityward, silvered in the moon. I who had shrunk from sacrifice, even I, Who had refused God's blessing for my boy, Would take him in my arms and carry him Up to the altar of the miracle. I would not wait for daylight, nor the help Of any human friendship; I alone, Through the still miles of country, I alone, Only my arms to shield him and my feet To bear him: he should have no one to thank But me for that. I knew the way was long, But knew strength would be given. So I came. Soon the stars failed; the late moon faded too: I think my heart had sucked their beams from them To build more blue amid the murky night Its own miraculous day. From creeks and fields The fog climbed slowly, blotted out the road; And hid the signposts telling of the town; After a while rain fell, with sleet and snow. What did I care? Baby was snug and dry. Some day, when I was telling him of this, He would but hug me closer, hearing how The night conspired against us. Better hard Than easy, then: I almost felt regret My body was so capable and strong To do its errand. Honeyed drop by drop, The ghostly jealousy, loosening at my breast, Distilled into a dew of quiet tears And fell with splash of music in the wells And on the hidden rivers of my soul.
The hardest part was coming through the town. The country, even when it hindered most, Seemed conscious of the thing I went to find. The rocks and bushes looming through the mist Questioned and acquiesced and understood; The trees and streams believed; the wind and rain, Even they, for all their temper, had some words Of faith and comfort. But the glaring streets, The dizzy traffic, the piled merchandise, The giant buildings swarming with fierce life— Cared nothing for me. They had never heard Of me nor of my business. When I asked My way, a shade of pity or contempt Showed through men's kindness—for they all were kind. Daunted and chilled and very sick at heart, I walked the endless pavements. But at last The streets grew quieter; the houses seemed As if they might be homes where people lived; Then came the factories and cottages, And all was well again. Much more than well, For many sick and broken went my way, Alone or helped along by loving hands; And from a thousand eyes the famished hope Looked out at mine—wild, patient, querulous, But always hope and hope, a thousand tongues Speaking one word in many languages.
In two hours He will come, they say, will stand There on the steps, above the waiting crowd, And touch with healing hands whoever asks Believingly, in spirit and in truth. Can such a mercy be, in these hard days? Is help still sent in such a way as that? Christ, I believe; pity my unbelief!
I wonder can this be the world it was At sunset? I remember the sky fell Green as pale meadows, at the long street-ends, But overhead the smoke-wrack hugged the roofs As if to shut the city from God's eyes Till dawn should quench the laughter and the lights. Beneath the gas flare stolid faces passed, Too dull for sin; old loosened lips set hard To drain the stale lees from the cup of sense; Or if a young face yearned from out the mist Made by its own bright hair, the eyes were wan With desolate fore-knowledge of the end. My life lay waste about me: as I walked, From the gross dark of unfrequented streets The face of my own youth peered forth at me, Struck white with pity at the thing I was; And globed in ghostly fire, thrice-virginal, With lifted face star-strong, went one who sang Lost verses from my youth's gold canticle. Out of the void dark came my face and hers One vivid moment—then the street was there; Bloat shapes and mean eyes blotted the sear dusk; And in the curtained window of a house Whence sin reeked on the night, a shameful head Was silhouetted black as Satan's face Against eternal fires. I stumbled on Down the dark slope that reaches riverward, Stretching blind hands to find the throat of God And crush Him in his lies. The river lay Coiled in its factory filth and few lean trees. All was too hateful—I could not die there! I whom the Spring had strained unto her breast, Whose lips had felt the wet vague lips of dawn. So under the thin willows' leprous shade And through the tangled ranks of riverweed I pushed—till lo, God heard me! I came forth Where, 'neath the shoreless hush of region light, Through a new world, undreamed of, undesired, Beyond imagining of man's weary heart, Far to the white marge of the wondering sea This still plain widens, and this moon rains down Insufferable ecstasy of peace.
My heart is man's heart, strong to bear this night's Unspeakable affliction of mute love That crazes lesser things. The rocks and clods Dissemble, feign a busy intercourse; The bushes deal in shadowy subterfuge, Lurk dull, dart spiteful out, make heartless signs, Utter awestricken purpose of no sense,— But I walk quiet, crush aside the hands Stretched furtively to drag me madmen's ways. I know the thing they suffer, and the tricks They must be at to help themselves endure. I would not be too boastful; I am weak, Too weak to put aside the utter ache Of this lone splendor long enough to see Whether the moon is still her white strange self Or something whiter, stranger, even the face Which by the changed face of my risen youth Sang, globed in fire, her golden canticle. I dare not look again; another gaze Might drive me to the wavering coppice there, Where bat-winged madness brushed me, the wild laugh Of naked nature crashed across my blood. So rank it was with earthy presences, Faun-shapes in goatish dance, young witches' eyes Slanting deep invitation, whinnying calls Ambiguous, shocks and whirlwinds of wild mirth,— They had undone me in the darkness there, But that within me, smiting through my lids Lowered to shut in the thick whirl of sense, The dumb light ached and rummaged, and with out, The soaring splendor summoned me aloud To leave the low dank thickets of the flesh Where man meets beast and makes his lair with him, For spirit reaches of the strenuous vast, Where stalwart stars reap grain to make the bread God breaketh at his tables and is glad. I came out in the moonlight cleansed and strong, And gazed up at the lyric face to see All sweetness tasted of in earthen cups Ere it be dashed and spilled, all radiance flung Beyond experience, every benison dream, Treasured and mystically crescent there.
O, who will shield me from her? Who will place A veil between me and the fierce in-throng Of her inexorable benedicite? See, I have loved her well and been with her! Through tragic twilights when the stricken sea Groveled with fear, or when she made her throne In imminent cities built of gorgeous winds And paved with lightnings; or when the sobering stars Would lead her home 'mid wealth of plundered May Along the violet slopes of evensong. Of all the sights that starred the dreamy year, For me one sight stood peerless and apart: Bright rivers tacit; low hills prone and dumb; Forests that hushed their tiniest voice to hear; Skies for the unutterable advent robed In purple like the opening iris buds; And by some lone expectant pool, one tree Whose gray boughs shivered with excess of awe,— As with preluding gush of amber light, And herald trumpets softly lifted through, Across the palpitant horizon marge Crocus-filleted came the singing moon. Out of her changing lights I wove my youth A place to dwell in, sweet and spiritual, And all the bitter years of my exile My heart has called afar off unto her. Lo, after many days love finds its own! The futile adorations, the waste tears, The hymns that fluttered low in the false dawn, She has uptreasured as a lover's gifts; They are the mystic garment that she wears Against the bridal, and the crocus flowers She twined her brow with at the going forth; They are the burden of the song she made In coming through the quiet fields of space, And breathe between her passion-parted lips Calling me out along the flowering road Which summers through the dimness of the sea.
Hark, where the deep feels round its thousand shores To find remembered respite, and far drawn Through weed-strewn shelves and crannies of the coast The myriad silence yearns to myriad speech. O sea that yearns a day, shall thy tongues be So eloquent, and heart, shall all thy tongues Be dumb to speak thy longing? Say I hold Life as a broken jewel in my hand, And fain would buy a little love with it For comfort, say I fain would make it shine Once in remembering eyes ere it be dust,— Were life not worthy spent? Then what of this, When all my spirit hungers to repay The beauty that has drenched my soul with peace? Once at a simple turning of the way I met God walking; and although the dawn Was large behind Him, and the morning stars Circled and sang about his face as birds About the fieldward morning cottager, My coward heart said faintly, "Let us haste! Day grows and it is far to market-town." Once where I lay in darkness after fight, Sore smitten, thrilled a little thread of song Searching and searching at my muffled sense Until it shook sweet pangs through all my blood, And I beheld one globed in ghostly fire Singing, star-strong, her golden canticle; And her mouth sang, "The hosts of Hate roll past, A dance of dust motes in the sliding sun; Love's battle comes on the wide wings of storm, From east to west one legion! Wilt thou strive?" Then, since the splendor of her sword-bright gaze Was heavy on me with yearning and with scorn My sick heart muttered, "Yea, the little strife, Yet see, the grievous wounds! I fain would sleep." O heart, shalt thou not once be strong to go Where all sweet throats are calling, once be brave To slake with deed thy dumbness? Let us go The path her singing face looms low to point, Pendulous, blanched with longing, shedding flame Of silver on the brown grope of the flood; For all my spirit's soilure is put by And all my body's soilure, lacking now But the last lustral sacrament of death To make me clean for those near-searching eyes That question yonder whether all be well, And pause a little ere they dare rejoice.
Question and be thou answered, passionate face! For I am worthy, worthy now at last After so long unworth; strong now at last To give myself to beauty and be saved; Now, being man, to give myself to thee, As once the tumult of my boyish heart Companioned thee with rapture through the world, Forth from a land whereof no poet's lip Made mention how the leas were lily-sprent, Into a land God's eyes had looked not on To love the tender bloom upon the hills. To-morrow, when the fishers come at dawn Upon that shell of me the sea has tossed To land, as fit for earth to use again, Men, meeting at the shops and corner streets, Will speak a word of pity, glossing o'er With altered accent, dubious sweep of hand, Their virile, just contempt for one who failed. But they can never cast my earnings up, Who know so well my losses. Even you Who in the mild light of the spirit walk And hold yourselves acquainted with the truth, Be not too swift to judge and cast me out! You shall find other, nobler ways than mine To work your soul's redemption,—glorious noons Of battle 'neath the heaven-suspended sign, And nightly refuge 'neath God's aegis-rim; Increase of wisdom, and acquaintance held With the heart's austerities; still governance, And ripening of the blood in the weekday sun To make the full-orbed consecrated fruit At life's end for the Sabbath supper meet. I shall not sit beside you at that feast, For ere a seedling of my golden tree Pushed off its petals to get room to grow, I stripped the boughs to make an April gaud And wreathe a spendthrift garland for my hair. But mine is not the failure God deplores; For I of old am beauty's votarist, Long recreant, often foiled and led astray, But resolute at last to seek her there Where most she does abide, and crave with tears That she assoil me of my blemishment. Low looms her singing face to point the way, Pendulous, blanched with longing, shedding flame Of silver on the brown grope of the flood. The stars are for me; the horizon wakes Its pilgrim chanting; and the little sand Grows musical of hope beneath my feet. The waves that leap to meet my swimming breast Gossip sweet secrets of the light-drenched way, And when the deep throbs of the rising surge Pulse upward with me, and a rain of wings Blurs round the moon's pale place, she stoops to reach Still welcome of bright hands across the wave, And sings low, low, globed all in ghostly fire, Lost verses from my youth's gold canticle.
Through his might men work their wills. They have boweled out the hills For food to keep him toiling in the cages they have wrought; And they fling him, hour by hour, Limbs of men to give him power; Brains of men to give him cunning; and for dainties to devour Children's souls, the little worth; hearts of women, cheaply bought: He takes them and he breaks them, but he gives them scanty thought.
For about the noisy land, Roaring, quivering 'neath his hand, His thoughts brood fierce and sullen or laugh in lust of pride O'er the stubborn things that he, Breaks to dust and brings to be. Some he mightily establishes, some flings down utterly. There is thunder in his stride, nothing ancient can abide, When he hales the hills together and bridles up the tide.
Quietude and loveliness, Holy sights that heal and bless, They are scattered and abolished where his iron hoof is set; When he splashes through the brae Silver streams are choked with clay, When he snorts the bright cliffs crumble and the woods go down like hay; He lairs in pleasant cities, and the haggard people fret Squalid 'mid their new-got riches, soot-begrimed and desolate.
They who caught and bound him tight Laughed exultant at his might, Saying, "Now behold, the good time comes for the weariest and the least! We will use this lusty knave: No more need for men to slave; We may rise and look about us and have knowledge ere the grave." But the Brute said in his breast, "Till the mills I grind have ceased, The riches shall be dust of dust, dry ashes be the feast!
"On the strong and cunning few Cynic favors I will strew; I will stuff their maw with overplus until their spirit dies; From the patient and the low I will take the joys they know; They shall hunger after vanities and still an-hungered go. Madness shall be on the people, ghastly jealousies arise; Brother's blood shall cry on brother up the dead and empty skies.
"I will burn and dig and hack Till the heavens suffer lack; God shall feel a pleasure fail him, crying to his cherubim, 'Who hath flung yon mud-ball there Where my world went green and fair?' I shall laugh and hug me, hearing how his sentinels declare, ''T is the Brute they chained to labor! He has made the bright earth dim. Store of wares and pelf a plenty, but they got no good of him.'"
So he plotted in his rage: So he deals it, age by age. But even as he roared his curse a still small Voice befell; Lo, a still and pleasant voice bade them none the less rejoice, For the Brute must bring the good time on; he has no other choice. He may struggle, sweat, and yell, but he knows exceeding well He must work them out salvation ere they send him back to hell.
All the desert that he made He must treble bless with shade, In primal wastes set precious seed of rapture and of pain; All the strongholds that he built For the powers of greed and guilt— He must strew their bastions down the sea and choke their towers with silt; He must make the temples clean for the gods to come again, And lift the lordly cities under skies without a stain.
In a very cunning tether He must lead the tyrant weather; He must loose the curse of Adam from the worn neck of the race; He must cast out hate and fear, Dry away each fruitless tear, And make the fruitful tears to gush from the deep heart and clear. He must give each man his portion, each his pride and worthy place; He must batter down the arrogant and lift the weary face, On each vile mouth set purity, on each low forehead grace.
Then, perhaps, at the last day, They will whistle him away, Lay a hand upon his muzzle in the face of God, and say, "Honor, Lord, the Thing we tamed! Let him not be scourged or blamed. Even through his wrath and fierceness was thy fierce wroth world reclaimed! Honor Thou thy servants' servant; let thy justice now be shown." Then the Lord will heed their saying, and the Brute come to his own, 'Twixt the Lion and the Eagle, by the armpost of the Throne.
Thank God my brain is not inclined to cut Such capers every day! I 'm just about Mellow, but then—There goes the tent-flap shut. Rain 's in the wind. I thought so: every snout Was twitching when the keeper turned me out.
That screaming parrot makes my blood run cold. Gabriel's trump! the big bull elephant Squeals "Rain!" to the parched herd. The monkeys scold, And jabber that it 's rain water they want. (It makes me sick to see a monkey pant.)
I 'll foot it home, to try and make believe I 'm sober. After this I stick to beer, And drop the circus when the sane folks leave. A man 's a fool to look at things too near: They look back, and begin to cut up queer.
Beasts do, at any rate; especially Wild devils caged. They have the coolest way Of being something else than what you see: You pass a sleek young zebra nosing hay, A nylghau looking bored and distingue,—
And think you 've seen a donkey and a bird. Not on your life! Just glance back, if you dare. The zebra chews, the nylghau has n't stirred; But something 's happened, Heaven knows what or where, To freeze your scalp and pompadour your hair.
I 'm not precisely an aeolian lute Hung in the wandering winds of sentiment, But drown me if the ugliest, meanest brute Grunting and fretting in that sultry tent Did n't just floor me with embarrassment!
'T was like a thunder-clap from out the clear, One minute they were circus beasts, some grand, Some ugly, some amusing, and some queer: Rival attractions to the hobo band, The flying jenny, and the peanut stand.
Next minute they were old hearth-mates of mine! Lost people, eyeing me with such a stare! Patient, satiric, devilish, divine; A gaze of hopeless envy, squalid care, Hatred, and thwarted love, and dim despair.
Within my blood my ancient kindred spoke,— Grotesque and monstrous voices, heard afar Down ocean caves when behemoth awoke, Or through fern forests roared the plesiosaur Locked with the giant-bat in ghastly war.
And suddenly, as in a flash of light, I saw great Nature working out her plan; Through all her shapes from mastodon to mite Forever groping, testing, passing on To find at last the shape and soul of Man.
Till in the fullness of accomplished time, Comes brother Forepaugh, upon business bent, Tracks her through frozen and through torrid clime, And shows us, neatly labeled in a tent, The stages of her huge experiment;
Blabbing aloud her shy and reticent hours; Dragging to light her blinking, slothful moods; Publishing fretful seasons when her powers Worked wild and sullen in her solitudes, Or when her mordant laughter shook the woods.
Here, round about me, were her vagrant births; Sick dreams she had, fierce projects she essayed; Her qualms, her fiery prides, her crazy mirths; The troublings of her spirit as she strayed, Cringed, gloated, mocked, was lordly, was afraid,
On that long road she went to seek mankind; Here were the darkling coverts that she beat To find the Hider she was sent to find; Here the distracted footprints of her feet Whereby her soul's Desire she came to greet.
But why should they, her botch-work, turn about And stare disdain at me, her finished job? Why was the place one vast suspended shout Of laughter? Why did all the daylight throb With soundless guffaw and dumb-stricken sob?
Helpless I stood among those awful cages; The beasts were walking loose, and I was bagged! I, I, last product of the toiling ages, Goal of heroic feet that never lagged,— A little man in trousers, slightly jagged.
Deliver me from such another jury! The Judgment-day will be a picnic to 't. Their satire was more dreadful than their fury, And worst of all was just a kind of brute Disgust, and giving up, and sinking mute.
Survival of the fittest, adaptation, And all their other evolution terms, Seem to omit one small consideration, To wit, that tumblebugs and angleworms Have souls: there 's soul in everything that squirms.
And souls are restless, plagued, impatient things, All dream and unaccountable desire; Crawling, but pestered with the thought of wings; Spreading through every inch of earth's old mire Mystical hanker after something higher.
Wishes are horses, as I understand. I guess a wistful polyp that has strokes Of feeling faint to gallivant on land Will come to be a scandal to his folks; Legs he will sprout, in spite of threats and jokes.
And at the core of every life that crawls Or runs or flies or swims or vegetates— Churning the mammoth's heart-blood, in the galls Of shark and tiger planting gorgeous hates, Lighting the love of eagles for their mates;
Yes, in the dim brain of the jellied fish That is and is not living—moved and stirred From the beginning a mysterious wish, A vision, a command, a fatal Word: The name of Man was uttered, and they heard.
Upward along the aeons of old war They sought him: wing and shank-bone, claw and bill Were fashioned and rejected; wide and far They roamed the twilight jungles of their will; But still they sought him, and desired him still.
Man they desired, but mind you, Perfect Man, The radiant and the loving, yet to be! I hardly wonder, when they came to scan The upshot of their strenuosity, They gazed with mixed emotions upon me.
Well, my advice to you is, Face the creatures, Or spot them sideways with your weather eye, Just to keep tab on their expansive features; It is n't pleasant when you 're stepping high To catch a giraffe smiling on the sly.
If nature made you graceful, don't get gay Back-to before the hippopotamus; If meek and godly, find some place to play Besides right where three mad hyenas fuss: You may hear language that we won't discuss.
If you 're a sweet thing in a flower-bed hat, Or her best fellow with your tie tucked in, Don't squander love's bright springtime girding at An old chimpanzee with an Irish chin: There may be hidden meaning in his grin.
THE GOLDEN JOURNEY
All day he drowses by the sail With dreams of her, and all night long The broken waters are at song Of how she lingers, wild and pale, When all the temple lights are dumb, And weaves her spells to make him come.
The wide sea traversed, he will stand With straining eyes, until the shoal Green water from the prow shall roll Upon the yellow strip of sand— Searching some fern-hid tangled way Into the forest old and grey.
Then he will leap upon the shore, And cast one look up at the sun, Over his loosened locks will run The dawn breeze, and a bird will pour Its rapture out to make life seem Too sweet to leave for such a dream.
But all the swifter will he go Through the pale, scattered asphodels, Down mote-hung dusk of olive dells, To where the ancient basins throw Fleet threads of blue and trembling zones Of gold upon the temple stones.
There noon keeps just a twilight trace; Twixt love and hate, and death and birth, No man may choose; nor sobs nor mirth May enter in that haunted place. All day the fountain sphynx lets drip Slow drops of silence from her lip.
To hold the porch-roof slender girls Of milk-white marble stand arow; Doubt never blurs a single brow, And never the noon's faintness curls From their expectant hush of pride The lips the god has glorified.
But these things he will barely view, Or if he stay to heed them, still But as the lark the lights that spill From out the sun it soars unto, Where, past the splendors and the heats, The sun's heart's self forever beats.
For wide the brazen doors will swing Soon as his sandals touch the pave; The anxious light inside will wave And tremble to a lunar ring About the form that lieth prone Before the dreadful altar-stone.
She will not look or speak or stir, But with drowned lips and cheeks death-white Will lie amid the pool of light, Until, grown faint with thirst of her, He shall bow down his face and sink Breathless beneath the eddying brink.
Then a swift music will begin, And as the brazen doors shut slow, There will be hurrying to and fro, And lights and calls and silver din, While through the star-freaked swirl of air The god's sweet cruel eyes will stare.
To-night her lids shall lift again, slow, soft, with vague desire, And lay about my breast and brain their hush of spirit fire, And I shall take the sweet of pain as the laborer his hire.
And though no word shall e'er be said to ease the ghostly sting, And though our hearts, unhoused, unfed, must still go wandering, My sign is set upon her head while stars do meet and sing.
Not such a sign as women wear who make their foreheads tame With life's long tolerance, and bear love's sweetest, humblest name, Nor such as passion eateth bare with its crown of tears and flame.
Nor such a sign as happy friend sets on his friend's dear brow When meadow-pipings break and blend to a key of autumn woe, And the woodland says playtime 's at end, best unclasp hands and go.
But where she strays, through blight or blooth, one fadeless flower she wears, A little gift God gave my youth,—whose petals dim were fears, Awes, adorations, songs of ruth, hesitancies, and tears.
O heart of mine, with all thy powers of white beatitude, What are the dearest of God's dowers to the children of his blood? How blow the shy, shy wilding flowers in the hollows of his wood?
This string upon my harp was best beloved: I thought I knew its secrets through and through; Till an old man, whose young eyes lightened blue 'Neath his white hair, bent over me and moved His fingers up and down, and broke the wire To such a laddered music, rung on rung, As from the patriarch's pillow skyward sprung Crowded with wide-flung wings and feet of fire.
O vibrant heart! so metely tuned and strung That any untaught hand can draw from thee One clear gold note that makes the tired years young— What of the time when Love had whispered me Where slept thy nodes, and my hand pausefully Gave to the dim harmonics voice and tongue?
ON THE RIVER
The faint stars wake and wonder, Fade and find heart anew; Above us and far under Sphereth the watchful blue.
Silent she sits, outbending, A wild pathetic grace, A beauty strange, heart-rending, Upon her hair and face.
O spirit cries that sever The cricket's level drone! O to give o'er endeavor And let love have its own!
Within the mirrored bushes There wakes a little stir; The white-throat moves, and hushes Her nestlings under her.
Beneath, the lustrous river, The watchful sky o'erhead. God, God, that Thou should'st ever Poison thy children's bread!
THE BRACELET OF GRASS
The opal heart of afternoon Was clouding on to throbs of storm, Ashen within the ardent west The lips of thunder muttered harm, And as a bubble like to break Hung heaven's trembling amethyst, When with the sedge-grass by the lake I braceleted her wrist.
And when the ribbon grass was tied, Sad with the happiness we planned, Palm linked in palm we stood awhile And watched the raindrops dot the sand; Until the anger of the breeze Chid all the lake's bright breathing down, And ravished all the radiancies From her deep eyes of brown.
We gazed from shelter on the storm, And through our hearts swept ghostly pain To see the shards of day sweep past, Broken, and none might mend again. Broken, that none shall ever mend; Loosened, that none shall ever tie. O the wind and the wind, will it never end? O the sweeping past of the ruined sky!
I sat beside the glassy evening sea, One foot upon the thin horn of my lyre, And all its strings of laughter and desire Crushed in the rank wet grasses heedlessly; Nor did my dull eyes care to question how The boat close by had spread its saffron sails, Nor what might mean the coffers and the bales, And streaks of new wine on the gilded prow. Neither was wonder in me when I saw Fair women step therein, though they were fair Even to adoration and to awe, And in the gracious fillets of their hair Were blossoms from a garden I had known, Sweet mornings ere the apple buds were blown.
One gazed steadfast into the dying west With lips apart to greet the evening star; And one with eyes that caught the strife and jar Of the sea's heart, followed the sunward breast Of a lone gull; from a slow harp one drew Blind music like a laugh or like a wail; And in the uncertain shadow of the sail One wove a crown of berries and of yew. Yet even as I said with dull desire, "All these were mine, and one was mine indeed," The smoky music burst into a fire, And I was left alone in my great need, One foot upon the thin horn of my lyre And all its strings crushed in the dripping weed.
Only two patient eyes to stare Out of the canvas. All the rest— The warm green gown, the small hands pressed Light in the lap, the braided hair
That must have made the sweet low brow So earnest, centuries ago, When some one saw it change and glow— All faded! Just the eyes burn now.
I dare say people pass and pass Before the blistered little frame, And dingy work without a name Stuck in behind its square of glass.
But I, well, I left Raphael Just to come drink these eyes of hers, To think away the stains and blurs And make all new again and well.
Only, for tears my head will bow, Because there on my heart's last wall, Scarce one tint left to tell it all, A picture keeps its eyes, somehow.
A GREY DAY
Grey drizzling mists the moorlands drape, Rain whitens the dead sea, From headland dim to sullen cape Grey sails creep wearily. I know not how that merchantman Has found the heart; but 't is her plan Seaward her endless course to shape.
Unreal as insects that appall A drunkard's peevish brain, O'er the grey deep the dories crawl, Four-legged, with rowers twain: Midgets and minims of the earth, Across old ocean's vasty girth Toiling—heroic, comical!
I wonder how that merchant's crew Have ever found the will! I wonder what the fishers do To keep them toiling still! I wonder how the heart of man Has patience to live out its span, Or wait until its dreams come true.
THE RIDE BACK
Before the coming of the dark, he dreamed An old-world faded story: of a knight, Much like in need to him, who was no knight! And of a road, much like the road his soul Groped over, desperate to meet Her soul. Beside the bed Death waited. And he dreamed.
His limbs were heavy from the fight, His mail was dark with dust and blood; On his good horse they bound him tight, And on his breast they bound the rood To help him in the ride that night.
When he crashed through the wood's wet rim, About the dabbled reeds a breeze Went moaning broken words and dim; The haggard shapes of twilight trees Caught with their scrawny hands at him.
Between the doubtful aisles of day Strange folk and lamentable stood To maze and beckon him astray, But through the grey wrath of the wood He held right on his bitter way.
When he came where the trees were thin, The moon sat waiting there to see; On her worn palm she laid her chin, And laughed awhile in sober glee To think how strong this knight had been.
When he rode past the pallid lake, The withered yellow stems of flags Stood breast-high for his horse to break; Lewd as the palsied lips of hags The petals in the moon did shake.
When he came by the mountain wall, The snow upon the heights looked down And said, "The sight is pitiful. The nostrils of his steed are brown With frozen blood; and he will fall."
The iron passes of the hills With question were importunate; And, but the sharp-tongued icy rills Had grown for once compassionate, The spiteful shades had had their wills.
Just when the ache in breast and brain And the frost smiting at his face Had sealed his spirit up with pain, He came out in a better place, And morning lay across the plain.
He saw the wet snails crawl and cling On fern-stalks where the rime had run, The careless birds went wing and wing, And in the low smile of the sun Life seemed almost a pleasant thing.
Right on the panting charger swung Through the bright depths of quiet grass; The knight's lips moved as if they sung, And through the peace there came to pass The flattery of lute and tongue.
From the mid-flowering of the mead There swelled a sob of minstrelsy, Faint sackbuts and the dreamy reed, And plaintive lips of maids thereby, And songs blown out like thistle seed.
Forth from her maidens came the bride, And as his loosened rein fell slack He muttered, "In their throats they lied Who said that I should ne'er win back To kiss her lips before I died!"
SONG-FLOWER AND POPPY
IN NEW YORK
He plays the deuce with my writing time, For the penny my sixth-floor neighbor throws; He finds me proud of my pondered rhyme, And he leaves me—well, God knows It takes the shine from a tunester's line When a little mate of the deathless Nine Pipes up under your nose!
For listen, there is his voice again, Wistful and clear and piercing sweet. Where did the boy find such a strain To make a dead heart beat? And how in the name of care can he bear To jet such a fountain into the air In this gray gulch of a street?
Tuscan slopes or the Piedmontese? Umbria under the Apennine? South, where the terraced lemon-trees Round rich Sorrento shine? Venice moon on the smooth lagoon?— Where have I heard that aching tune, That boyish throat divine?
Beyond my roofs and chimney pots A rag of sunset crumbles gray; Below, fierce radiance hangs in clots O'er the streams that never stay. Shrill and high, newsboys cry The worst of the city's infamy For one more sordid day.
But my desire has taken sail For lands beyond, soft-horizoned: Down languorous leagues I hold the trail, From Marmalada, steeply throned Above high pastures washed with light, Where dolomite by dolomite Looms sheer and spectral-coned,
To purple vineyards looking south On reaches of the still Tyrrhene; Virgilian headlands, and the mouth Of Tiber, where that ship put in To take the dead men home to God, Whereof Casella told the mode To the great Florentine.
Up stairways blue with flowering weed I climb to hill-hung Bergamo; All day I watch the thunder breed Golden above the springs of Po, Till the voice makes sure its wavering lure, And by Assisi's portals pure I stand, with heart bent low.
O hear, how it blooms in the blear dayfall, That flower of passionate wistful song! How it blows like a rose by the iron wall Of the city loud and strong. How it cries "Nay, nay" to the worldling's way, To the heart's clear dream how it whispers, "Yea; Time comes, though the time is long."
Beyond my roofs and chimney piles Sunset crumbles, ragged, dire; The roaring street is hung for miles With fierce electric fire. Shrill and high, newsboys cry The gross of the planet's destiny Through one more sullen gyre.
Stolidly the town flings down Its lust by day for its nightly lust; Who does his given stint, 't is known, Shall have his mug and crust.— Too base of mood, too harsh of blood, Too stout to seize the grosser good, Too hungry after dust!
O hark! how it blooms in the falling dark, That flower of mystical yearning song: Sad as a hermit thrush, as a lark Uplifted, glad, and strong. Heart, we have chosen the better part! Save sacred love and sacred art Nothing is good for long.
Before St. Francis' burg I wait, Frozen in spirit, faint with dread; His presence stands within the gate, Mild splendor rings his head. Gently he seems to welcome me: Knows he not I am quick, and he Is dead, and priest of the dead?
I turn away from the gray church pile; I dare not enter, thus undone: Here in the roadside grass awhile I will lie and watch for the sun. Too purged of earth's good glee and strife, Too drained of the honied lusts of life, Was the peace these old saints won!
And lo! how the laughing earth says no To the fear that mastered me; To the blood that aches and clamors so How it whispers "Verily." Here by my side, marvelous-dyed, Bold stray-away from the courts of pride, A poppy-bell flaunts free.
St. Francis sleeps upon his hill, And a poppy flower laughs down his creed; Triumphant light her petals spill, His shrines are dim indeed. Men build and plan, but the soul of man, Coming with haughty eyes to scan, Feels richer, wilder need.
How long, old builder Time, wilt bide Till at thy thrilling word Life's crimson pride shall have to bride The spirit's white accord, Within that gate of good estate Which thou must build us soon or late, Hoar workman of the Lord?
HOW THE MEAD-SLAVE WAS SET FREE
Nay, move not! Sit just as you are, Under the carved wings of the chair. The hearth-glow sifting through your hair Turns every dim pearl to a star Dawn-drowned in floods of brightening air.
I have been thinking of that night When all the wide hall burst to blaze With spears caught up, thrust fifty ways To find my throat, while I lay white And sick with joy, to think the days
I dragged out in your hateful North— A slave, constrained at banquet's need To fill the black bull's horns with mead For drunken sea-thieves—were henceforth Cast from me as a poison weed,
While Death thrust roses in my hands! But you, who knew the flowers he had Were no such roses ripe and glad As nod in my far southern lands, But pallid things to make men sad,
Put back the spears with one calm hand, Raised on your knee my wondering head, Wiped off the trickling drops of red From my torn forehead with a strand Of your bright loosened hair, and said:
"Sea-rovers! would you kill a skald? This boy has hearkened Odin sing Unto the clang and winnowing Of raven's wings. His heart is thralled To music, as to some strong king;
"And this great thraldom works disdain Of lesser serving. Once release These bonds he bears, and he may please To give you guerdon sweet as rain To sailors calmed in thirsty seas."
Then, having soothed their rage to rest, You led me to old Skagi's throne, Where yellow gold rims in the stone; And in my arms, against my breast, Thrust his great harp of walrus bone.
How they came crowding, tunes on tunes! How good it was to touch the strings And feel them thrill like happy things That flutter from the gray cocoons On hedge rows, in your gradual springs!
All grew a blur before my sight, As when the stealthy white fog slips At noonday on the staggering ships; I saw one single spot of light, Your white face, with its eager lips—
And so I sang to that. O thou Who liftedst me from out my shame! Wert thou content when Skagi came, Put his own chaplet on my brow, And bent and kissed his own harp-frame?
A DIALOGUE IN PURGATORY
Poi disse un altro.... "Io son Buonconte: Giovanna o altri non ha di me cura; Per ch' io vo tra costor con bassa fronte."
Seguito il terzo spirito al secondo, "Ricorditi di me, che son la Pia; Siena mi fe, disfecemi Maremma. Salsi colui che inannellata pria Disposata m' avea colla sua gemma."
PURGATORIO, CANTO V.
Sister, the sun has ceased to shine; By companies of twain and trine Stars gather; from the sea The moon comes momently.
On all the roads that ring our hill The sighing and the hymns are still: It is our time to gain Strength for to-morrow's pain.
Yet still your eyes are wholly bent Upon the way that Virgil went, Following Sordello's sign, With the dark Florentine.
Night now has barred their upward track: There where the mountain-side folds back And in the Vale of Flowers The Princes count their hours
Those three friends sit in the clear starlight With the green-clad angels left and right,— Soul made by wakeful soul More earnest for the goal.
So let us, sister, though our place Is barren of that Valley's grace, Sit hand in hand, till we Seem rich as those friends be.
Brother, 't were sweet your hand to feel In mine; it would a little heal The shame that makes me poor, And dumb at the heart's core.
But where our spirits felt Love's dearth, Down on the green and pleasant earth, Remains the fleshly shell, Love's garment tangible.
So now our hands have naught to say: Heart unto heart some other way Must utter forth its pain, Must glee or comfort gain.
Ah, no! For souls like you and me Some comfort waits, but never glee: Not yours the young men's singing In Heaven, at the bride-bringing;
Not mine, beside God's living waters, Dance of the marriageable daughters, The laughter and the ease Beneath His summer trees.
In fair Arezzo's halls and bowers My Giovanna speeds her hours Delicately, nor cares To shorten by her prayers
My days upon this mount of ruth: If those who come from earth speak sooth, Though still I call and call, She does not heed at all.
And if aright your words I read At Dante's passing, he you wed Dipped from the drains of Hell The marriage hydromel.
O therefore, while the moon intense Holds yonder dreaming sea suspense, And round the shadowy coasts Gather the wistful ghosts,
Let us sit quiet all the night, And wonder, wonder on the light Worn by those spirits fair Whom Love has not left bare.
Even as theirs, the chance was mine To meet and mate beneath Love's sign, To feel in soul and sense The solemn influence
Which, breathed upon a man or maid, Maketh forever unafraid, Though life with death unite That spirit to affright,—
Which lifts the changed heart high up, As the priest lifts the changed cup, Boldens the feet to pace Before God's proving face.
O just a thought beyond the blue The wings of the dove yearned down and through! Even now I hear and hear How near they were, how near!
I murmur not. Rightly disgraced, The weak hand stretched abroad in haste For gifts barely allowed The tacit, strong, and proud.
But therefore was I so intent To watch where Dante onward went With the Roman spirit pure And the grave troubadour,
Because my mind was busy then With the loves that wait those gentle men: Cunizza one; and one Bice, above the sun;
And for the other, more and less Than woman's near-felt tenderness, A million voices dim Praising him, praising him.
The waves that wash this mountain's base Were crimson in the sun's low rays, When, singing high and fast, An angel downward passed,
To bid some patient soul arise And make it fair for Paradise; And upward, so attended, That soul its journey wended;
Yet you, who in these lower rings Wait for the coming of such wings, Turned not your eyes to view Whether they came for you,
But watched, but watched great Virgil stayed Greeting Sordello's couchant shade, Which to salute him rose Like lion from its pose;
While humbly by those lords of song Stood he whose living limbs are strong To mount where Mary's bliss Is shed on Beatrice.
On him your gaze was fastened, more Than on those great names Mantua bore; Your eyes hold the distress Still, of that wistfulness.
Yea, fit he seemed much love to rouse! His pilgrim lips and iron brows Grew like a woman's, dim, While you held speech with him;
And troubled came his mortal breath The while I told him of my death; His looks were changed and wan When Virgil led him on.
E'er since Casella came this morn, Newly o'er yonder ocean borne, Bound upward for the choir Who purge themselves in fire,
And from that meinie he was of Stayed backward at my cry of love, To speak awhile with me Of life and Tuscany,
And, parting, told us how e'er day Was done, Dante would come this way, With mortal feet, to find His sweetheart, sky-enshrined,—
E'er since Casella spoke such news My heart has lain in a golden muse, Picturing him and her, What starry ones they were.
And now the moon sheds its compassion O'er the hushed mount, I try to fashion The manner of their meeting, Their few first words of greeting.
O well for them, with clasped hands, Unshamed amid the heavenly bands! They hear no pitying pair Of old-time lovers there
Look down and say in an undertone, "This latest-come, who comes alone, Was still alone on earth, And lonely from his birth."
Nor feel a sudden whisper mar God's weather, "Dost thou see the scar That spirit hideth so? Who dealt her such a blow
"That God can hardly wipe it out?" And answer, "She gave love, no doubt, To one who saw not fit To set much store by it."
This, then, is she, My mother as she looked at seventeen, When she first met my father. Young incredibly, Younger than spring, without the faintest trace Of disappointment, weariness, or tean Upon the childlike earnestness and grace Of the waiting face. These close-wound ropes of pearl (Or common beads made precious by their use) Seem heavy for so slight a throat to wear; But the low bodice leaves the shoulders bare And half the glad swell of the breast, for news That now the woman stirs within the girl. And yet, Even so, the loops and globes Of beaten gold And jet Hung, in the stately way of old, From the ears' drooping lobes On festivals and Lord's-day of the week, Show all too matron-sober for the cheek,— Which, now I look again, is perfect child, Or no—or no—'t is girlhood's very self, Moulded by some deep, mischief-ridden elf So meek, so maiden mild, But startling the close gazer with the sense Of passions forest-shy and forest-wild, And delicate delirious merriments.
As a moth beats sidewise And up and over, and tries To skirt the irresistible lure Of the flame that has him sure, My spirit, that is none too strong to-day, Flutters and makes delay,— Pausing to wonder on the perfect lips, Lifting to muse upon the low-drawn hair And each hid radiance there, But powerless to stem the tide-race bright, The vehement peace which drifts it toward the light Where soon—ah, now, with cries Of grief and giving-up unto its gain It shrinks no longer nor denies, But dips Hurriedly home to the exquisite heart of pain,— And all is well, for I have seen them plain, The unforgettable, the unforgotten eyes! Across the blinding gush of these good tears They shine as in the sweet and heavy years When by her bed and chair We children gathered jealously to share The sunlit aura breathing myrrh and thyme, Where the sore-stricken body made a clime Gentler than May and pleasanter than rhyme, Holier and more mystical than prayer.
God, how thy ways are strange! That this should be, even this, The patient head Which suffered years ago the dreary change! That these so dewy lips should be the same As those I stooped to kiss And heard my harrowing half-spoken name, A little ere the one who bowed above her, Our father and her very constant lover, Rose stoical, and we knew that she was dead. Then I, who could not understand or share His antique nobleness, Being unapt to bear The insults which time flings us for our proof, Fled from the horrible roof Into the alien sunshine merciless, The shrill satiric fields ghastly with day, Raging to front God in his pride of sway And hurl across the lifted swords of fate That ringed Him where He sat My puny gage of scorn and desolate hate Which somehow should undo Him, after all! That this girl face, expectant, virginal, Which gazes out at me Boon as a sweetheart, as if nothing loth (Save for the eyes, with other presage stored) To pledge me troth, And in the kingdom where the heart is lord Take sail on the terrible gladness of the deep Whose winds the gray Norns keep,— That this should be indeed The flesh which caught my soul, a flying seed, Out of the to and fro Of scattering hands where the seedsman Mage, Stooping from star to star and age to age Sings as he sows! That underneath this breast Nine moons I fed Deep of divine unrest, While over and over in the dark she said, "Blessed! but not as happier children blessed"— That this should be Even she.... God, how with time and change Thou makest thy footsteps strange! Ah, now I know They play upon me, and it is not so. Why, 't is a girl I never saw before, A little thing to flatter and make weep, To tease until her heart is sore, Then kiss and clear the score; A gypsy run-the-fields, A little liberal daughter of the earth, Good for what hour of truancy and mirth The careless season yields Hither-side the flood o' the year and yonder of the neap; Then thank you, thanks again, and twenty light good-byes.— O shrined above the skies, Frown not, clear brow, Darken not, holy eyes! Thou knowest well I know that it is thou! Only to save me from such memories As would unman me quite, Here in this web of strangeness caught And prey to troubled thought Do I devise These foolish shifts and slight; Only to shield me from the afflicting sense Of some waste influence Which from this morning face and lustrous hair Breathes on me sudden ruin and despair. In any other guise, With any but this girlish depth of gaze, Your coming had not so unsealed and poured The dusty amphoras where I had stored The drippings of the winepress of my days. I think these eyes foresee, Now in their unawakened virgin time, Their mother's pride in me, And dream even now, unconsciously, Upon each soaring peak and sky-hung lea You pictured I should climb. Broken premonitions come, Shapes, gestures visionary, Not as once to maiden Mary The manifest angel with fresh lilies came Intelligibly calling her by name; But vanishingly, dumb, Thwarted and bright and wild, As heralding a sin-defiled, Earth-encumbered, blood-begotten, passionate man-child, Who yet should be a trump of mighty call Blown in the gates of evil kings To make them fall; Who yet should be a sword of flame before The soul's inviolate door To beat away the clang of hellish wings; Who yet should be a lyre Of high unquenchable desire In the day of little things.— Look, where the amphoras, The yield of many days, Trod by my hot soul from the pulp of self And set upon the shelf In sullen pride The Vineyard-master's tasting to abide— O mother mine! Are these the bringings-in, the doings fine, Of him you used to praise? Emptied and overthrown The jars lie strown. These, for their flavor duly nursed, Drip from the stopples vinegar accursed; These, I thought honied to the very seal, Dry, dry,—a little acid meal, A pinch of mouldy dust, Sole leavings of the amber-mantling must; These, rude to look upon, But flasking up the liquor dearest won, Through sacred hours and hard, With watching and with wrestlings and with grief, Even of these, of these in chief, The stale breath sickens, reeking from the shard. Nothing is left. Ay, how much less than naught! What shall be said or thought Of the slack hours and waste imaginings, The cynic rending of the wings, Known to that froward, that unreckoning heart Whereof this brewage was the precious part, Treasured and set away with furtive boast? O dear and cruel ghost, Be merciful, be just! See, I was yours and I am in the dust. Then look not so, as if all things were well! Take your eyes from me, leave me to my shame, Or else, if gaze they must, Steel them with judgment, darken them with blame; But by the ways of light ineffable You bade me go and I have faltered from, By the low waters moaning out of hell Whereto my feet have come, Lay not on me these intolerable Looks of rejoicing love, of pride, of happy trust!