JOHN MARR AND OTHER POEMS
With An Introductory Note By HENRY CHAPIN
Melville's verse printed for the most part privately in small editions from middle life onward after his great prose work had been written, taken as a whole, is of an amateurish and uneven quality. In it, however, that loveable freshness of personality, which his philosophical dejection never quenched, is everywhere in evidence. It is clear that he did not set himself to master the poet's art, yet through the mask of conventional verse which often falls into doggerel, the voice of a true poet is heard. In selecting the pieces for this volume I have put in the vigorous sea verses of John Marr in their entirety and added those others from his Battle Pieces, Timoleon, etc., that best indicate the quality of their author's personality. The prose supplement to battle pieces has been included because it does so much to explain the feeling of his war verse and further because it is such a remarkably wise and clear commentary upon those confused and troublous days of post-war reconstruction. H. C.
John Marr And Other Poems JOHN MARR AND OTHER SAILORS BRIDEGROOM DICK TOM DEADLIGHT JACK ROY
Sea Pieces THE HAGLETS THE AEOLIAN HARP TO THE MASTER OF THE "METEOR" FAR OFF SHORE THE MAN-OF-WAR HAWK THE FIGURE-HEAD THE GOOD CRAFT "SNOW BIRD" OLD COUNSEL THE TUFT OF KELP THE MALDIVE SHARK TO NED CROSSING THE TROPICS THE BERG THE ENVIABLE ISLES PEBBLES
Poems From Timoleon LINES TRACED UNDER AN IMAGE OF AMOR THREATENING THE NIGHT MARCH THE RAVAGED VILLA THE NEW ZEALOT TO THE SUN MONODY LONE FOUNTS THE BENCH OF BOORS ART THE ENTHUSIAST SHELLEY'S VISION THE MARCHIONESS OF BRINVILLIERS THE AGE OF THE ANTONINES HERBA SANTA OFF CAPE COLONNA THE APPARITION L' ENVOI
Poems From Battle Pieces THE PORTENT FROM THE CONFLICT OF CONVICTIONS THE MARCH INTO VIRGINIA BALL'S BLUFF THE STONE FLEET THE "TEMERAIRE" A UTILITARIAN VIEW OF THE "MONITOR'S" FIGHT MALVERN HILL STONEWALL JACKSON THE HOUSE-TOP CHATTANOOGA ON THE PHOTOGRAPH OF A CORPS COMMANDER THE SWAMP ANGEL SHERIDAN AT CEDAR CREEK IN THE PRISON PEN THE COLLEGE COLONEL THE MARTYR REBEL COLOR-BEARERS AT SHILOH AURORA BOREALIS THE RELEASED REBEL PRISONER "FORMERLY A SLAVE" ON THE SLAIN COLLEGIANS AMERICA INSCRIPTION THE FORTITUDE OF THE NORTH THE MOUND BY THE LAKE ON THE SLAIN AT CHICKAMAUGA AN UNINSCRIBED MONUMENT ON THE GRAVE OF A YOUNG CAVALRY OFFICER KILLED IN THE VALLEY OF VIRGINIA A REQUIEM COMMEMORATIVE OF A NAVAL VICTORY A MEDITATION
Poems From Mardi WE FISH INVOCATION DIRGE MARLENA PIPE SONG SONG OF YOOMY GOLD THE LAND OF LOVE
Poems From Clarel DIRGE EPILOGUE
JOHN MARR AND OTHER SAILORS
JOHN MARR AND OTHER SAILORS
Since as in night's deck-watch ye show, Why, lads, so silent here to me, Your watchmate of times long ago? Once, for all the darkling sea, You your voices raised how clearly, Striking in when tempest sung; Hoisting up the storm-sail cheerly, Life is storm—let storm! you rung. Taking things as fated merely, Childlike though the world ye spanned; Nor holding unto life too dearly, Ye who held your lives in hand— Skimmers, who on oceans four Petrels were, and larks ashore.
O, not from memory lightly flung, Forgot, like strains no more availing, The heart to music haughtier strung; Nay, frequent near me, never staleing, Whose good feeling kept ye young. Like tides that enter creek or stream, Ye come, ye visit me, or seem Swimming out from seas of faces, Alien myriads memory traces, To enfold me in a dream!
I yearn as ye. But rafts that strain, Parted, shall they lock again? Twined we were, entwined, then riven, Ever to new embracements driven, Shifting gulf-weed of the main! And how if one here shift no more, Lodged by the flinging surge ashore? Nor less, as now, in eve's decline, Your shadowy fellowship is mine. Ye float around me, form and feature:— Tattooings, ear-rings, love-locks curled; Barbarians of man's simpler nature, Unworldly servers of the world. Yea, present all, and dear to me, Though shades, or scouring China's sea.
Whither, whither, merchant-sailors, Whitherward now in roaring gales? Competing still, ye huntsman-whalers, In leviathan's wake what boat prevails? And man-of-war's men, whereaway? If now no dinned drum beat to quarters On the wilds of midnight waters— Foemen looming through the spray; Do yet your gangway lanterns, streaming, Vainly strive to pierce below, When, tilted from the slant plank gleaming, A brother you see to darkness go?
But, gunmates lashed in shotted canvas, If where long watch-below ye keep, Never the shrill "All hands up hammocks!" Breaks the spell that charms your sleep, And summoning trumps might vainly call, And booming guns implore— A beat, a heart-beat musters all, One heart-beat at heart-core. It musters. But to clasp, retain; To see you at the halyards main— To hear your chorus once again!
BRIDEGROOM DICK 1876
Sunning ourselves in October on a day Balmy as spring, though the year was in decay, I lading my pipe, she stirring her tea, My old woman she says to me, "Feel ye, old man, how the season mellows?" And why should I not, blessed heart alive, Here mellowing myself, past sixty-five, To think o' the May-time o' pennoned young fellows This stripped old hulk here for years may survive.
Ere yet, long ago, we were spliced, Bonny Blue, (Silvery it gleams down the moon-glade o' time, Ah, sugar in the bowl and berries in the prime!) Coxswain I o' the Commodore's crew,— Under me the fellows that manned his fine gig, Spinning him ashore, a king in full fig. Chirrupy even when crosses rubbed me, Bridegroom Dick lieutenants dubbed me. Pleasant at a yarn, Bob o' Linkum in a song, Diligent in duty and nattily arrayed, Favored I was, wife, and fleeted right along; And though but a tot for such a tall grade, A high quartermaster at last I was made.
All this, old lassie, you have heard before, But you listen again for the sake e'en o' me; No babble stales o' the good times o' yore To Joan, if Darby the babbler be.
Babbler?—O' what? Addled brains, they forget! O—quartermaster I; yes, the signals set, Hoisted the ensign, mended it when frayed, Polished up the binnacle, minded the helm, And prompt every order blithely obeyed. To me would the officers say a word cheery— Break through the starch o' the quarter-deck realm; His coxswain late, so the Commodore's pet. Ay, and in night-watches long and weary, Bored nigh to death with the navy etiquette, Yearning, too, for fun, some younker, a cadet, Dropping for time each vain bumptious trick, Boy-like would unbend to Bridegroom Dick. But a limit there was—a check, d' ye see: Those fine young aristocrats knew their degree.
Well, stationed aft where their lordships keep,— Seldom going forward excepting to sleep,— I, boozing now on by-gone years, My betters recall along with my peers. Recall them? Wife, but I see them plain: Alive, alert, every man stirs again. Ay, and again on the lee-side pacing, My spy-glass carrying, a truncheon in show, Turning at the taffrail, my footsteps retracing, Proud in my duty, again methinks I go. And Dave, Dainty Dave, I mark where he stands, Our trim sailing-master, to time the high-noon, That thingumbob sextant perplexing eyes and hands, Squinting at the sun, or twigging o' the moon; Then, touching his cap to Old Chock-a-Block Commanding the quarter-deck,—"Sir, twelve o'clock."
Where sails he now, that trim sailing-master, Slender, yes, as the ship's sky-s'l pole? Dimly I mind me of some sad disaster— Dainty Dave was dropped from the navy-roll! And ah, for old Lieutenant Chock-a-Block— Fast, wife, chock-fast to death's black dock! Buffeted about the obstreperous ocean, Fleeted his life, if lagged his promotion. Little girl, they are all, all gone, I think, Leaving Bridegroom Dick here with lids that wink.
Where is Ap Catesby? The fights fought of yore Famed him, and laced him with epaulets, and more. But fame is a wake that after-wakes cross, And the waters wallow all, and laugh Where's the loss? But John Bull's bullet in his shoulder bearing Ballasted Ap in his long sea-faring. The middies they ducked to the man who had messed With Decatur in the gun-room, or forward pressed Fighting beside Perry, Hull, Porter, and the rest.
Humped veteran o' the Heart-o'-Oak war, Moored long in haven where the old heroes are, Never on you did the iron-clads jar! Your open deck when the boarder assailed, The frank old heroic hand-to-hand then availed.
But where's Guert Gan? Still heads he the van? As before Vera-Cruz, when he dashed splashing through The blue rollers sunned, in his brave gold-and- blue, And, ere his cutter in keel took the strand, Aloft waved his sword on the hostile land! Went up the cheering, the quick chanticleering; All hands vying—all colors flying: "Cock-a-doodle-doo!" and "Row, boys, row!" "Hey, Starry Banner!" "Hi, Santa Anna!" Old Scott's young dash at Mexico.
Fine forces o' the land, fine forces o' the sea, Fleet, army, and flotilla—tell, heart o' me, Tell, if you can, whereaway now they be!
But ah, how to speak of the hurricane unchained— The Union's strands parted in the hawser over-strained; Our flag blown to shreds, anchors gone altogether— The dashed fleet o' States in Secession's foul weather.
Lost in the smother o' that wide public stress, In hearts, private hearts, what ties there were snapped! Tell, Hal—vouch, Will, o' the ward-room mess, On you how the riving thunder-bolt clapped. With a bead in your eye and beads in your glass, And a grip o' the flipper, it was part and pass: "Hal, must it be: Well, if come indeed the shock, To North or to South, let the victory cleave, Vaunt it he may on his dung-hill the cock, But Uncle Sam's eagle never crow will, believe."
Sentiment: ay, while suspended hung all, Ere the guns against Sumter opened there the ball, And partners were taken, and the red dance began, War's red dance o' death!—Well, we, to a man, We sailors o' the North, wife, how could we lag?— Strike with your kin, and you stick to the flag! But to sailors o' the South that easy way was barred. To some, dame, believe (and I speak o' what I know), Wormwood the trial and the Uzzite's black shard; And the faithfuller the heart, the crueller the throe. Duty? It pulled with more than one string, This way and that, and anyhow a sting. The flag and your kin, how be true unto both? If either plight ye keep, then ye break the other troth. But elect here they must, though the casuists were out; Decide—hurry up—and throttle every doubt.
Of all these thrills thrilled at keelson, and throes, Little felt the shoddyites a-toasting o' their toes; In mart and bazar Lucre chuckled the huzza, Coining the dollars in the bloody mint of war.
But in men, gray knights o' the Order o' Scars, And brave boys bound by vows unto Mars, Nature grappled honor, intertwisting in the strife:— But some cut the knot with a thoroughgoing knife. For how when the drums beat? How in the fray In Hampton Roads on the fine balmy day?
There a lull, wife, befell—drop o' silent in the din. Let us enter that silence ere the belchings re-begin. Through a ragged rift aslant in the cannonade's smoke An iron-clad reveals her repellent broadside Bodily intact. But a frigate, all oak, Shows honeycombed by shot, and her deck crimson-dyed. And a trumpet from port of the iron-clad hails, Summoning the other, whose flag never trails: "Surrender that frigate, Will! Surrender, Or I will sink her—ram, and end her!"
'T was Hal. And Will, from the naked heart-o'-oak, Will, the old messmate, minus trumpet, spoke, Informally intrepid,—"Sink her, and be damned!"* [* Historic.] Enough. Gathering way, the iron-clad rammed. The frigate, heeling over, on the wave threw a dusk. Not sharing in the slant, the clapper of her bell The fixed metal struck—uinvoked struck the knell Of the Cumberland stillettoed by the Merrimac's tusk; While, broken in the wound underneath the gun-deck, Like a sword-fish's blade in leviathan waylaid, The tusk was left infixed in the fast-foundering wreck. There, dungeoned in the cockpit, the wounded go down, And the chaplain with them. But the surges uplift The prone dead from deck, and for moment they drift Washed with the swimmers, and the spent swimmers drown. Nine fathom did she sink,—erect, though hid from light Save her colors unsurrendered and spars that kept the height.
Nay, pardon, old aunty! Wife, never let it fall, That big started tear that hovers on the brim; I forgot about your nephew and the Merrimac's ball; No more then of her, since it summons up him. But talk o' fellows' hearts in the wine's genial cup:— Trap them in the fate, jam them in the strait, Guns speak their hearts then, and speak right up. The troublous colic o' intestine war It sets the bowels o' affection ajar. But, lord, old dame, so spins the whizzing world, A humming-top, ay, for the little boy-gods Flogging it well with their smart little rods, Tittering at time and the coil uncurled.
Now, now, sweetheart, you sidle away, No, never you like that kind o' gay; But sour if I get, giving truth her due, Honey-sweet forever, wife, will Dick be to you!
But avast with the War! 'Why recall racking days Since set up anew are the slip's started stays? Nor less, though the gale we have left behind, Well may the heave o' the sea remind. It irks me now, as it troubled me then, To think o' the fate in the madness o' men. If Dick was with Farragut on the night-river, When the boom-chain we burst in the fire-raft's glare, That blood-dyed the visage as red as the liver; In the Battle for the Bay too if Dick had a share, And saw one aloft a-piloting the war— Trumpet in the whirlwind, a Providence in place— Our Admiral old whom the captains huzza, Dick joys in the man nor brags about the race.
But better, wife, I like to booze on the days Ere the Old Order foundered in these very frays, And tradition was lost and we learned strange ways. Often I think on the brave cruises then; Re-sailing them in memory, I hail the press o' men On the gunned promenade where rolling they go, Ere the dog-watch expire and break up the show. The Laced Caps I see between forward guns; Away from the powder-room they puff the cigar; "Three days more, hey, the donnas and the dons!" "Your Zeres widow, will you hunt her up, Starr?" The Laced Caps laugh, and the bright waves too; Very jolly, very wicked, both sea and crew, Nor heaven looks sour on either, I guess, Nor Pecksniff he bosses the gods' high mess. Wistful ye peer, wife, concerned for my head, And how best to get me betimes to my bed.
But king o' the club, the gayest golden spark, Sailor o' sailors, what sailor do I mark? Tom Tight, Tom Tight, no fine fellow finer, A cutwater nose, ay, a spirited soul; But, bowsing away at the well-brewed bowl, He never bowled back from that last voyage to China.
Tom was lieutenant in the brig-o'-war famed When an officer was hung for an arch-mutineer, But a mystery cleaved, and the captain was blamed, And a rumpus too raised, though his honor it was clear. And Tom he would say, when the mousers would try him, And with cup after cup o' Burgundy ply him: "Gentlemen, in vain with your wassail you beset, For the more I tipple, the tighter do I get." No blabber, no, not even with the can— True to himself and loyal to his clan.
Tom blessed us starboard and d—d us larboard, Right down from rail to the streak o' the garboard. Nor less, wife, we liked him.—Tom was a man In contrast queer with Chaplain Le Fan, Who blessed us at morn, and at night yet again, D—ning us only in decorous strain; Preaching 'tween the guns—each cutlass in its place— From text that averred old Adam a hard case. I see him—Tom—on horse-block standing, Trumpet at mouth, thrown up all amain, An elephant's bugle, vociferous demanding Of topmen aloft in the hurricane of rain, "Letting that sail there your faces flog? Manhandle it, men, and you'll get the good grog!" O Tom, but he knew a blue-jacket's ways, And how a lieutenant may genially haze; Only a sailor sailors heartily praise.
Wife, where be all these chaps, I wonder? Trumpets in the tempest, terrors in the fray, Boomed their commands along the deck like thunder; But silent is the sod, and thunder dies away. But Captain Turret, "Old Hemlock" tall, (A leaning tower when his tank brimmed all,) Manoeuvre out alive from the war did he? Or, too old for that, drift under the lee? Kentuckian colossal, who, touching at Madeira, The huge puncheon shipped o' prime Santa-Clara; Then rocked along the deck so solemnly! No whit the less though judicious was enough In dealing with the Finn who made the great huff; Our three-decker's giant, a grand boatswain's mate, Manliest of men in his own natural senses; But driven stark mad by the devil's drugged stuff, Storming all aboard from his run-ashore late, Challenging to battle, vouchsafing no pretenses, A reeling King Ogg, delirious in power, The quarter-deck carronades he seemed to make cower. "Put him in brig there!" said Lieutenant Marrot. "Put him in brig!" back he mocked like a parrot; "Try it, then!" swaying a fist like Thor's sledge, And making the pigmy constables hedge— Ship's corporals and the master-at-arms. "In brig there, I say!"—They dally no more; Like hounds let slip on a desperate boar, Together they pounce on the formidable Finn, Pinion and cripple and hustle him in. Anon, under sentry, between twin guns, He slides off in drowse, and the long night runs.
Morning brings a summons. Whistling it calls, Shrilled through the pipes of the boatswain's four aids; Trilled down the hatchways along the dusk halls: Muster to the Scourge!—Dawn of doom and its blast! As from cemeteries raised, sailors swarm before the mast, Tumbling up the ladders from the ship's nether shades.
Keeping in the background and taking small part, Lounging at their ease, indifferent in face, Behold the trim marines uncompromised in heart; Their Major, buttoned up, near the staff finds room— The staff o' lieutenants standing grouped in their place. All the Laced Caps o' the ward-room come, The Chaplain among them, disciplined and dumb. The blue-nosed boatswain, complexioned like slag, Like a blue Monday lours—his implements in bag. Executioners, his aids, a couple by him stand, At a nod there the thongs to receive from his hand. Never venturing a caveat whatever may betide, Though functionally here on humanity's side, The grave Surgeon shows, like the formal physician Attending the rack o' the Spanish Inquisition.
The angel o' the "brig" brings his prisoner up; Then, steadied by his old Santa-Clara, a sup, Heading all erect, the ranged assizes there, Lo, Captain Turret, and under starred bunting, (A florid full face and fine silvered hair,) Gigantic the yet greater giant confronting.
Now the culprit he liked, as a tall captain can A Titan subordinate and true sailor-man; And frequent he'd shown it—no worded advance, But flattering the Finn with a well-timed glance. But what of that now? In the martinet-mien Read the Articles of War, heed the naval routine; While, cut to the heart a dishonor there to win, Restored to his senses, stood the Anak Finn; In racked self-control the squeezed tears peeping, Scalding the eye with repressed inkeeping. Discipline must be; the scourge is deemed due. But ah for the sickening and strange heart- benumbing, Compassionate abasement in shipmates that view; Such a grand champion shamed there succumbing! "Brown, tie him up."—The cord he brooked: How else?—his arms spread apart—never threaping; No, never he flinched, never sideways he looked, Peeled to the waistband, the marble flesh creeping, Lashed by the sleet the officious winds urge.
In function his fellows their fellowship merge— The twain standing nigh—the two boatswain's mates, Sailors of his grade, ay, and brothers of his mess. With sharp thongs adroop the junior one awaits The word to uplift. "Untie him—so! Submission is enough, Man, you may go." Then, promenading aft, brushing fat Purser Smart, "Flog? Never meant it—hadn't any heart. Degrade that tall fellow? "—Such, wife, was he, Old Captain Turret, who the brave wine could stow. Magnanimous, you think?—But what does Dick see? Apron to your eye! Why, never fell a blow; Cheer up, old wifie, 't was a long time ago.
But where's that sore one, crabbed and-severe, Lieutenant Lon Lumbago, an arch scrutineer? Call the roll to-day, would he answer—Here! When the Blixum's fellows to quarters mustered How he'd lurch along the lane of gun-crews clustered, Testy as touchwood, to pry and to peer. Jerking his sword underneath larboard arm, He ground his worn grinders to keep himself calm. Composed in his nerves, from the fidgets set free, Tell, Sweet Wrinkles, alive now is he, In Paradise a parlor where the even tempers be?
Where's Commander All-a-Tanto? Where's Orlop Bob singing up from below? Where's Rhyming Ned? has he spun his last canto? Where's Jewsharp Jim? Where's Ringadoon Joe? Ah, for the music over and done, The band all dismissed save the droned trombone! Where's Glenn o' the gun-room, who loved Hot-Scotch— Glen, prompt and cool in a perilous watch? Where's flaxen-haired Phil? a gray lieutenant? Or rubicund, flying a dignified pennant?
But where sleeps his brother?—the cruise it was o'er, But ah, for death's grip that welcomed him ashore! Where's Sid, the cadet, so frank in his brag, Whose toast was audacious—"Here's Sid, and Sid's flag!" Like holiday-craft that have sunk unknown, May a lark of a lad go lonely down? Who takes the census under the sea? Can others like old ensigns be, Bunting I hoisted to flutter at the gaff— Rags in end that once were flags Gallant streaming from the staff?
Such scurvy doom could the chances deal To Top-Gallant Harry and Jack Genteel? Lo, Genteel Jack in hurricane weather, Shagged like a bear, like a red lion roaring; But O, so fine in his chapeau and feather, In port to the ladies never once jawing; All bland politesse, how urbane was he— "Oui, mademoiselle"—"Ma chere amie!"
'T was Jack got up the ball at Naples, Gay in the old Ohio glorious; His hair was curled by the berth-deck barber, Never you'd deemed him a cub of rude Boreas; In tight little pumps, with the grand dames in rout, A-flinging his shapely foot all about; His watch-chain with love's jeweled tokens abounding, Curls ambrosial shaking out odors, Waltzing along the batteries, astounding The gunner glum and the grim-visaged loaders.
Wife, where be all these blades, I wonder, Pennoned fine fellows, so strong, so gay? Never their colors with a dip dived under; Have they hauled them down in a lack-lustre day, Or beached their boats in the Far, Far Away? Hither and thither, blown wide asunder, Where's this fleet, I wonder and wonder. Slipt their cables, rattled their adieu, (Whereaway pointing? to what rendezvous?) Out of sight, out of mind, like the crack Constitution, And many a keel time never shall renew— Bon Homme Dick o' the buff Revolution, The Black Cockade and the staunch True-Blue.
Doff hats to Decatur! But where is his blazon? Must merited fame endure time's wrong— Glory's ripe grape wizen up to a raisin? Yes! for Nature teems, and the years are strong, And who can keep the tally o' the names that fleet along!
But his frigate, wife, his bride? Would blacksmiths brown Into smithereens smite the solid old renown? Rivetting the bolts in the iron-clad's shell, Hark to the hammers with a rat-tat-tat; "Handier a derby than a laced cocked hat! The Monitor was ugly, but she served us right well, Better than the Cumberland, a beauty and the belle."
Better than the Cumberland!—Heart alive in me! That battlemented hull, Tantallon o' the sea, Kicked in, as at Boston the taxed chests o' tea! Ay, spurned by the ram, once a tall, shapely craft, But lopped by the Rebs to an iron-beaked raft— A blacksmith's unicorn in armor cap-a-pie.
Under the water-line a ram's blow is dealt: And foul fall the knuckles that strike below the belt. Nor brave the inventions that serve to replace The openness of valor while dismantling the grace.
Aloof from all this and the never-ending game, Tantamount to teetering, plot and counterplot; Impenetrable armor—all-perforating shot; Aloof, bless God, ride the war-ships of old, A grand fleet moored in the roadstead of fame; Not submarine sneaks with them are enrolled; Their long shadows dwarf us, their flags are as flame.
Don't fidget so, wife; an old man's passion Amounts to no more than this smoke that I puff; There, there, now, buss me in good old fashion; A died-down candle will flicker in the snuff.
But one last thing let your old babbler say, What Decatur's coxswain said who was long ago hearsed, "Take in your flying-kites, for there comes a lubber's day When gallant things will go, and the three- deckers first."
My pipe is smoked out, and the grog runs slack; But bowse away, wife, at your blessed Bohea; This empty can here must needs solace me— Nay, sweetheart, nay; I take that back; Dick drinks from your eyes and he finds no lack!
During a tempest encountered homeward-bound from the Mediterranean, a grizzled petty-officer, one of the two captains of the forecastle, dying at night in his hammock, swung in the sick-bay under the tiered gun-decks of the British Dreadnaught, 98, wandering in his mind, though with glimpses of sanity, and starting up at whiles, sings by snatches his good-bye and last injunctions to two messmates, his watchers, one of whom fans the fevered tar with the flap of his old sou'wester. Some names and phrases, with here and there a line, or part of one; these, in his aberration, wrested into incoherency from their original connection and import, he voluntarily derives, as he does the measure, from a famous old sea-ditty, whose cadences, long rife, and now humming in the collapsing brain, attune the last flutterings of distempered thought.
Farewell and adieu to you noble hearties,— Farewell and adieu to you ladies of Spain, For I've received orders for to sail for the Deadman, But hope with the grand fleet to see you again.
I have hove my ship to, with main-top-sail aback, boys; I have hove my ship to, for the strike soundings clear— The black scud a'flying; but, by God's blessing, dam' me, Right up the Channel for the Deadman I'll steer.
I have worried through the waters that are called the Doldrums, And growled at Sargasso that clogs while ye grope— Blast my eyes, but the light-ship is hid by the mist, lads:— Flying Dutchman—odds bobbs—off the Cape of Good Hope!
But what's this I feel that is fanning my cheek, Matt? The white goney's wing?—how she rolls!— 't is the Cape!— Give my kit to the mess, Jock, for kin none is mine, none; And tell Holy Joe to avast with the crape.
Dead reckoning, says Joe, it won't do to go by; But they doused all the glims, Matt, in sky t' other night. Dead reckoning is good for to sail for the Deadman; And Tom Deadlight he thinks it may reckon near right.
The signal!—it streams for the grand fleet to anchor. The captains—the trumpets—the hullabaloo! Stand by for blue-blazes, and mind your shank-painters, For the Lord High Admiral, he's squinting at you!
But give me my tot, Matt, before I roll over; Jock, let's have your flipper, it's good for to feel; And don't sew me up without baccy in mouth, boys, And don't blubber like lubbers when I turn up my keel.
Kept up by relays of generations young Never dies at halyards the blithe chorus sung; While in sands, sounds, and seas where the storm-petrels cry, Dropped mute around the globe, these halyard singers lie. Short-lived the clippers for racing-cups that run, And speeds in life's career many a lavish mother's-son.
But thou, manly king o' the old Splendid's crew, The ribbons o' thy hat still a-fluttering, should fly— A challenge, and forever, nor the bravery should rue. Only in a tussle for the starry flag high, When 'tis piety to do, and privilege to die. Then, only then, would heaven think to lop Such a cedar as the captain o' the Splendid's main-top: A belted sea-gentleman; a gallant, off-hand Mercutio indifferent in life's gay command. Magnanimous in humor; when the splintering shot fell, "Tooth-picks a-plenty, lads; thank 'em with a shell!"
Sang Larry o' the Cannakin, smuggler o' the wine, At mess between guns, lad in jovial recline: "In Limbo our Jack he would chirrup up a cheer, The martinet there find a chaffing mutineer; From a thousand fathoms down under hatches o' your Hades, He'd ascend in love-ditty, kissing fingers to your ladies!"
Never relishing the knave, though allowing for the menial, Nor overmuch the king, Jack, nor prodigally genial. Ashore on liberty he flashed in escapade, Vaulting over life in its levelness of grade, Like the dolphin off Africa in rainbow a-sweeping— Arch iridescent shot from seas languid sleeping.
Larking with thy life, if a joy but a toy, Heroic in thy levity wert thou, Jack Roy.
By chapel bare, with walls sea-beat The lichened urns in wilds are lost About a carved memorial stone That shows, decayed and coral-mossed, A form recumbent, swords at feet, Trophies at head, and kelp for a winding-sheet.
I invoke thy ghost, neglected fane, Washed by the waters' long lament; I adjure the recumbent effigy To tell the cenotaph's intent— Reveal why fagotted swords are at feet, Why trophies appear and weeds are the winding-sheet.
By open ports the Admiral sits, And shares repose with guns that tell Of power that smote the arm'd Plate Fleet Whose sinking flag-ship's colors fell; But over the Admiral floats in light His squadron's flag, the red-cross Flag of the White.
The eddying waters whirl astern, The prow, a seedsman, sows the spray; With bellying sails and buckling spars The black hull leaves a Milky Way; Her timbers thrill, her batteries roll, She revelling speeds exulting with pennon at pole,
But ah, for standards captive trailed For all their scutcheoned castles' pride— Castilian towers that dominate Spain, Naples, and either Ind beside; Those haughty towers, armorial ones, Rue the salute from the Admiral's dens of guns.
Ensigns and arms in trophy brave, Braver for many a rent and scar, The captor's naval hall bedeck, Spoil that insures an earldom's star— Toledoes great, grand draperies, too, Spain's steel and silk, and splendors from Peru.
But crippled part in splintering fight, The vanquished flying the victor's flags, With prize-crews, under convoy-guns, Heavy the fleet from Opher drags— The Admiral crowding sail ahead, Foremost with news who foremost in conflict sped.
But out from cloistral gallery dim, In early night his glance is thrown; He marks the vague reserve of heaven, He feels the touch of ocean lone; Then turns, in frame part undermined, Nor notes the shadowing wings that fan behind.
There, peaked and gray, three haglets fly, And follow, follow fast in wake Where slides the cabin-lustre shy, And sharks from man a glamour take, Seething along the line of light In lane that endless rules the war-ship's flight.
The sea-fowl here, whose hearts none know, They followed late the flag-ship quelled, (As now the victor one) and long Above her gurgling grave, shrill held With screams their wheeling rites—then sped Direct in silence where the victor led.
Now winds less fleet, but fairer, blow, A ripple laps the coppered side, While phosphor sparks make ocean gleam, Like camps lit up in triumph wide; With lights and tinkling cymbals meet Acclaiming seas the advancing conqueror greet.
But who a flattering tide may trust, Or favoring breeze, or aught in end?— Careening under startling blasts The sheeted towers of sails impend; While, gathering bale, behind is bred A livid storm-bow, like a rainbow dead.
At trumpet-call the topmen spring; And, urged by after-call in stress, Yet other tribes of tars ascend The rigging's howling wilderness; But ere yard-ends alert they win, Hell rules in heaven with hurricane-fire and din.
The spars, athwart at spiry height, Like quaking Lima's crosses rock; Like bees the clustering sailors cling Against the shrouds, or take the shock Flat on the swept yard-arms aslant, Dipped like the wheeling condor's pinions gaunt.
A LULL! and tongues of languid flame Lick every boom, and lambent show Electric 'gainst each face aloft; The herds of clouds with bellowings go: The black ship rears—beset—harassed, Then plunges far with luminous antlers vast.
In trim betimes they turn from land, Some shivered sails and spars they stow; One watch, dismissed, they troll the can, While loud the billow thumps the bow— Vies with the fist that smites the board, Obstreperous at each reveller's jovial word.
Of royal oak by storms confirmed, The tested hull her lineage shows: Vainly the plungings whelm her prow— She rallies, rears, she sturdier grows: Each shot-hole plugged, each storm-sail home, With batteries housed she rams the watery dome.
DIM seen adrift through driving scud, The wan moon shows in plight forlorn; Then, pinched in visage, fades and fades Like to the faces drowned at morn, When deeps engulfed the flag-ship's crew, And, shrilling round, the inscrutable haglets flew.
And still they fly, nor now they cry, But constant fan a second wake, Unflagging pinions ply and ply, Abreast their course intent they take; Their silence marks a stable mood, They patient keep their eager neighborhood.
Plumed with a smoke, a confluent sea, Heaved in a combing pyramid full, Spent at its climax, in collapse Down headlong thundering stuns the hull: The trophy drops; but, reared again, Shows Mars' high-altar and contemns the main.
REBUILT it stands, the brag of arms, Transferred in site—no thought of where The sensitive needle keeps its place, And starts, disturbed, a quiverer there; The helmsman rubs the clouded glass— Peers in, but lets the trembling portent pass.
Let pass as well his shipmates do (Whose dream of power no tremors jar) Fears for the fleet convoyed astern: "Our flag they fly, they share our star; Spain's galleons great in hull are stout: Manned by our men—like us they'll ride it out."
Tonight's the night that ends the week— Ends day and week and month and year: A fourfold imminent flickering time, For now the midnight draws anear: Eight bells! and passing-bells they be— The Old year fades, the Old Year dies at sea.
He launched them well. But shall the New Redeem the pledge the Old Year made, Or prove a self-asserting heir? But healthy hearts few qualms invade: By shot-chests grouped in bays 'tween guns The gossips chat, the grizzled, sea-beat ones.
And boyish dreams some graybeards blab: "To sea, my lads, we go no more Who share the Acapulco prize; We'll all night in, and bang the door; Our ingots red shall yield us bliss: Lads, golden years begin to-night with this!"
Released from deck, yet waiting call, Glazed caps and coats baptized in storm, A watch of Laced Sleeves round the board Draw near in heart to keep them warm: "Sweethearts and wives!" clink, clink, they meet, And, quaffing, dip in wine their beards of sleet. "Ay, let the star-light stay withdrawn, So here her hearth-light memory fling, So in this wine-light cheer be born, And honor's fellowship weld our ring— Honor! our Admiral's aim foretold:
A tomb or a trophy, and lo, 't is a trophy and gold!" But he, a unit, sole in rank, Apart needs keep his lonely state, The sentry at his guarded door Mute as by vault the sculptured Fate; Belted he sits in drowsy light, And, hatted, nods—the Admiral of the White.
He dozes, aged with watches passed— Years, years of pacing to and fro; He dozes, nor attends the stir In bullioned standards rustling low, Nor minds the blades whose secret thrill Perverts overhead the magnet's Polar will:—
LESS heeds the shadowing three that play And follow, follow fast in wake, Untiring wing and lidless eye— Abreast their course intent they take; Or sigh or sing, they hold for good The unvarying flight and fixed inveterate mood.
In dream at last his dozings merge, In dream he reaps his victor's fruit; The Flags-o'-the-Blue, the Flags-o'-the-Red, Dipped flags of his country's fleets salute His Flag-o'-the-White in harbor proud— But why should it blench? Why turn to a painted shroud?
The hungry seas they hound the hull, The sharks they dog the haglets' flight; With one consent the winds, the waves In hunt with fins and wings unite, While drear the harps in cordage sound Remindful wails for old Armadas drowned.
Ha—yonder! are they Northern Lights? Or signals flashed to warn or ward? Yea, signals lanced in breakers high; But doom on warning follows hard: While yet they veer in hope to shun, They strike! and thumps of hull and heart are one.
But beating hearts a drum-beat calls And prompt the men to quarters go; Discipline, curbing nature, rules— Heroic makes who duty know: They execute the trump's command, Or in peremptory places wait and stand.
Yet cast about in blind amaze— As through their watery shroud they peer: "We tacked from land: then how betrayed? Have currents swerved us—snared us here?" None heed the blades that clash in place Under lamps dashed down that lit the magnet's case.
Ah, what may live, who mighty swim, Or boat-crew reach that shore forbid, Or cable span? Must victors drown— Perish, even as the vanquished did? Man keeps from man the stifled moan; They shouldering stand, yet each in heart how lone.
Some heaven invoke; but rings of reefs Prayer and despair alike deride In dance of breakers forked or peaked, Pale maniacs of the maddened tide; While, strenuous yet some end to earn, The haglets spin, though now no more astern.
Like shuttles hurrying in the looms Aloft through rigging frayed they ply— Cross and recross—weave and inweave, Then lock the web with clinching cry Over the seas on seas that clasp The weltering wreck where gurgling ends the gasp.
Ah, for the Plate-Fleet trophy now, The victor's voucher, flags and arms; Never they'll hang in Abbey old And take Time's dust with holier palms; Nor less content, in liquid night, Their captor sleeps—the Admiral of the White.
Imbedded deep with shells And drifted treasure deep, Forever he sinks deeper in Unfathomable sleep— His cannon round him thrown, His sailors at his feet, The wizard sea enchanting them Where never haglets beat.
On nights when meteors play And light the breakers dance, The Oreads from the caves With silvery elves advance; And up from ocean stream, And down from heaven far, The rays that blend in dream The abysm and the star.
THE AEOLIAN HARP At The Surf Inn
List the harp in window wailing Stirred by fitful gales from sea: Shrieking up in mad crescendo— Dying down in plaintive key!
Listen: less a strain ideal Than Ariel's rendering of the Real. What that Real is, let hint A picture stamped in memory's mint.
Braced well up, with beams aslant, Betwixt the continents sails the Phocion, For Baltimore bound from Alicant. Blue breezy skies white fleeces fleck Over the chill blue white-capped ocean: From yard-arm comes—"Wreck ho, a wreck!"
Dismasted and adrift, Longtime a thing forsaken; Overwashed by every wave Like the slumbering kraken; Heedless if the billow roar, Oblivious of the lull, Leagues and leagues from shoal or shore, It swims—a levelled hull: Bulwarks gone—a shaven wreck, Nameless and a grass-green deck. A lumberman: perchance, in hold Prostrate pines with hemlocks rolled.
It has drifted, waterlogged, Till by trailing weeds beclogged: Drifted, drifted, day by day, Pilotless on pathless way. It has drifted till each plank Is oozy as the oyster-bank: Drifted, drifted, night by night, Craft that never shows a light; Nor ever, to prevent worse knell, Tolls in fog the warning bell.
From collision never shrinking, Drive what may through darksome smother; Saturate, but never sinking, Fatal only to the other! Deadlier than the sunken reef Since still the snare it shifteth, Torpid in dumb ambuscade Waylayingly it drifteth.
O, the sailors—O, the sails! O, the lost crews never heard of! Well the harp of Ariel wails Thought that tongue can tell no word of!
TO THE MASTER OF THE METEOR
Lonesome on earth's loneliest deep, Sailor! who dost thy vigil keep— Off the Cape of Storms dost musing sweep Over monstrous waves that curl and comb; Of thee we think when here from brink We blow the mead in bubbling foam.
Of thee we think, in a ring we link; To the shearer of ocean's fleece we drink, And the Meteor rolling home.
Look, the raft, a signal flying, Thin—a shred; None upon the lashed spars lying, Quick or dead.
Cries the sea-fowl, hovering over, "Crew, the crew?" And the billow, reckless, rover, Sweeps anew!
THE MAN-OF-WAR HAWK
Yon black man-of-war-hawk that wheels in the light O'er the black ship's white sky-s'l, sunned cloud to the sight, Have we low-flyers wings to ascend to his height? No arrow can reach him; nor thought can attain To the placid supreme in the sweep of his reign.
The Charles-and-Emma seaward sped, (Named from the carven pair at prow,) He so smart, and a curly head, She tricked forth as a bride knows how: Pretty stem for the port, I trow!
But iron-rust and alum-spray And chafing gear, and sun and dew Vexed this lad and lassie gay, Tears in their eyes, salt tears nor few; And the hug relaxed with the failing glue.
But came in end a dismal night, With creaking beams and ribs that groan, A black lee-shore and waters white: Dropped on the reef, the pair lie prone: O, the breakers dance, but the winds they moan!
THE GOOD CRAFT SNOW BIRD
Strenuous need that head-wind be From purposed voyage that drives at last The ship, sharp-braced and dogged still, Beating up against the blast.
Brigs that figs for market gather, Homeward-bound upon the stretch, Encounter oft this uglier weather Yet in end their port they fetch.
Mark yon craft from sunny Smyrna Glazed with ice in Boston Bay; Out they toss the fig-drums cheerly, Livelier for the frosty ray.
What if sleet off-shore assailed her, What though ice yet plate her yards; In wintry port not less she renders Summer's gift with warm regards!
And, look, the underwriters' man, Timely, when the stevedore's done, Puts on his specs to pry and scan, And sets her down—A, No. 1.
Bravo, master! Bravo, brig! For slanting snows out of the West Never the Snow-Bird cares one fig; And foul winds steady her, though a pest.
OLD COUNSEL Of The Young Master of a Wrecked California Clipper
Come out of the Golden Gate, Go round the Horn with streamers, Carry royals early and late; But, brother, be not over-elate— All hands save ship! has startled dreamers.
THE TUFT OF KELP
All dripping in tangles green, Cast up by a lonely sea If purer for that, O Weed, Bitterer, too, are ye?
THE MALDIVE SHARK
About the Shark, phlegmatical one, Pale sot of the Maldive sea, The sleek little pilot-fish, azure and slim, How alert in attendance be. From his saw-pit of mouth, from his charnel of maw They have nothing of harm to dread, But liquidly glide on his ghastly flank Or before his Gorgonian head: Or lurk in the port of serrated teeth In white triple tiers of glittering gates, And there find a haven when peril's abroad, An asylum in jaws of the Fates! They are friends; and friendly they guide him to prey, Yet never partake of the treat— Eyes and brains to the dotard lethargic and dull, Pale ravener of horrible meat.
Where is the world we roved, Ned Bunn? Hollows thereof lay rich in shade By voyagers old inviolate thrown Ere Paul Pry cruised with Pelf and Trade. To us old lads some thoughts come home Who roamed a world young lads no more shall roam.
Nor less the satiate year impends When, wearying of routine-resorts, The pleasure-hunter shall break loose, Ned, for our Pantheistic ports:— Marquesas and glenned isles that be Authentic Edens in a Pagan sea.
The charm of scenes untried shall lure, And, Ned, a legend urge the flight— The Typee-truants under stars Unknown to Shakespere's Midsummer- Night; And man, if lost to Saturn's Age, Yet feeling life no Syrian pilgrimage.
But, tell, shall he, the tourist, find Our isles the same in violet-glow Enamoring us what years and years— Ah, Ned, what years and years ago! Well, Adam advances, smart in pace, But scarce by violets that advance you trace.
But we, in anchor-watches calm, The Indian Psyche's languor won, And, musing, breathed primeval balm From Edens ere yet overrun; Marvelling mild if mortal twice, Here and hereafter, touch a Paradise.
CROSSING THE TROPICS From "The Saya-y-Manto."
While now the Pole Star sinks from sight The Southern Cross it climbs the sky; But losing thee, my love, my light, O bride but for one bridal night, The loss no rising joys supply.
Love, love, the Trade Winds urge abaft, And thee, from thee, they steadfast waft.
By day the blue and silver sea And chime of waters blandly fanned— Nor these, nor Gama's stars to me May yield delight since still for thee I long as Gama longed for land.
I yearn, I yearn, reverting turn, My heart it streams in wake astern When, cut by slanting sleet, we swoop Where raves the world's inverted year, If roses all your porch shall loop, Not less your heart for me will droop Doubling the world's last outpost drear.
O love, O love, these oceans vast: Love, love, it is as death were past!
THE BERG A Dream
I SAW a ship of martial build (Her standards set, her brave apparel on) Directed as by madness mere Against a stolid iceberg steer, Nor budge it, though the infatuate ship went down. The impact made huge ice-cubes fall Sullen, in tons that crashed the deck; But that one avalanche was all No other movement save the foundering wreck.
Along the spurs of ridges pale, Not any slenderest shaft and frail, A prism over glass—green gorges lone, Toppled; nor lace of traceries fine, Nor pendant drops in grot or mine Were jarred, when the stunned ship went down. Nor sole the gulls in cloud that wheeled Circling one snow-flanked peak afar, But nearer fowl the floes that skimmed And crystal beaches, felt no jar. No thrill transmitted stirred the lock Of jack-straw needle-ice at base; Towers undermined by waves—the block Atilt impending—kept their place. Seals, dozing sleek on sliddery ledges Slipt never, when by loftier edges Through very inertia overthrown, The impetuous ship in bafflement went down. Hard Berg (methought), so cold, so vast, With mortal damps self-overcast; Exhaling still thy dankish breath— Adrift dissolving, bound for death; Though lumpish thou, a lumbering one— A lumbering lubbard loitering slow, Impingers rue thee and go down, Sounding thy precipice below, Nor stir the slimy slug that sprawls Along thy dense stolidity of walls.
THE ENVIABLE ISLES From "Rammon."
Through storms you reach them and from storms are free. Afar descried, the foremost drear in hue, But, nearer, green; and, on the marge, the sea Makes thunder low and mist of rainbowed dew.
But, inland, where the sleep that folds the hills A dreamier sleep, the trance of God, instills— On uplands hazed, in wandering airs aswoon, Slow-swaying palms salute love's cypress tree Adown in vale where pebbly runlets croon A song to lull all sorrow and all glee.
Sweet-fern and moss in many a glade are here. Where, strewn in flocks, what cheek-flushed myriads lie Dimpling in dream—unconscious slumberers mere, While billows endless round the beaches die.
I Though the Clerk of the Weather insist, And lay down the weather-law, Pintado and gannet they wist That the winds blow whither they list In tempest or flaw.
II Old are the creeds, but stale the schools, Revamped as the mode may veer, But Orm from the schools to the beaches strays And, finding a Conch hoar with time, he delays And reverent lifts it to ear. That Voice, pitched in far monotone, Shall it swerve? shall it deviate ever? The Seas have inspired it, and Truth— Truth, varying from sameness never.
III In hollows of the liquid hills Where the long Blue Ridges run, The flattery of no echo thrills, For echo the seas have none; Nor aught that gives man back man's strain— The hope of his heart, the dream in his brain.
IV On ocean where the embattled fleets repair, Man, suffering inflictor, sails on sufferance there.
V Implacable I, the old Implacable Sea: Implacable most when most I smile serene— Pleased, not appeased, by myriad wrecks in me.
VI Curled in the comb of yon billow Andean, Is it the Dragon's heaven-challenging crest? Elemental mad ramping of ravening waters— Yet Christ on the Mount, and the dove in her nest!
VII Healed of my hurt, I laud the inhuman Sea— Yea, bless the Angels Four that there convene; For healed I am ever by their pitiless breath Distilled in wholesome dew named rosmarine.
Poems From Timoleon
LINES TRACED UNDER AN IMAGE OF AMOR THREATENING
Fear me, virgin whosoever Taking pride from love exempt, Fear me, slighted. Never, never Brave me, nor my fury tempt: Downy wings, but wroth they beat Tempest even in reason's seat.
THE NIGHT MARCH
With banners furled and clarions mute, An army passes in the night; And beaming spears and helms salute The dark with bright.
In silence deep the legions stream, With open ranks, in order true; Over boundless plains they stream and gleam— No chief in view!
Afar, in twinkling distance lost, (So legends tell) he lonely wends And back through all that shining host His mandate sends.
THE RAVAGED VILLA
In shards the sylvan vases lie, Their links of dance undone, And brambles wither by thy brim, Choked fountain of the sun! The spider in the laurel spins, The weed exiles the flower: And, flung to kiln, Apollo's bust Makes lime for Mammon's tower.
THE NEW ZEALOT TO THE SUN
Persian, you rise Aflame from climes of sacrifice Where adulators sue, And prostrate man, with brow abased, Adheres to rites whose tenor traced All worship hitherto.
Arch type of sway, Meetly your over-ruling ray You fling from Asia's plain, Whence flashed the javelins abroad Of many a wild incursive horde Led by some shepherd Cain.
Mid terrors dinned Gods too came conquerors from your Ind, The book of Brahma throve; They came like to the scythed car, Westward they rolled their empire far, Of night their purple wove.
Chemist, you breed In orient climes each sorcerous weed That energizes dream— Transmitted, spread in myths and creeds, Houris and hells, delirious screeds And Calvin's last extreme.
What though your light In time's first dawn compelled the flight Of Chaos' startled clan, Shall never all your darted spears Disperse worse Anarchs, frauds and fears, Sprung from these weeds to man?
But Science yet An effluence ampler shall beget, And power beyond your play— Shall quell the shades you fail to rout, Yea, searching every secret out Elucidate your ray.
To have known him, to have loved him After loneness long; And then to be estranged in life, And neither in the wrong; And now for death to set his seal— Ease me, a little ease, my song!
By wintry hills his hermit-mound The sheeted snow-drifts drape, And houseless there the snow-bird flits Beneath the fir-trees' crape: Glazed now with ice the cloistral vine That hid the shyest grape.
Though fast youth's glorious fable flies, View not the world with worldling's eyes; Nor turn with weather of the time. Foreclose the coming of surprise: Stand where Posterity shall stand; Stand where the Ancients stood before, And, dipping in lone founts thy hand, Drink of the never-varying lore: Wise once, and wise thence evermore.
THE BENCH OF BOORS
In bed I muse on Tenier's boors, Embrowned and beery losels all; A wakeful brain Elaborates pain: Within low doors the slugs of boors Laze and yawn and doze again.
In dreams they doze, the drowsy boors, Their hazy hovel warm and small: Thought's ampler bound But chill is found: Within low doors the basking boors Snugly hug the ember-mound.
Sleepless, I see the slumberous boors Their blurred eyes blink, their eyelids fall: Thought's eager sight Aches—overbright! Within low doors the boozy boors Cat-naps take in pipe-bowl light.
In placid hours well-pleased we dream Of many a brave unbodied scheme. But form to lend, pulsed life create, What unlike things must meet and mate: A flame to melt—a wind to freeze; Sad patience—joyous energies; Humility—yet pride and scorn; Instinct and study; love and hate; Audacity—reverence. These must mate, And fuse with Jacob's mystic heart, To wrestle with the angel—Art.
THE ENTHUSIAST "Though He slay me yet will I trust in Him."
Shall hearts that beat no base retreat In youth's magnanimous years— Ignoble hold it, if discreet When interest tames to fears; Shall spirits that worship light Perfidious deem its sacred glow, Recant, and trudge where worldlings go, Conform and own them right?
Shall Time with creeping influence cold Unnerve and cow? the heart Pine for the heartless ones enrolled With palterers of the mart? Shall faith abjure her skies, Or pale probation blench her down To shrink from Truth so still, so lone Mid loud gregarious lies?
Each burning boat in Caesar's rear, Flames—No return through me! So put the torch to ties though dear, If ties but tempters be. Nor cringe if come the night: Walk through the cloud to meet the pall, Though light forsake thee, never fall From fealty to light.
Wandering late by morning seas When my heart with pain was low— Hate the censor pelted me— Deject I saw my shadow go.
In elf-caprice of bitter tone I too would pelt the pelted one: At my shadow I cast a stone.
When lo, upon that sun-lit ground I saw the quivering phantom take The likeness of St. Stephen crowned: Then did self-reverence awake.
THE MARCHIONESS OF BRINVILLIERS
He toned the sprightly beam of morning With twilight meek of tender eve, Brightness interfused with softness, Light and shade did weave: And gave to candor equal place With mystery starred in open skies; And, floating all in sweetness, made Her fathomless mild eyes.
THE AGE OF THE ANTONINES
While faith forecasts millennial years Spite Europe's embattled lines, Back to the Past one glance be cast— The Age of the Antonines! O summit of fate, O zenith of time When a pagan gentleman reigned, And the olive was nailed to the inn of the world Nor the peace of the just was feigned. A halcyon Age, afar it shines, Solstice of Man and the Antonines.
Hymns to the nations' friendly gods Went up from the fellowly shrines, No demagogue beat the pulpit-drum In the Age of the Antonines! The sting was not dreamed to be taken from death, No Paradise pledged or sought, But they reasoned of fate at the flowing feast, Nor stifled the fluent thought, We sham, we shuffle while faith declines— They were frank in the Age of the Antonines.
Orders and ranks they kept degree, Few felt how the parvenu pines, No law-maker took the lawless one's fee In the Age of the Antonines! Under law made will the world reposed And the ruler's right confessed, For the heavens elected the Emperor then, The foremost of men the best. Ah, might we read in America's signs The Age restored of the Antonines.
I After long wars when comes release Not olive wands proclaiming peace Can import dearer share Than stems of Herba Santa hazed In autumn's Indian air. Of moods they breathe that care disarm, They pledge us lenitive and calm.
II Shall code or creed a lure afford To win all selves to Love's accord? When Love ordained a supper divine For the wide world of man, What bickerings o'er his gracious wine! Then strange new feuds began.
Effectual more in lowlier way, Pacific Herb, thy sensuous plea The bristling clans of Adam sway At least to fellowship in thee! Before thine altar tribal flags are furled, Fain wouldst thou make one hearthstone of the world.
III To scythe, to sceptre, pen and hod— Yea, sodden laborers dumb; To brains overplied, to feet that plod, In solace of the Truce of God The Calumet has come!
IV Ah for the world ere Raleigh's find Never that knew this suasive balm That helps when Gilead's fails to heal, Helps by an interserted charm.
Insinuous thou that through the nerve Windest the soul, and so canst win Some from repinings, some from sin, The Church's aim thou dost subserve.
The ruffled fag fordone with care And brooding, God would ease this pain: Him soothest thou and smoothest down Till some content return again.
Even ruffians feel thy influence breed Saint Martin's summer in the mind, They feel this last evangel plead, As did the first, apart from creed, Be peaceful, man—be kind!
V Rejected once on higher plain, O Love supreme, to come again Can this be thine? Again to come, and win us too In likeness of a weed That as a god didst vainly woo, As man more vainly bleed?
VI Forbear, my soul! and in thine Eastern chamber Rehearse the dream that brings the long release: Through jasmine sweet and talismanic amber Inhaling Herba Santa in the passive Pipe of Peace.
OFF CAPE COLONNA
Aloof they crown the foreland lone, From aloft they loftier rise— Fair columns, in the aureole rolled From sunned Greek seas and skies. They wax, sublimed to fancy's view, A god-like group against the blue.
Over much like gods! Serene they saw The wolf-waves board the deck, And headlong hull of Falconer, And many a deadlier wreck.
THE APPARITION The Parthenon uplifted on its rock first challenging the view on the approach to Athens.
Abrupt the supernatural Cross, Vivid in startled air, Smote the Emperor Constantine And turned his soul's allegiance there.
With other power appealing down, Trophy of Adam's best! If cynic minds you scarce convert, You try them, shake them, or molest.
Diogenes, that honest heart, Lived ere your date began; Thee had he seen, he might have swerved In mood nor barked so much at Man.
L'ENVOI The Return of the Sire de Nesle. A.D. 16
My towers at last! These rovings end, Their thirst is slaked in larger dearth: The yearning infinite recoils, For terrible is earth.
Kaf thrusts his snouted crags through fog: Araxes swells beyond his span, And knowledge poured by pilgrimage Overflows the banks of man.
But thou, my stay, thy lasting love One lonely good, let this but be! Weary to view the wide world's swarm, But blest to fold but thee.
Were I fastidiously anxious for the symmetry of this book, it would close with the notes. But the times are such that patriotism—not free from solicitude—urges a claim overriding all literary scruples.
It is more than a year since the memorable surrender, but events have not yet rounded themselves into completion. Not justly can we complain of this. There has been an upheaval affecting the basis of things; to altered circumstances complicated adaptations are to be made; there are difficulties great and novel. But is Reason still waiting for Passion to spend itself? We have sung of the soldiers and sailors, but who shall hymn the politicians?
In view of the infinite desirableness of Re-establishment, and considering that, so far as feeling is concerned, it depends not mainly on the temper in which the South regards the North, but rather conversely; one who never was a blind adherent feels constrained to submit some thoughts, counting on the indulgence of his countrymen.
And, first, it may be said that, if among the feelings and opinions growing immediately out of a great civil convulsion, there are any which time shall modify or do away, they are presumably those of a less temperate and charitable cast.
There seems no reason why patriotism and narrowness should go together, or why intellectual impartiality should be confounded with political trimming, or why serviceable truth should keep cloistered because not partisan. Yet the work of Reconstruction, if admitted to be feasible at all, demands little but common sense and Christian charity. Little but these? These are much.
Some of us are concerned because as yet the South shows no penitence. But what exactly do we mean by this? Since down to the close of the war she never confessed any for braving it, the only penitence now left her is that which springs solely from the sense of discomfiture; and since this evidently would be a contrition hypocritical, it would be unworthy in us to demand it. Certain it is that penitence, in the sense of voluntary humiliation, will never be displayed. Nor does this afford just ground for unreserved condemnation. It is enough, for all practical purposes, if the South have been taught by the terrors of civil war to feel that Secession, like Slavery, is against Destiny; that both now lie buried in one grave; that her fate is linked with ours; and that together we comprise the Nation.
The clouds of heroes who battled for the Union it is needless to eulogize here. But how of the soldiers on the other side? And when of a free community we name the soldiers, we thereby name the people. It was in subserviency to the slave-interest that Secession was plotted; but it was under the plea, plausibly urged, that certain inestimable rights guaranteed by the Constitution were directly menaced, that the people of the South were cajoled into revolution. Through the arts of the conspirators and the perversity of fortune, the most sensitive love of liberty was entrapped into the support of a war whose implied end was the erecting in our advanced century of an Anglo-American empire based upon the systematic degradation of man.
Spite this clinging reproach, however, signal military virtues and achievements have conferred upon the Confederate arms historic fame, and upon certain of the commanders a renown extending beyond the sea—a renown which we of the North could not suppress, even if we would. In personal character, also, not a few of the military leaders of the South enforce forbearance; the memory of others the North refrains from disparaging; and some, with more or less of reluctance, she can respect. Posterity, sympathizing with our convictions, but removed from our passions, may perhaps go farther here. If George IV could, out of the graceful instinct of a gentleman, raise an honorable monument in the great fane of Christendom over the remains of the enemy of his dynasty, Charles Edward, the invader of England and victor in the rout of Preston Pans—upon whose head the king's ancestor but one reign removed had set a price—is it probable that the granchildren of General Grant will pursue with rancor, or slur by sour neglect, the memory of Stonewall Jackson?
But the South herself is not wanting in recent histories and biographies which record the deeds of her chieftains—writings freely published at the North by loyal houses, widely read here, and with a deep though saddened interest. By students of the war such works are hailed as welcome accessories, and tending to the completeness of the record.
Supposing a happy issue out of present perplexities, then, in the generation next to come, Southerners there will be yielding allegiance to the Union, feeling all their interests bound up in it, and yet cherishing unrebuked that kind of feeling for the memory of the soldiers of the fallen Confederacy that Burns, Scott, and the Ettrick Shepherd felt for the memory of the gallant clansmen ruined through their fidelity to the Stuarts—a feeling whose passion was tempered by the poetry imbuing it, and which in no wise affected their loyalty to the Georges, and which, it may be added, indirectly contributed excellent things to literature. But, setting this view aside, dishonorable would it be in the South were she willing to abandon to shame the memory of brave men who with signal personal disinterestedness warred in her behalf, though from motives, as we believe, so deplorably astray.
Patriotism is not baseness, neither is it inhumanity. The mourners who this summer bear flowers to the mounds of the Virginian and Georgian dead are, in their domestic bereavement and proud affection, as sacred in the eye of Heaven as are those who go with similar offerings of tender grief and love into the cemeteries of our Northern martyrs. And yet, in one aspect, how needless to point the contrast.
Cherishing such sentiments, it will hardly occasion surprise that, in looking over the battle-pieces in the foregoing collection, I have been tempted to withdraw or modify some of them, fearful lest in presenting, though but dramatically and by way of poetic record, the passions and epithets of civil war, I might be contributing to a bitterness which every sensible American must wish at an end. So, too, with the emotion of victory as reproduced on some pages, and particularly toward the close. It should not be construed into an exultation misapplied—an exultation as ungenerous as unwise, and made to minister, however indirectly, to that kind of censoriousness too apt to be produced in certain natures by success after trying reverses. Zeal is not of necessity religion, neither is it always of the same essence with poetry or patriotism.
There are excesses which marked the conflict, most of which are perhaps inseparable from a civil strife so intense and prolonged, and involving warfare in some border countries new and imperfectly civilized. Barbarities also there were, for which the Southern people collectively can hardly be held responsible, though perpetrated by ruffians in their name. But surely other qualities—exalted ones—courage and fortitude matchless, were likewise displayed, and largely; and justly may these be held the characteristic traits, and not the former.
In this view, what Northern writer, however patriotic, but must revolt from acting on paper a part any way akin to that of the live dog to the dead lion; and yet it is right to rejoice for our triumphs, so far as it may justly imply an advance for our whole country and for humanity.
Let it be held no reproach to any one that he pleads for reasonable consideration for our late enemies, now stricken down and unavoidably debarred, for the time, from speaking through authorized agencies for themselves. Nothing has been urged here in the foolish hope of conciliating those men—few in number, we trust—who have resolved never to be reconciled to the Union. On such hearts everything is thrown away except it be religious commiseration, and the sincerest. Yet let them call to mind that unhappy Secessionist, not a military man, who with impious alacrity fired the first shot of the Civil War at Sumter, and a little more than four years afterward fired the last one into his heart at Richmond.
Noble was the gesture into which patriotic passion surprised the people in a utilitarian time and country; yet the glory of the war falls short of its pathos—a pathos which now at last ought to disarm all animosity.
How many and earnest thoughts still rise, and how hard to repress them. We feel what past years have been, and years, unretarded years, shall come. May we all have moderation; may we all show candor. Though, perhaps, nothing could ultimately have averted the strife, and though to treat of human actions is to deal wholly with second causes, nevertheless, let us not cover up or try to extenuate what, humanly speaking, is the truth—namely, that those unfraternal denunciations, continued through years, and which at last inflamed to deeds that ended in bloodshed, were reciprocal; and that, had the preponderating strength and the prospect of its unlimited increase lain on the other side, on ours might have lain those actions which now in our late opponents we stigmatize under the name of Rebellion. As frankly let us own—what it would be unbecoming to parade were foreigners concerned— that our triumph was won not more by skill and bravery than by superior resources and crushing numbers; that it was a triumph, too, over a people for years politically misled by designing men, and also by some honestly-erring men, who from their position could not have been otherwise than broadly influential; a people who, though, indeed, they sought to perpetuate the curse of slavery, and even extend it, were not the authors of it, but (less fortunate, not less righteous than we), were the fated inheritors; a people who, having a like origin with ourselves, share essentially in whatever worthy qualities we may possess. No one can add to the lasting reproach which hopeless defeat has now cast upon Secession by withholding the recognition of these verities.
Surely we ought to take it to heart that that kind of pacification, based upon principles operating equally all over the land, which lovers of their country yearn for, and which our arms, though signally triumphant, did not bring about, and which lawmaking, however anxious, or energetic, or repressive, never by itself can achieve, may yet be largely aided by generosity of sentiment public and private. Some revisionary legislation and adaptive is indispensable; but with this should harmoniously work another kind of prudence, not unallied with entire magnanimity. Benevolence and policy—Christianity and Machiavelli—dissuade from penal severities toward the subdued. Abstinence here is as obligatory as considerate care for our unfortunate fellowmen late in bonds, and, if observed, would equally prove to be wise forecast. The great qualities of the South, those attested in the War, we can perilously alienate, or we may make them nationally available at need.
The blacks, in their infant pupilage to freedom, appeal to the sympathies of every humane mind. The paternal guardianship which for the interval government exercises over them was prompted equally by duty and benevolence. Yet such kindliness should not be allowed to exclude kindliness to communities who stand nearer to us in nature. For the future of the freed slaves we may well be concerned; but the future of the whole country, involving the future of the blacks, urges a paramount claim upon our anxiety. Effective benignity, like the Nile, is not narrow in its bounty, and true policy is always broad. To be sure, it is vain to seek to glide, with moulded words, over the difficulties of the situation. And for them who are neither partisans, nor enthusiasts, nor theorists, nor cynics, there are some doubts not readily to be solved. And there are fears. Why is not the cessation of war now at length attended with the settled calm of peace? Wherefore in a clear sky do we still turn our eyes toward the South as the Neapolitan, months after the eruption, turns his toward Vesuvius? Do we dread lest the repose may be deceptive? In the recent convulsion has the crater but shifted Let us revere that sacred uncertainty which forever impends over men and nations. Those of us who always abhorred slavery as an atheistical iniquity, gladly we join in the exulting chorus of humanity over its downfall. But we should remember that emancipation was accomplished not by deliberate legislation; only through agonized violence could so mighty a result be effected. In our natural solicitude to confirm the benefit of liberty to the blacks, let us forbear from measures of dubious constitutional rightfulness toward our white countrymen—measures of a nature to provoke, among other of the last evils, exterminating hatred of race toward race. In imagination let us place ourselves in the unprecedented position of the Southerners—their position as regards the millions of ignorant manumitted slaves in their midst, for whom some of us now claim the suffrage. Let us be Christians toward our fellow-whites, as well as philanthropists toward the blacks, our fellow-men. In all things, and toward all, we are enjoined to do as we would be done by. Nor should we forget that benevolent desires, after passing a certain point, can not undertake their own fulfillment without incurring the risk of evils beyond those sought to be remedied. Something may well be left to the graduated care of future legislation, and to heaven. In one point of view the co-existence of the two races in the South, whether the negro be bond or free, seems (even as it did to Abraham Lincoln) a grave evil. Emancipation has ridded the country of the reproach, but not wholly of the calamity. Especially in the present transition period for both races in the South, more or less of trouble may not unreasonably be anticipated; but let us not hereafter be too swift to charge the blame exclusively in any one quarter. With certain evils men must be more or less patient. Our institutions have a potent digestion, and may in time convert and assimilate to good all elements thrown in, however originally alien.
But, so far as immediate measures looking toward permanent Re- establishment are concerned, no consideration should tempt us to pervert the national victory into oppression for the vanquished. Should plausible promise of eventual good, or a deceptive or spurious sense of duty, lead us to essay this, count we must on serious consequences, not the least of which would be divisions among the Northern adherents of the Union. Assuredly, if any honest Catos there be who thus far have gone with us, no longer will they do so, but oppose us, and as resolutely as hitherto they have supported. But this path of thought leads toward those waters of bitterness from which one can only turn aside and be silent.
But supposing Re-establishment so far advanced that the Southern seats in Congress are occupied, and by men qualified in accordance with those cardinal principles of representative government which hitherto have prevailed in the land—what then? Why, the Congressmen elected by the people of the South will—represent the people of the South. This may seem a flat conclusion; but, in view of the last five years, may there not be latent significance in it? What will be the temper of those Southern members? and, confronted by them, what will be the mood of our own representatives? In private life true reconciliation seldom follows a violent quarrel; but, if subsequent intercourse be unavoidable, nice observances and mutual are indispensable to the prevention of a new rupture. Amity itself can only be maintained by reciprocal respect, and true friends are punctilious equals. On the floor of Congress North and South are to come together after a passionate duel, in which the South, though proving her valor, has been made to bite the dust. Upon differences in debate shall acrimonious recriminations be exchanged? Shall censorious superiority assumed by one section provoke defiant self-assertion on the other? Shall Manassas and Chickamauga be retorted for Chattanooga and Richmond? Under the supposition that the full Congress will be composed of gentlemen, all this is impossible. Yet, if otherwise, it needs no prophet of Israel to foretell the end. The maintenance of Congressional decency in the future will rest mainly with the North. Rightly will more forbearance be required from the North than the South, for the North is victor.
But some there are who may deem these latter thoughts inapplicable, and for this reason: Since the test-oath operatively excludes from Congress all who in any way participated in Secession, therefore none but Southerners wholly in harmony with the North are eligible to seats. This is true for the time being. But the oath is alterable; and in the wonted fluctuations of parties not improbably it will undergo alteration, assuming such a form, perhaps, as not to bar the admission into the National Legislature of men who represent the populations lately in revolt. Such a result would involve no violation of the principles of democratic government. Not readily can one perceive how the political existence of the millions of late Secessionists can permanently be ignored by this Republic. The years of the war tried our devotion to the Union; the time of peace may test the sincerity of our faith in democracy.
In no spirit of opposition, not by way of challenge, is anything here thrown out. These thoughts are sincere ones; they seem natural— inevitable. Here and there they must have suggested themselves to many thoughtful patriots. And, if they be just thoughts, ere long they must have that weight with the public which already they have had with individuals.
For that heroic band—those children of the furnace who, in regions like Texas and Tennessee, maintained their fidelity through terrible trials—we of the North felt for them, and profoundly we honor them. Yet passionate sympathy, with resentments so close as to be almost domestic in their bitterness, would hardly in the present juncture tend to discreet legislation. Were the Unionists and Secessionists but as Guelphs and Ghibellines? If not, then far be it from a great nation now to act in the spirit that animated a triumphant town-faction in the Middle Ages. But crowding thoughts must at last be checked; and, in times like the present, one who desires to be impartially just in the expression of his views, moves as among sword-points presented on every side.
Let us pray that the terrible historic tragedy of our time may not have been enacted without instructing our whole beloved country through terror and pity; and may fulfillment verify in the end those expectations which kindle the bards of Progress and Humanity.
Poems From Battle Pieces
THE PORTENT 1859
Hanging from the beam, Slowly swaying (such the law), Gaunt the shadow on your green, Shenandoah! The cut is on the crown (Lo, John Brown), And the stabs shall heal no more.
Hidden in the cap Is the anguish none can draw; So your future veils its face, Shenandoah! But the streaming beard is shown (Weird John Brown), The meteor of the war.
FROM THE CONFLICT OF CONVICTIONS 1860-1
The Ancient of Days forever is young, Forever the scheme of Nature thrives; I know a wind in purpose strong— It spins against the way it drives. What if the gulfs their slimed foundations bare? So deep must the stones be hurled Whereon the throes of ages rear The final empire and the happier world.
Power unanointed may come— Dominion (unsought by the free) And the Iron Dome, Stronger for stress and strain, Fling her huge shadow athwart the main; But the Founders' dream shall flee. Age after age has been, (From man's changeless heart their way they win); And death be busy with all who strive— Death, with silent negative.
Yea and Nay— Each hath his say; But God He keeps the middle way. None was by When He spread the sky; Wisdom is vain, and prophecy.
THE MARCH INTO VIRGINIA Ending in the First Manassas July, 1861
Did all the lets and bars appear To every just or larger end, Whence should come the trust and cheer? Youth must its ignorant impulse lend— Age finds place in the rear. All wars are boyish, and are fought by boys, The champions and enthusiasts of the state: Turbid ardors and vain joys Not barrenly abate— Stimulants to the power mature, Preparatives of fate.
Who here forecasteth the event? What heart but spurns at precedent And warnings of the wise, Contemned foreclosures of surprise? The banners play, the bugles call, The air is blue and prodigal. No berrying party, pleasure-wooed, No picnic party in the May, Ever went less loth than they Into that leafy neighborhood. In Bacchic glee they file toward Fate, Moloch's uninitiate; Expectancy, and glad surmise Of battle's unknown mysteries. All they feel is this: 't is glory, A rapture sharp, though transitory, Yet lasting in belaureled story. So they gayly go to fight, Chatting left and laughing right.
But some who this blithe mood present, As on in lightsome files they fare, Shall die experienced ere three days are spent— Perish, enlightened by the vollied glare; Or shame survive, and, like to adamant, The throe of Second Manassas share.
BALL'S BLUFF A Reverie October, 1861
One noonday, at my window in the town, I saw a sight—saddest that eyes can see— Young soldiers marching lustily Unto the wars, With fifes, and flags in mottoed pageantry; While all the porches, walks, and doors Were rich with ladies cheering royally.
They moved like Juny morning on the wave, Their hearts were fresh as clover in its prime (It was the breezy summer time), Life throbbed so strong, How should they dream that Death in a rosy clime Would come to thin their shining throng? Youth feels immortal, like the gods sublime.
Weeks passed; and at my window, leaving bed, By night I mused, of easeful sleep bereft, On those 'brave boys (Ah War! thy theft); Some marching feet Found pause at last by cliffs Potomac cleft; Wakeful I mused, while in the street Far footfalls died away till none were left.
THE STONE FLEET An Old Sailor's Lament December, 1861
I have a feeling for those ships, Each worn and ancient one, With great bluff bows, and broad in the beam: Ay, it was unkindly done. But so they serve the Obsolete— Even so, Stone Fleet!
You'll say I'm doting; do you think I scudded round the Horn in one— The Tenedos, a glorious Good old craft as ever run— Sunk (how all unmeet!) With the Old Stone Fleet.
An India ship of fame was she, Spices and shawls and fans she bore; A whaler when the wrinkles came— Turned off! till, spent and poor, Her bones were sold (escheat)! Ah! Stone Fleet.
Four were erst patrician keels (Names attest what families be), The Kensington, and Richmond too, Leonidas, and Lee: But now they have their seat With the Old Stone Fleet.
To scuttle them—a pirate deed— Sack them, and dismast; They sunk so slow, they died so hard, But gurgling dropped at last. Their ghosts in gales repeat Woe's us, Stone Fleet!
And all for naught. The waters pass— Currents will have their way; Nature is nobody's ally; 'tis well; The harbor is bettered—will stay. A failure, and complete, Was your Old Stone Fleet.
Supposed to have been suggested to an Englishman of the old order by the fight of the Monitor and Merrimac
The gloomy hulls in armor grim, Like clouds o'er moors have met, And prove that oak, and iron, and man Are tough in fibre yet.
But Splendors wane. The sea-fight yields No front of old display; The garniture, emblazonment, And heraldry all decay.
Towering afar in parting light, The fleets like Albion's forelands shine— The full-sailed fleets, the shrouded show Of Ships-of-the-Line.
The fighting Temeraire, Built of a thousand trees, Lunging out her lightnings, And beetling o'er the seas— O Ship, how brave and fair, That fought so oft and well,