RALPH WALDO EMERSON
1867, 1876, 1883, 1895, 1904 AND 1911
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In Mr. Cabot's prefatory note to the Riverside Edition of the Poems, published the year after Mr. Emerson's death, he said:—
"This volume contains nearly all the pieces included in the POEMS and MAY-DAY of former editions. In 1876, Mr. Emerson published a selection from his Poems, adding six new ones and omitting many. Of those omitted, several are now restored, in accordance with the expressed wishes of many readers and lovers of them. Also some pieces never before published are here given in an Appendix; on various grounds. Some of them appear to have had Mr. Emerson's approval, but to have been withheld because they were unfinished. These it seemed best not to suppress, now that they can never receive their completion. Others, mostly of an early date, remained unpublished, doubtless because of their personal and private nature. Some of these seem to have an autobiographic interest sufficient to justify their publication. Others again, often mere fragments, have been admitted as characteristic, or as expressing in poetic form thoughts found in the Essays.
 Selected Poems: Little Classic Edition.
"In coming to a decision in these cases it seemed, on the whole, preferable to take the risk of including too much rather than the opposite, and to leave the task of further winnowing to the hands of Time.
"As was stated in the preface to the first volume of this edition of Mr. Emerson's writings, the readings adopted by him in the Selected Poems have not always been followed here, but in some cases preference has been given to corrections made by him when he was in fuller strength than at the time of the last revision.
"A change in the arrangement of the stanzas of 'May-Day,' in the part representative of the march of Spring, received his sanction as bringing them more nearly in accordance with the events in Nature."
In the preparation of the Riverside Edition of the Poems, Mr. Cabot very considerately took the present editor into counsel (as representing Mr. Emerson's family), who at that time in turn took counsel with several persons of taste and mature judgment with regard especially to the admission of poems hitherto unpublished and of fragments that seemed interested and pleasing. Mr. Cabot and he were entirely in accord with regard to the Riverside Edition. In the present edition, the substance of the Riverside Edition has been preserved, with hardly an exception, although some poems and fragments have been added. None of the poems therein printed have been omitted. "The House," which appeared in the first volume of Poems, and "Nemesis," "Una," "Love and Thought" and "Merlin's Songs," from the May-Day volume, have been restored. To the few mottoes of the Essays, which Mr. Emerson printed as "Elements" in May-Day, most of the others have been added. Following Mr. Emerson's precedent of giving his brother Edward's "Last Farewell" a place beside the poem in his memory, two pleasing poems by Ellen Tucker, his first wife, which he published in the Dial, have been placed with his own poems relating to her. The publication in the last edition of some poems that Mr. Emerson had long kept by him, but had never quite been ready to print, and of various fragments on Poetry, Nature and Life, was not done without advice and careful consideration, and then was felt to be perhaps a rash experiment. The continued interest which has been shown in the author's thought and methods and life—for these unfinished pieces contain much autobiography—has made the present editor feel it justifiable to keep almost all of these and to add a few. Their order has been slightly altered.
A few poems from the verse-books sufficiently complete to have a title are printed in the Appendix for the first time: "Insight," "September," "October," "Hymn" and "Riches."
After much hesitation the editor has gathered in their order of time, and printed at the end of the book, some twenty early pieces, a few of them taken from the Appendix of the last edition and others never printed before. They are for the most part journals in verse covering the period of his school-teaching, study for the ministry and exercise of that office, his sickness, bereavement, travel abroad and return to the new life. This sad period of probation is illuminated by the episode of his first love. Not for their poetical merit, except in flashes, but for the light they throw on the growth of his thought and character are they included.
In this volume the course of the Muse, as Emerson tells it, is pursued with regard to his own poems.
I hang my verses in the wind, Time and tide their faults will find.
EDWARD W. EMERSON.
March 12, 1904.
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GOOD-BYE EACH AND ALL THE PROBLEM TO RHEA THE VISIT URIEL THE WORLD-SOUL THE SPHINX ALPHONSO OF CASTILE MITHRIDATES TO J.W. DESTINY GUY HAMATREYA THE RHODORA THE HUMBLE-BEE BERRYING THE SNOW-STORM WOODNOTES I WOODNOTES II MONADNOC FABLE ODE ASTRAEA ETIENNE DE LA BOECE COMPENSATION FORBEARANCE THE PARK FORERUNNERS SURSUM CORDA ODE TO BEAUTY GIVE ALL TO LOVE TO ELLEN AT THE SOUTH TO ELLEN TO EVA LINES THE VIOLET THE AMULET THINE EYES STILL SHINED EROS HERMIONE INITIAL, DAEMONIC AND CELESTIAL LOVE I. THE INITIAL LOVE II. THE DAEMONIC LOVE III. THE CELESTIAL LOVE THE APOLOGY MERLIN I MERLIN II BACCHUS MEROPS THE HOUSE SAADI HOLIDAYS XENOPHANES THE DAY'S RATION BLIGHT MUSKETAQUID DIRGE THRENODY CONCORD HYMN
MAY-DAY AND OTHER PIECES
MAY-DAY THE ADIRONDACS BRAHMA NEMESIS FATE FREEDOM ODE BOSTON HYMN VOLUNTARIES LOVE AND THOUGHT UNA BOSTON LETTERS RUBIES MERLIN'S SONG THE TEST SOLUTION HYMN NATURE I NATURE II THE ROMANY GIRL DAYS MY GARDEN THE CHARTIST'S COMPLAINT THE TITMOUSE THE HARP SEASHORE SONG OF NATURE TWO RIVERS WALDEINSAMKEIT TERMINUS THE NUN'S ASPIRATION APRIL MAIDEN SPEECH OF THE AEOLIAN HARP CUPIDO THE PAST THE LAST FAREWELL IN MEMORIAM E.B.E.
ELEMENTS AND MOTTOES
EXPERIENCE COMPENSATION POLITICS HEROISM CHARACTER CULTURE FRIENDSHIP SPIRITUAL LAWS BEAUTY MANNERS ART UNITY WORSHIP PRUDENCE NATURE THE INFORMING SPIRIT CIRCLES INTELLECT GIFTS PROMISE CARITAS POWER WEALTH ILLUSIONS
QUATRAINS AND TRANSLATIONS
THE POET FRAGMENTS ON THE POET AND THE POETIC GIFT FRAGMENTS ON NATURE AND LIFE NATURE LIFE THE BOHEMIAN HYMN GRACE INSIGHT PAN MONADNOC FROM AFAR SEPTEMBER EROS OCTOBER PETER'S FIELD MUSIC THE WALK COSMOS THE MIRACLE THE WATERFALL WALDEN THE ENCHANTER WRITTEN IN A VOLUME OF GOETHE RICHES PHILOSOPHER INTELLECT LIMITS INSCRIPTION FOR A WELL IN MEMORY OF THE MARTYRS OF THE WAR THE EXILE
POEMS OF YOUTH AND EARLY MANHOOD
THE BELL THOUGHT PRAYER TO-DAY FAME THE SUMMONS THE RIVER GOOD HOPE LINES TO ELLEN SECURITY A MOUNTAIN GRAVE A LETTER HYMN SELF-RELIANCE WRITTEN IN NAPLES WRITTEN AT ROME WEBSTER
INDEX OF FIRST LINES
INDEX OF TITLES
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The Emersons first appeared in the north of England, but Thomas, who landed in Massachusetts in 1638, came from Hertfordshire. He built soon after a house, sometimes railed the Saint's Rest, which still stands in Ipswich on the slope of Heart-break Hill, close by Labour-in-vain Creek. Ralph Waldo Emerson was the sixth in descent from him. He was born in Boston, in Summer Street, May 25, 1803. He was the third son of William Emerson, the minister of the First Church in Boston, whose father, William Emerson, had been the patriotic minister of Concord at the outbreak of the Revolution, and died a chaplain in the army. Ruth Haskins, the mother of Ralph Waldo Emerson, was left a widow in 1811, with a family of five little boys. The taste of these boys was scholarly, and four of them went through the Latin School to Harvard College, and graduated there. Their mother was a person of great sweetness, dignity, and piety, bringing up her sons wisely and well in very straitened circumstances, and loved by them. Her husband's stepfather, Rev. Dr. Ripley of Concord, helped her, and constantly invited the boys to the Old Manse, so that the woods and fields along the Concord River were first a playground and then the background of the dreams of their awakening imaginations.
Born in the city, Emerson's young mind first found delight in poems and classic prose, to which his instincts led him as naturally as another boy's would to go fishing, but his vacations in the country supplemented these by giving him great and increasing love of nature. In his early poems classic imagery is woven into pictures of New England woodlands. Even as a little boy he had the habit of attempting flights of verse, stimulated by Milton, Pope, or Scott, and he and his mates took pleasure in declaiming to each other in barns and attics. He was so full of thoughts and fancies that he sought the pen instinctively, to jot them down.
At college Emerson did not shine as a scholar, though he won prizes for essays and declamations, being especially unfitted for mathematical studies, and enjoying the classics rather in a literary than grammatical way. And yet it is doubtful whether any man in his class used his time to better purpose with reference to his after life, for young Emerson's instinct led him to wide reading of works, outside the curriculum, that spoke directly to him. He had already formed the habit of writing in a journal, not the facts but the thoughts and inspirations of the day; often, also, good stories or poetical quotations, and scraps of his own verse.
On graduation from Harvard in the class of 1821, following the traditions of his family, Emerson resolved to study to be a minister, and meantime helped his older brother William in the support of the family by teaching in a school for young ladies in Boston, that the former had successfully established. The principal was twenty-one and the assistant nineteen years of age. For school-teaching on the usual lines Emerson was not fitted, and his youth and shyness prevented him from imparting his best gifts to his scholars. Years later, when, in his age, his old scholars assembled to greet him, he regretted that no hint had been brought into the school of what at that very time "I was writing every night in my chamber, my first thoughts on morals and the beautiful laws of compensation, and of individual genius, which to observe and illustrate have given sweetness to many years of my life." Yet many scholars remembered his presence and teaching with pleasure and gratitude, not only in Boston, but in Chelmsford and Roxbury, for while his younger brothers were in college it was necessary that he should help. In these years, as through all his youth, he was loved, spurred on in his intellectual life, and keenly criticised by his aunt, Mary Moody Emerson, an eager and wide reader, inspired by religious zeal, high-minded, but eccentric.
The health of the young teacher suffered from too ascetic a life, and unmistakable danger-signals began to appear, fortunately heeded in time, but disappointment and delay resulted, borne, however, with sense and courage. His course at the Divinity School in Cambridge was much broken; nevertheless, in October, 1826, he was "approbated to preach" by the Middlesex Association of Ministers. A winter at the North at this time threatened to prove fatal, so he was sent South by his helpful kinsman, Rev. Samuel Ripley, and passed the winter in Florida with benefit, working northward in the spring, preaching in the cities, and resumed his studies at Cambridge.
In 1829, Emerson was called by the Second or Old North Church in Boston to become the associate pastor with Rev. Henry Ware, and soon after, because of his senior's delicate health, was called on to assume the full duty. Theological dogmas, such as the Unitarian Church of Channing's day accepted, did not appeal to Emerson, nor did the supernatural in religion in its ordinary acceptation interest him. The omnipresence of spirit, the dignity of man, the daily miracle of the universe, were what he taught, and while the older members of the congregation may have been disquieted that he did not dwell on revealed religion, his words reached the young people, stirred thought, and awakened aspiration. At this time he lived with his mother and his young wife (Ellen Tucker) in Chardon Street. For three years he ministered to his people in Boston. Then having felt the shock of being obliged to conform to church usage, as stated prayer when the spirit did not move, and especially the administration of the Communion, he honestly laid his troubles before his people, and proposed to them some modification of this rite. While they considered his proposition, Emerson went into the White Mountains to weigh his conflicting duties to his church and conscience. He came down, bravely to meet the refusal of the church to change the rite, and in a sermon preached in September, 1832, explained his objections to it, and, because he could not honestly administer it, resigned.
He parted from his people in all kindness, but the wrench was felt. His wife had recently died, he was ill himself, his life seemed to others broken up. But meantime voices from far away had reached him. He sailed for Europe, landed in Italy, saw cities, and art, and men, but would not stay long. Of the dead, Michael Angelo appealed chiefly to him there; Landor among the living. He soon passed northward, making little stay in Paris, but sought out Carlyle, then hardly recognized, and living in the lonely hills of the Scottish Border. There began a friendship which had great influence on the lives of both men, and lasted through life. He also visited Wordsworth. But the new life before him called him home.
He landed at Boston within the year in good health and hope, and joined his mother and youngest brother Charles in Newton. Frequent invitations to preach still came, and were accepted, and he even was sounded as to succeeding Dr. Dewey in the church at New Bedford; but, as he stipulated for freedom from ceremonial, this came to nothing.
In the autumn of 1834 he moved to Concord, living with his kinsman, Dr. Ripley, at the Manse, but soon bought house and land on the Boston Road, on the edge of the village towards Walden woods. Thither, in the autumn, he brought his wife. Miss Lidian Jackson, of Plymouth, and this was their home during the rest of their lives.
The new life to which he had been called opened pleasantly and increased in happiness and opportunity, except for the sadness of bereavements, for, in the first few years, his brilliant brothers Edward and Charles died, and soon afterward Waldo, his firstborn son, and later his mother. Emerson had left traditional religion, the city, the Old World, behind, and now went to Nature as his teacher, his inspiration. His first book, "Nature," which he was meditating while in Europe, was finished here, and published in 1836. His practice during all his life in Concord was to go alone to the woods almost daily, sometimes to wait there for hours, and, when thus attuned, to receive the message to which he was to give voice. Though it might be colored by him in transmission, he held that the light was universal.
"Ever the words of the Gods resound, But the porches of man's ear Seldom in this low life's round Are unsealed that he may hear."
But he resorted, also, to the books of those who had handed down the oracles truly, and was quick to find the message destined for him. Men, too, he studied eagerly, the humblest and the highest, regretting always that the brand of the scholar on him often silenced the men of shop and office where he came. He was everywhere a learner, expecting light from the youngest and least educated visitor. The thoughts combined with the flower of his reading were gradually grouped into lectures, and his main occupation through life was reading these to who would hear, at first in courses in Boston, but later all over the country, for the Lyceum sprang up in New England in these years in every town, and spread westward to the new settlements even beyond the Mississippi. His winters were spent in these rough, but to him interesting journeys, for he loved to watch the growth of the Republic in which he had faith, and his summers were spent in study and writing. These lectures were later severely pruned and revised, and the best of them gathered into seven volumes of essays under different names between 1841 and 1876. The courses in Boston, which at first were given in the Masonic Temple, were always well attended by earnest and thoughtful people. The young, whether in years or in spirit, were always and to the end his audience of the spoken or written word. The freedom of the Lyceum platform pleased Emerson. He found that people would hear on Wednesday with approval and unsuspectingly doctrines from which on Sunday they felt officially obliged to dissent.
Mr. Lowell, in his essays, has spoken of these early lectures and what they were worth to him and others suffering from the generous discontent of youth with things as they were. Emerson used to say, "My strength and my doom is to be solitary;" but to a retired scholar a wholesome offset to this was the travelling and lecturing in cities and in raw frontier towns, bringing him into touch with the people, and this he knew and valued.
In 1837 Emerson gave the Phi Beta Kappa oration in Cambridge, The American Scholar, which increased his growing reputation, but the following year his Address to the Senior Class at the Divinity School brought out, even from the friendly Unitarians, severe strictures and warnings against its dangerous doctrines. Of this heresy Emerson said: "I deny personality to God because it is too little, not too much." He really strove to elevate the idea of God. Yet those who were pained or shocked by his teachings respected Emerson. His lectures were still in demand; he was often asked to speak by literary societies at orthodox colleges. He preached regularly at East Lexington until 1838, but thereafter withdrew from the ministerial office. At this time the progressive and spiritually minded young people used to meet for discussion and help in Boston, among them George Ripley, Cyrus Bartol, James Freeman Clarke, Alcott, Dr. Hedge, Margaret Fuller, and Elizabeth Peabody. Perhaps from this gathering of friends, which Emerson attended, came what is called the Transcendental Movement, two results of which were the Brook Farm Community and the Dial magazine, in which last Emerson took great interest, and was for the time an editor. Many of these friends were frequent visitors in Concord. Alcott moved thither after the breaking up of his school. Hawthorne also came to dwell there. Henry Thoreau, a Concord youth, greatly interested Emerson; indeed, became for a year or two a valued inmate of his home, and helped and instructed him in the labors of the garden and little farm, which gradually grew to ten acres, the chief interest of which for the owner was his trees, which he loved and tended. Emerson helped introduce his countrymen to the teachings of Carlyle, and edited his works here, where they found more readers than at home.
In 1847 Emerson was invited to read lectures in England, and remained abroad a year, visiting France also in her troublous times. English Traits was a result. Just before this journey he had collected and published his poems. A later volume, called May Day, followed in 1867. He had written verses from childhood, and to the purified expression of poetry he, through life, eagerly aspired. He said, "I like my poems best because it is not I who write them." In 1866 the degree of Doctor of Laws was conferred on him by Harvard University, and he was chosen an Overseer. In 1867 he again gave the Phi Beta Kappa oration, and in 1870 and 1871 gave courses in Philosophy in the University Lectures at Cambridge.
Emerson was not merely a man of letters. He recognized and did the private and public duties of the hour. He exercised a wide hospitality to souls as well as bodies. Eager youths came to him for rules, and went away with light. Reformers, wise and unwise, came to him, and were kindly received. They were often disappointed that they could not harness him to their partial and transient scheme. He said, My reforms include theirs: I must go my way; help people by my strength, not by my weakness. But if a storm threatened, he felt bound to appear and show his colors. Against the crying evils of his time he worked bravely in his own way. He wrote to President Van Buren against the wrong done to the Cherokees, dared speak against the idolized Webster, when he deserted the cause of Freedom, constantly spoke of the iniquity of slavery, aided with speech and money the Free State cause in Kansas, was at Phillips's side at the antislavery meeting in 1861 broken up by the Boston mob, urged emancipation during the war.
He enjoyed his Concord home and neighbors, served on the school committee for years, did much for the Lyceum, and spoke on the town's great occasions. He went to all town-meetings, oftener to listen and admire than to speak, and always took pleasure and pride in the people. In return he was respected and loved by them.
Emerson's house was destroyed by fire in 1872, and the incident exposure and fatigue did him harm. His many friends insisted on rebuilding his house and sending him abroad to get well. He went up the Nile, and revisited England, finding old and new friends, and, on his return, was welcomed and escorted home by the people of Concord. After this time he was unable to write. His old age was quiet and happy among his family and friends. He died in April, 1882.
EDWARD W. EMERSON.
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* * * * *
Good-bye, proud world! I'm going home: Thou art not my friend, and I'm not thine. Long through thy weary crowds I roam; A river-ark on the ocean brine, Long I've been tossed like the driven foam: But now, proud world! I'm going home.
Good-bye to Flattery's fawning face; To Grandeur with his wise grimace; To upstart Wealth's averted eye; To supple Office, low and high; To crowded halls, to court and street; To frozen hearts and hasting feet; To those who go, and those who come; Good-bye, proud world! I'm going home.
I am going to my own hearth-stone, Bosomed in yon green hills alone,— secret nook in a pleasant land, Whose groves the frolic fairies planned; Where arches green, the livelong day, Echo the blackbird's roundelay, And vulgar feet have never trod A spot that is sacred to thought and God.
O, when I am safe in my sylvan home, I tread on the pride of Greece and Rome; And when I am stretched beneath the pines, Where the evening star so holy shines, I laugh at the lore and the pride of man, At the sophist schools and the learned clan; For what are they all, in their high conceit, When man in the bush with God may meet?
EACH AND ALL
Little thinks, in the field, yon red-cloaked clown Of thee from the hill-top looking down; The heifer that lows in the upland farm, Far-heard, lows not thine ear to charm; The sexton, tolling his bell at noon, Deems not that great Napoleon Stops his horse, and lists with delight, Whilst his files sweep round yon Alpine height; Nor knowest thou what argument Thy life to thy neighbor's creed has lent. All are needed by each one; Nothing is fair or good alone. I thought the sparrow's note from heaven, Singing at dawn on the alder bough; I brought him home, in his nest, at even; He sings the song, but it cheers not now, For I did not bring home the river and sky;— He sang to my ear,—they sang to my eye. The delicate shells lay on the shore; The bubbles of the latest wave Fresh pearls to their enamel gave, And the bellowing of the savage sea Greeted their safe escape to me. I wiped away the weeds and foam, I fetched my sea-born treasures home; But the poor, unsightly, noisome things Had left their beauty on the shore With the sun and the sand and the wild uproar. The lover watched his graceful maid, As 'mid the virgin train she strayed, Nor knew her beauty's best attire Was woven still by the snow-white choir. At last she came to his hermitage, Like the bird from the woodlands to the cage;— The gay enchantment was undone, A gentle wife, but fairy none. Then I said, 'I covet truth; Beauty is unripe childhood's cheat; I leave it behind with the games of youth:'— As I spoke, beneath my feet The ground-pine curled its pretty wreath, Running over the club-moss burrs; I inhaled the violet's breath; Around me stood the oaks and firs; Pine-cones and acorns lay on the ground; Over me soared the eternal sky. Full of light and of deity; Again I saw, again I heard, The rolling river, the morning bird;— Beauty through my senses stole; I yielded myself to the perfect whole.
I like a church; I like a cowl; I love a prophet of the soul; And on my heart monastic aisles Fall like sweet strains, or pensive smiles Yet not for all his faith can see Would I that cowled churchman be.
Why should the vest on him allure, Which I could not on me endure?
Not from a vain or shallow thought His awful Jove young Phidias brought; Never from lips of cunning fell The thrilling Delphic oracle; Out from the heart of nature rolled The burdens of the Bible old; The litanies of nations came, Like the volcano's tongue of flame, Up from the burning core below,— The canticles of love and woe: The hand that rounded Peter's dome And groined the aisles of Christian Rome Wrought in a sad sincerity; Himself from God he could not free; He builded better than he knew;— The conscious stone to beauty grew.
Know'st thou what wove yon woodbird's nest Of leaves, and feathers from her breast? Or how the fish outbuilt her shell, Painting with morn each annual cell? Or how the sacred pine-tree adds To her old leaves new myriads? Such and so grew these holy piles, Whilst love and terror laid the tiles. Earth proudly wears the Parthenon, As the best gem upon her zone, And Morning opes with haste her lids To gaze upon the Pyramids; O'er England's abbeys bends the sky, As on its friends, with kindred eye; For out of Thought's interior sphere These wonders rose to upper air; And Nature gladly gave them place, Adopted them into her race, And granted them an equal date With Andes and with Ararat.
These temples grew as grows the grass; Art might obey, but not surpass. The passive Master lent his hand To the vast soul that o'er him planned; And the same power that reared the shrine Bestrode the tribes that knelt within. Ever the fiery Pentecost Girds with one flame the countless host, Trances the heart through chanting choirs, And through the priest the mind inspires. The word unto the prophet spoken Was writ on tables yet unbroken; The word by seers or sibyls told, In groves of oak, or fanes of gold, Still floats upon the morning wind, Still whispers to the willing mind. One accent of the Holy Ghost The heedless world hath never lost. I know what say the fathers wise,— The Book itself before me lies, Old Chrysostom, best Augustine, And he who blent both in his line, The younger Golden Lips or mines, Taylor, the Shakspeare of divines. His words are music in my ear, I see his cowled portrait dear; And yet, for all his faith could see, I would not the good bishop be.
Thee, dear friend, a brother soothes, Not with flatteries, but truths, Which tarnish not, but purify To light which dims the morning's eye. I have come from the spring-woods, From the fragrant solitudes;— Listen what the poplar-tree And murmuring waters counselled me.
If with love thy heart has burned; If thy love is unreturned; Hide thy grief within thy breast, Though it tear thee unexpressed; For when love has once departed From the eyes of the false-hearted, And one by one has torn off quite The bandages of purple light; Though thou wert the loveliest Form the soul had ever dressed, Thou shalt seem, in each reply, A vixen to his altered eye; Thy softest pleadings seem too bold, Thy praying lute will seem to scold; Though thou kept the straightest road, Yet thou errest far and broad.
But thou shalt do as do the gods In their cloudless periods; For of this lore be thou sure,— Though thou forget, the gods, secure, Forget never their command, But make the statute of this land. As they lead, so follow all, Ever have done, ever shall. Warning to the blind and deaf, 'T is written on the iron leaf, Who drinks of Cupid's nectar cup Loveth downward, and not up; He who loves, of gods or men, Shall not by the same be loved again; His sweetheart's idolatry Falls, in turn, a new degree. When a god is once beguiled By beauty of a mortal child And by her radiant youth delighted, He is not fooled, but warily knoweth His love shall never be requited. And thus the wise Immortal doeth,— 'T is his study and delight To bless that creature day and night; From all evils to defend her; In her lap to pour all splendor; To ransack earth for riches rare, And fetch her stars to deck her hair: He mixes music with her thoughts, And saddens her with heavenly doubts: All grace, all good his great heart knows, Profuse in love, the king bestows, Saying, 'Hearken! Earth, Sea, Air! This monument of my despair Build I to the All-Good, All-Fair. Not for a private good, But I, from my beatitude, Albeit scorned as none was scorned, Adorn her as was none adorned. I make this maiden an ensample To Nature, through her kingdoms ample, Whereby to model newer races, Statelier forms and fairer faces; To carry man to new degrees Of power and of comeliness. These presents be the hostages Which I pawn for my release. See to thyself, O Universe! Thou art better, and not worse.'— And the god, having given all, Is freed forever from his thrall.
Askest, 'How long thou shalt stay?' Devastator of the day! Know, each substance and relation, Thorough nature's operation, Hath its unit, bound and metre; And every new compound Is some product and repeater,— Product of the earlier found. But the unit of the visit, The encounter of the wise,— Say, what other metre is it Than the meeting of the eyes? Nature poureth into nature Through the channels of that feature, Riding on the ray of sight, Fleeter far than whirlwinds go, Or for service, or delight, Hearts to hearts their meaning show, Sum their long experience, And import intelligence. Single look has drained the breast; Single moment years confessed. The duration of a glance Is the term of convenance, And, though thy rede be church or state, Frugal multiples of that. Speeding Saturn cannot halt; Linger,—thou shalt rue the fault: If Love his moment overstay, Hatred's swift repulsions play.
It fell in the ancient periods Which the brooding soul surveys, Or ever the wild Time coined itself Into calendar months and days.
This was the lapse of Uriel, Which in Paradise befell. Once, among the Pleiads walking, Seyd overheard the young gods talking; And the treason, too long pent, To his ears was evident. The young deities discussed Laws of form, and metre just, Orb, quintessence, and sunbeams, What subsisteth, and what seems. One, with low tones that decide, And doubt and reverend use defied, With a look that solved the sphere, And stirred the devils everywhere, Gave his sentiment divine Against the being of a line. 'Line in nature is not found; Unit and universe are round; In vain produced, all rays return; Evil will bless, and ice will burn.' As Uriel spoke with piercing eye, A shudder ran around the sky; The stern old war-gods shook their heads, The seraphs frowned from myrtle-beds; Seemed to the holy festival The rash word boded ill to all; The balance-beam of Fate was bent; The bounds of good and ill were rent; Strong Hades could not keep his own, But all slid to confusion.
A sad self-knowledge, withering, fell On the beauty of Uriel; In heaven once eminent, the god Withdrew, that hour, into his cloud; Whether doomed to long gyration In the sea of generation, Or by knowledge grown too bright To hit the nerve of feebler sight. Straightway, a forgetting wind Stole over the celestial kind, And their lips the secret kept, If in ashes the fire-seed slept. But now and then, truth-speaking things Shamed the angels' veiling wings; And, shrilling from the solar course, Or from fruit of chemic force, Procession of a soul in matter, Or the speeding change of water, Or out of the good of evil born, Came Uriel's voice of cherub scorn, And a blush tinged the upper sky, And the gods shook, they knew not why.
Thanks to the morning light, Thanks to the foaming sea, To the uplands of New Hampshire, To the green-haired forest free; Thanks to each man of courage, To the maids of holy mind, To the boy with his games undaunted Who never looks behind.
Cities of proud hotels, Houses of rich and great, Vice nestles in your chambers, Beneath your roofs of slate. It cannot conquer folly,— Time-and-space-conquering steam,— And the light-outspeeding telegraph Bears nothing on its beam.
The politics are base; The letters do not cheer; And 'tis far in the deeps of history, The voice that speaketh clear. Trade and the streets ensnare us, Our bodies are weak and worn; We plot and corrupt each other, And we despoil the unborn.
Yet there in the parlor sits Some figure of noble guise,— Our angel, in a stranger's form, Or woman's pleading eyes; Or only a flashing sunbeam In at the window-pane; Or Music pours on mortals Its beautiful disdain.
The inevitable morning Finds them who in cellars be; And be sure the all-loving Nature Will smile in a factory. Yon ridge of purple landscape, Yon sky between the walls, Hold all the hidden wonders In scanty intervals.
Alas! the Sprite that haunts us Deceives our rash desire; It whispers of the glorious gods, And leaves us in the mire. We cannot learn the cipher That's writ upon our cell; Stars taunt us by a mystery Which we could never spell.
If but one hero knew it, The world would blush in flame; The sage, till he hit the secret, Would hang his head for shame. Our brothers have not read it, Not one has found the key; And henceforth we are comforted,— We are but such as they.
Still, still the secret presses; The nearing clouds draw down; The crimson morning flames into The fopperies of the town. Within, without the idle earth, Stars weave eternal rings; The sun himself shines heartily, And shares the joy he brings.
And what if Trade sow cities Like shells along the shore, And thatch with towns the prairie broad With railways ironed o'er?— They are but sailing foam-bells Along Thought's causing stream, And take their shape and sun-color From him that sends the dream.
For Destiny never swerves Nor yields to men the helm; He shoots his thought, by hidden nerves, Throughout the solid realm. The patient Daemon sits, With roses and a shroud; He has his way, and deals his gifts,— But ours is not allowed.
He is no churl nor trifler, And his viceroy is none,— Love-without-weakness,— Of Genius sire and son. And his will is not thwarted; The seeds of land and sea Are the atoms of his body bright, And his behest obey.
He serveth the servant, The brave he loves amain; He kills the cripple and the sick, And straight begins again; For gods delight in gods, And thrust the weak aside; To him who scorns their charities Their arms fly open wide.
When the old world is sterile And the ages are effete, He will from wrecks and sediment The fairer world complete. He forbids to despair; His cheeks mantle with mirth; And the unimagined good of men Is yeaning at the birth.
Spring still makes spring in the mind When sixty years are told; Love wakes anew this throbbing heart, And we are never old; Over the winter glaciers I see the summer glow, And through the wild-piled snow-drift The warm rosebuds below.
The Sphinx is drowsy, Her wings are furled: Her ear is heavy, She broods on the world. "Who'll tell me my secret, The ages have kept?— I awaited the seer While they slumbered and slept:—
"The fate of the man-child, The meaning of man; Known fruit of the unknown; Daedalian plan; Out of sleeping a waking, Out of waking a sleep; Life death overtaking; Deep underneath deep?
"Erect as a sunbeam, Upspringeth the palm; The elephant browses, Undaunted and calm; In beautiful motion The thrush plies his wings; Kind leaves of his covert, Your silence he sings.
"The waves, unashamed, In difference sweet, Play glad with the breezes, Old playfellows meet; The journeying atoms, Primordial wholes, Firmly draw, firmly drive, By their animate poles.
"Sea, earth, air, sound, silence. Plant, quadruped, bird, By one music enchanted, One deity stirred,— Each the other adorning, Accompany still; Night veileth the morning, The vapor the hill.
"The babe by its mother Lies bathed in joy; Glide its hours uncounted,— The sun is its toy; Shines the peace of all being, Without cloud, in its eyes; And the sum of the world In soft miniature lies.
"But man crouches and blushes, Absconds and conceals; He creepeth and peepeth, He palters and steals; Infirm, melancholy, Jealous glancing around, An oaf, an accomplice, He poisons the ground.
"Out spoke the great mother, Beholding his fear;— At the sound of her accents Cold shuddered the sphere:— 'Who has drugged my boy's cup? Who has mixed my boy's bread? Who, with sadness and madness, Has turned my child's head?'"
I heard a poet answer Aloud and cheerfully, 'Say on, sweet Sphinx! thy dirges Are pleasant songs to me. Deep love lieth under These pictures of time; They fade in the light of Their meaning sublime.
"The fiend that man harries Is love of the Best; Yawns the pit of the Dragon, Lit by rays from the Blest. The Lethe of Nature Can't trance him again, Whose soul sees the perfect, Which his eyes seek in vain.
"To vision profounder, Man's spirit must dive; His aye-rolling orb At no goal will arrive; The heavens that now draw him With sweetness untold, Once found,—for new heavens He spurneth the old.
"Pride ruined the angels, Their shame them restores; Lurks the joy that is sweetest In stings of remorse. Have I a lover Who is noble and free?— I would he were nobler Than to love me.
"Eterne alternation Now follows, now flies; And under pain, pleasure,— Under pleasure, pain lies. Love works at the centre, Heart-heaving alway; Forth speed the strong pulses To the borders of day.
"Dull Sphinx, Jove keep thy five wits; Thy sight is growing blear; Rue, myrrh and cummin for the Sphinx, Her muddy eyes to clear!" The old Sphinx bit her thick lip,— Said, "Who taught thee me to name? I am thy spirit, yoke-fellow; Of thine eye I am eyebeam.
"Thou art the unanswered question; Couldst see thy proper eye, Alway it asketh, asketh; And each answer is a lie. So take thy quest through nature, It through thousand natures ply; Ask on, thou clothed eternity; Time is the false reply."
Uprose the merry Sphinx, And crouched no more in stone; She melted into purple cloud, She silvered in the moon; She spired into a yellow flame; She flowered in blossoms red; She flowed into a foaming wave: She stood Monadnoc's head.
Thorough a thousand voices Spoke the universal dame; "Who telleth one of my meanings Is master of all I am."
ALPHONSO OF CASTILE
I, Alphonso, live and learn, Seeing Nature go astern. Things deteriorate in kind; Lemons run to leaves and rind; Meagre crop of figs and limes; Shorter days and harder times. Flowering April cools and dies In the insufficient skies. Imps, at high midsummer, blot Half the sun's disk with a spot; 'Twill not now avail to tan Orange cheek or skin of man. Roses bleach, the goats are dry, Lisbon quakes, the people cry. Yon pale, scrawny fisher fools, Gaunt as bitterns in the pools, Are no brothers of my blood;— They discredit Adamhood. Eyes of gods! ye must have seen, O'er your ramparts as ye lean, The general debility; Of genius the sterility; Mighty projects countermanded; Rash ambition, brokenhanded; Puny man and scentless rose Tormenting Pan to double the dose. Rebuild or ruin: either fill Of vital force the wasted rill, Or tumble all again in heap To weltering Chaos and to sleep.
Say, Seigniors, are the old Niles dry, Which fed the veins of earth and sky, That mortals miss the loyal heats, Which drove them erst to social feats; Now, to a savage selfness grown, Think nature barely serves for one; With science poorly mask their hurt; And vex the gods with question pert, Immensely curious whether you Still are rulers, or Mildew?
Masters, I'm in pain with you; Masters, I'll be plain with you; In my palace of Castile, I, a king, for kings can feel. There my thoughts the matter roll, And solve and oft resolve the whole. And, for I'm styled Alphonse the Wise, Ye shall not fail for sound advice. Before ye want a drop of rain, Hear the sentiment of Spain.
You have tried famine: no more try it; Ply us now with a full diet; Teach your pupils now with plenty, For one sun supply us twenty. I have thought it thoroughly over,— State of hermit, state of lover; We must have society, We cannot spare variety. Hear you, then, celestial fellows! Fits not to be overzealous; Steads not to work on the clean jump, Nor wine nor brains perpetual pump. Men and gods are too extense; Could you slacken and condense? Your rank overgrowths reduce Till your kinds abound with juice? Earth, crowded, cries, 'Too many men!' My counsel is, kill nine in ten, And bestow the shares of all On the remnant decimal. Add their nine lives to this cat; Stuff their nine brains in one hat; Make his frame and forces square With the labors he must dare; Thatch his flesh, and even his years With the marble which he rears. There, growing slowly old at ease No faster than his planted trees, He may, by warrant of his age, In schemes of broader scope engage. So shall ye have a man of the sphere Fit to grace the solar year.
I cannot spare water or wine, Tobacco-leaf, or poppy, or rose; From the earth-poles to the Line, All between that works or grows, Every thing is kin of mine.
Give me agates for my meat; Give me cantharids to eat; From air and ocean bring me foods, From all zones and altitudes;—
From all natures, sharp and slimy, Salt and basalt, wild and tame: Tree and lichen, ape, sea-lion, Bird, and reptile, be my game.
Ivy for my fillet band; Blinding dog-wood in my hand; Hemlock for my sherbet cull me, And the prussic juice to lull me; Swing me in the upas boughs, Vampyre-fanned, when I carouse.
Too long shut in strait and few, Thinly dieted on dew, I will use the world, and sift it, To a thousand humors shift it, As you spin a cherry. O doleful ghosts, and goblins merry! O all you virtues, methods, mights, Means, appliances, delights, Reputed wrongs and braggart rights, Smug routine, and things allowed, Minorities, things under cloud! Hither! take me, use me, fill me, Vein and artery, though ye kill me!
Set not thy foot on graves; Hear what wine and roses say; The mountain chase, the summer waves, The crowded town, thy feet may well delay.
Set not thy foot on graves; Nor seek to unwind the shroud Which charitable Time And Nature have allowed To wrap the errors of a sage sublime.
Set not thy foot on graves; Care not to strip the dead Of his sad ornament, His myrrh, and wine, and rings,
His sheet of lead, And trophies buried: Go, get them where he earned them when alive; As resolutely dig or dive.
Life is too short to waste In critic peep or cynic bark, Quarrel or reprimand: 'T will soon be dark; Up! mind thine own aim, and God speed the mark!
That you are fair or wise is vain, Or strong, or rich, or generous; You must add the untaught strain That sheds beauty on the rose. There's a melody born of melody, Which melts the world into a sea. Toil could never compass it; Art its height could never hit; It came never out of wit; But a music music-born Well may Jove and Juno scorn. Thy beauty, if it lack the fire Which drives me mad with sweet desire, What boots it? What the soldier's mail, Unless he conquer and prevail? What all the goods thy pride which lift, If thou pine for another's gift? Alas! that one is born in blight, Victim of perpetual slight: When thou lookest on his face, Thy heart saith, 'Brother, go thy ways! None shall ask thee what thou doest, Or care a rush for what thou knowest, Or listen when thou repliest, Or remember where thou liest, Or how thy supper is sodden;' And another is born To make the sun forgotten. Surely he carries a talisman Under his tongue; Broad his shoulders are and strong; And his eye is scornful, Threatening and young. I hold it of little matter Whether your jewel be of pure water, A rose diamond or a white, But whether it dazzle me with light. I care not how you are dressed, In coarsest weeds or in the best; Nor whether your name is base or brave: Nor for the fashion of your behavior; But whether you charm me, Bid my bread feed and my fire warm me And dress up Nature in your favor. One thing is forever good; That one thing is Success,— Dear to the Eumenides, And to all the heavenly brood. Who bides at home, nor looks abroad, Carries the eagles, and masters the sword.
Mortal mixed of middle clay, Attempered to the night and day, Interchangeable with things, Needs no amulets nor rings. Guy possessed the talisman That all things from him began; And as, of old, Polycrates Chained the sunshine and the breeze, So did Guy betimes discover Fortune was his guard and lover; In strange junctures, felt, with awe, His own symmetry with law; That no mixture could withstand The virtue of his lucky hand. He gold or jewel could not lose, Nor not receive his ample dues. Fearless Guy had never foes, He did their weapons decompose. Aimed at him, the blushing blade Healed as fast the wounds it made. If on the foeman fell his gaze, Him it would straightway blind or craze, In the street, if he turned round, His eye the eye 't was seeking found.
It seemed his Genius discreet Worked on the Maker's own receipt, And made each tide and element Stewards of stipend and of rent; So that the common waters fell As costly wine into his well. He had so sped his wise affairs That he caught Nature in his snares. Early or late, the falling rain Arrived in time to swell his grain; Stream could not so perversely wind But corn of Guy's was there to grind: The siroc found it on its way, To speed his sails, to dry his hay; And the world's sun seemed to rise To drudge all day for Guy the wise. In his rich nurseries, timely skill Strong crab with nobler blood did fill; The zephyr in his garden rolled From plum-trees vegetable gold; And all the hours of the year With their own harvest honored were. There was no frost but welcome came, Nor freshet, nor midsummer flame. Belonged to wind and world the toil And venture, and to Guy the oil.
Bulkeley, Hunt, Willard, Hosmer, Meriam, Flint, Possessed the land which rendered to their toil Hay, corn, roots, hemp, flax, apples, wool and wood. Each of these landlords walked amidst his farm, Saying, ''Tis mine, my children's and my name's. How sweet the west wind sounds in my own trees! How graceful climb those shadows on my hill! I fancy these pure waters and the flags Know me, as does my dog: we sympathize; And, I affirm, my actions smack of the soil.'
Where are these men? Asleep beneath their grounds: And strangers, fond as they, their furrows plough. Earth laughs in flowers, to see her boastful boys Earth-proud, proud of the earth which is not theirs; Who steer the plough, but cannot steer their feet Clear of the grave. They added ridge to valley, brook to pond, And sighed for all that bounded their domain; 'This suits me for a pasture; that's my park; We must have clay, lime, gravel, granite-ledge, And misty lowland, where to go for peat. The land is well,—lies fairly to the south. 'Tis good, when you have crossed the sea and back, To find the sitfast acres where you left them.' Ah! the hot owner sees not Death, who adds Him to his land, a lump of mould the more. Hear what the Earth says:—
'Mine and yours; Mine, not yours. Earth endures; Stars abide— Shine down in the old sea; Old are the shores; But where are old men? I who have seen much, Such have I never seen.
'The lawyer's deed Ran sure, In tail, To them, and to their heirs Who shall succeed, Without fail, Forevermore.
'Here is the land, Shaggy with wood, With its old valley, Mound and flood. But the heritors?—
Fled like the flood's foam. The lawyer, and the laws, And the kingdom, Clean swept herefrom.
'They called me theirs, Who so controlled me; Yet every one Wished to stay, and is gone, How am I theirs, If they cannot hold me, But I hold them?'
When I heard the Earth-song I was no longer brave; My avarice cooled Like lust in the chill of the grave.
ON BEING ASKED, WHENCE IS THE FLOWER?
In May, when sea-winds pierced our solitudes, I found the fresh Rhodora in the woods, Spreading its leafless blooms in a damp nook, To please the desert and the sluggish brook. The purple petals, fallen in the pool, Made the black water with their beauty gay; Here might the red-bird come his plumes to cool. And court the flower that cheapens his array. Rhodora! if the sages ask thee why This charm is wasted on the earth and sky, Tell them, dear, that if eyes were made for seeing, Then Beauty is its own excuse for being: Why thou wert there, O rival of the rose! I never thought to ask, I never knew: But, in my simple ignorance, suppose The self-same Power that brought me there brought you.
Burly, dozing humble-bee, Where thou art is clime for me. Let them sail for Porto Rique, Far-off heats through seas to seek; I will follow thee alone, Thou animated torrid-zone! Zigzag steerer, desert cheerer, Let me chase thy waving lines; Keep me nearer, me thy hearer, Singing over shrubs and vines.
Insect lover of the sun, Joy of thy dominion! Sailor of the atmosphere; Swimmer through the waves of air; Voyager of light and noon; Epicurean of June; Wait, I prithee, till I come Within earshot of thy hum,— All without is martyrdom.
When the south wind, in May days, With a net of shining haze Silvers the horizon wall, And with softness touching all, Tints the human countenance With a color of romance, And infusing subtle heats, Turns the sod to violets, Thou, in sunny solitudes, Rover of the underwoods, The green silence dost displace With thy mellow, breezy bass.
Hot midsummer's petted crone, Sweet to me thy drowsy tone Tells of countless sunny hours, Long days, and solid banks of flowers; Of gulfs of sweetness without bound In Indian wildernesses found; Of Syrian peace, immortal leisure, Firmest cheer, and bird-like pleasure.
Aught unsavory or unclean Hath my insect never seen; But violets and bilberry bells, Maple-sap and daffodels, Grass with green flag half-mast high, Succory to match the sky, Columbine with horn of honey, Scented fern, and agrimony, Clover, catchfly, adder's-tongue And brier-roses, dwelt among; All beside was unknown waste, All was picture as he passed.
Wiser far than human seer, Yellow-breeched philosopher! Seeing only what is fair, Sipping only what is sweet, Thou dost mock at fate and care, Leave the chaff, and take the wheat. When the fierce northwestern blast Cools sea and land so far and fast, Thou already slumberest deep; Woe and want thou canst outsleep; Want and woe, which torture us, Thy sleep makes ridiculous.
'May be true what I had heard,— Earth's a howling wilderness, Truculent with fraud and force,' Said I, strolling through the pastures, And along the river-side. Caught among the blackberry vines, Feeding on the Ethiops sweet, Pleasant fancies overtook me. I said, 'What influence me preferred, Elect, to dreams thus beautiful?' The vines replied, 'And didst thou deem No wisdom from our berries went?'
Announced by all the trumpets of the sky, Arrives the snow, and, driving o'er the fields, Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air Hides hills and woods, the river, and the heaven, And veils the farm-house at the garden's end. The sled and traveller stopped, the courier's feet Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed In a tumultuous privacy of storm.
Come see the north wind's masonry. Out of an unseen quarry Furnished with tile, the fierce artificer Curves his white bastions with projected roof Round every windward stake, or tree, or door. Speeding, the myriad-handed, his wild work So fanciful, so savage, nought cares he For number or proportion. Mockingly, On coop or kennel he hangs Parian wreaths; A swan-like form invests the hidden thorn; Fills up the farmer's lane from wall to wall, Maugre the farmer's sighs; and at the gate A tapering turret overtops the work. And when his hours are numbered, and the world Is all his own, retiring, as he were not, Leaves, when the sun appears, astonished Art To mimic in slow structures, stone by stone, Built in an age, the mad wind's night-work, The frolic architecture of the snow.
When the pine tosses its cones To the song of its waterfall tones, Who speeds to the woodland walks? To birds and trees who talks? Caesar of his leafy Rome, There the poet is at home. He goes to the river-side,— Not hook nor line hath he; He stands in the meadows wide,— Nor gun nor scythe to see. Sure some god his eye enchants: What he knows nobody wants. In the wood he travels glad, Without better fortune had, Melancholy without bad. Knowledge this man prizes best Seems fantastic to the rest: Pondering shadows, colors, clouds, Grass-buds and caterpillar-shrouds, Boughs on which the wild bees settle, Tints that spot the violet's petal, Why Nature loves the number five, And why the star-form she repeats: Lover of all things alive, Wonderer at all he meets, Wonderer chiefly at himself, Who can tell him what he is? Or how meet in human elf Coming and past eternities?
And such I knew, a forest seer, A minstrel of the natural year, Foreteller of the vernal ides, Wise harbinger of spheres and tides, A lover true, who knew by heart Each joy the mountain dales impart; It seemed that Nature could not raise A plant in any secret place, In quaking bog, on snowy hill, Beneath the grass that shades the rill, Under the snow, between the rocks, In damp fields known to bird and fox. But he would come in the very hour It opened in its virgin bower, As if a sunbeam showed the place, And tell its long-descended race. It seemed as if the breezes brought him, It seemed as if the sparrows taught him; As if by secret sight he knew Where, in far fields, the orchis grew. Many haps fall in the field Seldom seen by wishful eyes, But all her shows did Nature yield, To please and win this pilgrim wise. He saw the partridge drum in the woods; He heard the woodcock's evening hymn; He found the tawny thrushes' broods; And the shy hawk did wait for him; What others did at distance hear, And guessed within the thicket's gloom, Was shown to this philosopher, And at his bidding seemed to come.
In unploughed Maine he sought the lumberers' gang Where from a hundred lakes young rivers sprang; He trode the unplanted forest floor, whereon The all-seeing sun for ages hath not shone; Where feeds the moose, and walks the surly bear, And up the tall mast runs the woodpecker. He saw beneath dim aisles, in odorous beds, The slight Linnaea hang its twin-born heads, And blessed the monument of the man of flowers, Which breathes his sweet fame through the northern bowers. He heard, when in the grove, at intervals, With sudden roar the aged pine-tree falls,— One crash, the death-hymn of the perfect tree, Declares the close of its green century. Low lies the plant to whose creation went Sweet influence from every element; Whose living towers the years conspired to build, Whose giddy top the morning loved to gild. Through these green tents, by eldest Nature dressed, He roamed, content alike with man and beast. Where darkness found him he lay glad at night; There the red morning touched him with its light. Three moons his great heart him a hermit made, So long he roved at will the boundless shade. The timid it concerns to ask their way, And fear what foe in caves and swamps can stray, To make no step until the event is known, And ills to come as evils past bemoan. Not so the wise; no coward watch he keeps To spy what danger on his pathway creeps; Go where he will, the wise man is at home, His hearth the earth,—his hall the azure dome; Where his clear spirit leads him, there's his road By God's own light illumined and foreshowed.
'T was one of the charmed days When the genius of God doth flow; The wind may alter twenty ways, A tempest cannot blow; It may blow north, it still is warm; Or south, it still is clear; Or east, it smells like a clover-farm; Or west, no thunder fear. The musing peasant, lowly great, Beside the forest water sate; The rope-like pine-roots crosswise grown Composed the network of his throne; The wide lake, edged with sand and grass, Was burnished to a floor of glass, Painted with shadows green and proud Of the tree and of the cloud. He was the heart of all the scene; On him the sun looked more serene; To hill and cloud his face was known,— It seemed the likeness of their own; They knew by secret sympathy The public child of earth and sky. 'You ask,' he said, 'what guide Me through trackless thickets led, Through thick-stemmed woodlands rough and wide. I found the water's bed. The watercourses were my guide; I travelled grateful by their side, Or through their channel dry; They led me through the thicket damp, Through brake and fern, the beavers' camp, Through beds of granite cut my road, And their resistless friendship showed. The falling waters led me, The foodful waters fed me, And brought me to the lowest land, Unerring to the ocean sand. The moss upon the forest bark Was pole-star when the night was dark; The purple berries in the wood Supplied me necessary food; For Nature ever faithful is To such as trust her faithfulness. When the forest shall mislead me, When the night and morning lie, When sea and land refuse to feed me, 'T will be time enough to die; Then will yet my mother yield A pillow in her greenest field, Nor the June flowers scorn to cover The clay of their departed lover.'
As sunbeams stream through liberal space And nothing jostle or displace, So waved the pine-tree through my thought And fanned the dreams it never brought.
'Whether is better, the gift or the donor? Come to me,' Quoth the pine-tree, 'I am the giver of honor. My garden is the cloven rock, And my manure the snow; And drifting sand-heaps feed my stock, In summer's scorching glow. He is great who can live by me: The rough and bearded forester Is better than the lord; God fills the script and canister, Sin piles the loaded board. The lord is the peasant that was, The peasant the lord that shall be; The lord is hay, the peasant grass, One dry, and one the living tree. Who liveth by the ragged pine Foundeth a heroic line; Who liveth in the palace hall Waneth fast and spendeth all. He goes to my savage haunts, With his chariot and his care; My twilight realm he disenchants, And finds his prison there.
'What prizes the town and the tower? Only what the pine-tree yields; Sinew that subdued the fields; The wild-eyed boy, who in the woods Chants his hymn to hills and floods, Whom the city's poisoning spleen Made not pale, or fat, or lean; Whom the rain and the wind purgeth, Whom the dawn and the day-star urgeth, In whose cheek the rose-leaf blusheth, In whose feet the lion rusheth, Iron arms, and iron mould, That know not fear, fatigue, or cold. I give my rafters to his boat, My billets to his boiler's throat, And I will swim the ancient sea To float my child to victory, And grant to dwellers with the pine Dominion o'er the palm and vine. Who leaves the pine-tree, leaves his friend, Unnerves his strength, invites his end. Cut a bough from my parent stem, And dip it in thy porcelain vase; A little while each russet gem Will swell and rise with wonted grace; But when it seeks enlarged supplies, The orphan of the forest dies. Whoso walks in solitude And inhabiteth the wood, Choosing light, wave, rock and bird, Before the money-loving herd, Into that forester shall pass, From these companions, power and grace. Clean shall he be, without, within, From the old adhering sin, All ill dissolving in the light Of his triumphant piercing sight: Not vain, sour, nor frivolous; Not mad, athirst, nor garrulous; Grave, chaste, contented, though retired, And of all other men desired. On him the light of star and moon Shall fall with purer radiance down; All constellations of the sky Shed their virtue through his eye. Him Nature giveth for defence His formidable innocence; The mounting sap, the shells, the sea, All spheres, all stones, his helpers be; He shall meet the speeding year, Without wailing, without fear; He shall be happy in his love, Like to like shall joyful prove; He shall be happy whilst he wooes, Muse-born, a daughter of the Muse. But if with gold she bind her hair, And deck her breast with diamond, Take off thine eyes, thy heart forbear, Though thou lie alone on the ground.
'Heed the old oracles, Ponder my spells; Song wakes in my pinnacles When the wind swells. Soundeth the prophetic wind, The shadows shake on the rock behind, And the countless leaves of the pine are strings Tuned to the lay the wood-god sings. Hearken! Hearken! If thou wouldst know the mystic song Chanted when the sphere was young. Aloft, abroad, the paean swells; O wise man! hear'st thou half it tells? O wise man! hear'st thou the least part? 'Tis the chronicle of art. To the open ear it sings Sweet the genesis of things, Of tendency through endless ages, Of star-dust, and star-pilgrimages, Of rounded worlds, of space and time, Of the old flood's subsiding slime, Of chemic matter, force and form, Of poles and powers, cold, wet, and warm: The rushing metamorphosis Dissolving all that fixture is, Melts things that be to things that seem, And solid nature to a dream. O, listen to the undersong, The ever old, the ever young; And, far within those cadent pauses, The chorus of the ancient Causes! Delights the dreadful Destiny To fling his voice into the tree, And shock thy weak ear with a note Breathed from the everlasting throat. In music he repeats the pang Whence the fair flock of Nature sprang. O mortal! thy ears are stones; These echoes are laden with tones Which only the pure can hear; Thou canst not catch what they recite Of Fate and Will, of Want and Right, Of man to come, of human life, Of Death and Fortune, Growth and Strife.'
Once again the pine-tree sung:— 'Speak not thy speech my boughs among: Put off thy years, wash in the breeze; My hours are peaceful centuries. Talk no more with feeble tongue; No more the fool of space and time, Come weave with mine a nobler rhyme. Only thy Americans Can read thy line, can meet thy glance, But the runes that I rehearse Understands the universe; The least breath my boughs which tossed Brings again the Pentecost; To every soul resounding clear In a voice of solemn cheer,— "Am I not thine? Are not these thine?" And they reply, "Forever mine!" My branches speak Italian, English, German, Basque, Castilian, Mountain speech to Highlanders, Ocean tongues to islanders, To Fin and Lap and swart Malay, To each his bosom-secret say.
'Come learn with me the fatal song Which knits the world in music strong, Come lift thine eyes to lofty rhymes, Of things with things, of times with times, Primal chimes of sun and shade, Of sound and echo, man and maid, The land reflected in the flood, Body with shadow still pursued. For Nature beats in perfect tune, And rounds with rhyme her every rune, Whether she work in land or sea, Or hide underground her alchemy. Thou canst not wave thy staff in air, Or dip thy paddle in the lake, But it carves the bow of beauty there, And the ripples in rhymes the oar forsake. The wood is wiser far than thou; The wood and wave each other know Not unrelated, unaffied, But to each thought and thing allied, Is perfect Nature's every part, Rooted in the mighty Heart, But thou, poor child! unbound, unrhymed, Whence camest thou, misplaced, mistimed, Whence, O thou orphan and defrauded? Is thy land peeled, thy realm marauded? Who thee divorced, deceived and left? Thee of thy faith who hath bereft, And torn the ensigns from thy brow, And sunk the immortal eye so low? Thy cheek too white, thy form too slender, Thy gait too slow, thy habits tender For royal man;—they thee confess An exile from the wilderness,— The hills where health with health agrees, And the wise soul expels disease. Hark! in thy ear I will tell the sign By which thy hurt thou may'st divine. When thou shalt climb the mountain cliff, Or see the wide shore from thy skiff, To thee the horizon shall express But emptiness on emptiness; There lives no man of Nature's worth In the circle of the earth; And to thine eye the vast skies fall, Dire and satirical, On clucking hens and prating fools, On thieves, on drudges and on dolls. And thou shalt say to the Most High, "Godhead! all this astronomy, And fate and practice and invention, Strong art and beautiful pretension, This radiant pomp of sun and star, Throes that were, and worlds that are, Behold! were in vain and in vain;— It cannot be,—I will look again. Surely now will the curtain rise, And earth's fit tenant me surprise;— But the curtain doth not rise, And Nature has miscarried wholly Into failure, into folly."
'Alas! thine is the bankruptcy, Blessed Nature so to see. Come, lay thee in my soothing shade, And heal the hurts which sin has made. I see thee in the crowd alone; I will be thy companion. Quit thy friends as the dead in doom, And build to them a final tomb; Let the starred shade that nightly falls Still celebrate their funerals, And the bell of beetle and of bee Knell their melodious memory. Behind thee leave thy merchandise, Thy churches and thy charities; And leave thy peacock wit behind; Enough for thee the primal mind That flows in streams, that breathes in wind: Leave all thy pedant lore apart; God hid the whole world in thy heart. Love shuns the sage, the child it crowns, Gives all to them who all renounce. The rain comes when the wind calls; The river knows the way to the sea; Without a pilot it runs and falls, Blessing all lands with its charity; The sea tosses and foams to find Its way up to the cloud and wind; The shadow sits close to the flying ball; The date fails not on the palm-tree tall; And thou,—go burn thy wormy pages,— Shalt outsee seers, and outwit sages. Oft didst thou thread the woods in vain To find what bird had piped the strain:— Seek not, and the little eremite Flies gayly forth and sings in sight.
'Hearken once more! I will tell thee the mundane lore. Older am I than thy numbers wot, Change I may, but I pass not. Hitherto all things fast abide, And anchored in the tempest ride. Trenchant time behoves to hurry All to yean and all to bury: All the forms are fugitive, But the substances survive. Ever fresh the broad creation, A divine improvisation, From the heart of God proceeds, A single will, a million deeds. Once slept the world an egg of stone, And pulse, and sound, and light was none; And God said, "Throb!" and there was motion And the vast mass became vast ocean. Onward and on, the eternal Pan, Who layeth the world's incessant plan, Halteth never in one shape, But forever doth escape, Like wave or flame, into new forms Of gem, and air, of plants, and worms. I, that to-day am a pine, Yesterday was a bundle of grass. He is free and libertine, Pouring of his power the wine To every age, to every race; Unto every race and age He emptieth the beverage; Unto each, and unto all, Maker and original. The world is the ring of his spells, And the play of his miracles. As he giveth to all to drink, Thus or thus they are and think. With one drop sheds form and feature; With the next a special nature; The third adds heat's indulgent spark; The fourth gives light which eats the dark; Into the fifth himself he flings, And conscious Law is King of kings. As the bee through the garden ranges, From world to world the godhead changes; As the sheep go feeding in the waste, From form to form He maketh haste; This vault which glows immense with light Is the inn where he lodges for a night. What recks such Traveller if the bowers Which bloom and fade like meadow flowers A bunch of fragrant lilies be, Or the stars of eternity? Alike to him the better, the worse,— The glowing angel, the outcast corse. Thou metest him by centuries, And lo! he passes like the breeze; Thou seek'st in globe and galaxy, He hides in pure transparency; Thou askest in fountains and in fires, He is the essence that inquires. He is the axis of the star; He is the sparkle of the spar; He is the heart of every creature; He is the meaning of each feature; And his mind is the sky. Than all it holds more deep, more high.'
Thousand minstrels woke within me, 'Our music's in the hills;'— Gayest pictures rose to win me, Leopard-colored rills. 'Up!—If thou knew'st who calls To twilight parks of beech and pine, High over the river intervals, Above the ploughman's highest line, Over the owner's farthest walls! Up! where the airy citadel O'erlooks the surging landscape's swell! Let not unto the stones the Day Her lily and rose, her sea and land display. Read the celestial sign! Lo! the south answers to the north; Bookworm, break this sloth urbane; A greater spirit bids thee forth Than the gray dreams which thee detain. Mark how the climbing Oreads Beckon thee to their arcades; Youth, for a moment free as they, Teach thy feet to feel the ground, Ere yet arrives the wintry day When Time thy feet has bound. Take the bounty of thy birth, Taste the lordship of the earth.'
I heard, and I obeyed,— Assured that he who made the claim, Well known, but loving not a name, Was not to be gainsaid. Ere yet the summoning voice was still, I turned to Cheshire's haughty hill. From the fixed cone the cloud-rack flowed Like ample banner flung abroad To all the dwellers in the plains Round about, a hundred miles, With salutation to the sea and to the bordering isles. In his own loom's garment dressed, By his proper bounty blessed, Fast abides this constant giver, Pouring many a cheerful river; To far eyes, an aerial isle Unploughed, which finer spirits pile, Which morn and crimson evening paint For bard, for lover and for saint; An eyemark and the country's core, Inspirer, prophet evermore; Pillar which God aloft had set So that men might it not forget; It should be their life's ornament, And mix itself with each event; Gauge and calendar and dial, Weatherglass and chemic phial, Garden of berries, perch of birds, Pasture of pool-haunting herds, Graced by each change of sum untold, Earth-baking heat, stone-cleaving cold.
The Titan heeds his sky-affairs, Rich rents and wide alliance shares; Mysteries of color daily laid By morn and eve in light and shade; And sweet varieties of chance, And the mystic seasons' dance; And thief-like step of liberal hours Thawing snow-drift into flowers. O, wondrous craft of plant and stone By eldest science wrought and shown!
'Happy,' I said, 'whose home is here! Fair fortunes to the mountaineer! Boon Nature to his poorest shed Has royal pleasure-grounds outspread.' Intent, I searched the region round, And in low hut the dweller found: Woe is me for my hope's downfall! Is yonder squalid peasant all That this proud nursery could breed For God's vicegerency and stead? Time out of mind, this forge of ores; Quarry of spars in mountain pores; Old cradle, hunting-ground and bier Of wolf and otter, bear and deer; Well-built abode of many a race; Tower of observance searching space; Factory of river and of rain; Link in the Alps' globe-girding chain; By million changes skilled to tell What in the Eternal standeth well, And what obedient Nature can;— Is this colossal talisman Kindly to plant and blood and kind, But speechless to the master's mind? I thought to find the patriots In whom the stock of freedom roots; To myself I oft recount Tales of many a famous mount,— Wales, Scotland, Uri, Hungary's dells: Bards, Roys, Scanderbegs and Tells; And think how Nature in these towers Uplifted shall condense her powers, And lifting man to the blue deep Where stars their perfect courses keep, Like wise preceptor, lure his eye To sound the science of the sky, And carry learning to its height Of untried power and sane delight: The Indian cheer, the frosty skies, Rear purer wits, inventive eyes,— Eyes that frame cities where none be, And hands that stablish what these see: And by the moral of his place Hint summits of heroic grace; Man in these crags a fastness find To fight pollution of the mind; In the wide thaw and ooze of wrong, Adhere like this foundation strong, The insanity of towns to stem With simpleness for stratagem. But if the brave old mould is broke, And end in churls the mountain folk In tavern cheer and tavern joke, Sink, O mountain, in the swamp! Hide in thy skies, O sovereign lamp! Perish like leaves, the highland breed No sire survive, no son succeed!
Soft! let not the offended muse Toil's hard hap with scorn accuse. Many hamlets sought I then, Many farms of mountain men. Rallying round a parish steeple Nestle warm the highland people, Coarse and boisterous, yet mild, Strong as giant, slow as child. Sweat and season are their arts, Their talismans are ploughs and carts; And well the youngest can command Honey from the frozen land; With cloverheads the swamp adorn, Change the running sand to corn; For wolf and fox, bring lowing herds, And for cold mosses, cream and curds: Weave wood to canisters and mats; Drain sweet maple juice in vats. No bird is safe that cuts the air From their rifle or their snare; No fish, in river or in lake, But their long hands it thence will take; Whilst the country's flinty face, Like wax, their fashioning skill betrays, To fill the hollows, sink the hills, Bridge gulfs, drain swamps, build dams and mills, And fit the bleak and howling waste For homes of virtue, sense and taste. The World-soul knows his own affair, Forelooking, when he would prepare For the next ages, men of mould Well embodied, well ensouled, He cools the present's fiery glow, Sets the life-pulse strong but slow: Bitter winds and fasts austere His quarantines and grottoes, where He slowly cures decrepit flesh, And brings it infantile and fresh. Toil and tempest are the toys And games to breathe his stalwart boys: They bide their time, and well can prove, If need were, their line from Jove; Of the same stuff, and so allayed, As that whereof the sun is made, And of the fibre, quick and strong, Whose throbs are love, whose thrills are song.
Now in sordid weeds they sleep, In dulness now their secret keep; Yet, will you learn our ancient speech, These the masters who can teach. Fourscore or a hundred words All their vocal muse affords; But they turn them in a fashion Past clerks' or statesmen's art or passion. I can spare the college bell, And the learned lecture, well; Spare the clergy and libraries, Institutes and dictionaries, For that hardy English root Thrives here, unvalued, underfoot. Rude poets of the tavern hearth, Squandering your unquoted mirth, Which keeps the ground and never soars, While Jake retorts and Reuben roars; Scoff of yeoman strong and stark, Goes like bullet to its mark; While the solid curse and jeer Never balk the waiting ear.
On the summit as I stood, O'er the floor of plain and flood Seemed to me, the towering hill Was not altogether still, But a quiet sense conveyed: If I err not, thus it said:—
'Many feet in summer seek, Oft, my far-appearing peak; In the dreaded winter time, None save dappling shadows climb, Under clouds, my lonely head, Old as the sun, old almost as the shade; And comest thou To see strange forests and new snow, And tread uplifted land? And leavest thou thy lowland race, Here amid clouds to stand? And wouldst be my companion Where I gaze, and still shall gaze, Through tempering nights and flashing days, When forests fall, and man is gone, Over tribes and over times, At the burning Lyre, Nearing me, With its stars of northern fire, In many a thousand years?
'Gentle pilgrim, if thou know The gamut old of Pan, And how the hills began, The frank blessings of the hill Fall on thee, as fall they will.
'Let him heed who can and will; Enchantment fixed me here To stand the hurts of time, until In mightier chant I disappear. If thou trowest How the chemic eddies play, Pole to pole, and what they say; And that these gray crags Not on crags are hung, But beads are of a rosary On prayer and music strung; And, credulous, through the granite seeming, Seest the smile of Reason beaming;— Can thy style-discerning eye The hidden-working Builder spy, Who builds, yet makes no chips, no din, With hammer soft as snowflake's flight;— Knowest thou this? O pilgrim, wandering not amiss! Already my rocks lie light, And soon my cone will spin.
'For the world was built in order, And the atoms march in tune; Rhyme the pipe, and Time the warder, The sun obeys them and the moon. Orb and atom forth they prance, When they hear from far the rune; None so backward in the troop, When the music and the dance Reach his place and circumstance, But knows the sun-creating sound, And, though a pyramid, will bound.
'Monadnoc is a mountain strong, Tall and good my kind among; But well I know, no mountain can, Zion or Meru, measure with man. For it is on zodiacs writ, Adamant is soft to wit: And when the greater comes again With my secret in his brain, I shall pass, as glides my shadow Daily over hill and meadow.
'Through all time, in light, in gloom Well I hear the approaching feet On the flinty pathway beat Of him that cometh, and shall come; Of him who shall as lightly bear My daily load of woods and streams, As doth this round sky-cleaving boat Which never strains its rocky beams; Whose timbers, as they silent float, Alps and Caucasus uprear, And the long Alleghanies here, And all town-sprinkled lands that be, Sailing through stars with all their history.
'Every morn I lift my head, See New England underspread, South from Saint Lawrence to the Sound, From Katskill east to the sea-bound. Anchored fast for many an age, I await the bard and sage, Who, in large thoughts, like fair pearl-seed, Shall string Monadnoc like a bead. Comes that cheerful troubadour, This mound shall throb his face before, As when, with inward fires and pain, It rose a bubble from the plain. When he cometh, I shall shed, From this wellspring in my head, Fountain-drop of spicier worth Than all vintage of the earth. There's fruit upon my barren soil Costlier far than wine or oil. There's a berry blue and gold,— Autumn-ripe, its juices hold Sparta's stoutness, Bethlehem's heart, Asia's rancor, Athens' art, Slowsure Britain's secular might, And the German's inward sight. I will give my son to eat Best of Pan's immortal meat, Bread to eat, and juice to drain; So the coinage of his brain Shall not be forms of stars, but stars, Nor pictures pale, but Jove and Mars, He comes, but not of that race bred Who daily climb my specular head. Oft as morning wreathes my scarf, Fled the last plumule of the Dark, Pants up hither the spruce clerk From South Cove and City Wharf. I take him up my rugged sides, Half-repentant, scant of breath,— Bead-eyes my granite chaos show, And my midsummer snow: Open the daunting map beneath,— All his county, sea and land, Dwarfed to measure of his hand; His day's ride is a furlong space, His city-tops a glimmering haze. I plant his eyes on the sky-hoop bounding; "See there the grim gray rounding Of the bullet of the earth Whereon ye sail, Tumbling steep In the uncontinented deep." He looks on that, and he turns pale. 'T is even so, this treacherous kite, Farm-furrowed, town-incrusted sphere, Thoughtless of its anxious freight, Plunges eyeless on forever; And he, poor parasite, Cooped in a ship he cannot steer,— Who is the captain he knows not, Port or pilot trows not,— Risk or ruin he must share. I scowl on him with my cloud, With my north wind chill his blood; I lame him, clattering down the rocks; And to live he is in fear. Then, at last, I let him down Once more into his dapper town, To chatter, frightened, to his clan And forget me if he can.'
As in the old poetic fame The gods are blind and lame, And the simular despite Betrays the more abounding might, So call not waste that barren cone Above the floral zone, Where forests starve: It is pure use;— What sheaves like those which here we glean and bind Of a celestial Ceres and the Muse?
Ages are thy days, Thou grand affirmer of the present tense, And type of permanence! Firm ensign of the fatal Being, Amid these coward shapes of joy and grief, That will not bide the seeing!
Hither we bring Our insect miseries to thy rocks; And the whole flight, with folded wing, Vanish, and end their murmuring,— Vanish beside these dedicated blocks, Which who can tell what mason laid? Spoils of a front none need restore, Replacing frieze and architrave;— Where flowers each stone rosette and metope brave; Still is the haughty pile erect Of the old building Intellect.
Complement of human kind, Holding us at vantage still, Our sumptuous indigence, O barren mound, thy plenties fill! We fool and prate; Thou art silent and sedate. To myriad kinds and times one sense The constant mountain doth dispense; Shedding on all its snows and leaves, One joy it joys, one grief it grieves. Thou seest, O watchman tall, Our towns and races grow and fall, And imagest the stable good For which we all our lifetime grope, In shifting form the formless mind, And though the substance us elude, We in thee the shadow find. Thou, in our astronomy An opaker star, Seen haply from afar, Above the horizon's hoop, A moment, by the railway troop, As o'er some bolder height they speed,— By circumspect ambition, By errant gain, By feasters and the frivolous,— Recallest us, And makest sane. Mute orator! well skilled to plead, And send conviction without phrase, Thou dost succor and remede The shortness of our days, And promise, on thy Founder's truth, Long morrow to this mortal youth.
The mountain and the squirrel Had a quarrel, And the former called the latter 'Little Prig; Bun replied, 'You are doubtless very big; But all sorts of things and weather Must be taken in together, To make up a year And a sphere. And I think it no disgrace To occupy my place. If I'm not so large as you, You are not so small as I, And not half so spry. I'll not deny you make A very pretty squirrel track; Talents differ; all is well and wisely put; If I cannot carry forests on my back, Neither can you crack a nut.'
INSCRIBED TO W.H. CHANNING
Though loath to grieve The evil time's sole patriot, I cannot leave My honied thought For the priest's cant, Or statesman's rant.
If I refuse My study for their politique, Which at the best is trick, The angry Muse Puts confusion in my brain.
But who is he that prates Of the culture of mankind, Of better arts and life? Go, blindworm, go, Behold the famous States Harrying Mexico With rifle and with knife!
Or who, with accent bolder, Dare praise the freedom-loving mountaineer? I found by thee, O rushing Contoocook! And in thy valleys, Agiochook! The jackals of the negro-holder.
The God who made New Hampshire Taunted the lofty land With little men;— Small bat and wren House in the oak:— If earth-fire cleave The upheaved land, and bury the folk, The southern crocodile would grieve. Virtue palters; Right is hence; Freedom praised, but hid; Funeral eloquence Rattles the coffin-lid.
What boots thy zeal, O glowing friend, That would indignant rend The northland from the south? Wherefore? to what good end? Boston Bay and Bunker Hill Would serve things still;— Things are of the snake.
The horseman serves the horse, The neatherd serves the neat, The merchant serves the purse, The eater serves his meat; 'T is the day of the chattel, Web to weave, and corn to grind; Things are in the saddle, And ride mankind.
There are two laws discrete, Not reconciled,— Law for man, and law for thing; The last builds town and fleet, But it runs wild, And doth the man unking.
'T is fit the forest fall, The steep be graded, The mountain tunnelled, The sand shaded, The orchard planted, The glebe tilled, The prairie granted, The steamer built.
Let man serve law for man; Live for friendship, live for love, For truth's and harmony's behoof; The state may follow how it can, As Olympus follows Jove.
Yet do not I implore The wrinkled shopman to my sounding woods, Nor bid the unwilling senator Ask votes of thrushes in the solitudes. Every one to his chosen work;— Foolish hands may mix and mar; Wise and sure the issues are. Round they roll till dark is light, Sex to sex, and even to odd;— The over-god Who marries Right to Might, Who peoples, unpeoples,— He who exterminates Races by stronger races, Black by white faces,— Knows to bring honey Out of the lion; Grafts gentlest scion On pirate and Turk.
The Cossack eats Poland, Like stolen fruit; Her last noble is ruined, Her last poet mute: Straight, into double band The victors divide; Half for freedom strike and stand;— The astonished Muse finds thousands at her side.
Each the herald is who wrote His rank, and quartered his own coat. There is no king nor sovereign state That can fix a hero's rate; Each to all is venerable, Cap-a-pie invulnerable, Until he write, where all eyes rest, Slave or master on his breast. I saw men go up and down, In the country and the town, With this tablet on their neck, 'Judgment and a judge we seek.' Not to monarchs they repair, Nor to learned jurist's chair; But they hurry to their peers, To their kinsfolk and their dears; Louder than with speech they pray,— 'What am I? companion, say.' And the friend not hesitates To assign just place and mates; Answers not in word or letter, Yet is understood the better; Each to each a looking-glass, Reflects his figure that doth pass. Every wayfarer he meets What himself declared repeats, What himself confessed records, Sentences him in his words; The form is his own corporal form, And his thought the penal worm. Yet shine forever virgin minds, Loved by stars and purest winds, Which, o'er passion throned sedate, Have not hazarded their state; Disconcert the searching spy, Rendering to a curious eye The durance of a granite ledge. To those who gaze from the sea's edge It is there for benefit; It is there for purging light; There for purifying storms; And its depths reflect all forms; It cannot parley with the mean,— Pure by impure is not seen. For there's no sequestered grot, Lone mountain tarn, or isle forgot, But Justice, journeying in the sphere, Daily stoops to harbor there.
ETIENNE DE LA BOECE
I serve you not, if you I follow, Shadowlike, o'er hill and hollow; And bend my fancy to your leading, All too nimble for my treading. When the pilgrimage is done, And we've the landscape overrun, I am bitter, vacant, thwarted, And your heart is unsupported. Vainly valiant, you have missed The manhood that should yours resist,— Its complement; but if I could, In severe or cordial mood, Lead you rightly to my altar, Where the wisest Muses falter, And worship that world-warming spark Which dazzles me in midnight dark, Equalizing small and large, While the soul it doth surcharge, Till the poor is wealthy grown, And the hermit never alone,— The traveller and the road seem one With the errand to be done,— That were a man's and lover's part, That were Freedom's whitest chart.
Why should I keep holiday When other men have none? Why but because, when these are gay, I sit and mourn alone?
And why, when mirth unseals all tongues, Should mine alone be dumb? Ah! late I spoke to silent throngs, And now their hour is come.
Hast thou named all the birds without a gun? Loved the wood-rose, and left it on its stalk? At rich men's tables eaten bread and pulse? Unarmed, faced danger with a heart of trust? And loved so well a high behavior, In man or maid, that thou from speech refrained, Nobility more nobly to repay? O, be my friend, and teach me to be thine!
The prosperous and beautiful To me seem not to wear The yoke of conscience masterful, Which galls me everywhere.
I cannot shake off the god; On my neck he makes his seat; I look at my face in the glass,— My eyes his eyeballs meet.
Enchanters! Enchantresses! Your gold makes you seem wise; The morning mist within your grounds More proudly rolls, more softly lies.
Yet spake yon purple mountain, Yet said yon ancient wood, That Night or Day, that Love or Crime, Leads all souls to the Good.
Long I followed happy guides, I could never reach their sides; Their step is forth, and, ere the day Breaks up their leaguer, and away. Keen my sense, my heart was young, Right good-will my sinews strung, But no speed of mine avails To hunt upon their shining trails. On and away, their hasting feet Make the morning proud and sweet; Flowers they strew,—I catch the scent; Or tone of silver instrument Leaves on the wind melodious trace; Yet I could never see their face. On eastern hills I see their smokes, Mixed with mist by distant lochs. I met many travellers Who the road had surely kept; They saw not my fine revellers,— These had crossed them while they slept. Some had heard their fair report, In the country or the court. Fleetest couriers alive Never yet could once arrive, As they went or they returned, At the house where these sojourned. Sometimes their strong speed they slacken, Though they are not overtaken; In sleep their jubilant troop is near,— I tuneful voices overhear; It may be in wood or waste,— At unawares 't is come and past. Their near camp my spirit knows By signs gracious as rainbows. I thenceforward and long after Listen for their harp-like laughter, And carry in my heart, for days, Peace that hallows rudest ways.
Seek not the spirit, if it hide Inexorable to thy zeal: Trembler, do not whine and chide: Art thou not also real? Stoop not then to poor excuse; Turn on the accuser roundly; say, 'Here am I, here will I abide Forever to myself soothfast; Go thou, sweet Heaven, or at thy pleasure stay!' Already Heaven with thee its lot has cast, For only it can absolutely deal.
ODE TO BEAUTY
Who gave thee, O Beauty, The keys of this breast,— Too credulous lover Of blest and unblest? Say, when in lapsed ages Thee knew I of old? Or what was the service For which I was sold? When first my eyes saw thee, I found me thy thrall, By magical drawings, Sweet tyrant of all! I drank at thy fountain False waters of thirst; Thou intimate stranger, Thou latest and first! Thy dangerous glances Make women of men; New-born, we are melting Into nature again.
Lavish, lavish promiser, Nigh persuading gods to err! Guest of million painted forms, Which in turn thy glory warms! The frailest leaf, the mossy bark, The acorn's cup, the raindrop's arc, The swinging spider's silver line, The ruby of the drop of wine, The shining pebble of the pond, Thou inscribest with a bond, In thy momentary play, Would bankrupt nature to repay.
Ah, what avails it To hide or to shun Whom the Infinite One Hath granted his throne? The heaven high over Is the deep's lover; The sun and sea, Informed by thee, Before me run And draw me on, Yet fly me still, As Fate refuses To me the heart Fate for me chooses. Is it that my opulent soul Was mingled from the generous whole; Sea-valleys and the deep of skies Furnished several supplies; And the sands whereof I'm made Draw me to them, self-betrayed?
I turn the proud portfolio Which holds the grand designs Of Salvator, of Guercino, And Piranesi's lines. I hear the lofty paeans Of the masters of the shell, Who heard the starry music And recount the numbers well; Olympian bards who sung Divine Ideas below, Which always find us young And always keep us so. Oft, in streets or humblest places, I detect far-wandered graces, Which, from Eden wide astray, In lowly homes have lost their way.
Thee gliding through the sea of form, Like the lightning through the storm, Somewhat not to be possessed, Somewhat not to be caressed, No feet so fleet could ever find, No perfect form could ever bind. Thou eternal fugitive, Hovering over all that live, Quick and skilful to inspire Sweet, extravagant desire, Starry space and lily-bell Filling with thy roseate smell, Wilt not give the lips to taste Of the nectar which thou hast.
All that's good and great with thee Works in close conspiracy; Thou hast bribed the dark and lonely To report thy features only, And the cold and purple morning Itself with thoughts of thee adorning; The leafy dell, the city mart, Equal trophies of thine art; E'en the flowing azure air Thou hast touched for my despair; And, if I languish into dreams, Again I meet the ardent beams. Queen of things! I dare not die In Being's deeps past ear and eye; Lest there I find the same deceiver And be the sport of Fate forever. Dread Power, but dear! if God thou be, Unmake me quite, or give thyself to me!