Songs from the Southland
Author: Various
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'Tis midnight's holy hour, and silence now Is brooding, like a gentle spirit o'er The still and pulseless world. Hark! on the winds The bell's deep tones are swelling; 'tis the knell Of the departed year. No funeral train Is sweeping past; yet, on the stream and wood, With melancholy light, the moonbeams rest Like a pale, spotless shroud; the air is stirred, As by a mourner's sigh; and, on yon cloud, That floats so still and placidly through heaven, The spirits of the Seasons seem to stand. Young Spring, bright Summer, Autumn's solemn form, And Winter with its aged locks—and breathe In mournful cadences, that come abroad, Like the far windharps wild, touching wail, A melancholy dirge o'er the dead year, Gone from the earth forever.

'Tis a time For memory and for tears. Within the deep, Still chambers of the heart, a spectre dim, Whose tones are like the wizard voice of time, Heard from the tomb of ages, points its cold And solemn finger to the beautiful And holy visions, that have passed away, And left no shadow of their loveliness On the dead waste of life. The spectre lifts The coffin-lid of Hope and Joy and Love, And bending mournfully above the pale, Sweet forms that slumber there, scatters dead flowers O'er what has passed to nothingness.

The year Has gone, and with it many a glorious throng Of happy dreams. Its mark is on each brow, Its shadow in each heart. In its swift course, It waved its sceptre o'er the beautiful; And they are not. It laid its pallid hand Upon the strong man: and the haughty form Is fallen, and the flashing eye is dim. It trod the hall of revelry, where thronged The bright and joyous; and the tearful wail Of stricken ones is heard, where erst the song And reckless shout resounded. It passed o'er The battle plain, where sword, and spear and shield, Flashed in the light of midday; and the strength Of serried hosts is shivered, and the grass, Green from the soil of carnage, waves above The crushed and mouldering skeleton. It came, And faded like a wreath of mist at eve; Yet, ere it melted in the viewless air, It heralded its millions to their home, In the dim land of dreams.

Remorseless time! Fierce spirit of the glass and scythe! What power Can stay him in his silent course, or melt His iron heart to pity! On, still on, He presses and forever. The proud bird, The Condor of the Andes, that can soar Through heaven's unfathomable depths, or brave The fury of the northing hurricane, And bath its plumage in the thunder's home Furls his broad wing at nightfall, and sinks down To rest upon his mountain crag; but Time Knows not the weight of sleep or weariness, And Night's deep darkness has no chain to bind His rushing pinion.

Revolutions sweep O'er earth, like troubled visions o'er the breast Of dreaming sorrow; cities rise and sink Like bubbles on the water; fiery isles Spring blazing from the ocean, and go back To their mysterious caverns; mountains rear To heaven their bold and blackened cliffs, and bow Their tall heads to the plain; and empires rise, Gathering the strength of hoary centuries, And rush down, like the Alpine avalanche, Startling the nations; and the very stars, Yon bright and glorious blazonry of God, Glitter awhile in their eternal depths, And like the Pleiad, loveliest of their train, Shoot from their glorious spheres, and pass away To darkle in the trackless void; yet Time, Time, the tomb-builder, holds his fierce career, Dark, stern, all pitiless, and pauses not Amid the mighty wrecks that strew his path, To sit and muse, like other conquerors, Upon the fearful ruin he hath wrought.

CHRISTMAS. [1864.]


How grace this hallowed day? Shall happy bells, from yonder ancient spire, Send their glad greetings to each Christmas fire Round which the children play?


How shall we grace the day? Ah! Let the thought that on this holy morn The Prince of Peace-the Prince of Peace was born, Employ us, while we pray!

Pray for the peace which long Hath left this tortured land, and haply now Holds its white court on some far mountain's brow, There hardly safe from wrong!

Let every sacred fane Call its sad votaries to the shrine of God, And, with the cloister and the tented sod, Join in one solemn strain!

He, who, till time shall cease, Will watch that earth, where once, not all in vain, He died to give us peace, may not disdain A prayer whose theme is—peace.

Perhaps ere yet the Spring Hath died into the Summer, over all The land, the Peace of His vast love shall fall, Like some protecting wing.

Oh, ponder what it means! Oh, turn the rapturous thought in every way! Oh, give the vision and the fancy play, And shape the coming scenes!

Peace in the quiet dales, Made rankly fertile by the blood of men, Peace in the woodland, and the lonely glen, Peace in the peopled vales!

Peace in the crowded town, Peace in the thousand fields of waving grain, Peace in the highway and the flowery lane, Peace on the wind-swept down!

Peace on the farthest seas, Peace in our sheltered bays and ample streams, Peace whereso'er our starry garland gleams; And peace in every breeze!

Peace on the whirring marts, Peace where the scholar thinks—the hunter roams, Peace, God of Peace! Peace, peace, in all our homes, And peace in all our hearts!



Is it because your sable hair Is folded over brows that wear At times a too imperial air;

Or is it that the thoughts which rise In those dark orbs do seek disguise Beneath the lids of Eastern eyes;

That choose whatever pose or place May chance to please, in you I trace The noblest woman of your race?

The crowd is sauntering at its ease, And humming like a hive of bees— You take your seat and touch the keys:

I do not hear the giddy throng; The sea avenges Israel's wrong, And on the mind floats Miriam's song!

You join me with a stately grace; Music to Poesy gives place; Some grand emotion lights your face:

At once I stand by Mizpeh's walls; With smiles the martyred daughter falls, And desolate are Mizpeh's halls!

Intrusive babblers come between; With calm, pale brow and lofty mein, You thread the circle like a queen!

Then sweeps the royal Esther by; The deep devotion in her eye, Is looking "If I die, I die!"

You stroll the gardener's flowery walks; The plants to me are grainless stalks, And Ruth to old Naomi talks.

Adopted child of Judah's creed, Like Judah's daughters, true at need, I see you mid the alien seed.

I watch afar the gleaner sweet; I watch like Boaz in the wheat, And find you lying at my feet.

My feet! Oh! if the spell that lures, My heart through all these dreams endures, How soon shall I be stretched at yours!



Helen, thy beauty is to me Like those Nicean barks of yore, That gently, o'er a perfumed sea, The weary, way-worn wanderer bore To his own native shore.

On desperate seas long wont to roam, Thy hyacinth hair, thy classic face, Thy Naiad airs have brought me home To the glory that was Greece And the grandeur that was Rome.

Lo! in yon brilliant window-niche How statue-like I see thee stand! The agate lamp within thy hand, Ah! Psyche, from the regions which Are Holy Land!



Four thousand years earth waited, Four thousand years men prayed, Four thousand years the nations sighed That their King so long delayed.

The prophets told His coming, The saintly for Him sighed; And the star of the Babe of Bethlehem Shone o'er them when they died.

Their faces toward the future, They longed to hail the light That in the after centuries Would rise on Christmas night.

But still the Saviour tarried, Within His father's home; And the nations wept and wondered why The promise had not come.

At last earth's hope was granted, And God was a child of earth; And a thousand angels chanted The lowly midnight birth.

Ah! Bethlehem was grander That hour than paradise; And the light of earth that night eclipsed The splendour of the skies.

Then let us sing the anthem, The angels once did sing; Until the music of love and praise O'er whole wide world will ring.

Glory in excelsis! Sound the thrilling song; In excelsis Deo! Roll the hymn along.

Glory in excelsis! Let the heavens ring; In excelsis Deo! Welcome, new-born King. Gloria in excelsis! Over the sea and land, In excelsis Deo! Chant the anthem grand. Gloria in excelsis! Let us all rejoice! In excelsis Deo! Lift each heart and voice. Gloria in excelsis! Swell the hymn on high; In excelsis Deo! Sound it to the sky. Gloria in excelsis! Sing it sinful earth. In excelsis Deo! For the Saviour's birth.

Thus joyful and victoriously, Glad and ever so gloriously, High as the heavens, wide as the earth, Swelleth the hymn of the Saviour's birth.



The morn is softly beautiful and still, Its light, fair clouds in pencilled gold and gray Pause motionless above the pine-grown hill, Where the pines, tranced as by a wizard's will, Uprise as mute and motionless as they!

Yea! mute and moveless; not one flickering spray Flashed into sunlight, nor a gaunt bough stirred; Yet, if wooed hence beneath those pines to stray, We catch a faint, thin murmur far away, A bodiless voice, by grosser ears unheard.

What voice is this? What low and solemn tone, Which, though all wings of all the winds seemed furled, Nor even the zephyr's fairy flute is blown, Makes thus forever its mysterious moan From out the whispering pine-tops' shadowy world?

Ah! can it be the antique tales are true? Doth some lone Dryad haunt the breezeless air, Fronting yon bright immitigable blue, And wildly breathing all her wild soul through That strange unearthly music of despair?

Or can it be that ages since, storm-tossed, And driven far inland from the roaring lea, Some baffled ocean-spirit, worn and lost, Here, through dry summer's dearth and winter's frost, Yearns for the sharp, sweet kisses of the sea?

Whate'er the spell, I harken and am dumb, Dream-touched, and musing in the tranquil morn; All woodland sounds—the pheasant's gusty drum, The mock-bird's fugue, the droning insect's hum— Scarce heard for that strange, sorrowful voice forlorn!

Beneath the drowsed sense, from deep to deep Of spiritual life its mournful minor flows, Streamlike, with pensive tide, whose currents keep Low murmuring 'twixt the bounds of grief and sleep, Yet locked for aye for sleep's divine repose.



Tall, sombre, grim, against the morning sky They rise, scarce touched by melancholy airs, Which stir the fadeless foliage dreamfully, As if from realms of mystical despairs.

Tall, sombre, grim, they stand with dusky gleams Brightening to gold within the woodland's core, Beneath the gracious noontide's tranquil beams— But the weird winds of morning sigh no more.

A stillness, strange, divine, ineffable, Broods round and o'er them in the wind's surcease, And on each tinted copse and shimmering dell Rests the mute rapture of deep-hearted peace.

Last, sunset comes—the solemn joy and might Borne from the West when cloudless day declines— Low, flutelike breezes sweep the waves of light, And lifting dark green tresses of the pines,

Till every lock is luminous—gently float, Fraught with hale odors up the heavens afar To faint when twilight on her virginal throat Wears for a gem the tremulous vesper star.



I think it is over, over, I think it is over at last, Voices of foeman and lover, The sweet and the bitter have passed— Life, like a tempest of ocean Hath outblown its ultimate blast. There's but a faint sobbing seaward While the calm of the tide deepens leeward, And behold! like the welcoming quiver Of heart-pulses throbbed thro' the river, Those lights in the harbor at last, The heavenly harbor at last!

I feel it is over! over! For the winds and the waters surcease; Ah! few were the days of the rover That smiled in the beauty of peace! And distant and dim was the omen That hinted redress or release. From the ravage of life, and its riot What marvel I yearn for the quiet Which bides in the harbor at last? For the lights with their welcoming quiver That through the sanctified river Which girdles the harbor at last, This heavenly harbor at last?

I know it is over, over, I know it is over at last! Down sail! the sheathed anchor uncover, For the stress of the voyage has passed— Life, like a tempest of ocean Hath outbreathed its ultimate blast. There's but a faint sobbing seaward, While the calm of the tide deepens leeward; And behold! like the welcoming quiver Of heart-pulses throbbed thro' the river, Those lights in the harbor at last, The heavenly harbor at last!

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Transcriber's Notes

Spelling, hyphenation, and punctuation inconsistencies have been retained from the original book.

Page 10: This is a shortened version of Henry Timrod's poem, and the four dots represent lines missing from the full version.


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