THE COMING OF THE PRINCESS; AND OTHER POEMS.
KATE SEYMOUR MACLEAN, KINGSTON, ONTARIO.
AN INTRODUCTION, BY THE EDITOR OF "THE CANADIAN MONTHLY."
BY G MERCER ADAM.
The request of the author that I should write a few words of preface to this collection of poems must be my excuse for obtruding myself upon the reader. Having frequently had the pleasure as editor of The Canadian Monthly, of introducing many of Mrs. MacLean's poems to lovers of verse in the Dominion it was thought not unfitting that I should act as foster father to the collection of them here made and to bespeak for the volume at the hands at least of all Canadians the appreciative and kindly reception due to a
Child of the first winds and suns of a nation.
Accepting the task assigned to me the more readily as I discern the high and sustained excellence of the collection as a whole let me ask that the volume be received with interest as a further and most meritorious contribution to the poetical literature of our young country (the least that can be said of the work), and with sympathy for the intellectual and moral aspirations that have called it into being.
There is truth, doubtless, in the remark, that we are enriched less by what we have than by what we hope to have. As the poetic art in Canada has had little of an appreciable past, it may therefore be thought that the songs that are to catch and retain the ear of the nation lie still in the future, and are as yet unsung. Doubtless the chords have yet to be struck that are to give to Canada the songs of her loftiest genius; but he would be an ill friend of the country's literature who would slight the achievements of the present in reaching solely after what, it is hoped, the coming time will bring.
But whatever of lyrical treasure the future may enshrine in Canadian literature, and however deserving may be the claims of the volumes of verse that have already appeared from the native press, I am bold to claim for these productions of Mrs. MacLean's muse a high place in the national collection and a warm corner in the national heart.
To discern the merit of a poem is proverbially easier than to say how and in what manner it is manifested. In a collection the task of appraisement is not so difficult. Lord Houghton has said: "There is in truth no critic of poetry but the man who enjoys it, and the amount of gratification felt is the only just measure of criticism." By this test the present volume will, in the main, be judged. Still, there are characteristics of the author's work which I may be permitted to point out. In Mrs. MacLean's volume what quickly strikes one is not only the fact that the poems are all of a high order of merit, but that a large measure of art and instinct enters into the composition of each of them. As readily will it be recognized that they are the product of a cultivated intellect, a bright fancy, and a feeling heart. A rich spiritual life breathes throughout the work, and there are occasional manifestations of fervid impulse and ardent feeling. Yet there is no straining of expression in the poems nor is there any loose fluency of thought. Throughout there is sustained elevation and lofty purpose. Her least work, moreover, is worthy of her, because it is always honest work. With a quiet simplicity of style there is at the same time a fine command of language and an earnest beauty of thought. The grace and melody of the versification, indeed, few readers will fail to appreciate. Occasionally there are echoes of other poets—Jean Ingelow and Mrs. Barrett Browning, in the more subjective pieces, being oftenest suggested. But there is a voice as well as an echo—the voice of a poet in her own right. In an age so bustling and heedless as this, it were well sometimes to stop and listen to the voice In its fine spiritualizations we shall at least be soothed and may be bettered.
But I need not dwell on the vocation of poetry or on the excellence of the poems here introduced. The one is well known to the reader, the other may soon be. Happily there is promise that Canada will ere long be rich in her poets. They stand in the vanguard of the country's benefactors, and so should be cherished and encouraged. Of late our serial literature has given us more than blossomings. The present volume enshrines some of the maturer fruit. May it be its mission to nourish the poetic sentiment among us. May it do more to nourish in some degree the "heart of the nation", and, in the range of its influence, that of humanity.
CANADIAN MONTHLY OFFICE, Toronto, December, 1880
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Coming of the Princess
An Idyl of the May
The Burial of the Scout
Pictures in the Fire
The Voice of Many Waters
The Death of Autumn
The News Boy's Dream of the New Year
The Old Church on the Hill
The Burning of Chicago
The Legend of the New Year
By the Sea-Shore at Night
Written in a Cemetery
New Year, 1868
The Sabbath of the Woods
In the Sierra Nevada
A Baby's Death
Voices of Hope
In the Country
Science, the Iconoclast
What the Owl said to me
Night: A Phantasy
The Golden Wedding
Verses Written in Mary's Album
The Woods in June
The Isle of Sleep
The Battle Autumn of 1862
In War Time
Te Deum Laudamus
A November Wood-Walk
Ballad of the Mad Ladye
The Coming of the King
With a Bunch of Spring Flowers
The Higher Law
The Meeting of Spirits
To the Daughter of the Author of "Violet Keith"
A Prelude, and a Bird's Song
An April Dawn
A little bird woke singing in the night, Dreaming of coming day, And piped, for very fulness of delight, His little roundelay.
Dreaming he heard the wood-lark's carol loud, Down calling to his mate, Like silver rain out of a golden cloud, At morning's radiant gate.
And all for joy of his embowering woods, And dewy leaves he sung,— The summer sunshine, and the summer floods By forest flowers o'erhung.
Thou shalt not hear those wild and sylvan notes When morn's full chorus pours Rejoicing from a thousand feathered throats, And the lark sings and soars,
Oh poet of our glorious land so fair, Whose foot is at the door; Even so my song shall melt into the air, And die and be no more.
But thou shalt live, part of the nation's life; The world shall hear thy voice Singing above the noise of war and strife, And therefore I rejoice!
THE COMING OF THE PRINCESS
Break dull November skies, and make Sunshine over wood and lake, And fill your cells of frosty air With thousand, thousand welcomes to the Princely pair! The land and the sea are alight for them; The wrinkled face of old Winter is bright for them; The honour and pride of a race Secure in their dwelling place, Steadfast and stern as the rocks that guard her, Tremble and thrill and leap in their veins, As the blood of one man through the beacon-lit border! Like a fire, like a flame, At the sound of her name, As the smoky-throated cannon mutter it, As the smiling lips of a nation utter it, And a hundred rock-lights write it in fire! Daughter of Empires, the Lady of Lome, Back through the mists of dim centuries borne, None nobler, none gentler that brave name have worn; Shrilled by storm-bugles, and rolled by the seas, Louise! Our Princess, our Empress, our Lady of Lorne!
And the wild, white horses with flying manes Wind-tost, the riderless steeds of the sea. Neigh to her, call to her, dreadless and free, "Fear not to follow us; these thy domains; Welcome, welcome, our Lady and Queen! O Princess, oh daughter of kingliest sire! Under its frost girdle throbbing and keen, A new realm awaits thee, loyal and true!" And the round-cheeked Tritons, with fillets of blue Binding their sea-green and scintillant hair, Blow thee a welcome; their brawny arms bear Thy keel through the waves like a bird through the air.
Shoreward the shoal of mighty shoulders lean Through the long swell of waves, Reaching beyond the sunset and the hollow caves, And the ice-girdled peaks that hold serene Each its own star, far out at sea to mark Thy westward way, O Princess, through the dark. The rose-red sunset dies into the dusk, The silver dusk of the long twilight hour, And opal lights come out, and fiery gleams Of flame-red beacons, like the ash-gray husk Torn from some tropic blossom bursting into flower, Making the sea bloom red with ruddy beams.
Still nearer and nearer it comes, the swift sharp prow Of the ship above and the shadow ship below, With the mighty arms of the Titans under, All bowed one way like a field of wind-blown ears, Still nearer and nearer, and now touches the strand, and, lo, With the length of her bright hair backward flowing Round her head like an aureole, Like a candle flame in the wind's breath blowing, Stands she fair and still as a disembodied soul, With hands outstretched, and eyes that shine through tears And tremulous smiles When the trumpets, and the guns, and the great drums roll, And the long fiords and the forelands shake with the thunder Of the shout of welcome to the daughter of the Isles.
Bring her, O people, on the shoulders of her vassals Throned like a queen to her palace on the height, Up the rocky steeps where the fir tree tassels Nod to her, and touch her with a subtle, vague delight, Like a whisper of home, like a greeting and a smile From the fir-tree walks and gardens, the wood-embowered castles In the north among the clansmen of Argyle. Now the sullen plunge of waves for many a mile Along the roaring Ottawa is heard, And the cry of some wood bird, Wild and sudden and sweet, Scared from its perch by the rush and trample of feet, And the red glare of the torches in the night. And now the long facade gay with many a twinkling light Reaches hands of welcome, and the bells peal, and the guns, And the hoarse blare of the trumpets, and the throbbing of the drums Fill the air like shaken music, and the very waves rejoice In the gladness, and the greeting, and the triumph of their voice.
Under triumphal arches, blazoned with banners and scrolls, And the sound of a People's exulting, still gathering as it rolls, Enter the gates of the city, and take the waiting throne, And make the heart of a Nation, O Royal Pair, your own. Sons of the old race, we, and heirs of the old and the new; Our hands are bold and strong, and our hearts are faithful and true; Saxon and Norman and Celt one race of the mingled blood Who fought built cities and ships and stemmed the unknown flood In the grand historic days that made our England great When Britain's sons were steadfast to meet or to conquer fate Our sires were the minster builders who wrought themselves unknown The thought divine within them till it blossomed into stone Forgers of swords and of ploughshares reapers of men and of grain, Their bones and their names forgotten on many a battle plain For faith and love and loyalty were living and sacred things When our sires were those who wrought and yours were the leaders and kings.
For since the deeds that live in Arthur's rhyme Who left the stainless flower of knighthood for all time Down to our Blameless Prince wise gentle just Whom the world mourns not by your English dust More precious held more sacredly enshrined Than in each loyal breast of all mankind, Men bare the head in homage to the good, And she who wears the crown of womanhood, August, not less than that of Empress, reigns The crowned Victoria of the world's domains North, South, East, West, O Princess fair, behold In this new world, the daughter of the old, Where ribs of iron bar the Atlantic's breast, Where sunset mountains slope into the west, Unfathomed wildernesses, valleys sweet, And tawny stubble lands of corn and wheat, And all the hills and lakes and forests dun, Between the rising and the setting sun; Where rolling rivers run with sands of gold, And the locked treasures of the mine unfold Undreamed of riches, and the hearts of men, Held close to nature, have grown pure again. Like that exalted Pair, beloved, revered, By princely grace, and truth and love endeared, Here fix your empire in the growing West, And build your throne in each Canadian breast, Till West and East strike hands across the main, Knit by a stronger, more enduring chain, And our vast Empire become one again.
Art thou not sweet, Oh world, and glad to the inmost heart of thee! All creatures rejoice With one rapturous voice. As I, with the passionate beat Of my over-full heart feel thee sweet, And all things that live, and are part of thee!
Light, light as a cloud Swimming, and trailing its shadow under me I float in the deep As a bird-dream in sleep, And hear the wind murmuring loud, Far down, where the tree-tops are bowed,— And I see where the secret place of the thunders be
Oh! the sky free and wide, With all the cloud-banners flung out in it Its singing wind blows As a grand river flows, And I swim down its rhythmical tide, And still the horizon spreads wide, With the birds' and the poets' songs like a shout in it!
Oh life, thou art sweet Sweet—sweet to the inmost heart of thee! I drink with my eyes Thy limitless skies, And I feel with the rapturous beat Of my wings thou art sweet— And I,—I am alive, and a part of thee!
AN IDYL OF THE MAY.
In the beautiful May weather, Lapsing soon into June; On a golden, golden day Of the green and golden May, When our hearts were beating tune To the coming feet of June, Walked we in the woods together.
Silver fine Gleamed the ash buds through the darkness of the pine, And the waters of the stream Glance and gleam, Like a silver-footed dream— Beckoning, calling, Flashing, falling, Into shadows dun and brown Slipping down, Calling still—Oh hear! Oh follow! Follow—follow! Down through glen and ferny hollow, Lit with patches of the sky, Shining through the trees so high, Hand in hand we went together, In the golden, golden weather Of the May; While the fleet wing of the swallow Flashing by, called—follow—follow! And we followed through the day: Speaking low— Speaking often not at all To the brooklet's crystal call, With our lingering feet and slow— Slow, and pausing here and there For a flower, or a fern, For the lovely maiden-hair; Hearing voices in the air, Calling faintly down the burn.
Still the streamlet slid away, Singing, smiling, dimpling down To a mossy nook and brown, Under bending boughs of May; Where the nodding wind-flower grows, And the coolwort's lovely pink, Brooding o'er the brooklet's brink Dips and blushes like a rose.
And the faint smell of the mould. Sweeter than the musky scent Of the garden's manifold Perfumes into perfect blent. Lights and sounds and odours stole, In the golden, golden weather— Heart and thought, and life and soul, Stole away, In that merry, merry May, Wandering down the burn together.
Ah Valentine—my Valentine! Heard I, with my hand in thine, Grave and low, and sweet and slow, As the wood bird over head, Brooding notes, half sung half said,— "In the world so bleak and wide, Hearts make Edens of their own; Wilt thou linger by my side,— Wilt thou live for me alone, Making bright the winter weather, Thou and I and love together?"
"Yea," I said, "for thee alone,"— Shading eyes lest they confess Too much their own happiness, With the happy tears o'erflown.
Gravely thou—"The world is not Like this ferny hollow— Through a rougher, thornier lot Wilt thou bravely follow?" Still the brook, with softer flow, Called, "Oh hear! Oh follow!" "Aye," I said, with bated breath, "Where thou goest, I will go; Holding still thy stronger hand, Through the dreariest desert land, True, till death."
Silence fell between us two, Noiseless as the silver dew; Hearts that had no need of speech In the silence spoke to each; And along the sapphire blue, Shot with shafts of sunset through, Fell a voice, a bodiless breath— "True, till death"
Through a mist of smiles and tears, Doubts and fears, and toils and dreams, Oh! how long ago it seems, Looking back across the year Silver threads are in my hair And the sunset shadows slope Back along the hills of hope That before us shone so fair.
Ah! for us the merry May Comes no more with golden weather; Fields, and woods, and sunshine gay, Purple skies, and purple heather. We have had our holyday, And I sit with folded hands, In the twilight looking back Over life's uneven track— Thorny wilds, and desert sands.
Weary heart, unwearied faith, In the twilight softly saith— "We have had our golden weather— We have walked through life together, True, till death!"
THE BURIAL OF THE SCOUT.
O not with arms reversed, And the slow beating of the muffled drum, And funeral marches, bring our hero home These stormy woods where his young heart was nursed Ring with a trumpet burst Of jubilant music, as if he who lies With shrouded face, and lips all white and dumb Were a crowned conqueror entering paradise,— This is his welcome home!
Along the reedy marge of the dim lake, I hear the gathering horsemen of the North, The cavalry of night and tempest wake,— Blowing keen bugles as they issue forth, To guard his homeward march in frost and cold, A thousand spearmen bold!
And the deep-bosomed woods, With their dishevelled locks all wildly spread, Stretch ghostly arms to clasp the immortal dead, Back to their solitudes While through their rocking branches overhead, And all their shuddering pulses underground shiver runs, as if a voice had said— And every farthest leaf had felt the wound— He comes—but he is dead!
The dainty-fingered May with gentle hand shall fold and put away The snow-white curtains of his winter tent, and spread above him her green coverlet, 'Broidered with daisies, sweet to sight and scent and Summer, from her outposts in the hills, Under the boughs with heavy night-dews wet, shall place her gold and purple sentinels, And in the populous woods sound reveille, falling from field and fen her sweet deserters back— But he,—no long roll of the impatient drum, for battle trumpet eager for the fray, From the far shores of blue Lake Erie blown, shall rouse the soldier's last long bivouac.
I touch but the things which are near; The heavens are too high for my reach: In shadow and symbol and creed, I discern not the soul from the deed, Nor the thought hidden under, from speech; And the thing which I know not I fear.
I dare not despair nor despond, Though I grope in the dark for the dawn: Birth and laughter, and bubbles of breath, And tears, and the blank void of death, Round each its penumbra is drawn,— I touch them,—I see not beyond.
What voice speaking solemn and slow, Before the beginning for me, From the mouth of the primal First Cause, Shall teach me the thing that I was, Shall point out the thing I shall be, And show me the path that I go?
Were there any that missed me, or sought, In the cycles and centuries fled. Ere my soul had a place among men?— Even so, unremembered again I shall lie in the dust with the dead, And my name shall be heard not, nor thought.
Yea rather,—from out the abyss, Where the stars sit in silence and light, When the ashes and dust of our world Are like leaves in their faces up-whirled,— What orb shall look down through the night, And take note of the quenching of this?
Yea, beyond—in the heavens of space Where Jehovah sits, absolute Lord, Who made out of nothing the whole Round world, and man's sentient soul— Will He crush, like a creature abhorred, What He fashioned with infinite grace
In His own awful image, and made Quick with the flame of His breath,— Which He saw and behold it was good?— Ah man! thou hast waded through blood And crime down to darkness and death, Since thou stood'st before Him unafraid.
My life falls away like a flower Day by day,—dispersed of the wind Its vague perfume, nor taketh it root, Ripening seeds for the sower, or fruit To make me at one with my kind, And give me my work, and my hour
No creed for my hunger sufficed, Though I clung to them, each after other, They slipped from my passionate hold,— The prophets, the martyrs of old,— Thy pitying face, Mary Mother,— Thy thorn-circled forehead, O Christ!
Pilgrim sandalled, the deserts have known The track of my wandering feet, Where dead saints and martyrs have trod, To search for the pure faith of God, Making life with its bitterness sweet, And death the white gate to a throne.
O Thou, who the wine-press hast trod, O sorrowful—stricken—betrayed,— Thy cross o'er my spirit prevails; In Thy hands with the print of the nails, My life with its burdens is laid,— O Christ—Thou art sole—Thou art God!
When the earliest south winds softly blow Over the brown earth, and the waning snow In the last days of the discrowned March,— Before the silver tassels of the larch, Or any tiniest bud or blade is seen; Or in the woods the faintest kindling green, And all the earth is veiled in azure mist, Waiting the far-off kisses of the sun,— They lift their bright heads shyly one by one. And offer each, in cups of amethyst, Drops of the honey wine of fairy land,— A brimming beaker poised in either hand Fit for the revels of King Oberon, With all his royal gold and purple on: Children of pensive thought and airy fancies, Sweeter than any poet's sweetest stanzas, Though to the sound of eloquent music told, Or by the lips of beauty breathed or sung: They thrill us with their backward-looking glances, They bring us to the land that ne'er grows old,— They mind us of the days when life was young Nor time had stolen the fire from youth's romances, Dear English pansies!
While still the hyacinth sleeps on securely, And every lily leaf is folded purely, Nor any purple crocus hath arisen; Nor any tulip raised its slender stem, And burst the earth-walls of its winter prison, And donned its gold and jewelled diadem; Nor by the brookside in the mossy hollow, That calls to every truant foot to follow, The cowslip yet hath hung its golden ball,— In the wild and treacherous March weather, The pansy and the sunshine come together, The sweetest flower of all! The sweetest flower that blows; Sweeter than any rose, Or that shy blossom opening in the night, Its waxen vase of aromatic light— A sleepy incense to the winking stars; Nor yet in summer heats, That crisp the city streets,— Where the spiked mullein grows beside the bars In country places, and the ox-eyed daisy Blooms in the meadow grass, and brooks are lazy, And scarcely murmur in the twinkling heat; When sound of babbling water is so sweet, Blue asters, and the purple orchis tall, Bend o'er the wimpling wave together;— The pansy blooms through all the summer weather, The sweetest flower of all!
The sweetest flower that blows! When all the rest are scattered and departed, The symbol of the brave and faithful-hearted, Her bright corolla glows. When leaves hang pendant on their withered stalks, Through all the half-deserted garden walks; And through long autumn nights, The merry dancers scale the northern heights, And tiny crystal points of frost-white fire Make brightly scintillant each blade and spire, Still under shade of shelt'ring wall, Or under winter's shroud of snows, Undimmed, the faithful pansy blows, The sweetest flower of all!
Out of the dread eternities, The vast abyss of night, A glorious pageant rose and shone, And passed from human sight. We saw the glittering cavalcade, And heard inwove through all, Faint and afar from star to star, The sliding music fall.
With banners and with torches, And hoofs of glancing flame, With helm and sword and pennon bright The long procession came. And all the starry spaces, Height above height outshone, And the bickering clang of their armour rang Down to the farthest zone.
As if some grand cathedral, With towers of malachite, And walls of more than crystal clear, Rose out of the solid light, And under its frowning gateway, Each morioned warrior stept, And in radiant files down the ringing aisles, The martial pageant swept.
From out the oriel windows, From vault, and spire, and dome, And sparkling up from base to cope, The light and glory clomb. They knelt before the altar, Each mailed and visored knight, And the censers swung as a voice outrung,— 'Now God defend the right'!
On casque, and brand, and corselet Fell the red light of Mars, As forth from the minster gates they passed To the battle of the stars. Across moon-lighted depths of space, And breadths of purple seas, Their flying squadrons sailed in fleets, Of fiery argosies:
Down lengths of shining rivers, Past golded-sanded bars, And nebulous isles of amethyst, They dropt like falling stars: Till on a scarped and wrinkled coast, Washed by dark waves below, They came upon the glittering tents— The city of the foe.
Then rushed they to the battle; Their bright hair blazed behind, As deadlier than the bolt they fell, And swifter than the wind. And all the stellar continents, With that fierce hail thick sown, Recoiled with fear, from sphere to sphere To Saturn's ancient throne.
The blind old king, in ermine wrapt. And immemorial cold, Awoke, and raised his aged hands, And shook his rings of gold. Down toppled plume and pennon bright, In endless ruin hurled, Their blades of light struck fire from night— Their splendours lit the world!
And rolling down the hollow spheres, The mighty chords, the seven, Clanged on from orb to orb, and smote Orion in mid-heaven. Along the ground the white tents lay; And faint along the fields. The foe's swart hosts, like glimmering ghosts, Followed his chariot wheels.
With banners and with torches, And armour all aflame, The victors and the vanquished went, Departing as they came; With here and there a rocket sent Up from some lonely barque: Into the vast abysm they passed,— Into the final dark.
PICTURES IN THE FIRE
The wind croons under the icicled eaves— Croons and mutters a wordless song, And the old elm chafes its skeleton leaves Against the windows all night long.
Under the spectral garden wall, The drifts creep steadily high and higher And the lamp in the cottage lattice small Twinkles and winks like an eye of fire.
But I see a vision of summer skies Growing out of the embers red, Under the lids of my half-shut eyes, With my arms crossed idly under my head.
I see a stile, and a roadside lime, With buttercups growing about its feet, And a footpath winding a sinuous line In and out of the billowy wheat.
For long ago in the summer noons, Under the shade of that trysting tree, My love brought wheat ears and clover blooms, And vows that were sweeter than both, to me.
Reading the "Times" in his easy chair, With his slippered feet on the fender bright, Little, I wot, he dreams how fair Are the pictures I see in the fire to night.
Still the wind pipes under the serried spears Of frozen boughs a desolate rhyme, But I hear the rustle of golden ears, And in my heart it is summer time.
The lily-bells ring underground, Their music small I hear When globes of dew that shine pearl round Hang in the cowslip's ear And all the summer blooms and sprays Are sheathed from the sun, And yet I feel in many ways Their living pulses run.
The crowning rose of summer time Lies folded on its stem, Its bright urn holds no honey-wine, Its brow no diadem, And yet my soul is inly thrilled, As if I stood anear Some legal presence unrevealed, The queen of all the year.
Oh Rose, dear Rose! the mist and dew Uprising from the lake, And sunshine glancing warmly through, Have kissed the flowers awake— The orchard blooms are dropping balm, The tulip's gorgeous cup More slender than a desert palm It's chalice lifteth up.
The birds are mated in the trees, The wan stars burn and pale— Oh Rose, come forth!—upon the breeze I hear the nightingale Unfold the crimson waves that lie In darkness rosy dim, And swing thy fragrant censer high, Oh royal Rose for him!
The hyacinths are in the fields With purple splendours pale Their sweet bells ring responsive peals To every passing gale And violets bending in the grass Do hide their glowing eyes, When those enchanting voices pass, Like airs from Paradise.
We crowned our blushing Queen of May Long since, with dance and tune, But the merry world of yesterday Is lapsing into June— Thou art not here,—we look in vain— Oh Rose arise, appear!— Resume thine emerald throne, and reign The queen of all the year!
I wonder what he is thinking In the ploughing field all day. He watches the heads of his oxen, And never looks this way.
And the furrows grow longer and longer, Around the base of the hill, And the valley is bright with the sunset, Yet he ploughs and whistles still.
I am tired of counting the ridges, Where the oxen come and go, And of thinking of all the blossoms That are trampled down below.
I wonder if ever he guesses That under the ragged brim Of his torn straw hat I am peeping To steal a look at him.
The spire of the church and the windows Are all ablaze in the sun. He has left the plough in the furrow, His summer day's work is done.
And I hear him carolling softly A sweet and simple lay, That we often have sung together, While he turns the oxen away.
The buttercups in the pasture Twinkle and gleam like stars. He has gathered a golden handful, A leaning over the bars.
He has shaken the curls from his forehead, And is looking up this way,— O where is my sun-bonnet, mother? He was thinking of me all day,—
And I'm going down to the meadow, For I know he is waiting there, To wreathe the sunshiny blossoms In the curls of my yellow hair.
THE VOICE OF MANY WATERS.
Oh Sea, that with infinite sadness, and infinite yearning Liftest thy crystal forehead toward the unpitying stars,— Evermore ebbing and flowing, and evermore returning Over thy fathomless depths, and treacherous island bars:—
Oh thou complaining sea, that fillest the wide void spaces Of the blue nebulous air with thy perpetual moan, Day and night, day and night, out of thy desolate places— Tell me thy terrible secret, oh Sea! what hast thou done.
Sometimes in the merry mornings, with the sunshine's golden wonder Glancing along thy cheek, unwrinkled of any wind, Thou seemest to be at peace, stifling thy great heart under A face of absolute calm,—with danger and death behind!
But I hear thy voice at midnight, smiting the awful silence With the long suspiration of thy pain suppressed; And all the blue lagoons, and all the listening islands Shuddering have heard, and locked thy secret in their breast!
Oh Sea! thou art like my heart, full of infinite sadness and pity,— Of endless doubt and endeavour, of sorrowful question and strife, Like some unlighted fortress within a beleagured city, Holding within and hiding the mystery of life.
THE DEATH OF AUTUMN.
Discrowned and desolate, And wandering with dim eyes and faded hair, Singing sad songs to comfort her despair, Grey Autumn meets her fate.
Forsaken and alone She haunts the ruins of her queenly state, Like banished Eve at Eden's flaming gate, Making perpetual moan.
Crazed with her grief she moves Along the banks of the frost-charmed rills, And all the hollows of the wooded hills, Searching for her lost loves.
From verdurous base to cope, The sunny hill-sides, and sweet pasture lands, Where bubbling brooks reach ever-dimpled hands Along the amber slope,—
And valleys drowsed between, In the rich purple of the vintage time, When cups of gold that drop with fragrant wine, From orchard branches lean;—
And far beyond them, spread Broad fields thick set with sheaves of yellow wheat, Where scarlet poppies, slumberously sweet, Glow with a dusky red—
To the remotest zone Of hazy woodland pencilled on the sky, On whose far spires the clouds of sunset lie,— She held her regal throne!
Queen of a princely race, Whose ministers were all the elements; Sunshine, and rain, and dew she did dispense With a right royal grace.
Now, not a breath of air, Nor sunbeam, nor the voice of beast or bird, Stirring the lonely woods, hath any word To comfort her despair.
Insidious, day by day A smouldering flame, a lurid crimson creeps Into the ashy whiteness of her cheeks, And burns her life away.
The cavernous woods are dumb! Through their oracular depths and secret nooks, To the mute supplication of her looks No mystic voices come
And through the still grey air The night comes down, and hangs her lamp on high, Like a wan lily blossomed on the sky, Shining so ghostly fair,
Or looming up the heights, Those awful spectres of the frozen zone Splinter the crystal of heaven's sapphire dome, With arrowy-glancing lights.
The while hoarse night winds rave, The old year looking backward to his prime With dim fond eyes, down the last steps of time Goes maundering to his grave!
Down the steep west unrolled, I watch the river of the sunset flow, With all its crimson lights, and gleaming gold, Into the dusk below.
And even as I gaze, The soft lights fade,-the pageant gay is o'er, And all is grey and dark, like those lost days, The days that are no more.
No more through whispering pines, I shall behold, in the else silent even, The first faint star-watch set along the lines Of the white tents of heaven.
Before the earliest buds Have softly opened, heralding the May With tender light illuming the gray woods, I shall be gone away.
Ah! wood-walks winding sweet Through all the valleys sloping to the west, Where glad brooks wander with melodious feet, In musical unrest,—
Ye will not miss me here With all the bright things of the coming May, And the rejoicing of the awakened year,— I shall be far away.
Yet in your loneliest nooks, I know where all the greenest mosses grow, And where the violets lift their first sweet looks, Out of the waning snow.
And I have heard, unsought, Under the musing shadows of the beech, Wood-voices answering my unspoken thought, In half-articulate speech.
And oh! ye shadowy bands, Rank above rank along yon rocky height, That lift into the heavens your mailed hands, And linked armour bright.
What other eyes will trace From this dear window haunted with the past, Strange likeness to some well beloved face, Among your profiles vast?
What stranger hands will tend The nameless treasures I must leave behind,— My flowers, my birds, and each inanimate friend, Linked closer than my kind.
These glorious landscapes old, Framed in my cottage windows,—hill-sides dun, With umber shadows lightened to pale gold By touches of the sun,—
Valleys like emeralds set Lonely and sweet in the dusk hills afar, That half enclose them, like a carcanet That holds a diamond star.
Will any gentler face, Weary and sad sometimes, like mine grow bright Touched with your simple beauty-in my place, My garden of delight?—
I know not,—yet farewell Sweet home of mine,—my parting song is o'er, And stranger forms among your bowers shall dwell, Where I return no more.
THE NEWS-BOY'S DREAM OF THE NEW YEAR
Under the bare brown rafters, In his garret bed he lay, And dreamed of the bright hereafters. And the merry morns of May.
The snow-flakes slowly sifted In through each cranny and seam, But only the sunshine drifted Into the news-boy's dream.
For he dreamed of the brave to-morrows, His eager eyes should scan, When battling with wants and sorrows, He felt himself a Man.
He felt his heart grow bolder For the struggle and the strife, When shoulder joined to shoulder, In the battle-field of life.
And instead of the bare brown rafters, And the snowflakes sifting in, He saw in the glad hereafters, The home his hands should win.
The flowers that grew in its shadow, And the trees that drooped above; The low of the kine in the meadow, And the coo of the morning dove.
And dearer and more tender, He saw his mother there, As she knelt in the sunset splendour, To say the evening prayer.
His face—the sun had burned it, And his hands were rough and hard, But home, he had fairly earned it, And this was his reward!
The morning star's faint glimmer Stole into the garret forlorn, And touched the face of the dreamer With the light of a hope new-born.
Oh, ring harmonious voices Of New Year's welcoming bells! For the very air rejoices. Through all its sounding cells!
I greet ye! oh friends and neighbours The smith and the artizan; I share in your honest labours, A Canadian working-man.
To wield the axe or the hammer, To till the yielding soil, Enroll me under your banner, Oh Brotherhood of Toil!
Ring, bells of the brave to-morrows! And bring the time more near: Ring out the wants and the sorrows, Ring in the glad New Year!
THE OLD CHURCH ON THE HILL.
Moss-grown, and venerable it stands, From the way-side dust and noise aloof, And the great elms stretch their sheltering hands To bless its grey old roof.
About it summer's greenery waves; The birds build fearless overhead; Its shadow falls among the graves; Around it sleep the dead.
The summer sunshine softly takes The chancel window's pictured gloom; The moonlight enters too, and makes The shadow of a tomb.
Along these aisles the bride hath passed, And brightened, with her innocent grace. The pensive twilight years have cast About the holy place.
They brought her here—a tiny maid, Unweeting any gain or loss, And on her baby forehead laid The symbol of the Cross.
And here they brought her once again, White-robed, and smiling as she slept; While lips, that trembled, breathed her name, And eyes that saw her wept.
And still, when sunset lights his fire Along the gold and crimsoned west, She sleeps beneath the shadowing spire, The cross upon her breast.
I watch it from my lonely cot, When stars shine o'er the hallowed ground, And think there is no sweeter spot, The whole wide earth around.
The Sabbath chimes there sink and swim Along the consecrated air, The benediction and the hymn, The voice of praise and prayer:
These mingle with the wind's free song, The hum of bees, the notes of birds, And make an anthem sweet and strong Of inarticulate words.
There let me rest, when I have found The peace of God, the immortal calm, Where still above my sleep profound, Goes up the Sabbath psalm.
THE BURNING OF CHICAGO.
Out of the west a voice—a shudder of horror and pity; Quivers along the pulses of all the winds that blow;— Woe for the fallen queen, for the proud and beautiful city. Out of the North a cry—lamentation and mourning and woe.
Dust and ashes and darkness her splendour and brightness cover, Like clouds above the glory of purple mountain peaks; She sits with her proud head bowed, and a mantle of blackness over— She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks.
The city of gardens and palaces, stately and tall pavilions, Roofs flashing back the sunlight, music and gladness and mirth, Whose streets were full of the hum and roar of the toiling millions, Whose merchantmen were princes, and the honourable of the earth:
Whose traders came from the islands—from far off summer places, Bringing spices and pearls, and the furs and skins of beasts. Men from the frozen North, and men with fierce dark faces, Full of the desert fire, and the untamed life of the East.
Treasures of gems and gold, of statues and flowers and fountains, Vases of onyx and jasper from Indian emperors sent; Pictures out of the heart of tropical sunlit mountains, Of rocks of porphyry piled at the gates of the Occident.
Dusk-brown sons of the forest, hunters of deer and of bison, And the almond-eyed child of the sun met in her busy streets, With waifs from the banks of the Indus, and the ancient river Pison— Lands of the date and the palm, and the citron's hoarded sweets.
The surging tide of the prairie rolled its billows of blossom Against her mighty walls, and beat at her hundred gates; The riches of all the world were poured into her bosom, Kings were her mighty men, and lords, and potentates.
She sat in her place by the sea, and the swift-sailing ships obeyed her. Full freighted with corn and wheat their purple sails unfurled, Far-off in the morning land, and the isles beyond the equator; Out of her heaped-up garners she scattered the bread of the world.
As her pride and her beauty were perfect, so desolation and mourning, Swift and sudden, and sure her utter destruction came, The heavens above were dark with the smoke of her awful burning, And the earth and the sea were lighted with the fierceness of her flame.
Behold oh, England! oh, Europe! and see is there any sorrow Like hers who sits in silence among her children slain, Oh, blackness of woe and ruin! can any future morrow Bring back to the shrouded city her glory and crown again!
Aye, subtle and wonderful links of human love and pity, Ye have bridged the sea of ruin, and spanned it with a span! She shall rise again from her ashes and build a fairer city, With a larger faith in God, and the Brotherhood of Man,
THE LEGEND OF THE NEW YEAR.
I dreamed, and lo, I saw in my dream a beautiful gateway, Arched at the top, and crowned with turrets lance-windowed and olden, And sculptured in arabesque, all knotted and woven and spangled; A wonderful legend ran, in letters purple and golden Written in leaves and blossoms, inextricably intertangled, A legend I could not resolve, crowning the gate so stately.
Like statues carven and niched in the front of some old cathedral, Four angels stood each in his turret, immovable warders, The first with reverend locks snow-white, and a silver volume Of beard that twinkled with frost, and hung to the icicled borders That fringed his girdle beneath: ancient his look was, and solemn, Like a wrinkled and bearded saint blessing some worshipping bedral.
As one in a vision wrapped, with his staff he silently pointed To the golden legend written in glittering star-points under, Shining in crystal ferns, and translucent berries of holly. Yet as I pondered the words of ineffable awe and wonder, A mist of rainbow brightness obscured them, and hid them wholly, While wrapt in his vision he stood, like a prophet anointed.
Divers, yet lovely the next, a white-armed, golden-haired maiden; Blue were her eyes and sweet, and her garments were lily-bordered; Her hands were full of flowers, and her eyes of innocent gladness, As the ranks of buds and blossoms, of bees and buds she ordered, Each in their several paths. Mine eyes were heavy with sadness, For I read not yet the legend with beauty and mystery laden.
Robed and crowned like an empress in some medieval palace, Stood the third in her place, with glances of sun-lighted splendour; Stately her height and tall as a queen in some antique story, With sheaves about her feet, and the tribute which nations render To her as the lady of Kingdoms, yet underneath the glory Of that bright legend to hers was like a containing chalice.
Last of the four, in her turret, serene and benignant, Sat in the midst of her children and maidens, a household mother; Want, and the sons of penury dwell not among her neighbours; Full is her heart of love: her hands wipe the tears of another, Yet brings she the gold and the pearls of her manifold labours, To add to that shining legend the grace of her name and her signet.
Fast closed were the gates, and mute in their places the wardens; No voice in my longing ear whispered the mystical sentence, And my heart was heavy, and chilled with the fruitless endeavour. On this side lay the snow and the wind, like the wail of repentance, Moaned in the branches forlorn but through the closed lattices ever Drifted a stir and a fragrance of springtime over the borders.
Then through the stillness of night struck the clash and the clangor Of bells that told twelve from the towers of the neighbouring city; And lo! the great gates were flung wide, and thronged with the hurrying races— High and low, rich and poor—and the light of ineffable pity, And infinite love shone down and illumined their faces, Faces of dolor some, of hope, of sorrow, and anger.
Loud clanged the hells from the towers in jubilant rudeness, And like the voice of a multitude rising respondent, The words of that marvellous legend made vocal the silence— The voice of all sentient creatures ascended triumphant, And all the listening forests, and mountains, and islands Heard it, and sang it, "He crowneth the Year with His goodness!"
Praise Him, O sounding seas, and floods! praise Him, abounding rivers; Praise Him, ye flowery months, and every fruitful season! Praise Him, O stormy wind, and ice, and snow, and vapor, Ye cattle that clothe the hills, and man with marvellous reason; Who crowneth the year with goodness, who prospereth all thy labour, Yea, let all flesh bless the Lord, and magnify Him forever!
BY THE SEA-SHORE AT NIGHT.
Oh lapping waves!—oh gnawing waves!— That rest not day nor night,— I hear ye when the light Is dim and awful in your hollow caves.—
All day the winds were out, and rode Their steeds, your tossing crest,— To-night the fierce winds rest, And the moon walks above them her bright road.
Yet none the less ye lift your hands, And your despairing cry Up to the midnight sky, And clutch, and trample on the shuddering sands,
That shrink and tremble even in sleep, Out of your passionate reach, Afraid of your dread speech, And the more dreadful silence that ye keep
Oh sapping waves!—oh mining waves!— Under the oak's gnarled feet, And tower, and village street, Scooping by stealth in darkness myriad graves;—
What secret strive ye thus to hide, A thousand fathoms deep, Which the sea will not keep, And pours, and babbles forth upon her refluent tide?—
I see your torn and wind-blown hair, Shewn far along the shore,— And lifted evermore You white hands tossing in a fierce despair;
And half I deem ye hold below, In vast and wandering cell, The primal spirits who fell, Reserved in chains and immemorial woe.
Keep ye, oh waves!—your mystery:— The time draws on apace, When from before His face, The heavens and the earth shall flee, And evermore there shall be no more sea!
Into the darkness and the deeps My thoughts have strayed, where silence dwells, Where the old world encrypted sleeps,— Myriads of forms, in myriad cells, Of dead and inorganic things, That neither live, nor move, nor grow, Nor any change of atoms know; That have neither legs, nor arms, nor wings, That have neither heads, nor mouths, nor stings, That have neither roots, nor leaves, nor stems, To hold up flowers like diadems, Growing out of the ground below: But which hold instead The cycles dead, And out of their stony and gloomy folds Shape out new moulds For a new race begun; Shutting within dark pages, furled As in a vast herbarium, The flowers and balms, The pines and palms, The ferns and cones, All turned to stones Of all the unknown elder world, As in a wonderful museum, Ranged in its myriad mummy shelves. Insects and worms,— All lower forms Of fin and scale, Of gnat and whale, Fish, bird, and the monstrous mastodon, The fabulous megatherium, And men themselves.
Ah, what life is here compressed, Frozen into endless rest! Down through springing blades and spires, Down through mines, and crypts, and caves, Still graves on graves, and graves on graves, Down to earth's most central fires.
The morning stars sang at their birth, In the first beginnings of time. What voice of dolour or of mirth At their last funeral made moan,— Ashes to ashes—earth to earth, And stone to stone,— Chanting the liturgy sublime.
What matter,—in that doom's-day book Their place is fixed—their names are writ, Each in its individual nook,— God's eye beholds—remembers it.
When the slow-moving centuries Have lapsed in the former eternities,— When the day is come which we see not yet,— When the sea gives up its dead— And the thrones are set, These books shall be opened and read!
WRITTEN IN A CEMETERY.
Stay yet awhile, oh flowers!—oh wandering grasses, And creeping ferns, and climbing, clinging vines;— Bend down and cover with lush odorous masses My darling's couch, where he in sleep reclines.
Stay yet awhile;—let not the chill October Plant spires of glinting frost about his bed; Nor shower her faded leaves, so brown and sober, Among the tuberoses above his head.
I would have all things fair, and sweet, and tender,— The daisy's pearl, the cowslip's shield of snow, And fragrant hyacinths in purple splendour, About my darling's grassy couch to grow.
Oh birds!—small pilgrims of the summer weather, Come hither, for my darling loved ye well;— Here floats the thistle down for you to gather, And bearded grasses ripen in the dell.
Here pipe, and plume your wings, and chirp and flutter, And swing, light-poised upon the pendant bough;— Fondly I deem he hears the calls ye utter, And stirs in his light sleep to answer you.
Oh wind!—that blows through hours of nights and lonely, Oh rain!—that sobs against my window pane,— Ye beat upon my heart, which beats but only To clasp and shelter my lost lamb again.
Peace—peace, my soul:—I know that in another And brighter land my darling walks and waits, Where we shall surely meet and clasp each other, Beyond the threshold of the shining gates.
Marguerite,—oh Marguerite! Thy sleep is sound, and still and sweet, Framed in the pale gold of thy hair, Thy face is like an angel's fair, Marguerite,—oh Marguerite!
Tender curves of cheek and lips— Sweet eyes hid in long eclipse— Pale robes flowing to thy feet— Folded hands that lightly meet,— Marguerite,—oh Marguerite!
Sleep'st thou still?—the world awakes,— Still the echo swells and breaks,— Over field, and wood, and street Easter anthems throb and beat,— Marguerite,—oh Marguerite!
Christ the Lord is risen again,— Hear'st thou not the glad refrain,— Have those gentle lips no breath, Smiling in the trance of death?— Marguerite,—oh Marguerite!
In the grave from whence He rose, Lay thee to thy long repose,— Sweet with myrrh and spices,—sweet With the footprints of His feet,— Marguerite,—oh Marguerite!
Where His sacred head hath lain, Thine may rest, secure from pain. While the circling years go round, Without motion,—without sound,— Marguerite,—oh Marguerite!
Above the roofs and chimney-tops, And through the slow November rain, A light from some far attic pane, Shines twinkling through the water-drops.
Some lonely watcher waits and weeps, Like me, the step that comes not yet;— Her watch for weary hours is set, While far below the city sleeps.
The level lamp-rays lay the floors, And bridge the dark that lies below, O'er which my fancies come and go, And peep, and listen at the doors;
And bring me word how sweet and plain, And quaint the lonely attic room, Where she sits singing in the gloom, Words sadder than the autumn rain.
A thousand times by sea and shore, In my wild dreams I see him lie, With face upturned toward the sky, Murdered, and stiffening in his gore;—
Or drowned, and floating with the tide, Within some lonely midnight bay,— His arms stretched toward me where he lay, And blue eyes staring, fixed and wide.
Oh winds that rove o'er land and sea! Oh waves that lap the yellow sands! Oh hide your stealthy, treacherous hands, And call no more his name to me.'—
Thus much I heard,—and unawares, The sense of pity stole away My loneliness and misery,— When lo, a light step on the stairs!—
Ah joy!—the step that brings my own, Safe from all harms and dangers in;— My heart lifts up its thankful hymn, And bids' good-night to night and moan.
I sleep,—I rest,—and I forget The bridge-the night-lamp's level beams, Till waiting out of happy dreams, I see her watch-light shining yet.
God comfort those that watch in vain,— I breathe to Him my voiceless prayer; Pity their tears and their despair, And bring the wanderers home again,
NEW YEAR, 1868.
Cradled in ice, and swathed in snows, And shining like a Christmas rose, Wreathed round with white chrysanthemums; Heaven in his innocent, brave blue eyes, Straight from the primal paradise, Behold the infant New Year comes!
His looks a serious sweetness wear, As if upon that unseen way, Those baby hands that lightly bear Garlands, and festive tokens gay, For but a glance,—a touch sufficed,— Had met and touched the infant Christ!
And lingering on the wing, had heard, Sweeter than song of any bird, Of cherub or of seraphim, The notes of that divinest hymn,— Glory to God in highest strain, And peace on earth, good will to men.
Oh, diamond days, so royally set In winter's stern and rugged breast, Like jewels in an amulet,— Your light has cheered, and soothed, and blest, The want and toil, the sighs and tears, And sorrows-of a thousand years!
The bells ring in the merry morn, The poor forget their poverty, The saddest face grows bright with glee, And smiles for joy that he is born; The fair round world shines out with cheer, To welcome in the glad New Year.
Oh ye, whose homes are warm and bright, With plenty smiling at the board, Remember those whose roofs to-night, Nor warmth, nor light, nor food afford, Still make those wants, and woes your care, And let the poor your bounty share.
For yet our hills and lakes along Echoes the herald angels' song,— Peace and good will!—oh look abroad,— In every nation, tribe, and clan, Behold the brotherhood of man,— Behold the Fatherhood of God!
Peace to our mountains and our hills,— Peace to our rivers and our rills;— Our young Dominion takes her place Among the nations west and east,— God send her length of happy days, And years of plenty and of peace!
The Autumn hills are golden at the top, And rounded as a poet's silver rhyme; The mellow days are ruby ripe, that drop One after one into the lap of time.
Dead leaves are reddening in the woodland copse, And forest boughs a fading glory wear; No breath of wind stirs in their hazy tops, Silence and peace are brooding everywhere.
The long day of the year is almost done, And nature in the sunset musing stands, Gray-robed, and violet-hooded like a nun, Looking abroad o'er yellow harvest lands:
O'er tents of orchard boughs, and purple vines With scarlet flecked, flung like broad banners out Along the field paths where slow-pacing lines Of meek-eyed kine obey the herdboy's shout;
Where the tired ploughman his dun oxen turns, Unyoked, afield, mid dewy grass to stray, While over all the village church spire burns— A shaft of flame in the last beams of day.
Empty and folded are her busy hands; Her corn and wine and oil are safely stored, As in the twilight of the year she stands, And with her gladness seems to thank the Lord.
Thus let us rest awhile from toil and care, In the sweet sabbath of this autumn calm, And lift our hearts to heaven in grateful prayer, And sing with nature our thanksgiving psalm.
Be pitiful, oh God! the night is long, My soul is faint with watching for the light, And still the gloom and doubt of seven-fold night Hangs heavy on my spirit: Thou art strong.— Pity me, oh my God!
I stretch my hands through darkness up to Thee,— The stars are shrouded, and the night is dumb; There is no earthly help,—to Thee I come In all my helplessness and misery,— Pity me, oh my God!
Be pitiful, oh God!—for I am weak, And all my paths are rough, and hedged about,— Hold Thou my hand dear Lord, and lead me out, And bring me to the city which I seek,— Pity me, oh my God!
By the temptation which Thou didst endure, And by Thy fasting and Thy midnight prayer, Jesu! let me not utterly despair; Oh! hide me in the Rock from ill secure,— Pity me, oh my God!
Mine eyes run down with tears that do not cease; Oh! when beyond the river dark and cold, Shall I the white walls of my home behold,— The shining palaces—the streets of gold,— And enter through the gates the City of Peace,— Pity me, oh my God!
Cloudy argosies are drifting down into the purple dark, And the long low amber reaches, lying on the horizon's mark, Shape themselves into the gateways, dim and wonderful unfurled, Gateways leading through' the sunset, out into the underworld.
How my spirit vainly flutters, like a bird that beats the bars, To be launched upon that ocean, with its tides of throbbing stars, To be gone beyond the sunset, and the day's revolving zone, Out into the primal darkness, and the world of the unknown!
Hints and guesses of its grandeur, broken shadows, sudden gleams, Like a falling star shoot past me, quenched within a sea of dreams,— But the unimagined glory lying in the dark beyond, Is to these as morn to midnight, or as silence is to sound.
Sweeter than the trees of Eden, dropping purple blooms, and balm, Are the odors wafted toward me from its isles of windless calm,— And the gold of all our sunsets, with their sapphire all impearled, Would not match the fused and glowing heaven of that under world.
Pale sea-buds there weep forever, water lilies damp and cool, And the mystic lotus shining through its white waves beautiful, In those dusk and sunless valleys, where no steps of mortals tread, Bind the white brows of the living, whom we blindly call the dead.
Oh ye lost ones,—ye departed, who have passed that silent shore, Though we call you through the sunset, ye return to us no more. Have ye found those blessed islands where earth's toils and sorrows cease? Do ye wear the sacred lotus,—have ye entered into peace?
Do ye hear us when we call you,—do ye heed the tears we shed,— Oh beloved!—oh immortal!—oh ye dead who are not dead! Speak to us across the darkness,—-wave to us a glimmering hand,— Tell us but that ye remember, dwellers in the silent land!
But the sunset clouds have faded, arch and capital are gone, And the regal night is glorious, with the starlight overblown;— Life is labor and not dreaming, and I have my work to do, Ere within those happy valleys I shall wear the lilies too.
THE SABBATH OF THE WOODS
Sundown—and silence—and deep peace,— Night's benediction and release;— The tints of day die out and cease.
This morn I heard the Sabbath bells Across the breezy upland swells;— My path lay down the woodland dells.
To-day, I said, the dust of creeds, The wind of words reach not my needs;— I worship with the birds and weeds.
From height to height the sunbeam sprung, The wild vine, touched with vermeil, clung, The mountain brooklet leapt and sung.
The white lamp of the lily made A tender light in deepest shade,— The solitary place was glad.
The very air was tremulous,— I felt its deep and reverent hush,— God burned before me in the bush!
And nature prayed with folded palm, And looks that wear perpetual calm,— The while glad notes uplifted psalm.
The wild rose swung her fragrant vase, The daisy answered from her place,— Praise Him whose looks are full of grace.
And violets murmured where the feet Of brooks made hollows cool and deep; He giveth His beloved sleep.
Wide stood the great cathedral doors, Arched o'er with heaven's radiant floors;— Nature, with lifted brow, adores.
And wave, and wind, and rocking trees, And voice of birds, and hum of bees, Made anthem, like the roll of seas.
The sunset vapors sail and swim;— All day uprose their mighty hymn,— I listened till the woods were dim.
And through the beechen aisles there fell A silver silence, like a spell. The heifer's home returning bell,
Faint and remote, as if it grew A portion of that silence too, Dissolved and ceased, like falling dew.
Stars twinkled through the coming night,— A voice dropped down the purple height,— At even time it shall he light.
Ah rest my soul, for God is good, Though sometimes faintly understood, His goodness fills the solitude.
Fold up thy spirit,—trust the right, As blossoms fold their leaves at night, And trust the sun though out of sight.
At last, dear love, the day is gone, The doors are barred—the lamps are lit, The couch beside the fire is drawn, The nook whore thou wert wont to sit;
The book is open at the place, And half its leaves are still uncut, And yet without thy listening face, I cannot read, the book I shut,
And muse, and dream:—it is the day When lovers, silent all the year, Find tongues in floral tokens gay, To whisper all they long to hear.
Ah, many a time, and many a time I saw the question in thine eyes, Where is the silver-sounding rhyme, The simple household melodies,
The harp that trembled to thy touch; Hast thou forgot thine early lore? And know'st not that I love so much, That song contents my heart no more.
For thou hast made my life so sweet, With dainty gifts thy dear hands bring, Rich with thine affluence, and complete, I have no longing left to sing.
And yet, I have such vast desires, Such thirst for some great destiny, That all the poet's weaker fires Burn into prophecies for thee.
The circle of our home could make The boundaries of my world, but thine So splendid is,—for thy dear sake, I fain would push the bounds of mine.
For this I study as I may To walk with thee, the world of mind, To follow where thou lead'st the way, A step,—but just a step behind.
Thy hand in mine, thine earnest eyes Fixed ever on the radiant goal, Together shall we climb the skies, And mingle there, one perfect soul.
Dimly and dumbly under the ground, Groping the walls of their prison round, The roots of the aged and garrulous trees Are sending electrical messages From the under-world to the world without And quickening pulses that course in each Fettered and bound and frozen thing, Rootlets that tremble, and fibres that reach Are pushing inanimate fingers out, To ask further inarticulate speech For tidings of Spring
And the fine invisible sprite which dwells In cups and discs, in blossoms and bells, Fleeter than Ariel's wing hath flown Beyond this cloudy and frozen zone, To the summer land of the South, Beyond those rugged sentinels Which winter seta in the snow-capped hills, From the breath of whose cruel mouth, Sighing, the leaves in forest and wold, Shivered and died in the nights a'cold, Died and were buried under the snow, Long moons ago.
Now over the tropic's broad ellipse The sprite hath passed, as fleet and fast As the light of falling stars, that cast A sudden radiance and eclipse; And all the buds that are folded close As the inner leaves of an unblown rose, In bulb, or cone, or scale, or sheath, And sealed with the odorous gums that breathe Like the breath of the singing and sighing pine, When the dews are falling at evening time, Through cone, and sheath, and bulb, and scale— Tremble, and cry All hail!
And look where a rosier beam hath cleft The damp and fragrant-smelling earth, A handful of snow-drops peeping forth; As if King Winter had dropped and left— Stumbling and tripping the steep hills down— Had clutched his robe and dropped his crown: Or as if the very snow had power, Out of itself to fashion a flower; So vase-like, slender, and exquisite, Like an alabaster lamp alit,—
And shining with a sea-green light, As if it had but newly come Up from some subterranean palace, The haunt of fairy or of gnome, With its waxen taper still alight, And beaming in its leafy chalice, That lit the revellers down below, When the nights were long, and the moon was low You might have heard, far-off and sweet, The sound of the elfin revelries, Like a bugle strain blown over seas, And the patter and beat of dancing feet,— If you had been like me awake, What time the Great Bear seems to shake, Down through the trackless realms of air, Frost-lances from his shaggy hair; And all around—beneath—across, The round globe lies stabbed through with frost.
Now the touches of the sun, Like some potent alchemist, In heat and dews, in rain and mist, As in a subtle menstruum, Hath dissolved the icy charm, And laid on that cold breast of hers,— Nature's breast—that faintly stirs, With his fragrant kisses warm, Sweet as myrrh and cinnamon,— Snow-drops, spring's bright harbingers, First-born children of the sun.
Like a sudden burst of leaf and bloom, The sun shines redly through the gloom, And the wind with its many melodies Hath a murmurous sound like the noise of bees, Singing and humming,—blowing and growing, Of springing blade, and of fountain flowing; And night and silence under the ground Listen—and thrill—and move to the sound, And answer, Spring is coming!
Oh bells of Easter morn, oh solemn sounding bells, Which fill the hollow cells Of the blue April air with a most sweet refrain, Ye fill my heart with pain.
For when, as from a thousand holy altar-fires, A thousand resonant spires Sent up the offering—the glad thanksgiving strain— "The Lord is risen again!"
He went from us who shall return no more, no more! I say the sad words o'er, And they are mixed and blent with your triumphant psalm, Like bitterness and balm,
We stood with him beside the black and silent river, Cold, cold and soundless ever; But there our feet were stayed—unloosed our clasping fond, And he has passed beyond.
And still that solemn hymn, like smoke of sacrifice, Clomb the blue April skies, And on our anguish placed its sacramental chrism, "Behold, the Lord is risen!"
Oh, bells of Easter morn! your mighty voices reach A deeper depth than speech; We heard, "Because He liveth they shall live with Him;" This was our Easter hymn.
And while the slow vibrations swell, and sink, and cease, They bring divinest peace, For we commit our best beloved to the dust, In sure and certain trust.
IN THE SIERRA NEVADA
I lift my spirit to your cloudy thrones, And feel it broaden to your vast expanse, Oh! mountains, so immeasurably old, Crowned with bald rocks and everlasting cold, That melts not underneath the sun's fierce glance, Peak above peak, fixed, dazzling, ice and stones.
Down your steep sides quick torrents leap and roar, And disappear, in gloomy gorges sunk, Fringed with black pines on dizzy verges high— Poised, trembling to the thunder and the cry Of the lost waters, through each giant trunk, And farthest twig and tassel evermore.
Behold far down the mountain herdsman's ranche, The rough road winding past his lonely door, And in his ears, by day and night, the sound Of mad waves plunging down the gulfs profound, The tempest's gathering cry, the dull deep roar. And the long thunder of the avalanche!
Night broods along the vallies while your peaks Are pink and purple with the rays of morn, And filmy tints that swim the depths of space, To reach, and kiss you first upon the face, Before the world awakes, and day is born, To flush with colder gleam your rugged cheeks.
And last, and longest lingering, the light Is on your mighty foreheads, when, the sun Sets in the sea, and makes a palace fair For his repose, of crystal wave and air,— Ye seem to stoop, and smile to look upon The fallen monarch from your silent height.
Vallies are green about your rocky feet, And sweet with clambering vines, and waving corn, And breath of flowers, and gold of ripening fruit; Cities send up their smoke, and man and brute Beneath your wide embrazure have been born And died for ages, yet Ye hold your seat.
I lift my spirit up to you, and seem To feel your vastness penetrate my soul; And faintly see, far-off, and looming broad And dread, the grandeur of the world of God, And thrill to be a part of the great whole, Which towers above me, a stupendous dream.
O rain, Summer Rain! forever, Out of the crystal spheres, And cool from my brain the fever, And wash from my eyes the tears
Stir gently the blossoming clover, In the hollows dewy and deep,— Somewhere they are blossoming over The spot where I shall sleep.
Asleep from this wearisome aching, With my arms crossed under my head, I shall hear without awaking, The rain that blesses the dead.
And the ocean of man's existence,— The surges of toil and care, Shall break and die in the distance, But never reach me there.
And yet—I fancy it often— I should stir in my shrouded sleep, And struggle to rise in my coffin, If he came there to weep.
Among the dead—or the angels— Though ever so faint and dim, I should know that voice in a thousand, And stretch my hands to him.
But the trouble of life and living, And the burden of daily care, And the endless sin, and forgiving, Are greater than I can bear.
So rain, Summer Rain, and cover The meadows dewy and deep, And freshen the blossoming clover, And sing me to dreamless sleep.
A BABY'S DEATH
A little white soul went up to God, Out of the mire of the city street; It grew like a flower in the highway broad, Close to the trample of heedless feet.
It fell like a snow-flake over night, Into the ways by vile ones trod; It sparkled—dissolved in the morning light, And the little white soul went up to God.
Dainty, flower-soft, waxen thing, Its clear eyes opened on this bad earth, And the little shuddering soul took wing, By the gate of death, from the gate of birth.
Not for those innocent lips and eyes, The words and the ways of sin and strife; The pure flower opened in paradise, Fast by the banks of the river of life.
Yea, little victors, who never fought; And crowned, though ye never ran the race, His blood your innocent lives hath bought, And ye stand before Him and see His face!
For this, oh Father! we give Thee thanks, By the little graves, and the tear-wet sod, They stand before Thee in shining ranks, And the little white souls are safe with God!
The birth day of the Christ child dawneth slow Out of the opal east in rosy flame, As if a luminous picture in its frame— A great cathedral window, toward the sun Lifted a form divine, which still below Stretched hands of benediction;—while the air Swayed the bright aureole of the flowing hair Which lit our upturned faces;—even so Look on us from the heavens, divinest One And let us hear through the slow moving years. Long centuries of wrongs, and crimes, and tears,— The echo of the angel's song again, Peace and good will, good will and peace to men, A little space make silence,—that our ears, Filled with the din of toil and moil and pain May catch the jubilant rapture of the skies,— The glories of the choirs of paradise.
The hills still tremble when the thunders cease Of the loud diapason,—and again Through the rapt stillness steals the hymn of peace; Melodious and sweet its far refrain Dying in distance, as the shadows die Of white wings vanished up the morning sky, As farther still—and thinner—more remote— A film of sound, the aerial voices float— Peace and good will, good will and peace to men!
Only the commonest flowers Grow in my garden small, Like buttercups, and bouncing-bets, And hollyhocks by the wall, And sunflowers nodding their stately heads, Like grenadiers so tall. But the purple pansy grows beneath— The sweetest flower of all—
And tiny feathery filmy ferns You scarce can see at all, Fleck the shady side of the stones, So dainty, fine and small
Only the commonest flowers Grow in this garden of mine, The larkspur flaunting her sky-blue cap, And the twinkling celandine Shakes her jewels of freckled gold, And drinks her honey-wine, Making a cup of her lucent stem, So slender and so fine.
You hear the waves that dimple and slide, Slide and shimmer and shine, Under her fairy-slippered feet— My golden celandine.
The hands of the little children Gather them without fear; Wonders of beauty and gladness To them my flowers appear. I have seen them bend to listen, With poised and patient ear, The curfew chime of the fairies, In the lily's bell to hear.
Oh, blessed and innocent children, With eyes so crystal clear, That ye look with the dual vision Of the baby and the seer.
To you the stars and the angels, And the heavens themselves are near, And the amaranths of paradise, That blossom all the year: I would I could see what ye see, And hear what ye can hear.
Swift and silent and strong Under the low-browed arches, Through culverts, and under bridges, Sweeping with long forced marches Down to the ultimate ridges,— The sand, and the reeds, and the midges, And the down-dropping tassels of larches, That border the ocean of song.
Swift and silent and deep Through the noisome and smoke-grimed city, Turning the wheels and the spindles, And the great looms that have no pity,— Weight, and pulley, and windlass, And steel that flashes and kindles, And hears no forest-learnt ditty, Not even in dreams and sleep.
Blithe and merry and sweet Over its shallows singing,— I hear before I awaken The Bound of the church-bells ringing, And the sound of the leaves wind-shaken, Complaining and sun-forsaken, And the oriole warbling and singing, And the swish of the wind in the wheat
Sweet and tender and true! From meadows of blossoming clover, Where sleepy-eyed cows are lowing, And bobolinks twittering over,— Ebbing and falling and flowing— Singing and gliding and going— The river—my silver-shod lover, Down to the infinite blue.
Deep, and tender, and strong! With resonant voice and hole— To far away sunshiny places, Haunts of the bee and the swallow, Where the Sabbath is sweet with the praises Of dumb things, of weeds and of daisies,— Oh river! I hear thee—I follow To the ocean where I too belong.
I have been where the roses blow, Where the orange ripens its gold, And the mountains stand with their peaks of snow, To fence away the cold, Where the lime and the myrtle lent Their fragrance to the air, To make the land of my banishment More exquisitely fair.
And I heard the ring dove call To his mate in the blossoming trees, And I saw the white waves heave and fall. Far away over southern seas. I listened along the beach, By the shore of the shifting sea, To the waves, till I knew their murmured speech, And the message they bore to me.
And I watched the great sails furled. Like the wings of some ocean bird, That brought me, out of another world, A warning, and a word; For still beside my way, By shore or sunlit wave, There journeyed with me night and day, The shadow of a grave.
Oh, friends! my heart went forth To you with a yearning cry, To be taken back to my native North— To be taken home to die. For sweeter than southern suns, Or the blossoms of summer lands, Are the faces of my little ones, And the touch of their tender hands.
Come closer to my side, Your eyes are as clear and true As if they were stars my way to guide, My darlings, back to you. Oh God! my heart is stirred With thankfulness and rest, To reach at last, like a wounded bird, The shelter of its nest
Oh, faint pulse, throbbing long! And weary and fluttering breath, Twas the mother-love that kept you strong, Though face to face with death. But now my eyes are dim, And my breath comes weak and slow, Sing to me softly the evening hymn, And kiss me ere I go.
Come close for the angel waits— The angel with gentle hand, To open for me the shadowy gates, Into the silent land. Oh, voices sweet and clear What light is in the skies? Is it your glad voices that I hear— Or the hymns of paradise?
Farewell your faces fade— Fade—fade—and disappear In the light no earthly cloud may shade, Heaven's morning dawning clear. Oh, land of rest so fair By angel footsteps trod, I shall wait for you, beloved there, In the paradise of God.
VOICES OF HOPE
It is the hither side, O Hope, And afternoon; our shadows slope Backward along the mountain cope.
The early morning was so sweet, We seemed to climb with winged feet, Like moving vapors fine and fleet,
Not more elastic poised and swung Harebell or yellow adder's tongue, Nor blither any bird that sung.
Thy light foot bent not any stem Of frailest plant, whose diadem In passing kissed thy garment's hem.
O Hope! so near me and so bright, Thy foot above me on the height, I might not touch thy garments white.
Thy lifted face, so fair, so rapt, Like sunshine rolled and overlapped Cliff, slope, and tall peak thunder-capped.
Thy voice to me like silver brooks Down dropped from secret mountain nooks, Still drew me, like thy radiant looks.
Nor scorching sun, nor beating rain, Nor soil, nor grime, nor travel-stain, With thee, were weariness or pain.
But now—it is the afternoon Behind, the mountain summit's gloom: Before, night's shadows gather soon.
O Hope! where art thou?—rough and steep The way has grown; I faint and weep, Beside me torrents toss and leap,
And far below, unseen for tears, The river where life disappears, Uplifts its thunder to my ears.
Canst thou, with thy serener eyes, Over the flood God's paradise, Behold in awful beauty rise?
Far off I seem to see thee stand, Shading rapt eyes with radiant hand, To scan that unknown glorious land.
The glory of that unseen place, Gathers and brightens o'er thy face, And fills thy looks with tender grace.
O, Hope divine '—I would behold Those shining spires, those streets of gold: But ah! the waves are deadly cold!
I hear the thunder and the sweep Of waves; deep calleth unto deep; The pathway ends, abrupt and steep.
Yet, soft beside that solemn shore, I hear thy voice above its roar: "Life is a dream-and it is o'er;
"The night is past—behold the day, O new-born soul—O child of clay, O bird uncaged and still astray;
"Take through the universe thy road; All paths lead up to His abode, Converging at the Mount of God!"
IN THE COUNTRY.
Here the sunshine, filtering down, Through leaves of emerald, dun and brown, Is green instead of golden And the hum and roar of the distant town In an endless hush is holden.
Twinkling bright through the shadowing limes. The brook rains a sparkle of silver rhymes On the dragon-fly, its neighbour; It pays no duty in dollars and dimes, For its work is all love-labour.
Here are no spindles, nor wheels to be whirled, No forges nor looms from the outside world, Stunning the ear with clamour; You hear but the whisper of leaves unfurled, And the tap of the woodpecker's hammer
Here are no books to be written or read, But cushions of softest moss instead, Without a care to cumber; And fern-leaf fans for the weary head, Soothing the soul to slumber
Oh! come from the dusty haunts of trade, From the desk, the ledger, the loom, the spade; There is neither toil nor payment. Forget for once, in this peaceful shade, The sordid ways in which dollars are made, And food and drink and raiment.
Consider the lilies, arrayed so fair, In robes that an eastern king might wear, Though never an eye may heed them; And the sparrows, of whom His hand takes care, For our Father in Heaven feeds them.
His rainbow spans the heavenly blue; His eye takes note of the drops of dew, And the sunset's golden arrows; And shall He not take thought of you, O man, as well as the sparrows?
SCIENCE, THE ICONOCLAST.
"Oh! spare dual idols of the past, Whose lips are dumb, whose eyes are dim; Truth's diadem is not for him Who comes, the fierce Iconoclast: Who wakes the battle's stormy blast, Hears not the angel's choral hymn" THE IMAGE-BREAKER
Ah me! for we have fallen on evil days, When science, with remorseless cold precision, Puts out the flame of poetry, and lays Her double-convex lens on fancy's vision. When not a star has longer leave to shine, Unweighed, unanalysed, reduced to gases,— Resolved to something in the chemist's line, By those miraculously long-ranged glasses.
The awful mysteries which Nature locks Deep in her stony bosom, hid for ages,— The hieroglyphics of primeval rocks, Are glibly written out on short-hand pages. Within that rocky scroll, her palimpsest, The hand of time still writes, and still effaces Records in dolomite—and shale—and schist, The pre-historic history of Races.
Cave-dwellers, under nameless strata hid, Vast bones of extinct monsters that were fossil, Ere the first Pharaoh built the pyramid, And shaped in stone his sepulchre colossal. What undiscovered secret yet remains Beneath the swirl and sway of billows tidal, Since Art triumphant led the deep in chains, And on the mane of ocean laid her bridle.
Into those awful crypts of cycles dead, Shrouded and mute, each in its mummy-chamber, Her daring step intrudes without more dread Than to behold a fly embalmed in amber. Stars—motes—worlds—molecules, and microcosms, Her level gaze sweeps down the page recorded, And withers all its myths, and fairy blossoms, Condemned to explanations dull and sordid.
Alike the sculptures of the graceful Greeks, Grey with the moss of eld and venerable, The fauns, the nymphs, the half-defaced antiques, The gods and men of mythologic fable, And legends of steel-casqued and mailed men, The old heroic tales of love and glory, Of knight, and palmer, and the Saracen, And the crusaders of enchanted story;
Grim ghosts and goblins, and more harmless sprites That peopled once our juvenile romances, And made us shiver in our beds o'nights, Science has banished those bewitching fancies; And given us the merest husks instead, The very bones and skeleton of nature, Filling those peaceful hours with shapes of dread, And horrid ranks of Latin nomenclature.
Blest is the Indian on his native plains, And blest the wandering Tartar, happy nomad, Fire-worshippers, whose twinkling altar-fanes Still gleam on lonely peaks beyond Allahbad. Shadows yet linger round their ruined towers, And whisper from the caverns and the islands, Their Memnon still is eloquent, but ours Stares on with shut lips in an age-long silence.
Not so! The age still ripens for her needs The flower, the man. Behold her slow still finger Points where He comes, beneath whose feet the weeds Bloom out immortal flowers, the immortal Singer! Forward, not backward all the ages press; New stars arise, of whose bright occultation No glory of the dying past could guess: Still grows the unfinished miracle, Creation.
Oh! Poet of the years that are to come, Singing at dawn thy idyls sweet and tender— The preludes of the great millenium Of song, to drown the world in light and splendour Awake, arise! thou youngest born of time! Through flaming sunsets with red banners furled, The nations call thee to thy task sublime, To sing the new songs of a newer world!