THE NEW WORLD
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BY WITTER BYNNER
An Ode to Harvard and Other Poems Tiger The Little King The New World Iphigenia in Tauris
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THE NEW WORLD
New York Mitchell Kennerley 1918
Copyright 1915 by Mitchell Kennerley
The greater part of this poem was delivered before the Harvard Chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society in June, 1911; several passages from it have appeared in Poetry, and others in The Bellman, the Boston Evening Transcript and the American Magazine.
Printed in America
The New World
Celia was laughing. Hopefully I said: "How shall this beauty that we share, This love, remain aware Beyond our happy breathing of the air? How shall it be fulfilled and perfected?... If you were dead, How then should I be comforted?" But Celia knew instead: "He who finds beauty here, shall find it there." A halo gathered round her hair. I looked and saw her wisdom bare The living bosom of the countless dead. ... And there I laid my head.
Again when Celia laughed, I doubted her and said: "Life must be led In many ways more difficult to see Than this immediate way For you and me. We stand together on our lake's edge, and the mystery Of love has made us one, as day is made of night and night of day. Aware of one identity Within each other, we can say: 'I shall be everything you are.'... We are uplifted till we touch a star. We know that overhead Is nothing more austere, more starry, or more deep to understand Than is our union, human hand in hand. .... But over our lake come strangers—a crowded launch, a lonely sailing boy. A mile away a train bends by. In every car Strangers are travelling, each with particular And unkind preference like ours, with privacy Of understanding, with especial joy Like ours. Celia, Celia, why should there be Distrust between ourselves and them, disunity? .... How careful we have been To trim this little circle that we tread, To set a bar To strangers and forbid them!—Are they not as we, Our very likeness and our nearest kin? How can we shut them out and let stars in?" She looked along the lake. And when I heard her speak, The sun fell on the boy's white sail and her white cheek. "I touch them all through you," she said. "I cannot know them now Deeply and truly as my very own, except through you, Except through one or two Interpreters. But not a moment stirs Here between us, binding and interweaving us, That does not bind these others to our care." The sunlight fell in glory on her hair.... And then said Celia, radiant, when I held her near: "They who find beauty there, shall find it here." And on her brow, When I heard Celia speak, Cities were populous With peace and oceans echoed glories in her ear And from her risen thought Her lips had brought, As from some peak Down through the clouds, a mountain-air To guide the lonely and uplift the weak. "Record it all," she told me, "more than merely this, More than the shine of sunset on our heads, more than a kiss, More than our rapt agreement and delight Watching the mountain mingle with the night.... Tell that the love of two incurs The love of multitudes, makes way And welcome for them, as a solitary star Brings on the great array. Go make a lovers' calendar," She said, "for every day."
And when the sun had put away His dazzle, over the shadowy firs The solitary star came out.... So on some night To eyes of youth shall come my light And hers.
"Where are you bound, O solemn voyager?" She laughed one day and asked me in her mirth: "Where are you from? Why are you come?" .... The questions beat like tapping of a drum; And how could I be dumb, I who have bugles in me? Fast The answer blew to her, For all my breath was worth.... "As a bird comes by grace of spring, You are my journey and my wing— And into your heart, O Celia, My heart has flown, to sing Solemn and long A most undaunted song."
This was the song that she herself had taught me how to sing: .... As immigrants come toward America On their continual ships out of the past, So on my ship America have I, by birth, Come forth at last From all the bitter corners of the earth. And I have ears to hear the westward wind blowing And I have eyes to look beyond the scope Of sea And I have hands to touch the hands Of shipmates who are going Wherever I go and the grace of knowing That what for them is hope Is hope for me. I come from many times and many lands, I look toward life and all that it shall hold, Past bound and past divide. And I shall be consoled By a continent as wide As the round invisible sky. .... "The unseen shall become the seen.... O Celia, be my Spanish Queen! The Genoan am I!" And Celia cried: "My jewels, they are yours, Yours for the journey. Use them well. Go find the new world, win the shores Of which the old books tell! .... Yet will they listen, poet? Will they sail with you? Will they not call you dreamer of a dream? Will they not laugh at you, because you seem Concerned with words that people often say And deeds they never do?" The bright sails of my caravel shook seaward in reply: "Though I be told A thousand facts to hold Me back, though the old boundary Rise up like hatred in my way, Though fellow-voyagers cry, 'A lie!'— Here as I come with heaven at my side None of the weary words they say Remain with me, I am borne like a wave of the sea Toward worlds to be.... And, young and bold, I am happier than they— The timid unbelievers who grow old!"
She interceded: "How impatient, how unkind You are! What secret do you know To keep you young? Age comes with keen and accurate advance Against youth's lightly handled lance. Age is an ancient despot that has wrung All hearts."... My answer was the song forever sung: "This that I need to know I know— Onpouring and perpetual immigrants, We join a fellowship beyond America Yet in America.... Beyond the touch of age, my Celia, In you, in me, in everyone, we join God's growing mind. For in no separate place or time, or soul, we find Our meaning. In one mingled soul reside All times and places. On a tide Of mist and azure air We journey toward that soul, through circumstance, Until at last we fully care and dare To make within ourselves divinity."
"And what of all the others," Celia said, "Who ventured brave as you? What of the dead?" Again I saw the halo in her hair And said: "The dead sail forward, hid behind This wave that we ourselves must mount to find The eternal way. Adventurers of long ago Seeking a richer gain than earthy gold, They have left for us, half-told, Their guesses of the port, more numerous and blind Than their unnumbered and forgotten faces. ... And though today, as then, Death is a wind blowing them forward out of sight and out of mind, Yet in familiar and in unfamiliar places Inquiring by what means I may The destination of the wind Of death, I have found signs and traces Of the way they go And with a quicker heart I have beheld again In visions, from my ship at sea, The great new world confronting me, Where, yesterday, Today, tomorrow, dwell my countrymen."
And then I looked away, Over the pasture and the valley, to the New Hampshire town.... And my heart's acclaim went down, To Florida, Wisconsin, California, And brought a good report to Celia: "My ship America, This whole wide-timbered land, Well captained and well manned, Ascends the sea Of time, carrying me And many passengers. And every cabin stirs With the pulsing of its engine over the sway of time, Yes, every state and city, every village, every farm, And every heart and everyone's right arm. ... Celia, hold out your hand, Or anyone in any field or street, hold out your hand— And I can see it pulse the massive climb And dip Of this America, My ship!"
"Why make your ship so small? Can your America contain them all?" How wisely I replied In the province of my pride: "But these are my own shipmates, these Who share my ship America with me! ... On many seas On other ships, even the ancient ships of Greece, Have other immigrants set sail for peace. But these are my own shipmates whom I see At hand—these are my company." "What have you said," she cried, "Thinking you knew? Whom have you called your shipmates? You were wrong! Your ship is strong With a more various crew Than any one man's country could provide, To make it ride So high and manifold and so complete. This is the engine-beat Of life itself, the ship of ships. There is no other ship among the stars than this. The wind of death is a bright kiss Upon the lips Of every immigrant, as upon yours and mine— Theirs is the stinging brine And sun and open sea, And theirs the arching sky, eternity." And Celia had my homage. I was wrong. Immigrants all, one ship we ride, Man and his bride The journey through. O let it be with a bridal-song!... "My shipmates are as many as eternity is long: The unborn and the living and the dead— And, Celia, you!"
That midnight when the moon was tall I walked alone by the white lake—yet with a vanished race And with a race to come. To walk with dead men is to pray, To walk with men unborn—to find the way.
I have seen many days. That night I watched them all. I have seen many a sign and trace Of beauty and of hope: An elm at night; an arrowy waterfall; The illimitable round unbroken scope Of life; a friend's unfrightened dying face.
Though I have heard the cry of fear in crowded loneliness of space, Dead laughter from the lips of lust, Anger from fools, falsehood from sycophants, (My fear, my lips, my anger, my disgrace) Though I have held a golden cup and tasted rust, Seen cities rush to be defiled By the bright-fevered and consuming sin Of making only coin and lives to count it in, Yet once I watched with Celia, Watched on a ferry an Italian child, One whom America Had changed. His cheek was hardy and his mouth was frail For sweetness, and his eyes were opening wild As with wonder at an unseen figure carrying a grail. Perhaps he faced, as I did in his glance, The spirit of the living dead who, having ranged Through long reverses, forward without fail Carry deliverance From privilege and disinheritance, Until their universal soul shall prove The only answer to the ache of love.
"America was wistful in that child," Said Celia afterwards—and smiled Because all three of us were immigrants, Each voyaging into each. Over the city-roofs, the sun awoke Bright in the dew Of a marvellous morning, while she spoke Of the sun, the dew, the wonder, in a child: "He who devises tyranny," she said, "Denies the resurrection of the dead, Beneath his own degree degrades himself, Invades himself with ugliness and wars. But he who knows all men to be himself, Part of his own experiment and reach, Humbles and amplifies himself To build and share a tenement of stars."
Once when we broke a loaf of bread And shared the honey, Celia said: "To share all beauty as the interchanging dust, To be akin and kind and to entrust All men to one another for their good, Is to have heard and understood, And carried to the common enemy In you and me, The ultimatum of democracy."
"But to what goal?" I wondered. And I heard her happy speech: "It is my faith that God is our own dream Of perfect understanding of the soul. It is my passion that, alike through me And every member of eternity, The source of God is sending the same stream. It is my peace that when my life is whole, God's life shall be completed and supreme."
And once when I had made complaint About America, she warned me: "Be not faint Of heart, but bold to see the soul's advance. The chances are not far nor few.... Face beauty," Celia said, "then beauty faces you."
And under all things her advice was true. ... Discovering what she knew, Not only on a mountainous place Or by the solving sea But through the world I have seen endless beauty, as the number grows Of those who, in a child cheated of simple joy Or in a wasted rose Or in a lover's immemorial lonely eyes Or in machines that quicken and destroy A multitude or in a mother's unregarded grace And broken heart, through all the skies And all humanity, Seek out the single spirit, face to face, Find it, become a conscious part of it And know that something pure and exquisite, Although inscrutably begun, Surely exalts the many into one.
"I shall not lose, nor you," I said to Celia. Over the world the morning-dew Moved like a hymn and sang to us: "Go now, fulfill Your destiny and joy; Each in the other, both in that Italian boy, And he in you, like flowers in a hill!" ... She was the nearness of imperfect God On whom in her perfection was at work. Lest I should shirk My share, I asked her for His blessing and His nod— And His breath was in her shining hair like the wind in golden-rod.
"But, Celia, Celia, tell me what to be," I asked, "and what to do, To keep your faith in me, To witness mine in you!" She answered: "Dare to see In every man and woman everywhere The making of us two. See none that we can spare From the creation of our soul. Swear to be whole. Let not your faith abate, But establish it in persons and exalt it in the state."
Celia has challenged me.... Be my reply, Challenge to poets who, with tinkling tricks, Meet life and pass it by. "Beauty," they ask, "in politics?" "If you put it there," say I.
Wide the new world had opened its bright gates. And a woman who had heard of the new world All her life long and had saved her pence By hard frugality, to be her competence In the free home, came eagerly in nineteen seven Into These States, With her little earnings furled In a large handkerchief—but with a heart Too rich to be contained, for she had done her part: She had come With faith to Heaven. But there was a panic that year, No work, no wages in These States. And a great fear Seized on the immigrant. And so she took her pence All of them, furled Safe in her handkerchief, to a government cashier— A clerk in the post-office. (And he relates Her errand as a joke, yet tenderly For I watched him telling me.) ... Not knowing English, being dumb, She had brought with her a thin-faced lad To interpret. And he made it clear, While she unfurled Her handkerchief and poured the heap of coins out of her hand, That 'she was giving all she had— To be used no matter how, you understand' ... Lest harm should come to the new world.
O doubters of democracy, Undo your mean contemptuous art!— More than in all that poetry has said, More than in mound or marble, in the living live the dead. The past has done its reproductive part. Hear now the cry of beauty's present needs, Of comrades levelling a thousand creeds, Finding futility In conflict, selfishness, hardness of heart! For love has many poets who can see Ascending in the sky Above the shadowy passes The everlasting hills: humanity. O doubters of the time to be, What is this might, this mystery, Moving and singing through democracy, This music of the masses And of you and me— But purging and dynamic poetry!— What is this eagerness from sea to sea But young divinity!
I have seen doubters, with a puny joy, Accept amusement for their little while And feed upon some nourishing employ But otherwise shake their wise heads and smile— Protesting that one man can no more move the mass For good or ill Than could the ancients kindle the sun By tying torches to a wheel and rolling it downhill. But not the wet circumference of the seas Can quench the living light in even these, These who forget, Eating the fruits of earth, That nothing ever has been done To spur the spirit of mankind, Which has not come to pass Forth from the heart and mind Of some one man, through other men birth after birth, In thoughts that dare And in deeds that share And in a will resolved to find A finer breath Born in the deep maternity of death. ... If these be ecstasies of youth, Yet they are news of which all time has need. If they be lies, tell them yourselves and heed How poets' twice-told lies become the truth!
There was a poet Celia loved who, hearing all around The multitudinous tread Of common majesty, (A hearty immigrant was he!) Made of the gathering insurgent sound Another continent of poetry? His name is writ in his blood, mine and yours. ... "And when he celebrates These States," She said, "how can Americans worth their salt But listen to the wavesong on their shores, The waves and Walt, And hear the windsong over rock and wood, The winds and Walt, And let the mansong enter at their gates And know that it is good!"
Walt Whitman, by his perfect friendliness Has let me guess That into Celia, into me, He and unnumbered dead have come To be our intimates, To make of us their home Commingling earth and heaven.... That by our true and mutual deeds We shall at last be shriven Of these hypocrisies and jealous creeds And petty separate fates— That I in every man and he in me, Together making God, are gradually creating whole The single soul. Somebody called Walt Whitman— Dead! He is alive instead, Alive as I am. When I lift my head, His head is lifted. When his brave mouth speaks, My lips contain his word. And when his rocker creaks Ghostly in Camden, there I sit in it and watch my hand grow old And take upon my constant lips the kiss of younger truth.... It is my joy to tell and to be told That he, in all the world and me, Cannot be dead, That I, in all the world and him, youth after youth Shall lift my head.
There is a vision, Celia, in your face....
Beauty had lived in India like a mad And withdrawn prophetess, in Greece had set her pace Between a laurelled lad And a singing maiden, pitched her purple tents In Rome, leaned with a mother's fears In Bethlehem to nurse a son of God upon her breast And learned the tender loneliness of tears, Awhile had hid in Europe, sad In the shadow of magnificence, Brooding, finding no rest, And then of a sudden she had run forth from her hiding-place, Rejoicing, desperate, intense Against her enemy, a rod Of fire in her hand, her tresses crowned With liberty, her purpose bold and bound That every son should be a son of God. And then she wept for France.... But once more clad In stars, she beckons to America, the land Of hope. Behold her stand With her bright finger scorning armaments And on her lips the unconquerable common sense Of love calling the world to challenge and confound The empty idols of her enemy! ... Comforter of experience, Enlightener of old events, Beauty forever dares to widen and retrace Her way, singing the marches of democracy, Carrying banners of the time to be, Calling companions to her high command.
There is a banner, Celia, in your hand!
Though sons, whose fathers bled For freedom, struggle now instead With heavier weapons and with weary-waking head For bread; Though sons, whose fathers fought in other ages For fame, bear in their hearts today the scar Of entering where the laborer sleeps And rousing him with masterly inquiry where he keeps His wages: Though all the cunning coil of trade appear a baser thing Than battles are, O trace through time the orbit of this troubled star! ... See, from afar off, how the valiant few Of old, each with a helmet on his head, Practiced their inconclusive feud Upon no battlefield of unfeeling dew— But on the prostrate stillness of the multitude! Even their knightliest prowess they must rear, Tamerlane, Alexander, Arthur, every king, Upon the common clay from which they spring. For see how slaves, on whom war falls, renew The strength of war and disappear Year after year Into the earth—fulfilling it to form and bear Democracy! Look nearer now along the modern sky And watch where every man fastens the electric wing Upon his foot, that he may leave his little sod Of ignorance! And look where, by and by, Taking his high inheritance, He knows himself and other men as the winged self of God!
The times are gone when only few were fit To view with open vision the sublime, When for the rest an altar-rail sufficed To obscure the democratic Christ.... Perceiving now his gift, demanding it, The benison of common benefit, Men, women, all, Interpreters of time, Have found that lordly Christ apocryphal While Christ the comrade comes again—no wraith Of virtue in a far-off faith But a companion hearty, natural, Who sorrows with indomitable eyes For his mistreated plan To share with all men the upspringing sod, The unfolding skies— Not God who made Himself the Man, But a man who proved man's unused worth— And made himself the God.
Once you had listened, Celia, to a stream And lain a long time, silent as a sleeper. And then your word arrived as from beyond Your body, bending with its breath the frond Of a fern. You whispered to the listening stream: "As evil is yet wider than we dream, So good is deeper." ... O how I try to bring Your voice to say in mine that word!—to sing Clear-hearted as a mountain-spring Of the wonders we see deepening!
Time cannot bury what the blest have thought, For there is resurrection far and near. Often it seems as though a single day had brought To each bright hemisphere Courage to cast The servitude And blinded glory of the past Away and in a flash had taught Purpose and fortitude.... But not so swiftly are we wrought. By many single days we learn to live, By many flashes read the vision clear That every heart is equal debtor To its own and every breast For the good before the better, The better toward the best.
When we who hugged awhile the golden bowl Of greed behold it now a sieve Through which is drained invisibly A nectar we were saving for the soul, Then not in vain have many gone The empty ways of stealth Seeking a firmer base than honesty For building happiness upon.... And by the ancient agonizing test We have slowly guessed That a just portion of the whole Is all there is of wealth. When those who labor wake And care ... And through the tingling air A dead man's voice, by living men renewed And women, dares democracy To self-respect: "Open the lands! Let mankind share The ample livelihood they bear!"— Then not in vain have the poor known distress, Teaching the rich that happiness Is something no man may—possess. Little by little we, whose fathers fought Impassioned, are ashamed Of the familiar thought That waste of blood is honourable feud: Little by little from the wondering land The agitation and the lie of war Shall pass; for in the heart disclaimed Murder shall be abandoned by the hand. And while there grows a fellowship of unshed blood To stop the wound and heal the scar Of time, with sudden glorious aptitude Woman assumes her part. Her pity in a flood Flings down the gate. She has been made to wait Too long, undreaming and untaught The touch and beauty of democracy. But, entering now the strife In which her saving sense is due, She watches and she grows aware, Holding a child more dear than property, That the many perish to empower the few, That homeless politics have split apart The common country of the human heart. (Your heart is beating, Celia, like a song!) .... For man has need Not merely of the lips that kiss and hands that feed But of the hearts that heed And of the minds that speed Like rain. Loving a mother or a wife, Let him release her tenderness, to make him strong, And use her beauty and receive her law: The very life of life.
In temporary pain The age is bearing a new breed Of men and women, patriots of the world And one another. Boundaries in vain, Birthrights and countries, would constrain The old diversity of seed To be diversity of soul. O mighty patriots, maintain Your loyalty!—till flags unfurled For battle shall arraign The traitors who unfurled them, shall remain And shine over an army with no slain, And men from every nation shall enroll And women—in the hardihood of peace! What can my anger do but cease? Whom shall I fight and who shall be my enemy When he is I and I am he?
Let me have done with that old God outside Who watched with preference and answered prayer, The Godhead that replied Now here, now there, Where heavy cannon were Or coins of gold! Let me receive communion with all men, Acknowledging our one and only soul! For not till then Can God be God, till we ourselves are whole.
Once in a smoking-car, I saw a scene That made my blood stand still.... While the sun smouldered in a great ravine, And I, with elbow on the window-sill, Was watching the dim ember of the west, Half-heard, but poignant as a bell For fire, there came a moan; the voice of one in hell. I turned. Across the car were two young men, Yet hardly more than boys, French by their look, and brothers, And one was moaning on the other's breast. His face was hid away. I could not tell What words he said, half English and half French. I only knew Both men were suffering, not one but two. And then that face came into view, Gaunt and unshaved, with shadows and wild eyes, A face of madness and of desolation. And his cries, For all his mate could do, Rang out, a shrill and savage noise, And tears ran down the stubble of his cheek. The other face was younger, clean and sad With the manful stricken beauty of a lad Who had intended always to be glad. .... The touch of his compassion, like a mother's, Pitied the madman, soothed him and caressed. And then I heard him speak, In a low voice: "Mon frere, mon frere! Calme-toi! Right here's your place." And, opening his coat, he pressed Upon his heart the wanderer's face And smoothed the tangled hair. After a moment peaceful there, The maniac screamed—struck out and fell Across his brother's arm. Love could not quell His anger. Wrists together high in air He rose and with a yell Brought down his handcuffs toward his brother's face— But his hands were pinned below his waist, By a burly, silent sheriff, and some hideous thing was bound Around his arms and feet And he was laid upon the narrow seat. And then that sound, That moan Of one forsaken and alone! "Seigneur! Le createur du ciel et de la terre! Forgotten me! Forgotten me!" .... And when the voice grew weak The brother leaned again, embraced The huddled body. But a shriek Repulsed him: "Non! Detache-moi! I don't care For you. Non! Tu es l'homme qui m'a trahi! Non! Tu n'es pas mon frere!"
But as often as that stricken mind would fill With the great anguish and the rush of hate, The boy, his young eyes older, older, Would curve his shoulder To the other's pain and hold that haunted face close to his face And say: "O wait! You will know me better by and by. Mon pauvre petit, be still! Right here's your place." .... The gleam! and then the blinded stare, The cry: "Non, tu n'es pas mon frere!"
I saw myself, myself, as blind As he. And something smothers My reason. And I do not know my brothers.... But every day declare: "Non, tu n'es pas mon frere!"
But in the outcome, I can see.... Closer than any brother Shall they be to one another And to me, Closer than mother, father, daughter, son, O closer than a lover shall they be, When madness like a storm shall roll Away, leaving illumination. Within everyone The nearness has begun Toward some loved life and toward the soul Perceived therein: the elemental ache to be made whole With beauty and with love.—O I have ached and longed in the embrace Of one I love to be undone Of differences, to yield and run Within the very blood and being of my dear, One body and one face, One spirit in all space, Mingled and indissoluble. And I have felt a mortal tear Smart on my lids, when I had been so near To Celia that I knew not which was I, Yet the day returned between us and the sky Held distances that were not clear To us and we were two again that had been almost one.
A mother yields herself to enter Her child, who nestles close and sleeps With all his wisdom pressed For comfort to her breast. I can remember my relinquishment Of consciousness and care, Almost of life, upon my mother's heart—the great content Of being there.
And then I loved a starry boy of three, Who looked about him, smiled and took to me, Held out his arms and chose me among men For his companion, to confide His smiles in and to be At ease with. Closely by my side He sat and touched the world, to see If it were solid and worth touching. When he died, I too was dead ... and yet I hear him say, Laughing within my heart today: "Lo, being you, And having lived your years, this will I do, And this, and this!" I have my boy again. I greet him nearer than a kiss.
And so, from birth to death, out of confusion The secret creeps Across the deeps From its eternal centre In the soul. Communion is the cause and the conclusion And the unfailing sacrament Not only of the mystical frequenter Of temples, where the body of the dead Creates divine The living body through the bread And wine, But God discovers and discovers His beauty in all lovers. And, to make His beauty whole, Body and body, soul and soul, combine His one identity with yours and mine.
I know a fellow in a steel-mill who, intent Upon his labours and his happiness, had meant In his own wisdom to be blest, Had made his own unaided way To schooling, opportunity, Success. And then he loved and married. And his bride, After a brief year, died. I went to him to see If I might comfort him. The comfort came to me.
"David," I said, "under the temporary ache There is unwonted nearness with the dead." I felt his two hands take The sentence from me with a grip Forged in the mills. He told me that his tears were shed Before her breath went. After that, instead Of grief, she came herself. He felt her slip Into his being like a miracle, her lip Whispering on his, to slake His need of her.—"And in the night I wake With wonder and I find my bride And her embrace there in our bed, Within my very being, not outside! .... We have each other more, much more," He said, "now than before. This very moment while I shake Your hand, my friend, Not only I, But she is touching you—and laughs with me because I cried For her.... People would think me crazy if I told. But something in what you said made me bold To let you meet my bride!"
It was not madness. David's eye Was clear and open-seeing. His life Had faced in death and understood in his young wife, As I when Celia died, The secret of God's being.
Among good citizens, I praise Again a woman whom I knew and know, A citizen whom I have seen Most heartily, most patiently Making God's mind, A citizen who, dead, Yet shines across her white-remembered ways As the nearness of a light across the snow.... My Celia, mystical, serene, Laughing and kind.
And still I hear among New Hampshire trees Her happy speech: "Democracy is beauty's inmost reach." And still her voice announces plain The mystic gain Of friends from adversaries and of peace from pain: Beauty's control Of every soul Surrendering in victory. .... Well I recall how she explained to me With sunlight on her head When last we looked, as many times before, Over those hundred foothills rolling like the sea. "Where mountains are, door after door Unlocks within me, opens wide And leaves no difference in my heart," she said, "From anything outside."
Not only Celia, speaking, taught me these The tenets of her beauty; but her life was such That I believed as by a palpable touch That heals and tends. Not better nor more learned nor more wise In many ways than others of my friends, Celia was happier. Their excellencies and their destinies Became, contributing, a part of her, Anointed her awhile among all men An eminent citizen, A generous arbiter.
Not less bereaved than others of my friends, Celia was lovelier. And now, though something of her dies, Her heart of love assembles and transcends Laws, letters, personalities, Beginnings, passages and ends.
Often I start and look beside me for the stir Of her sweet presence come again. I have cried out to her, So vivid has begun Some dear-remembered sentence in her voice. If a deluded wakeful thrush, Seeing a light in a window, sings to the sun, Yet he shall soon rejoice; When the great dawn of day Opens a thousand windows into one.
On a path where thrushes wake—called Celia's Way— Time after time She led me high among the rills. And always when I pass again our chosen pine And feel upon my brow the fine Soft pressure of an unseen web and brush It from my face expectantly and climb Wide-eyed into the mountains' windy hush, Among the green and healing hills I have found Celia. For the morning fills With her and afternoon and twilight. She is always there As sweet within me as the intimate air.
We are together still in the deep solitude Which is the essence of all companies, Not in its loneliness but in its brood Of presences, the dawn chanting with birds, the trees Translating unremembered memories Of the returning dead. And Celia, who has learned to die, Is well aware—and so through her am I— That, one by one interpreted, All hopes and pains and powers Are hers and mine to try On every star, through every age. .... And, still together, on this page We quote the sun-dial of the sage: "I number none but happy hours." For we remember still The morning-hymn we heard: "Ye shall fulfill Your destiny and joy, Each in the other, both in that Italian boy And he in you, like flowers in a hill."
She said to me one day, where a hill renewed its flowers, "How easy it would be to live and die If we would only see the ultimate Oneness of life, quicken Our hearts with it and know that they who hate And strike become by their own blow the stricken!"... "A stranger might be God," the Hindus cry. But Celia says, importunate: "Everyone must be God and you and I."
Almost the body leads the laggard soul; bidding it see The beauty of surrender, the tranquillity Of fusion with the earth. The body turns to dust Not only by a sudden whelming thrust, Or at the end of a corrupting calm, But oftentimes anticipates and, entering flowers and trees Upon a hillside or along the brink Of streams, encounters instances Of its eventual enterprise: Inhabits the enclosing clay, In rhapsody is caught away On a great tide Of beauty, to abide Translated through the night and day Of time and, by the anointing balm Of earth, to outgrow decay.
Hark in the wind—the word of silent lips! Look where some subtle throat, that once had wakened lust, Lies clear and lovely now, a silver link Of change and peace! Hollows and willows and a river-bed, Anemones and clouds, Raindrops and tender distances Above, beneath, Inherit and bequeath Our far-begotten beauty. We are wed With many kindred who were seeming dead. Only the delicate woven shrouds Are vanished, beauty thrown aside To honor and uncover A deeper beauty—as the veil that slips Breathless away between a lover And his bride.
So, by the body, may the soul surmise The beauty of surrender, the tranquillity Of fusion: when, set free From semblance of mortality, Yielding its dust the richer to endue A common avenue Of earth for other souls to journey through, It shall put on in purer guise The mutual beauty of its destiny. And who shall fear for his identity And who shall cling to the poor privacy Of incompleteness, when the end explains That what pride forfeits, beauty gains! Therefore, O spirit, as a runner strips Upon a windy afternoon, Be unencumbered of what troubles you— Arise with grace And greatly go!—the wind upon your face!
Grieve not for the invisible transported brow On which like leaves the dark hair grew, Nor for the lips of laughter that are now Laughing inaudibly in sun and dew, Nor for the limbs that, fallen low And seeming faint and slow, Shall alter and renew Their shape and hue Like birches white before the moon Or a young apple-tree In spring or the round sea And shall pursue More ways of swiftness than the swallow dips Among ... and find more winds than ever blew The straining sails of unimpeded ships!
A sudden music, Celia, through a poplar-bough, Where leaves are small and new, Comes laughing and goes hastening like you.
Beauty is more than hands or face or eyes Or the long curve that lies Upon a bed waiting, more than the rise Of sun among the birds, more than the oar that plies Under the moon for lovers, more than a tune that buys Pennies from time. Vision and touch comprise Yesterday's promise, today's token Of a fulfillment that shall have no need to be perceived or spoken, Wherein all love is the award Poured upon beauty and no heart is broken And no grief is stored.
For never beauty dies That lived. Nightly the skies Assemble stars, the light of hopeful eyes, And daily brood on the communal breath— Which we call death. Nothing is lost. Nothing I have of loveliness Exceeds a minute part Of my own loveliness when it shall be fulfilled With Celia's and all loveliness that lies In every heart. All that I have is but the start And the beginning, the bewildering guess Of what shall be distilled Out of my soul by you and you, Each soul of all souls, till one soul remains Which every beauty shall imbue Clean of the differences and pains.... I shall be Celia's everlastingness.
A little hill among New Hampshire hills Touches more stars than any height I know. For there the whole earth—like a single being—fills And expands with heaven. It is the hill where Celia used to go To watch Monadnock and the miles that met In slow-ascending slopes of peace. She said: "When I am here, I find release From every petty debt I owe, The goods I bring with me increase, The ills are riven And blown away. And there remains a single debt Toward all the world for me, A single duty and one destiny." "There shall be many births of God In this humanity," She said, "and many crucifixions on the hills, Before we learn that where Christ trod We all shall tread; and as he died to give Himself to us, we too shall die—and live." "Though slowly knowledge comes, yet in the birth Is joy," said Celia, "joy As well as pain: The clear and clouded beauty of the earth. .... This I forget in cities. For cities are a great Impassable gate Of tumult. But by mountains and by seas I gain Path after path of peace."
One evening Celia led me, late, Among the many whispers before rain, To touch and climb her hill again. I felt it rise invisible as fate, Not for the eye but for the soul to see. And when at last, among the oaks, we came Upon the top, a perfect voice Thrilled in the air like flame— Was it uprisen death we heard? Was it immortal youth, Out of the body, witnessing the truth, Attesting glory in an angel's voice? Blindly we listened to the singer and the single strain Containing joy. And then the voice was still and all the world and we— Till "Run," she said, "and bring him back to me!" I ran, I called ... but in the nearing rain, No mortal answered, nothing stirred. Was it uprisen death we heard? .... Perhaps the hills and night Had made a prophet of some wandering boy, Prompting him in that instant to rejoice As never in his life before. He must have had his own delight As well in silence as in song; For, though we waited long, He sang no more.
Afterward Celia said: "That voice we heard Singing among the oak-leaves, and then still, We cannot answer how it sings or how it comes and goes.... But only that its beauty ever grows Within us both, in ways no voice has told. .... So let me be to you. When night has drawn its fold Of darkness and no word May reach your heart from mine, Take then my love, my beauty! Hear me still When you are old And I am ageless as a changing hill! O hear me like that voice at night, Clearer than sound, nearer than sight, And let me be—as beauty is—divine!"
There is a hill of hills That holds my heart on high and stills All other sound Than joy. Robins and thrushes, whip-poor-wills And morning-sparrows sing it round With echoes. Waterfalls abound And many streams convoy The breath of music. I have found A hill-path rising sudden on a city-street, Out of a quarrel, out of black despair, And climbed it with my winged feet. It hurries me above All this illusion, all these ills, It rises quickly to the shining air. .... Celia, I hear you on the hill of hills, Announcing love.
And O my citizen, perhaps the few Whom I shall tell of you Will see with me your beauty who are dead, Will hear with me your voice and what it said! Let but a line of mine, A single one, Be made to shine With your whole-heartedness as with the sun, And I shall so consign Your touch to younger and yet younger hands, That they shall carry beauty through more lands Than ever Helen laid her touch upon.
In your new world I see The immigrants arriving from the ships.... O Celia, my democracy, My destiny, Beauty has had its answer on your lips!