BY HENRY VAN DYKE
Six Days of the Week
Little Rivers Fisherman's Luck Days Off Out-of-Doors in the Holy Land
The Ruling Passion The Blue Flower The Unknown Quantity The Valley of Vision
Camp-Fires and Guide-Posts Companionable Books
Poems, Collection in one volume
Songs out of Doors Golden Stars The Red Flower The Grand Canyon, and Other Poems The White Bees, and Other Poems The Builders, and Other Poems Music, and Other Poems The Toiling of Felix, and Other Poems The House of Rimmon
Studies in Tennyson Poems of Tennyson Fighting for Peace
CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
THE POEMS OF
HENRY VAN DYKE
A NEW AND REVISED EDITION WITH MANY HITHERTO UNCOLLECTED
LONDON ARTHUR F. BIRD MCMXXV
[From an edition:] Printed by The Scribner Press, New York, U.S.A.
Dedicated in Friendship to
JOHN HUSTON FINLEY
SONGS OUT OF DOORS
The After-Echo Dulciora Three Alpine Sonnets Matins The Parting and the Coming Guest If All the Skies Wings of a Dove The Fall of the Leaves A Snow-Song Roslin and Hawthornden
SONGS OUT OF DOORS
When Tulips Bloom The Whip-Poor-Will The Lily of Yorrow The Veery The Song-Sparrow The Maryland Yellow-Throat A November Daisy The Angler's Reveille The Ruby-Crowned Kinglet School Indian Summer Spring in the North Spring in the South A Noon Song Light Between the Trees The Hermit Thrush Turn o' the Tide Sierra Madre The Grand Canyon The Heavenly Hills of Holland Flood-Tide of Flowers God of the Open Air
The Toiling of Felix Vera Another Chance A Legend of Service The White Bees New Year's Eve The Vain King The Foolish Fir-Tree "Gran' Boule" Heroes of the "Titanic" The Standard-Bearer The Proud Lady
LABOUR AND ROMANCE
A Mile with Me The Three Best Things Reliance Doors of Daring The Child in the Garden Love's Reason The Echo in the Heart "Undine" "Rencontre" Love in a Look My April Lady A Lover's Envy Fire-Fly City The Gentle Traveller Nepenthe Day and Night Hesper Arrival Departure The Black Birds Without Disguise An Hour "Rappelle-Toi" Love's Nearness Two Songs of Heine Eight Echoes from the Poems of Auguste Angellier Rappel d'Amour The River of Dreams
HEARTH AND ALTAR
A Home Song "Little Boatie" A Mother's Birthday Transformation Rendezvous Gratitude Peace Santa Christina The Bargain To the Child Jesus Bitter-Sweet Hymn of Joy Song of a Pilgrim-Soul Ode to Peace Three Prayers for Sleep and Waking Portrait and Reality The Wind of Sorrow Hide and Seek Autumn in the Garden The Message Dulcis Memoria The Window Christmas Tears Dorothea, 1888-1912
EPIGRAMS, GREETINGS, AND INSCRIPTIONS
For Katrina's Sun-Dial For Katrina's Window For the Friends at Hurstmont The Sun-Dial at Morven The Sun-Dial at Wells College To Mark Twain Stars and the Soul To Julia Marlowe To Joseph Jefferson The Mocking-Bird The Empty Quatrain Pan Learns Music The Shepherd of Nymphs Echoes from the Greek Anthology One World Joy and Duty The Prison and the Angel The Way Love and Light Facta non Verba Four Things The Great River Inscription for a Tomb in England The Talisman Thorn and Rose "The Signs"
Patria America The Ancestral Dwellings Hudson's Last Voyage Sea-Gulls of Manhattan A Ballad of Claremont Hill Urbs Coronata Mercy for Armenia Sicily, December, 1908 "Come Back Again, Jeanne d'Arc" National Monuments The Monument of Francis Makemie The Statue of Sherman by St. Gaudens "America for Me" The Builders Spirit of the Everlasting Boy Texas Who Follow the Flag Stain not the Sky Peace-Hymn of the Republic
THE RED FLOWER AND GOLDEN STARS
The Red Flower A Scrap of Paper Stand Fast Lights Out Remarks About Kings Might and Right The Price of Peace Storm-Music The Bells of Malines Jeanne d'Arc Returns The Name of France America's Prosperity The Glory of Ships Mare Liberum "Liberty Enlightening the World" The Oxford Thrushes Homeward Bound The Winds of War-News Righteous Wrath The Peaceful Warrior From Glory Unto Glory Britain, France, America The Red Cross Easter Road America's Welcome Home The Surrender of the German Fleet Golden Stars In the Blue Heaven A Shrine in the Pantheon
IN PRAISE OF POETS
Mother Earth Milton Wordsworth Keats Shelley Robert Browning Tennyson "In Memoriam" Victor Hugo Longfellow Thomas Bailey Aldrich Edmund Clarence Stedman To James Whitcomb Riley Richard Watson Gilder The Valley of Vain Verses
Music Master of Music The Pipes o' Pan To a Young Girl Singing The Old Flute The First Bird o' Spring
THE HOUSE OF RIMMON
A DRAMA IN FOUR ACTS
The House of Rimmon Dramatis Personae
The Little-Neck Clam A Fairy Tale The Ballad of the Solemn Ass A Ballad of Santa Claus Ars Agricolaris Angler's Fireside Song How Spring Comes to Shasta Jim A Bunch of Trout-Flies
Index of First Lines
SONGS OUT OF DOORS
How long the echoes love to play Around the shore of silence, as a wave Retreating circles down the sand! One after one, with sweet delay, The mellow sounds that cliff and island gave, Have lingered in the crescent bay, Until, by lightest breezes fanned, They float far off beyond the dying day And leave it still as death. But hark,— Another singing breath Comes from the edge of dark; A note as clear and slow As falls from some enchanted bell, Or spirit, passing from the world below, That whispers back, Farewell.
So in the heart, When, fading slowly down the past, Fond memories depart, And each that leaves it seems the last; Long after all the rest are flown, Returns a solitary tone,— The after-echo of departed years,— And touches all the soul to tears.
A tear that trembles for a little while Upon the trembling eyelid, till the world Wavers within its circle like a dream, Holds more of meaning in its narrow orb Than all the distant landscape that it blurs.
A smile that hovers round a mouth beloved, Like the faint pulsing of the Northern Light, And grows in silence to an amber dawn Born in the sweetest depths of trustful eyes, Is dearer to the soul than sun or star.
A joy that falls into the hollow heart From some far-lifted height of love unseen, Unknown, makes a more perfect melody Than hidden brooks that murmur in the dusk, Or fall athwart the cliff with wavering gleam.
Ah, not for their own sake are earth and sky And the fair ministries of Nature dear, But as they set themselves unto the tune That fills our life; as light mysterious Flows from within and glorifies the world.
For so a common wayside blossom, touched With tender thought, assumes a grace more sweet Than crowns the royal lily of the South; And so a well-remembered perfume seems The breath of one who breathes in Paradise.
THREE ALPINE SONNETS
At dawn in silence moves the mighty stream, The silver-crested waves no murmur make; But far away the avalanches wake The rumbling echoes, dull as in a dream; Their momentary thunders, dying, seem To fall into the stillness, flake by flake, And leave the hollow air with naught to break The frozen spell of solitude supreme.
At noon unnumbered rills begin to spring Beneath the burning sun, and all the walls Of all the ocean-blue crevasses ring With liquid lyrics of their waterfalls; As if a poet's heart had felt the glow Of sovereign love, and song began to flow.
White Death had laid his pall upon the plain, And crowned the mountain-peaks like monarchs dead; The vault of heaven was glaring overhead With pitiless light that filled my eyes with pain; And while I vainly longed, and looked in vain For sign or trace of life, my spirit said, "Shall any living thing that dares to tread This royal lair of Death escape again?"
But even then I saw before my feet A line of pointed footprints in the snow: Some roving chamois, but an hour ago, Had passed this way along his journey fleet, And left a message from a friend unknown To cheer my pilgrim-heart, no more alone.
I love the hour that comes, with dusky hair And dewy feet, along the Alpine dells, To lead the cattle forth. A thousand bells Go chiming after her across the fair And flowery uplands, while the rosy flare Of sunset on the snowy mountain dwells, And valleys darken, and the drowsy spells Of peace are woven through the purple air.
Dear is the magic of this hour: she seems To walk before the dark by falling rills, And lend a sweeter song to hidden streams; She opens all the doors of night, and fills With moving bells the music of my dreams, That wander far among the sleeping hills.
Gstaad, August, 1909.
Flowers rejoice when night is done, Lift their heads to greet the sun; Sweetest looks and odours raise, In a silent hymn of praise.
So my heart would turn away From the darkness to the day; Lying open in God's sight Like a flower in the light.
THE PARTING AND THE COMING GUEST
Who watched the worn-out Winter die? Who, peering through the window-pane At nightfall, under sleet and rain Saw the old graybeard totter by? Who listened to his parting sigh, The sobbing of his feeble breath, His whispered colloquy with Death, And when his all of life was done Stood near to bid a last good-bye? Of all his former friends not one Saw the forsaken Winter die.
Who welcomed in the maiden Spring? Who heard her footfall, swift and light As fairy-dancing in the night? Who guessed what happy dawn would bring The flutter of her bluebird's wing, The blossom of her mayflower-face To brighten every shady place? One morning, down the village street, "Oh, here am I," we heard her sing,— And none had been awake to greet The coming of the maiden Spring.
But look, her violet eyes are wet With bright, unfallen, dewy tears; And in her song my fancy hears A note of sorrow trembling yet. Perhaps, beyond the town, she met Old Winter as he limped away To die forlorn, and let him lay His weary head upon her knee, And kissed his forehead with regret For one so gray and lonely,—see, Her eyes with tender tears are wet.
And so, by night, while we were all at rest, I think the coming sped the parting guest.
IF ALL THE SKIES
If all the skies were sunshine, Our faces would be fain To feel once more upon them The cooling plash of rain.
If all the world were music, Our hearts would often long For one sweet strain of silence. To break the endless song.
If life were always merry, Our souls would seek relief, And rest from weary laughter In the quiet arms of grief.
WINGS OF A DOVE
At sunset, when the rosy light was dying Far down the pathway of the west, I saw a lonely dove in silence flying, To be at rest.
Pilgrim of air, I cried, could I but borrow Thy wandering wings, thy freedom blest, I'd fly away from every careful sorrow, And find my rest.
But when the filmy veil of dusk was falling, Home flew the dove to seek his nest, Deep in the forest where his mate was calling To love and rest.
Peace, heart of mine! no longer sigh to wander; Lose not thy life in barren quest. There are no happy islands over yonder; Come home and rest.
THE FALL OF THE LEAVES
In warlike pomp, with banners flowing, The regiments of autumn stood: I saw their gold and scarlet glowing From every hillside, every wood.
Above the sea the clouds were keeping Their secret leaguer, gray and still; They sent their misty vanguard creeping With muffled step from hill to hill.
All day the sullen armies drifted Athwart the sky with slanting rain; At sunset for a space they lifted, With dusk they settled down again.
At dark the winds began to blow With mutterings distant, low; From sea and sky they called their strength Till with an angry, broken roar, Like billows on an unseen shore, Their fury burst at length.
I heard through the night The rush and the clamour; The pulse of the fight Like blows of Thor's hammer; The pattering flight Of the leaves, and the anguished Moan of the forest vanquished.
At daybreak came a gusty song: "Shout! the winds are strong. The little people of the leaves are fled. Shout! The Autumn is dead!"
The storm is ended! The impartial sun Laughs down upon the battle lost and won, And crowns the triumph of the cloudy host In rolling lines retreating to the coast.
But we, fond lovers of the woodland shade, And grateful friends of every fallen leaf, Forget the glories of the cloud-parade, And walk the ruined woods in quiet grief.
For ever so our thoughtful hearts repeat On fields of triumph dirges of defeat; And still we turn on gala-days to tread Among the rustling memories of the dead.
Does the snow fall at sea? Yes, when the north winds blow, When the wild clouds fly low, Out of each gloomy wing, Silently glimmering, Over the stormy sea Falleth the snow.
Does the snow hide the sea? Nay, on the tossing plains Never a flake remains; Drift never resteth there; Vanishing everywhere, Into the hungry sea Falleth the snow.
What means the snow at sea? Whirled in the veering blast, Thickly the flakes drive past; Each like a childish ghost Wavers, and then is lost; In the forgetful sea Fadeth the snow.
ROSLIN AND HAWTHORNDEN
Fair Roslin Chapel, how divine The art that reared thy costly shrine! Thy carven columns must have grown By magic, like a dream in stone.
Yet not within thy storied wall Would I in adoration fall, So gladly as within the glen That leads to lovely Hawthornden.
A long-drawn aisle, with roof of green And vine-clad pillars, while between, The Esk runs murmuring on its way, In living music night and day.
Within the temple of this wood The martyrs of the covenant stood, And rolled the psalm, and poured the prayer, From Nature's solemn altar-stair.
SONGS OUT OF DOORS
WHEN TULIPS BLOOM
When tulips bloom in Union Square, And timid breaths of vernal air Go wandering down the dusty town, Like children lost in Vanity Fair;
When every long, unlovely row Of westward houses stands aglow, And leads the eyes to sunset skies Beyond the hills where green trees grow;
Then weary seems the street parade, And weary books, and weary trade: I'm only wishing to go a-fishing; For this the month of May was made.
I guess the pussy-willows now Are creeping out on every bough Along the brook; and robins look For early worms behind the plough.
The thistle-birds have changed their dun, For yellow coats, to match the sun; And in the same array of flame The Dandelion Show's begun.
The flocks of young anemones Are dancing round the budding trees: Who can help wishing to go a-fishing In days as full of joy as these?
I think the meadow-lark's clear sound Leaks upward slowly from the ground, While on the wing the bluebirds ring Their wedding-bells to woods around.
The flirting chewink calls his dear Behind the bush; and very near, Where water flows, where green grass grows, Song-sparrows gently sing, "Good cheer."
And, best of all, through twilight's calm The hermit-thrush repeats his psalm. How much I'm wishing to go a-fishing In days so sweet with music's balm!
'Tis not a proud desire of mine; I ask for nothing superfine; No heavy weight, no salmon great, To break the record, or my line.
Only an idle little stream, Whose amber waters softly gleam, Where I may wade through woodland shade, And cast the fly, and loaf, and dream:
Only a trout or two, to dart From foaming pools, and try my art: 'Tis all I'm wishing—old-fashioned fishing, And just a day on Nature's heart.
Do you remember, father,— It seems so long ago,— The day we fished together Along the Pocono? At dusk I waited for you, Beside the lumber-mill, And there I heard a hidden bird That chanted, "whip-poor-will," "Whippoorwill! whippoorwill!" Sad and shrill,—"whippoorwill!"
The place was all deserted; The mill-wheel hung at rest; The lonely star of evening Was throbbing in the west; The veil of night was falling; The winds were folded still; And everywhere the trembling air Re-echoed "whip-poor-will!" "Whippoorwill! whippoorwill!" Sad and shrill,—"whippoorwill!"
You seemed so long in coming, I felt so much alone; The wide, dark world was round me, And life was all unknown; The hand of sorrow touched me, And made my senses thrill With all the pain that haunts the strain Of mournful whip-poor-will. "Whippoorwill! whippoorwill!" Sad and shrill,—"whippoorwill!"
What knew I then of trouble? An idle little lad, I had not learned the lessons That make men wise and sad. I dreamed of grief and parting, And something seemed to fill My heart with tears, while in my ears Resounded "whip-poor-will." "Whippoorwill! whippoorwill!" Sad and shrill,—"whippoorwill!"
'Twas but a cloud of sadness, That lightly passed away; But I have learned the meaning Of sorrow, since that day. For nevermore at twilight, Beside the silent mill, I'll wait for you, in the falling dew, And hear the whip-poor-will. "Whippoorwill! whippoorwill!" Sad and shrill,—"whippoorwill!"
But if you still remember In that fair land of light, The pains and fears that touch us Along this edge of night, I think all earthly grieving, And all our mortal ill, To you must seem like a sad boy's dream. Who hears the whip-poor-will. "Whippoorwill! whippoorwill!" A passing thrill,—"whippoorwill!"
THE LILY OF YORROW
Deep in the heart of the forest the lily of Yorrow is growing; Blue is its cup as the sky, and with mystical odour o'erflowing; Faintly it falls through the shadowy glades when the south wind is blowing.
Sweet are the primroses pale and the violets after a shower; Sweet are the borders of pinks and the blossoming grapes on the bower; Sweeter by far is the breath of that far-away woodland flower.
Searching and strange in its sweetness, it steals like a perfume enchanted Under the arch of the forest, and all who perceive it are haunted, Seeking and seeking for ever, till sight of the lily is granted.
Who can describe how it grows, with its chalice of lazuli leaning Over a crystalline spring, where the ferns and the mosses are greening? Who can imagine its beauty, or utter the depth of its meaning?
Calm of the journeying stars, and repose of the mountains olden, Joy of the swift-running rivers, and glory of sunsets golden, Secrets that cannot be told in the heart of the flower are holden.
Surely to see it is peace and the crown of a life-long endeavour; Surely to pluck it is gladness,—but they who have found it can never Tell of the gladness and peace: they are hid from our vision for ever.
'Twas but a moment ago that a comrade was walking near me: Turning aside from the pathway he murmured a greeting to cheer me,— Then he was lost in the shade, and I called but he did not hear me.
Why should I dream he is dead, and bewail him with passionate sorrow? Surely I know there is gladness in finding the lily of Yorrow: He has discovered it first, and perhaps I shall find it to-morrow.
The moonbeams over Arno's vale in silver flood were pouring, When first I heard the nightingale a long-lost love deploring. So passionate, so full of pain, it sounded strange and eerie; I longed to hear a simpler strain,—the wood-notes of the veery.
The laverock sings a bonny lay above the Scottish heather; It sprinkles down from far away like light and love together; He drops the golden notes to greet his brooding mate, his dearie; I only know one song more sweet,—the vespers of the veery.
In English gardens, green and bright and full of fruity treasure, I heard the blackbird with delight repeat his merry measure: The ballad was a pleasant one, the tune was loud and cheery, And yet, with every setting sun, I listened for the veery.
But far away, and far away, the tawny thrush is singing; New England woods, at close of day, with that clear chant are ringing: And when my light of life is low, and heart and flesh are weary, I fain would hear, before I go, the wood-notes of the veery.
There is a bird I know so well, It seems as if he must have sung Beside my crib when I was young; Before I knew the way to spell The name of even the smallest bird, His gentle-joyful song I heard. Now see if you can tell, my dear. What bird it is that, every year, Sings "Sweet—sweet—sweet—very merry cheer."
He comes in March, when winds are strong, And snow returns to hide the earth; But still he warms his heart with mirth, And waits for May. He lingers long While flowers fade; and every day Repeats his small, contented lay; As if to say, we need not fear The season's change, if love is here With "Sweet—sweet—sweet—very merry cheer."
He does not wear a Joseph's-coat Of many colours, smart and gay; His suit is Quaker brown and gray, With darker patches at his throat. And yet of all the well-dressed throng Not one can sing so brave a song. It makes the pride of looks appear A vain and foolish thing, to hear His "Sweet—sweet—sweet—very merry cheer."
A lofty place he does not love, But sits by choice, and well at ease, In hedges, and in little trees That stretch their slender arms above The meadow-brook; and there he sings Till all the field with pleasure rings; And so he tells in every ear, That lowly homes to heaven are near In "Sweet—sweet—sweet—very merry cheer."
I like the tune, I like the words; They seem so true, so free from art, So friendly, and so full of heart, That if but one of all the birds Could be my comrade everywhere, My little brother of the air, I'd choose the song-sparrow, my dear, Because he'd bless me, every year, With "Sweet—sweet—sweet—very merry cheer."
THE MARYLAND YELLOW-THROAT
When May bedecks the naked trees With tassels and embroideries, And many blue-eyed violets beam Along the edges of the stream, I hear a voice that seems to say, Now near at hand, now far away, "Witchery—witchery—witchery."
An incantation so serene, So innocent, befits the scene: There's magic in that small bird's note— See, there he flits—the Yellow-throat; A living sunbeam, tipped with wings, A spark of light that shines and sings "Witchery—witchery—witchery."
You prophet with a pleasant name, If out of Mary-land you came, You know the way that thither goes Where Mary's lovely garden grows: Fly swiftly back to her, I pray, And try to call her down this way, "Witchery—witchery—witchery!"
Tell her to leave her cockle-shells, And all her little silver bells That blossom into melody, And all her maids less fair than she. She does not need these pretty things, For everywhere she comes, she brings "Witchery—witchery—witchery!"
The woods are greening overhead, And flowers adorn each mossy bed; The waters babble as they run— One thing is lacking, only one: If Mary were but here to-day, I would believe your charming lay, "Witchery—witchery—witchery!"
Along the shady road I look— Who's coming now across the brook? A woodland maid, all robed in white— The leaves dance round her with delight, The stream laughs out beneath her feet— Sing, merry bird, the charm's complete, "Witchery—witchery—witchery!"
A NOVEMBER DAISY
Afterthought of summer's bloom! Late arrival at the feast, Coming when the songs have ceased And the merry guests departed, Leaving but an empty room, Silence, solitude, and gloom,— Are you lonely, heavy-hearted; You, the last of all your kind, Nodding in the autumn-wind; Now that all your friends are flown, Blooming late and all alone?
Nay, I wrong you, little flower, Reading mournful mood of mine In your looks, that give no sign Of a spirit dark and cheerless! You possess the heavenly power That rejoices in the hour. Glad, contented, free, and fearless, Lift a sunny face to heaven When a sunny day is given! Make a summer of your own, Blooming late and all alone!
Once the daisies gold and white Sea-like through the meadow rolled: Once my heart could hardly hold All its pleasures. I remember, In the flood of youth's delight Separate joys were lost to sight. That was summer! Now November Sets the perfect flower apart; Gives each blossom of the heart Meaning, beauty, grace unknown,— Blooming late and all alone.
THE ANGLER'S REVEILLE
What time the rose of dawn is laid across the lips of night, And all the little watchman-stars have fallen asleep in light, 'Tis then a merry wind awakes, and runs from tree to tree, And borrows words from all the birds to sound the reveille.
This is the carol the Robin throws Over the edge of the valley; Listen how boldly it flows, Sally on sally: Tirra-lirra, Early morn, New born! Day is near, Clear, clear. Down the river All a-quiver, Fish are breaking; Time for waking, Tup, tup, tup! Do you hear? All clear— Wake up!
The phantom flood of dreams has ebbed and vanished with the dark, And like a dove the heart forsakes the prison of the ark; Now forth she fares thro' friendly woods and diamond-fields of dew, While every voice cries out "Rejoice!" as if the world were new.
This is the ballad the Bluebird sings, Unto his mate replying, Shaking the tune from his wings While he is flying: Surely, surely, surely, Life is dear Even here. Blue above, You to love, Purely, purely, purely.
There's wild azalea on the hill, and iris down the dell, And just one spray of lilac still abloom beside the well; The columbine adorns the rocks, the laurel buds grow pink, Along the stream white arums gleam, and violets bend to drink.
This is the song of the Yellow-throat, Fluttering gaily beside you; Hear how each voluble note Offers to guide you: Which way, sir? I say, sir, Let me teach you, I beseech you! Are you wishing Jolly fishing? This way, sir! I'll teach you.
Then come, my friend, forget your foes and leave your fears behind, And wander forth to try your luck, with cheerful, quiet mind; For be your fortune great or small, you take what God will give, And all the day your heart will say, "'Tis luck enough to live."
This is the song the Brown Thrush flings Out of his thicket of roses; Hark how it bubbles and rings, Mark how it closes: Luck, luck, What luck? Good enough for me, I'm alive, you see! Sun shining, No repining; Never borrow Idle sorrow; Drop it! Cover it up! Hold your cup! Joy will fill it, Don't spill it, Steady, be ready, Good luck!
THE RUBY-CROWNED KINGLET
Where's your kingdom, little king? Where the land you call your own, Where your palace and your throne? Fluttering lightly on the wing Through the blossom-world of May, Whither lies your royal way, Little king?
Far to northward lies a land Where the trees together stand Closely as the blades of wheat When the summer is complete. Rolling like an ocean wide Over vale and mountainside, Balsam, hemlock, spruce and pine,— All those mighty trees are mine. There's a river flowing free,— All its waves belong to me. There's a lake so clear and bright Stars shine out of it all night; Rowan-berries round it spread Like a belt of coral red. Never royal garden planned Fair as my Canadian land! There I build my summer nest, There I reign and there I rest, While from dawn to dark I sing, Happy kingdom! Lucky king!
Back again, my little king! Is your happy kingdom lost To the rebel knave, Jack Frost? Have you felt the snow-flakes sting? Houseless, homeless in October, Whither now? Your plight is sober, Exiled king!
Far to southward lie the regions Where my loyal flower-legions Hold possession of the year, Filling every month with cheer. Christmas wakes the winter rose; New Year daffodils unclose; Yellow jasmine through the wood Flows in February flood, Dropping from the tallest trees Golden streams that never freeze. Thither now I take my flight Down the pathway of the night, Till I see the southern moon Glisten on the broad lagoon, Where the cypress' dusky green, And the dark magnolia's sheen, Weave a shelter round my home. There the snow-storms never come; There the bannered mosses gray Like a curtain gently sway, Hanging low on every side Round the covert where I bide, Till the March azalea glows, Royal red and heavenly rose, Through the Carolina glade Where my winter home is made. There I hold my southern court, Full of merriment and sport: There I take my ease and sing, Happy kingdom! Lucky king!
Little boaster, vagrant king, Neither north nor south is yours, You've no kingdom that endures! Wandering every fall and spring, With your ruby crown so slender, Are you only a Pretender, Landless king?
Never king by right divine Ruled a richer realm than mine! What are lands and golden crowns, Armies, fortresses and towns, Jewels, sceptres, robes and rings,— What are these to song and wings? Everywhere that I can fly, There I own the earth and sky; Everywhere that I can sing. There I'm happy as a king.
I put my heart to school In the world where men grow wise: "Go out," I said, "and learn the rule; Come back when you win a prize."
My heart came back again: "Now where is the prize?" I cried.— "The rule was false, and the prize was pain, And the teacher's name was Pride."
I put my heart to school In the woods where veeries sing And brooks run clear and cool, In the fields where wild flowers spring.
"And why do you stay so long My heart, and where do you roam?" The answer came with a laugh and a song,— "I find this school is home."
A silken curtain veils the skies, And half conceals from pensive eyes The bronzing tokens of the fall; A calmness broods upon the hills, And summer's parting dream distils A charm of silence over all.
The stacks of corn, in brown array, Stand waiting through the tranquil day, Like tattered wigwams on the plain; The tribes that find a shelter there Are phantom peoples, forms of air, And ghosts of vanished joy and pain.
At evening when the crimson crest Of sunset passes down the West, I hear the whispering host returning; On far-off fields, by elm and oak, I see the lights, I smell the smoke,— The Camp-fires of the Past are burning.
Tertius and Henry van Dyke.
SPRING IN THE NORTH
Ah, who will tell me, in these leaden days, Why the sweet Spring delays, And where she hides,—the dear desire Of every heart that longs For bloom, and fragrance, and the ruby fire Of maple-buds along the misty hills, And that immortal call which fills The waiting wood with songs? The snow-drops came so long ago, It seemed that Spring was near! But then returned the snow With biting winds, and earth grew sere, And sullen clouds drooped low To veil the sadness of a hope deferred: Then rain, rain, rain, incessant rain Beat on the window-pane, Through which I watched the solitary bird That braved the tempest, buffeted and tossed With rumpled feathers down the wind again. Oh, were the seeds all lost When winter laid the wild flowers in their tomb? I searched the woods in vain For blue hepaticas, and trilliums white, And trailing arbutus, the Spring's delight, Starring the withered leaves with rosy bloom. But every night the frost To all my longing spoke a silent nay, And told me Spring was far away. Even the robins were too cold to sing, Except a broken and discouraged note,— Only the tuneful sparrow, on whose throat Music has put her triple finger-print, Lifted his head and sang my heart a hint,— "Wait, wait, wait! oh, wait a while for Spring!"
But now, Carina, what divine amends For all delay! What sweetness treasured up, What wine of joy that blends A hundred flavours in a single cup, Is poured into this perfect day! For look, sweet heart, here are the early flowers That lingered on their way, Thronging in haste to kiss the feet of May, Entangled with the bloom of later hours,— Anemones and cinque-foils, violets blue And white, and iris richly gleaming through The grasses of the meadow, and a blaze Of butter-cups and daisies in the field, Filling the air with praise, As if a chime of golden bells had pealed! The frozen songs within the breast Of silent birds that hid in leafless woods, Melt into rippling floods Of gladness unrepressed. Now oriole and bluebird, thrush and lark, Warbler and wren and vireo, Mingle their melody; the living spark Of Love has touched the fuel of desire, And every heart leaps up in singing fire. It seems as if the land Were breathing deep beneath the sun's caress, Trembling with tenderness, While all the woods expand, In shimmering clouds of rose and gold and green, To veil a joy too sacred to be seen.
Come, put your hand in mine, True love, long sought and found at last, And lead me deep into the Spring divine That makes amends for all the wintry past. For all the flowers and songs I feared to miss Arrive with you; And in the lingering pressure of your kiss My dreams come true; And in the promise of your generous eyes I read the mystic sign Of joy more perfect made Because so long delayed, And bliss enhanced by rapture of surprise. Ah, think not early love alone is strong; He loveth best whose heart has learned to wait: Dear messenger of Spring that tarried long, You're doubly dear because you come so late.
SPRING IN THE SOUTH
Now in the oak the sap of life is welling, Tho' to the bough the rusty leafage clings; Now on the elm the misty buds are swelling; Every little pine-wood grows alive with wings; Blue-jays are fluttering, yodeling and crying, Meadow-larks sailing low above the faded grass, Red-birds whistling clear, silent robins flying,— Who has waked the birds up? What has come to pass?
Last year's cotton-plants, desolately bowing, Tremble in the March-wind, ragged and forlorn; Red are the hillsides of the early ploughing, Gray are the lowlands, waiting for the corn. Earth seems asleep, but she is only feigning; Deep in her bosom thrills a sweet unrest; Look where the jasmine lavishly is raining Jove's golden shower into Danaee's breast!
Now on the plum-tree a snowy bloom is sifted, Now on the peach-tree, the glory of the rose, Far o'er the hills a tender haze is drifted, Full to the brim the yellow river flows. Dark cypress boughs with vivid jewels glisten, Greener than emeralds shining in the sun. Whence comes the magic? Listen, sweetheart, listen! The mocking-bird is singing: Spring is begun.
Hark, in his song no tremor of misgiving! All of his heart he pours into his lay,— "Love, love, love, and pure delight of living: Winter is forgotten: here's a happy day!" Fair in your face I read the flowery presage, Snowy on your brow and rosy on your mouth: Sweet in your voice I hear the season's message,— Love, love, love, and Spring in the South!
A NOON SONG
There are songs for the morning and songs for the night, For sunrise and sunset, the stars and the moon; But who will give praise to the fulness of light, And sing us a song of the glory of noon? Oh, the high noon, the clear noon, The noon with golden crest; When the blue sky burns, and the great sun turns With his face to the way of the west!
How swiftly he rose in the dawn of his strength! How slowly he crept as the morning wore by! Ah, steep was the climbing that led him at length To the height of his throne in the wide summer sky. Oh, the long toil, the slow toil, The toil that may not rest, Till the sun looks down from his journey's crown, To the wonderful way of the west!
Then a quietness falls over meadow and hill, The wings of the wind in the forest are furled, The river runs softly, the birds are all still, The workers are resting all over the world. Oh, the good hour, the kind hour, The hour that calms the breast! Little inn half-way on the road of the day, Where it follows the turn to the west!
There's a plentiful feast in the maple-tree shade, The lilt of a song to an old-fashioned tune, The talk of a friend, or the kiss of a maid, To sweeten the cup that we drink to the noon. Oh, the deep noon, the full noon, Of all the day the best! When the blue sky burns, and the great sun turns To his home by the way of the west!
LIGHT BETWEEN THE TREES
Long, long, long the trail Through the brooding forest-gloom, Down the shadowy, lonely vale Into silence, like a room Where the light of life has fled, And the jealous curtains close Round the passionless repose Of the silent dead.
Plod, plod, plod away, Step by step in mouldering moss; Thick branches bar the day Over languid streams that cross Softly, slowly, with a sound Like a smothered weeping, In their aimless creeping Through enchanted ground.
"Yield, yield, yield thy quest," Whispers through the woodland deep; "Come to me and be at rest; I am slumber, I am sleep." Then the weary feet would fail, But the never-daunted will Urges "Forward, forward still! Press along the trail!"
Breast, breast, breast the slope See, the path is growing steep. Hark! a little song of hope Where the stream begins to leap. Though the forest, far and wide, Still shuts out the bending blue, We shall finally win through, Cross the long divide.
On, on, on we tramp! Will the journey never end? Over yonder lies the camp; Welcome waits us there, my friend. Can we reach it ere the night? Upward, upward, never fear! Look, the summit must be near; See the line of light!
Red, red, red the shine Of the splendour in the west, Glowing through the ranks of pine, Clear along the mountain-crest! Long, long, long the trail Out of sorrow's lonely vale; But at last the traveller sees Light between the trees!
THE HERMIT THRUSH
O wonderful! How liquid clear The molten gold of that ethereal tone, Floating and falling through the wood alone, A hermit-hymn poured out for God to hear!
O holy, holy, holy! Hyaline, Long light, low light, glory of eventide! Love far away, far up,—up,—love divine! Little love, too, for ever, ever near, Warm love, earth love, tender love of mine, In the leafy dark where you hide, You are mine,—mine,—mine!
Ah, my beloved, do you feel with me The hidden virtue of that melody, The rapture and the purity of love, The heavenly joy that can not find the word? Then, while we wait again to hear the bird, Come very near to me, and do not move,— Now, hermit of the woodland, fill anew The cool, green cup of air with harmony, And we will drink the wine of love with you.
TURN O' THE TIDE
The tide flows in to the harbour,— The bold tide, the gold tide, the flood o' the sunlit sea,— And the little ships riding at anchor, Are swinging and slanting their prows to the ocean, panting To lift their wings to the wide wild air, And venture a voyage they know not where,— To fly away and be free!
The tide runs out of the harbour,— The low tide, the slow tide, the ebb o' the moonlit bay,— And the little ships rocking at anchor, Are rounding and turning their bows to the landward, yearning To breathe the breath of the sun-warmed strand, To rest in the lee of the high hill land,— To hold their haven and stay!
My heart goes round with the vessels,— My wild heart, my child heart, in love with the sea and the land,— And the turn o' the tide passes through it, In rising and falling with mystical currents, calling At morn, to range where the far waves foam, At night, to a harbour in love's true home, With the hearts that understand!
Seal Harbour, August 12, 1911.
O Mother mountains! billowing far to the snow-lands, Robed in aerial amethyst, silver, and blue, Why do ye look so proudly down on the lowlands? What have their groves and gardens to do with you?
Theirs is the languorous charm of the orange and myrtle, Theirs are the fruitage and fragrance of Eden of old,— Broad-boughed oaks in the meadows fair and fertile, Dark-leaved orchards gleaming with globes of gold.
You, in your solitude standing, lofty and lonely, Bear neither garden nor grove on your barren breasts; Rough is the rock-loving growth of your canyons, and only Storm-battered pines and fir-trees cling to your crests.
Why are ye throned so high, and arrayed in splendour Richer than all the fields at your feet can claim? What is your right, ye rugged peaks, to the tender Queenly promise and pride of the mother-name?
Answered the mountains, dim in the distance dreaming: "Ours are the forests that treasure the riches of rain; Ours are the secret springs and the rivulets gleaming Silverly down through the manifold bloom of the plain.
"Vain were the toiling of men in the dust of the dry land, Vain were the ploughing and planting in waterless fields, Save for the life-giving currents we send from the sky-land, Save for the fruit our embrace with the storm-cloud yields."
O mother mountains, Madre Sierra, I love you! Rightly you reign o'er the vale that your bounty fills— Kissed by the sun, or with big, bright stars above you,— I murmur your name and lift up mine eyes to the hills.
Pasadena, March, 1913.
THE GRAND CANYON
What makes the lingering Night so cling to thee? Thou vast, profound, primeval hiding-place Of ancient secrets,—gray and ghostly gulf Cleft in the green of this high forest land, And crowded in the dark with giant forms! Art thou a grave, a prison, or a shrine?
A stillness deeper than the dearth of sound Broods over thee: a living silence breathes Perpetual incense from thy dim abyss. The morning-stars that sang above the bower Of Eden, passing over thee, are dumb With trembling bright amazement; and the Dawn Steals through the glimmering pines with naked feet, Her hand upon her lips, to look on thee! She peers into thy depths with silent prayer For light, more light, to part thy purple veil. O Earth, swift-rolling Earth, reveal, reveal,— Turn to the East, and show upon thy breast The mightiest marvel in the realm of Time!
'Tis done,—the morning miracle of light,— The resurrection of the world of hues That die with dark, and daily rise again With every rising of the splendid Sun!
Be still, my heart! Now Nature holds her breath To see the solar flood of radiance leap Across the chasm, and crown the western rim Of alabaster with a far-away Rampart of pearl, and flowing down by walls Of changeful opal, deepen into gold Of topaz, rosy gold of tourmaline, Crimson of garnet, green and gray of jade, Purple of amethyst, and ruby red, Beryl, and sard, and royal porphyry; Until the cataract of colour breaks Upon the blackness of the granite floor.
How far below! And all between is cleft And carved into a hundred curving miles Of unimagined architecture! Tombs, Temples, and colonnades are neighboured there By fortresses that Titans might defend, And amphitheatres where Gods might strive. Cathedrals, buttressed with unnumbered tiers Of ruddy rock, lift to the sapphire sky A single spire of marble pure as snow; And huge aerial palaces arise Like mountains built of unconsuming flame. Along the weathered walls, or standing deep In riven valleys where no foot may tread, Are lonely pillars, and tall monuments Of perished aeons and forgotten things. My sight is baffled by the wide array Of countless forms: my vision reels and swims Above them, like a bird in whirling winds. Yet no confusion fills the awful chasm; But spacious order and a sense of peace Brood over all. For every shape that looms Majestic in the throng, is set apart From all the others by its far-flung shade, Blue, blue, as if a mountain-lake were there.
How still it is! Dear God, I hardly dare To breathe, for fear the fathomless abyss Will draw me down into eternal sleep.
What force has formed this masterpiece of awe? What hands have wrought these wonders in the waste? O river, gleaming in the narrow rift Of gloom that cleaves the valley's nether deep,— Fierce Colorado, prisoned by thy toil, And blindly toiling still to reach the sea,— Thy waters, gathered from the snows and springs Amid the Utah hills, have carved this road Of glory to the Californian Gulf. But now, O sunken stream, thy splendour lost, 'Twixt iron walls thou rollest turbid waves, Too far away to make their fury heard!
At sight of thee, thou sullen labouring slave Of gravitation,—yellow torrent poured From distant mountains by no will of thine, Through thrice a hundred centuries of slow Fallings and liftings of the crust of Earth,— At sight of thee my spirit sinks and fails. Art thou alone the Maker? Is the blind Unconscious power that drew thee dumbly down To cut this gash across the layered globe, The sole creative cause of all I see? Are force and matter all? The rest a dream?
Then is thy gorge a canyon of despair, A prison for the soul of man, a grave Of all his dearest daring hopes! The world Wherein we live and move is meaningless, No spirit here to answer to our own! The stars without a guide: The chance-born Earth Adrift in space, no Captain on the ship: Nothing in all the universe to prove Eternal wisdom and eternal love! And man, the latest accident of Time,— Who thinks he loves, and longs to understand, Who vainly suffers, and in vain is brave, Who dupes his heart with immortality,— Man is a living lie,—a bitter jest Upon himself,—a conscious grain of sand Lost in a desert of unconsciousness, Thirsting for God and mocked by his own thirst.
Spirit of Beauty, mother of delight, Thou fairest offspring of Omnipotence Inhabiting this lofty lone abode, Speak to my heart again and set me free From all these doubts that darken earth and heaven! Who sent thee forth into the wilderness To bless and comfort all who see thy face? Who clad thee in this more than royal robe Of rainbows? Who designed these jewelled thrones For thee, and wrought these glittering palaces? Who gave thee power upon the soul of man To lift him up through wonder into joy? God! let the radiant cliffs bear witness, God! Let all the shining pillars signal, God! He only, on the mystic loom of light. Hath woven webs of loveliness to clothe His most majestic works: and He alone Hath delicately wrought the cactus-flower To star the desert floor with rosy bloom.
O Beauty, handiwork of the Most High, Where'er thou art He tells his Love to man, And lo, the day breaks, and the shadows flee!
Now, far beyond all language and all art In thy wild splendour, Canyon marvellous, The secret of thy stillness lies unveiled In wordless worship! This is holy ground; Thou art no grave, no prison, but a shrine. Garden of Temples filled with Silent Praise, If God were blind thy Beauty could not be!
February 24-26, 1913.
THE HEAVENLY HILLS OF HOLLAND
The heavenly hills of Holland,— How wondrously they rise Above the smooth green pastures Into the azure skies! With blue and purple hollows, With peaks of dazzling snow, Along the far horizon The clouds are marching slow.
No mortal foot has trodden The summits of that range, Nor walked those mystic valleys Whose colours ever change; Yet we possess their beauty, And visit them in dreams, While ruddy gold of sunset From cliff and canyon gleams.
In days of cloudless weather They melt into the light; When fog and mist surround us They're hidden from our sight; But when returns a season Clear shining after rain, While the northwest wind is blowing, We see the hills again.
The old Dutch painters loved them, Their pictures show them fair,— Old Hobbema and Ruysdael, Van Goyen and Vermeer. Above the level landscape, Rich polders, long-armed mills, Canals and ancient cities,— Float Holland's heavenly hills.
The Hague, November, 1916.
FLOOD-TIDE OF FLOWERS
The laggard winter ebbed so slow With freezing rain and melting snow, It seemed as if the earth would stay Forever where the tide was low, In sodden green and watery gray.
But now from depths beyond our sight, The tide is turning in the night, And floods of colour long concealed Come silent rising toward the light, Through garden bare and empty field.
And first, along the sheltered nooks, The crocus runs in little brooks Of joyance, till by light made bold They show the gladness of their looks In shining pools of white and gold.
The tiny scilla, sapphire blue, Is gently seeping in, to strew The earth with heaven; and sudden rills Of sunlit yellow, sweeping through, Spread into lakes of daffodils.
The hyacinths, with fragrant heads, Have overflowed their sandy beds, And fill the earth with faint perfume, The breath that Spring around her sheds. And now the tulips break in bloom!
A sea, a rainbow-tinted sea, A splendour and a mystery, Floods o'er the fields of faded gray: The roads are full of folks in glee, For lo,—to-day is Easter Day!
GOD OF THE OPEN AIR
Thou who hast made thy dwelling fair With flowers below, above with starry lights And set thine altars everywhere,— On mountain heights, In woodlands dim with many a dream, In valleys bright with springs, And on the curving capes of every stream: Thou who hast taken to thyself the wings Of morning, to abide Upon the secret places of the sea, And on far islands, where the tide Visits the beauty of untrodden shores, Waiting for worshippers to come to thee In thy great out-of-doors! To thee I turn, to thee I make my prayer, God of the open air.
Seeking for thee, the heart of man Lonely and longing ran, In that first, solitary hour, When the mysterious power To know and love the wonder of the morn Was breathed within him, and his soul was born; And thou didst meet thy child, Not in some hidden shrine, But in the freedom of the garden wild, And take his hand in thine,— There all day long in Paradise he walked, And in the cool of evening with thee talked.
Lost, long ago, that garden bright and pure, Lost, that calm day too perfect to endure, And lost the child-like love that worshipped and was sure! For men have dulled their eyes with sin, And dimmed the light of heaven with doubt, And built their temple walls to shut thee in, And framed their iron creeds to shut thee out. But not for thee the closing of the door, O Spirit unconfined! Thy ways are free As is the wandering wind, And thou hast wooed thy children, to restore Their fellowship with thee, In peace of soul and simpleness of mind.
Joyful the heart that, when the flood rolled by, Leaped up to see the rainbow in the sky; And glad the pilgrim, in the lonely night, For whom the hills of Haran, tier on tier, Built up a secret stairway to the height Where stars like angel eyes were shining clear. From mountain-peaks, in many a land and age, Disciples of the Persian seer Have hailed the rising sun and worshipped thee; And wayworn followers of the Indian sage Have found the peace of God beneath a spreading tree.
But One, but One,—ah, Son most dear, And perfect image of the Love Unseen,— Walked every day in pastures green, And all his life the quiet waters by, Reading their beauty with a tranquil eye. To him the desert was a place prepared For weary hearts to rest; The hillside was a temple blest; The grassy vale a banquet-room Where he could feed and comfort many a guest. With him the lily shared The vital joy that breathes itself in bloom; And every bird that sang beside the nest Told of the love that broods o'er every living thing. He watched the shepherd bring His flock at sundown to the welcome fold, The fisherman at daybreak fling His net across the waters gray and cold, And all day long the patient reaper swing His curving sickle through the harvest-gold. So through the world the foot-path way he trod, Breathing the air of heaven in every breath; And in the evening sacrifice of death Beneath the open sky he gave his soul to God. Him will I trust, and for my Master take; Him will I follow; and for his dear sake, God of the open air, To thee I make my prayer.
From the prison of anxious thought that greed has builded, From the fetters that envy has wrought and pride has gilded, From the noise of the crowded ways and the fierce confusion, From the folly that wastes its days in a world of illusion, (Ah, but the life is lost that frets and languishes there!) I would escape and be free in the joy of the open air.
By the breadth of the blue that shines in silence o'er me, By the length of the mountain-lines that stretch before me, By the height of the cloud that sails, with rest in motion, Over the plains and the vales to the measureless ocean, (Oh, how the sight of the greater things enlarges the eyes!) Draw me away from myself to the peace of the hills and skies.
While the tremulous leafy haze on the woodland is spreading, And the bloom on the meadow betrays where May has been treading; While the birds on the branches above, and the brooks flowing under, Are singing together of love in a world full of wonder, (Lo, in the magic of Springtime, dreams are changed into truth!) Quicken my heart, and restore the beautiful hopes of youth.
By the faith that the wild-flowers show when they bloom unbidden, By the calm of the river's flow to a goal that is hidden, By the strength of the tree that clings to its deep foundation, By the courage of birds' light wings on the long migration, (Wonderful spirit of trust that abides in Nature's breast!) Teach me how to confide, and live my life, and rest.
For the comforting warmth of the sun that my body embraces, For the cool of the waters that run through the shadowy places, For the balm of the breezes that brush my face with their fingers, For the vesper-hymn of the thrush when the twilight lingers, For the long breath, the deep breath, the breath of a heart without care,— I will give thanks and adore thee, God of the open air!
These are the gifts I ask Of thee, Spirit serene: Strength for the daily task, Courage to face the road, Good cheer to help me bear the traveller's load, And, for the hours of rest that come between, An inward joy in all things heard and seen. These are the sins I fain Would have thee take away: Malice, and cold disdain, Hot anger, sullen hate, Scorn of the lowly, envy of the great, And discontent that casts a shadow gray On all the brightness of the common day. These are the things I prize And hold of dearest worth: Light of the sapphire skies, Peace of the silent hills, Shelter of forests, comfort of the grass, Music of birds, murmur of little rills, Shadows of cloud that swiftly pass, And, after showers, The smell of flowers And of the good brown earth,— And best of all, along the way, friendship and mirth. So let me keep These treasures of the humble heart In true possession, owning them by love; And when at last I can no longer move Among them freely, but must part From the green fields and from the waters clear, Let me not creep Into some darkened room and hide From all that makes the world so bright and dear; But throw the windows wide To welcome in the light; And while I clasp a well-beloved hand, Let me once more have sight Of the deep sky and the far-smiling land,— Then gently fall on sleep, And breathe my body back to Nature's care, My spirit out to thee, God of the open air.
THE TOILING OF FELIX
A LEGEND ON A NEW SAYING OF JESUS
In the rubbish heaps of the ancient city of Oxyrhynchus, near the River Nile, a party of English explorers, in the winter of 1897, discovered a fragment of a papyrus book, written in the second or third century, and hitherto unknown. This single leaf contained parts of seven short sentences of Christ, each introduced by the words, "Jesus says." It is to the fifth of these Sayings of Jesus that the following poem refers.
THE TOILING OF FELIX
Hear a word that Jesus spake Nineteen hundred years ago, Where the crimson lilies blow Round the blue Tiberian lake: There the bread of life He brake, Through the fields of harvest walking With His lowly comrades, talking Of the secret thoughts that feed Weary souls in time of need. Art thou hungry? Come and take; Hear the word that Jesus spake! 'Tis the sacrament of labour, bread and wine divinely blest; Friendship's food and sweet refreshment, strength and courage, joy and rest.
But this word the Master said Long ago and far away, Silent and forgotten lay Buried with the silent dead, Where the sands of Egypt spread Sea-like, tawny billows heaping Over ancient cities sleeping, While the River Nile between Rolls its summer flood of green Rolls its autumn flood of red: There the word the Master said, Written on a frail papyrus, wrinkled, scorched by fire, and torn, Hidden by God's hand was waiting for its resurrection morn.
Now at last the buried word By the delving spade is found, Sleeping in the quiet ground. Now the call of life is heard: Rise again, and like a bird, Fly abroad on wings of gladness Through the darkness and the sadness, Of the toiling age, and sing Sweeter than the voice of Spring, Till the hearts of men are stirred By the music of the word,— Gospel for the heavy-laden, answer to the labourer's cry: "Raise the stone, and thou shall find me; cleave the wood and there am I."
Brother-men who look for Jesus, long to see Him close and clear, Hearken to the tale of Felix, how he found the Master near.
Born in Egypt, 'neath the shadow of the crumbling gods of night, He forsook the ancient darkness, turned his young heart toward the Light.
Seeking Christ, in vain he waited for the vision of the Lord; Vainly pondered many volumes where the creeds of men were stored;
Vainly shut himself in silence, keeping vigil night and day; Vainly haunted shrines and churches where the Christians came to pray.
One by one he dropped the duties of the common life of care, Broke the human ties that bound him, laid his spirit waste and bare,
Hoping that the Lord would enter that deserted dwelling-place, And reward the loss of all things with the vision of His face.
Still the blessed vision tarried; still the light was unrevealed; Still the Master, dim and distant, kept His countenance concealed.
Fainter grew the hope of finding, wearier grew the fruitless quest; Prayer and penitence and fasting gave no comfort, brought no rest.
Lingering in the darkened temple, ere the lamp of faith went out, Felix knelt before the altar, lonely, sad, and full of doubt.
"Hear me, O my Lord and Master," from the altar-step he cried, "Let my one desire be granted, let my hope be satisfied!
"Only once I long to see Thee, in the fulness of Thy grace: Break the clouds that now enfold Thee, with the sunrise of Thy face!
"All that men desire and treasure have I counted loss for Thee; Every hope have I forsaken, save this one, my Lord to see.
"Loosed the sacred bands of friendship, solitary stands my heart; Thou shalt be my sole companion when I see Thee as Thou art.
"From Thy distant throne in glory, flash upon my inward sight, Fill the midnight of my spirit with the splendour of Thy light.
"All Thine other gifts and blessings, common mercies, I disown; Separated from my brothers, I would see Thy face alone.
"I have watched and I have waited as one waiteth for the morn: Still the veil is never lifted, still Thou leavest me forlorn.
"Now I seek Thee in the desert, where the holy hermits dwell; There, beside the saint Serapion, I will find a lonely cell.
"There at last Thou wilt be gracious; there Thy presence, long-concealed, In the solitude and silence to my heart shall be revealed.
"Thou wilt come, at dawn or twilight, o'er the rolling waves of sand; I shall see Thee close beside me, I shall touch Thy pierced hand.
"Lo, Thy pilgrim kneels before Thee; bless my journey with a word; Tell me now that if I follow, I shall find Thee, O my Lord!"
Felix listened: through the darkness, like a murmur of the wind, Came a gentle sound of stillness: "Never faint, and thou shalt find."
Long and toilsome was his journey through the heavy land of heat, Egypt's blazing sun above him, blistering sand beneath his feet.
Patiently he plodded onward, from the pathway never erred, Till he reached the river-headland called the Mountain of the Bird.
There the tribes of air assemble, once a year, their noisy flock, Then, departing, leave a sentinel perched upon the highest rock.
Far away, on joyful pinions, over land and sea they fly; But the watcher on the summit lonely stands against the sky.
There the eremite Serapion in a cave had made his bed; There the faithful bands of pilgrims sought his blessing, brought him bread.
Month by month, in deep seclusion, hidden in the rocky cleft, Dwelt the hermit, fasting, praying; once a year the cave he left.
On that day a happy pilgrim, chosen out of all the band, Won a special sign of favour from the holy hermit's hand.
Underneath the narrow window, at the doorway closely sealed, While the afterglow of sunset deepened round him, Felix kneeled.
"Man of God, of men most holy, thou whose gifts cannot be priced! Grant me thy most precious guerdon; tell me how to find the Christ."
Breathless, Felix bent and listened, but no answering voice he heard; Darkness folded, dumb and deathlike, round the Mountain of the Bird.
Then he said, "The saint is silent; he would teach my soul to wait: I will tarry here in patience, like a beggar at his gate."
Near the dwelling of the hermit Felix found a rude abode, In a shallow tomb deserted, close beside the pilgrim-road.
So the faithful pilgrims saw him waiting there without complaint,— Soon they learned to call him holy, fed him as they fed the saint.
Day by day he watched the sunrise flood the distant plain with gold, While the River Nile beneath him, silvery coiling, sea-ward rolled.
Night by night he saw the planets range their glittering court on high, Saw the moon, with queenly motion, mount her throne and rule the sky.
Morn advanced and midnight fled, in visionary pomp attired; Never morn and never midnight brought the vision long-desired.
Now at last the day is dawning when Serapion makes his gift; Felix kneels before the threshold, hardly dares his eyes to lift.
Now the cavern door uncloses, now the saint above him stands, Blesses him without a word, and leaves a token in his hands.
'Tis the guerdon of thy waiting! Look, thou happy pilgrim, look! Nothing but a tattered fragment of an old papyrus book.
Read! perchance the clue to guide thee hidden in the words may lie: "Raise the stone, and thou shalt find me; cleave the wood, and there am I."
Can it be the mighty Master spake such simple words as these? Can it be that men must seek Him at their toil 'mid rocks and trees?
Disappointed, heavy-hearted, from the Mountain of the Bird Felix mournfully descended, questioning the Master's word.
Not for him a sacred dwelling, far above the haunts of men: He must turn his footsteps backward to the common life again.
From a quarry near the river, hollowed out amid the hills, Rose the clattering voice of labour, clanking hammers, clinking drills.
Dust, and noise, and hot confusion made a Babel of the spot: There, among the lowliest workers, Felix sought and found his lot.
Now he swung the ponderous mallet, smote the iron in the rock— Muscles quivering, tingling, throbbing—blow on blow and shock on shock;
Now he drove the willow wedges, wet them till they swelled and split, With their silent strength, the fragment, sent it thundering down the pit.
Now the groaning tackle raised it; now the rollers made it slide; Harnessed men, like beasts of burden, drew it to the river-side.
Now the palm-trees must be riven, massive timbers hewn and dressed; Rafts to bear the stones in safety on the rushing river's breast.
Axe and auger, saw and chisel, wrought the will of man in wood: 'Mid the many-handed labour Felix toiled, and found it good.
Every day the blood ran fleeter through his limbs and round his heart; Every night he slept the sweeter, knowing he had done his part.
Dreams of solitary saintship faded from him; but, instead, Came a sense of daily comfort in the toil for daily bread.
Far away, across the river, gleamed the white walls of the town Whither all the stones and timbers day by day were floated down.
There the workman saw his labour taking form and bearing fruit, Like a tree with splendid branches rising from a humble root.
Looking at the distant city, temples, houses, domes, and towers, Felix cried in exultation: "All that mighty work is ours.
"Every toiler in the quarry, every builder on the shore, Every chopper in the palm-grove, every raftsman at the oar,
"Hewing wood and drawing water, splitting stones and cleaving sod, All the dusty ranks of labour, in the regiment of God,
"March together toward His triumph, do the task His hands prepare: Honest toil is holy service; faithful work is praise and prayer."
While he bore the heat and burden Felix felt the sense of rest Flowing softly like a fountain, deep within his weary breast;
Felt the brotherhood of labour, rising round him like a tide, Overflow his heart and join him to the workers at his side.
Oft he cheered them with his singing at the breaking of the light, Told them tales of Christ at noonday, taught them words of prayer at night.
Once he bent above a comrade fainting in the mid-day heat, Sheltered him with woven palm-leaves, gave him water, cool and sweet.
Then it seemed, for one swift moment, secret radiance filled the place; Underneath the green palm-branches flashed a look of Jesus' face.
Once again, a raftsman, slipping, plunged beneath the stream and sank; Swiftly Felix leaped to rescue, caught him, drew him toward the bank—
Battling with the cruel river, using all his strength to save— Did he dream? or was there One beside him walking on the wave?
Now at last the work was ended, grove deserted, quarry stilled; Felix journeyed to the city that his hands had helped to build.
In the darkness of the temple, at the closing hour of day, As of old he sought the altar, as of old he knelt to pray:
"Hear me, O Thou hidden Master! Thou hast sent a word to me; It is written—Thy commandment—I have kept it faithfully.
"Thou hast bid me leave the visions of the solitary life, Bear my part in human labour, take my share in human strife.
"I have done Thy bidding, Master; raised the rock and felled the tree, Swung the axe and plied the hammer, working every day for Thee.
"Once it seemed I saw Thy presence through the bending palm-leaves gleam; Once upon the flowing water—Nay, I know not; 'twas a dream!
"This I know: Thou hast been near me: more than this I dare not ask. Though I see Thee not, I love Thee. Let me do Thy humblest task!"
Through the dimness of the temple slowly dawned a mystic light; There the Master stood in glory, manifest to mortal sight:
Hands that bore the mark of labour, brow that bore the print of care; Hands of power, divinely tender; brow of light, divinely fair.
"Hearken, good and faithful servant, true disciple, loyal friend! Thou hast followed me and found me; I will keep thee to the end.
"Well I know thy toil and trouble; often weary, fainting, worn, I have lived the life of labour, heavy burdens I have borne.
"Never in a prince's palace have I slept on golden bed, Never in a hermit's cavern have I eaten unearned bread.
"Born within a lowly stable, where the cattle round me stood, Trained a carpenter in Nazareth, I have toiled, and found it good.
"They who tread the path of labour follow where my feet have trod; They who work without complaining do the holy will of God.
"Where the many toil together, there am I among my own; Where the tired workman sleepeth, there am I with him alone.
"I, the peace that passeth knowledge, dwell amid the daily strife; I, the bread of heaven, am broken in the sacrament of life.
"Every task, however simple, sets the soul that does it free; Every deed of love and mercy, done to man, is done to me.
"Thou hast learned the open secret; thou hast come to me for rest; With thy burden, in thy labour, thou art Felix, doubly blest.
"Nevermore thou needest seek me; I am with thee everywhere; Raise the stone, and thou shall find me; cleave the wood, and I am there."
The legend of Felix is ended, the toiling of Felix is done; The Master has paid him his wages, the goal of his journey is won; He rests, but he never is idle; a thousand years pass like a day, In the glad surprise of that Paradise where work is sweeter than play.
Yet often the King of that country comes out from His tireless host, And walks in this world of the weary as if He loved it the most; For here in the dusty confusion, with eyes that are heavy and dim, He meets again the labouring men who are looking and longing for Him.
He cancels the curse of Eden, and brings them a blessing instead: Blessed are they that labour, for Jesus partakes of their bread. He puts His hand to their burdens, He enters their homes at night: Who does his best shall have as a guest the Master of life and light.
And courage will come with His presence, and patience return at His touch, And manifold sins be forgiven to those who love Him much; The cries of envy and anger will change to the songs of cheer, The toiling age will forget its rage when the Prince of Peace draws near.
This is the gospel of labour, ring it, ye bells of the kirk! The Lord of Love came down from above, to live with the men who work. This is the rose that He planted, here in the thorn-curst soil: Heaven is blest with perfect rest, but the blessing of Earth is toil.
A silent world,—yet full of vital joy Uttered in rhythmic movements manifold, And sunbeams flashing on the face of things Like sudden smilings of divine delight,— A world of many sorrows too, revealed In fading flowers and withering leaves and dark Tear-laden clouds, and tearless, clinging mists That hung above the earth too sad to weep,— A world of fluent change, and changeless flow, And infinite suggestion of new thought, Reflected in the crystal of the heart,— A world of many meanings but no words, A silent world was Vera's home. For her The inner doors of sound were closely sealed The outer portals, delicate as shells Suffused with faintest rose of far-off morn, Like underglow of daybreak in the sea,— The ear-gates of the garden of her soul, Shaded by drooping tendrils of brown hair,— Waited in vain for messengers to pass, And thread the labyrinth with flying feet, And swiftly knock upon the inmost door, And enter in, and speak the mystic word. But through those gates no message ever came. Only with eyes did she behold and see,— With eyes as luminous and bright and brown As waters of a woodland river,—eyes That questioned so they almost seemed to speak, And answered so they almost seemed to hear,— Only with wondering eyes did she behold The silent splendour of a living world.
She saw the great wind ranging freely down Interminable archways of the wood, While tossing boughs and bending tree-tops hailed His coming: but no sea-toned voice of pines, No roaring of the oaks, no silvery song Of poplars or of birches, followed him. He passed; they waved their arms and clapped their hands; There was no sound. The torrents from the hills Leaped down their rocky pathways, like wild steeds Breaking the yoke and shaking manes of foam. The lowland brooks coiled smoothly through the fields, And softly spread themselves in glistening lakes Whose ripples merrily danced among the reeds. The standing waves that ever keep their place In the swift rapids, curled upon themselves, And seemed about to break and never broke; And all the wandering waves that fill the sea Came buffeting in along the stony shore, Or plunging in along the level sands, Or creeping in along the winding creeks And inlets. Yet from all the ceaseless flow And turmoil of the restless element Came neither song of joy nor sob of grief; For there were many waters, but no voice.
Silent the actors all on Nature's stage Performed their parts before her watchful eyes, Coming and going, making war and love, Working and playing, all without a sound. The oxen drew their load with swaying necks; The cows came sauntering home along the lane; The nodding sheep were led from field to fold In mute obedience. Down the woodland track The hounds with panting sides and lolling tongues Pursued their flying prey in noiseless haste. The birds, the most alive of living things, Mated, and built their nests, and reared their young, And swam the flood of air like tiny ships Rising and falling over unseen waves, And, gathering in great navies, bore away To North or South, without a note of song.
All these were Vera's playmates; and she loved To watch them, wondering oftentimes how well They knew their parts, and how the drama moved So swiftly, smoothly on from scene to scene Without confusion. But she sometimes dreamed There must be something hidden in the play Unknown to her, an utterance of life More clear than action and more deep than looks. And this she felt most deeply when she watched Her human comrades and the throngs of men, Who met and parted oft with moving lips That had a meaning more than she could see. She saw a lover bend above a maid, With moving lips; and though he touched her not A sudden rose of joy bloomed in her face. She saw a hater stand before his foe And move his lips; whereat the other shrank As if he had been smitten on the mouth. She saw the regiments of toiling men Marshalled in ranks and led by moving lips. And once she saw a sight more strange than all: A crowd of people sitting charmed and still Around a little company of men Who touched their hands in measured, rhythmic time To curious instruments; a woman stood Among them, with bright eyes and heaving breast, And lifted up her face and moved her lips. Then Vera wondered at the idle play, But when she looked around, she saw the glow Of deep delight on every face, as if Some visitor from a celestial world Had brought glad tidings. But to her alone No angel entered, for the choir of sound Was vacant in the temple of her soul, And worship lacked her golden crown of song.
So when by vision baffled and perplexed She saw that all the world could not be seen, And knew she could not know the whole of life Unless a hidden gate should be unsealed, She felt imprisoned. In her heart there grew The bitter creeping plant of discontent, The plant that only grows in prison soil, Whose root is hunger and whose fruit is pain. The springs of still delight and tranquil joy Were drained as dry as desert dust to feed That never-flowering vine, whose tendrils clung With strangling touch around the bloom of life And made it wither. Vera could not rest Within the limits of her silent world; Along its dumb and desolate paths she roamed A captive, looking sadly for escape.
Now in those distant days, and in that land Remote, there lived a Master wonderful, Who knew the secret of all life, and could, With gentle touches and with potent words, Open all gates that ever had been sealed, And loose all prisoners whom Fate had bound. Obscure he dwelt, not in the wilderness, But in a hut among the throngs of men, Concealed by meekness and simplicity. And ever as he walked the city streets, Or sat in quietude beside the sea, Or trod the hillsides and the harvest fields, The multitude passed by and knew him not. But there were some who knew, and turned to him For help; and unto all who asked, he gave. Thus Vera came, and found him in the field, And knew him by the pity in his face. She knelt to him and held him by one hand, And laid the other hand upon her lips In mute entreaty. Then she lifted up The coils of hair that hung about her neck, And bared the beauty of the gates of sound,— Those virgin gates through which no voice had passed,— She made them bare before the Master's sight, And looked into the kindness of his face With eyes that spoke of all her prisoned pain, And told her great desire without a word.
The Master waited long in silent thought, As one reluctant to bestow a gift, Not for the sake of holding back the thing Entreated, but because he surely knew Of something better that he fain would give If only she would ask it. Then he stooped To Vera, smiling, touched her ears and spoke: "Open, fair gates, and you, reluctant doors, Within the ivory labyrinth of the ear, Let fall the bar of silence and unfold! Enter, you voices of all living things, Enter the garden sealed,—but softly, slowly, Not with a noise confused and broken tumult,— Come in an order sweet as I command you, And bring the double gift of speech and hearing."
Vera began to hear. At first the wind Breathed a low prelude of the birth of sound, As if an organ far away were touched By unseen fingers; then the little stream That hurried down the hillside, swept the harp Of music into merry, tinkling notes; And then the lark that poised above her head On wings a-quiver, overflowed the air With showers of song; and one by one the tones Of all things living, in an order sweet, Without confusion and with deepening power, Entered the garden sealed. And last of all The Master's voice, the human voice divine, Passed through the gates and called her by her name, And Vera heard.
What rapture of new life Must come to one for whom a silent world Is suddenly made vocal, and whose heart By the same magic is awaked at once, Without the learner's toil and long delay, Out of a night of dumbly moving dreams, Into a day that overflows with music! This joy was Vera's; and to her it seemed As if a new creative morn had risen Upon the earth, and after the full week When living things unfolded silently, And after the long, quiet Sabbath day, When all was still, another day had dawned, And through the calm expectancy of heaven A secret voice had said, "Let all things speak." The world responded with an instant joy; And all the unseen avenues of sound Were thronged with varying forms of viewless life.
To every living thing a voice was given Distinct and personal. The forest trees Were not more varied in their shades of green Than in their tones of speech; and every bird That nested in their branches had a song Unknown to other birds and all his own. The waters spoke a hundred dialects Of one great language; now with pattering fall Of raindrops on the glistening leaves, and now With steady roar of rivers rushing down To meet the sea, and now with rhythmic throb And measured tumult of tempestuous waves, And now with lingering lisp of creeping tides,— The manifold discourse of many waters. But most of all the human voice was full Of infinite variety, and ranged Along the scale of life's experience With changing tones, and notes both sweet and sad, All fitted to express some unseen thought, Some vital motion of the hidden heart. So Vera listened with her new-born sense To all the messengers that passed the gates, In measureless delight and utter trust, Believing that they brought a true report From every living thing of its true life, And hoping that at last they would make clear The mystery and the meaning of the world.
But soon there came a trouble in her joy, A note discordant that dissolved the chord And broke the bliss of hearing into pain. Not from the harsher sounds and voices wild Of anger and of anguish, that reveal The secret strife in nature, and confess The touch of sorrow on the heart of life,— From these her trouble came not. For in these, However sad, she felt the note of truth, And truth, though sad, is always musical. The raging of the tempest-ridden sea, The crash of thunder, and the hollow moan Of winds complaining round the mountain-crags, The shrill and quavering cry of birds of prey, The fiercer roar of conflict-loving beasts,— All these wild sounds are potent in their place Within life's mighty symphony; the charm Of truth attunes them, and the hearing ear Finds pleasure in their rude sincerity. Even the broken and tumultuous noise That rises from great cities, where the heart Of human toil is beating heavily With ceaseless murmurs of the labouring pulse, Is not a discord; for it speaks to life Of life unfeigned, and full of hopes and fears, And touched through all the trouble of its notes With something real and therefore glorious.
One voice alone of all that sound on earth, Is hateful to the soul, and full of pain,— The voice of falsehood. So when Vera heard This mocking voice, and knew that it was false; When first she learned that human lips can speak The thing that is not, and betray the ear Of simple trust with treachery of words; The joy of hearing withered in her heart. For now she felt that faithless messengers Could pass the open and unguarded gates Of sound, and bring a message all untrue, Or half a truth that makes the deadliest lie, Or idle babble, neither false nor true, But hollow to the heart, and meaningless. She heard the flattering voices of deceit, That mask the hidden purposes of men With fair attire of favourable words, And hide the evil in the guise of good: The voices vain and decorous and smooth, That fill the world with empty-hearted talk; The foolish voices, wandering and confused, That never clearly speak the thing they would, But ramble blindly round their true intent And tangle sense in hopeless coils of sound,— All these she heard, and with a deep mistrust Began to doubt the value of her gift. It seemed as if the world, the living world, Sincere, and vast, and real, were still concealed, And she, within the prison of her soul, Still waiting silently to hear the voice Of perfect knowledge and of perfect peace.
So with the burden of her discontent She turned to seek the Master once again, And found him sitting in the market-place, Half-hidden in the shadow of a porch, Alone among the careless crowd. She spoke: "Thy gift was great, dear Master, and my heart Has thanked thee many times because I hear But I have learned that hearing is not all; For underneath the speech of men, there flows Another current of their hidden thoughts; Behind the mask of language I perceive The eyes of things unsaid. Touch me again, O Master, with thy liberating hand, And free me from the bondage of deceit. Open another gate, and let me hear The secret thoughts and purposes of men; For only thus my heart will be at rest, And only thus, at last, I shall perceive The mystery and the meaning of the world."
The Master's face was turned aside from her; His eyes looked far away, as if he saw Something beyond her sight; and yet she knew That he was listening; for her pleading voice No sooner ceased than he put forth his hand To touch her brow, and very gently spoke: "Thou seekest for thyself a wondrous gift,— The opening of the second gate, a gift That many wise men have desired in vain: But some have found it,—whether well or ill For their own peace, they have attained the power To hear unspoken thoughts of other men. And thou hast begged this gift? Thou shalt receive,— Not knowing what thou seekest,—it is thine: The second gate is open! Thou shalt hear All that men think and feel within their hearts: Thy prayer is granted, daughter, go thy way! But if thou findest sorrow on this path, Come back again,—there is a path to peace."
Beyond our power of vision, poets say, There is another world of forms unseen, Yet visible to purer eyes than ours. And if the crystal of our sight were clear, We should behold the mountain-slopes of cloud, The moving meadows of the untilled sea, The groves of twilight and the dales of dawn, And every wide and lonely field of air, More populous than cities, crowded close With living creatures of all shapes and hues. But if that sight were ours, the things that now Engage our eyes would seem but dull and dim Beside the wonders of our new-found world, And we should be amazed and overwhelmed Not knowing how to use the plenitude Of vision. So in Vera's soul, at first, The opening of the second gate of sound Let in confusion like a whirling flood. The murmur of a myriad-throated mob; The trampling of an army through a place Where echoes hide; the sudden, whistling flight Of an innumerable flock of birds Along the highway of the midnight sky; The many-whispered rustling of the reeds Beneath the passing feet of all the winds; The long-drawn, inarticulate, wailing cry Of million-pebbled beaches when the lash Of stormy waves is drawn across their back,— All these were less bewildering than to hear What now she heard at once: the tangled sound Of all that moves within the minds of men. For now there was no measured flow of words To mark the time; nor any interval Of silence to repose the listening ear. But through the dead of night, and through the calm Of weary noon-tide, through the solemn hush That fills the temple in the pause of praise, And through the breathless awe in rooms of death, She heard the ceaseless motion and the stir Of never-silent hearts, that fill the world With interwoven thoughts of good and ill, With mingled music of delight and grief, With songs of love, and bitter cries of hate, With hymns of faith, and dirges of despair, And murmurs deeper and more vague than all,— Thoughts that are born and die without a name, Or rather, never die, but haunt the soul, With sad persistence, till a name is given. These Vera heard, at first with mind perplexed And half-benumbed by the disordered sound. But soon a clearer sense began to pierce The cloudy turmoil with discerning power. She learned to know the tones of human thought As plainly as she knew the tones of speech. She could divide the evil from the good, Interpreting the language of the mind, And tracing every feeling like a thread Within the mystic web the passions weave From heart to heart around the living world.
But when at last the Master's second gift Was perfected within her, and she heard And understood the secret thoughts of men, A sadness fell upon her, and the load Of insupportable knowledge pressed her down With weary wishes to know more, or less. For all she knew was like a broken word Inscribed upon the fragment of a ring; And all she heard was like a broken strain Preluding music that is never played.
Then she remembered in her sad unrest The Master's parting word,—"a path to peace,"— And turned again to seek him with her grief. She found him in a hollow of the hills, Beside a little spring that issued forth Beneath the rocks and filled a mossy cup With never-failing water. There he sat, With waiting looks that welcomed her afar. "I know that thou hast heard, my child," he said, "For all the wonder of the world of sound Is written in thy face. But hast thou heard, Among the many voices, one of peace? And is thy heart that hears the secret thoughts, The hidden wishes and desires of men, Content with hearing? Art thou satisfied?" "Nay, Master," she replied, "thou knowest well That I am not at rest, nor have I heard The voice of perfect peace; but what I hear Brings me disquiet and a troubled mind. The evil voices in the souls of men, Voices of rage and cruelty and fear Have not dismayed me; for I have believed The voices of the good, the kind, the true, Are more in number and excel in strength. There is more love than hate, more hope than fear, In the deep throbbing of the human heart. But while I listen to the troubled sound, One thing torments me, and destroys my rest And presses me with dull, unceasing pain. For out of all the minds of all mankind, There rises evermore a questioning voice That asks the meaning of this mighty world And finds no answer,—asks, and asks again, With patient pleading or with wild complaint, But wakens no response, except the sound Of other questions, wandering to and fro, From other souls in doubt. And so this voice Persists above all others that I hear, And binds them up together into one, Until the mingled murmur of the world Sounds through the inner temple of my heart Like an eternal question, vainly asked By every human soul that thinks and feels. This is the heaviness that weighs me down, And this the pain that will not let me rest. Therefore, dear Master, shut the gates again, And let me live in silence as before! Or else,—and if there is indeed a gate Unopened yet, through which I might receive An answer in the voice of perfect peace—"
She ceased; and in her upward faltering tone The question echoed. Then the Master said: "There is another gate, not yet unclosed. For through the outer portal of the ear Only the outer voice of things may pass; And through the middle doorway of the mind Only the half-formed voice of human thoughts, Uncertain and perplexed with endless doubt; But through the inmost gate the spirit hears The voice of that great Spirit who is Life. Beneath the tones of living things He breathes A deeper tone than ever ear hath heard; And underneath the troubled thoughts of men He thinks forever, and His thought is peace. Behold, I touch thee once again, my child: The third and last of those three hidden gates That closed around thy soul and shut thee in, Is open now, and thou shalt truly hear."
Then Vera heard. The spiritual gate Was opened softly as a full-blown flower Unfolds its heart to welcome in the dawn, And on her listening face there shone a light Of still amazement and completed joy In the full gift of hearing. What she heard I cannot tell; nor could she ever tell In words; because all human words are vain. There is no speech nor language, to express The secret messages of God, that make Perpetual music in the hearing heart. Below the voice of waters, and above The wandering voice of winds, and underneath The song of birds, and all the varying tones Of living things that fill the world with sound, God spoke to her, and what she heard was peace.
So when the Master questioned, "Dost thou hear?" She answered, "Yea, at last I hear." And then He asked her once again, "What hearest thou? What means the voice of Life?" She answered, "Love! For love is life, and they who do not love Are not alive. But every soul that loves, Lives in the heart of God and hears Him speak."
A DRAMATIC LYRIC
Come, give me back my life again, you heavy-handed Death! Uncrook your fingers from my throat, and let me draw my breath. You do me wrong to take me now—too soon for me to die— Ah, loose me from this clutching pain, and hear the reason why.
I know I've had my forty years, and wasted every one; And yet, I tell you honestly, my life is just begun; I've walked the world like one asleep, a dreamer in a trance; But now you've gripped me wide awake—I want another chance.
My dreams were always beautiful, my thoughts were high and fine; No life was ever lived on earth to match those dreams of mine. And would you wreck them unfulfilled? What folly, nay, what crime! You rob the world, you waste a soul; give me a little time.
You'll hear me? Yes, I'm sure you will, my hope is not in vain: I feel the even pulse of peace, the sweet relief from pain; The black fog rolls away from me; I'm free once more to plan: Another chance is all I need to prove myself a man!