by William D. Howells
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PAGE The Pilot's Story 3 Forlorn 13 Pleasure-Pain 19 In August 26 The Empty House 27 Bubbles 29 Lost Beliefs 31 Louis Lebeau's Conversion 32 Caprice 49 Sweet Clover 51 The Royal Portraits 54 The Faithful of the Gonzaga 59 The First Cricket 77 The Mulberries 79 Before the Gate 84 Clement 86 By the Sea 97 Saint Christopher 98 Elegy on John Butler Howells 100 Thanksgiving 105 A Springtime 106 In Earliest Spring 108 The Bobolinks are Singing 110 Prelude 113 The Movers 115 Through the Meadow 120 Gone 122 The Sarcastic Fair 123 Rapture 124 Dead 125 The Doubt 127 The Thorn 129 The Mysteries 130 The Battle in the Clouds 131 For One of the Killed 133 The Two Wives 134 Bereaved 136 The Snow-Birds 138 Vagary 139 Feuerbilder 141 Avery 143 Bopeep: A Pastoral 148 While she sang 160 A Poet 163 Convention 164 The Poet Friends 165 No Love Lost 166 The Song the Oriole sings 199 Pordenone 201 The Long Days 223



It was a story the pilot told, with his back to his hearers,— Keeping his hand on the wheel and his eye on the globe of the jack-staff, Holding the boat to the shore and out of the sweep of the current, Lightly turning aside for the heavy logs of the drift-wood, Widely shunning the snags that made us sardonic obeisance.


All the soft, damp air was full of delicate perfume From the young willows in bloom on either bank of the river,— Faint, delicious fragrance, trancing the indolent senses In a luxurious dream of the river and land of the lotus. Not yet out of the west the roses of sunset were withered; In the deep blue above light clouds of gold and of crimson Floated in slumber serene; and the restless river beneath them Rushed away to the sea with a vision of rest in its bosom; Far on the eastern shore lay dimly the swamps of the cypress; Dimly before us the islands grew from the river's expanses,— Beautiful, wood-grown isles, with the gleam of the swart inundation Seen through the swaying boughs and slender trunks of their willows; And on the shore beside us the cotton-trees rose in the evening, Phantom-like, yearningly, wearily, with the inscrutable sadness Of the mute races of trees. While hoarsely the steam from her 'scape-pipes Shouted, then whispered a moment, then shouted again to the silence, Trembling through all her frame with the mighty pulse of her engines, Slowly the boat ascended the swollen and broad Mississippi, Bank-full, sweeping on, with tangled masses of drift-wood, Daintily breathed about with whiffs of silvery vapor, Where in his arrowy flight the twittering swallow alighted, And the belated blackbird paused on the way to its nestlings.


It was the pilot's story:—"They both came aboard there, at Cairo, From a New Orleans boat, and took passage with us for Saint Louis. She was a beautiful woman, with just enough blood from her mother Darkening her eyes and her hair to make her race known to a trader: You would have thought she was white. The man that was with her,—you see such,— Weakly good-natured and kind, and weakly good-natured and vicious, Slender of body and soul, fit neither for loving nor hating. I was a youngster then, and only learning the river,— Not over-fond of the wheel. I used to watch them at monte, Down in the cabin at night, and learned to know all of the gamblers. So when I saw this weak one staking his money against them, Betting upon the turn of the cards, I knew what was coming: They never left their pigeons a single feather to fly with. Next day I saw them together,—the stranger and one of the gamblers: Picturesque rascal he was, with long black hair and moustaches, Black slouch hat drawn down to his eyes from his villanous forehead. On together they moved, still earnestly talking in whispers, On toward the forecastle, where sat the woman alone by the gangway. Roused by the fall of feet, she turned, and, beholding her master, Greeted him with a smile that was more like a wife's than another's, Rose to meet him fondly, and then, with the dread apprehension Always haunting the slave, fell her eye on the face of the gambler,— Dark and lustful and fierce and full of merciless cunning. Something was spoken so low that I could not hear what the words were; Only the woman started, and looked from one to the other, With imploring eyes, bewildered hands, and a tremor All through her frame: I saw her from where I was standing, she shook so. 'Say! is it so?' she cried. On the weak, white lips of her master Died a sickly smile, and he said, 'Louise, I have sold you.' God is my judge! May I never see such a look of despairing, Desolate anguish, as that which the woman cast on her master, Griping her breast with her little hands, as if he had stabbed her, Standing in silence a space, as fixed as the Indian woman Carved out of wood, on the pilot-house of the old Pocahontas! Then, with a gurgling moan, like the sound in the throat of the dying, Came back her voice, that, rising, fluttered, through wild incoherence, Into a terrible shriek that stopped my heart while she answered:— 'Sold me? sold me? sold—And you promised to give me my freedom!— Promised me, for the sake of our little boy in Saint Louis! What will you say to our boy, when he cries for me there in Saint Louis? What will you say to our God?—Ah, you have been joking! I see it!— No? God! God! He shall hear it,—and all of the angels in heaven,— Even the devils in hell!—and none will believe when they hear it! Sold me!'—Her voice died away with a wail, and in silence Down she sank on the deck, and covered her face with her fingers."


In his story a moment the pilot paused, while we listened To the salute of a boat, that, rounding the point of an island, Flamed toward us with fires that seemed to burn from the waters,— Stately and vast and swift, and borne on the heart of the current. Then, with the mighty voice of a giant challenged to battle, Rose the responsive whistle, and all the echoes of island, Swamp-land, glade, and brake replied with a myriad clamor, Like wild birds that are suddenly startled from slumber at midnight, Then were at peace once more; and we heard the harsh cries of the peacocks Perched on a tree by a cabin-door, where the white-headed settler's White-headed children stood to look at the boat as it passed them, Passed them so near that we heard their happy talk and their laughter. Softly the sunset had faded, and now on the eastern horizon Hung, like a tear in the sky, the beautiful star of the evening.


Still with his back to us standing, the pilot went on with his story:— "All of us flocked round the woman. The children cried, and their mothers Hugged them tight to their breasts; but the gambler said to the captain,— 'Put me off there at the town that lies round the bend of the river. Here, you! rise at once, and be ready now to go with me.' Roughly he seized the woman's arm and strove to uplift her. She—she seemed not to heed him, but rose like one that is dreaming, Slid from his grasp, and fleetly mounted the steps of the gangway, Up to the hurricane-deck, in silence, without lamentation. Straight to the stern of the boat, where the wheel was, she ran, and the people Followed her fast till she turned and stood at bay for a moment, Looking them in the face, and in the face of the gambler. Not one to save her,—not one of all the compassionate people! Not one to save her, of all the pitying angels in heaven! Not one bolt of God to strike him dead there before her! Wildly she waved him back, we waiting in silence and horror. Over the swarthy face of the gambler a pallor of passion Passed, like a gleam of lightning over the west in the night-time. White, she stood, and mute, till he put forth his hand to secure her; Then she turned and leaped,—in mid-air fluttered a moment,— Down then, whirling, fell, like a broken-winged bird from a tree-top, Down on the cruel wheel, that caught her, and hurled her, and crushed her, And in the foaming water plunged her, and hid her forever."


Still with his back to us all the pilot stood, but we heard him Swallowing hard, as he pulled the bell-rope for stopping. Then, turning,— "This is the place where it happened," brokenly whispered the pilot. "Somehow, I never like to go by here alone in the night-time." Darkly the Mississippi flowed by the town that lay in the starlight, Cheerful with lamps. Below we could hear them reversing the engines, And the great boat glided up to the shore like a giant exhausted. Heavily sighed her pipes. Broad over the swamps to the eastward Shone the full moon, and turned our far-trembling wake into silver. All was serene and calm, but the odorous breath of the willows Smote with a mystical sense of infinite sorrow upon us.



Red roses, in the slender vases burning, Breathed all upon the air,— The passion and the tenderness and yearning, The waiting and the doubting and despair.


Still with the music of her voice was haunted, Through all its charmed rhymes, The open book of such a one as chanted The things he dreamed in old, old summer-times.


The silvern chords of the piano trembled Still with the music wrung From them; the silence of the room dissembled The closes of the songs that she had sung.


The languor of the crimson shawl's abasement,— Lying without a stir Upon the floor,—the absence at the casement, The solitude and hush were full of her.


Without, and going from the room, and never Departing, did depart Her steps; and one that came too late forever Felt them go heavy o'er his broken heart.


And, sitting in the house's desolation, He could not bear the gloom, The vanishing encounter and evasion Of things that were and were not in the room.


Through midnight streets he followed fleeting visions Of faces and of forms; He heard old tendernesses and derisions Amid the sobs and cries of midnight storms.


By midnight lamps, and from the darkness under That lamps made at their feet, He saw sweet eyes peer out in innocent wonder, And sadly follow after him down the street.


The noonday crowds their restlessness obtruded Between him and his quest; At unseen corners jostled and eluded, Against his hand her silken robes were pressed.


Doors closed upon her; out of garret casements He knew she looked at him; In splendid mansions and in squalid basements, Upon the walls he saw her shadow swim.


From rapid carriages she gleamed upon him, Whirling away from sight; From all the hopelessness of search she won him Back to the dull and lonesome house at night.


Full early into dark the twilights saddened Within its closed doors; The echoes, with the clock's monotony maddened, Leaped loud in welcome from the hollow floors;


But gusts that blew all day with solemn laughter From wide-mouthed chimney-places, And the strange noises between roof and rafter, The wainscot clamor, and the scampering races


Of mice that chased each other through the chambers, And up and down the stair, And rioted among the ashen embers, And left their frolic footprints everywhere,—


Were hushed to hear his heavy tread ascending The broad steps, one by one, And toward the solitary chamber tending, Where the dim phantom of his hope alone


Rose up to meet him, with his growing nearer, Eager for his embrace, And moved, and melted into the white mirror, And stared at him with his own haggard face.


But, turning, he was 'ware her looks beheld him Out of the mirror white; And at the window yearning arms she held him, Out of the vague and sombre fold of night.


Sometimes she stood behind him, looking over His shoulder as he read; Sometimes he felt her shadowy presence hover Above his dreamful sleep, beside his bed;


And rising from his sleep, her shadowy presence Followed his light descent Of the long stair; her shadowy evanescence Through all the whispering rooms before him went.


Upon the earthy draught of cellars blowing His shivering lamp-flame blue, Amid the damp and chill, he felt her flowing Around him from the doors he entered through.


The spiders wove their webs upon the ceiling; The bat clung to the wall; The dry leaves through the open transom stealing, Skated and danced adown the empty hall.


About him closed the utter desolation, About him closed the gloom; The vanishing encounter and evasion Of things that were and were not in the room


Vexed him forever; and his life forever Immured and desolate, Beating itself, with desperate endeavor, But bruised itself, against the round of fate.


The roses, in their slender vases burning, Were quenched long before; A dust was on the rhymes of love and yearning; The shawl was like a shroud upon the floor.


Her music from the thrilling chords had perished; The stillness was not moved With memories of cadences long cherished, The closes of the songs that she had loved.


But not the less he felt her presence never Out of the room depart; Over the threshold, not the less, forever He felt her going on his broken heart.


"Das Vergnuegen ist Nichts als ein hoechst angenehmer Schmerz."—HEINRICH HEINE.


Full of beautiful blossoms Stood the tree in early May: Came a chilly gale from the sunset, And blew the blossoms away;

Scattered them through the garden, Tossed them into the mere: The sad tree moaned and shuddered, "Alas! the Fall is here."

But all through the glowing summer The blossomless tree throve fair, And the fruit waxed ripe and mellow, With sunny rain and air;

And when the dim October With golden death was crowned, Under its heavy branches The tree stooped to the ground.

In youth there comes a west-wind Blowing our bloom away,— A chilly breath of Autumn Out of the lips of May.

We bear the ripe fruit after,— Ah, me! for the thought of pain!— We know the sweetness and beauty And the heart-bloom never again.


One sails away to sea, One stands on the shore and cries; The ship goes down the world, and the light On the sullen water dies.

The whispering shell is mute, And after is evil cheer: She shall stand on the shore and cry in vain, Many and many a year.

But the stately, wide-winged ship Lies wrecked on the unknown deep; Far under, dead in his coral bed, The lover lies asleep.


Through the silent streets of the city, In the night's unbusy noon, Up and down in the pallor Of the languid summer moon,

I wander, and think of the village, And the house in the maple-gloom, And the porch with the honeysuckles And the sweet-brier all abloom.

My soul is sick with the fragrance Of the dewy sweet-brier's breath: O darling! the house is empty, And lonesomer than death!

If I call, no one will answer; If I knock, no one will come: The feet are at rest forever, And the lips are cold and dumb.

The summer moon is shining So wan and large and still, And the weary dead are sleeping In the graveyard under the hill.


We looked at the wide, white circle Around the Autumn moon, And talked of the change of weather: It would rain, to-morrow, or soon.

And the rain came on the morrow, And beat the dying leaves From the shuddering boughs of the maples Into the flooded eaves.

The clouds wept out their sorrow; But in my heart the tears Are bitter for want of weeping, In all these Autumn years.


The bobolink sings in the meadow, The wren in the cherry-tree: Come hither, thou little maiden, And sit upon my knee;

And I will tell thee a story I read in a book of rhyme; I will but fain that it happened To me, one summer-time,

When we walked through the meadow, And she and I were young. The story is old and weary With being said and sung.

The story is old and weary: Ah, child! it is known to thee. Who was it that last night kissed thee Under the cherry-tree?


Like a bird of evil presage, To the lonely house on the shore Came the wind with a tale of shipwreck, And shrieked at the bolted door,

And flapped its wings in the gables, And shouted the well-known names, And buffeted the windows Afeard in their shuddering frames.

It was night, and it is morning,— The summer sun is bland, The white-cap waves come rocking, rocking, In to the summer land.

The white-cap waves come rocking, rocking, In the sun so soft and bright, And toss and play with the dead man Drowned in the storm last night.


I remember the burning brushwood, Glimmering all day long Yellow and weak in the sunlight, Now leaped up red and strong,

And fired the old dead chestnut, That all our years had stood, Gaunt and gray and ghostly, Apart from the sombre wood;

And, flushed with sudden summer, The leafless boughs on high Blossomed in dreadful beauty Against the darkened sky.

We children sat telling stories, And boasting what we should be, When we were men like our fathers, And watched the blazing tree,

That showered its fiery blossoms, Like a rain of stars, we said, Of crimson and azure and purple. That night, when I lay in bed,

I could not sleep for seeing, Whenever I closed my eyes, The tree in its dazzling splendor Against the darkened skies.

I cannot sleep for seeing, With closed eyes to-night, The tree in its dazzling splendor Dropping its blossoms bright;

And old, old dreams of childhood Come thronging my weary brain, Dear, foolish beliefs and longings: I doubt, are they real again?

It is nothing, and nothing, and nothing, That I either think or see: The phantoms of dead illusions To-night are haunting me.


All the long August afternoon, The little drowsy stream Whispers a melancholy tune, As if it dreamed of June And whispered in its dream.

The thistles show beyond the brook Dust on their down and bloom, And out of many a weed-grown nook The aster-flowers look With eyes of tender gloom.

The silent orchard aisles are sweet With smell of ripening fruit. Through the sere grass, in shy retreat, Flutter, at coming feet, The robins strange and mute.

There is no wind to stir the leaves, The harsh leaves overhead; Only the querulous cricket grieves, And shrilling locust weaves A song of Summer dead.


The wet trees hang above the walks Purple with damps and earthish stains, And strewn by moody, absent rains With rose-leaves from the wild-grown stalks.

Unmown, in heavy, tangled swaths, The ripe June-grass is wanton blown; Snails slime the untrodden threshold-stone; Along the sills hang drowsy moths.

Down the blank visage of the wall, Where many a wavering trace appears, Like a forgotten trace of tears, From swollen eaves the slow drops crawl.

Where everything was wide before, The curious wind, that comes and goes, Finds all the latticed windows close, Secret and close the bolted door.

And with the shrewd and curious wind, That in the arched doorway cries, And at the bolted portal tries, And harks and listens at the blind,—

Forever lurks my thought about, And in the ghostly middle-night Finds all the hidden windows bright, And sees the guests go in and out,

And lingers till the pallid dawn, And feels the mystery deeper there In silent, gust-swept chambers, bare, With all the midnight revel gone;

But wanders through the lonesome rooms, Where harsh the astonished cricket calls, And, from the hollows of the walls Vanishing, start unshapen glooms;

And lingers yet, and cannot come Out of the drear and desolate place, So full of ruin's solemn grace, And haunted with the ghost of home.



I stood on the brink in childhood, And watched the bubbles go From the rock-fretted, sunny ripple To the smoother tide below;

And over the white creek-bottom, Under them every one, Went golden stars in the water, All luminous with the sun.

But the bubbles broke on the surface, And under, the stars of gold Broke; and the hurrying water Flowed onward, swift and cold.


I stood on the brink in manhood, And it came to my weary brain, And my heart, so dull and heavy After the years of pain,—

That every hollowest bubble Which over my life had passed Still into its deeper current Some heavenly gleam had cast;

That, however I mocked it gayly, And guessed at its hollowness, Still shone, with each bursting bubble, One star in my soul the less.


One after one they left us; The sweet birds out of our breasts Went flying away in the morning: Will they come again to their nests?

Will they come again at nightfall, With God's breath in their song? Noon is fierce with the heats of summer, And summer days are long!

O my Life, with thy upward liftings, Thy downward-striking roots, Ripening out of thy tender blossoms But hard and bitter fruits!—

In thy boughs there is no shelter For the birds to seek again. The desolate nest is broken And torn with storms and rain!


Yesterday, while I moved with the languid crowd on the Riva, Musing with idle eyes on the wide lagoons and the islands, And on the dim-seen seaward glimmering sails in the distance, Where the azure haze, like a vision of Indian-Summer, Haunted the dreamy sky of the soft Venetian December,— While I moved unwilled in the mellow warmth of the weather, Breathing air that was full of Old World sadness and beauty Into my thought came this story of free, wild life in Ohio, When the land was new, and yet by the Beautiful River Dwelt the pioneers and Indian hunters and boatmen.

Pealed from the campanili, responding from island to island, Bells of that ancient faith whose incense and solemn devotions Rise from a hundred shrines in the broken heart of the city; But in my revery heard I only the passionate voices Of the people that sang in the virgin heart of the forest. Autumn was in the land, and the trees were golden and crimson, And from the luminous boughs of the over-elms and the maples Tender and beautiful fell the light in the worshippers' faces, Softer than lights that stream through the saints on the windows of churches, While the balsamy breath of the hemlocks and pines by the river Stole on the winds through the woodland aisles like the breath of a censer. Loud the people sang old camp-meeting anthems that quaver Quaintly yet from lips forgetful of lips that have kissed them; Loud they sang the songs of the Sacrifice and Atonement, And of the end of the world, and the infinite terrors of Judgment:— Songs of ineffable sorrow, and wailing, compassionate warning Unto the generations that hardened their hearts to their Savior; Songs of exultant rapture for them that confessed him and followed, Bearing his burden and yoke, enduring and entering with him Into the rest of his saints, and the endless reward of the blessed. Loud the people sang; but through the sound of their singing Broke inarticulate cries and moans and sobs from the mourners, As the glory of God, that smote the apostle of Tarsus, Smote them and strewed them to earth like leaves in the breath of the whirlwind.

Hushed at last was the sound of the lamentation and singing; But from the distant hill the throbbing drum of the pheasant Shook with its heavy pulses the depths of the listening silence, When from his place arose a white-haired exhorter, and faltered: "Brethren and sisters in Jesus! the Lord hath heard our petitions, So that the hearts of his servants are awed and melted within them,— Even the hearts of the wicked are touched by his infinite mercy. All my days in this vale of tears the Lord hath been with me, He hath been good to me, he hath granted me trials and patience; But this hour hath crowned my knowledge of him and his goodness. Truly, but that it is well this day for me to be with you, Now might I say to the Lord,—'I know thee, my God, in all fulness; Now let thy servant depart in peace to the rest thou hast promised!'"

Faltered and ceased. And now the wild and jubilant music Of the singing burst from the solemn profound of the silence, Surged in triumph, and fell, and ebbed again into silence.

Then from the group of the preachers arose the greatest among them,— He whose days were given in youth to the praise of the Savior, He whose lips seemed touched, like the prophet's of old, from the altar, So that his words were flame, and burned to the hearts of his hearers, Quickening the dead among them, reviving the cold and the doubting. There he charged them pray, and rest not from prayer while a sinner In the sound of their voices denied the Friend of the sinner: "Pray till the night shall fall,—till the stars are faint in the morning,— Yea, till the sun himself be faint in that glory and brightness, Faint in the light which shall dawn in mercy for penitent sinners." Kneeling, he led them in prayer; and the quick and sobbing responses Spake how their souls were moved with the might and the grace of the Spirit. Then while the converts recounted how God had chastened and saved them,— Children, whose golden locks yet shone with the lingering effulgence Of the touches of Him who blessed little children forever; Old men, whose yearning eyes were dimmed with the far-streaming brightness Seen through the opening gates in the heart of the heavenly city,— Stealthily through the harking woods the lengthening shadows Chased the wild things to their nests, and the twilight died into darkness.

Now the four great pyres that were placed there to light the encampment, High on platforms raised above the people, were kindled. Flaming aloof, as it were the pillar by night in the Desert Fell their crimson light on the lifted orbs of the preachers, Fell on the withered brows of the old men, and Israel's mothers, Fell on the bloom of youth, and the earnest devotion of manhood, Fell on the anguish and hope in the tearful eyes of the mourners. Flaming aloof, it stirred the sleep of the luminous maples With warm summer-dreams, and faint, luxurious languor. Near the four great pyres the people closed in a circle, In their midst the mourners, and, praying with them, the exhorters, And on the skirts of the circle the unrepentant and scorners,— Ever fewer and sadder, and drawn to the place of the mourners, One after one, by the prayers and tears of the brethren and sisters, And by the Spirit of God, that was mightily striving within them, Till at the last alone stood Louis Lebeau, unconverted.

Louis Lebeau, the boatman, the trapper, the hunter, the fighter, From the unlucky French of Gallipolis he descended, Heir to Old World want and New World love of adventure. Vague was the life he led, and vague and grotesque were the rumors Through which he loomed on the people,—the hero of mythical hearsay, Quick of hand and of heart, impatient, generous, Western, Taking the thought of the young in secret love and in envy. Not less the elders shook their heads and held him for outcast, Reprobate, roving, ungodly, infidel, worse than a Papist, With his whispered fame of lawless exploits at St. Louis, Wild affrays and loves with the half-breeds out on the Osage, Brawls at New Orleans, and all the towns on the rivers, All the godless towns of the many-ruffianed rivers. Only she who loved him the best of all, in her loving Knew him the best of all, and other than that of the rumors. Daily she prayed for him, with conscious and tender effusion, That the Lord would convert him. But when her father forbade him Unto her thought, she denied him, and likewise held him for outcast, Turned her eyes when they met, and would not speak, though her heart broke.

Bitter and brief his logic that reasoned from wrong unto error: "This is their praying and singing," he said, "that makes you reject me,— You that were kind to me once. But I think my fathers' religion, With a light heart in the breast and a friendly priest to absolve one, Better than all these conversions that only bewilder and vex me, And that have made men so hard and women fickle and cruel. Well, then, pray for my soul, since you would not have spoken to save me,— Yes; for I go from these saints to my brethren and sisters, the sinners." Spoke and went, while her faint lips fashioned unuttered entreaties,— Went, and came again in a year at the time of the meeting, Haggard and wan of face, and wasted with passion and sorrow. Dead in his eyes was the careless smile of old, and its phantom Haunted his lips in a sneer of restless, incredulous mocking. Day by day he came to the outer skirts of the circle, Dwelling on her, where she knelt by the white-haired exhorter, her father, With his hollow looks, and never moved from his silence.

Now, where he stood alone, the last of impenitent sinners, Weeping, old friends and comrades came to him out of the circle, And with their tears besought him to hear what the Lord had done for them. Ever he shook them off, not roughly, nor smiled at their transports. Then the preachers spoke and painted the terrors of Judgment, And of the bottomless pit, and the flames of hell everlasting. Still and dark he stood, and neither listened nor heeded; But when the fervent voice of the white-haired exhorter was lifted, Fell his brows in a scowl of fierce and scornful rejection. "Lord, let this soul be saved!" cried the fervent voice of the old man; "For that the Shepherd rejoiceth more truly for one that hath wandered, And hath been found again, than for all the others that strayed not."

Out of the midst of the people, a woman old and decrepit, Tremulous through the light, and tremulous into the shadow, Wavered toward him with slow, uncertain paces of palsy, Laid her quivering hand on his arm and brokenly prayed him: "Louis Lebeau, I closed in death the eyes of your mother. On my breast she died, in prayer for her fatherless children, That they might know the Lord, and follow him always, and serve him. O, I conjure you, my son, by the name of your mother in glory, Scorn not the grace of the Lord!" As when a summer-noon's tempest Breaks in one swift gush of rain, then ceases and gathers Darker and gloomier yet on the lowering front of the heavens, So broke his mood in tears, as he soothed her, and stilled her entreaties, And so he turned again with his clouded looks to the people.

Vibrated then from the hush the accents of mournfullest pity,— His who was gifted in speech, and the glow of the fires illumined All his pallid aspect with sudden and marvellous splendor: "Louis Lebeau," he spake, "I have known you and loved you from childhood; Still, when the others blamed you, I took your part, for I knew you. Louis Lebeau, my brother, I thought to meet you in heaven, Hand in hand with her who is gone to heaven before us, Brothers through her dear love! I trusted to greet you and lead you Up from the brink of the River unto the gates of the City. Lo! my years shall be few on the earth. O my brother, If I should die before you had known the mercy of Jesus, Yea, I think it would sadden the hope of glory within me!"

Neither yet had the will of the sinner yielded an answer; But from his lips there broke a cry of unspeakable anguish, Wild and fierce and shrill, as if some demon within him Bent his soul with the ultimate pangs of fiendish possession; And with the outstretched arms of bewildered imploring toward them, Death-white unto the people he turned his face from the darkness.

Out of the sedge by the creek a flight of clamorous killdees Rose from their timorous sleep with piercing and iterant challenge, Wheeled in the starlight, and fled away into distance and silence. White in the vale lay the tents, and beyond them glided the river, Where the broadhorn[1] drifted slow at the will of the current, And where the boatman listened, and knew not how, as he listened, Something touched through the years the old lost hopes of his childhood,— Only his sense was filled with low, monotonous murmurs, As of a faint-heard prayer, that was chorused with deeper responses.

Not with the rest was lifted her voice in the fervent responses, But in her soul she prayed to Him that heareth in secret, Asking for light and for strength to learn his will and to do it: "O, make me clear to know if the hope that rises within me Be not part of a love unmeet for me here, and forbidden! So, if it be not that, make me strong for the evil entreaty Of the days that shall bring me question of self and reproaches, When the unrighteous shall mock, and my brethren and sisters shall doubt me! Make me worthy to know thy will, my Savior, and do it!" In her pain she prayed, and at last, through her mute adoration, Rapt from all mortal presence, and in her rapture uplifted, Glorified she rose, and stood in the midst of the people, Looking on all with the still, unseeing eyes of devotion,— Vague, and tender, and sweet, as the eyes of the dead, when we dream them Living and looking on us, but they cannot speak, and we cannot,— Knowing only the peril that threatened his soul's unrepentance, Knowing only the fear and error and wrong that withheld him, Thinking, "In doubt of me, his soul had perished forever!" Touched with no feeble shame, but trusting her power to save him, Through the circle she passed, and straight to the side of her lover, Took his hand in her own, and mutely implored him an instant, Answering, giving, forgiving, confessing, beseeching him all things; Drew him then with her, and passed once more through the circle Unto her place, and knelt with him there by the side of her father, Trembling as women tremble who greatly venture and triumph,— But in her innocent breast was the saint's sublime exultation.

So was Louis converted; and though the lips of the scorners Spared not in after years the subtle taunt and derision (What time, meeker grown, his heart held his hand from its answer), Not the less lofty and pure her love and her faith that had saved him, Not the less now discerned was her inspiration from heaven By the people, that rose, and embracing and weeping together, Poured forth their jubilant songs of victory and of thanksgiving, Till from the embers leaped the dying flame to behold them, And the hills of the river were filled with reverberant echoes,— Echoes that out of the years and the distance stole to me hither, While I moved unwilled in the mellow warmth of the weather; Echoes that mingled and fainted and fell with the fluttering murmurs In the hearts of the hushing bells, as from island to island Swooned the sound on the wide lagoons into palpitant silence.


[1] The old-fashioned flatboats were so called.



She hung the cage at the window: "If he goes by," she said, "He will hear my robin singing, And when he lifts his head, I shall be sitting here to sew, And he will bow to me, I know."

The robin sang a love-sweet song, The young man raised his head; The maiden turned away and blushed: "I am a fool!" she said, And went on broidering in silk A pink-eyed rabbit, white as milk.


The young man loitered slowly By the house three times that day; She took her bird from the window: "He need not look this way." She sat at her piano long, And sighed, and played a death-sad song.

But when the day was done, she said, "I wish that he would come! Remember, Mary, if he calls To-night—I'm not at home." So when he rang, she went—the elf!— She went and let him in herself.


They sang full long together Their songs love-sweet, death-sad; The robin woke from his slumber, And rang out, clear and glad. "Now go!" she coldly said; "'tis late;" And followed him—to latch the gate.

He took the rosebud from her hair, While, "You shall not!" she said; He closed her hand within his own, And, while her tongue forbade, Her will was darkened in the eclipse Of blinding love upon his lips.


"... My letters back to me."


I know they won the faint perfume, That to their faded pages clings, From gloves, and handkerchiefs, and things Kept in the soft and scented gloom

Of some mysterious box—poor leaves Of summer, now as sere and dead As any leaves of summer shed From crimson boughs when autumn grieves!

The ghost of fragrance! Yet I thrill All through with such delicious pain Of soul and sense, to breathe again The sweet that haunted memory still.

And under these December skies, As bland as May's in other climes, I move, and muse my idle rhymes And subtly sentimentalize.

I hear the music that was played,— The songs that silence knows by heart!— I see sweet burlesque feigning art, The careless grace that curved and swayed

Through dances and through breezy walks; I feel once more the eyes that smiled, And that dear presence that beguiled The pauses of the foolish talks,

When this poor phantom of perfume Was the Sweet Clover's living soul, And breathed from her as if it stole, Ah, heaven! from her heart in bloom!


We have not many ways with pain: We weep weak tears, or else we laugh; I doubt, not less the cup we quaff, And tears and scorn alike are vain.

But let me live my quiet life; I will not vex my calm with grief, I only know the pang was brief, And there an end of hope and strife.

And thou? I put the letters by: In years the sweetness shall not pass; More than the perfect blossom was I count its lingering memory.

Alas! with Time dear Love is dead, And not with Fate. And who can guess How weary of our happiness We might have been if we were wed?





Confronting each other the pictures stare Into each other's sleepless eyes; And the daylight into the darkness dies, From year to year in the palace there: But they watch and guard that no device Take either one of them unaware.

Their majesties the king and the queen, The parents of the reigning prince: Both put off royalty many years since, With life and the gifts that have always been Given to kings from God, to evince His sense of the mighty over the mean.

I cannot say that I like the face Of the king; it is something fat and red; And the neck that lifts the royal head Is thick and coarse; and a scanty grace Dwells in the dull blue eyes that are laid Sullenly on the queen in her place.

He must have been a king in his day 'Twere well to pleasure in work and sport: One of the heaven-anointed sort Who ruled his people with iron sway, And knew that, through good and evil report, God meant him to rule and them to obey.

There are many other likenesses Of the king in his royal palace there; You find him depicted everywhere,— In his robes of state, in his hunting-dress, In his flowing wig, in his powdered hair,— A king in all of them, none the less;

But most himself in this on the wall Over against his consort, whose Laces, and hoops, and high-heeled shoes Make her the finest lady of all The queens or courtly dames you choose, In the ancestral portrait hall.

A glorious blonde: a luxury Of luring blue and wanton gold, Of blanched rose and crimson bold, Of lines that flow voluptuously In tender, languorous curves to fold Her form in perfect symmetry.

She might have been false. Of her withered dust There scarcely would be enough to write Her guilt in now; and the dead have a right To our lenient doubt if not to our trust: So if the truth cannot make her white, Let us be as merciful as we—must.


The queen died first, the queen died young, But the king was very old when he died, Rotten with license, and lust, and pride; And the usual Virtues came and hung Their cypress wreaths on his tomb, and wide Throughout his kingdom his praise was sung.

How the queen died is not certainly known, And faithful subjects are all forbid To speak of the murder which some one did One night while she slept in the dark alone: History keeps the story hid, And Fear only tells it in undertone.

Up from your startled feet aloof, In the famous Echo-Room, with a bound Leaps the echo, and round and round Beating itself against the roof,— A horrible, gasping, shuddering sound,— Dies ere its terror can utter proof

Of that it knows. A door is fast, And none is suffered to enter there. His sacred majesty could not bear To look at it toward the last, As he grew very old. It opened where The queen died young so many years past.


How the queen died is not certainly known; But in the palace's solitude A harking dread and horror brood, And a silence, as if a mortal groan Had been hushed the moment before, and would Break forth again when you were gone.

The present king has never dwelt In the desolate palace. From year to year In the wide and stately garden drear The snows and the snowy blossoms melt Unheeded, and a ghastly fear Through all the shivering leaves is felt.

By night the gathering shadows creep Along the dusk and hollow halls, And the slumber-broken palace calls With stifled moans from its nightmare sleep; And then the ghostly moonlight falls Athwart the darkness brown and deep.

At early dawn the light wind sighs, And through the desert garden blows The wasted sweetness of the rose; At noon the feverish sunshine lies Sick in the walks. But at evening's close, When the last, long rays to the windows rise,

And with many a blood-red, wrathful streak Pierce through the twilight glooms that blur His cruel vigilance and her Regard, they light fierce looks that wreak A hopeless hate that cannot stir, A voiceless hate that cannot speak

In the awful calm of the sleepless eyes; And as if she saw her murderer glare On her face, and he the white despair Of his victim kindle in wild surmise, Confronted the conscious pictures stare,— And their secret back into darkness dies.



Federigo, the son of the Marquis, Downcast, through the garden goes: He is hurt with the grace of the lily, And the beauty of the rose.

For what is the grace of the lily But her own slender grace? And what is the rose's beauty But the beauty of her face?—

Who sits beside her window Waiting to welcome him, That comes so lothly toward her With his visage sick and dim.

"Ah! lily, I come to break thee! Ah! rose, a bitter rain Of tears shall beat thy light out That thou never burn again!"


Federigo, the son of the Marquis, Takes the lady by the hand: "Thou must bid me God-speed on a journey, For I leave my native land.

"From Mantua to-morrow I go, a banished man; Make me glad for truth and love's sake Of my father's curse and ban.

"Our quarrel has left my mother Like death upon the floor; And I come from a furious presence I never shall enter more.

"I would not wed the woman He had chosen for my bride, For my heart had been before him, With his statecraft and his pride.

"I swore to him by my princehood In my love I would be free; And I swear to thee by my manhood, I love no one but thee.

"Let the Duke of Bavaria marry His daughter to whom he will: There where my love was given My word shall be faithful still.

"There are six true hearts will follow My truth wherever I go, And thou equal truth wilt keep me In welfare and in woe."

The maiden answered him nothing Of herself, but his words again Came back through her lips like an echo From an abyss of pain;

And vacantly repeating "In welfare and in woe," Like a dream from the heart of fever From her arms she felt him go.


Out of Mantua's gate at daybreak Seven comrades wander forth On a path that leads at their humor, East, west, or south, or north.

The prince's laugh rings lightly, "What road shall we take from home?" And they answer, "We never shall lose it If we take the road to Rome."

And with many a jest and banter The comrades keep their way, Journeying out of the twilight Forward into the day,

When they are aware beside them Goes a pretty minstrel lad, With a shy and downward aspect, That is neither sad nor glad.

Over his slender shoulder, His mandolin was slung, And around its chords the treasure Of his golden tresses hung.

Spoke one of the seven companions, "Little minstrel, whither away?"— "With seven true-hearted comrades On their journey, if I may."

Spoke one of the seven companions, "If our way be hard and long?"— "I will lighten it with my music And shorten it with my song."

Spoke one of the seven companions, "But what are the songs thou know'st?"— "O, I know many a ditty, But this I sing the most:

"How once was an humble maiden Beloved of a great lord's son, That for her sake and his troth's sake Was banished and undone.

"And forth of his father's city He went at break of day, And the maiden softly followed Behind him on the way

"In the figure of a minstrel, And prayed him of his love, 'Let me go with thee and serve thee Wherever thou may'st rove.

"'For if thou goest in exile I rest banished at home, And where thou wanderest with thee My fears in anguish roam,

"'Besetting thy path with perils, Making thee hungry and cold, Filling thy heart with trouble And heaviness untold.

"'But let me go beside thee, And banishment shall be Honor, and riches, and country, And home to thee and me!'"

Down falls the minstrel-maiden Before the Marquis' son, And the six true-hearted comrades Bow round them every one.

Federigo, the son of the Marquis, From its scabbard draws his sword: "Now swear by the honor and fealty Ye bear your friend and lord,

"That whenever, and wherever, As long as ye have life, Ye will honor and serve this lady As ye would your prince's wife!"


Over the broad expanses Of garlanded Lombardy, Where the gentle vines are swinging In the orchards from tree to tree;

Through Padua from Verona, From the sculptured gothic town, Carved from ruin upon ruin, And ancienter than renown;

Through Padua from Verona To fair Venice, where she stands With her feet on subject waters, Lady of many lands;

From Venice by sea to Ancona; From Ancona to the west; Climbing many a gardened hillside And many a castled crest;

Through valleys dim with the twilight Of their gray olive trees; Over plains that swim with harvests Like golden noonday seas;

Whence the lofty campanili Like the masts of ships arise, And like a fleet at anchor Under them, the village lies;

To Florence beside her Arno, In her many-marbled pride, Crowned with infamy and glory By the sons she has denied;

To pitiless Pisa, where never Since the anguish of Ugolin The moon in the Tower of Famine[3] Fate so dread as his hath seen;

Out through the gates of Pisa To Livorno on her bay, To Genoa and to Naples The comrades hold their way,

Past the Guelph in his town beleaguered, Past the fortressed Ghibelline, Through lands that reek with slaughter, Treason, and shame, and sin;

By desert, by sea, by city, High hill-cope and temple-dome, Through pestilence, hunger, and horror, Upon the road to Rome;

While every land behind them Forgets them as they go, And in Mantua they are remembered As is the last year's snow;

But the Marchioness goes to her chamber Day after day to weep,— For the changeless heart of a mother The love of a son must keep.

The Marchioness weeps in her chamber Over tidings that come to her Of the exiles she seeks, by letter And by lips of messenger,

Broken hints of their sojourn and absence, Comfortless, vague, and slight,— Like feathers wafted backwards From passage birds in flight.[4]

The tale of a drunken sailor, In whose ship they went to sea; A traveller's evening story At a village hostelry,

Of certain comrades sent him By our Lady, of her grace, To save his life from robbers In a lonely desert place;

Word from the monks of a convent Of gentle comrades that lay One stormy night at their convent, And passed with the storm at day;

The long parley of a peasant That sold them wine and food, The gossip of a shepherd That guided them through a wood;

A boatman's talk at the ferry Of a river where they crossed, And as if they had sunk in the current All trace of them was lost;

And so is an end of tidings But never an end of tears, Of secret and friendless sorrow Through blank and silent years.


To the Marchioness in her chamber Sends word a messenger, Newly come from the land of Naples, Praying for speech with her.

The messenger stands before her, A minstrel slender and wan: "In a village of my country Lies a Mantuan gentleman,

"Sick of a smouldering fever, Of sorrow and poverty; And no one in all that country Knows his title or degree.

"But six true Mantuan peasants, Or nobles, as some men say, Watch by the sick man's bedside, And toil for him, night and day,

"Hewing, digging, reaping, sowing, Bearing burdens, and far and nigh Begging for him on the highway Of the strangers that pass by;

"And they look whenever you meet them Like broken-hearted men, And I heard that the sick man would not If he could, be well again;

"For they say that he for love's sake Was gladly banished, But she for whom he was banished Is worse to him, now, than dead,—

"A recreant to his sorrow, A traitress to his woe." From her place the Marchioness rises, The minstrel turns to go.

But fast by the hand she takes him,— His hand in her clasp is cold,— "If gold may be thy guerdon Thou shalt not lack for gold;

"And if the love of a mother Can bless thee for that thou hast done, Thou shalt stay and be his brother, Thou shalt stay and be my son."

"Nay, my lady," answered the minstrel, And his face is deadly pale, "Nay, this must not be, sweet lady, But let my words prevail.

"Let me go now from your presence, And I will come again, When you stand with your son beside you, And be your servant then."


At the feet of the Marquis Gonzaga Kneels his lady on the floor; "Lord, grant me before I ask it The thing that I implore."

"So it be not of that ingrate."— "Nay, lord, it is of him." 'Neath the stormy brows of the Marquis His eyes are tender and dim.

"He lies sick of a fever in Naples, Near unto death, as they tell, In his need and pain forsaken By the wanton he loved so well.

"Now send for him and forgive him, If ever thou loved'st me, Now send for him and forgive him As God shall be good to thee."

"Well so,—if he turn in repentance And bow himself to my will; That the high-born lady I chose him May be my daughter still."


In Mantua there is feasting For the Marquis' grace to his son; In Mantua there is rejoicing For the prince come back to his own.

The pomp of a wedding procession Pauses under the pillared porch, With silken rustle and whisper, Before the door of the church.

In the midst, Federigo the bridegroom Stands with his high-born bride; The six true-hearted comrades Are three on either side.

The bridegroom is gray as his father, Where they stand face to face, And the six true-hearted comrades Are like old men in their place.

The Marquis takes the comrades And kisses them one by one: "That ye were fast and faithful And better than I to my son,

"Ye shall be called forever, In the sign that ye were so true, The Faithful of the Gonzaga, And your sons after you."


To the Marchioness comes a courtier: "I am prayed to bring you word That the minstrel keeps his promise Who brought you news of my lord;

"And he waits without the circle To kiss your highness' hand; And he asks no gold for guerdon, But before he leaves the land

"He craves of your love once proffered That you suffer him for reward, In this crowning hour of his glory, To look on your son, my lord."

Through the silken press of the courtiers The minstrel faltered in. His clasped hands were bloodless, His face was white and thin;

And he bent his knee to the lady, But of her love and grace To her heart she raised him and kissed him Upon his gentle face.

Turned to her son the bridegroom, Turned to his high-born wife, "I give you here for your brother Who gave back my son to life.

"For this youth brought me news from Naples How thou layest sick and poor, By true comrades kept, and forsaken By a false paramour.

"Wherefore I charge you love him For a brother that is my son." The comrades turned to the bridegroom In silence every one.

But the bridegroom looked on the minstrel With a visage blank and changed, As his whom the sight of a spectre From his reason hath estranged;

And the smiling courtiers near them On a sudden were still as death; And, subtly-stricken, the people Hearkened and held their breath

With an awe uncomprehended For an unseen agony:— Who is this that lies a-dying, With her head on the prince's knee?

A light of anguish and wonder Is in the prince's eye, "O, speak, sweet saint, and forgive me, Or I cannot let thee die!

"For now I see thy hardness Was softer than mortal ruth, And thy heavenly guile was whiter, My saint, than martyr's truth."

She speaks not and she moves not, But a blessed brightness lies On her lips in their silent rapture And her tender closed eyes.

Federigo, the son of the Marquis, He rises from his knee: "Aye, you have been good, my father, To them that were good to me.

"You have given them honors and titles, But here lies one unknown— Ah, God reward her in heaven With the peace he gives his own!"


[2] The author of this ballad has added a thread of evident love-story to a most romantic incident of the history of Mantua, which occurred in the fifteenth century. He relates the incident so nearly as he found it in the Cronache Montovane, that he is ashamed to say how little his invention has been employed in it. The hero of the story, Federigo, became the third Marquis of Mantua, and was a prince greatly beloved and honored by his subjects.

[3] "Breve pertugio dentro dalla Muda, La qual per me ha il titol della fame E in che conviene ancor ch'altri si chiuda, M'avea mostrato per lo suo forame Piu lune gia."

DANTE, L'Inferno.

[4] "As a feather is wafted downward From an eagle in its flight."


Ah me! is it then true that the year has waxed unto waning, And that so soon must remain nothing but lapse and decay,— Earliest cricket, that out of the midsummer midnight complaining, All the faint summer in me takest with subtle dismay?

Though thou bringest no dream of frost to the flowers that slumber, Though no tree for its leaves, doomed of thy voice, maketh moan, Yet with th' unconscious earth's boded evil my soul thou dost cumber, And in the year's lost youth makest me still lose my own.

Answerest thou, that when nights of December are blackest and bleakest, And when the fervid grate feigns me a May in my room, And by my hearthstone gay, as now sad in my garden, thou creakest,— Thou wilt again give me all,—dew and fragrance and bloom?

Nay, little poet! full many a cricket I have that is willing, If I but take him down out of his place on my shelf, Me blither lays to sing than the blithest known to thy shrilling, Full of the rapture of life, May, morn, hope, and—himself:

Leaving me only the sadder; for never one of my singers Lures back the bee to his feast, calls back the bird to his tree. Hast thou no art can make me believe, while the summer yet lingers, Better than bloom that has been red leaf and sere that must be?



On the Rialto Bridge we stand; The street ebbs under and makes no sound; But, with bargains shrieked on every hand, The noisy market rings around.

"Mulberries, fine mulberries, here!" A tuneful voice,—and light, light measure; Though I hardly should count these mulberries dear, If I paid three times the price for my pleasure.

Brown hands splashed with mulberry blood, The basket wreathed with mulberry leaves Hiding the berries beneath them;—good! Let us take whatever the young rogue gives.

For you know, old friend, I haven't eaten A mulberry since the ignorant joy Of anything sweet in the mouth could sweeten All this bitter world for a boy.


O, I mind the tree in the meadow stood By the road near the hill: when I clomb aloof On its branches, this side of the girdled wood, I could see the top of our cabin roof.

And, looking westward, could sweep the shores Of the river where we used to swim Under the ghostly sycamores, Haunting the waters smooth and dim;

And eastward athwart the pasture-lot And over the milk-white buckwheat field I could see the stately elm, where I shot The first black squirrel I ever killed.

And southward over the bottom-land I could see the mellow breadths of farm From the river-shores to the hills expand, Clasped in the curving river's arm.

In the fields we set our guileless snares For rabbits and pigeons and wary quails, Content with the vaguest feathers and hairs From doubtful wings and vanished tails.

And in the blue summer afternoon We used to sit in the mulberry-tree: The breaths of wind that remembered June Shook the leaves and glittering berries free;

And while we watched the wagons go Across the river, along the road, To the mill above, or the mill below, With horses that stooped to the heavy load,

We told old stories and made new plans, And felt our hearts gladden within us again, For we did not dream that this life of a man's Could ever be what we know as men.

We sat so still that the woodpeckers came And pillaged the berries overhead; From his log the chipmonk, waxen tame, Peered, and listened to what we said.


One of us long ago was carried To his grave on the hill above the tree; One is a farmer there, and married; One has wandered over the sea.

And, if you ask me, I hardly know Whether I'd be the dead or the clown,— The clod above or the clay below,— Or this listless dust by fortune blown

To alien lands. For, however it is, So little we keep with us in life: At best we win only victories, Not peace, not peace, O friend, in this strife.

But if I could turn from the long defeat Of the little successes once more, and be A boy, with the whole wide world at my feet, Under the shade of the mulberry-tree,—

From the shame of the squandered chances, the sleep Of the will that cannot itself awaken, From the promise the future can never keep, From the fitful purposes vague and shaken,—

Then, while the grasshopper sang out shrill In the grass beneath the blanching thistle, And the afternoon air, with a tender thrill, Harked to the quail's complaining whistle,—

Ah me! should I paint the morrows again In quite the colors so faint to-day, And with the imperial mulberry's stain Re-purple life's doublet of hodden-gray?

Know again the losses of disillusion? For the sake of the hope, have the old deceit?— In spite of the question's bitter infusion, Don't you find these mulberries over-sweet?

All our atoms are changed, they say; And the taste is so different since then; We live, but a world has passed away With the years that perished to make us men.


They gave the whole long day to idle laughter, To fitful song and jest, To moods of soberness as idle, after, And silences, as idle too as the rest.

But when at last upon their way returning, Taciturn, late, and loath, Through the broad meadow in the sunset burning, They reached the gate, one fine spell hindered them both.

Her heart was troubled with a subtile anguish Such as but women know That wait, and lest love speak or speak not languish, And what they would, would rather they would not so;

Till he said,—man-like nothing comprehending Of all the wondrous guile That women won win themselves with, and bending Eyes of relentless asking on her the while,—

"Ah, if beyond this gate the path united Our steps as far as death, And I might open it!—" His voice, affrighted At its own daring, faltered under his breath.

Then she—whom both his faith and fear enchanted Far beyond words to tell, Feeling her woman's finest wit had wanted The art he had that knew to blunder so well—

Shyly drew near, a little step, and mocking, "Shall we not be too late For tea?" she said. "I'm quite worn out with walking: Yes, thanks, your arm. And will you—open the gate?"



That time of year, you know, when the summer, beginning to sadden, Full-mooned and silver-misted, glides from the heart of September, Mourned by disconsolate crickets, and iterant grasshoppers, crying All the still nights long, from the ripened abundance of gardens; Then, ere the boughs of the maples are mantled with earliest autumn, But the wind of autumn breathes from the orchards at nightfall, Full of winy perfume and mystical yearning and languor; And in the noonday woods you hear the foraging squirrels, And the long, crashing fall of the half-eaten nut from the tree-top; When the robins are mute, and the yellow-birds, haunting the thistles, Cheep, and twitter, and flit through the dusty lanes and the loppings, When the pheasant booms from your stealthy foot in the cornfield, And the wild-pigeons feed, few and shy, in the scoke-berry bushes; When the weary land lies hushed, like a seer in a vision, And your life seems but the dream of a dream which you cannot remember,— Broken, bewildering, vague, an echo that answers to nothing! That time of year, you know. They stood by the gate in the meadow, Fronting the sinking sun, and the level stream of its splendor Crimsoned the meadow-slope and woodland with tenderest sunset, Made her beautiful face like the luminous face of an angel, Smote through the pained gloom of his heart like a hurt to the sense, there. Languidly clung about by the half-fallen shawl, and with folded Hands, that held a few sad asters: "I sigh for this idyl Lived at last to an end; and, looking on to my prose-life," With a smile, she said, and a subtle derision of manner, "Better and better I seem, when I recollect all that has happened Since I came here in June: the walks we have taken together Through these darling meadows, and dear, old, desolate woodlands; All our afternoon readings, and all our strolls through the moonlit Village,—so sweetly asleep, one scarcely could credit the scandal, Heartache, and trouble, and spite, that were hushed for the night, in its silence. Yes, I am better. I think I could even be civil to him for his kindness, Letting me come here without him.... But open the gate, Cousin Clement; Seems to me it grows chill, and I think it is healthier in-doors. —No, then I you need not speak, for I know well enough what is coming: Bitter taunts for the past, and discouraging views of the future? Tragedy, Cousin Clement, or comedy,—just as you like it;— Only not here alone, but somewhere that people can see you. Then I'll take part in the play, and appear the remorseful young person Full of divine regrets at not having smothered a genius Under the feathers and silks of a foolish, extravagant woman. O you selfish boy! what was it, just now, about anguish? Bills would be your talk, Cousin Clement, if you were my husband." Then, with her summer-night glory of eyes low-bending upon him, Dark'ning his thoughts as the pondered stars bewilder and darken, Tenderly, wistfully drooping toward him, she faltered in whisper,— All her mocking face transfigured,—with mournful effusion: "Clement, do not think it is you alone that remember,— Do not think it is you alone that have suffered. Ambition, Fame, and your art,—you have all these things to console you. I—what have I in this world? Since my child is dead—a bereavement." Sad hung her eyes on his, and he felt all the anger within him Broken, and melting in tears. But he shrank from her touch while he answered (Awkwardly, being a man, and awkwardly, being a lover), "Yes, you know how it is done. You have cleverly fooled me beforetime, With a dainty scorn, and then an imploring forgiveness! Yes, you might play it, I think,—that role of remorseful young person, That, or the old man's darling, or anything else you attempted. Even your earnest is so much like acting I fear a betrayal, Trusting your speech. You say that you have not forgotten. I grant you— Not, indeed, for your word—that is light—but I wish to believe you. Well, I say, since you have not forgotten, forget now, forever! I—I have lived and loved, and you have lived and have married. Only receive this bud to remember me when we have parted,— Thorns and splendor, no sweetness, rose of the love that I cherished!" There he tore from its stalk the imperial flower of the thistle, Tore, and gave to her, who took it with mocking obeisance, Twined it in her hair, and said, with her subtle derision: "You are a wiser man than I thought you could ever be, Clement,— Sensible, almost. So! I'll try to forget and remember." Lightly she took his arm, but on through the lane to the farm-house, Mutely together they moved through the lonesome, odorous twilight.


High on the farm-house hearth, the first autumn fire was kindled; Scintillant hickory bark and dryest limbs of the beech-tree Burned, where all summer long the boughs of asparagus flourished. Wild were the children with mirth, and grouping and clinging together, Danced with the dancing flame, and lithely swayed with its humor; Ran to the window-panes, and peering forth into the darkness, Saw there another room, flame-lit, and with frolicking children. (Ah! by such phantom hearths, I think that we sit with our first-loves!) Sometimes they tossed on the floor, and sometimes they hid in the corners, Shouting and laughing aloud, and never resting a moment, In the rude delight, the boisterous gladness of childhood,— Cruel as summer sun and singing-birds to the heartsick. Clement sat in his chair unmoved in the midst of the hubbub, Rapt, with unseeing eyes; and unafraid in their gambols, By his tawny beard the children caught him, and clambered Over his knees, and waged a mimic warfare across them, Made him their battle-ground, and won and lost kingdoms upon him. Airily to and fro, and out of one room to another Passed his cousin, and busied herself with things of the household, Nonchalant, debonair, blithe, with bewitching housewifely importance, Laying the cloth for the supper, and bringing the meal from the kitchen; Fairer than ever she seemed, and more than ever she mocked him, Coming behind his chair, and clasping her fingers together Over his eyes in a girlish caprice, and crying, "Who is it?" Vexed his despair with a vision of wife and of home and of children, Calling his sister's children around her, and stilling their clamor, Making believe they were hers. And Clement sat moody and silent, Blank to the wistful gaze of his mother bent on his visage With the tender pain, the pitiful, helpless devotion Of the mother that looks on the face of her son in his trouble, Grown beyond her consoling, and knows that she cannot befriend him. Then his cousin laughed, and in idleness talked with the children; Sometimes she turned to him, and then when the thistle was falling, Caught it and twined it again in her hair, and called it her keepsake, Smiled, and made him ashamed of his petulant gift there, before them. But, when the night was grown old and the two by the hearthstone together Sat alone in the flickering red of the flame, and the cricket Carked to the stillness, and ever, with sullen throbs of the pendule Sighed the time-worn clock for the death of the days that were perished,— It was her whim to be sad, and she brought him the book they were reading. "Read it to-night," she said, "that I may not seem to be going." Said, and mutely reproached him with all the pain she had wrought him. From her hand he took the volume and read, and she listened,— All his voice molten in secret tears, and ebbing and flowing, Now with a faltering breath, and now with impassioned abandon,— Read from the book of a poet the rhyme of the fatally sundered, Fatally met too late, and their love was their guilt and their anguish, But in the night they rose, and fled away into the darkness, Glad of all dangers and shames, and even of death, for their love's sake. Then, when his voice brake hollowly, falling and fading to silence, Thrilled in the silence they sat, and durst not behold one another, Feeling that wild temptation, that tender, ineffable yearning, Drawing them heart to heart. One blind, mad moment of passion With their fate they strove; but out of the pang of the conflict, Through such costly triumph as wins a waste and a famine, Victors they came, and Love retrieved the error of loving. So, foreknowing the years, and sharply discerning the future, Guessing the riddle of life, and accepting the cruel solution,— Side by side they sat, as far as the stars are asunder. Carked the cricket no more, but while the audible silence Shrilled in their ears, she, suddenly rising and dragging the thistle Out of her clinging hair, laughed mockingly, casting it from her: "Perish the thorns and splendor,—the bloom and the sweetness are perished. Dreary, respectable calm, polite despair, and one's Duty,— These and the world, for dead Love!—The end of these modern romances! Better than yonder rhyme?... Pleasant dreams and good night, Cousin Clement."


I walked with her I love by the sea, The deep came up with its chanting waves, Making a music so great and free That the will and the faith, which were dead in me, Awoke and rose from their graves.

Chanting, and with a regal sweep Of their 'broidered garments up and down The strand, came the mighty waves of the deep, Dragging the wave-worn drift from its sleep Along the sea-sands bare and brown.

"O my soul, make the song of the sea!" I cried. "How it comes, with its stately tread, And its dreadful voice, and the splendid pride Of its regal garments flowing wide Over the land!" to my soul I said.

My soul was still; the deep went down. "What hast thou, my soul," I cried, "In thy song?" "The sea-sands bare and brown, With broken shells and sea-weed strown, And stranded drift," my soul replied.


In the narrow Venetian street, On the wall above the garden gate (Within, the breath of the rose is sweet, And the nightingale sings there, soon and late),

Stands Saint Christopher, carven in stone, With the little child in his huge caress, And the arms of the baby Jesus thrown About his gigantic tenderness;

And over the wall a wandering growth Of darkest and greenest ivy clings, And climbs around them, and holds them both In its netted clasp of knots and rings,

Clothing the saint from foot to beard In glittering leaves that whisper and dance To the child, on his mighty arm upreared, With a lusty summer exuberance.

To the child on his arm the faithful saint Looks up with a broad and tranquil joy; His brows and his heavy beard aslant Under the dimpled chin of the boy,

Who plays with the world upon his palm, And bends his smiling looks divine On the face of the giant mild and calm, And the glittering frolic of the vine.

He smiles on either with equal grace,— On the simple ivy's unconscious life, And the soul in the giant's lifted face, Strong from the peril of the strife:

For both are his own,—the innocence That climbs from the heart of earth to heaven, And the virtue that gently rises thence Through trial sent and victory given.

Grow, ivy, up to his countenance, But it cannot smile on my life as on thine; Look, Saint, with thy trustful, fearless glance, Where I dare not lift these eyes of mine.

Venice, 1863.


Who died, "with the first song of the birds," Wednesday morning, April 27, 1864.


In the early morning when I wake At the hour that is sacred for his sake,

And hear the happy birds of spring In the garden under my window sing,

And through my window the daybreak blows The sweetness of the lily and rose,

A dormant anguish wakes with day, And my heart is smitten with strange dismay:

Distance wider than thine, O sea, Darkens between my brother and me!


A scrap of print, a few brief lines, The fatal word that swims and shines

On my tears, with a meaning new and dread, Make faltering reason know him dead,

And I would that my heart might feel it too, And unto its own regret be true;

For this is the hardest of all to bear, That his life was so generous and fair,

So full of love, so full of hope, Broadening out with ample scope,

And so far from death, that his dying seems The idle agony of dreams

To my heart, that feels him living yet,— And I forget, and I forget.


He was almost grown a man when he passed Away, but when I kissed him last

He was still a child, and I had crept Up to the little room where he slept,

And thought to kiss him good-by in his sleep; But he was awake to make me weep

With terrible homesickness, before My wayward feet had passed the door.

Round about me clung his embrace, And he pressed against my face his face,

As if some prescience whispered him then That it never, never should be again.


Out of far-off days of boyhood dim, When he was a babe and I played with him,

I remember his looks and all his ways; And how he grew through childhood's grace,

To the hopes, and strifes, and sports, and joys, And innocent vanity of boys;

I hear his whistle at the door, His careless step upon the floor,

His song, his jest, his laughter yet,— And I forget, and I forget.


Somewhere in the graveyard that I know, Where the strawberries under the chestnuts grow,

They have laid him; and his sisters set On his grave the flowers their tears have wet;

And above his grave, while I write, the song Of the matin robin leaps sweet and strong

From the leafy dark of the chestnut-tree; And many a murmuring honey-bee

On the strawberry blossoms in the grass Stoops by his grave and will not pass;

And in the little hollow beneath The slope of the silent field of death,

The cow-bells tinkle soft and sweet, And the cattle go by with homeward feet,

And the squirrel barks from the sheltering limb, At the harmless noises not meant for him;

And Nature, unto her loving heart Has taken our darling's mortal part,

Tenderly, that he may be, Like the song of the robin in the tree,

The blossoms, the grass, the reeds by the shore, A part of Summer evermore.


I write, and the words with my tears are wet,— But I forget, O, I forget!

Teach me, Thou that sendest this pain, To know and feel my loss and gain!

Let me not falter in belief On his death, for that is sorest grief:

O, lift me above this wearing strife, Till I discern his deathless life,

Shining beyond this misty shore, A part of Heaven evermore.

Venice, Wednesday Morning, at Dawn, May 16, 1864.



Lord, for the erring thought Not into evil wrought: Lord, for the wicked will Betrayed and baffled still: For the heart from itself kept, Our thanksgiving accept.


For ignorant hopes that were Broken to our blind prayer: For pain, death, sorrow, sent Unto our chastisement: For all loss of seeming good, Quicken our gratitude.


One knows the spring is coming: There are birds; the fields are green; There is balm in the sunlight and moonlight, And dew in the twilights between.

But over there is a silence, A rapture great and dumb, That day when the doubt is ended, And at last the spring is come.

Behold the wonder, O silence! Strange as if wrought in a night,— The waited and lingering glory, The world-old, fresh delight!

O blossoms that hang like winter, Drifted upon the trees, O birds that sing in the blossoms, O blossom-haunting bees,—

O green, green leaves on the branches, O shadowy dark below, O cool of the aisles of orchards, Woods that the wild flowers know,—

O air of gold and perfume, Wind, breathing sweet and sun, O sky of perfect azure— Day, Heaven and Earth in one!—

Let me draw near thy secret, And in thy deep heart see How fared, in doubt and dreaming, The spring that is come in me.

For my soul is held in silence, A rapture, great and dumb,— For the mystery that lingered, The glory that is come!



Tossing his mane of snows in wildest eddies and tangles, Lion-like, March cometh in, hoarse, with tempestuous breath, Through all the moaning chimneys, and thwart all the hollows and angles Round the shuddering house, threating of winter and death.

But in my heart I feel the life of the wood and the meadow Thrilling the pulses that own kindred with fibres that lift Bud and blade to the sunward, within the inscrutable shadow, Deep in the oak's chill core, under the gathering drift.

Nay, to earth's life in mine some prescience, or dream, or desire (How shall I name it aright?) comes for a moment and goes,— Rapture of life ineffable, perfect,—as if in the brier, Leafless there by my door, trembled a sense of the rose.


Out of its fragrant heart of bloom,— The bobolinks are singing! Out of its fragrant heart of bloom The apple-tree whispers to the room, "Why art thou but a nest of gloom, While the bobolinks are singing?"

The two wan ghosts of the chamber there,— The bobolinks are singing! The two wan ghosts of the chamber there Cease in the breath of the honeyed air, Sweep from the room and leave it bare, While the bobolinks are singing.

Then with a breath so chill and slow,— The bobolinks are singing! Then with a breath so chill and slow, It freezes the blossoms into snow, The haunted room makes answer low, While the bobolinks are singing.

"I know that in the meadow-land,— The bobolinks are singing! I know that in the meadow-land The sorrowful, slender elm-trees stand, And the brook goes by on the other hand, While the bobolinks are singing.

"But ever I see, in the brawling stream,— The bobolinks are singing! But ever I see in the brawling stream A maiden drowned and floating dim, Under the water, like a dream, While the bobolinks are singing.

"Buried, she lies in the meadow-land!— The bobolinks are singing! Buried, she lies in the meadow-land, Under the sorrowful elms where they stand. Wind, blow over her soft and bland, While the bobolinks are singing.

"O blow, but stir not the ghastly thing,— The bobolinks are singing! O blow, but stir not the ghastly thing The farmer saw so heavily swing From the elm, one merry morn of spring, While the bobolinks were singing.

"O blow, and blow away the bloom,— The bobolinks are singing! O blow, and blow away the bloom That sickens me in my heart of gloom, That sweetly sickens the haunted room, While the bobolinks are singing!"



In March the earliest bluebird came And caroled from the orchard-tree His little tremulous songs to me, And called upon the summer's name,

And made old summers in my heart All sweet with flower and sun again; So that I said, "O, not in vain Shall be thy lay of little art,

"Though never summer sun may glow, Nor summer flower for thee may bloom; Though winter turn in sudden gloom, And drowse the stirring spring with snow";

And learned to trust, if I should call Upon the sacred name of Song, Though chill through March I languish long, And never feel the May at all,

Yet may I touch, in some who hear, The hearts, wherein old songs asleep Wait but the feeblest touch to leap In music sweet as summer air!

I sing in March brief bluebird lays, And hope a May, and do not know: May be, the heaven is full of snow,— May be, there open summer days.



Parting was over at last, and all the good-bys had been spoken. Up the long hillside road the white-tented wagon moved slowly, Bearing the mother and children, while onward before them the father Trudged with his gun on his arm, and the faithful house-dog beside him, Grave and sedate, as if knowing the sorrowful thoughts of his master.

April was in her prime, and the day in its dewy awaking: Like a great flower, afar on the crest of the eastern woodland, Goldenly bloomed the sun, and over the beautiful valley, Dim with its dew and shadow, and bright with its dream of a river, Looked to the western hills, and shone on the humble procession, Paining with splendor the children's eyes, and the heart of the mother.

Beauty, and fragrance, and song filled the air like a palpable presence. Sweet was the smell of the dewy leaves and the flowers in the wild-wood, Fair the long reaches of sun and shade in the aisles of the forest. Glad of the spring, and of love, and of morning, the wild birds were singing: Jays to each other called harshly, then mellowly fluted together; Sang the oriole songs as golden and gay as his plumage; Pensively piped the querulous quails their greetings unfrequent, While, on the meadow elm, the meadow lark gushed forth in music, Rapt, exultant, and shaken with the great joy of his singing; Over the river, loud-chattering, aloft in the air, the kingfisher Hung, ere he dropped, like a bolt, in the water beneath him; Gossiping, out of the bank flew myriad twittering swallows; And in the boughs of the sycamores quarrelled and clamored the blackbirds.

Never for these things a moment halted the Movers, but onward, Up the long hillside road the white-tented wagon moved slowly. Till, on the summit, that overlooked all the beautiful valley, Trembling and spent, the horses came to a standstill unbidden; Then from the wagon the mother in silence got down with her children, Came, and stood by the father, and rested her hand on his shoulder.

Long together they gazed on the beautiful valley before them; Looked on the well-known fields that stretched away to the woodlands, Where, in the dark lines of green, showed the milk-white crest of the dogwood, Snow of wild-plums in bloom, and crimson tints of the red-bud; Looked on the pasture-fields where the cattle were lazily grazing,— Soft, and sweet, and thin came the faint, far notes of the cow-bells,— Looked on the oft-trodden lanes, with their elder and blackberry borders, Looked on the orchard, a bloomy sea, with its billows of blossoms. Fair was the scene, yet suddenly strange and all unfamiliar, As are the faces of friends, when the word of farewell has been spoken. Long together they gazed; then at last on the little log-cabin— Home for so many years, now home no longer forever— Rested their tearless eyes in the silent rapture of anguish. Up on the morning air no column of smoke from the chimney Wavering, silver and azure, rose, fading and brightening ever; Shut was the door where yesterday morning the children were playing; Lit with a gleam of the sun the window stared up at them blindly. Cold was the hearthstone now, and the place was forsaken and empty. Empty? Ah no! but haunted by thronging and tenderest fancies, Sad recollections of all that had been, of sorrow or gladness.

Still they sat there in the glow of the wide red fire in the winter, Still they sat there by the door in the cool of the still summer evening, Still the mother seemed to be singing her babe there to slumber, Still the father beheld her weep o'er the child that was dying, Still the place was haunted by all the Past's sorrow and gladness!

Neither of them might speak for the thoughts that came crowding their hearts so, Till, in their ignorant trouble aloud the children lamented; Then was the spell of silence dissolved, and the father and mother Burst into tears and embraced, and turned their dim eyes to the Westward.

Ohio, 1859.


The summer sun was soft and bland, As they went through the meadow land.

The little wind that hardly shook The silver of the sleeping brook Blew the gold hair about her eyes,— A mystery of mysteries! So he must often pause, and stoop, And all the wanton ringlets loop Behind her dainty ear—emprise Of slow event and many sighs.

Across the stream was scarce a step,— And yet she feared to try the leap; And he, to still her sweet alarm, Must lift her over on his arm.

She could not keep the narrow way, For still the little feet would stray, And ever must he bend t' undo The tangled grasses from her shoe,— From dainty rosebud lips in pout, Must kiss the perfect flower out!

Ah! little coquette! Fair deceit! Some things are bitter that were sweet.


Is it the shrewd October wind Brings the tears into her eyes? Does it blow so strong that she must fetch Her breath in sudden sighs?

The sound of his horse's feet grows faint, The Rider has passed from sight; The day dies out of the crimson west, And coldly falls the night.

She presses her tremulous fingers tight Against her closed eyes, And on the lonesome threshold there, She cowers down and cries.


Her mouth is a honey-blossom, No doubt, as the poet sings; But within her lips, the petals, Lurks a cruel bee, that stings.


In my rhyme I fable anguish, Feigning that my love is dead, Playing at a game of sadness, Singing hope forever fled,—

Trailing the slow robes of mourning, Grieving with the player's art, With the languid palms of sorrow Folded on a dancing heart.

I must mix my love with death-dust, Lest the draught should make me mad; I must make believe at sorrow, Lest I perish, over-glad.



Something lies in the room Over against my own; The windows are lit with a ghastly bloom Of candles, burning alone,— Untrimmed, and all aflare In the ghastly silence there!


People go by the door, Tiptoe, holding their breath, And hush the talk that they held before, Lest they should waken Death, That is awake all night There in the candlelight!


The cat upon the stairs Watches with flamy eye For the sleepy one who shall unawares Let her go stealing by. She softly, softly purrs, And claws at the banisters.


The bird from out its dream Breaks with a sudden song, That stabs the sense like a sudden scream; The hound the whole night long Howls to the moonless sky, So far, and starry, and high.


She sits beside the low window, In the pleasant evening-time, With her face turned to the sunset, Reading a book of rhyme.

And the wine-light of the sunset, Stolen into the dainty nook, Where she sits in her sacred beauty, Lies crimson on the book.

O beautiful eyes so tender, Brown eyes so tender and dear, Did you leave your reading a moment Just now, as I passed near?

Maybe, 'tis the sunset flushes Her features, so lily-pale; Maybe, 'tis the lover's passion, She reads of in the tale.

O darling, and darling, and darling, If I dared to trust my thought; If I dared to believe what I must not, Believe what no one ought,—

We would read together the poem Of the Love that never died, The passionate, world-old story Come true, and glorified.


"Every Rose, you sang, has its Thorn, But this has none, I know." She clasped my rival's Rose Over her breast of snow.

I bowed to hide my pain, With a man's unskilful art; I moved my lips, and could not say The Thorn was in my heart!


Once on my mother's breast, a child, I crept, Holding my breath; There, safe and sad, lay shuddering, and wept At the dark mystery of Death.

Weary and weak, and worn with all unrest, Spent with the strife,— O mother, let me weep upon thy breast At the sad mystery of Life!


"The day had been one of dense mists and rains, and much of General Hooker's battle was fought above the clouds, on the top of Lookout Mountain."—GENERAL MEIG'S Report of the Battle before Chattanooga.

Where the dews and the rains of heaven have their fountain, Like its thunder and its lightning our brave burst on the foe, Up above the clouds on Freedom's Lookout Mountain Raining life-blood like water on the valleys down below. O, green be the laurels that grow, O sweet be the wild-buds that blow, In the dells of the mountain where the brave are lying low.

Light of our hope and crown of our story, Bright as sunlight, pure as starlight shall their deeds of daring glow, While the day and the night out of heaven shed their glory, On Freedom's Lookout Mountain whence they routed Freedom's foe. O, soft be the gales when they go Through the pines on the summit where they blow, Chanting solemn music for the souls that passed below.


There on the field of battle Lies the young warrior dead: Who shall speak in the soldier's honor? How shall his praise be said?

Cannon, there in the battle, Thundered the soldier's praise, Hark! how the volumed volleys echo Down through the far-off days!

Tears for the grief of a father, For a mother's anguish, tears; But for him that died in his country's battle, Glory and endless years.




The colonel rode by his picket-line In the pleasant morning sun, That glanced from him far off to shine On the crouching rebel picket's gun.


From his command the captain strode Out with a grave salute, And talked with the colonel as he rode;— The picket levelled his piece to shoot.


The colonel rode and the captain walked,— The arm of the picket tired; Their faces almost touched as they talked, And, swerved from his aim, the picket fired.


The captain fell at the horse's feet, Wounded and hurt to death, Calling upon a name that was sweet As God is good, with his dying breath.


And the colonel that leaped from his horse and knelt To close the eyes so dim, A high remorse for God's mercy felt, Knowing the shot was meant for him.


And he whispered, prayer-like, under his breath, The name of his own young wife: For Love, that had made his friend's peace with Death, Alone could make his with life.


The passionate humming-birds cling To the honeysuckles' hearts; In and out at the open window The twittering house-wren darts, And the sun is bright.

June is young, and warm, and sweet; The morning is gay and new; Glimmers yet the grass of the door-yard, Pearl-gray with fragrant dew, And the sun is bright.

From the mill, upon the stream, A busy murmur swells; On to the pasture go the cattle, Lowing, with tinkling bells, And the sun is bright.

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