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The Last Robin
Lyrics and Sonnets
“The House of the Trees,” “Tangled in Stars,” “The Radiant Road,” etc.
Entered according to Act of the Parliament of Canada in the year one thousand nine hundred and seven by ETHELWYN WETHERALD, at the Department of Agriculture. [unnumbered page]
NEARLY one-half of the within poems appear in book form now for the first time; the rest are selected from previously published volumes.
E. W. [unnumbered page]
THE spring was red with robins, The summer gay with their song; What doest thou here at the bleak of the year, When the frost is sharp and strong, When even the red from the leaves has fled, And the stormy night is long? Silent, alone, thou givest An April gleam to the lane; A sense of spring to the sorrowing Of autumn wind and rain. Dear gleam, good-bye! the dark is nigh; Good-bye—come back again! [page 9]
THE SCREECH OWL
HEARING the strange night-piercing sound Of woe that strove to sing, I followed where it hid, and found A small soft-throated thing, A feathered handful of gray grief, Perched by the year’s last leaf. And heeding not that in the sky The lamps of peace were lit, It sent abroad that sobbing cry, And sad hearts echoed it. O hush, poor grief, so gray, so wild, God still is with His child! [page 10]
WHERE forest fires have swept the land, The musing traveller sees These little bright-faced flowers stand In crowded companies. So in the heart that grief has charred New fairness decks the sod, And every blackened life is starred With tender gifts from God.
AS LEAVES IN THE STREAM
AS dead leaves lie beneath the stream That merrily doth sing, And give its flow a darker gleam By their deep coloring, So every stream of joy that starts Hath its remembered dead, And love runs richer in our hearts Because of sweetness fled. [page 11]
SILENTLY as twilight shades woodland leaves are dropping; Each through stilly autumn air a winding way is taking; Each through yielding golden air a path of beauty making, Loosening and wavering and exquisitely stopping. Little fellow-travellers, gentle, frail and flaming, Near of kin you are to me as brother is to brother; I, like you, am journeying to the self-same mother, On a path of mystery and beauty past my naming. [page 12]
MY orders are to fight. Then if I bleed, or fail, Or strongly win, what matters it? God only doth prevail. The servant craveth naught Except to serve with might. I was not told to win or lose,— My orders are to fight.
A FAIRER ART.
THE soul of beauty speaks through roughest stone And makes the sculptor’s task A glory and a rapture. He alone May lift the clinging mask. Be thine a fairer art: to bare thine ear To life’s unresting sea, and in its harshest discords feel and hear The soul of harmony. [page 13]
ONE DAY OF ECSTASY.
ONE day of ecstasy my soul has known: All through the black night I had striven alone With Pain’s unsated beak at flesh and bone. Then just at dawn, like to a healing rain, Soft slumber fell on writhing nerve and brain; I woke to find my enemy was slain. Body and soul sheer bliss! The hours a fleece Of young lambs nestling at the feet of Peace. How will it be when all life’s pain shall cease? [page 14]
AH, when our eyes look backward On visions deeply sweet, And consciously life’s remnant Is narrowing to our feet, May every joy that perished Be mirrored in our gaze, And in our speech the beauty Of all our vanished days!
THANK God for pluck—unknown to slaves— The self ne’er of its Self bereft, Who, when the right arm’s shattered, waves The good flag with the left. [page 15]
THE BIRD’S HOUR.
THE world at noon belongs to the sun, At eve to the home-coming herds; But while the dew is pearly—very, very— The world belongs to the birds. As still as in a dream lie the meadow and the stream, ‘Neath the soaring and outpouring of the birds. Long, long before there is life at any door, Or smoke at any roof, or laughing words Of children fresh from sleeping, the outer world is steeping In the heaven-given rapture of the birds. Not a thought of grief or care can enforce admission there Through the winging and the singing of the birds. [page 16]
THE DOOR OF SPRING
How shall we open the door of Spring That Winter is holding wearily shut? Though winds are calling and waters brawling, And snow decaying and light delaying, Yet will it not move in its yielding rut And back on its flowery hinges swing, Till wings are flapping And woodpeckers tapping With sharp, clear rapping At the door of Spring. How shall we fasten the door of Spring Wide, so wide that it cannot close? Though buds are filling and frogs are trilling, And violets breaking and grass awaking, Yet doubtfully back and forth it blows Till come the birds, and the woodlands ring With sharp beak stammer— The sudden clamor Of the woodpecker’s hammer At the door of Spring. [page 17]
WHEN October’s shining arms are drooping, Burdened with the gold of all her winnings, Oft I think of April, gleaming, glinting, On a million little green beginnings. Or within the city’s dust and clamor Fancy spins a web, and all her spinnings Are a bending branch and running water And a sward of little green beginnings. Spring and springtime hopes are with us always E’en the heart grown aged in its sinnings Holds till death the budding boughs of promise, With their myriad little fair beginnings. [page 18]
IN EARLIEST SPRING
WHEN roofs are steaming in the sun And down and down the big drift sinks, And at his door the woodchuck blinks, And streams that in the noontide run Are prisoners when day is done, I know, Whatever winds may blow, The springtime, the springtime has begun. When easier opens the arbor door, And paler grow the lilac tips, And yellower glow the willow whips, And lambs that roam the meadow o’er Seem daily snowier than before, I know, Whatever winds may blow, The winter, the winter is no more. [page 19]
APRIL IN THE CITY.
APRIL sunshine along the street Is turning the motes of dust to gold. Scant is the green to our longing feet, To our longing eyes few buds unfold. Only in vision are slopes unrolled And orchards full as their arms can hold, And stories in exquisite cadence told By the willowed stream in its sweet retreat. Yet even here the heart grown cold Flushes with sudden inward heat, When April sunshine along the street Is turning the motes of dust to gold. [page 20]
THE HEART OF SPRING.
WHEN the grass is new, and not as long As a baby’s tender hand, When the early light is a sea of song, By a delicate dawn-wind fanned; When the buds like little green stars appear And the willow flames in gold, I feel that the inmost heart of the year Is as full as it can hold. Drip, drip, I hear it overflow, Where the rivulets slip to the stream below; At the branch’s tip, where the raindrops cling, I see the overflowing of the heart of Spring. When the forest aisles are thronged with tints Of a visible ecstasy, When the morning fields are warm with hints Of a wealth that is to be, [page 21] When the old clods burn and the old groves ring With a joy that cannot stop, I know that the full-pressed heart of Spring Is running over drop by drop. Drip, drip, I see it overflow, Where the roof-streams slip to the pipes below; At the rain-tub’s lip, where the swift drops sing, I hear the overflowing of the heart of Spring. [page 22]
A SUMMER SLEEPING-ROOM
HERE is my summer sleeping-room Within a grove of towering pine; These latticed walls, this fragrant gloom, This ever-open door, are mine. However hot the heart of day, When all its insect cares have flown, Unto the green I nightly stray In moonlight silence all alone. Four pines are close. They pierce the roof, One at each corner of my nest, And all my dreams are trouble-proof As though four angels watched my rest. Tree-toads and crickets sing to me, The screech-owl sends his note from far; The night wind moves, and dazzlingly Comes to my couch the eastern star. [page 23] At dawn I hear the squirrels run, A larger wind its coolness pour, And with the first red ray of sun Behold the Redbreast at the door. Oh, sweet to waken with the flowers, A morning spirit steeped in calm, And bear through all the dusty hours The night-pure heart, the breath of balm. [page 24]
ALONE IN THE WOOD.
OUT-GAZING from her cabin door On lift of pine and leap of stream, She felt her spirit shine and soar With arching bough and foamy gleam. The slender sunbeam driven through The tangled brake or mossy mould Pierced all her wandering fancies, too, And held them with a nail of gold. Her spirit greatened with the bud, And brightened with the leaves that fell, And life with her was at the flood When melting snow o’erwhelmed the dell. The naked, newborn birds, that slept Secure and warm when storms were loud, Gave her their perfect trust. She kept Her bird-like faith beneath the cloud. [page 25]
THE WILD COLUMBINE.
OUT from the edge of a barren rock Lightly sprang the columbine, Wild and red as the word unsaid, As the wish that sped From the heart of your heart to the heart of mine. Say not the word, let it die unheard, Let the wish unspurred Waste away under key and lock. Still we have seen them, felt them ours; From the rocks we tread with accustomed feet Sprang those delicate, blood-bright flowers, Wild, and ah, so wistfully sweet. [page 26]
TREAD lightly, lightly, eager feet, For every footfall when we part, And every footfall when we meet, Awakes my heart—awakes my heart. Speak, shyly, shyly, pleading eyes, The yearning message you impart, For all your questions and replies Are in my heart—are in my heart. Steal softly, softly, sweetest tone, The tender springs from which you start To flow into mine ear alone O’errun my heart—o’errun my heart. Love gently, gently, Love of mine, Through a;; the years where’er thou art, For every quick’ning thought of thine Doth stir my heart—doth stir my heart. [page 27]
DEAREST, give your soul to me; Let it in your glances shine; Let a path of ecstasy Stretch between your eyes and mine. Should you press me to your heart, That enchanted, That enchanted little pathway must depart. Dearest, give your thoughts to me; Let them through the distance drear Make unceasing melody To my raptured inner ear. Should you clasp me—ah, the cost! All the elfin, All that elfin music were in clamor lost. [page 28]
IF YOU LOVE ME
IF you love me, tell me so In your greeting, in your eyes, In your footstep, swift or slow, In your tender-voiced replies; Love that stays in heart and blood Lives forever in the bud, Once in words ‘tis past recall— Down the lovely petals fall. If you love me, tell me so, As the dawn may hint of noon, As a glance the deep heart’s glow, As hepaticas of June; When the summer riot runs ‘Neath the glare of burning suns, Naught so fair—not anything— As the first faint breath of spring. [page 29]
THE BRANCH TO THE BIRD
SING to me, Love! My bloom belongs To you, and matches all your songs. Charm, charm my ear, And I shall hear Your voice amid my dewy blossoms, More sweet than they—more dear. Sing to me, Love! The bloom has gone, And yet the long, long months go on. Charm, charm my heart, And I shall start To dream amid the autumn shadows That spring did not depart. [page 30]
WHEN IT’S TIME FOR LEAVES TO FLY
WHEN it’s time for leaves to fly, Winds shall blow and leaves shall go; When it’s time for Love to die, Close his eyes and lay him low. When it’s time for frost to sting, Birds are dumb and streams are numb; Speak not of another spring— Nevermore OUR spring shall come. Nevermore our lives shall be What they seemed when first we dreamed, Since the leaves of memory Drop where passion’s river gleamed. [page 31]
FOR the bird the rosy branch, For the lake the sunset dying, For the bee its clover ranch, For the pine the night wind sighing; For every tree that is bending The sound of a stream descending; For the lonely attic window The sky with its starry host, And for every heart that is troubled The heart that needs it most. How happy the grey fence-rail With a russet chipmunk running, How grateful the windflower pale In the springtime noonday sunning. How charmed is the twilight falling At the voice of the robin calling; How tenderly falls the moonlight On a cold and sterile coast, And how good for the heart of the troubled Is the heart that needs it most. [page 32]
THE ROSE IN THE HEART
GRANT me one wish, O heart, I cried, Give me a rose each day of the year. “How can that be?” my heart replied, “Roses bloom not when thoughts are sere; Roses bloom not in autumnal moods, Nor in the soul’s bleak solitudes, Nor yet in a restless springtime storm; But give me a nature fair and warm, And a tender, June-sweet atmosphere, And roses are yours each day in the year.”
THE HUT BY THE SEA
HERE is my hut beside the hilly sea, A sweet, small resting-place, so soft and warm, Though framed by desolate immensity, And rocked within the arms of every storm. Each home where love abides is even so, A steadfast joy beneath a changing sky; And all the storms of life that round it blow Are but its cradle and its lullaby. [page 33]
MOTHER AND CHILD.
I SAW a mother holding Her play-worn baby son, Her pliant arms enfolding The drooping little one. Her lips were made of sweetness, And sweet the eyes above; With infantile completeness He yielded to her love. And I who saw the heaving Of breast to dimpling cheek, Have felt, within, the weaving Of thoughts I cannot speak; Have felt myself the nestling, All strengthless, love-enisled; Have felt myself the mother Abrood above her child. [page 34]
THE UNFORGOTTEN GRAVE.
I HEARD a blackbird whistle By a “forgotten grave,” Where mullein weed and thistle In rank profusion wave, As though they had been bringing Some gift to match the singing. What could have been the message Of comfort that they gave? They brought—these kindly neighbors In rustic cap and gown— The fruit of summer labors, Their blankets and their down. O sweet must be the sleeping, Afar from human weeping, Of him, enwrapped in kindness From weary feet to crown. [page 35]
YOUTH AND AGE
BENT over some heroic book, In nights gone by, his boyish head So filled with eager dreams he took Them with him to his bed. The splendid strife, the rush of life, The trump of fame, inspiring, strong, His heart so stirred he scarcely heard His mother’s slumber song. But now the glowing book of life Is falling from his nerveless hand; Gone are the splendors of the strife, The conquering hopes—a daring band; No plaudits pierce those aged ears, No trump of fame, though loud and strong, He only hears across the years His mother’s slumber song. [page 36]
EVERY COMMON DAY.
EVERY common day that we live is clasped and jewelled with love; The stars of night are beneath it, the morning stars above. The peace of God broods on it, as on her nest the bird, And over its weariest moments the music of hope is heard. So, when my life-work is finished, and I go to God for my wage, I wonder if He can give me a heavenlier heritage Than to feel that each day that I live is clasped and jewelled with love, With the stars of night beneath it and the morning stars above. [page 37]
THE OLD HOME
MY thoughts are with my far home, my old home, my only home, My mother waiting at the door to welcome me within; Her eyes are like November leaves upon the furrowed, lonely loam, Her hair is white as night-frost when all the boughs are thin. I want to see the moon climb the arms of our great pine again, I want to feel the dew fall upon the pasture path, I want to haunt the wood glades and dream that they are mine again, I want to hear the Bob White across the aftermath. I want to see the white stream in springtime burst its tomb again, I want to feel the young grass about my jaded feet, [page 38] I want to set my heart free and give it air and room again To move to those forgotten strains to which it used to beat. O mother, mother, mother, do you know that barefoot boy of yours, Who went up to the city and was lost in heat and strife, Has found no bliss that matches with that quiet harvest joy of yours? That wealth and depth of living beggars all that he called life. My thoughts are with my old home, my wide-boughed, clover-meadowed home, Astir beneath the skies of peace when morning birds begin, Asleep beneath the early stars—my deep-grassed, ivy-shadowed home, With Mother waiting at the door to welcome me within. [page 39]
YOUR face, dear love, your face! Not that which meets your fellow-man’s regard, Polite or sympathetic, sometimes hard, Indifferent, reticent, self-poised and still, The keen thought-miller toiling at his mill— But that which lights our small abiding-place, Your face, dear love, your face! Your face, dear love, your face! That which, returning through the evening gloom, You bring into this waiting, happy room. The tired look, yet glad, as glad and warm As tender sunset after hours of storm. As if some hidden door were opened wide Within your heart on its home-loving side, Your face, dear love, your face! [page 40]
CROSSES AND KISSES.
THE letters I get from my little girl Are sure to end like this: x x x x x x A score of crosses, row on row, And every cross is a kiss. And through the miles that separate My own little one from me, I feel the tug of her loving arms, And her loving face I see. Every cross is a kiss, she says; My crosses are never few. They wait for me when I wake at morn, They follow the long day through. I never dreamed they were sent in love— Ah me, what good I miss When I push away with angry hands The cross that was meant for a kiss! [page 41] We mortals walk in a world of love, But we make it a world of care. Some crosses are sharp and bring the blood, And some are heavy to bear. But I think when we go in the arms of Death To heights of perfect bliss, We shall see at a backward glance below That every cross was a kiss. [page 42]
A CANTY THOUGHT.
JOHN ANDERSON, my jo, John, How strange I did not know Until last night that jo meant love— A Scotchman told me so, And also said that canty day Meant simply happy day; Good lack! ’tis time my ignorance Was lightened by this ray. John Anderson, my jo, John, How dear a word is jo! Sweet as a streamlet’s flow, John, That murmurs soft and low. It seems that love-notes from my love The postman has not brought, They’re simply jo notes from my jo— O canty, canty thought! [page 43]
THE woodland stretched its arms to me, And into its heart I went; While by my side invisibly Walked musing-eyed Content. The woodland spake no word to me, But, oh, its thoughts were sweet; Against my spirit like a sea I felt the thought-waves beat. Before my vision, starved and dull, The wood-shapes dropped their gold; The young child-trees were beautiful, More beautiful the old. Within their halls of memory What heavenly scenes are drawn: The stream, the wild birds’ company, The sky’s cool face at dawn, [page 44] The golden lances of the sun, The rain that feels its way, The twilight steps that, one by one, Lead to the moon’s white ray; The multitude of bright leaf-forms Engraved on earth and air, The black and gold of midnight storms, The blue that violets wear; The wind that brings from clover farms A picture white and red, Or later gathers in his arms The woodland’s fragile dead. These throng the greenwood memories; Upon this perfumed track The thoughts of all the silent trees Go wandering back and back. This is the charm that cometh last, Of all their sweets the sum: The feeling of green summers past, And fair green springs to come. [page 45]
THE CROWNING SATIRE.
HERE is the crowning satire, In a world where springtime wreathes The naked forest arches With a loveliness that breathes; Where a myriad blooms are thickening With beauty Earth’s old crust, That men are chasing dollars, And the women chasing dust. The splendor of a palace Is naught to that of a hut Rained on by the gold of autumn, With a door that is never shut; With Peace for the nearest neighbor, And Joy and Love and Trust Singing in woods and waters, Far off from dollars and dust. [page 46] Ah, would it be a wonder If the gods above us bowed Should rebuked us in the thunder, Should scoff at us in the cloud, Should mock at us in laughter, That swept from earth in a gust The men that are chasing dollars And the women chasing dust! O housekeepers peerless and cheerless, And men who are gluttons of gold, The only joy that is tearless Can never be swept up nor sold; It beckons to us from the branches, It yearns to us from the blue: O seekers of dust and dollars, It is your dream come true! [page 47]
TO THE WISTARIA.
(IN THE SOUTH.)
I SEE you on the cedar swinging, To higher branches reaching, clinging, Then all your lovely weight out-flinging Upon his dark and stately strength; O many and many an odorous blossom From overflowing arms you toss him! The royal purple flung across him Is dripping perfume all its length. Upon the cedar branches swaying, You seem a flowery fountain playing, Then April comes—no more delaying— The flakes drop down in sun and gloom; The garden seat they thickly cover, The girl that leans against her lover Hears in the purple air above her Love’s whisper through a storm of bloom. [page 48]
THE RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD.
BLACK beneath as the night, With wings of a morning glow, From his sooty throat three syllables float, Ravishing, liquid, low; And ’tis oh, for the joy of June, And the bliss that ne’er can flee From that exquisite call, with its sweet, sweet fall— O-ke-lee, o-ke-lee, o-ke-lee! Long ago as a child, From the bough of a blossoming quince, That melody came to thrill my frame, And whenever I’ve caught it since, The spring-soft blue of the sky And the spring-bright bloom of the tree Are a part of the strain—ah, hear it again!— O-ke-lee, o-ke-lee, o-ke-lee! [page 49] And the night is tenderly black, The morning eagerly bright, For that old, old spring is blossoming In the soul and in the sight. The red-winged blackbird brings My lost youth back to me, When I hear in the swale, from a gray fence rail, O-ke-lee, o-ke-lee, o-ke-lee!
THE violet’s life is in the sheltering glade. The rosebud, forced to meet admiring eyes, In many-leaved withdrawal is arrayed; ’Tis reticence in which her beauty lies. Thou art a rose, my child. Enchantingly She veils herself, e’en from the eye of morn, For, stripped of all her soft defences, she Is but a mark for pity and for scorn. [page 50]
THEY journeyed east, they journeyed west, From seat to sea did roam; I, changeless, chose the summer leaves, The winter lamps, of home. They came and viewed my whitened hair, My face writ like a page, “Ah, you,” they said, “have journeyed far Into the realm of age!” A traveler against my will, No longer would I roam. But where—where are the sheltering boughs? Where are the lamps of Home? [page 51]
THE HEART AND THE CROSS.
O PILGRIM, faring through the night, Why singest thou so cheerily? The cross upon thy shoulders laid Of heaviness itself is made,— “But oh, the heart beneath is light, And so my load is naught,” said he. O sluggard, drooping drowsy head, Why moanest thou unceasingly? By some unknown benignant law, Thy slender cross is built of straw. “The heart beneath is made of lead, And so my load is great,” said he. O Angel, treading life’s long road With me, explain this mystery: When men find burdens hard and strange Each longs his heavy cross to change— “Yet joy would lighten every load With but a change of heart,” said he. [page 52]
FATE AND FREEWILL.
FATE locked her in a narrow room: There was no light from any side; But when accustomed to the gloom Long curtained windows she espied. Then Freewill raised the curtains high, And lo, her cell’s contracted girth Held all the glory of the sky And all the beauty of the earth.
GLUTTON and sluggard! Thus against his name Wrote the stern Angel, and with burning flame Branded upon his form the mark of shame. Could he escape the Angel? Nay, not he! What earthly power, or what divinity, Can set a spirit from its own self free? [page 53]
UNDER THE ARCHES.
AN arch of blue, an arch of green, Whichever be above me, God send a happiness serene To all the hearts that love me. For while I walk beneath the blue Their love is still my solace true, And when beneath the green I’m laid ’Twill make a sunshine in the shade. [page 54]
HE failed in all he strove to do; Then, when his life was over, Out of his bitter heart there grew A lucky four-leaved clover.
WHAT LOVE REMEMBERS
WHAT Love anticipates may die in flower, What Love possesses may be thine an hour, But redly gleam in life’s unlit Decembers What Love remembers. [page 55]
DO YOU REMEMBER?
Do you remember the drive we took, Years ago, in the early fall, When the moonlight lay like the visible look Of God, deep brooding over all? The prairie had broken into bloom Of golden-rod, like a web unrolled, And there wasn’t a tree to cast its gloom Over all that lustrous sweep of gold. Never a house for miles and miles Save our airy castles’ columns and towers, That rose in dimly magnificent piles Above a foundation of moonlit flowers. We talked of our hopes and dreams, of how hard It was to live at the ideal height, And our future was just as thickly starred As the sky above us that shining night. [page 56] Miles and miles through the loneliness, A boy and a girl and a slow, slow steed, The young hearts fluttering to express Their highest thought and their deepest need. No hill of hardship, no vale of despair, But a golden plain and a golden sky. We felt that life was thrillingly fair, And cared not to ask the reason why. Ever so long ago, and we— How have we drifted each from each! The road to the height where we longed to be Is all untraveresed by smile or speech. But still you remember that vanished year When we rode alone in the smile of God, And all of our wealth on this mortal sphere Was poetry, youth and golden-rod. [page 57]
THE man I cannot comprehend Is he who dreads alone to be, Who, if he cannot have a friend, Would welcome e’en an enemy; The beggared and unhappy elf Who craves an alms of words from all, With no resources in himself And no internal festival; Who never felt the shy caress, When voices failed and footsteps fled, From the soft hand of Loneliness; Who never wakened from the dead The blessed thoughts that shun the crowd, And over wood and meadow brood, Where bird and branch and bending cloud Enweave the spell of solitude; [page 58] Who never knew the scholar’s lust, The artist’s lone ecstatic day; Who never strove because he must, And not for praise or place or pay. Give me the friend whose honest hand Glad greeting, glad good-bye, has shown, Whose soul is fragrant of the land Where Silence dwelleth all alone. [page 59]
THE WHITE MOTH
SHE was new-wedded, you understand, As frail a thing As a breath of spring, When the hosts of winter besiege the land; And he was a man with a heart aglow, Who flamed at the breath And loved it till death— Yes, she died not more than a year ago. But just at the close she called him in Where she lay like a wraith, With the light of her faith In his love on her face from brow to chin. And said, “Be comforted, dear, my heart, The soul returns When deep love burns, And my only heaven is where thou art. [page 60] “As a still white moth I’ll come to you; Look for me When the dusk you see, And the summer lamp and the falling dew.” He bowed his head her hand above, And the only word That his pale lips stirred Was “love”—and again, “O love, love, love!” And lo! she had gone beyond his cries, Beyond the moan Of his undertone, The plea of his passionate lips and eyes. But vainly he watched the summer through; The twilights came, And his lamp, aflame, Only the dust-colored winged things drew. In winter Fancy’s a vagrant elf; The summer moth And the vanished troth Had faded—he was a moth himself. And the flame that drew him the most was that On a rounded cheek; When nights were bleak It moved at his side ‘neath a picture hat. [page 61] And afterwards summer came again, And he looked with a sigh As the nights went by For a satin-white moth, and looked in vain. But once, as he sat up late, so late, To write to the girl Who had set him awhirl That she was his life, his love his fate, The notepaper seemed a trifle thick At just once place. He made a grimace, And turned the sheet over angrily, quick. And lo! there lay a white moth, dead! Crushed by his hand, You understand, Under the page where he had said That he loved another. Now do you supposed— A chance, you say? Perhaps so—nay. Of course it must have been—yet—who knows? [page 62]
COME, O SPRING!
COME, O Spring! unpack thy leaves, Flood the boughs and flush the gloom; Brush the cheek of him who grieves With a branch of apple-bloom. Mock at care with all thy birds, Pierce despair with all thy beams, Write upon my heart the words For the music of thy streams. [page 63]
LEAFLESS April, chased by light, Chased by dark and full of laughter, Stays a moment in her flight Where the warmest breezes waft her, By the meadow brook to lean, Or where winter rye is growing, Showing in a lovelier green Where her wayward steps are going. Blithesome April, brown and warm, Showing slimness through her tatters, Chased by sun or chased by storm— Not a whit to her it matters. Swiftly through the violet bed Down to where the stream is flooding, Light she flits—and round her head See the orchard branches budding! [page 64]
BUDS on the living tree, Buds in the heart. Tree hopes and heart hopes, Thickly they start. If to the cold ground All the hopes depart. Trustfully looks the tree, Why not the heart? [page 65]
WHEN spring unbound comes o’er us like a flood My spirit slips its bars, And thrills to see the trees break into bud As skies break into stars; And joys that earth is green with eager grass, The heavens gray with rain, And quickens when the spirit breezes pass, And turn and pass again; And dreams upon frog melodies at night, Bird ecstasies at dawn, And wakes to find sweet April at her height And May still beckoning on. And feels its sordid work, its empty play, It failures and its stains Dissolved in blossom dew, and washed away In delicate spring rains. [page 66]
AMID the young year’s breathing hopes, When eager grasses wrap the earth, I see on greening orchard slopes The blossoms trembling into birth. They open wide their rosy palms To feel the hesitating rain, Or beg a longed-for golden alms From skies that deep in clouds have lain. They mingle with the bluebird’s songs, And with the warm wind’s reverie; To sward and stream their snow belongs, To neighboring pines in flocks they flee, O doubly crowned with breathing hopes The branches bending down to earth That feel on greening orchard slopes Their blossoms trembling into birth! [page 67]
THE FIRST BLUEBIRD.
FIRST, first! That was thy song that burst Out of the spring of thy heart, Incarnate spring that thou art! Now must the winter depart, Since to his age-heavy ear Fluteth the youth of the year. Low, low, Delicate, musical, slow; Lighten, O heaven that lowers, Blossom, ye fields, into flowers, Thicken, ye branches, to bowers; And thou, O my heart, like a stone, Wilt thou keep winter alone? [page 68]
THE INDIGO BIRD
WHEN I see, High on the tip-top twig of a tree, Something blue by the breezes stirred, But so far up that blue is blurred, So far up no green leaf flies ’Twixt its blue and the blue of the skies, Then I know, ere a note be heard, That is naught but the Indigo bird. Blue on the branch and blue in the sky, And naught between but the breezes high, And naught so blue by the breezes stirred As the deep, deep blue of the Indigo bird. When I hear A song like a bird laugh, blithe and clear, As though of some airy jest he had heard The last and the most delightful word; [page 69] A laugh as fresh in the August haze As it was in the full-voiced April days; Then I know that my heart is stirred By the laugh-like song of the Indigo bird. Joy on the branch and joy in the sky, And naught between but the breezes high; And naught so glad on the breezes heard As the gay, gay note of the Indigo bird. [page 70]
IN SUMMER RAIN.
HOW vividly in summer rain The commonest of tints are seen; The Robin is a scarlet stain Against the shining evergreen. The last scant strawberries—a score That hid behind the reddening leaves— Rain-flushed, wind-tossed, are waiting for Red-lipped or redder-breasted thieves. The willows, pallid in the sun, Are sunny in the rainy dark, A deeper brown the streamlets run, And deeply black the orchard bark. And yet, although the clouds are gray, These freshening tints of every hue Would intimate a rain at play, Or at the worst a storm of dew. The quality of mercy flows Upon the meadow’s thirsty brood, And every brightening grass-blade shows The quality of gratitude. [page 71]
WHEN lamps are out and voices fled, And moonlight floods the earth like rain, I steal outside and cross the lane And stand beside the sunflower bed; Each blind, unopened face is turned To where the western glories burned, As though the sun might come again, With some last word he left unsaid. When Dawn with slender, shining hand Inscribes a message on the wall, I follow at the silent call To where my tall sun-lovers stand. Their wistful heads are lifted high Toward the flaming eastern sky, As though some voice had turned them all, Some secret voice of strong command. [page 72] Ah, should I from the windowed height Keep vigil in the room above, And see them lightly, surely move Through the chill stretches of the night, Would not the heart within me burn, As loyally I watched them turn, With sweet undoubting faith and love, From vanished light to dawning light?
A RAINY MORNING
THE low sky and the warm wet wind, And the tender light on the eyes; A day like a soul that has never sinned, New dropped from Paradise. And ’tis oh, for a long walk in the rain, By the side of the warm wet breeze, With the thoughts washed clean of dust and stain As the leaves on the shining trees. [page 73]
THE WOODSIDE WAY.
I WANDERED down the woodside way, Where branching doors ope with the breeze, And saw a little child at play Among the strong and lovely trees. The dead leaves rustled to her knees; Her hair and eyes were brown as they. “O little child,” I softly said, “You come a long, long way to me; The trees that tower overhead Are here in sweet reality, But you’re the child I used to be, And all the leaves of May you tread.” [page 74]
IN THE GRASS.
FACE downward on the grass in reverie, I found how cool and sweet Are the green glooms that often thoughtlessly I tread beneath my feet. In this strange mimic wood where grasses lean— Elf trees unctouched of bark— I heard the hum of insects, saw the sheen Of sunlight framing dark, And felt with thoughts I cannot understand, And know not how to speak, A daisy reaching up its little hand To lay it on my cheek. [page 75]
I HEARD my lover pleading Beneath the ivied pane, I looked out through the darkness And lo, it was the rain! I heard my lover singing His low, heart-stirring songs; I went without and sought him To whom my soul belongs. I found him in the darkness, His tears were on my face; O sweet, your voice has pierced me, And your unhurrying pace. He gave me, as we wandered Adown the winding lane, A thousand tender touches And that heart-stirring strain. The lamps and fires and faces No longer did I see; I walked abroad with Music And Love and Poetry. [page 76]
THE trees are full, the winds are tame, The fields are pictures in a frame Of leafy roads and fair abodes, Steeped in content too large for name. Across a slender bridge of night The luminous days are swift in flight, As though ‘twere wrong to cover song And scent and greenness from the light. Within the snowy clouds above Sits viewless Peace, a brooding dove; For every nest there beats a breast, For every love some answering love. The ways are thronged with angels wings, The heart with angel whisperings; And as it seems in happy dreams The bird of gladness sings and sings. [page 77]
AMONG THE LEAVES.
THE near sky, the under sky, The low sky that I love! I lie where fallen leaves lie, With a leafy sky above, And draw the colored leaves nigh, And push the withered leaves by, And feel the woodland heart upon me, Brooding like a dove. The bright sky, the moving sky, The sky that autumn weaves. I see where scarlet leaves fly The sky the wind bereaves. I see the ling’ring leaves die, I hear the dying leaves sigh, And breathe the woodland breath made sweet Of all her scented leaves. [page 78]
IN the room where I was sleeping The sun came to the floor, Whose silent thought went leaping To where in woods of yore It felt the sun before. At noon the rain was slanting In gray lines from the west; A hurried child all panting It pattered to my nest And smiled when sun-carest. At eve the wind was flying Bird-like from bed to chair; Of brown leaves sere and dying It brought enough to spare, And dropped them here and there. At night-time, without warning, I felt almost to pain The soul of the sun in the morning, The soul of the wind and the rain, In my sleeping-room remain. [page 79]
A SLOW RAIN.
A DROWSY rain is stealing In slowness without stop; The sun-dried earth is feeling Its coolness, drop by drop. The clouds are slowly wasting Their too long garnered store, Each thirsty clod is tasting One drop—and then one more. O ravishing as slumber To wearied limbs and eyes, And countless as the number Of stars in wintry skies, And sweet as the caresses By baby fingers made, These delicate rain kisses On leaf and flower and blade! [page 80]
THE SUN IN THE WOODS.
THE sun within the leafy woods Is like a midday moon, So soft upon these solitudes Is bent the face of noon. Loosed from the outside summer blaze A few gold arrows stray; A vagrant brilliance droops or plays Through all the dusky day. The gray trunk feels a touch of light, While, where dead leaves are deep, A gleam of sunshine, golden white, Lies like a soul asleep. And just beyond dank-rooted ferns, Where darkening hemlocks sigh And leaves are dim, the bare road burns Beneath a dazzling sky. [page 81]
THE HOUSE OF THE TREES
OPE your doors and take me in, Spirit of the wood; Wash me clean of dust and din, Clothe me in your mood. Take me from the noisy light to the sunless peace, Where at midday standeth Night, Singing Toil’s release. All your dusky twilight stores To my senses gives; Take me in and lock the doors, Show me how to live. Lift your leafy roof for me, Part your yielding walls, Let me wander lingeringly Through your scented halls. Ope your doors and take me in, Spirit of the wood; Take me—make me next of kin To your leafy brood. [page 82]
WITH slender arms outstretching in the sun The grass lies dead; The wind walks tenderly and stirs not one Frail fallen head. Of baby creepings through the April day Where streamlets wend, Of child-like dancing on the breeze of May, This is the end. No more these tiny forms are bathed in dew, No more they reach To hold with leaves that shade them from the blue A whispered speech. No more they part their arms and wreathe them close Again, to shield Some love-full little nest—a dainty house Hid in a field. [page 83] For them no more the splendor of the storm, The fair delights Of moon and star-shine, glimmering faint and warm On summer nights. Their little lives they yield in summer death, And frequently Across the field bereaved their dying breath Is brought to me.
AGAINST my window-pane He plunges at a mass Of buds—and strikes in vain The intervening glass. O sprite of wings and fire Outstretching eagerly, My soul, with like desire To probe thy mystery, Comes close as breast to bloom, As bud to hot heart-beat, And gains no inner room, And drains no hidden sweet. [page 84]
FALL AND SPRING.
FROM the time the wind wakes To the time of snowflakes, That’s the time the heart aches Every cloudy day; That’s the time the heart takes Thought of all its heart-breaks, That’s the time the heart makes Life a cloudy way. From the time the grass creeps To the time the wind sleeps, That’s the time the heart leaps To the golden ray; That’s the time that joy sweeps Through the depths of heart-deeps, That’s the time the heart keeps Happy holiday. [page 85]
THE SONG SPARROW’S NEST.
HERE where tumultuous vines Shadow the porch at the west, Leaf with tendril entwines Under a song sparrow’s nest. She in her pendulous nook Sways with the warm wind tide, I with a pen or a book Rock as soft at her side. Comrades with nothing to say, Neither of us intrudes, But through the lingering day Each of us sits and broods. Not upon hate and fear, Not upon grief or doubt, Not upon spite or sneer, These we could never hatch out. [page 86] She broods on wonderful things: Quickening life that belongs To a heart and a voice and wings, But—I’m not so sure of my songs! Then in the summer night, When I awake with a start, I think of the nest at the height— The leafy height of my heart; I think of the mother love, Of the patient wings close furled, Of the sky that broods above, Of the Love that broods on the world. [page 87]
FLOWER AND FLAME.
BETWEEN the flowering and the flaming woods, All greening in the rain, The fields unfold; The sun upon the grain Outpours its gold, And sweet with bloom and dew are nature’s moods Between the flowering and the flaming woods. Between the flaming and the flowering woods The wind bemoans a host Of withered leaves; The winter is a ghost That grieves and grieves Around a ruined house where none intrudes, Between the flaming and the flowering woods. O woods that break in flower or in flame, My winged days and hours Shall meet their doom Like to your leaves and flowers; Let not your bloom And brightness put my flying years to shame, O woods that break in flower or in flame! [page 88]
THE PASTURE FIELD.
WHEN spring has burned The ragged robe of winter, stitch by stitch, And deftly turned To moving melody the wayside ditch, The pale-green pasture field behind the bars Is goldened o’er with dandelion stars. When summer keeps Quick pace with sinewy, white-skirted arms, And daily steeps In sunny splendor all her spreading farms, The pasture field is flooded foamy white With daisy faces looking at the light. When autumn lays Her golden wealth upon the forest floor, And all the days Look backward at the days that went before, A pensive company the asters stand, Their blue eyes brightening the pasture land. [page 89] When winter lifts A sounding trumpet to his strenuous lips And shapes the drifts To curves of transient loveliness, he slips Upon the pasture’s ineffectual brown A swan-soft vestment delicate as down. [page 90]
I SAW her walking in the rain, And sweetly drew she nigh; And then she crossed the hills again To bid the day good-bye: “Good-bye! Good-bye! The world is dim as sorrow; But close beside the morning sky I’ll say a glad Good-morrow.” O dweller in the darling wood, When near to death I lie, Come from your leafy solitude And bid my soul good-bye. Good-bye! Good-bye! The world is dim as sorrow; But close beside the morning sky O say a glad Good-morrow. [page 91]
A FAILURE, who had ne’er achieved Self victory, at last lay dead. “Poor Failure!” thus his neighbors grieved. “Poor, pitiable wretch,” they said, “His weakness was the worst of crimes, He failed at least a thousand times.” Meanwhile the Failure gave to God His vain attempts. Remorsefully And prostrate on the skyey sod, “I failed a thousand times,” said he. “Welcome!” rang out the heavenly chimes, “He strove—he strove a thousand times.” [page 92]
UNTO the diamond with a flaw The perfect pebble spake: “Alas, poor sister, some great law Of heaven you did break, “Since Imperfection’s curse I see Whene’er your form I view; But cheer up! some day you may be A perfect pebble, too.” [page 93]
A GOOD soul once, not without qualms, Knocked at the gates eternal, And begged of Lazarus an alms For use in realms infernal. “The rich man of whose crumbs you ate Needs water. O surprise him With just one drop.” He smiled sedate: “I fear ’twould pauperize him. “And then, you know, I can’t revoke My rule, which is unswerving: I never give to wealthy folk Unless they are deserving.” [page 94]
I HEARD the plowman sing in the wind, And sing right merrily, As down in the cold of the sunless mould The grasses burned he. And now the grasses sing in the wind, Merrily do they sing; While down in the cold of the sunless mould Is the plowman slumbering. [page 95]
UNTO my friends I give my thoughts, Unto my God my soul, Unto my foe I leave my love— These are of life the whole. Nay, there is something—a trifle—left; Who shall receive this dower? See, Earth Mother, a handful of dust— Turn it into a flower. [page 96]
THE WHITE GIFTS.
THESE are thy gifts, O Life: A white frost on the hair, And a wintry whiteness on the cheek That once was red and fair. These are thy gifts, O Love: A white frost in the veins, And a deep-snow silence in the soul, Where once were fiery pains. And thy great gifts, O Death, Are in the frost-bound frame, The ice-locked lips, the white, white peace That is too deep for name. [page 97]
BOATING BY STARLIGHT.
THE breeze has washed me clean of cares, The night has broken Labor’s bars; My soul and I through heavenly airs Are voyaging among the stars. Soft shadows wrap the shore, the lake, The pier, the bridge, the gazing eyes. In splendid loneliness we take This jeweled journey through the skies. [page 98]
THE phantom time of day is here. Some spirit from diviner air Unto our blindness draweth near, And in our musing seems to share. Who hath not in a darkening wood, At twilight’s moment, dimly known That all his hurts were understood By some near presence not his own; That all his griefs were comforted, His aspirations given release; And that upon his troubled head Was laid the viewless hand of Peace. Too sure for doubt, too sweet for fear, Unfelt in days of toil and stress; But when the twilight brings it near Who hath not felt its tenderness? [page 99]
THE fisher’s face is hard to read, His eyes are deep and still; His boots have crushed a pungent weed Beside a far-off rill. Oh, early lifted he the latch And sped through dew away, But when we ask him of the catch That was to mark the day, He lifts his empty hands and smiles: “I fished for hours, I fished for miles.” The fisher has an open mind, A meditative heart; He walks companioned by the wind Or sits alone, apart, Within some stream-enchanted dell. The fish about him play In sweet content. They know full well That friends of his are they. Dame Nature all his soul beguiles With murmurous hours and emerald miles. [page 100] But one who trod the path he took By fragrant woodland ways, To where the cold trout-haunted brook Ran thick-leaved from the gaze, Heard him but sight, “How fair it is! My God—and what am I That Thy most secret harmonies Should flood the ear and eye?” At eve with empty hands he smiles: “I caught the best of hours and miles.” [page 101]
STARS AND FLOWERS.
THE stars enchant the upper skies, The flowers chain the feet; They look into each other’s eyes, And flame and fragrance meet. So will it be when Death unbars These slender doors of ours, And turns our spirits into stars, Our bodies into flowers. [page 102]
AN OLD INFLUENCE.
A CHILD, I saw familiar things In sweet imagined guise; For me the clouds were angels’ wings The stars were angels’ eyes. Not so to-day: the grassless ways Of older years invite No wings to whiten common days, No eyes to hallow night. Yet when with grief my heart is loud, Or harsh thoughts leave their scar, I feel reproach from every cloud, Reproof from every star. [page 103]
THE LITTLE NOON.
MY life that goes from dark to dark, From leaping light to lowering light, Must have its little noonday spark Of heat and flame before the night. My little noon! How strong it seems, How dazzling fair and deep its tide, And yet a million million beams Of day have burned before and died. Long, long ago—a thousand years— Was Fear all white and Rage all red? Did Love meet Love with shining tears That eased the stress of words unsaid? A thousand years ago did Hope Fly outward with tumultuous breast? Youth wake at night to sing? Age grope Through gathering darkness to his rest? [page 104] Back in the ages past were sweet As sweet as now? Did bitterness Flavor the very drink and meat? Did Rapture wear her April dress? Did strong men give their hands to men, Their hearts to women? Did the wife Joy in her budding secret then? Did children throng the doors of life? Ah, these had all their little noons, Yet cradled in the earth they lie, And still beside them Ocean croons Her immemorial lullaby. [page 105]
HE went upon a journey, And she was left at home; And yet ’twas he who stayed behind, And she that far did roam. For though he went by mountain And wood and stream and sea, A little cot enwrapt in green He saw perpetually. And she within the green leaves, Not knowing that he stood Forever by her, dreamed her way With him by mount and wood. Now heaven help these lovers, And bring her safely home, Or lead him back along the track Where she, e’en now, doth roam. [page 106]
POVERTY bought our little lot, Flooded with daisy blooms; Poverty built our little cot And furnished all its rooms. Yet Peace leans over Labor’s chair, Joys at the fireside throng, While up and down on Poverty’s stair Love sings the whole day long. [page 107]
ANGEL of Youth, how swift you flew! Perhaps you’re worth a sigh. Angel of Love, good-bye to you— Good-bye! Good-bye! Angel of Work, your strong demand My soul enliveneth, Till on my hands you lay YOUR hand, Angel of Death. [page 108]
NEW OF LIFE.
A BIRD flew in at my window: “That’s news of death,” they said. O heart life-packed, it was heaven you lacked As you suffered and strove and fled. A message of life you bring me: Caught fast in the strange unknown, We strive with the gloom in earth’s low room, Then escape to the skies—our own. [page 109]
THE SCHOOL OF PAIN.
HERE is the hard school kept by Pain, With pupils sad and white: While some shed tears like falling rain From dreary morn till night, Some knit the brow and clench the fist, And fill the heart with hate, And some cross languid wrist on wrist, And say Pain is their fate; But those that study very hard, And learn that Pain can bless, Are sent out in a leafy yard To play with Happiness. [page 110]
I TALKED with you to-day, all three, Two of you lurked unseen: Yourself, the boy you used to be, And the man you might have been. You said that hopes to dead buds turned, That love was but a dream, Ambition soon to ashes burned, Joy was a fleeting gleam. You never saw that constantly They smiled at you unseen— The ardent boy you used to be, The man you might have been. [page 111]
BOLD as thou art There cometh one more bold To turn thy strenuous heart All masterless and cold. Unmoved, strong-stayed Art thou? Yet cometh one Whose whisper will persuade Three with him to be gone. King of the fray? Lord of the time and race? And yet shall come the ray To light thy vacant place. [page 112]
MY GUARDIAN ANGEL.
WHEN from my task I fain would steal, And into vacuous languor slip, With inward bleeding then I feel My guardian angel’s whip. Or when to empty revelry I give my spirit, though it sears And shames that inner self, I see My guardian angel’s tears. Or when I yield to grief or fear, Or scorn, or say that life is chaff, Blown by an idle wind, I hear My guardian angel’s laugh. [page 113]
THE WORLD WELL LOST.
MY one dark love shall fix the day, The solemn day when we shall wed; Nor know I if on green or gray, On winter white or autumn red, My happy bridal moon shall rise, Nor which of all the blossoming Mays Shall wreathe the gates of Paradise Upon my dark love’s day of days. But this I know: her steps will be Like rose-leaves falling from the rose, Her eyes a fathomless strange sea To which my stream of being flows. And this I know: her lips will rest As lightly on the drowsing lid As leafy shadows on the breast Of some sweet grave all flower-hid. In some sweet grave all flower-hid A thousand times the blooms of May Shall visit us the leaves amid, When my love, Death, has named the day. [page 114]
THE WILD JESSAMINE
(IN THE SOUTH)
THE sun of March is hot and bold, The rain of March is loud. O jessamine, your cups of gold Uplift to sun and cloud; To song of bird, to breath of herd, To light and wind and dew, Lift up, lift up, the golden cup, And bid me drink with you! The woods of March are hung with green, The green is hung with bloom; The olive boughs, O jessamine, Let all your gold illume. To woodland wine—the drink that pine And oak and yeupon brew— Lift up, lift up, the golden cup, And let me drink with you! [page 115] The breath of March is violet sweet, The arms of March are soft; O jessamine, the time is fleet, Lift all your cups aloft! To looks that make the spirit ache— That pierce, deny, pursue— Lift up, lift up the golden cup, And I will drink with you! [page 116]
BEGINNING AND END.
ONCE it was, in my life’s beginning, Roses were tall in their summer beds, Dandelions within my fingers Thrust their confident golden heads; Wading waist-deep amid the daisies, Feeling the grasses about me climb; Thus is was in my life’s beginning,— What have you done to me, Father Time? So shall it be when life has ended: Roses shall bloom above my bed, Dandelions will know I am lying Hidden in grass from foot to head. Hidden in grass and hidden in daisies, Over my breast I shall feel them climb; Thus it will be when life has ended,— This will you do to me, Father Time. [page 117]
COME BACK AGAIN.
CHILD-THOUGHTS, child-thoughts, come back again, Faint, fitful, as you used to be! The dusty chambers of my brain Have need of your fair company, As when my child-head reached the height Of the wild rose bush at the door, And all of heaven and its delight Bloomed in the flowers the old bush bore. Come back, sweet long-departed year, When, sitting in a hollow oak, I heard the sheep-bells far and clear, I heard a voice that silent spoke, And felt in both a vague appeal, And both were mingled in my dreams With leaves that viewless breezes feel. And skies clear mirrored in the streams. [page 118] Child-heart, child-thoughts, come back again! Bring back the tall grass at my cheek, The grief more swift than summer rain, The joy that knew no words to speak; The buttercup’s uplifted gold That strives to reach my hands in vain; The love that never could grow cold— Child-heart, child-thoughts, come back again!
AT THE WINDOW.
How thick about the window of my life Buzz, insect-like, the tribe of petty frets; Small cares, small thoughts, small trials and small strife, Small loves and hates, small hopes and small regrets. If ’mid this swarm of smallness remain A single undimmed spot, with wondering eye I note before my freckled window-pane The outstretched splendor of the earth and sky. [page 119]
A SPIRIT through My window came when earth was soft with dew, Close at the tender edge of dawn, when all The spring was new, And bore me back Along her rose-and-starry tinted track, And showed me how the full-winged day emerged From our the black. She knew the speech Of all the deep-pink blossoms of the peach, Told in my ear the meanings of the trees, The thoughts of each. Explained to me The language of the bird and frog and bee, The messages the streams and rivers take Unto the sea. [page 120] And now when I Roam this strange earth beneath a stranger sky, Soft syllables of that forgotten speech, Faint as a sigh, Come back again, With sweet solicitings that urge like pain And brood like love—as full of light and dark As April rain.
THE leaves within the orchard walls Give to the wind at play Light-hearted plunges, leaps and falls, Throughout the summer day. And yet with still, unswerving power The fruit is ripening hour by hour. So have I seen a spirit strong Give to a passing breeze Of jest and laughter, mirth and song, Compliant courtesies; And his soul’s purpose lost no whit Of that great strength that flowed to it. [page 121]
ROSE-LEAF damsel, tell me this— You with your seventeen years— How much honey is in a kiss, And how much salt in tears? “Nay,” she said, “such words, I wis, Are not for my maiden ears. How should I know the sweet of a kiss Or the bitterness of tears? White-haired woman, whose grief and bliss Overrun seventy years, Tell me true, does the sweet of a kiss Outweigh the bitter of tears? “Yea,” she said, “but the bitterness Enmixed with the sweet appears: My life’s most tender and treasured kiss Is kept in the brine of tears. [page 122]
THE BRIDE OF DEATH.
BUT tell us of the bride, we said. “So one with him she seemed to be, The bridegroom’s kiss upon her lips Lay almost visibly. “Her dress? Oh, roses, roses white, That heaped the hands, the neck, the breast Of her, the whitest rose of all That ever bridegroom pressed. “A glad look? Yea, the raptured look Of one that drops from our her slim Sweet hands all other gifts of life To hold them out to him. “Her dower? She brought him nothing save Her loveliness, her life, her breath; He gave her wealth. And title? Yea, The old, old name of Death.” [page 123]
PITY ME NOT.
PITY me not: it makes me pitiable. Grieve not for me, ’twill set me grieving, too. Come not forebodingly but courage-full, And speak the shining word that’s strong and true. If you would have me fearless, have no fears; If you would have me light and sorrow-free, Then give your steps the music of the spheres, Make your eye steadfast as eternity [page 124]
WE must work to live— Not body-life alone, but soul-life. If to our work ourselves we do not give, Our thoughts, our aspirations and our whole life, Then days become a torture, moments wound, The lightest hours are leaden at the core, And oftentimes we hear that awful sound— Time’s ocean with its spirit-crushing roar.
A LINE FROM EMERSON.
TO thy soul’s highest instincts, Oh, be true, Though thick around thy heaven-girt solitude The earth’s low aims, low thoughts, low wants shall teem. The myriad voices of the world shall sue With scorn, persuasive wile, or clamors rude. “But thou, God’s darling, heed thy private dream!” [page 125]
THE FIELDS OF DARK.
THE wreathing vine within the porch Is in the heart of me, The roses that the noondays scorch Burn on in memory; Alone at night I quench the light, And without star or spark The grass and trees press to my knees, And flowers throng the dark. The leaves that loose their hold at noon Drop on my face like rain, And in the watches of the moon I feel them fall again. By day I stray how far away To stream and wood and steep, But on my track they all come back To haunt the vale of sleep. [page 126] The fields of light are clover-brimmed, Or grassed or daisy-starred; The fields of dark are softly dimmed, And safely twilight-barred; But in the gloom that fills my room I cannot fail to mark The grass and trees about my knees, The flowers in the dark. [page 127]
GREEN BOUGHS OF HOME.
GREEN boughs of home, that come between Mine eyes and this far distant scene, I see, when’er my thought escapes, Your old serene familiar shapes; Each lissom willow tree that dips Into the stream her golden whips, The sassafras beside the gate, Where twilight strollers linger late; The hemlock groups that dimly hold Their own against the noonday gold, The maple lines that give the view A green or luminous avenue; Those oldest apple trees whose forms Have braved a hundred years of storms, And turn a face as blithe and free To greet their second century; [page 128] The younger orchard’s heavy edge, Framed in the honey locust hedge; Fruit-flushed, snow-burdened or bloom-bright, It comes to my home-longing sight; The billowy woods across the road, Where all the winds of heaven strode, And sang in every towering stem, Would that I were at home with them! For under these down-bending boughs A thousand tender memories house. Oh, while your old companions roam, Your peace be theirs, green boughs of home! [page 129]
HOW dear to hearts by hurtful noises scarred The stillness of the many-leaved trees, The quiet of green hills, the million-starred Tranquility of night, the endless seas Of silence in deep wilds, where nature broods In large, serene, uninterrupted moods. Oh, but to work as orchards work—bring forth Pink bloom, green bud, red fruit and yellow leaf, As noiselessly as gold proclaims its worth, Or as the pale blade turns to russet sheaf, Or splendid sun goes down the glowing west, Still as forgotten memories in the breast. How without panting effort, painful word, Comes the enchanting miracle of snow, Making a sleeping ocean. None have heard Its waves, its surf, its foam, its overflow; For unto every heart, all hot and wild, It seems to say, “Oh, hush thee! hush, my child!” [page 130]
IF ONE MIGHT LIVE.
IF one might live ten years among the leaves, Ten—only ten—of all a life’s long day, Who would not choose a childhood ‘neath the eaves Low-sloping to some slender footpath way? With the young grass about his childish feet, And the young lambs within his ungrown arms, And every streamlet side a pleasure seat Within the wide day’s treasure-house of charms. To learn to speak while young birds learned to sing, To learn to run e’en as they learned to fly; With unworn heart against the breast of spring, To watch the moments smile as they went by. Enroofed with apple buds afar to roam, Or clover-cradled on the murmurous sod, To drowse within the blessed fields of home, So near to earth—so very near to God. [page 131] How could it matter—all the after strife, The heat, the haste, the inward hurt, the strain, When the young loveliness and sweet of life Came flood-like back again and yet again? When best begins it liveth through the worst; O happy soul, beloved of Memory, Whose youth was joined to beauty as at first The morning stars were wed to harmony.
WE live among unheard Niagaras. The force that pushes up the meadow grass, That swells to ampler roundness ripening fruit, That lifts the brier rose, were it not mute, Would thunder o’er the green earth’s sunlit tracts More loudly than a myriad cataracts. [page 132]
WHEREVER on far distant farms The orchard trees lift bounteous arms, The lane is grape-leaved, woodland dense, The chipmunk leaps the zigzag fence, The horses from the plow’s last round Drink with a deep sweet cooling sound, And with the thin young moon afloat Comes up the frog’s heart-easing note, And tree-toads’ endless melody, Oh, that is home, Is restful home to me. Whenever on a distant street Two charmful eyes I chance to meet, The look of one that knows the grace Of every change on nature’s face, Whose sea-like soul is open wide To breezes from the farther side, Whose voice and movement seem to give The knowledge of how best to live And how to live most happily, Oh, that is home, Is blessed home to me. [page 133]
BEYOND the far horizon’s farthest bound A farther boundary lies; No spirit wing can reach the utmost round, No spirit eyes. The soul has limitations such as space, Such as eternity; The farthest star to which thou setst thy face Belongs to thee. [page 134]
MY lover comes down the leafy street Through tenderly falling rain; His footsteps near our portal veer, Go past—then turn again. Oh, can it be he is knocking below, Or here at my door above! So gentle and small it sounds in the hall, So loud in the ear of love. But never a word of love has he said, And never a word crave I, For why should one long for the daylight strong When the dawn is in the sky? Oh, a dewy rose garden is the house, A garden shut from the sun; The breath of it sweet floats up as my feet Float down to my waiting one. [page 135] But if ever a word of love thinks he, It falls from his heart still-born; Who bends to the rose does not haste to close His hand around bud and thorn. The beautiful soul that is in him turns His beautiful face agleam; My own soul flies to feast in his eyes, Where the silent love-words teem. Our talk is of books and of thoughts and moods, Of the wild flowers in the rain, And he leans his cheek when we do not speak On his chair where my hand had lain. Yet never a word of love does he say, And never a word crave I; For the faint green May would wither away At the quick touch of July. And at last—at last, we took our last, And the dim day grows more dim; But his eyes still shine in these eyes of mine, And my soul goes forth with him. For though not a word of love does he say, Still never a word crave I; For the words of earth are little worth When a song drops out of the sky. [page 136]
UNDER THE KING
LOVE with the deep eyes and soft hair, Love with the lily throat and hands, Is done to death, and free as air Am I of all my King’s commands. How shall I celebrate my joy? Or dance with feet that once were fleet In his adorable employ? Or laugh with lips that felt his sweet? How can I at his lifeless face Aim any sharp or bitter jest, Since roguish destiny did place That tender target in my breast? Nay, let me be sincere and strong; I cannot rid me of my chains, I cannot to myself belong, My King is dead—his soul still reigns. [page 137]
FOR strength we ask For the ten thousand times repeated task, The endless smallness of every day. No, not to lay My life down in the cause I cherish most. That were too easy. But, whate’er it cost, To fail no more In gentleness toward the ungentle, nor In love toward the unlovely, and to give, Each day I live, To every hour with outstretched hand its meed Of not-to-be-regretted thought and deed. [page 138]
THE OLD HOME.
THE house we used to live in looks at us So wistfully as we go driving by; The wind that makes its lone tree murmurous Flies swiftly after with entreating sigh. “Come back, come back,” we hear it low implore; “Lift up the grass-choked gate, the earth-stained door, And enter in your childhood’s home once more.” Ah, no, let us make merry with light speech Of newer days and thrust the past aside. Close to that door the baby used to reach The knob and play with it—before he died. He used to sleep on the broad window-sill, A sunbeam on his curls. No, not that hill, This level road. Drive fast, oh, faster still! [page 139] How small it was! Before the birds have grown They lie so warmly in one tiny nest; But all the world is theirs when they are flown And foreign roofs replace the mother’s breast. Ah, well, God careth. See, before us now The ampler home beneath its stately bough. Lift up the saddened heart and clear the brow. For in that empty nest beyond the hill Are blessed shadows at immortal ease: The sun-crowned baby on the window-sill, The happy children underneath the trees. Old house, look not so piteous! Thou art Of larger lives the very sweetest part, The first love of the unforgetting heart. [page 140]
THE DESERTED HOUSE
WITH sagging door and staring window-place And sunken roof it stands among its trees, Befriended by the boughs that interlace Between it and the light ghost-footed breeze. Poor human nest, how desolately torn! Yet in these ragged rooms young children slept, And on this floor, all broken and forlorn, The baby with the sunshine daily crept. See where some older “Ruth” and “Archie” stood, And marked their names a yard space from the ground— That little height where all of sweet and good Within the narrow plot of home is found. Such tiny sleeping-rooms, with space for naught Except a place to dress, a place to dream, A book, a little shelf, a good-night thought, A childish treasure brought from field or stream. [page 141] Upon this curbstone, picking bit by bit The grass that grew before the cottage door, The blessed baby sat, examining it As one who ne’er had seen its like before. Here by the window, in her willow chair, The mother sewed and sand a low refrain. Are those the patches from her piece-bag there? Nay, they are leaves that blew in with the rain! The leaves blow in, the moss is on the roof, The squirrels bring their treasures from the boughs, The storm comes, and with dull unhastening hoof Into this partial shelter stray the cows. Ah, come away! Some woman’s youth lies here, Some man’s fair childhood, dead but wondrous sweet; Some heart this cot has sheltered holds it dear, And fills it with old loves and joys complete. What right have we to pry or speculate? The sun goes down; the twilight, like a pall, Encloseth ruined house and porch and gate, And tender darkness broodeth over all. [page 142]
THE old man and his apple-tree Are verging close on eighty-three; ’Twas planted there when he was two, And almost side by side they grew. How strong and straight they were at eight, One leafy, one with curly pate! How fine at twenty, how alive And prosperous at twenty-five! What health and grace in every limb, Was said of it—was said of him! Then when he blushed, a marriage groom, The tree outvied the bride in bloom; And in the after years there played Within its ample sweep of shade A little child with cheeks as red As had the apples overhead. Her father called the tree his twin, And surely it was next of kin. [page 143] The best of life came to the twain: The beauty of the stars, the rain, Soft-stepping, and the liquid notes That overflow from feathered throats. Unto the soul that selfish strives Was borne the fragrance of their lives, And anxious folk with brow down bent Bathed in their heads up the storm, And gloried when the winds were warm; Their shadows lay but at their feet, And all of life above was sweet. And now that they are eighty-three They’re almost as they used to be. The blossoms are as pink and white, The old man’s heart as pure and light. The apples—fragrant balls of flame— Are looking, tasting, just the same. And just the same his uttered thought Of mirth and wisdom quaintly wrought. Through all their years they kept their truth, Their strength and that sweet look of youth. [page 144]
THE BLIND MAN.
THE blind man at his window bars Stands in the morning dewy dim; The pearly-mantled dawn, the stars That wait for it, are naught to him. And naught to his unseeing eyes The brownness of a sunny plain, Where worn and drowsy August lies, And wakens but to sleep again. And naught to him a greening slope, That yearns up to the height above, And naught the leaves of May that ope As softly as the eyes of love. And naught to him the branching aisles, Athrong with woodland worshippers, And naught the fields where summer smiles Among her sunburned laborers. [page 145] The way a trailing streamlet goes, The barefoot grasses on its brim, The dew a flower cup o’erflows With silent joy, are hid from him. To him no breath of nature calls; Upon his desk his work is laid; He looks up at the dingy walls, And listens to the voice of Trade. [page 146]
A MIDDAY IN MIDSUMMER.
THE sky’s great curtains downward steal, The earth’s fair company Of trees and streams and meadows feel A sense of privacy. Upon the vast expanse of heat Light-footed breezes pace; To waves of gold they tread the wheat, They lift the sunflower’s face. The cruel sun is blotted out, The west is black with rain, The drooping leaves in mingled doubt And hope look up again. The weeds and grass on tiptoe stand, A strange exultant thrill Prepares the dazed, uncertain land For the wild tempest’s will. [page 147] The wind grows big and breathes aloud As it runs hurrying past; At one sharp blow the thunder-cloud Lets loose the furious blast. The earth is beaten, drenched and drowned, The elements go mad; Swift streams of joy flow o’er the ground, And all the leaves are glad. Then comes a momentary lull; The darkest clouds are furled, And lo, new washed and beautiful And breathless gleams the world! [page 148]
THE ROADS OF OLD.
THE roads of old, how fair they gleamed, How long each winding way was deemed; In days gone by, how wondrous high Their little hills and houses seemed. The morning road, that led to school, Was framed in dew that clung as cool To childish feet as waves that beat About the sunbeams in a pool; The river road, that crept beside The dreamy alder-bordered tide, Where fish at play on Saturday Left some young hopes ungratified; The valley road, that wandered through Twin vales and heard no wind that blew— The cowbell’s clank from either bank Was all the sound it ever knew; [page 149] The woodland road, whose windings dim Were known to watchers straight and slim; How slow it moved, as if it loved Each listening leaf and arching limb; The market road, that felt the charm Of lights on many a sleepy farm, When whirring clocks and crowing cocks Gave forth the market-man’s alarm; The village road, that used to drop Its daisies at the blacksmith shop, And leave some trace of rustic grace To tempt the busiest eye to stop; These all renew their olden spell. With rocky cliff and sunny dell, With purling brook and grassy nook, They bordered childhood’s country well. And we who are near them used to dwell Can but the same sweet story tell, That on them went glad-eyed Content; They bordered childhood’s country well. [page 150]
BUT yesterday, all faint for breath, The summer laid her down to die; And now her frail ghost wandereth In every breeze that loiters by. Her wilted prisoners look up As wondering who broke their chain; Too deep they drank of summer’s cup, They have no strength to rise again. How swift the trees, their mistress gone, Enrobe themselves for revelry! How wild and vagrant winds upon The wold are dancing merrily! With crimson fruits and bursting nuts, And whirling leaves and flushing streams, The spirit of September cuts Adrift from August’s languid dreams. [page 151] A little white the revellers Shall flame and flaunt and have their day, And then will come the messengers Who travel on a cloudy way. And after them a form of light, A sense of iron in the air, Upon the pulse a touch of might, And winter’s legions everywhere. [page 152]
THE WIND SPIRIT
ALONE within the wind I lie, And reck not how the seasons go: The winter struggling through its snow, The light-winged summer flitting by. I am not of the cloud nor mould, I move between the stars and flowers, I know the tingling touch of hours When all the storms of night unfold. Within the wind world drifting free I hear naught of earth’s murmurings; Naught but the sound of songs and wings Among the tree-tops comes to me. At night earth stars flash out below, And heaven stars shine out above; I look down on the lights of love, And feel the higher love-lights glow. [page 153]
THE WIND OF DEATH.
THE wind of death, that softly blows The last warm petal from the rose, The last dry leaf from off the tree, To-night has come to breathe on me. There was a time I learned to hate As weaker mortals learn to love; The passion held me fixed as fate, Burned in my veins early and late; But now a wind falls from above— The wind of death, that silently Enshroudeth friend and enemy! There was a time my soul was thrilled By keen ambition’s whip and spur; My master forced me where he willed. And with his power my life was filled: But now the old-time pulses stir [page 154] How faintly in the wind of death, That bloweth lightly as a breath. And once, but once, at Love’s dear feet I yielded strength and life and heart; His look turned bitter into sweet, His smile made all the world complete; The wind blows loves like leaves apart— The wind of death, that tenderly Is blowing ’twixt my love and me. O wind of death, that darkly blows Each separate ship of human woes Far out on a mysterious sea, I turn, I turn my face to thee. [page 155]
THE PRAYER OF THE YEAR.
LEAVE me Hope when I am old; Strip my joys from me, Let November to the cold Bare each leafy tree; Chill my lover, dull my friend, Only, while I grope To the dark, the silent end, Leave me Hope! Blight my bloom when I am old, Bid my sunlight cease; If it need be, from my hold Take the hand of Peace. Leave no springtime memory, But upon the slope Of the days that are to be, Leave me Hope! [page 156]
DEAD leaves in the bird’s nest, And after that the snow; That was where the bird’s breast Tenderly did go, Where the tiny birds pressed Lovingly—and lo! Dead leaves in the bird’s nest Under falling snow. Dead leaves in the heart’s nest, And after that the snow; That was where the heart’s guest Brooded months ago, Where the tender thoughts pressed Lovingly—and lo! Dead leaves in the heart’s nest Under falling snow. [page 157]
A WINTER PICTURE.
AN air as sharp as steel, a sky Pierced with a million points of fire; The level fields, hard, white and dry, A road as straight and tense as wire. No hint of human voice or face In frost below or fire above, Save where the smoke’s blue billowing grace Flies flag-like from the roofs of love. [page 158]
STOUT-HEARTED bird, When thy blithe note I heard From out the wind-warped tree— Chick-a-dee-dee!— There came to me A sense of triumph, an exultant breath Blown in the face of death. For what are harsh and bitter circumstances When the heart dances, And pipes to rattling branch and icy lea, Chick-a-dee-dee! Sing loud, sing loud Against that leaden cloud, That draggeth drearily, Chick-a-dee-dee! Pour out thy free Defiance to the sharpest winds that blow And still increasing snow. By courage, faith and joy art thou attended, And most befriended By thine own heart that bubbleth cheerily, Chick-a-dee-dee! [page 159]
THE PATIENT EARTH.
THE patient earth that loves the grass, The flocks and herds that o’er it pass, That guards the smallest summer nest Within her scented bosom pressed, And gives to beetle, moth and bee A lavish hospitality, Still waits through weary years to bind The hearts of suffering human kind. How far we roamed away from her, The tender mother of us all! Yet ’mid the city’s noises stir The sound of birds that call and call, Wind melodies that rise and fall Along the perfumed woodland wall We looked upon with childhood’s eyes; The ugly streets are all a blur, And in our hearts are homesick cries. [page 160] The loving earth, that roots the trees So closely to her inmost heart, Has rooted us as well as these; Not long from her we live apart. We draw upon a lengthening string, For months perhaps, perhaps for years, And plume ourselves that we are free, And then—we hear a robin sing Where starving grass shows stunted spears, Or haycart moving fragrantly Where creaking tavern sign-boards swing; Then closer, tighter draws the chain— The man, too old and worn for tears, Goes back to be a child again. The greed that took us prisoner First led our steps away from her; For lust of gold we gave up life, And sank heart-deep in worldly strife. And when Success—beloved name— At last with faltering footsteps came, The city’s rough, harsh imps of sound And Competition’s crush and cheat Were in her wreath securely bound; Her fruits still savored of the street, Its choking dust, its wearied feet; Her poorest like her richest prize Was rotted o’er by envious eyes, [page 161] And sickened by the human heat Of hands that strove to clutch it fast, And, struggling, gave it up at last. Not so where nature, summer-crowned, Makes fields and woods a pleasure-ground, Sky-blest, wind-kissed, and circled round With waters lapsing cool and sweet. O Earth, sweet Mother, take us back! With woodland strength and orchard joy, And river peace without alloy, Flood us who on the city’s track Have followed stifling, sordid years; Cleanse us with dew and meadow rain, Till life’s horizon lights and clears And nature claims us once again! [page 162]
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THE LARGER LOVE.
WHEN other poets sing of love, and pour The honeyed stream of love’s idolatry About the feet of some supremest she, Until, sweet-saturated to the core, Her wings are drowned and can no longer soar, I think of my strong lover—like the sea, More full of salt than sweetness—challenging me For his love’s sake to heights unscaled before. Not his to exhale the airs that dull the brain With poison of dense perfume, but to sting Thought, feeling, fancy, into luminous deed; That through the splendid tumult and the strain The form of Love may tower, a god-like thing, Crowned, shod and girdled with his richest meed. [page 165]
THE CLIMBING TREES.
WHERE the great trees went climbing mountains high, To crown the tops of monster bluffs and throw Wild beauty on the evening’s afterglow, And, as it were, fence in the burning sky, I looked up at their tops and questioned why Their splendid vastness did not bring more low My petty pride, and teach my soul to know How insect-like in heart and life was I. Then of a sudden I remembered how I, too, have marched, tree-like, up skyey heights Of your great thoughts, beloved, and have felt My spirit with their greatness blend and melt. So have I been made fit for starry flights, Love-lifted to the utmost then as now. [page 166]
THE ONE FACE.
WHEN the long miles flew from the flying train, And carried with them river-bend and bay, Sky-reaching hills and little streams at play, Dank marsh and many a fenceless, boundless plain Freckled with cattle, fields of lustrous grain, Long rocky stretches, cities smoky gray, Sparkling at night and one dull roar by day, And forests darkly glistening after rain; I looked upon my fellow-travellers And saw, though each was gazing from his place, He chiefly viewed the spot from whence he came: Mount, stream, town, prairie, deeply glistening firs, Were clustering round the one beloved face, Of which the outer world was but the frame. [page 167]
NEXT time my lover comes—I often say— We shall talk love and love and love alone; Speak in love’s faint vibrating undertone, With breathings tender as the breath of May, And bendings as of those who bow to pray, And waverings as of birds but newly flown, And sweet revealings as of petals blown From some red rose heart on a woodside spray. Then when we meet flies forth impetuous speech, Thought thrust in word as hand within its glove, The rush of comment and the play of wit, Opinions wrestling, laughing, each to each . . . . Next time he comes we shall talk love, love, love! This time keen thought and all the joy of it! [page 168]
CLOTHED in the virginal green of early spring, Or, later, fragrant with her miles of sweet Wild roses flushing in the summer heat, Or mantled in a shining robe a king Might wear when golden-rod is flowering, Or thrilled responsive to the dancing feet Of little laughing rains, or feeling fleet Yet strong—how strong!—the wind’s unwearied wing; Whate’er her garb, the prairie speaks of love— Love’s virginal beginnings, rosy moods, Her golden joys and happy, happy tears. The mighty wing that tireless sweeps above Her summer sweets and winter solitudes Is weariless as love’s unending years. [page 169]
DEAR gray-winged angel, with the mouth set stern And time-devouring eyes, the sweetest sweet Of kisses when two severed lovers meet Is thine; the cruelest ache in hearts that yearn, The fears that freeze, the hopes that leap and burn, Thine—thine! And thine the drum-and-trumpet beat Of hearts that wait for unreturning feet, When comes at last the hour of their return. Of Love’s fair ministers thou art the chief. To jaded souls, asleep beside their vows, Thou givest hopes, keen joys and vague alarms; Beneath thy touch the brown and yellow leaf Turns to pink blossom, and the spring-bright boughs Frame lovers running to each other’s arms. [page 170]
YOUTH IN AGE.
WHEN younger women stand a breathing space Before their mirrors, with an inward smile At burnished hair or slender throat or wile Of dimpled chin, or nest a rose in lace And note how perfectly it mates the face, I, pallid, worn and hollow-templed, pile My heart with thoughts of secret triumphs, while Young hopes are mine, young bliss and youth’s light pace. For when my lover’s eyes are fixed on me There are no years, no hollows, no gray days, No harsh realities, no endless prose; But only flowery lanes of poetry, Through which we wander, lost in sweet amaze That life could hold such fairness near its close. [page 171]
NEAR the slim bridge at Minehaha Falls, Below the impetuous current’s foaming roar, I followed down a path that ran before And led me into Summer’s sylvan halls. Full-boughed and mossy were the mist-clad walls, While in diminished cadence came the pour, Attenuated ever more and more Until it seemed the least of elfin calls. So is it with the turbulent stream of life: In youth it storms the soul; grows less and less As down the middle years our footsteps wend. We lose at first the tumult and the strife, Then find with the departing urge and stress Pure melody before the silent end. [page 172]
THE RED ROSE.
WHEN all the winds of life were dull and tame She looked out where her bed of roses burned, And saw that whether each red bud was turned Down to the arid earth from which it came, Or up to Him who shaped its lovely frame, The infinite perfection of it yearned To her, because in her the rose discerned A life of fragrance and a soul of flame. Ah, weary heart, thou art thyself a rose! Perfection holds thee in her clinging hand And whispers to thee all her sweet desire. Faint not! The most monotonous wind that blows Shall waft thy fragrance through a bloomless land And fan thy dulling flame to deeper fire. [page 173]
POINT DEFIANCE PARK.
DEFIANCE! How that name arouses me! Her redwood trees, like guardian angels great And giant-hearted, weave above her gate The splendor of their leafy canopy. In their encircling arms upstandeth she, And breathes defiance to the harshest fate, To evil-speaking winds, to stormy hate, To all the waves of uncertain sea. But most she feels defiance to the tide Of mellow sunshine with its days of calm, And fainting breezes bidding effort cease. O shining angels walking at my side, Keep me defiant of life’s languorous balm, Corroding ease and soul-consuming peace! [page 174]
THERE IS A SOLITUDE.
THERE is a solitude within the heart, Unpenetrated by the eye of man. At its first dawn, when consciousness began, The birds sang strong as at Creation’s start, The sun illumed the stillness with his dart, And through the groves the naked spirit ran Rained on by dew-drenched boughs—his end and plan To be of loveliness the fairest part. O thou that feels the world’s dust mount and mount Up to the jaded nostrils, smarting eyes, There is a solitude within thy heart; Go, wash thyself in that transfiguring fount, And feel the primal bliss, the old surprise, Discovering how divine a thing thou art. [page 175]
ONE day I caught up with my angel, she Who calls me bell-like from a sky-touched tower. ’Twas in my roof-room, at the stillest hour Of a still, sunless day, when suddenly A flood of deep unreasoned ecstasy Lifted my heart, that had begun to cower, And wrapped it in a flame of living power. My leader said, “Arise and follow me.” Then as I followed gladly I beheld How all men baffled, burdened, crossed or curst, Clutch at an angel’s hem, if near or far; One not-to-be-resisted voice, deep-belled, Speaks to them, and of those we call the worst, Lo, each poor blackened brow strains to a Star! [page 176]
EACH TO HER OWN.
ONE look me to a skyward-climbing vine, Behind whose pointed leaves a poet sang Soul-stealingly, so that the stones outrang In praise of her, and hearts that ache and pine Felt through their tears a radiance divine From farthest stars, until within them sprang Responsive holiness that dulled the pang— And said, “Her matchless power might be thine.” Then sharp I called to my light-thoughted muse, Running with brook-like rapture through the marsh, Her berry-scented garments stained and torn, And clothed her in white robe and careful shoes, And told her heaven was fair and earth was harsh, While she with hanging head looked all forlorn. [page 177]
WHEN I shall go to sleep and wake again At dawning in another world than this, What will atone to me for all I miss? That light melodious footsteps of the rain, The press of leaves against my window-pane, The sunset wistfulness and morning bliss, The moon’s enchantment, and the twilight kiss Of winds that wander with me through the lane. Will not my soul remember evermore The earthly winter’s hunger for the spring, The wet sweet cheek of April, and the rush, Of roses through the summer’s open door; The feelings that the scented woodlands bring At evening with the singing of the thrush? [page 178]
BREATHER of hope upon the face that grieves, Redd’ner of paleness, mocker at despair, Playground of happy wings that upward fare, Lover of violets and sodden leaves, Of roses running to the cottage eaves, And hay-fields sweet’ning in the sunny glare; Companion of the heart that knows no care, And of the budding boughs and bursting sheaves; Though armed with weapons of the icy north, Or red with dropping leaves, or fair with flakes, Or scorched with sun, or wistful in the rain, Out of my cell your spirit calls me forth, Out to the splendid open, where the aches And hurts of life are bathed and healed again. [page 179]
IN THE CROWD.
HERE in the crowded city’s busy street, Swayed by the eager, jostling, hasting throng, Where Traffic’s voice grows harsher and more strong, I see within the stream of hurrying feet A company of trees in their retreat, Dew-bathed, dream-wrapped, and with a thrush’s song Emparadising all the place along Whose paths I hear the pulse of Beauty beat. ’Twas yesterday I walked beneath the trees, To-day I tread the city’s stony ways; And still the spell that o’er my spirit came Turns harshest sounds to shy bird ecstasies, Pours scent of pine through murky chimney haze, And gives each careworn face a woodland frame. [page 180]
THE great, soft, downy snow-fall like a cloak Descends to wrap the lean world head to feet; It gives the dead another winding-sheet, It buries all the roofs until the smoke Seems like a soul that from its clay has broke; It broods moon-like upon the autumn wheat, And visits all the trees in their retreat, To hood and mantle that poor shivering folk. With wintry bloom it fills the harshest grooves In jagged pine stump fences; every sound It hushes to the footstep of a nun; Sweet Charity, that brightens where it moves, Including darkest bits of churlish ground To give a radiant answer to the sun. [page 181]
LOVE has a thousand phases. Oftentimes For very joy of her own life she weeps; Or like a timid wistful child she creeps To sheltering arms; or like a spirit climbs The white heights scaled by poets in their rhymes— Imagination’s lone and splendid steeps— Or drifts with idle oar upon the deeps Of her own soul to undiscovered climes. Here is the rapture of the dying saint, The exultation of the mother when Upon her breast her first-born faintly stirs For the first time; and every morn doth paint Upon each rock and tree and stream and glen Some inextinguishable look of hers. [page 182]
GOOD-BYE, my love! Though multitudes of years And miles and faces come between us twain, Though I should never hear your voice again, Still are you mine, still mine! Not by my tears— You never made them flow—nor by my fears, For I was fearless born; but by the rain Of joys that turned to seas of sunny grain This heart that showed aforetime slender spears. Now on my clouded day of life shall come No loss. The streams of gold that poured from suns Unseen have turned to gold this harvest heart; I am all sunlight-colored, and the sum Of by-gone happiness that through my runs Will make you mine forever, though apart. [page 183]
O SOUNDING winds that tirelessly are blowing Through the wide starlit spaces of the night; O eager rains that sweep the distant height, And restless streams impetuously flowing, And clouds that will delay not in your going, And ships that sail and vanish from the sight, And happy birds that stay not in your flight, And suns upon your skyey pathway glowing:— Poor laggards all! One tender thought outstrips you Go, little thought, and tell my love from me I care for him to-day as yesterday. Ah, how its strength and swiftness doth eclipse you! For now the answer comes invisibly. And instantly, and in the surest way. [page 184]
GOOD-BYE! Good-bye! My soul goes after thee, Quick as a bird that quickens on the wing, Softly as winter softens into spring; And as the moon sways to the swaying sea, So is my spirit drawn resistlessly. Good-bye! Yet closer round my life shall cling Thy tenderness, the priceless offering That drifts through distance daily unto me. O eager soul of mine, fly fast, fly fast! Take with thee hope and courage, thoughts that thrill The heart with gladness under sombre skies. O living tenderness, that no sharp blast Of bitter fate or circumstance can chill, My life with thine grows strong or fails or dies. [page 185]
IN A DARK HOUR.
YES, yes, I know what you would say, and yet Life is so sweet! life is so very sweet! Leaves dancing in the sun make quick the beat Of saddest heart, and Love must still forget Life’s toil and care, its fever and its fret. How blue the sky shines through the summer’s heat, How merrily the blood defies the sleet; One golden hour illumes a gray year. Let Those talk of tears who never knew relief; For me the hoarded honey of the past Outlives the wintry interval of pain; Come loneliness, or lovelessness, or grief, The memory of days too sweet to last Shall make my heart run o’er with joy again. [page 186]
I LIKE those words that carry in their veins The blood of lions. “Liberty” is one, And “Justice,” and the heart leaps to the sun When the thrilled note of “Courage! Courage!” rains Upon the sorely stricken will. No pains Survive when “Life” and “Light,” twin glories, run From the quick page to some poor soul undone, And beggar by their glow all other gains. How splendidly does “Morning” flood our night; How the word “Ocean” drowns our paltry cares, And drives a strong wind through our housed-up grief; While “Honor” lifts us to the mountain height, And “Loyalty” the heaviest burden bears As lightly as a tree a crimson leaf. [page 187]
TANGLED IN STARS.
TANGLED in stars and spirit-steeped in dew, The city worker to his desk returns, While ‘mid the stony streets remembrance burns, Like honeysuckle running through and through A barren hedge. He lifts his load anew, And carries it amid the thronging ferns And crowding leaves of memory, while yearns Above him once again the open blue. His letter-littered desk goes up in flowers; The world recedes, and backward dreamily Come days and nights, like jewels rare and few. And while the consciousness of those bright hours Abides with him, we know him yet to be Tangled in stars and spirit-steeped in dew. [page 188]
NOW when the grove is stifled to the core, And all the parched grass is summer-killed, I think of vehement March, and how he filled These arid roadsides with a murmurous pour Of rushing streams from an exhaustless store. This breathless air, to tropic slumber stilled, Recalls those early passionate winds that thrilled The spirit, blending with the water’s roar. Just as in rich and dusty-leaved age The soul goes back to brood on swelling buds Of hope, desire and dream, in childhood’s clime, So I turn backward to the spring-lit page, And hear with freshening heart the deep-voiced floods That to the winds give their melodious rhyme. [page 189]
AGAINST the winter’s heav’n of white the blood Of earth runs very quick and hot to-day; A storm of fiery leaves are out at play Around the lingering sunset of the wood. Where rows of blackberries unnoticed stood Run streams of ruddy color wildly gay; The golden lane half dreaming picks its way Through whelming vines as through a gleaming flood. O warm outspoken earth, a little space Against thy beating heart my heart shall beat, A little while they twain shall bleed and burn, And then the cold touch and the gray, gray face, The frozen pulse, the drifted winding-sheet, And speechlessness, and the chill burial urn! [page 190]
NOW that the earth has hid her lovely brood Of green things in her breast safe out of sight, And all the trees have stripped them for the fight, The winter comes with wild winds singing rude, Hoarse battle songs—so furious in feud That nothing lives that has not felt their bite. They sound a trumpet in the dead of night That makes more solitary solitude. Against the forest doors how fierce they beat! Against the porch, against the school-bound boy With crimson cheek bent to his shaggy coat. The earth is pale but steadfast, hearing sweet But far—how far away!—the stream of joy Outpouring from a bluebird’s tender throat. [page 191]
O MASTER-BUILDER, blustering as you go About your giant work, transforming all The empty woods into a glittering hall, And making lilac lanes and footpaths grow As hard as iron under stubborn snow, Though every fence stand forth a marble wall, And windy hollows drift to arches tall, There comes a might that shall your might o’erthrow. Build high your white and dazzling palaces, Strengthen your bridges, fortify your towers, Storm with a loud and a portentous lip; And April with a fragmentary breeze, And half a score of gentle golden hours, Shall leave no trace of your stern workmanship. [page 192]
THE SILENT SNOW.
TO-DAY the earth has not a word to speak. The snow comes down as softly through the air As pitying heaven to a martyr’s prayer, Or white grave roses to a bloodless cheek. The footsteps of the snow, as white and meek As angel travellers, are everywhere— On fence and brier and up the forest stair, And on the wind’s trail o’er the moorland bleak. They tread the rugged road as tenderly As April venturing her first caress; They drown the old earth’s furrowed griefs and scars Within the white foam of a soundless sea. And bring a deeper depth of quietness To graves asleep beneath the silent stars. [page 193]
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