Sidney Lanier |
A pale enchanted moon is sinking low
Behind the dunes that fringe the shadowy lea,
And there is haunted starlight on the flow
Of immemorial sea.
I am alone and need no more pretend
Laughter or smile to hide a hungry heart;
I walk with solitude as with a friend
Enfolded and apart.
We tread an eerie road across the moor
Where shadows weave upon their ghostly looms,
And winds sing an old lyric that might lure
Sad queens from ancient tombs.
I am a sister to the loveliness
Of cool far hill and long-remembered shore,
Finding in it a sweet forgetfulness
Of all that hurt before.
The world of day, its bitterness and cark,
No longer have the power to make me weep;
I welcome this communion of the dark
As toilers welcome sleep.
Sidney Lanier |
At midnight, death's and truth's unlocking time,
When far within the spirit's hearing rolls
The great soft rumble of the course of things --
A bulk of silence in a mask of sound, --
When darkness clears our vision that by day
Is sun-blind, and the soul's a ravening owl
For truth and flitteth here and there about
Low-lying woody tracts of time and oft
Is minded for to sit upon a bough,
Dry-dead and sharp, of some long-stricken tree
And muse in that gaunt place, -- 'twas then my heart,
Deep in the meditative dark, cried out:
"Ye companies of governor-spirits grave,
Bards, and old bringers-down of flaming news
From steep-wall'd heavens, holy malcontents,
Sweet seers, and stellar visionaries, all
That brood about the skies of poesy,
Full bright ye shine, insuperable stars;
Yet, if a man look hard upon you, none
With total lustre blazeth, no, not one
But hath some heinous freckle of the flesh
Upon his shining cheek, not one but winks
His ray, opaqued with intermittent mist
Of defect; yea, you masters all must ask
Some sweet forgiveness, which we leap to give,
We lovers of you, heavenly-glad to meet
Your largesse so with love, and interplight
Your geniuses with our mortalities.
Thus unto thee, O sweetest Shakespeare sole,
A hundred hurts a day I do forgive
('Tis little, but, enchantment! 'tis for thee):
Small curious quibble; Juliet's prurient pun
In the poor, pale face of Romeo's fancied death;
Cold rant of Richard; Henry's fustian roar
Which frights away that sleep he invocates;
Wronged Valentine's unnatural haste to yield;
Too-silly shifts of maids that mask as men
In faint disguises that could ne'er disguise --
Viola, Julia, Portia, Rosalind;
Fatigues most drear, and needless overtax
Of speech obscure that had as lief be plain;
Last I forgive (with more delight, because
'Tis more to do) the labored-lewd discourse
That e'en thy young invention's youngest heir
Besmirched the world with.
Father Homer, thee,
Thee also I forgive thy sandy wastes
Of prose and catalogue, thy drear harangues
That tease the patience of the centuries,
Thy sleazy scrap of story, -- but a rogue's
Rape of a light-o'-love, -- too soiled a patch
To broider with the gods.
Thou dear and very strong one, I forgive
Thy year-worn cloak, thine iron stringencies
That were but dandy upside-down, thy words
Of truth that, mildlier spoke, had mainlier wrought.
So, Buddha, beautiful! I pardon thee
That all the All thou hadst for needy man
Was Nothing, and thy Best of being was
But not to be.
Worn Dante, I forgive
The implacable hates that in thy horrid hells
Or burn or freeze thy fellows, never loosed
By death, nor time, nor love.
And I forgive
Thee, Milton, those thy comic-dreadful wars
Where, armed with gross and inconclusive steel,
Immortals smite immortals mortalwise
And fill all heaven with folly.
Brave Aeschylus, thee I forgive, for that
Thine eye, by bare bright justice basilisked,
Turned not, nor ever learned to look where Love
So, unto thee, Lucretius mine
(For oh, what heart hath loved thee like to this
That's now complaining?), freely I forgive
Thy logic poor, thine error rich, thine earth
Whose graves eat souls and all.
Yea, all you hearts
Of beauty, and sweet righteous lovers large:
Aurelius fine, oft superfine; mild Saint
A Kempis, overmild; Epictetus,
Whiles low in thought, still with old slavery tinct;
Rapt Behmen, rapt too far; high Swedenborg,
O'ertoppling; Langley, that with but a touch
Of art hadst sung Piers Plowman to the top
Of English songs, whereof 'tis dearest, now,
And most adorable; Caedmon, in the morn
A-calling angels with the cow-herd's call
That late brought up the cattle; Emerson,
Most wise, that yet, in finding Wisdom, lost
Thy Self, sometimes; tense Keats, with angels' nerves
Where men's were better; Tennyson, largest voice
Since Milton, yet some register of wit
Wanting; -- all, all, I pardon, ere 'tis asked,
Your more or less, your little mole that marks
You brother and your kinship seals to man.
But Thee, but Thee, O sovereign Seer of time,
But Thee, O poets' Poet, Wisdom's Tongue,
But Thee, O man's best Man, O love's best Love,
O perfect life in perfect labor writ,
O all men's Comrade, Servant, King, or Priest, --
What `if' or `yet', what mole, what flaw, what lapse,
What least defect or shadow of defect,
What rumor, tattled by an enemy,
Of inference loose, what lack of grace
Even in torture's grasp, or sleep's, or death's, --
Oh, what amiss may I forgive in Thee,
Jesus, good Paragon, thou Crystal Christ?"
Sidney Lanier |
To-day the woods are trembling through and through
With shimmering forms, that flash before my view,
Then melt in green as dawn-stars melt in blue.
The leaves that wave against my cheek caress
Like women's hands; the embracing boughs express
A subtlety of mighty tenderness;
The copse-depths into little noises start,
That sound anon like beatings of a heart,
Anon like talk 'twixt lips not far apart.
The beech dreams balm, as a dreamer hums a song;
Through that vague wafture, expirations strong
Throb from young hickories breathing deep and long
With stress and urgence bold of prisoned spring
And ecstasy of burgeoning.
Now, since the dew-plashed road of morn is dry,
Forth venture odors of more quality
And heavenlier giving.
Like Jove's locks awry,
Rich-wreathe the spacious foreheads of great pines,
And breathe ambrosial passion from their vines.
I pray with mosses, ferns and flowers shy
That hide like gentle nuns from human eye
To lift adoring perfumes to the sky.
I hear faint bridal-sighs of brown and green
Dying to silent hints of kisses keen
As far lights fringe into a pleasant sheen.
I start at fragmentary whispers, blown
From undertalks of leafy souls unknown,
Vague purports sweet, of inarticulate tone.
Dreaming of gods, men, nuns and brides, between
Old companies of oaks that inward lean
To join their radiant amplitudes of green
I slowly move, with ranging looks that pass
Up from the matted miracles of grass
Into yon veined complex of space
Where sky and leafage interlace
So close, the heaven of blue is seen
Inwoven with a heaven of green.
I wander to the zigzag-cornered fence
Where sassafras, intrenched in brambles dense,
Contests with stolid vehemence
The march of culture, setting limb and thorn
As pikes against the army of the corn.
There, while I pause, my fieldward-faring eyes
Take harvests, where the stately corn-ranks rise,
Of inward dignities
And large benignities and insights wise,
Graces and modest majesties.
Thus, without theft, I reap another's field;
Thus, without tilth, I house a wondrous yield,
And heap my heart with quintuple crops concealed.
Look, out of line one tall corn-captain stands
Advanced beyond the foremost of his bands,
And waves his blades upon the very edge
And hottest thicket of the battling hedge.
Thou lustrous stalk, that ne'er mayst walk nor talk,
Still shalt thou type the poet-soul sublime
That leads the vanward of his timid time
And sings up cowards with commanding rhyme --
Soul calm, like thee, yet fain, like thee, to grow
By double increment, above, below;
Soul homely, as thou art, yet rich in grace like thee,
Teaching the yeomen selfless chivalry
That moves in gentle curves of courtesy;
Soul filled like thy long veins with sweetness tense,
By every godlike sense
Transmuted from the four wild elements.
Drawn to high plans,
Thou lift'st more stature than a mortal man's,
Yet ever piercest downward in the mould
And keepest hold
Upon the reverend and steadfast earth
That gave thee birth;
Yea, standest smiling in thy future grave,
Serene and brave,
With unremitting breath
Inhaling life from death,
Thine epitaph writ fair in fruitage eloquent,
Thyself thy monument.
As poets should,
Thou hast built up thy hardihood
With universal food,
Drawn in select proportion fair
From honest mould and vagabond air;
From darkness of the dreadful night,
And joyful light;
From antique ashes, whose departed flame
In thee has finer life and longer fame;
From wounds and balms,
From storms and calms,
From potsherds and dry bones
Into thy vigorous substance thou hast wrought
Whate'er the hand of Circumstance hath brought;
Yea, into cool solacing green hast spun
White radiance hot from out the sun.
So thou dost mutually leaven
Strength of earth with grace of heaven;
So thou dost marry new and old
Into a one of higher mould;
So thou dost reconcile the hot and cold,
The dark and bright,
And many a heart-perplexing opposite,
Akin by blood to high and low,
Fitly thou playest out thy poet's part,
Richly expending thy much-bruised heart
In equal care to nourish lord in hall
Or beast in stall:
Thou took'st from all that thou mightst give to all.
O steadfast dweller on the selfsame spot
Where thou wast born, that still repinest not --
Type of the home-fond heart, the happy lot! --
Deeply thy mild content rebukes the land
Whose flimsy homes, built on the shifting sand
Of trade, for ever rise and fall
With alternation whimsical,
Enduring scarce a day,
Then swept away
By swift engulfments of incalculable tides
Whereon capricious Commerce rides.
Look, thou substantial spirit of content!
Across this little vale, thy continent,
To where, beyond the mouldering mill,
Yon old deserted Georgian hill
Bares to the sun his piteous aged crest
And seamy breast,
By restless-hearted children left to lie
Untended there beneath the heedless sky,
As barbarous folk expose their old to die.
Upon that generous-rounding side,
With gullies scarified
Where keen Neglect his lash hath plied,
Dwelt one I knew of old, who played at toil,
And gave to coquette Cotton soul and soil.
Scorning the slow reward of patient grain,
He sowed his heart with hopes of swifter gain,
Then sat him down and waited for the rain.
He sailed in borrowed ships of usury --
A foolish Jason on a treacherous sea,
Seeking the Fleece and finding misery.
Lulled by smooth-rippling loans, in idle trance
He lay, content that unthrift Circumstance
Should plough for him the stony field of Chance.
Yea, gathering crops whose worth no man might tell,
He staked his life on games of Buy-and-Sell,
And turned each field into a gambler's hell.
Aye, as each year began,
My farmer to the neighboring city ran;
Passed with a mournful anxious face
Into the banker's inner place;
Parleyed, excused, pleaded for longer grace;
Railed at the drought, the worm, the rust, the grass;
Protested ne'er again 'twould come to pass;
With many an `oh' and `if' and `but alas'
Parried or swallowed searching questions rude,
And kissed the dust to soften Dives's mood.
At last, small loans by pledges great renewed,
He issues smiling from the fatal door,
And buys with lavish hand his yearly store
Till his small borrowings will yield no more.
Aye, as each year declined,
With bitter heart and ever-brooding mind
He mourned his fate unkind.
In dust, in rain, with might and main,
He nursed his cotton, cursed his grain,
Fretted for news that made him fret again,
Snatched at each telegram of Future Sale,
And thrilled with Bulls' or Bears' alternate wail --
In hope or fear alike for ever pale.
And thus from year to year, through hope and fear,
With many a curse and many a secret tear,
Striving in vain his cloud of debt to clear,
He woke to find his foolish dreaming past,
And all his best-of-life the easy prey
Of squandering scamps and quacks that lined his way
With vile array,
From rascal statesman down to petty knave;
Himself, at best, for all his bragging brave,
A gamester's catspaw and a banker's slave.
Then, worn and gray, and sick with deep unrest,
He fled away into the oblivious West,
Old hill! old hill! thou gashed and hairy Lear
Whom the divine Cordelia of the year,
E'en pitying Spring, will vainly strive to cheer --
King, that no subject man nor beast may own,
Discrowned, undaughtered and alone --
Yet shall the great God turn thy fate,
And bring thee back into thy monarch state
And majesty immaculate.
Lo, through hot waverings of the August morn,
Thou givest from thy vasty sides forlorn
Visions of golden treasuries of corn --
Ripe largesse lingering for some bolder heart
That manfully shall take thy part,
And tend thee,
And defend thee,
With antique sinew and with modern art.
Sidney Lanier |
For ever wave, for ever float and shine
Before my yearning eyes, oh! dream of mine
Wherein I dreamed that time was like a vine,
A creeping rose, that clomb a height of dread
Out of the sea of Birth, all filled with dead,
Up to the brilliant cloud of Death o'erhead.
This vine bore many blossoms, which were years.
Their petals, red with joy, or bleached by tears,
Waved to and fro i' the winds of hopes and fears.
Here all men clung, each hanging by his spray.
Anon, one dropped; his neighbor 'gan to pray;
And so they clung and dropped and prayed, alway.
But I did mark one lately-opened bloom,
Wherefrom arose a visible perfume
That wrapped me in a cloud of dainty gloom.
And rose -- an odor by a spirit haunted --
And drew me upward with a speed enchanted,
Swift floating, by wild sea or sky undaunted,
Straight through the cloud of death, where men are free.
I gained a height, and stayed and bent my knee.
Then glowed my cloud, and broke and unveiled thee.
"O flower-born and flower-souled!" I said,
"Be the year-bloom that breathed thee ever red,
Nor wither, yellow, down among the dead.
"May all that cling to sprays of time, like me,
Be sweetly wafted over sky and sea
By rose-breaths shrining maidens like to thee!"
Then while we sat upon the height afar
Came twilight, like a lover late from war,
With soft winds fluting to his evening star.
And the shy stars grew bold and scattered gold,
And chanting voices ancient secrets told,
And an acclaim of angels earthward rolled.
Sidney Lanier |
What time I paced, at pleasant morn,
A deep and dewy wood,
I heard a mellow hunting-horn
Make dim report of Dian's lustihood
Far down a heavenly hollow.
Mine ear, though fain, had pain to follow:
`Tara!' it twanged, `tara-tara!' it blew,
Yet wavered oft, and flew
Most ficklewise about, or here, or there,
A music now from earth and now from air.
But on a sudden, lo!
I marked a blossom shiver to and fro
With dainty inward storm; and there within
A down-drawn trump of yellow jessamine
Thrust up its sad-gold body lustily,
All in a honey madness hotly bound
On blissful burglary.
A cunning sound
In that wing-music held me: down I lay
In amber shades of many a golden spray,
Where looping low with languid arms the Vine
In wreaths of ravishment did overtwine
Her kneeling Live-Oak, thousand-fold to plight
Herself unto her own true stalwart knight.
As some dim blur of distant music nears
The long-desiring sense, and slowly clears
To forms of time and apprehensive tune,
So, as I lay, full soon
Interpretation throve: the bee's fanfare,
Through sequent films of discourse vague as air,
Passed to plain words, while, fanning faint perfume,
The bee o'erhung a rich, unrifled bloom:
"O Earth, fair lordly Blossom, soft a-shine
Upon the star-pranked universal vine,
Hast nought for me?
Come I, a poet, hereward haply blown,
From out another worldflower lately flown.
Wilt ask, `What profit e'er a poet brings?'
He beareth starry stuff about his wings
To pollen thee and sting thee fertile: nay,
If still thou narrow thy contracted way,
-- Worldflower, if thou refuse me --
-- Worldflower, if thou abuse me,
And hoist thy stamen's spear-point high
To wound my wing and mar mine eye --
Nathless I'll drive me to thy deepest sweet,
Yea, richlier shall that pain the pollen beat
From me to thee, for oft these pollens be
Fine dust from wars that poets wage for thee.
But, O beloved Earthbloom soft a-shine
Upon the universal Jessamine,
Prithee, abuse me not,
Prithee, refuse me not,
Yield, yield the heartsome honey love to me
Hid in thy nectary!"
And as I sank into a dimmer dream
The pleading bee's song-burthen sole did seem:
"Hast ne'er a honey-drop of love for me
In thy huge nectary?"
Sidney Lanier |
Sometimes in morning sunlights by the river
Where in the early fall long grasses wave,
Light winds from over the moorland sink and shiver
And sigh as if just blown across a grave.
And then I pause and listen to this sighing.
I look with strange eyes on the well-known stream.
I hear wild birth-cries uttered by the dying.
I know men waking who appear to dream.
Then from the water-lilies slow uprises
The still vast face of all the life I know,
Changed now, and full of wonders and surprises,
With fire in eyes that once were glazed with snow.
Fair now the brows old Pain had erewhile wrinkled,
And peace and strength about the calm mouth dwell.
Clean of the ashes that Repentance sprinkled,
The meek head poises like a flower-bell.
All the old scars of wanton wars are vanished;
And what blue bruises grappling Sense had left
And sad remains of redder stains are banished,
And the dim blotch of heart-committed theft.
O still vast vision of transfigured features
Unvisited by secret crimes or dooms,
Remain, remain amid these water-creatures,
Stand, shine among yon water-lily blooms.
For eighteen centuries ripple down the river,
And windy times the stalks of empires wave,
-- Let the winds come from the moor and sigh and shiver,
Fain, fain am I, O Christ, to pass the grave.
Sidney Lanier |
O marriage-bells, your clamor tells
Two weddings in one breath.
SHE marries whom her love compels:
-- And I wed Goodman Death!
My brain is blank, my tears are red;
Listen, O God: -- "I will," he said: --
And I would that I were dead.
Come groomsman Grief and bridesmaid Pain
Come and stand with a ghastly twain.
My Bridegroom Death is come o'er the meres
To wed a bride with bloody tears.
Ring, ring, O bells, full merrily:
Life-bells to her, death-bells to me:
O Death, I am true wife to thee!
Sidney Lanier |
It was three slim does and a ten-tined buck in the bracken lay;
And all of a sudden the sinister smell of a man,
Awaft on a wind-shift, wavered and ran
Down the hill-side and sifted along through the bracken and passed that way.
Then Nan got a-tremble at nostril; she was the daintiest doe;
In the print of her velvet flank on the velvet fern
She reared, and rounded her ears in turn.
Then the buck leapt up, and his head as a king's to a crown did go
Full high in the breeze, and he stood as if Death had the form of a deer;
And the two slim does long lazily stretching arose,
For their day-dream slowlier came to a close,
Till they woke and were still, breath-bound with waiting and wonder and fear.
Then Alan the huntsman sprang over the hillock, the hounds shot by,
The does and the ten-tined buck made a marvellous bound,
The hounds swept after with never a sound,
But Alan loud winded his horn in sign that the quarry was nigh.
For at dawn of that day proud Maclean of Lochbuy to the hunt had waxed wild,
And he cursed at old Alan till Alan fared off with the hounds
For to drive him the deer to the lower glen-grounds:
"I will kill a red deer," quoth Maclean, "in the sight of the wife
and the child.
So gayly he paced with the wife and the child to his chosen stand;
But he hurried tall Hamish the henchman ahead: "Go turn," --
Cried Maclean -- "if the deer seek to cross to the burn,
Do thou turn them to me: nor fail, lest thy back be red as thy hand.
Now hard-fortuned Hamish, half blown of his breath with the height
of the hill,
Was white in the face when the ten-tined buck and the does
Drew leaping to burn-ward; huskily rose
His shouts, and his nether lip twitched, and his legs were o'er-weak
for his will.
So the deer darted lightly by Hamish and bounded away to the burn.
But Maclean never bating his watch tarried waiting below
Still Hamish hung heavy with fear for to go
All the space of an hour; then he went, and his face was greenish and stern,
And his eye sat back in the socket, and shrunken the eyeballs shone,
As withdrawn from a vision of deeds it were shame to see.
"Now, now, grim henchman, what is't with thee?"
Brake Maclean, and his wrath rose red as a beacon the wind hath upblown.
"Three does and a ten-tined buck made out," spoke Hamish, full mild,
"And I ran for to turn, but my breath it was blown, and they passed;
I was weak, for ye called ere I broke me my fast.
Cried Maclean: "Now a ten-tined buck in the sight of the wife and the child
I had killed if the gluttonous kern had not wrought me a snail's own wrong!"
Then he sounded, and down came kinsmen and clansmen all:
"Ten blows, for ten tine, on his back let fall,
And reckon no stroke if the blood follow not at the bite of thong!"
So Hamish made bare, and took him his strokes; at the last he smiled.
"Now I'll to the burn," quoth Maclean, "for it still may be,
If a slimmer-paunched henchman will hurry with me,
I shall kill me the ten-tined buck for a gift to the wife and the child!"
Then the clansmen departed, by this path and that; and over the hill
Sped Maclean with an outward wrath for an inward shame;
And that place of the lashing full quiet became;
And the wife and the child stood sad; and bloody-backed Hamish sat still.
But look! red Hamish has risen; quick about and about turns he.
"There is none betwixt me and the crag-top!" he screams under breath.
Then, livid as Lazarus lately from death,
He snatches the child from the mother, and clambers the crag toward the sea.
Now the mother drops breath; she is dumb, and her heart goes dead for a space,
Till the motherhood, mistress of death, shrieks, shrieks through the glen,
And that place of the lashing is live with men,
And Maclean, and the gillie that told him, dash up in a desperate race.
Not a breath's time for asking; an eye-glance reveals all the tale untold.
They follow mad Hamish afar up the crag toward the sea,
And the lady cries: "Clansmen, run for a fee! --
Yon castle and lands to the two first hands that shall hook him and hold
Fast Hamish back from the brink!" -- and ever she flies up the steep,
And the clansmen pant, and they sweat, and they jostle and strain.
But, mother, 'tis vain; but, father, 'tis vain;
Stern Hamish stands bold on the brink, and dangles the child o'er the deep.
Now a faintness falls on the men that run, and they all stand still.
And the wife prays Hamish as if he were God, on her knees,
Crying: "Hamish! O Hamish! but please, but please
For to spare him!" and Hamish still dangles the child, with a wavering will.
On a sudden he turns; with a sea-hawk scream, and a gibe, and a song,
Cries: "So; I will spare ye the child if, in sight of ye all,
Ten blows on Maclean's bare back shall fall,
And ye reckon no stroke if the blood follow not at the bite of the thong!"
Then Maclean he set hardly his tooth to his lip that his tooth was red,
Breathed short for a space, said: "Nay, but it never shall be!
Let me hurl off the damnable hound in the sea!"
But the wife: "Can Hamish go fish us the child from the sea, if dead?
Say yea! -- Let them lash ME, Hamish?" -- "Nay!" -- "Husband,
the lashing will heal;
But, oh, who will heal me the bonny sweet bairn in his grave?
Could ye cure me my heart with the death of a knave?
Quick! Love! I will bare thee -- so -- kneel!" Then Maclean 'gan slowly
With never a word, till presently downward he jerked to the earth.
Then the henchman -- he that smote Hamish -- would tremble and lag;
"Strike, hard!" quoth Hamish, full stern, from the crag;
Then he struck him, and "One!" sang Hamish, and danced with the child
in his mirth.
And no man spake beside Hamish; he counted each stroke with a song.
When the last stroke fell, then he moved him a pace down the height,
And he held forth the child in the heartaching sight
Of the mother, and looked all pitiful grave, as repenting a wrong.
And there as the motherly arms stretched out with the thanksgiving prayer --
And there as the mother crept up with a fearful swift pace,
Till her finger nigh felt of the bairnie's face --
In a flash fierce Hamish turned round and lifted the child in the air,
And sprang with the child in his arms from the horrible height in the sea,
Shrill screeching, "Revenge!" in the wind-rush; and pallid Maclean,
Age-feeble with anger and impotent pain,
Crawled up on the crag, and lay flat, and locked hold of dead roots
of a tree --
And gazed hungrily o'er, and the blood from his back drip-dripped
in the brine,
And a sea-hawk flung down a skeleton fish as he flew,
And the mother stared white on the waste of blue,
And the wind drove a cloud to seaward, and the sun began to shine.
Sidney Lanier |
Into the woods my Master went,
Clean forspent, forspent.
Into the woods my Master came,
Forspent with love and shame.
But the olives they were not blind to Him,
The little gray leaves were kind to Him:
The thorn-tree had a mind to Him
When into the woods He came.
Out of the woods my Master went,
And He was well content.
Out of the woods my Master came,
Content with death and shame.
When Death and Shame would woo Him last,
From under the trees they drew Him last:
'Twas on a tree they slew Him -- last
When out of the woods He came.
Sidney Lanier |
How tall among her sisters, and how fair, --
How grave beyond her youth, yet debonair
As dawn, 'mid wrinkled Matres of old lands
Our youngest Alma Mater modest stands!
In four brief cycles round the punctual sun
Has she, old Learning's latest daughter, won
This grace, this stature, and this fruitful fame.
Howbeit she was born
Unnoised as any stealing summer morn.
From far the sages saw, from far they came
And ministered to her,
Led by the soaring-genius'd Sylvester
That, earlier, loosed the knot great Newton tied,
And flung the door of Fame's locked temple wide.
As favorable fairies thronged of old and blessed
The cradled princess with their several best,
So, gifts and dowers meet
To lay at Wisdom's feet,
These liberal masters largely brought --
Dear diamonds of their long-compressed thought,
Rich stones from out the labyrinthine cave
Of research, pearls from Time's profoundest wave
And many a jewel brave, of brilliant ray,
Dug in the far obscure Cathay
Of meditation deep --
With flowers, of such as keep
Their fragrant tissues and their heavenly hues
Fresh-bathed forever in eternal dews --
The violet with her low-drooped eye,
For learned modesty, --
The student snow-drop, that doth hang and pore
Upon the earth, like Science, evermore,
And underneath the clod doth grope and grope, --
The astronomer heliotrope,
That watches heaven with a constant eye, --
The daring crocus, unafraid to try
(When Nature calls) the February snows, --
And patience' perfect rose.
Thus sped with helps of love and toil and thought,
Thus forwarded of faith, with hope thus fraught,
In four brief cycles round the stringent sun
This youngest sister hath her stature won.
Nay, why regard
The passing of the years? Nor made, nor marr'd,
By help or hindrance of slow Time was she:
O'er this fair growth Time had no mastery:
So quick she bloomed, she seemed to bloom at birth,
As Eve from Adam, or as he from earth.
Superb o'er slow increase of day on day,
Complete as Pallas she began her way;
Yet not from Jove's unwrinkled forehead sprung,
But long-time dreamed, and out of trouble wrung,
Fore-seen, wise-plann'd, pure child of thought and pain,
Leapt our Minerva from a mortal brain.
And here, O finer Pallas, long remain, --
Sit on these Maryland hills, and fix thy reign,
And frame a fairer Athens than of yore
In these blest bounds of Baltimore, --
Here, where the climates meet
That each may make the other's lack complete, --
Where Florida's soft Favonian airs beguile
The nipping North, -- where nature's powers smile, --
Where Chesapeake holds frankly forth her hands
Spread wide with invitation to all lands, --
Where now the eager people yearn to find
The organizing hand that fast may bind
Loose straws of aimless aspiration fain
In sheaves of serviceable grain, --
Here, old and new in one,
Through nobler cycles round a richer sun
O'er-rule our modern ways,
O blest Minerva of these larger days!
Call here thy congress of the great, the wise,
The hearing ears, the seeing eyes, --
Enrich us out of every farthest clime, --
Yea, make all ages native to our time,
Till thou the freedom of the city grant
To each most antique habitant
Of Fame, --
Bring Shakespeare back, a man and not a name, --
Let every player that shall mimic us
In audience see old godlike Aeschylus, --
Bring Homer, Dante, Plato, Socrates, --
Bring Virgil from the visionary seas
Of old romance, -- bring Milton, no more blind, --
Bring large Lucretius, with unmaniac mind, --
Bring all gold hearts and high resolved wills
To be with us about these happy hills, --
Bring old Renown
To walk familiar citizen of the town, --
Bring Tolerance, that can kiss and disagree, --
Bring Virtue, Honor, Truth, and Loyalty, --
Bring Faith that sees with undissembling eyes, --
Bring all large Loves and heavenly Charities, --
Till man seem less a riddle unto man
And fair Utopia less Utopian,
And many peoples call from shore to shore,
`The world has bloomed again, at Baltimore!'
Sidney Lanier |
From cold Norse caves or buccaneer Southern seas
Oft come repenting tempests here to die;
Bewailing old-time wrecks and robberies,
They shrive to priestly pines with many a sigh,
Breathe salutary balms through lank-lock'd hair
Of sick men's heads, and soon -- this world outworn --
Sink into saintly heavens of stirless air,
Clean from confessional.
One died, this morn,
And willed the world to wise Queen Tranquil: she,
Sweet sovereign Lady of all souls that bide
In contemplation, tames the too bright skies
Like that faint agate film, far down descried,
Restraining suns in sudden thoughtful eyes
Which flashed but now.
Blest distillation rare
Of o'er-rank brightness filtered waterwise
Through all the earths in heaven -- thou always fair,
Still virgin bride of e'er-creating thought --
Dream-worker, in whose dream the Future's wrought --
Healer of hurts, free balm for bitter wrongs --
Most silent mother of all sounding songs --
Thou that dissolvest hells to make thy heaven --
Thou tempest's heir, that keep'st no tempest leaven --
But after winds' and thunders' wide mischance
Dost brood, and better thine inheritance --
Thou privacy of space, where each grave Star
As in his own still chamber sits afar
To meditate, yet, by thy walls unpent,
Shines to his fellows o'er the firmament --
Oh! as thou liv'st in all this sky and sea
That likewise lovingly do live in thee,
So melt my soul in thee, and thine in me,
Gray Pelican, poised where yon broad shallows shine,
Know'st thou, that finny foison all is mine
In the bag below thy beak -- yet thine, not less?
For God, of His most gracious friendliness,
Hath wrought that every soul, this loving morn,
Into all things may be new-corporate born,
And each live whole in all: I sail with thee,
Thy Pelican's self is mine; yea, silver Sea,
In this large moment all thy fishes, ripples, bights,
Pale in-shore greens and distant blue delights,
White visionary sails, long reaches fair
By moon-horn'd strands that film the far-off air,
Bright sparkle-revelations, secret majesties,
Shells, wrecks and wealths, are mine; yea, Orange-trees,
That lift your small world-systems in the light,
Rich sets of round green heavens studded bright
With globes of fruit that like still planets shine,
Mine is your green-gold universe; yea, mine,
White slender Lighthouse fainting to the eye
That wait'st on yon keen cape-point wistfully,
Like to some maiden spirit pausing pale,
New-wing'd, yet fain to sail
Above the serene Gulf to where a bridegroom soul
Calls o'er the soft horizon -- mine thy dole
Of shut undaring wings and wan desire --
Mine, too, thy later hope and heavenly fire
Of kindling expectation; yea, all sights,
All sounds, that make this morn -- quick flights
Of pea-green paroquets 'twixt neighbor trees,
Like missives and sweet morning inquiries
From green to green, in green -- live oaks' round heads,
Busy with jays for thoughts -- grays, whites and reds
Of pranked woodpeckers that ne'er gossip out,
But alway tap at doors and gad about --
Robins and mocking-birds that all day long
Athwart straight sunshine weave cross-threads of song,
Shuttles of music -- clouds of mosses gray
That rain me rains of pleasant thoughts alway
From a low sky of leaves -- faint yearning psalms
Of endless metre breathing through the palms
That crowd and lean and gaze from off the shore
Ever for one that cometh nevermore --
Palmettos ranked, with childish spear-points set
Against no enemy -- rich cones that fret
High roofs of temples shafted tall with pines --
Green, grateful mangroves where the sand-beach shines --
Long lissome coast that in and outward swerves,
The grace of God made manifest in curves --
All riches, goods and braveries never told
Of earth, sun, air and heaven -- now I hold
Your being in my being; I am ye,
And ye myself; yea, lastly, Thee,
God, whom my roads all reach, howe'er they run,
My Father, Friend, Beloved, dear All-One,
Thee in my soul, my soul in Thee, I feel,
Self of my self.
Lo, through my sense doth steal
Clear cognizance of all selves and qualities,
Of all existence that hath been or is,
Of all strange haps that men miscall of chance,
And all the works of tireless circumstance:
Each borders each, like mutual sea and shore,
Nor aught misfits his neighbor that's before,
Nor him that's after -- nay, through this still air,
Out of the North come quarrels, and keen blare
Of challenge by the hot-breath'd parties blown;
Yet break they not this peace with alien tone,
Fray not my heart, nor fright me for my land,
-- I hear from all-wards, allwise understand,
The great bird Purpose bears me twixt her wings,
And I am one with all the kinsmen things
That e'er my Father fathered.
Oh, to me
All questions solve in this tranquillity:
E'en this dark matter, once so dim, so drear,
Now shines upon my spirit heavenly-clear:
Thou, Father, without logic, tellest me
How this divine denial true may be,
-- How `All's in each, yet every one of all
Maintains his Self complete and several.
Sidney Lanier |
The storm that snapped our fate's one ship in twain
Hath blown my half o' the wreck from thine apart.
O Love! O Love! across the gray-waved main
To thee-ward strain my eyes, my arms, my heart.
I ask my God if e'en in His sweet place,
Where, by one waving of a wistful wing,
My soul could straightway tremble face to face
With thee, with thee, across the stellar ring --
Yea, where thine absence I could ne'er bewail
Longer than lasts that little blank of bliss
When lips draw back, with recent pressure pale,
To round and redden for another kiss --
Would not my lonesome heart still sigh for thee
What time the drear kiss-intervals must be?
So do the mottled formulas of Sense
Glide snakewise through our dreams of Aftertime;
So errors breed in reeds and grasses dense
That bank our singing rivulets of rhyme.
By Sense rule Space and Time; but in God's Land
Their intervals are not, save such as lie
Betwixt successive tones in concords bland
Whose loving distance makes the harmony.
Ah, there shall never come 'twixt me and thee
Gross dissonances of the mile, the year;
But in the multichords of ecstasy
Our souls shall mingle, yet be featured clear,
And absence, wrought to intervals divine,
Shall part, yet link, thy nature's tone and mine.
Look down the shining peaks of all my days
Base-hidden in the valleys of deep night,
So shalt thou see the heights and depths of praise
My love would render unto love's delight;
For I would make each day an Alp sublime
Of passionate snow, white-hot yet icy-clear,
-- One crystal of the true-loves of all time
Spiring the world's prismatic atmosphere;
And I would make each night an awful vale
Deep as thy soul, obscure as modesty,
With every star in heaven trembling pale
O'er sweet profounds where only Love can see.
Oh, runs not thus the lesson thou hast taught? --
When life's all love, 'tis life: aught else, 'tis naught.
Let no man say, `He at his lady's feet
Lays worship that to Heaven alone belongs;
Yea, swings the incense that for God is meet
In flippant censers of light lover's songs.
Who says it, knows not God, nor love, nor thee;
For love is large as is yon heavenly dome:
In love's great blue, each passion is full free
To fly his favorite flight and build his home.
Did e'er a lark with skyward-pointing beak
Stab by mischance a level-flying dove?
Wife-love flies level, his dear mate to seek:
God-love darts straight into the skies above.
Crossing, the windage of each other's wings
But speeds them both upon their journeyings.
Sidney Lanier |
"So pulse, and pulse, thou rhythmic-hearted Noon
That liest, large-limbed, curved along the hills,
In languid palpitation, half a-swoon
With ardors and sun-loves and subtle thrills;
"Throb, Beautiful! while the fervent hours exhale
As kisses faint-blown from thy finger-tips
Up to the sun, that turn him passion-pale
And then as red as any virgin's lips.
"O tender Darkness, when June-day hath ceased,
-- Faint Odor from the day-flower's crushing born,
-- Dim, visible Sigh out of the mournful East
That cannot see her lord again till morn:
"And many leaves, broad-palmed towards the sky
To catch the sacred raining of star-light:
And pallid petals, fain, all fain to die,
Soul-stung by too keen passion of the night:
"And short-breath'd winds, under yon gracious moon
Doing mild errands for mild violets,
Or carrying sighs from the red lips of June
What aimless way the odor-current sets:
"And stars, ringed glittering in whorls and bells,
Or bent along the sky in looped star-sprays,
Or vine-wound, with bright grapes in panicles,
Or bramble-tangled in a sweetest maze,
"Or lying like young lilies in a lake
About the great white Lotus of the moon,
Or blown and drifted, as if winds should shake
Star blossoms down from silver stems too soon,
"Or budding thick about full open stars,
Or clambering shyly up cloud-lattices,
Or trampled pale in the red path of Mars,
Or trim-set in quaint gardener's fantasies:
"And long June night-sounds crooned among the leaves,
And whispered confidence of dark and green,
And murmurs in old moss about old eaves,
And tinklings floating over water-sheen!"
Then he that wrote laid down his pen and sighed;
And straightway came old Scorn and Bitterness,
Like Hunnish kings out of the barbarous land,
And camped upon the transient Italy
That he had dreamed to blossom in his soul.
"I'll date this dream," he said; "so: `Given, these,
On this, the coldest night in all the year,
From this, the meanest garret in the world,
In this, the greatest city in the land,
To you, the richest folk this side of death,
By one, the hungriest poet under heaven,
-- Writ while his candle sputtered in the gust,
And while his last, last ember died of cold,
And while the mortal ice i' the air made free
Of all his bones and bit and shrunk his heart,
And while soft Luxury made show to strike
Her gloved hands together and to smile
What time her weary feet unconsciously
Trode wheels that lifted Avarice to power,
-- And while, moreover, -- O thou God, thou God --
His worshipful sweet wife sat still, afar,
Within the village whence she sent him forth
Into the town to make his name and fame,
Waiting, all confident and proud and calm,
Till he should make for her his name and fame,
Waiting -- O Christ, how keen this cuts! -- large-eyed,
With Baby Charley till her husband make
For her and him a poet's name and fame.
-- Read me," he cried, and rose, and stamped his foot
Impatiently at Heaven, "read me this,"
(Putting th' inquiry full in the face of God)
"Why can we poets dream us beauty, so,
But cannot dream us bread? Why, now, can I
Make, aye, create this fervid throbbing June
Out of the chill, chill matter of my soul,
Yet cannot make a poorest penny-loaf
Out of this same chill matter, no, not one
For Mary though she starved upon my breast?"
And then he fell upon his couch, and sobbed,
And, late, just when his heart leaned o'er
The very edge of breaking, fain to fall,
God sent him sleep.
There came his room-fellow,
Stout Dick, the painter, saw the written dream,
Read, scratched his curly pate, smiled, winked, fell on
The poem in big-hearted comic rage,
Quick folded, thrust in envelope, addressed
To him, the critic-god, that sitteth grim
And giant-grisly on the stone causeway
That leadeth to his magazine and fame.
Him, by due mail, the little Dream of June
Encountered growling, and at unawares
Stole in upon his poem-battered soul
So that he smiled, -- then shook his head upon 't
-- Then growled, then smiled again, till at the last,
As one that deadly sinned against his will,
He writ upon the margin of the Dream
A wondrous, wondrous word that in a day
Did turn the fleeting song to very bread,
-- Whereat Dick Painter leapt, the poet wept,
And Mary slept with happy drops a-gleam
Upon long lashes of her serene eyes
From twentieth reading of her poet's news
Quick-sent, "O sweet my Sweet, to dream is power,
And I can dream thee bread and dream thee wine,
And I will dream thee robes and gems, dear Love,
To clothe thy holy loveliness withal,
And I will dream thee here to live by me,
Thee and my little man thou hold'st at breast,
-- Come, Name, come, Fame, and kiss my Sweetheart's feet!"
Sidney Lanier |
Inscribed to the Memory of John Keats.
Dear uplands, Chester's favorable fields,
My large unjealous Loves, many yet one --
A grave good-morrow to your Graces, all,
Fair tilth and fruitful seasons!
Lo, how still!
The midmorn empties you of men, save me;
Speak to your lover, meadows! None can hear.
I lie as lies yon placid Brandywine,
Holding the hills and heavens in my heart
'Tis a perfect hour.
From founts of dawn the fluent autumn day
Has rippled as a brook right pleasantly
Half-way to noon; but now with widening turn
Makes pause, in lucent meditation locked,
And rounds into a silver pool of morn,
Bottom'd with clover-fields.
My heart just hears
Eight lingering strokes of some far village-bell,
That speak the hour so inward-voiced, meseems
Time's conscience has but whispered him eight hints
Reigns that mild surcease
That stills the middle of each rural morn --
When nimble noises that with sunrise ran
About the farms have sunk again to rest;
When Tom no more across the horse-lot calls
To sleepy Dick, nor Dick husk-voiced upbraids
The sway-back'd roan for stamping on his foot
With sulphurous oath and kick in flank, what time
The cart-chain clinks across the slanting shaft,
And, kitchenward, the rattling bucket plumps
Souse down the well, where quivering ducks quack loud,
And Susan Cook is singing.
Up the sky
The hesitating moon slow trembles on,
Faint as a new-washed soul but lately up
From out a buried body.
A hundred slopes in hundred fantasies
Most ravishingly run, so smooth of curve
That I but seem to see the fluent plain
Rise toward a rain of clover-blooms, as lakes
Pout gentle mounds of plashment up to meet
Now the little winds, as bees,
Bowing the blooms come wandering where I lie
Mixt soul and body with the clover-tufts,
Light on my spirit, give from wing and thigh
Rich pollens and divine sweet irritants
To every nerve, and freshly make report
Of inmost Nature's secret autumn-thought
Unto some soul of sense within my frame
That owns each cognizance of the outlying five,
And sees, hears, tastes, smells, touches, all in one.
Tell me, dear Clover (since my soul is thine,
Since I am fain give study all the day,
To make thy ways my ways, thy service mine,
To seek me out thy God, my God to be,
And die from out myself to live in thee) --
Now, Cousin Clover, tell me in mine ear:
Go'st thou to market with thy pink and green?
Of what avail, this color and this grace?
Wert thou but squat of stem and brindle-brown,
Still careless herds would feed.
A poet, thou:
What worth, what worth, the whole of all thine art?
Three-Leaves, instruct me! I am sick of price.
Framed in the arching of two clover-stems
Where-through I gaze from off my hill, afar,
The spacious fields from me to Heaven take on
Tremors of change and new significance
To th' eye, as to the ear a simple tale
Begins to hint a parable's sense beneath.
The prospect widens, cuts all bounds of blue
Where horizontal limits bend, and spreads
Into a curious-hill'd and curious-valley'd Vast,
Endless before, behind, around; which seems
Th' incalculable Up-and-Down of Time
Made plain before mine eyes.
Still cover all the space; but now they bear,
For clover-blooms, fair, stately heads of men
With poets' faces heartsome, dear and pale --
Sweet visages of all the souls of time
Whose loving service to the world has been
In the artist's way expressed and bodied.
In arms' reach, here be Dante, Keats, Chopin,
Raphael, Lucretius, Omar, Angelo,
Beethoven, Chaucer, Schubert, Shakespeare, Bach,
And Buddha (sweetest masters! Let me lay
These arms this once, this humble once, about
Your reverend necks -- the most containing clasp,
For all in all, this world e'er saw!) and there,
Yet further on, bright throngs unnamable
Of workers worshipful, nobilities
In the Court of Gentle Service, silent men,
Dwellers in woods, brooders on helpful art,
And all the press of them, the fair, the large,
That wrought with beauty.
Lo, what bulk is here?
Now comes the Course-of-things, shaped like an Ox,
Slow browsing, o'er my hillside, ponderously --
The huge-brawned, tame, and workful Course-of-things,
That hath his grass, if earth be round or flat,
And hath his grass, if empires plunge in pain
Or faiths flash out.
This cool, unasking Ox
Comes browsing o'er my hills and vales of Time,
And thrusts me out his tongue, and curls it, sharp,
And sicklewise, about my poets' heads,
And twists them in, all -- Dante, Keats, Chopin,
Raphael, Lucretius, Omar, Angelo,
Beethoven, Chaucer, Schubert, Shakespeare, Bach,
And Buddha, in one sheaf -- and champs and chews,
With slantly-churning jaws, and swallows down;
Then slowly plants a mighty forefoot out,
And makes advance to futureward, one inch.
So: they have played their part.
And to this end?
This, God? This, troublous-breeding Earth? This, Sun
Of hot, quick pains? To this no-end that ends,
These Masters wrought, and wept, and sweated blood,
And burned, and loved, and ached with public shame,
And found no friends to breathe their loves to, save
Woods and wet pillows? This was all? This Ox?
"Nay," quoth a sum of voices in mine ear,
"God's clover, we, and feed His Course-of-things;
The pasture is God's pasture; systems strange
Of food and fiberment He hath, whereby
The general brawn is built for plans of His
To quality precise.
Kinsman, learn this:
The artist's market is the heart of man;
The artist's price, some little good of man.
Tease not thy vision with vain search for ends.
The End of Means is art that works by love.
The End of Ends .
in God's Beginning's lost.
Sidney Lanier |
My soul is like the oar that momently
Dies in a desperate stress beneath the wave,
Then glitters out again and sweeps the sea:
Each second I'm new-born from some new grave.