The poems of Richard Watson Gilder/The Great Remembrance

1727876The poems of Richard Watson Gilder — The Great Remembrance1908Richard Watson Gilder







Read at the Annual Reunion of the Society of the Army of the Potomac, Faneuil Hall, Boston, June 27, 1893.

Comrades, the circle narrows, heads grow white,
As once more by the camp-fire's flaring light
We gather and clasp hands, as we have done
These many, many years. So long ago
A part we were of all that glorious show,—
Stood, side by side, 'neath the red battle-sun,—
So long ago we breathed war's thunderous breath,
Knew the white fury of that life-in-death,
So long ago that troubled joy, it seems
The valorous pageant might resolve to splendid dreams.
But no! Too deep 't is burned into the brain!
As well were lightning-scar by summer rain
Washed clean away, when stroke on blinding stroke
Hath torn the rock, and riven the blackened oak.
How oft as down these peaceful streets we pass
All vanishes save, lo! the rutted grass,
Wreckt caissons, frightened beasts, and, merciful God!
The piteous burden of the ensanguined sod!
Yet not all terror doth the memory save
From war's emblazonry and open grave:
In glimpses, flashing like a meteor's light,
A silent army marches through the night;
The guidons flutter in a golden valley
Where, at the noonday halt, the horsemen dally;
Or, look! a thousand tents gleam through the black;
Or, now, where quick-built camp-fires flame and crack,
From blaze to shade men stretch o'erwearied limbs,
Chant songs, or wake the hills with chorused hymns;
Or, ere the dawn makes pale the starry dark,
The fiery signals, spark on trailing spark,
Write on the silent sky their still command,
While the great army moves, drawn by a single hand.

So long ago it seems, so long ago,
Behold, our sons, grown men since those great days,—
Born since the last clear bugle ceased to blow
Its summons down the valley; since the bays
Shook with the roar of fort and answering fleet,—
Our very children look into our eyes
And find strange records, with a mute surprise;
As they some curious traveler might greet
Who kept far countries in his musing mind,
Beyond the weltering seas, the mountain-walls behind.
And yet it was this land and not another,
Where blazed war's flame and rolled the battle-cloud.
In all this land there was no home where brother,
Father, or son hurried not forth; where bowed
No broken-hearted woman when pale Death
Laid his cold finger on the loved one's breath.

Like to a drama did the scene unroll—
Some dark, majestic drama of the soul,
Wherein all strove as actors, hour by hour,
Yet breathless watched the whole swift, tragic play.
Faithful did each his little part essay,
Urged to an end unknown by one all-knowing Power;
While if the drama pauses, now and then,
On the huge stage, 't is for a moment only—
Here at the heart or in some vista lonely,
A single hero or a million men,
And with the tragic theme the world resounds again.
First, in the awful waiting came the shock,
The shame unbearable, the sacred flag assailed—
Assailed in freedom's name by those who freedom mock!
Ah, then the oath, to stand as stands the rock
'Gainst flood and tempest, lest that flag be trailed
And torn, or any star therefrom be lost—
The oath, murmured alone, or where the crowd,
As by a wind of heaven swept and tost,
Passioned its soul to God, and strong men wept aloud.
Then sweet farewell; O bitter-sweet farewell;
O brave farewell! Who were the bravest then,
Or they who went, or waited—women or men?
They who the cheers heard, or the funeral knell?
They who stept proudly to the rattling drum,
Inflamed by war's divine delirium,
Or they who knew no mad joy of the fight,
And yet breathed on through waiting day and weeping night?

Farewell and forward! O, to live it over,
The first wild heart-beat of heroic hours!
Forward, like mountain-torrents after showers!
Forward to death, as to his bride the lover!
Forward, till quick recoils the impetuous flood,
And ends the first dread scene in terror and in blood!
Onward once more, through sun and shivering storm,—
A monstrous length with wavering bulk enorm,—
Wounded or striking, bringing blood or bleeding,
Onward, still on, the agony unheeding!
Onward with failing heart, or courage high!
Onward through heat, and hunger, and dismay,
Turning the starry night to murderous day!
Onward, with hope appalled, once more to strike, and die!

So marched, so fought, so agonized, the hosts;
Battling through forests; rotting where slow crawls
The deathly swamp-stream; and like pallid ghosts
Haunting the hospitals, and loathèd prison-walls.
They knew what freedom was, and right to breathe
Clean air who burrowed from the filth and seethe
Of foulest pens, only that dogs might track,
And to the death-pit drag their living corpses back.
O, would to Heaven some sights could fade from out
Clear memory's all too melancholy page—
Fade and be gone forever! Let the shout
Of victory only linger, and the rage
And glory of battle over land and sea,
And all that noblest is in war's fierce pageantry.
Echoes of deeds immortal, O, awake!
Tremble to language, into music break,
Till lyric memory takes the old emotion,
And leaps from heart to heart the ancient thrill!
Tell of great deeds that yet the wide earth fill:
How first upon the amazèd waves of ocean
The black, infernal, deadly armored-ships
Together rushed, and all the world stood still,
While a new word of war burst from those iron lips;
How up the rivers thundered the strong fleets;
How the great captains 'gainst each other dashed
Gigantic armies. What wild welcome meets
Some well-loved chief who, ere those armies clashed,
Rides like a whirlwind the embattled line,
Kindling the stricken ranks to bravery divine!
And, hark, at set of sun, the cheer that greets
Victorious news from far-off armies, flashed
From camp to camp, with roar on answering roar,
Like bellowing waves that track the tempest down the shore.
But chiefly tell of that one hour of all
When threatening war rolled highest its full tide,
Even to the perilous northern mountain-side
Where Heaven should bid our good cause rise or fall.
Tell of that hour, for never in all the world
Was braver army 'gainst a braver hurled.
To both the victory, all unawares,
Beyond all dreams of losing or of winning;
For the new land which now is ours and theirs,
Had on that topmost day its glorious beginning.
They who charged up that drenched and desperate slope
Were heroes all—and looked in heroes' eyes!
Ah! heroes never heroes did despise!
That day had Strife its bloodiest bourn and scope;
Above the shaken hills and sulphurous skies
Peace lifted up her mournful head and smiled on Hope.

Rushed the great drama on its tragic way
Swift to the happy end from that tremendous day.
Happy, indeed, could memory lose her power
And yield to joy alone the glad, triumphant hour;
Happy if every aching heart could shun
Remembrance of the unreturning one;
If at the Grand Review, when mile on mile
And day on day the marching columns past,
Darkened not o'er the world the shadow vast
Of his foul murder—he the free from guile,
Sad-hearted, loving, and beloved, and wise,
Who ruled with sinewy hands and dreaming eyes.
What soul that lived then who remembers not
The hour, the landscape, ah! the very spot,—
Hateful for aye,—where news that he was slain
Struck like a hammer on the dazèd brain!

So long ago it was, so long ago,
All, all have past; the terror and the splendor
Have turned like yester-evening's stormy glow
Into a sunset memory strange and tender.
How beautiful it seems, what lordly sights,
What deeds sublime, what wondrous days and nights,
What love of comrades, ay, what quickened breath,
When first we knew that, startled, quailing, still
We too, even we, along the blazing hill,
We, with the best, could face and conquer death!

Glorious all these, but these all less than naught
To the one passion of those days divine,
Love of the land our own hearts' blood had bought—
Our country, our own country, yours and mine,
Then known, then sternly loved, first in our lives.
Ah! loved we not our children, sisters, wives?
But our own country, this was more than they,—
Our wives, our children, this,—our hope, our love
For all most dear, but more—the dawning day
Of freedom for the world, the hope above
All hope for the sad race of man. For where,
In what more lovely world, 'neath skies more fair,
If freedom here should fail, could it find soil and air?
In this one thought, one passion,—whate'er fate
Still may befall,—one moment we were great!
One moment in life's brief, perplexèd hour
We climbed the hight of being, and the power
That falls alone on those who love their kind
A moment made us one with the Eternal Mind.

One moment, ah! not so, dear Country! Thou
Art still our passion; still to thee we bow
In love supreme! Fairer than e'er before
Art thou to-day, from golden shore to shore
The home of freemen. Not one stain doth cling
Now to thy banner. Argosies of war
On thy imperial rivers bravely fling
Flags of the nations, but no message bring
Save of peace only; while, behold, from far
The Old World comes to greet thy natal star
That with the circling century returns,
And in the Western heavens with fourfold beauty burns.

Land that we love! Thou Future of the World!
Thou refuge of the noble heart opprest!
O, never be thy shining image hurled
From its high place in the adoring breast
Of him who worships thee with jealous love!
Keep thou thy starry forehead as the dove
All white, and to the eternal Dawn inclined!
Thou art not for thyself but for mankind,
And to despair of thee were to despair
Of man, of man's high destiny, of God!
Of thee should man despair, the journey trod
Upward, through unknown eons, stair on stair,
By this our race, with bleeding feet and slow,
Were but the pathway to a darker woe
Than yet was visioned by the heavy heart
Of prophet. To despair of thee! Ah, no!
For thou thyself art Hope, Hope of the World thou art!

Comrades belovèd, see, the fire burns low,
And darkness thickens. Soon shall our brief part
On earth forever end, and we shall go
To join the unseen ranks; nor will we swerve
Or fear, when to the silent, great reserve
At last we ordered—are as one by one
Our Captains have been called, their labors done,
To rest and wait in the Celestial Field.
Ay, year by year, we to the dead did yield
Our bravest. Them we followed to the tomb
Sorrowing; for they were worthy of our love—
High-souled and generous, loving peace above
War and its glories: therefore lives no gloom
In this our sorrow; rather pride, and praise,
And gratitude, and memory of old days.
A little while and these tired hands will cease
To lift obedient or in war or peace—
Faithful we trust in peace as once in war;
And on the scroll of peace some triumphs are
Noble as battles won; tho' less resounds
The fame, as deep and bitter are the wounds.
But now the fire burns low, and we must sleep
Erelong, while other eyes than ours the vigil keep.
And after we are gone, to other eyes
That watch below shall come, in starry skies,
A fairer dawn, whereon in fiery light
The Eternal Captain shall his signals write;
And shaken from rest, and gazing at that sign,
On shall the mighty Nation move, led by a hand divine.





Greece was; Greece is no more.
Temple and town
Have crumbled down;
Time is the fire that hath consumed them all.
Statue and wall
In ruin strew the universal floor.


Greece lives, but Greece no more!
Its ashes breed
The undying seed
Blown westward till, in Rome's imperial towers,
Athens reflowers;
Still westward—lo, a veiled and virgin shore!


Say not, "Greece is no more."
Through the clear morn
On light winds borne
Her white-winged soul sinks on the New World's breast.
Ah! happy West—
Greece flowers anew, and all her temples soar!


One bright hour, then no more
Shall to the skies
These columns rise.
But tho' art's flower shall fade, again the seed
Onward shall speed,
Quickening the land from lake to ocean's roar.


Art lives, tho' Greece may never
From the ancient mold
As once of old
Exhale to heaven the inimitable bloom;
Yet from that tomb
Beauty walks forth to light the world forever!



Enraptured memory, and all ye powers of being,
To new life waken! Stamp the vision clear
On the soul's inmost substance. O, let seeing
Be more than seeing; let the entrancèd ear
Take deep these surging sounds, inweaved with light
Of unimagined radiance; let the intense
Illumined loveliness that thrills the night
Strike in the human heart some deeper sense!
So shall these domes that meet heaven's curvèd blue,
And yon long, white, imperial colonnade,
And many-columned peristyle, endue
The mind with beauty that shall never fade;
Tho' all too soon to dark oblivion wending—
Reared in one happy hour to know as swift an ending.


Thou shalt of all the cities of the world
Famed for their grandeur, evermore endure
Imperishably and all alone impearled
In the world's living thought, the one most sure
Of love undying and of endless praise
For beauty only—chief of all thy kind;
Immortal, even because of thy brief days;
Thou cloud-built, fairy city of the mind!
Here man doth pluck from the full tree of life
The latest, lordliest flower of earthly art;
This doth he breathe, while resting from his strife,
This presses he against his weary heart;
Then, wakening from his dream within a dream,
He flings the faded flower on Time's down-rushing stream.


O, never as here in the eternal years
Hath burst to bloom man's free and soaring spirit,
Joyous, untrammeled, all untouched by tears
And the dark weight of woe it doth inherit.
Never so swift the mind's imaginings
Caught sculptured form, and color. Never before,—
Save where the soul beats unembodied wings
'Gainst viewless skies,—was such enchanted shore
Jeweled with ivory palaces like these:
By day a miracle, a dream by night;
Yet real as beauty is, and as the seas
Whose waves glance back keen lines of glittering light
When million lamps, and coronets of fire,
And fountains as of flame, to the bright stars aspire.


Glide, magic boat, from out the green lagoon,
'Neath the dark bridge, into this smiting glow
And unthought glory. Even the glistening moon
Hangs in the nearer splendor. Let not go
The scene, my soul, till ever 't is thine own!
This is Art's citadel and crown. How still
The innumerous multitudes from every zone,
That watch and listen; while each eye doth fill
With joyous tears unwept. Now solemn strains
Of brazen music give the waiting soul
Voice and a sigh—it other speech disdains,
Here where the visual sense faints to its goal!
Ah, silent multitudes, ye are a part
Of the wise architect's supreme and glorious art!


O joy almost too high for saddened mortal!
O ecstasy envisioned! Thou shouldst be
Lasting as thou art lovely; as immortal
As through all time the matchless thought of thee!
Yet would we miss, then, the sweet, piercing pain
Of thy inconstancy! Could we but banish
This haunting pang, ah, then thou wouldst not reign
One with the golden sunset that doth vanish
Through myriad lingering tints down melting skies;
Nor the pale mystery of the New World flower
That blooms once only, then forever dies—
Pouring a century's wealth on one dear hour.
Then vanish, City of Dream, and be no more;
Soon shall this fair Earth's self be lost on the unknown shore.



Here for the world to see men brought their fairest,
Whatever of beauty is in all the earth;
The priceless flower of art, the loveliest, rarest,
Here by our inland ocean came to glorious birth.

Yet on this day of doom a strange new splendor
Shed its celestial light on all men's eyes:
Flower of the hero-soul,—consummate, tender,—
That from the tower of flame sprang to the eternal skies.



From the shade of the elms that murmured above thy birth
And the pines that sheltered thy life and shadowed the end,
'Neath the white-blue skies thee to thy rest we bore,—
'Neath the summer skies thou didst love, 'mid the songs of thy birds,
By thy childhood's stream, 'neath the grass and the flowers thou knewest,
Near the grave of the singer whose name with thine own is enlaureled,
By the side of the brave who live in thy deathless song,—
Here all that was mortal of thee we left, with our tears,
With our love, and our grief that could not be quenched or abated;
For even the part that was mortal, sweet friend and companion!
That face, and that figure of beauty, and flashing eye
Which in youth shone forth like a god's 'mid lesser men,
And in gray-haired, strenuous age still glowed and lustered,—
These, too, were dear to us,—blame us not, soaring spirit!
These, too, were dear, and now we shall never behold them,
Nor ever shall feel the quick clasp of thy welcoming hand.


But not for ourselves alone are we spent in grieving,
For the stricken Land we mourn whose light is darkened,
Whose soul in sorrow went forth in the night-time with thine.
Lover and laureate thou of the wide New World,
Whose pines, and prairies, and people, and teeming soil,
Where was shaken of old the seed of the freedom of men,
Thou didst love as a strong man loveth the maiden he woos,—
Not the woman he toys with, and sings to, and, passing, forgets,—
Whom he woos, whom he wins, whom he weds; his passion, his pride;
Who no shadow of wrong shall suffer, who shall stand in his sight
Pure as the sky of the evil her foeman may threat,
Save by word or by thought of her own in her whiteness untouched
And wounded alone of the lightning her spirit engenders.


Take of thy grief new strength, new life, O Land!
Weep no more he is lost, but rejoice and be glad forever
That thy lover who died was born, for thy pleasure, thy glory—
While his love and his fame light ever thy climbing path.

August 14, 1891.


When that great shade into the silence vast
Through thinking silence past;
When he, our century's soul and voice, was husht,
We who,—appalled, bowed, crusht,—
Within the holy moonlight of his death
Waited the parting breath;
Ah, not in song
Might we our grief prolong.
Silence alone, O golden spirit fled!
Silence alone could mourn that silence dread.



When from this mortal scene
A great soul passes to the vast unknown,
Let not in hopeless grief the spirit groan.
Death comes to all, the mighty and the mean.
If by that death the whole world suffer loss,
This be the proof (and lighter thus our cross),
That he for whom the world doth sorely grieve
Greatly hath blessed mankind in that he once did live.
Then, at the parting breath
Let men praise Life, nor idly blame dark Death.



"No bugle on the blast
Calls warriors face to face;
Grim battle being forever past,
Gone is the hero-race."

Ah, no! there is no peace!
If liberty shall live,
Never may freemen dare to cease
Their love, their life to give.

Unto the patriot's heart
The silent summons comes;
Not braver he who does his part
To the sound of beating drums.

And thou who gavest youth,
And life, and all most dear;
Sweet soul, impassionate of truth,
White on thy murdered bier!—

Thy deed, thy date, thy name
Are wreathed with deathless flowers.
Thy fate shall be the guiding flame
That lights to nobler hours.



Since ancient Time began,
Ever on some great soul God laid an infinite burden—
The weight of all this world, the hopes of man.
Conflict and pain, and fame immortal are his guerdon!

And this the unfaltering token
Of him, the Deliverer—what tho' tempests beat,
Tho' all else fail, tho' bravest ranks be broken,
He stands unscared, alone, nor ever knows defeat.

Such was that man of men;
And if are praised all virtues, every fame
Most noble, highest, purest—then, ah! then,
Upleaps in every heart the name none needs to name.

Ye who defeated, 'whelmed,
Betray the sacred cause, let go the trust;
Sleep, weary, while the vessel drifts unhelmed;
Here see in triumph rise the hero from the dust!

All ye who fight forlorn
'Gainst fate and failure; ye who proudly cope
With evil high enthroned; all ye who scorn
Life from Dishonor's hand, here take new heart of hope.

Here know how Victory borrows
For the brave soul a front as of disaster,
And from the bannered East what glorious morrows
For all the blackness of the night speed surer, faster.

Know by this pillared sign
For what brief while the powers of earth and hell
Can war against the spirit of truth divine,
Or can against the heroic heart of man prevail.


Fame is an honest thing,
It is deceivèd not;
It passes by the palace gates
Where the crowned usurper waits,
Enters the peasant-poet's cot
And cries: "Thou art the king!"


This is not Death, nor Sorrow, nor sad Hope;
Nor Rest that follows strife. But, O, more dread!
'T is Life, for all its agony serene;
Immortal, and unmournful, and content.


He of the ocean is, its thunderous waves
Echo his music; while far down the shore
Mad laughter hurries—a white, blowing spume.
I hear again in memory that wild storm;
The winds of heaven go rushing round the world,
And broods above the rage one sphinx-like face.



If songs were perfume, color, wild desire;
If poet's words were fire
That burned to blood in purple-pulsing veins;
If with a bird-like thrill the moments throbbed to hours;
If summer's rains
Turned drop by drop to shy, sweet, maiden flowers;
If God made flowers with light and music in them,
And saddened hearts could win them;
If loosened petals touched the ground
With a caressing sound;
If love's eyes uttered word
No listening lover e'er before had heard;
If silent thoughts spake with a bugle's voice;
If flame passed into song and cried, "Rejoice! Rejoice!"
If words could picture life's, hope's, heaven's eclipse
When the last kiss has fallen on dying eyes and lips;
If all of mortal woe
Struck on one heart with breathless blow on blow;
If melody were tears, and tears were starry gleams
That shone in evening's amethystine dreams;
Ah, yes, if notes were stars, each star a different hue,
Trembling to earth in dew;
Or if the boreal pulsings, rose and white,
Made a majestic music in the night;
If all the orbs lost in the light of day
In the deep, silent blue began their harps to play;
And when in frightening skies the lightnings flashed
And storm-clouds crashed,
If every stroke of light and sound were but excess of beauty;
If human syllables could e'er refashion
That fierce electric passion;
If other art could match (as were the poet's duty)
The grieving, and the rapture, and the thunder
Of that keen hour of wonder,—
That light as if of heaven, that blackness as of hell,—
How the great master plays then might I dare to tell.


How the great master plays! And was it he
Or some disbodied spirit which had rushed
From silence into singing; and had crushed
Into one startled hour a life's felicity,
And highest bliss of knowledge—that all pain, grief, wrong,
Turn at the last to beauty and to song!


When the great organs, answering each to each,
Joined with the violin's celestial speech,
Then did it seem that all the heavenly host
Gave praise to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost:
We saw the archangels through the ether winging;
We heard their souls go forth in solemn singing;
"Praise, praise to God," they sang, "through endless days,
Praise to the Eternal One, and naught but praise";
And as they sang the spirits of the dying
Were upward borne from lips that ceased their sighing;
And dying was not death, but deeper living—
Living, and prayer, and praising and thanksgiving!


By this stairway narrow, steep,
Thou shalt climb from song to sleep;
From sleep to dream and song once more;—
Sleep well, sweet friend, sleep well, dream deep!


Glorious that ancient art!—
In thine own form to show the fire and fashion
Of every age and clime, of every passion
That dwells in man's deep heart!

Player, play well, not meanly,
Thy part in life, as on the mimic stage!
From highest thought is born art's noblest rage:
Live, act, end all, serenely!


When at life's last the stricken player lies,
When throng before his darkened, dreaming eyes
His soul's companions, which more real then—
The human comrades, the live women and men
Of the large world he knew, or the ideal
Imagined creatures his own art made real;
Wherein he poured his spirit's very being,
His soul and body? Are those dim eyes seeing
Himself as one of Shakespeare's men? Are maids
And queens he wooed, the kings he was, or knew
Upon the tragic stage, are these the shades
That now his visionary hours pursue,
Attendant on his passing? Listen near!
What breathed murmurs 'scape those pallid lips
To which the nations hearkened, ere the eclipse
Of all that brightness? Now lean close and hear;
Ah, see that look, sweeter than when he smiled
Upon the applauding world, while she draws near
And hears a dear voice whisper: "Child, my Child!"


(E. F. H.)


O ease my heart, sad song, O ease my heart!
In all this autumn pageantry no part
Hath sorrow! Woods, and fields, and meadows glow
With jeweled colors. All alone I go
Amid the poignant beauty of the year,
Too heavy-hearted for one easeful tear.
For she who loved this autumn splendor,
These flaming marsh-flowers, oak-leaves rich and tender,—
And who in loving all, made all to me more dear,—
No more is here;
No more, no more is here!
Sad song, O, bring some thought
With music from some happy memory caught!
No light for me in all the lovely day
Those eyes being shut that first did lead the way
'Neath these great pines whose green vault hides the sky,
And down the rock-strewn shore where the white sea-birds cry!


All fades but those young, happy hours,
And in my soul once more the old joy flowers.
It flowers once more only to bring new pain;
For all in vain,
O song! thou singest in my grieving heart!
Thou hast no art
To bring again the smile I loved so well,
The voice that like a bell
Sounded all moods of sorrow and of laughter,
And the dear presence that in childhood's earliest thought,
And all the bright or darkened days thereafter,
Into my life a saddened sweetness brought—
Something of mother and of sister love,
A friendship far above
The ties that bind and loosen as we tread
The throngèd pleasures of life's later days.
Sweet maiden soul, I cannot praise
But mourn thee, mourn thee, to the shadows fled.


Shadows, O nevermore!
For when past forth thy spirit it did seem
As if against the black a golden door
Were opened and a gleam
From the eternal Light fell on thy face
And made a visible glory in the place.
Ah, well I know
Whatever be the source from whence we flow,
Whate'er the power begot these hearts of ours,—
As the great earth brings forth the summer flowers,—
That power is good, is God, and in her dying room
Humaned itself to sense and lightened all the gloom.


If ever flashed upon this mortal scene
A soul unsheathèd, a pale, trembling flame,
That suffered every gust, and yet did cling
With fire unquenchable—it is thine own,
Thou artist of the real! Unto thee
No mirth of life is secret; but, sweet soul,
With what sure art thou picturest human woe!
How natural tears to those Italian eyes—
Shadowing in untold depths whatever grief Familiar is to mortals!


(E. C. S.)

Rock's the song-soil, truly
(So sang one bard of power);
Therefore our poet duly
Built on this rock his tower;
And therefore in his singing
We breathe the salty morning;
We hear the storm-bell ringing,
The "siren's" piercing warning,
The sea-winds roaring, sighing,
The long waves rising, falling;
We hear the herons calling,
The clashing waves replying.



There at the chasm's edge behold her lean
Trembling as, 'neath the charm,
A wild bird lifts no wing to 'scape from harm;
Her very soul drawn to the glittering, green,
Smooth, lustrous, awful, lovely curve of peril;
While far below the bending sea of beryl
Thunder and tumult—whence a billowy spray
Enclouds the day.


What dream is hers? No dream hath wrought that spell!
The long waves rise and sink;
Pity that virgin soul on passion's brink,
Confronting Fate,—swift, unescapable,—
Fate, which of nature is the intent and core,
And dark and strong as the steep river's pour,
Cruel as love, and wild as love's first kiss!
Ah, God! the abyss!


In the child-garden buds and blows
A blossom lovelier than the rose.

If all the flowers of all the earth
In one garden broke to birth,

Not the fairest of the fair
Could with this sweet bloom compare;

Nor would all their shining be
Peer to its lone bravery.

Fairer than the rose, I say?
Fairer than the sun-bright day

In whose rays all glories show,
All beauty is, all blossoms blow;

While beside it deeply shine
Blooms that take its light divine:

The perilous sweet flower of Hope
Here its hiding eyes doth ope,

And Gentleness doth near uphold
Its healing leaves and heart of gold;

Here tender fingers push the seed
Of Knowledge; pluck the poisonous weed;

Here blossoms Joy one singing hour,
And here of Love the immortal flower.

What this blossom, fragrant, tender,
That outbeams the rose's splendor—

Purer is, more tinct with light
Than the lily's flame of white?

Of beauty hath this flower the whole,
And its name—the Human Soul!



Done is the day of care.
Into the shadowy room
Flows the pure evening light,
To stem the gathering gloom,
The lily's flame illume,
And the bowed heads make bright
The heads bowed low in prayer.

See how the level rays
Through the white garments pour
Of the holy child, who stands,
With bending brow, to implore
Grace on the toilers' store;
O, see those sinless hands!
Behold, the Christ-child prays!

Wait, wait, ye lingering rays,
Stand still, O Earth and Sun,
Draw near, thou Soul of God—
This is the suffering one!
Already the way is begun
The piercèd Savior trod;
And now the Christ-child prays,
The holy Christ-child prays.


Her voice was like the song of birds;
Her eyes were like the stars;
Her little waving hands were like
Bird's wings that beat the bars.

And when those waving hands were still,—
Her soul had fled away,—
The music faded from the air,
The color from the day.


Yes, 't is a glorious sight,
This valley, that mountain hight.

The river plunges and roars
Like the loud sea on its shores

What time in waves enorm
Breaks the gigantic storm.

The wooded mount doth climb
To a thought intense, sublime.

The glory of all I feel;
But my heart, my heart, will steal

Down the journey of years,
Through the lands of laughter and tears,

Far back to the least of valleys
Where a slow brook curves and dallies,

Where a boy, in the twilight gleam,
Walks alone with his dream.


This watery vague how vast! This misty globe,
Seen from this center where the ferry plies,—
It plies, but seems to poise in middle air,—
Soft gray below gray heavens, and in the west
A rose-gray memory of the sunken sun;
And, where gray water touches grayer sky,
A band of darker gray prickt out with lights—
A diamond-twinkling circlet bounding all;
And where the statue looms, a quenchless star;
And where the lighthouse, a red, pulsing flame;
While the great bridge its starry diadem
Lifts through the gray, itself in grayness lost!


This is the end of the town that I love the best.
O, lovely the hour of light from the burning west—
Of light that lingers and fades in the shadowy square
Where the solemn fountain lifts a shaft in the air
To catch the skyey colors, and fling them down
In a wild-wood torrent that drowns the noise of the town.
And lovely the hour of the still and dreamy night
When, lifted against the blue, stands the arch of white
With one clear planet above; and the sickle moon,
In curve reversed from the arch's marble round,
Silvers the sapphire sky. Now soon, ah, soon,
Shall the city square be turned to holy ground,
Through the light of the moon and the stars and the glowing flower,—
The Cross of Light,—that looms from the sacred tower.


O, dear is the song of the pine
When the wind of the night-time blows,
And dear is the murmuring river
That afar through my childhood flows;
And soft is the raindrop's beat
And the fountain's lyric play,
But to me no music is half so sweet
As the thunder of Broadway!

Stream of the living world
Where dash the billows of strife!—
One plunge in the mighty torrent
Is a year of tamer life!
City of glorious days,
Of hope, and labor, and mirth,
With room, and to spare, on thy splendid bays
For the ships of all the earth!


Down in the meadow and up on the hight
The breezes are blowing the willows white.
In the elms and maples the robins call,
And the great black crow sails over all
In Tyringham, Tyringham Valley.

The river winds through the trees and the brake
And the meadow-grass like a shining snake;
And low in the summer and loud in the spring
The rapids and reaches murmur and sing
In Tyringham, Tyringham Valley.

In the shadowy pools the trout are shy,
So creep to the bank and cast the fly!
What thrills and tremors the tense cords stir
When the trout it strikes with a tug and a whir
In Tyringham, Tyringham Valley!

At dark of the day the mist spreads white,
Like a magic lake in the glimmering light;
Or the winds from the meadow the white mists blow,
And the fireflies glitter,—a sky below,—
In Tyringham, Tyringham Valley.

And O, in the windy days of the fall
The maples and elms are scarlet all,
And the world that was green is gold and red,
And with huskings and cider they 're late to bed
In Tyringham, Tyringham Valley.

Now squirrel and partridge and hawk and hare
And wildcat and woodchuck and fox beware!
The three days' hunt is waxing warm
For the Count Up Dinner at Riverside Farm
In Tyringham, Tyringham Valley.

The meadow-ice will be freezing soon,
And then for a skate by the light of the moon.
So pile the wood on the hearth, my boy!
Winter is coming! I wish you joy
By the light of the hearth and the moon, my boy,
In Tyringham, Tyringham Valley.


"Do you love me?" Elsie asked,
And her rose-leaf dimples masked
'Neath a pleading look, the while
On her pouting lips a smile
Hovered, yet was out of sight
Like a star that's hid at night
By a filmy, flying cloud.
"Do you love me?" scarce aloud
Lovely Cousin Elsie said.
"Why no answer, Cousin Ed?
Do you hate me, then, or why
From Your Highness no reply?"
So the chiding witch ran on:
"In a moment I'll be gone;
Then too late, Sir No Gallant!
Quick! I'll tell my precious aunt
That you love me not," she cries,
"That you hate me and despise."
Flash the great, gray, long-lashed eyes;
Half in earnest now the girl;
Down the pretty corners curl
Of the tiny mouth, and lo!
From those eyes two tearlets flow;—
Just two kisses, and they go!
Like a sunburst after showers,
Like white light upon the flowers,
Now again the dimples show.
But she could not understand
Why so long the answer waited
For the loved and not the hated,
While he held that little hand,
And like a bird she sang and said,—
Half in earnest, half in fun,—
"Do you love me, Solemn One?
Do you love me, Cousin Ed?
Do you love me? Do you love me?
Love me, love me, Cousin Ed?"


I saw not the leaf
But its shadow trembling, trembling down.
I faced to northward, to my grief,
When from the southern sky a crimson meteor lit the star-dark town.
I saw not naked Love
Lean from his porphyry throne above
And touch her heart to flame,
Yet on her brow I saw the swift, sweet, virgin shame.


Ah, be not false, sweet Splendor!
Be true, be good;
Be wise as thou art tender;
Be all that Beauty should.

Not lightly be thy citadel subdued;
Not ignobly, not untimely.
Take praise in solemn mood;
Take love sublimely.


Through starry space two angels dreamed their flight,
'Mid worlds and thoughts of worlds, through day and night.

Then one spake forth whose voice was like the flower
That blossoms in the fragrant midnight hour.
This white-browed angel of the other asked:
"Of all the essences that ever basked
In the eternal presence; of all things,
All thoughts, all joys, all dreads, all sorrowings
Amid the unimaginable vast—
Being, or shall be, or forever past—
Profound with dark, or hid in endless light—
Which of all these most deep and infinite?"
Then did the elder speak, the while he turned
On him who asked clear eyes that slowly burned
The spirit through, like to a living coal:
"No depth there is so deep as woman's soul."


Death is a sorry plight,
It bringeth unto man
End of all delight.
Yet many a woeful wight
Only dying can
Quit him like a man.

Dawdling, drawling, silly,
Maundering, scarce a man;
Driven willy-nilly;
When he's dying will he
Run as once he ran,
Or quit him like a man?

Vile from out the wrack
Crawls he less than man;
Cowering in his track
Beaten, broken, black;
Curse him if you can—
Death may make him man.

In life the wretch did naught
Worthy of a man;
Now by Death he's caught,
What a change is wrought!
Whom the world did ban
Quits life like a man.

Braced stiff against the wall,
Behold, at last, a man.
Lost—life and honor, all!
At Death's quick touch and call
See, the craven can
Quit him like a man.


Came to a master of song
And the human heart
One who had followed him long
And worshiped his art;
One whom the poet's singing
Had lured from death,
Joy to the crusht soul bringing
And heaven's breath;

Came to him once in an hour
Of terror and stress,
And cried, "Thou alone hast power
To save me and bless;
Thou alone, pure heart and free,
Canst pluck from disaster,
If to a wretch like me
Thou wilt stoop, O master!"

Answered the bard with shame,
And sorrow and trembling:
"Was I false, was my song to blame?
Was my art dissembling?
I of all mortals the saddest,
The quickest to fall,
And song of mine highest and gladdest
Repentance all!"


Some from books resound their rhymes—
Set them ringing with a faint,
Sorrowful, and sweet, and quaint
Memory of the olden times,
Like the sound of evening chimes.

Some go wandering on their way
Through the forest, past the herds,
Laughing maidens, singing birds;
On their sylvan lutes they play—
Danceth by the lyric Day!

Bards there be the deep sky under
Who in high, authentic verse
Mysteries and moods rehearse
With a voice like Sinai's thunder,
Chanting to a world of wonder.

And those have sung whose melody,
Drawn from out the living heart
With a quick, unfaltering art,
Hath power to make the listener cry:
"God in heaven! It is I."


Henceforth before these feet
Sinks the downward way;
A little while to greet
The light and life of day,
Then night's slow fall
Ends all.

Now forward, heart elate,
Tho' steep the pathway slope.
Time yet for love and hate,
Joy, and joy's comrade, hope,
Ere night's slow fall
Ends all.

Still the warm sky is blue,
No fleck the sunlight mars;
'Twixt hills the sea gleams through;
With twilight come the stars;
And night's slow fall
Ends all.

In the cool-breathing night
The starry sky is deep.
Still on through glimmering light
Till we lie down to sleep;
Then let night's fall
End all.


What domes and pinnacles of mist and fire
Are builded in yon spacious realms of light
All silently, as did the walls aspire
Templing the ark of God by day and night!
Noiseless and swift, from darkening ridge to ridge,
Through purple air that deepens down the day,
Over the valley springs a shadowy bridge.
The evening star's keen, solitary ray
Makes more intense the silence, and the glad,
Unmelancholy, restful, twilight gloom—
So full of tenderness, that even the sad
Remembrances that haunt the soul take bloom
Like that on yonder mountain.
Now the bars
Of sunset all burn black; the day doth fail,
And the skies whiten with the eternal stars.
O, let thy spirit stay with me, sweet vale!




Each New Year is a leaf of our love's rose;
It falls, but quick another rose-leaf grows.
So is the flower from year to year the same,
But richer, for the dead leaves feed its flame.


To see the rose of morning slow unfold
Each wondrous petal to that heart of gold;
To see from out the dark, unknowing night
A new soul dawn with such undreamed-of light,
And slowly all its loveliness and splendor
Pour forth as stately music pours, magnificently tender!


Keep pure thy soul!
Then shalt thou take the whole
Of delight;
Then, without a pang,
Thine shall be all of beauty whereof the poet sang—
The perfume, and the pageant, the melody, the mirth
Of the golden day, and the starry night;
Of heaven, and of earth.
O, keep pure thy soul!


Thy mind is like a crystal brook
Wherein clean creatures live at ease,
In sun-bright waves or shady nook.
Birds sing above it,
The warm-breathed cattle love it,
It doth sweet childhood please.

Accurst be he by whom it were undone,
Or thing or thought whose presence
The birds and beasts would loathly shun,
Would make its crystal waters foully run,
And drive sweet childhood from its pleasance.


One deed may mar a life,
And one can make it;
Hold firm thy will for strife,
Lest a quick blow break it!
Even now from far on viewless wing
Hither speeds the nameless thing
Shall put thy spirit to the test.
Haply or e'er yon sinking sun
Shall drop behind the purple West
All will be lost—or won!


How strange to look upon the life beyond
Our human cognizance with so deep awe
And haunting dread; a sense as of remorse,
A looking-for of judgment, a great weight
Of things unknown to happen! We who live
Blindly from hour to hour in very midst
Of mysteries; of shapeless, changing glooms;
Of nameless terrors; issues vast and black;
Of airy whims, slight fantasies, and flights
That lead to unimaginable woe:
The unweighed word cloying the life of love;
One clod of earth outblotting all the stars;
Some secret, dark inheritance of will,
And the scared soul plunges to conscious doom!
Thou who hast wisdom, fear not Death, but Life!


Would the gods might give
Another field for human strife;
Man must live one life
Ere he learns to live.
—Ah, friend, in thy deep grave,
What now can change, what now can save?




Because the rose must fade,
Shall I not love the rose?
Because the summer shade
Passes when winter blows,
Shall I not rest me there
In the cool air?

Because the sunset sky
Makes music in my soul,
Only to fail and die,
Shall I not take the whole
Of beauty that it gives
While yet it lives?

Because the sweet of youth
Doth vanish all too soon,
Shall I forget, forsooth,
To learn its lingering tune;
My joy to memorize
In those young eyes?

If, like the summer flower
That blooms—a fragrant death,
Keen music hath no power
To live beyond its breath,
Then of this flood of song
Let me drink long!

Ah, yes, because the rose
Fades like the sunset skies;
Because rude winter blows
All bare, and music dies—
Therefore, now is to me


Fades the rose; the year grows old;
The tale is told;
Youth doth depart—
Only stays the heart.

Ah, no! if stays the heart,
Youth can ne'er depart,
Nor the sweet tale be told—
Never the rose fade, nor the year grow old.


On the sad winter trees
The dead, red leaves remain,
Tho' to and fro the bleak winds blow,
And falls the freezing rain.

So to the wintry heart
Clings color of the past,
While through dead leaves shudders and grieves
The melancholy blast.


Yes, I have heard the nightingale.
As in dark woods I wandered,
And dreamed and pondered,
A voice past by all fire
And passion and desire;
I rather felt than heard
The song of that lone bird;
Yes, I have heard the nightingale.

Yes, I have heard the nightingale.
I heard it, and I followed;
The warm night swallowed
This soul and body of mine,
As burning thirst takes wine,
While on and on I prest
Close to that singing breast;
Yes, I have heard the nightingale.

Yes, I have heard the nightingale.
Well doth each throbbing ember
The flame remember;
And I, how quick that sound
Turned drops from a deep wound!
How this heart was the thorn
Which pierced that breast forlorn!
Yes, I have heard the nightingale.


In that dread, dreamed-of hour
When in her heart love's rose flames into flower,
'T is never, never yes,
But no, no, no, whate'er the startled eyes confess.

Her frail denial at last
Swept clean away like burnt leaves in the blast,
No longer no, no, no!
But yes, forever yes, while love's red rose doth blow.


Rose-dark the solemn sunset
That holds my thought of thee;
With one star in the heavens
And one star in the sea.

On high no lamp is lighted,
Nor where the long waves flow,
Save the one star of evening
And the shadow star below.

Light of my Life! the darkness
Comes with the twilight dream;
Thou art the bright star shining,
I but the shadowy gleam.


Winds to the silent morn;
Waves to the ocean;
Voice to the song unsung;
Song to emotion;
Light to the golden flower;
Bird to the tree;
Love to the heart of love,
And I to thee!

Dawn to the darkened world;
Hope to the morrow;
Music to passion; and
Weeping to sorrow;
Love to the heart that longs;
Moon to the sea;
Heaven to the earthborn soul,
And thou to me.



Silent, silent are the unreturning!
What tho' word may reach to them, and yearning,
Never through the stillness of the night,
Never in the daytime or the dark
Comes the long-lost voice, or smile of light;
Lifts no hand from sea or sunken bark.
Silent, silent are the unreturning!


Silent, silent are the unreturning!
Silent they?—or are we undiscerning?
Child, my child! is this thy answering voice
Murmuring far down the mountain lone?
Evening's smile, that whispers: "Heart, rejoice!"
Mother mine! is this thy very own?
Nay! nay! Silent are the unreturning;
Silent, silent are the unreturning!


O, that was the year the last of those before thee;
All my world till then but dark before the dawn.
If then I had died, O, never had I known thee,
Never had beheld thee; I who won, who own thee;
Who chose thee, who sing thee, crown thee, and adore thee;
O, death it were indeed to die before that dawn!

This was the year when first I did behold thee,
Thou who on my darkness dawned with lyric light.
This the golden hour when first thy lover found thee,
Followed and beguiled thee, and with his singing bound thee;
When all the world with music rang to drown thee and enfold thee—
Thou who turned the darkness to song, and love, and light!