To Charlotte Cushman

To Charlotte Cushman  (1875) 
by Sidney Lanier

Sidney Lanier composed this poem in 1875. Lanier had been contracted to write a biography of Charlotte Cushman (1816–1876), an American actress, following her decease. Lanier composed three poems to be used in the biography: “To Charlotte Cushman” (this poem), “A Dedication. To Charlotte Cushman”, and “At First: To Charlotte Cushman”. Unfortunately the contract was cancelled upon the illness of a family friend who was to provide Lanier with the actress’ papers.

Look where a three-point star shall weave his beam
Into the slumb’rous tissue of some stream,
Till his bright self o’er his bright copy seem
Fulfillment dropping on a come-true dream;
So in this night of art thy soul doth show
Her excellent double in the steadfast flow
Of wishing love that through men’s hearts doth go:
At once thou shin’st above and shin’st below.
E’en when thou strivest there within Art’s sky
(Each star must o’er a strenuous orbit fly),
Full calm thine image in our love doth lie,
A Motion glassed in a Tranquillity.
So triple-rayed, thou mov’st, yet stay’st, serene—
Art’s artist, Love’s dear woman, Fame’s good queen!