HEPHAESTUS. Will she become immortal like ourselves?
THE VOICE. The form that thou hast fashioned out of clay Is of the earth and mortal; but the spirit, The life, the exhalation of my breath, Is of diviner essence and immortal. The gods shall shower on her their benefactions, She shall possess all gifts: the gift of song, The gift of eloquence, the gift of beauty, The fascination and the nameless charm That shall lead all men captive.
HEPHAESTUS. Wherefore? wherefore?
(A wind shakes the house.)
I hear the rushing of a mighty wind Through all the halls and chambers of my house! Her parted lips inhale it, and her bosom Heaves with the inspiration. As a reed Beside a river in the rippling current Bends to and fro, she bows or lifts her head. She gazes round about as if amazed; She is alive; she breathes, but yet she speaks not!
(PANDORA descends from the pedestal.)
CHORUS OF THE GRACES
AGLAIA. In the workshop of Hephaestus What is this I see? Have the Gods to four increased us Who were only three? Beautiful in form and feature, Lovely as the day, Can there be so fair a creature Formed of common clay?
THALIA. O sweet, pale face! O lovely eyes of azure, Clear as the waters of a brook that run Limpid and laughing in the summer sun! O golden hair that like a miser's treasure In its abundance overflows the measure! O graceful form, that cloudlike floatest on With the soft, undulating gait of one Who moveth as if motion were a pleasure! By what name shall I call thee? Nymph or Muse, Callirrhoe or Urania? Some sweet name Whose every syllable is a caress Would best befit thee; but I cannot choose, Nor do I care to choose; for still the same, Nameless or named, will be thy loveliness.
EUPHROSYNE. Dowered with all celestial gifts, Skilled in every art That ennobles and uplifts And delights the heart, Fair on earth shall be thy fame As thy face is fair, And Pandora be the name Thou henceforth shalt bear.
HERMES (putting on his sandals.) Much must he toil who serves the Immortal Gods, And I, who am their herald, most of all. No rest have I, nor respite. I no sooner Unclasp the winged sandals from my feet, Than I again must clasp them, and depart Upon some foolish errand. But to-day The errand is not foolish. Never yet With greater joy did I obey the summons That sends me earthward. I will fly so swiftly That my caduceus in the whistling air Shall make a sound like the Pandaean pipes, Cheating the shepherds; for to-day I go, Commissioned by high-thundering Zeus, to lead A maiden to Prometheus, in his tower, And by my cunning arguments persuade him To marry her. What mischief lies concealed In this design I know not; but I know Who thinks of marrying hath already taken One step upon the road to penitence. Such embassies delight me. Forth I launch On the sustaining air, nor fear to fall Like Icarus, nor swerve aside like him Who drove amiss Hyperion's fiery steeds. I sink, I fly! The yielding element Folds itself round about me like an arm, And holds me as a mother holds her child.
TOWER OF PROMETHEUS ON MOUNT CAUCASUS
PROMETHEUS. I hear the trumpet of Alectryon Proclaim the dawn. The stars begin to fade, And all the heavens are full of prophecies And evil auguries. Blood-red last night I saw great Kronos rise; the crescent moon Sank through the mist, as if it were the scythe His parricidal hand had flung far down The western steeps. O ye Immortal Gods, What evil are ye plotting and contriving?
(HERMES and PANDORA at the threshold.)
PANDORA. I cannot cross the threshold. An unseen And icy hand repels me. These blank walls Oppress me with their weight!
PROMETHEUS. Powerful ye are, But not omnipotent. Ye cannot fight Against Necessity. The Fates control you, As they do us, and so far we are equals!
PANDORA. Motionless, passionless, companionless, He sits there muttering in his beard. His voice Is like a river flowing underground!
HERMES. Prometheus, hail!
PROMETHEUS. Who calls me?
HERMES. It is I. Dost thou not know me?
PROMETHEUS. By thy winged cap And winged heels I know thee. Thou art Hermes, Captain of thieves! Hast thou again been stealing The heifers of Admetus in the sweet Meadows of asphodel? or Hera's girdle? Or the earth-shaking trident of Poseidon?
HERMES. And thou, Prometheus; say, hast thou again Been stealing fire from Helios' chariot-wheels To light thy furnaces?
PROMETHEUS. Why comest thou hither So early in the dawn?
HERMES. The Immortal Gods Know naught of late or early. Zeus himself The omnipotent hath sent me.
PROMETHEUS. For what purpose?
HERMES. To bring this maiden to thee.
PROMETHEUS. I mistrust The Gods and all their gifts. If they have sent her It is for no good purpose.
HERMES. What disaster Could she bring on thy house, who is a woman?
PROMETHEUS. The Gods are not my friends, nor am I theirs. Whatever comes from them, though in a shape As beautiful as this, is evil only. Who art thou?
PANDORA. One who, though to thee unknown, Yet knoweth thee.
PROMETHEUS. How shouldst thou know me, woman?
PANDORA. Who knoweth not Prometheus the humane?
PROMETHEUS. Prometheus the unfortunate; to whom Both Gods and men have shown themselves ungrateful. When every spark was quenched on every hearth Throughout the earth, I brought to man the fire And all its ministrations. My reward Hath been the rock and vulture.
HERMES. But the Gods At last relent and pardon.
PROMETHEUS. They relent not; They pardon not; they are implacable, Revengeful, unforgiving!
HERMES. As a pledge Of reconciliation they have sent to thee This divine being, to be thy companion, And bring into thy melancholy house The sunshine and the fragrance of her youth.
PROMETHEUS. I need them not. I have within myself All that my heart desires; the ideal beauty Which the creative faculty of mind Fashions and follows in a thousand shapes More lovely than the real. My own thoughts Are my companions; my designs and labors And aspirations are my only friends.
HERMES. Decide not rashly. The decision made Can never be recalled. The Gods implore not, Plead not, solicit not; they only offer Choice and occasion, which once being passed Return no more. Dost thou accept the gift?
PROMETHEUS. No gift of theirs, in whatsoever shape It comes to me, with whatsoever charm To fascinate my sense, will I receive. Leave me.
PANDORA. Let us go hence. I will not stay.
HERMES. We leave thee to thy vacant dreams, and all The silence and the solitude of thought, The endless bitterness of unbelief, The loneliness of existence without love.
CHORUS OF THE FATES
CLOTHO. How the Titan, the defiant, The self-centred, self-reliant, Wrapped in visions and illusions, Robs himself of life's best gifts! Till by all the storm-winds shaken, By the blast of fate o'ertaken, Hopeless, helpless, and forsaken, In the mists of his confusions To the reefs of doom he drifts!
LACHESIS. Sorely tried and sorely tempted, From no agonies exempted, In the penance of his trial, And the discipline of pain; Often by illusions cheated, Often baffled and defeated In the tasks to be completed, He, by toil and self-denial, To the highest shall attain.
ATROPOS. Tempt no more the noble schemer; Bear unto some idle dreamer This new toy and fascination, This new dalliance and delight! To the garden where reposes Epimetheus crowned with roses, To the door that never closes Upon pleasure and temptation, Bring this vision of the night!
HERMES (returning to Olympus.) As lonely as the tower that he inhabits, As firm and cold as are the crags about him, Prometheus stands. The thunderbolts of Zeus Alone can move him; but the tender heart Of Epimetheus, burning at white heat, Hammers and flames like all his brother's forges! Now as an arrow from Hyperion's bow, My errand done, I fly, I float, I soar Into the air, returning to Olympus. O joy of motion! O delight to cleave The infinite realms of space, the liquid ether, Through the warm sunshine and the cooling cloud, Myself as light as sunbeam or as cloud! With one touch of my swift and winged feet, I spurn the solid earth, and leave it rocking As rocks the bough from which a bird takes wing.
THE HOUSE OF EPIMETHEUS
EPIMETHEUS. Beautiful apparition! go not hence! Surely thou art a Goddess, for thy voice Is a celestial melody, and thy form Self-poised as if it floated on the air!
PANDORA. No Goddess am I, nor of heavenly birth, But a mere woman fashioned out of clay And mortal as the rest.
EPIMETHEUS. Thy face is fair; There is a wonder in thine azure eyes That fascinates me. Thy whole presence seems A soft desire, a breathing thought of love. Say, would thy star like Merope's grow dim If thou shouldst wed beneath thee?
PANDORA. Ask me not; I cannot answer thee. I only know The Gods have sent me hither.
EPIMETHEUS. I believe, And thus believing am most fortunate. It was not Hermes led thee here, but Eros, And swifter than his arrows were thine eyes In wounding me. There was no moment's space Between my seeing thee and loving thee. O, what a telltale face thou hast! Again I see the wonder in thy tender eyes.
PANDORA. They do but answer to the love in thine, Yet secretly I wonder thou shouldst love me. Thou knowest me not.
EPIMETHEUS. Perhaps I know thee better Than had I known thee longer. Yet it seems That I have always known thee, and but now Have found thee. Ah, I have been waiting long.
PANDORA. How beautiful is this house! The atmosphere Breathes rest and comfort, and the many chambers Seem full of welcomes.
EPIMETHEUS. They not only seem, But truly are. This dwelling and its master Belong to thee.
PANDORA. Here let me stay forever! There is a spell upon me.
EPIMETHEUS. Thou thyself Art the enchantress, and I feel thy power Envelop me, and wrap my soul and sense In an Elysian dream.
PANDORA, O, let me stay. How beautiful are all things round about me, Multiplied by the mirrors on the walls! What treasures hast thou here! Yon oaken chest, Carven with figures and embossed with gold, Is wonderful to look upon! What choice And precious things dost thou keep hidden in it?
EPIMETHEUS. I know not. 'T is a mystery.
PANDORA. Hast thou never Lifted the lid?
EPIMETHEUS. The oracle forbids. Safely concealed there from all mortal eyes Forever sleeps the secret of the Gods. Seek not to know what they have hidden from thee, Till they themselves reveal it.
PANDORA. As thou wilt.
EPIMETHEUS. Let us go forth from this mysterious place. The garden walks are pleasant at this hour; The nightingales among the sheltering boughs Of populous and many-nested trees Shall teach me how to woo thee, and shall tell me By what resistless charms or incantations They won their mates.
PANDORA. Thou dost not need a teacher.
(They go out.)
CHORUS OF THE EUMENIDES. What the Immortals Confide to thy keeping, Tell unto no man; Waking or sleeping, Closed be thy portals To friend as to foeman.
Silence conceals it; The word that is spoken Betrays and reveals it; By breath or by token The charm may be broken.
With shafts of their splendors The Gods unforgiving Pursue the offenders, The dead and the living! Fortune forsakes them, Nor earth shall abide them, Nor Tartarus hide them; Swift wrath overtakes them!
With useless endeavor, Forever, forever, Is Sisyphus rolling His stone up the mountain! Immersed in the fountain, Tantalus tastes not The water that wastes not! Through ages increasing The pangs that afflict him, With motion unceasing The wheel of Ixion Shall torture its victim!
IN THE GARDEN
EPIMETHEUS. Yon snow-white cloud that sails sublime in ether Is but the sovereign Zeus, who like a swan Flies to fair-ankled Leda!
PANDORA. Or perchance Ixion's cloud, the shadowy shape of Hera, That bore the Centaurs.
EPIMETHEUS. The divine and human.
CHORUS OF BIRDS. Gently swaying to and fro, Rocked by all the winds that blow, Bright with sunshine from above Dark with shadow from below, Beak to beak and breast to breast In the cradle of their nest, Lie the fledglings of our love.
ECHO. Love! love!
EPIMETHEUS. Hark! listen! Hear how sweetly overhead The feathered flute-players pipe their songs of love, And echo answers, love and only love.
CHORUS OF BIRDS. Every flutter of the wing, Every note of song we sing, Every murmur, every tone, Is of love and love alone.
ECHO. Love alone!
EPIMETHEUS. Who would not love, if loving she might be Changed like Callisto to a star in heaven?
PANDORA. Ah, who would love, if loving she might be Like Semele consumed and burnt to ashes?
EPIMETHEUS. Whence knowest thou these stories?
PANDORA. Hermes taught me; He told me all the history of the Gods.
CHORUS OF REEDS. Evermore a sound shall be In the reeds of Arcady, Evermore a low lament Of unrest and discontent, As the story is retold Of the nymph so coy and cold, Who with frightened feet outran The pursuing steps of Pan.
EPIMETHEUS. The pipe of Pan out of these reeds is made, And when he plays upon it to the shepherds They pity him, so mournful is the sound. Be thou not coy and cold as Syrinx was.
PANDORA. Nor thou as Pan be rude and mannerless.
PROMETHEUS (without). Ho! Epimetheus!
EPIMETHEUS. 'T is my brother's voice; A sound unwelcome and inopportune As was the braying of Silenus' ass, Once heard in Cybele's garden.
PANDORA. Let me go. I would not be found here. I would not see him.
(She escapes among the trees.)
CHORUS OF DRYADES. Haste and hide thee, Ere too late, In these thickets intricate; Lest Prometheus See and chide thee, Lest some hurt Or harm betide thee, Haste and hide thee!
PROMETHEUS (entering.) Who was it fled from here? I saw a shape Flitting among the trees.
EPIMETHEUS. It was Pandora.
PROMETHEUS. O Epimetheus! Is it then in vain That I have warned thee? Let me now implore. Thou harborest in thy house a dangerous guest.
EPIMETHEUS. Whom the Gods love they honor with such guests.
PROMETHEUS. Whom the Gods would destroy they first make mad.
EPIMETHEUS. Shall I refuse the gifts they send to me?
PROMETHEUS. Reject all gifts that come from higher powers.
EPIMETHEUS. Such gifts as this are not to be rejected.
PROMETHEUS. Make not thyself the slave of any woman.
EPIMETHEUS. Make not thyself the judge of any man.
PROMETHEUS. I judge thee not; for thou art more than man; Thou art descended from Titanic race, And hast a Titan's strength, and faculties That make thee godlike; and thou sittest here Like Heracles spinning Omphale's flax, And beaten with her sandals.
EPIMETHEUS. O my brother! Thou drivest me to madness with thy taunts.
PROMETHEUS. And me thou drivest to madness with thy follies. Come with me to my tower on Caucasus: See there my forges in the roaring caverns, Beneficent to man, and taste the joy That springs from labor. Read with me the stars, And learn the virtues that lie hidden in plants, And all things that are useful.
EPIMETHEU5. O my brother! I am not as thou art. Thou dost inherit Our father's strength, and I our mother's weakness: The softness of the Oceanides, The yielding nature that cannot resist.
PROMETHEUS. Because thou wilt not.
EPIMETHEUS. Nay; because I cannot.
PROMETHEUS. Assert thyself; rise up to thy full height; Shake from thy soul these dreams effeminate, These passions born of indolence and ease. Resolve, and thou art free. But breathe the air Of mountains, and their unapproachable summits Will lift thee to the level of themselves.
EPIMETHEUS. The roar of forests and of waterfalls, The rushing of a mighty wind, with loud And undistinguishable voices calling, Are in my ear!
PROMETHEUS. O, listen and obey.
EPIMETHEUS. Thou leadest me as a child, I follow thee.
(They go out.)
CHORUS OF OREADES. Centuries old are the mountains; Their foreheads wrinkled and rifted Helios crowns by day, Pallid Selene by night; From their bosoms uptossed The snows are driven and drifted, Like Tithonus' beard Streaming dishevelled and white.
Thunder and tempest of wind Their trumpets blow in the vastness; Phantoms of mist and rain, Cloud and the shadow of cloud, Pass and repass by the gates Of their inaccessible fastness; Ever unmoved they stand, Solemn, eternal, and proud,
VOICES OF THE WATERS. Flooded by rain and snow In their inexhaustible sources, Swollen by affluent streams Hurrying onward and hurled Headlong over the crags, The impetuous water-courses, Rush and roar and plunge Down to the nethermost world.
Say, have the solid rocks Into streams of silver been melted, Flowing over the plains, Spreading to lakes in the fields? Or have the mountains, the giants, The ice-helmed, the forest-belted, Scattered their arms abroad; Flung in the meadows their shields?
VOICES OF THE WINDS. High on their turreted cliffs That bolts of thunder have shattered, Storm-winds muster and blow Trumpets of terrible breath; Then from the gateways rush, And before them routed and scattered Sullen the cloud-rack flies, Pale with the pallor of death.
Onward the hurricane rides, And flee for shelter the shepherds; White are the frightened leaves, Harvests with terror are white; Panic seizes the herds, And even the lions and leopards, Prowling no longer for prey, Crouch in their caverns with fright.
VOICES OF THE FOREST. Guarding the mountains around Majestic the forests are standing, Bright are their crested helms, Dark is their armor of leaves; Filled with the breath of freedom Each bosom subsiding, expanding, Now like the ocean sinks, Now like the ocean upheaves.
Planted firm on the rock, With foreheads stern and defiant, Loud they shout to the winds, Loud to the tempest they call; Naught but Olympian thunders, That blasted Titan and Giant, Them can uproot and o'erthrow, Shaking the earth with their fall.
CHORUS OF OREADES. These are the Voices Three Of winds and forests and fountains, Voices of earth and of air, Murmur and rushing of streams, Making together one sound, The mysterious voice of the mountains, Waking the sluggard that sleeps, Waking the dreamer of dreams.
These are the Voices Three, That speak of endless endeavor, Speak of endurance and strength, Triumph and fulness of fame, Sounding about the world, An inspiration forever, Stirring the hearts of men, Shaping their end and their aim.
THE HOUSE OF EPIMETHEUS
PANDORA. Left to myself I wander as I will, And as my fancy leads me, through this house, Nor could I ask a dwelling more complete Were I indeed the Goddess that he deems me. No mansion of Olympus, framed to be The habitation of the Immortal Gods, Can be more beautiful. And this is mine And more than this, the love wherewith he crowns me. As if impelled by powers invisible And irresistible, my steps return Unto this spacious hall. All corridors And passages lead hither, and all doors But open into it. Yon mysterious chest Attracts and fascinates me. Would I knew What there lies hidden! But the oracle Forbids. Ah me! The secret then is safe. So would it be if it were in my keeping. A crowd of shadowy faces from the mirrors That line these walls are watching me. I dare not Lift up the lid. A hundred times the act Would be repeated, and the secret seen By twice a hundred incorporeal eyes.
(She walks to the other side of the hall.)
My feet are weary, wandering to and fro, My eyes with seeing and my heart with waiting. I will lie here and rest till he returns, Who is my dawn, my day, my Helios.
(Throws herself upon a couch, and falls asleep.)
ZEPHYRUS. Come from thy caverns dark and deep. O son of Erebus and Night; All sense of hearing and of sight Enfold in the serene delight And quietude of sleep!
Set all the silent sentinels To bar and guard the Ivory Gate, And keep the evil dreams of fate And falsehood and infernal hate Imprisoned in their cells.
But open wide the Gate of Horn, Whence, beautiful as planets, rise The dreams of truth, with starry eyes, And all the wondrous prophecies And visions of the morn.
CHORUS OF DREAMS FROM THE IVORY GATE. Ye sentinels of sleep, It is in vain ye keep Your drowsy watch before the Ivory Gate; Though closed the portal seems, The airy feet of dreams Ye cannot thus in walls incarcerate.
We phantoms are and dreams Born by Tartarean streams, As ministers of the infernal powers; O son of Erebus And Night, behold! we thus Elude your watchful warders on the towers!
From gloomy Tartarus The Fates have summoned us To whisper in her ear, who lies asleep, A tale to fan the fire Of her insane desire To know a secret that the Gods would keep.
This passion, in their ire, The Gods themselves inspire, To vex mankind with evils manifold, So that disease and pain O'er the whole earth may reign, And nevermore return the Age of Gold.
PANDORA (waking). A voice said in my sleep: "Do not delay: Do not delay; the golden moments fly! The oracle hath forbidden; yet not thee Doth it forbid, but Epimetheus only!" I am alone. These faces in the mirrors Are but the shadows and phantoms of myself; They cannot help nor hinder. No one sees me, Save the all-seeing Gods, who, knowing good And knowing evil, have created me Such as I am, and filled me with desire Of knowing good and evil like themselves.
(She approaches the chest.)
I hesitate no longer. Weal or woe, Or life or death, the moment shall decide.
(She lifts the lid. A dense mist rises from the chest, and fills the room. PANDORA falls senseless on the floor. Storm without.)
CHORUS OF DREAMS FROM THE GATE OF HORN. Yes, the moment shall decide! It already hath decided; And the secret once confided To the keeping of the Titan Now is flying far and wide, Whispered, told on every side, To disquiet and to frighten.
Fever of the heart and brain, Sorrow, pestilence, and pain, Moans of anguish, maniac laughter, All the evils that hereafter Shall afflict and vex mankind, All into the air have risen From the chambers of their prison; Only Hope remains behind.
IN THE GARDEN
EPIMETHEUS. The storm is past, but it hath left behind it Ruin and desolation. All the walks Are strewn with shattered boughs; the birds are silent; The flowers, downtrodden by the wind, lie dead; The swollen rivulet sobs with secret pain, The melancholy reeds whisper together As if some dreadful deed had been committed They dare not name, and all the air is heavy With an unspoken sorrow! Premonitions, Foreshadowings of some terrible disaster Oppress my heart. Ye Gods, avert the omen!
PANDORA (coming from the house). O Epimetheus, I no longer dare To lift mine eyes to thine, nor hear thy voice, Being no longer worthy of thy love.
EPIMETHEUS. What hast thou done?
PANDORA. Forgive me not, but kill me.
EPIMETHEUS. What hast thou done?
PANDORA. I pray for death, not pardon.
EPIMETHEUS. What hast thou done?
PANDORA. I dare not speak of it.
EPIMETHEUS. Thy pallor and thy silence terrify me!
PANDORA. I have brought wrath and ruin on thy house! My heart hath braved the oracle that guarded The fatal secret from us, and my hand Lifted the lid of the mysterious chest!
EPIMETHEUS. Then all is lost! I am indeed undone.
PANDORA. I pray for punishment, and not for pardon.
EPIMETHEUS. Mine is the fault not thine. On me shall fall The vengeance of the Gods, for I betrayed Their secret when, in evil hour, I said It was a secret; when, in evil hour, I left thee here alone to this temptation. Why did I leave thee?
PANDORA. Why didst thou return? Eternal absence would have been to me The greatest punishment. To be left alone And face to face with my own crime, had been Just retribution. Upon me, ye Gods, Let all your vengeance fall!
EPIMETHEUS. On thee and me. I do not love thee less for what is done, And cannot be undone. Thy very weakness Hath brought thee nearer to me, and henceforth My love will have a sense of pity in it, Making it less a worship than before.
PANDORA. Pity me not; pity is degradation. Love me and kill me.
EPIMETHEUS. Beautiful Pandora! Thou art a Goddess still!
PANDORA. I am a woman; And the insurgent demon in my nature, That made me brave the oracle, revolts At pity and compassion. Let me die; What else remains for me?
EPIMETHEUS. Youth, hope, and love: To build a new life on a ruined life, To make the future fairer than the past, And make the past appear a troubled dream. Even now in passing through the garden walks Upon the ground I saw a fallen nest Ruined and full of rain; and over me Beheld the uncomplaining birds already Busy in building a new habitation.
PANDORA. Auspicious omen!
EPIMETHEUS. May the Eumenides Put out their torches and behold us not, And fling away their whips of scorpions And touch us not.
PANDORA. Me let them punish. Only through punishment of our evil deeds, Only through suffering, are we reconciled To the immortal Gods and to ourselves.
CHORUS OF THE EUMENIDES. Never shall souls like these Escape the Eumenides, The daughters dark of Acheron and Night! Unquenched our torches glare, Our scourges in the air Send forth prophetic sounds before they smite.
Never by lapse of time The soul defaced by crime Into its former self returns again; For every guilty deed Holds in itself the seed Of retribution and undying pain.
Never shall be the loss Restored, till Helios Hath purified them with his heavenly fires; Then what was lost is won, And the new life begun, Kindled with nobler passions and desires.
THE HANGING OF THE CRANE
The lights are out, and gone are all the guests That thronging came with merriment and jests To celebrate the Hanging of the Crane In the new house,—into the night are gone; But still the fire upon the hearth burns on, And I alone remain.
O fortunate, O happy day, When a new household finds its place Among the myriad homes of earth, Like a new star just sprung to birth, And rolled on its harmonious way Into the boundless realms of space!
So said the guests in speech and song, As in the chimney, burning bright, We hung the iron crane to-night, And merry was the feast and long.
And now I sit and muse on what may be, And in my vision see, or seem to see, Through floating vapors interfused with light, Shapes indeterminate, that gleam and fade, As shadows passing into deeper shade Sink and elude the sight.
For two alone, there in the hall, As spread the table round and small; Upon the polished silver shine The evening lamps, but, more divine, The light of love shines over all; Of love, that says not mine and thine, But ours, for ours is thine and mine.
They want no guests, to come between Their tender glances like a screen, And tell them tales of land and sea, And whatsoever may betide The great, forgotten world outside; They want no guests; they needs must be Each other's own best company.
The picture fades; as at a village fair A showman's views, dissolving into air, Again appear transfigured on the screen, So in my fancy this; and now once more, In part transfigured, through the open door Appears the selfsame scene.
Seated, I see the two again, But not alone; they entertain A little angel unaware, With face as round as is the moon; A royal guest with flaxen hair, Who, throned upon his lofty chair, Drums on the table with his spoon, Then drops it careless on the floor, To grasp at things unseen before.
Are these celestial manners? these The ways that win, the arts that please? Ah yes; consider well the guest, And whatsoe'er he does seems best; He ruleth by the right divine Of helplessness, so lately born In purple chambers of the morn, As sovereign over thee and thine. He speaketh not; and yet there lies A conversation in his eyes; The golden silence of the Greek, The gravest wisdom of the wise, Not spoken in language, but in looks More legible than printed books, As if he could but would not speak. And now, O monarch absolute, Thy power is put to proof; for, lo! Resistless, fathomless, and slow, The nurse comes rustling like the sea, And pushes back thy chair and thee, And so good night to King Canute.
As one who walking in a forest sees A lovely landscape through the parted frees, Then sees it not, for boughs that intervene Or as we see the moon sometimes revealed Through drifting clouds, and then again concealed, So I behold the scene.
There are two guests at table now; The king, deposed and older grown, No longer occupies the throne,— The crown is on his sister's brow; A Princess from the Fairy Isles, The very pattern girl of girls. All covered and embowered in curls, Rose-tinted from the Isle of Flowers, And sailing with soft, silken sails From far-off Dreamland into ours. Above their bowls with rims of blue Four azure eyes of deeper hue Are looking, dreamy with delight; Limpid as planets that emerge Above the ocean's rounded verge, Soft-shining through the summer night. Steadfast they gaze, yet nothing see Beyond the horizon of their bowls; Nor care they for the world that rolls With all its freight of troubled souls Into the days that are to be.
Again the tossing boughs shut out the scene, Again the drifting vapors intervene, And the moon's pallid disk is hidden quite; And now I see the table wider grown, As round a pebble into water thrown Dilates a ring of light.
I see the table wider grown, I see it garlanded with guests, As if fair Ariadne's Crown Out of the sky had fallen down; Maidens within whose tender breasts A thousand restless hopes and fears, Forth reaching to the coming years, Flutter awhile, then quiet lie Like timid birds that fain would fly, But do not dare to leave their nests;— And youths, who in their strength elate Challenge the van and front of fate, Eager as champions to be In the divine knight-errantry Of youth, that travels sea and land Seeking adventures, or pursues, Through cities, and through solitudes Frequented by the lyric Muse, The phantom with the beckoning hand, That still allures and still eludes. O sweet illusions of the brain! O sudden thrills of fire and frost! The world is bright while ye remain, And dark and dead when ye are lost!
The meadow-brook, that seemeth to stand still, Quickens its current as it nears the mill; And so the stream of Time that lingereth In level places, and so dull appears, Runs with a swifter current as it nears The gloomy mills of Death.
And now, like the magician's scroll, That in the owner's keeping shrinks With every wish he speaks or thinks, Till the last wish consumes the whole, The table dwindles, and again I see the two alone remain. The crown of stars is broken in parts; Its jewels, brighter than the day, Have one by one been stolen away To shine in other homes and hearts. One is a wanderer now afar In Ceylon or in Zanzibar, Or sunny regions of Cathay; And one is in the boisterous camp Mid clink of arms and horses' tramp, And battle's terrible array. I see the patient mother read, With aching heart, of wrecks that float Disabled on those seas remote, Or of some great heroic deed On battle-fields where thousands bleed To lift one hero into fame. Anxious she bends her graceful head Above these chronicles of pain, And trembles with a secret dread Lest there among the drowned or slain She find the one beloved name.
After a day of cloud and wind and rain Sometimes the setting sun breaks out again, And touching all the darksome woods with light, Smiles on the fields, until they laugh and sing, Then like a ruby from the horizon's ring Drops down into the night.
What see I now? The night is fair, The storm of grief, the clouds of care, The wind, the rain, have passed away; The lamps are lit, the fires burn bright, The house is full of life and light: It is the Golden Wedding day. The guests come thronging in once more, Quick footsteps sound along the floor, The trooping children crowd the stair, And in and out and everywhere Flashes along the corridor The sunshine of their golden hair. On the round table in the hall Another Ariadne's Crown Out of the sky hath fallen down; More than one Monarch of the Moon Is drumming with his silver spoon; The light of love shines over all.
O fortunate, O happy day! The people sing, the people say. The ancient bridegroom and the bride, Smiling contented and serene Upon the blithe, bewildering scene, Behold, well pleased, on every side Their forms and features multiplied, As the reflection of a light Between two burnished mirrors gleams, Or lamps upon a bridge at night Stretch on and on before the sight, Till the long vista endless seems.
POEM FOR THE FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF THE CLASS OF 1825 IN BOWDOIN COLLEGE
Tempora labuntur, tacitisque senescimus annis, Et fugiunt freno non remorante dies.—OVID, Fastorum, Lib. vi.
"O Caesar, we who are about to die Salute you!" was the gladiators' cry In the arena, standing face to face With death and with the Roman populace.
O ye familiar scenes,—ye groves of pine, That once were mine and are no longer mine,— Thou river, widening through the meadows green To the vast sea, so near and yet unseen,— Ye halls, in whose seclusion and repose Phantoms of fame, like exhalations, rose And vanished,—we who are about to die Salute you; earth and air and sea and sky, And the Imperial Sun that scatters down His sovereign splendors upon grove and town.
Ye do not answer us! ye do not hear! We are forgotten; and in your austere And calm indifference, ye little care Whether we come or go, or whence or where. What passing generations fill these halls, What passing voices echo front these walls, Ye heed not; we are only as the blast, A moment heard, and then forever past.
Not so the teachers who in earlier days Led our bewildered feet through learning's maze; They answer us—alas! what have I said? What greetings come there from the voiceless dead? What salutation, welcome, or reply? What pressure from the hands that lifeless lie? They are no longer here; they all are gone Into the land of shadows,—all save one. Honor and reverence, and the good repute That follows faithful service as its fruit, Be unto him, whom living we salute.
The great Italian poet, when he made His dreadful journey to the realms of shade, Met there the old instructor of his youth, And cried in tones of pity and of ruth: "O, never from the memory of my heart Your dear, paternal image shall depart, Who while on earth, ere yet by death surprised, Taught me how mortals are immortalized; How grateful am I for that patient care All my life long my language shall declare."
To-day we make the poet's words our own And utter them in plaintive undertone; Nor to the living only be they said, But to the other living called the dead, Whose dear, paternal images appear Not wrapped in gloom, but robed in sunshine here; Whose simple lives, complete and without flaw, Were part and parcel of great Nature's law; Who said not to their Lord, as if afraid "Here is thy talent in a napkin laid," But labored in their sphere, as men who live In the delight that work alone can give. Peace be to them; eternal peace and rest, And the fulfilment of the great behest: "Ye have been faithful over a few things, Over ten cities shall ye reign as kings."
And ye who fill the places we once filled, And follow in the furrows that we tilled, Young men, whose generous hearts are beating high, We who are old, and are about to die, Salute you; hail you; take your hands in ours, And crown you with our welcome as with flowers! How beautiful is youth! how bright it gleams With its illusions, aspirations, dreams! Book of Beginnings, Story without End, Each maid a heroine, and each man a friend! Aladdin's Lamp, and Fortunatus' Purse, That holds the treasures of the universe! All possibilities are in its hands, No danger daunts it, and no foe withstands; In its sublime audacity of faith, "Be thou removed!" it to the mountain saith, And with ambitious feet, secure and proud, Ascends the ladder leaning on the cloud!
As ancient Priam at the Scaean gate Sat on the walls of Troy in regal state With the old men, too old and weak to fight, Chirping like grasshoppers in their delight To see the embattled hosts, with spear and shield, Of Trojans and Achaians in the field; So from the snowy summits of our years We see you in the plain, as each appears, And question of you; asking, "Who is he That towers above the others? Which may be Atreides, Menelaus, Odysseus, Ajax the great, or bold Idomeneus?"
Let him not boast who puts his armor on As he who puts it off, the battle done. Study yourselves; and most of all note well Wherein kind Nature meant you to excel. Not every blossom ripens into fruit; Minerva, the inventress of the flute, Flung it aside, when she her face surveyed Distorted in a fountain as she played; The unlucky Marsyas found it, and his fate Was one to make the bravest hesitate.
Write on your doors the saying wise and old, "Be bold! be bold!" and everywhere—"Be bold; Be not too bold!" Yet better the excess Than the defect; better the more than less; Better like Hector in the field to die, Than like a perfumed Paris turn and fly,
And now, my classmates; ye remaining few That number not the half of those we knew, Ye, against whose familiar names not yet The fatal asterisk of death is set, Ye I salute! The horologe of Time Strikes the half-century with a solemn chime, And summons us together once again, The joy of meeting not unmixed with pain.
Where are the others? Voices from the deep Caverns of darkness answer me: "They sleep!" I name no names; instinctively I feel Each at some well-remembered grave will kneel, And from the inscription wipe the weeds and moss, For every heart best knoweth its own loss. I see their scattered gravestones gleaming white Through the pale dusk of the impending night; O'er all alike the impartial sunset throws Its golden lilies mingled with the rose; We give to each a tender thought, and pass Out of the graveyards with their tangled grass, Unto these scenes frequented by our feet When we were young, and life was fresh and sweet.
What shall I say to you? What can I say Better than silence is? When I survey This throng of faces turned to meet my own, Friendly and fair, and yet to me unknown, Transformed the very landscape seems to be; It is the same, yet not the same to me. So many memories crowd upon my brain, So many ghosts are in the wooded plain, I fain would steal away, with noiseless tread, As from a house where some one lieth dead. I cannot go;—I pause;—I hesitate; My feet reluctant linger at the gate; As one who struggles in a troubled dream To speak and cannot, to myself I seem.
Vanish the dream! Vanish the idle fears! Vanish the rolling mists of fifty years! Whatever time or space may intervene, I will not be a stranger in this scene. Here every doubt, all indecision, ends; Hail, my companions, comrades, classmates, friends!
Ah me! the fifty years since last we met Seem to me fifty folios bound and set By Time, the great transcriber, on his shelves, Wherein are written the histories of ourselves. What tragedies, what comedies, are there; What joy and grief, what rapture and despair! What chronicles of triumph and defeat, Of struggle, and temptation, and retreat! What records of regrets, and doubts, and fears What pages blotted, blistered by our tears! What lovely landscapes on the margin shine, What sweet, angelic faces, what divine And holy images of love and trust, Undimmed by age, unsoiled by damp or dust!
Whose hand shall dare to open and explore These volumes, closed and clasped forevermore? Not mine. With reverential feet I pass; I hear a voice that cries, "Alas! alas! Whatever hath been written shall remain, Nor be erased nor written o'er again; The unwritten only still belongs to thee: Take heed, and ponder well what that shall be."
As children frightened by a thundercloud Are reassured if some one reads aloud A tale of wonder, with enchantment fraught, Or wild adventure, that diverts their thought, Let me endeavor with a tale to chase The gathering shadows of the time and place, And banish what we all too deeply feel Wholly to say, or wholly to conceal.
In mediaeval Rome, I know not where, There stood an image with its arm in air, And on its lifted finger, shining clear, A golden ring with the device, "Strike here!" Greatly the people wondered, though none guessed The meaning that these words but half expressed, Until a learned clerk, who at noonday With downcast eyes was passing on his way, Paused, and observed the spot, and marked it well, Whereon the shadow of the finger fell; And, coming back at midnight, delved, and found A secret stairway leading under ground. Down this he passed into a spacious hall, Lit by a flaming jewel on the wall; And opposite in threatening attitude With bow and shaft a brazen statue stood. Upon its forehead, like a coronet, Were these mysterious words of menace set: "That which I am, I am; my fatal aim None can escape, not even yon luminous flame!"
Midway the hall was a fair table placed, With cloth of gold, and golden cups enchased With rubies, and the plates and knives were gold, And gold the bread and viands manifold. Around it, silent, motionless, and sad, Were seated gallant knights in armor clad, And ladies beautiful with plume and zone, But they were stone, their hearts within were stone; And the vast hall was filled in every part With silent crowds, stony in face and heart.
Long at the scene, bewildered and amazed The trembling clerk in speechless wonder gazed; Then from the table, by his greed made bold, He seized a goblet and a knife of gold, And suddenly from their seats the guests upsprang, The vaulted ceiling with loud clamors rang, The archer sped his arrow, at their call, Shattering the lambent jewel on the wall, And all was dark around and overhead;— Stark on the door the luckless clerk lay dead!
The writer of this legend then records Its ghostly application in these words: The image is the Adversary old, Whose beckoning finger points to realms of gold; Our lusts and passions are the downward stair That leads the soul from a diviner air; The archer, Death; the flaming jewel, Life; Terrestrial goods, the goblet and the knife; The knights and ladies, all whose flesh and bone By avarice have been hardened into stone; The clerk, the scholar whom the love of pelf Tempts from his books and from his nobler self.
The scholar and the world! The endless strife, The discord in the harmonies of life! The love of learning, the sequestered nooks, And all the sweet serenity of books; The market-place, the eager love of gain, Whose aim is vanity, and whose end is pain!
But why, you ask me, should this tale be told To men grown old, or who are growing old? It is too late! Ah, nothing is too late Till the tired heart shall cease to palpitate. Cato learned Greek at eighty; Sophocles Wrote his grand Oedipus, and Simonides Bore off the prize of verse from his compeers, When each had numbered more than fourscore years, And Theophrastus, at fourscore and ten, Had but begun his Characters of Men. Chaucer, at Woodstock with the nightingales, At sixty wrote the Canterbury Tales; Goethe at Weimar, toiling to the last, Completed Faust when eighty years were past. These are indeed exceptions; but they show How far the gulf-stream of our youth may flow Into the arctic regions of our lives. Where little else than life itself survives.
As the barometer foretells the storm While still the skies are clear, the weather warm, So something in us, as old age draws near, Betrays the pressure of the atmosphere. The nimble mercury, ere we are aware, Descends the elastic ladder of the air; The telltale blood in artery and vein Sinks from its higher levels in the brain; Whatever poet, orator, or sage May say of it, old age is still old age. It is the waning, not the crescent moon; The dusk of evening, not the blaze of noon: It is not strength, but weakness; not desire, But its surcease; not the fierce heat of fire, The burning and consuming element, But that of ashes and of embers spent, In which some living sparks we still discern, Enough to warm, but not enough to burn.
What then? Shall we sit idly down and say The night hath come; it is no longer day? The night hath not yet come; we are not quite Cut off from labor by the failing light; Something remains for us to do or dare; Even the oldest tree some fruit may bear; Not Oedipus Coloneus, or Greek Ode, Or tales of pilgrims that one morning rode Out of the gateway of the Tabard inn, But other something, would we but begin; For age is opportunity no less Than youth itself, though in another dress, And as the evening twilight fades away The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.
A BOOK OF SONNETS
THREE FRIENDS OF MINE
When I remember them, those friends of mine, Who are no longer here, the noble three, Who half my life were more than friends to me, And whose discourse was like a generous wine, I most of all remember the divine Something, that shone in them, and made us see The archetypal man, and what might be The amplitude of Nature's first design. In vain I stretch my hands to clasp their hands; I cannot find them. Nothing now is left But a majestic memory. They meanwhile Wander together in Elysian lands, Perchance remembering me, who am bereft Of their dear presence, and, remembering, smile.
In Attica thy birthplace should have been, Or the Ionian Isles, or where the seas Encircle in their arms the Cyclades, So wholly Greek wast thou in thy serene And childlike joy of life, O Philhellene! Around thee would have swarmed the Attic bees; Homer had been thy friend, or Socrates, And Plato welcomed thee to his demesne. For thee old legends breathed historic breath; Thou sawest Poseidon in the purple sea, And in the sunset Jason's fleece of gold! O, what hadst thou to do with cruel Death, Who wast so full of life, or Death with thee, That thou shouldst die before thou hadst grown old!
I stand again on the familiar shore, And hear the waves of the distracted sea Piteously calling and lamenting thee, And waiting restless at thy cottage door. The rocks, the sea-weed on the ocean floor, The willows in the meadow, and the free Wild winds of the Atlantic welcome me; Then why shouldst thou be dead, and come no more? Ah, why shouldst thou be dead, when common men Are busy with their trivial affairs, Having and holding? Why, when thou hadst read Nature's mysterious manuscript, and then Wast ready to reveal the truth it bears, Why art thou silent! Why shouldst thou be dead?
River, that stealest with such silent pace Around the City of the Dead, where lies A friend who bore thy name, and whom these eyes Shall see no more in his accustomed place, Linger and fold him in thy soft embrace And say good night, for now the western skies Are red with sunset, and gray mists arise Like damps that gather on a dead man's face. Good night! good night! as we so oft have said Beneath this roof at midnight in the days That are no more, and shall no more return. Thou hast but taken thy lamp and gone to bed; I stay a little longer, as one stays To cover up the embers that still burn.
The doors are all wide open; at the gate The blossomed lilacs counterfeit a blaze, And seem to warm the air; a dreamy haze Hangs o'er the Brighton meadows like a fate, And on their margin, with sea-tides elate, The flooded Charles, as in the happier days, Writes the last letter of his name, and stays His restless steps, as if compelled to wait. I also wait; but they will come no more, Those friends of mine, whose presence satisfied The thirst and hunger of my heart. Ah me! They have forgotten the pathway to my door! Something is gone from nature since they died, And summer is not summer, nor can be.
An old man in a lodge within a park; The chamber walls depicted all around With portraitures of huntsman, hawk, and hound. And the hurt deer. He listeneth to the lark, Whose song comes with the sunshine through the dark Of painted glass in leaden lattice bound; He listeneth and he laugheth at the sound, Then writeth in a book like any clerk. He is the poet of the dawn, who wrote The Canterbury Tales, and his old age Made beautiful with song; and as I read I hear the crowing cock, I hear the note Of lark and linnet, and from every page Rise odors of ploughed field or flowery mead.
A vision as of crowded city streets, With human life in endless overflow; Thunder of thoroughfares; trumpets that blow To battle; clamor, in obscure retreats, Of sailors landed from their anchored fleets; Tolling of bells in turrets, and below Voices of children, and bright flowers that throw O'er garden-walls their intermingled sweets! This vision comes to me when I unfold The volume of the Poet paramount, Whom all the Muses loved, not one alone;— Into his hands they put the lyre of gold, And, crowned with sacred laurel at their fount, Placed him as Musagetes on their throne.
I pace the sounding sea-beach and behold How the voluminous billows roll and run, Upheaving and subsiding, while the sun Shines through their sheeted emerald far unrolled, And the ninth wave, slow gathering fold by fold All its loose-flowing garments into one, Plunges upon the shore, and floods the dun Pale reach of sands, and changes them to gold. So in majestic cadence rise and fall The mighty undulations of thy song, O sightless bard, England's Maeonides! And ever and anon, high over all Uplifted, a ninth wave superb and strong, Floods all the soul with its melodious seas.
The young Endymion sleeps Endymion's sleep; The shepherd-boy whose tale was left half told! The solemn grove uplifts its shield of gold To the red rising moon, and loud and deep The nightingale is singing from the steep; It is midsummer, but the air is cold; Can it be death? Alas, beside the fold A shepherd's pipe lies shattered near his sheep. Lo! in the moonlight gleams a marble white, On which I read: "Here lieth one whose name Was writ in water." And was this the meed Of his sweet singing? Rather let me write: "The smoking flax before it burst to flame Was quenched by death, and broken the bruised reed."
Torrent of light and river of the air, Along whose bed the glimmering stars are seen Like gold and silver sands in some ravine Where mountain streams have left their channels bare! The Spaniard sees in thee the pathway, where His patron saint descended in the sheen Of his celestial armor, on serene And quiet nights, when all the heavens were fair. Not this I see, nor yet the ancient fable Of Phaeton's wild course, that scorched the skies Where'er the hoofs of his hot coursers trod; But the white drift of worlds o'er chasms of sable, The star-dust that is whirled aloft and flies From the invisible chariot-wheels of God.
THE SOUND OF THE SEA
The sea awoke at midnight from its sleep, And round the pebbly beaches far and wide I heard the first wave of the rising tide Rush onward with uninterrupted sweep; A voice out of the silence of the deep, A sound mysteriously multiplied As of a cataract from the mountain's side, Or roar of winds upon a wooded steep. So comes to us at times, from the unknown And inaccessible solitudes of being, The rushing of the sea-tides of the soul; And inspirations, that we deem our own, Are some divine foreshadowing and foreseeing Of things beyond our reason or control.
A SUMMER DAY BY THE SEA
The sun is set; and in his latest beams Yon little cloud of ashen gray and gold, Slowly upon the amber air unrolled, The falling mantle of the Prophet seems. From the dim headlands many a lighthouse gleams, The street-lamps of the ocean; and behold, O'erhead the banners of the night unfold; The day hath passed into the land of dreams. O summer day beside the joyous sea! O summer day so wonderful and white, So full of gladness and so full of pain! Forever and forever shalt thou be To some the gravestone of a dead delight, To some the landmark of a new domain.
I saw the long line of the vacant shore, The sea-weed and the shells upon the sand, And the brown rocks left bare on every hand, As if the ebbing tide would flow no more. Then heard I, more distinctly than before, The ocean breathe and its great breast expand, And hurrying came on the defenceless land The insurgent waters with tumultuous roar. All thought and feeling and desire, I said, Love, laughter, and the exultant joy of song Have ebbed from me forever! Suddenly o'er me They swept again from their deep ocean bed, And in a tumult of delight, and strong As youth, and beautiful as youth, upbore me.
I said unto myself, if I were dead, What would befall these children? What would be Their fate, who now are looking up to me For help and furtherance? Their lives, I said, Would be a volume wherein I have read But the first chapters, and no longer see To read the rest of their dear history, So full of beauty and so full of dread. Be comforted; the world is very old, And generations pass, as they have passed, A troop of shadows moving with the sun; Thousands of times has the old tale been told; The world belongs to those who come the last, They will find hope and strength as we have done.
A NAMELESS GRAVE
"A soldier of the Union mustered out," Is the inscription on an unknown grave At Newport News, beside the salt-sea wave, Nameless and dateless; sentinel or scout Shot down in skirmish, or disastrous rout Of battle, when the loud artillery drave Its iron wedges through the ranks of brave And doomed battalions, storming the redoubt. Thou unknown hero sleeping by the sea In thy forgotten grave! with secret shame I feel my pulses beat, my forehead burn, When I remember thou hast given for me All that thou hadst, thy life, thy very name, And I can give thee nothing in return.
Lull me to sleep, ye winds, whose fitful sound Seems from some faint Aeolian harp-string caught; Seal up the hundred wakeful eyes of thought As Hermes with his lyre in sleep profound The hundred wakeful eyes of Argus bound; For I am weary, and am overwrought With too much toil, with too much care distraught, And with the iron crown of anguish crowned. Lay thy soft hand upon my brow and cheek, O peaceful Sleep! until from pain released I breathe again uninterrupted breath! Ah, with what subtile meaning did the Greek Call thee the lesser mystery at the feast Whereof the greater mystery is death!
THE OLD BRIDGE AT FLORENCE
Taddeo Gaddi built me. I am old, Five centuries old. I plant my foot of stone Upon the Arno, as St. Michael's own Was planted on the dragon. Fold by fold Beneath me as it struggles. I behold Its glistening scales. Twice hath it overthrown My kindred and companions. Me alone It moveth not, but is by me controlled, I can remember when the Medici Were driven from Florence; longer still ago The final wars of Ghibelline and Guelf. Florence adorns me with her jewelry; And when I think that Michael Angelo Hath leaned on me, I glory in myself.
IL PONTE VECCHIO DI FIRENZE
Gaddi mi fece; il Ponte Vecchio sono; Cinquecent' anni gia sull' Arno pianto Il piede, come il suo Michele Santo Pianto sul draco. Mentre ch' io ragiono Lo vedo torcere con flebil suono Le rilucenti scaglie. Ha questi affranto Due volte i miei maggior. Me solo intanto Neppure muove, ed io non l' abbandono. Io mi rammento quando fur cacciati I Medici; pur quando Ghibellino E Guelfo fecer pace mi rammento. Fiorenza i suoi giojelli m' ha prestati; E quando penso ch' Agnolo il divino Su me posava, insuperbir mi sento.
As a fond mother, when the day is o'er, Leads by the hand her little child to bed, Half willing, half reluctant to be led, And leave his broken playthings on the floor, Still gazing at them through the open door, Nor wholly reassured and comforted By promises of others in their stead, Which, though more splendid, may not please him more; So Nature deals with us, and takes away Our playthings one by one, and by the hand Leads us to rest so gently, that we go Scarce knowing if we wish to go or stay, Being too full of sleep to understand How far the unknown transcends the what we know.
IN THE CHURCHYARD AT TARRYTOWN
Here lies the gentle humorist, who died In the bright Indian Summer of his fame! A simple stone, with but a date and name, Marks his secluded resting-place beside The river that he loved and glorified. Here in the autumn of his days he came, But the dry leaves of life were all aflame With tints that brightened and were multiplied. How sweet a life was his; how sweet a death! Living, to wing with mirth the weary hours, Or with romantic tales the heart to cheer; Dying, to leave a memory like the breath Of summers full of sunshine and of showers, A grief and gladness in the atmosphere.
Thou ancient oak! whose myriad leaves are loud With sounds of unintelligible speech, Sounds as of surges on a shingly beach, Or multitudinous murmurs of a crowd; With some mysterious gift of tongues endowed, Thou speakest a different dialect to each; To me a language that no man can teach, Of a lost race, long vanished like a cloud. For underneath thy shade, in days remote, Seated like Abraham at eventide Beneath the oaks of Mamre, the unknown Apostle of the Indians, Eliot, wrote His Bible in a language that hath died And is forgotten, save by thee alone.
THE DESCENT OF THE MUSES
Nine sisters, beautiful in form and face, Came from their convent on the shining heights Of Pierus, the mountain of delights, To dwell among the people at its base. Then seemed the world to change. All time and space, Splendor of cloudless days and starry nights, And men and manners, and all sounds and sights, Had a new meaning, a diviner grace. Proud were these sisters, but were not too proud To teach in schools of little country towns Science and song, and all the arts that please; So that while housewives span, and farmers ploughed, Their comely daughters, clad in homespun gowns, Learned the sweet songs of the Pierides.
White swan of cities, slumbering in thy nest So wonderfully built among the reeds Of the lagoon, that fences thee and feeds, As sayeth thy old historian and thy guest! White water-lily, cradled and caressed By ocean streams, and from the silt and weeds Lifting thy golden filaments and seeds, Thy sun-illumined spires, thy crown and crest! White phantom city, whose untrodden streets Are rivers, and whose pavements are the shifting Shadows of palaces and strips of sky; I wait to see thee vanish like the fleets Seen in mirage, or towers of cloud uplifting In air their unsubstantial masonry.
O ye dead Poets, who are living still Immortal in your verse, though life be fled, And ye, O living Poets, who are dead Though ye are living, if neglect can kill, Tell me if in the darkest hours of ill, With drops of anguish falling fast and red From the sharp crown of thorns upon your head, Ye were not glad your errand to fulfil? Yes; for the gift and ministry of Song Have something in them so divinely sweet, It can assuage the bitterness of wrong; Not in the clamor of the crowded street, Not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng, But in ourselves, are triumph and defeat.
WRITTEN ON REVISITING BRUNSWICK IN THE SUMMER OF 1875
Among the many lives that I have known, None I remember more serene and sweet, More rounded in itself and more complete, Than his, who lies beneath this funeral stone. These pines, that murmur in low monotone, These walks frequented by scholastic feet, Were all his world; but in this calm retreat For him the Teacher's chair became a throne. With fond affection memory loves to dwell On the old days, when his example made A pastime of the toil of tongue and pen; And now, amid the groves he loved so well That naught could lure him from their grateful shade, He sleeps, but wakes elsewhere, for God hath said, Amen!
THE HARVEST MOON
It is the Harvest Moon! On gilded vanes And roofs of villages, on woodland crests And their aerial neighborhoods of nests Deserted, on the curtained window-panes Of rooms where children sleep, on country lanes And harvest-fields, its mystic splendor rests! Gone are the birds that were our summer guests, With the last sheaves return the laboring wains! All things are symbols: the external shows Of Nature have their image in the mind, As flowers and fruits and falling of the leaves; The song-birds leave us at the summer's close, Only the empty nests are left behind, And pipings of the quail among the sheaves.
TO THE RIVER RHONE
Thou Royal River, born of sun and shower In chambers purple with the Alpine glow, Wrapped in the spotless ermine of the snow And rocked by tempests!—at the appointed hour Forth, like a steel-clad horseman from a tower, With clang and clink of harness dost thou go To meet thy vassal torrents, that below Rush to receive thee and obey thy power. And now thou movest in triumphal march, A king among the rivers! On thy way A hundred towns await and welcome thee; Bridges uplift for thee the stately arch, Vineyards encircle thee with garlands gay, And fleets attend thy progress to the sea!
THE THREE SILENCES OF MOLINOS
TO JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER
Three Silences there are: the first of speech, The second of desire, the third of thought; This is the lore a Spanish monk, distraught With dreams and visions, was the first to teach. These Silences, commingling each with each, Made up the perfect Silence, that he sought And prayed for, and wherein at times he caught Mysterious sounds from realms beyond our reach. O thou, whose daily life anticipates The life to come, and in whose thought and word The spiritual world preponderates. Hermit of Amesbury! thou too hast heard Voices and melodies from beyond the gates, And speakest only when thy soul is stirred!
THE TWO RIVERS
Slowly the hour-hand of the clock moves round; So slowly that no human eye hath power To see it move! Slowly in shine or shower The painted ship above it, homeward bound, Sails, but seems motionless, as if aground; Yet both arrive at last; and in his tower The slumberous watchman wakes and strikes the hour, A mellow, measured, melancholy sound. Midnight! the outpost of advancing day! The frontier town and citadel of night! The watershed of Time, from which the streams Of Yesterday and To-morrow take their way, One to the land of promise and of light, One to the land of darkness and of dreams!
O River of Yesterday, with current swift Through chasms descending, and soon lost to sight, I do not care to follow in their flight The faded leaves, that on thy bosom drift! O River of To-morrow, I uplift Mine eyes, and thee I follow, as the night Wanes into morning, and the dawning light Broadens, and all the shadows fade and shift! I follow, follow, where thy waters run Through unfrequented, unfamiliar fields, Fragrant with flowers and musical with song; Still follow, follow; sure to meet the sun, And confident, that what the future yields Will be the right, unless myself be wrong.
Yet not in vain, O River of Yesterday, Through chasms of darkness to the deep descending, I heard thee sobbing in the rain, and blending Thy voice with other voices far away. I called to thee, and yet thou wouldst not stay, But turbulent, and with thyself contending, And torrent-like thy force on pebbles spending, Thou wouldst not listen to a poet's lay. Thoughts, like a loud and sudden rush of wings, Regrets and recollections of things past, With hints and prophecies of things to be, And inspirations, which, could they be things, And stay with us, and we could hold them fast, Were our good angels,—these I owe to thee.
And thou, O River of To-morrow, flowing Between thy narrow adamantine walls, But beautiful, and white with waterfalls, And wreaths of mist, like hands the pathway showing; I hear the trumpets of the morning blowing, I hear thy mighty voice, that calls and calls, And see, as Ossian saw in Morven's halls, Mysterious phantoms, coming, beckoning, going! It is the mystery of the unknown That fascinates us; we are children still, Wayward and wistful; with one hand we cling To the familiar things we call our own, And with the other, resolute of will, Grope in the dark for what the day will bring.
St. Bototlph's Town! Hither across the plains And fens of Lincolnshire, in garb austere, There came a Saxon monk, and founded here A Priory, pillaged by marauding Danes, So that thereof no vestige now remains; Only a name, that, spoken loud and clear, And echoed in another hemisphere, Survives the sculptured walls and painted panes. St. Botolph's Town! Far over leagues of land And leagues of sea looks forth its noble tower, And far around the chiming bells are heard; So may that sacred name forever stand A landmark, and a symbol of the power, That lies concentred in a single word.
ST. JOHN'S, CAMBRIDGE
I stand beneath the tree, whose branches shade Thy western window, Chapel of St. John! And hear its leaves repeat their benison On him, whose hand if thy stones memorial laid; Then I remember one of whom was said In the world's darkest hour, "Behold thy son!" And see him living still, and wandering on And waiting for the advent long delayed. Not only tongues of the apostles teach Lessons of love and light, but these expanding And sheltering boughs with all their leaves implore, And say in language clear as human speech, "The peace of God, that passeth understanding, Be and abide with you forevermore!"
Oh that a Song would sing itself to me Out of the heart of Nature, or the heart Of man, the child of Nature, not of Art, Fresh as the morning, salt as the salt sea, With just enough of bitterness to be A medicine to this sluggish mood, and start The life-blood in my veins, and so impart Healing and help in this dull lethargy! Alas! not always doth the breath of song Breathe on us. It is like the wind that bloweth At its own will, not ours, nor tarries long; We hear the sound thereof, but no man knoweth From whence it comes, so sudden and swift and strong, Nor whither in its wayward course it goeth.
Here in a little rustic hermitage Alfred the Saxon King, Alfred the Great, Postponed the cares of king-craft to translate The Consolations of the Roman sage. Here Geoffrey Chaucer in his ripe old age Wrote the unrivalled Tales, which soon or late The venturous hand that strives to imitate Vanquished must fall on the unfinished page. Two kings were they, who ruled by right divine, And both supreme; one in the realm of Truth, One in the realm of Fiction and of Song. What prince hereditary of their line, Uprising in the strength and flush of youth, Their glory shall inherit and prolong?
THE FOUR PRINCESSES AT WILNA
Sweet faces, that from pictured casements lean As from a castle window, looking down On some gay pageant passing through a town, Yourselves the fairest figures in the scene; With what a gentle grace, with what serene Unconsciousness ye wear the triple crown Of youth and beauty and the fair renown Of a great name, that ne'er hath tarnished been! From your soft eyes, so innocent and sweet, Four spirits, sweet and innocent as they, Gaze on the world below, the sky above; Hark! there is some one singing in the street; "Faith, Hope, and Love! these three," he seems to say; "These three; and greatest of the three is Love."
The holiest of all holidays are those Kept by ourselves in silence and apart; The secret anniversaries of the heart, When the full river of feeling overflows;— The happy days unclouded to their close; The sudden joys that out of darkness start As flames from ashes; swift desires that dart Like swallows singing down each wind that blows! White as the gleam of a receding sail, White as a cloud that floats and fades in air, White as the whitest lily on a stream, These tender memories are;—a Fairy Tale Of some enchanted land we know not where, But lovely as a landscape in a dream.
TO ALFRED TENNYSON
Poet! I come to touch thy lance with mine; Not as a knight, who on the listed field Of tourney touched his adversary's shield In token of defiance, but in sign Of homage to the mastery, which is thine, In English song; nor will I keep concealed, And voiceless as a rivulet frost-congealed, My admiration for thy verse divine. Not of the howling dervishes of song, Who craze the brain with their delirious dance, Art thou, O sweet historian of the heart! Therefore to thee the laurel-leaves belong, To thee our love and our allegiance, For thy allegiance to the poet's art.
THE BROKEN OAR Once upon Iceland's solitary strand A poet wandered with his book and pen, Seeking some final word, some sweet Amen, Wherewith to close the volume in his hand. The billows rolled and plunged upon the sand, The circling sea-gulls swept beyond his ken, And from the parting cloud-rack now and then Flashed the red sunset over sea and land. Then by the billows at his feet was tossed A broken oar; and carved thereon he read, "Oft was I weary, when I toiled at thee"; And like a man, who findeth what was lost, He wrote the words, then lifted up his head, And flung his useless pen into the sea.
THE CROSS OF SNOW
In the long, sleepless watches of the night, A gentle face—the face of one long dead— Looks at me from the wall, where round its head The night-lamp casts a halo of pale light. Here in this room she died; and soul more white Never through martyrdom of fire was led To its repose; nor can in books be read The legend of a life more benedight. There is a mountain in the distant West That, sun-defying, in its deep ravines Displays a cross of snow upon its side. Such is the cross I wear upon my breast These eighteen years, through all the changing scenes And seasons, changeless since the day she died.
BIRDS OF PASSAGE
FLIGHT THE FOURTH
Garlands upon his grave, And flowers upon his hearse, And to the tender heart and brave The tribute of this verse.
His was the troubled life, The conflict and the pain, The grief, the bitterness of strife, The honor without stain.
Like Winkelried, he took Into his manly breast The sheaf of hostile spears, and broke A path for the oppressed.
Then from the fatal field Upon a nation's heart Borne like a warrior on his shield!— So should the brave depart.
Death takes us by surprise, And stays our hurrying feet; The great design unfinished lies, Our lives are incomplete.
But in the dark unknown Perfect their circles seem, Even as a bridge's arch of stone Is rounded in the stream.
Alike are life and death, When life in death survives, And the uninterrupted breath Inspires a thousand lives.
Were a star quenched on high, For ages would its light, Still travelling downward from the sky, Shine on our mortal sight.
So when a great man dies, For years beyond our ken, The light he leaves behind him lies Upon the paths of men.
TRAVELS BY THE FIRESIDE
The ceaseless rain is falling fast, And yonder gilded vane, Immovable for three days past, Points to the misty main,
It drives me in upon myself And to the fireside gleams, To pleasant books that crowd my shelf, And still more pleasant dreams,
I read whatever bards have sung Of lands beyond the sea, And the bright days when I was young Come thronging back to me.
In fancy I can hear again The Alpine torrent's roar, The mule-bells on the hills of Spain, The sea at Elsinore.
I see the convent's gleaming wall Rise from its groves of pine, And towers of old cathedrals tall, And castles by the Rhine.
I journey on by park and spire, Beneath centennial trees, Through fields with poppies all on fire, And gleams of distant seas.
I fear no more the dust and heat, No more I feel fatigue, While journeying with another's feet O'er many a lengthening league.
Let others traverse sea and land, And toil through various climes, I turn the world round with my hand Reading these poets' rhymes.
From them I learn whatever lies Beneath each changing zone, And see, when looking with their eyes, Better than with mine own.
LAKE OF COMO
No sound of wheels or hoof-beat breaks The silence of the summer day, As by the loveliest of all lakes I while the idle hours away.
I pace the leafy colonnade Where level branches of the plane Above me weave a roof of shade Impervious to the sun and rain.
At times a sudden rush of air Flutters the lazy leaves o'erhead, And gleams of sunshine toss and flare Like torches down the path I tread.
By Somariva's garden gate I make the marble stairs my seat, And hear the water, as I wait, Lapping the steps beneath my feet.
The undulation sinks and swells Along the stony parapets, And far away the floating bells Tinkle upon the fisher's nets.
Silent and slow, by tower and town The freighted barges come and go, Their pendent shadows gliding down By town and tower submerged below.
The hills sweep upward from the shore, With villas scattered one by one Upon their wooded spurs, and lower Bellaggio blazing in the sun.
And dimly seen, a tangled mass Of walls and woods, of light and shade, Stands beckoning up the Stelvio Pass Varenna with its white cascade.
I ask myself, Is this a dream? Will it all vanish into air? Is there a land of such supreme And perfect beauty anywhere?
Sweet vision! Do not fade away; Linger until my heart shall take Into itself the summer day, And all the beauty of the lake.
Linger until upon my brain Is stamped an image of the scene, Then fade into the air again, And be as if thou hadst not been.
TERRA DI LAVORO
Beautiful valley! through whose verdant meads Unheard the Garigliano glides along;— The Liris, nurse of rushes and of reeds, The river taciturn of classic song.
The Land of Labor and the Land of Rest, Where mediaeval towns are white on all The hillsides, and where every mountain's crest Is an Etrurian or a Roman wall.
There is Alagna, where Pope Boniface Was dragged with contumely from his throne; Sciarra Colonna, was that day's disgrace The Pontiff's only, or in part thine own?
There is Ceprano, where a renegade Was each Apulian, as great Dante saith, When Manfred by his men-at-arms betrayed Spurred on to Benevento and to death.
There is Aquinum, the old Volscian town, Where Juvenal was born, whose lurid light Still hovers o'er his birthplace like the crown Of splendor seen o'er cities in the night.
Doubled the splendor is, that in its streets The Angelic Doctor as a school-boy played, And dreamed perhaps the dreams, that he repeats In ponderous folios for scholastics made.
And there, uplifted, like a passing cloud That pauses on a mountain summit high, Monte Cassino's convent rears its proud And venerable walls against the sky.
Well I remember how on foot I climbed The stony pathway leading to its gate; Above, the convent bells for vespers chimed, Below, the darkening town grew desolate.
Well I remember the low arch and dark, The court-yard with its well, the terrace wide, From which, far down, the valley like a park Veiled in the evening mists, was dim descried.
The day was dying, and with feeble hands Caressed the mountain-tops; the vales between Darkened; the river in the meadowlands Sheathed itself as a sword, and was not seen.
The silence of the place was like a sleep, So full of rest it seemed; each passing tread Was a reverberation from the deep Recesses of the ages that are dead.
For, more than thirteen centuries ago, Benedict fleeing from the gates of Rome, A youth disgusted with its vice and woe, Sought in these mountain solitudes a home.
He founded here his Convent and his Rule Of prayer and work, and counted work as prayer; The pen became a clarion, and his school Flamed like a beacon in the midnight air.
What though Boccaccio, in his reckless way, Mocking the lazy brotherhood, deplores The illuminated manuscripts, that lay Torn and neglected on the dusty floors?
Boccaccio was a novelist, a child Of fancy and of fiction at the best! This the urbane librarian said, and smiled Incredulous, as at some idle jest.
Upon such themes as these, with one young friar I sat conversing late into the night, Till in its cavernous chimney the woodfire Had burnt its heart out like an anchorite.
And then translated, in my convent cell, Myself yet not myself, in dreams I lay, And, as a monk who hears the matin bell, Started from sleep; already it was day.
From the high window I beheld the scene On which Saint Benedict so oft had gazed,— The mountains and the valley in the sheen Of the bright sun,—and stood as one amazed.
Gray mists were rolling, rising, vanishing; The woodlands glistened with their jewelled crowns; Far off the mellow bells began to ring For matins in the half-awakened towns.
The conflict of the Present and the Past, The ideal and the actual in our life, As on a field of battle held me fast, Where this world and the next world were at strife.
For, as the valley from its sleep awoke, I saw the iron horses of the steam Toss to the morning air their plumes of smoke, And woke, as one awaketh from a dream.
Sweet the memory is to me Of a land beyond the sea, Where the waves and mountains meet, Where, amid her mulberry-trees Sits Amalfi in the heat, Bathing ever her white feet In the tideless summer seas.
In the middle of the town, From its fountains in the hills, Tumbling through the narrow gorge, The Canneto rushes down, Turns the great wheels of the mills, Lifts the hammers of the forge.
'T is a stairway, not a street, That ascends the deep ravine, Where the torrent leaps between Rocky walls that almost meet. Toiling up from stair to stair Peasant girls their burdens bear; Sunburnt daughters of the soil, Stately figures tall and straight, What inexorable fate Dooms them to this life of toil?
Lord of vineyards and of lands, Far above the convent stands. On its terraced walk aloof Leans a monk with folded hands, Placid, satisfied, serene, Looking down upon the scene Over wall and red-tiled roof; Wondering unto what good end All this toil and traffic tend, And why all men cannot be Free from care and free from pain, And the sordid love of gain, And as indolent as he.
Where are now the freighted barks From the marts of east and west? Where the knights in iron sarks Journeying to the Holy Land, Glove of steel upon the hand, Cross of crimson on the breast? Where the pomp of camp and court? Where the pilgrims with their prayers? Where the merchants with their wares, And their gallant brigantines Sailing safely into port Chased by corsair Algerines?
Vanished like a fleet of cloud, Like a passing trumpet-blast, Are those splendors of the past, And the commerce and the crowd! Fathoms deep beneath the seas Lie the ancient wharves and quays, Swallowed by the engulfing waves; Silent streets and vacant halls, Ruined roofs and towers and walls; Hidden from all mortal eyes Deep the sunken city lies: Even cities have their graves!
This is an enchanted land! Round the headlands far away Sweeps the blue Salernian bay With its sickle of white sand: Further still and furthermost On the dim discovered coast Paestum with its ruins lies, And its roses all in bloom Seem to tinge the fatal skies Of that lonely land of doom.
On his terrace, high in air, Nothing doth the good monk care For such worldly themes as these, From the garden just below Little puffs of perfume blow, And a sound is in his ears Of the murmur of the bees In the shining chestnut-trees; Nothing else he heeds or hears. All the landscape seems to swoon In the happy afternoon; Slowly o'er his senses creep The encroaching waves of sleep, And he sinks as sank the town, Unresisting, fathoms down, Into caverns cool and deep!
Walled about with drifts of snow, Hearing the fierce north-wind blow, Seeing all the landscape white, And the river cased in ice, Comes this memory of delight, Comes this vision unto me Of a long-lost Paradise In the land beyond the sea.
THE SERMON OF ST. FRANCIS
Up soared the lark into the air, A shaft of song, a winged prayer, As if a soul, released from pain, Were flying back to heaven again.
St. Francis heard; it was to him An emblem of the Seraphim; The upward motion of the fire, The light, the heat, the heart's desire.
Around Assisi's convent gate The birds, God's poor who cannot wait, From moor and mere and darksome wood Came flocking for their dole of food.
"O brother birds," St. Francis said, "Ye come to me and ask for bread, But not with bread alone to-day Shall ye be fed and sent away.
"Ye shall be fed, ye happy birds, With manna of celestial words; Not mine, though mine they seem to be, Not mine, though they be spoken through me.
"O, doubly are ye bound to praise The great Creator in your lays; He giveth you your plumes of down, Your crimson hoods, your cloaks of brown.
"He giveth you your wings to fly And breathe a purer air on high, And careth for you everywhere, Who for yourselves so little care!"
With flutter of swift wings and songs Together rose the feathered throngs, And singing scattered far apart; Deep peace was in St. Francis' heart.
He knew not if the brotherhood His homily had understood; He only knew that to one ear The meaning of his words was clear.
I am poor and old and blind; The sun burns me, and the wind Blows through the city gate And covers me with dust From the wheels of the august Justinian the Great.
It was for him I chased The Persians o'er wild and waste, As General of the East; Night after night I lay In their camps of yesterday; Their forage was my feast.
For him, with sails of red, And torches at mast-head, Piloting the great fleet, I swept the Afric coasts And scattered the Vandal hosts, Like dust in a windy street.
For him I won again The Ausonian realm and reign, Rome and Parthenope; And all the land was mine From the summits of Apennine To the shores of either sea.
For him, in my feeble age, I dared the battle's rage, To save Byzantium's state, When the tents of Zabergan, Like snow-drifts overran The road to the Golden Gate.
And for this, for this, behold! Infirm and blind and old, With gray, uncovered head, Beneath the very arch Of my triumphal march, I stand and beg my bread!
Methinks I still can hear, Sounding distinct and near, The Vandal monarch's cry, As, captive and disgraced, With majestic step he paced,— "All, all is Vanity!"
Ah! vainest of all things Is the gratitude of kings; The plaudits of the crowd Are but the clatter of feet At midnight in the street, Hollow and restless and loud.
But the bitterest disgrace Is to see forever the face Of the Monk of Ephesus! The unconquerable will This, too, can bear;—I still Am Belisarius!
Nowhere such a devious stream, Save in fancy or in dream, Winding slow through bush and brake Links together lake and lake.
Walled with woods or sandy shelf, Ever doubling on itself Flows the stream, so still and slow That it hardly seems to flow.
Never errant knight of old, Lost in woodland or on wold, Such a winding path pursued Through the sylvan solitude.
Never school-boy in his quest After hazel-nut or nest, Through the forest in and out Wandered loitering thus about.
In the mirror of its tide Tangled thickets on each side Hang inverted, and between Floating cloud or sky serene.
Swift or swallow on the wing Seems the only living thing, Or the loon, that laughs and flies Down to those reflected skies.
Silent stream! thy Indian name Unfamiliar is to fame; For thou hidest here alone, Well content to be unknown.
But thy tranquil waters teach Wisdom deep as human speech, Moving without haste or noise In unbroken equipoise.
Though thou turnest no busy mill, And art ever calm and still, Even thy silence seems to say To the traveller on his way:—
"Traveller, hurrying from the heat Of the city, stay thy feet! Rest awhile, nor longer waste Life with inconsiderate haste!
"Be not like a stream that brawls Loud with shallow waterfalls, But in quiet self-control Link together soul and soul"
Turn, turn, my wheel? Turn round and round Without a pause, without a sound: So spins the flying world away! This clay, well mixed with marl and sand, Follows the motion of my hand; Far some must follow, and some command, Though all are made of clay!
Thus sang the Potter at his task Beneath the blossoming hawthorn-tree, While o'er his features, like a mask, The quilted sunshine and leaf-shade Moved, as the boughs above him swayed, And clothed him, till he seemed to be A figure woven in tapestry, So sumptuously was he arrayed In that magnificent attire Of sable tissue flaked with fire. Like a magician he appeared, A conjurer without book or beard; And while he plied his magic art— For it was magical to me— I stood in silence and apart, And wondered more and more to see That shapeless, lifeless mass of clay Rise up to meet the master's hand, And now contract and now expand, And even his slightest touch obey; While ever in a thoughtful mood He sang his ditty, and at times Whistled a tune between the rhymes, As a melodious interlude.
Turn, turn, my wheel! All things must change To something new, to something strange; Nothing that is can pause or stay; The moon will wax, the moon will wane, The mist and cloud will turn to rain, The rain to mist and cloud again, To-morrow be to-day.
Thus still the Potter sang, and still, By some unconscious act of will, The melody and even the words Were intermingled with my thought As bits of colored thread are caught And woven into nests of birds. And thus to regions far remote, Beyond the ocean's vast expanse, This wizard in the motley coat Transported me on wings of song, And by the northern shores of France Bore me with restless speed along. What land is this that seems to be A mingling of the land and sea? This land of sluices, dikes, and dunes? This water-net, that tessellates The landscape? this unending maze Of gardens, through whose latticed gates The imprisoned pinks and tulips gaze; Where in long summer afternoons The sunshine, softened by the haze, Comes streaming down as through a screen; Where over fields and pastures green The painted ships float high in air, And over all and everywhere The sails of windmills sink and soar Like wings of sea-gulls on the shore?