“Once, awhile ago, I peered
In the nest where Spring was reared.
There, she quivering her fair wings,
Flattered March with chirrupings;
And they fed her; nights and days,
Fed her mouth with much sweet food,
And her heart with love and praise,
Till the wild thing rose and flew
Over woods and water-springs,
Shaking off the morning dew
In a rainbow from her wings.
“Once (I will to you confide
More), O once in forest wide,
I, benighted, overheard
Marvellous mild echoes stirred,
And a calling half defined,
And an answering from afar;
Somewhat talked with a star,
And the talk was of mankind.
Float anear in upper blue:
Art thou yet a prophet true?
Wilt thou say, ’And having seen
Things that be, and have not been,
Thou art free o’ the world, for naught
Can despoil thee of thy thought’?
Nay, but make me music yet,
Bird, as deep as my regret,
For a certain hope hath set,
Like a star; and left me heir
To a crying for its light,
An aspiring infinite,
And a beautiful despair!
“Ah! no more, no more, no more
I shall lie at thy shut door,
Mine ideal, my desired,
Dreaming thou wilt open it,
And step out, thou most admired,
By my side to fare, or sit,
Quenching hunger and all drouth
With the wit of thy fair mouth,
Showing me the wished prize
In the calm of thy dove’s eyes,
Teaching me the wonder-rife
Majesties of human life,
All its fairest possible sum,
And the grace of its to come.
“What a difference! Why of late
All sweet music used to say,
’She will come, and with thee stay
To-morrow, man, if not to-day.’
Now it murmurs, ‘Wait, wait, wait!’”
I saw when I looked up, on either hand,
A pale high chalk-cliff, reared aloft in white;
A narrowing rent soon closed toward the land,—
Toward the sea, an open yawning bight.
The polished tide, with scarce a hint of blue,
Washed in the bight; above with angry moan
A raven, that was robbed, sat up in view,
Croaking and crying on a ledge alone.
“Stand on thy nest, spread out thy fateful wings,
With sullen hungry love bemoan thy brood,
For boys have wrung their necks, those imp-like things,
Whose beaks dripped crimson daily at their food.
“Cry, thou black prophetess! cry, and despair,
None love thee, none! Their father was thy foe,
Whose father in his youth did know thy lair,
And steal thy little demons long ago.
“Thou madest many childless for their sake,
And picked out many eyes that loved the light.
Cry, thou black prophetess! sit up, awake,
Forebode; and ban them through the desolate night”
Lo! while I spake it, with a crimson hue
The dipping sun endowed that silver flood,
And all the cliffs flushed red, and up she flew,
The bird, as mad to bathe in airy blood.