The following sections of this BookRags Literature Study Guide is offprint from Gale's For Students Series: Presenting Analysis, Context, and Criticism on Commonly Studied Works: Introduction, Author Biography, Plot Summary, Characters, Themes, Style, Historical Context, Critical Overview, Criticism and Critical Essays, Media Adaptations, Topics for Further Study, Compare & Contrast, What Do I Read Next?, For Further Study, and Sources.
(c)1998-2002; (c)2002 by Gale. Gale is an imprint of The Gale Group, Inc., a division of Thomson Learning, Inc. Gale and Design and Thomson Learning are trademarks used herein under license.
The following sections, if they exist, are offprint from Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction: "Social Concerns", "Thematic Overview", "Techniques", "Literary Precedents", "Key Questions", "Related Titles", "Adaptations", "Related Web Sites". (c)1994-2005, by Walton Beacham.
The following sections, if they exist, are offprint from Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults: "About the Author", "Overview", "Setting", "Literary Qualities", "Social Sensitivity", "Topics for Discussion", "Ideas for Reports and Papers". (c)1994-2005, by Walton Beacham.
All other sections in this Literature Study Guide are owned and copyrighted by BookRags, Inc.
|Table of Contents|
|Start of eBook||1|
|VOICES OF THE NIGHT||1|
|HYMN TO THE NIGHT.||2|
|THE REAPER AND THE FLOWERS.||3|
|THE LIGHT OF STARS.||3|
|FOOTSTEPS OF ANGELS.||4|
|THE BELEAGUERED CITY.||5|
|MIDNIGHT MASS FOR THE DYING YEAR||6|
|WOODS IN WINTER.||8|
|HYMN OF THE MORAVIAN NUNS OF BETHLEHEM||8|
|SUNRISE ON THE HILLS||9|
|BURIAL OF THE MINNISINK||10|
|BALLADS AND OTHER POEMS||11|
|THE WRECK OF THE HESPERUS||13|
|THE VILLAGE BLACKSMITH||14|
|IT IS NOT ALWAYS MAY||15|
|THE RAINY DAY||15|
|TO THE RIVER CHARLES.||16|
|THE GOBLET OF LIFE||17|
|TO WILLIAM E. CHANNING||19|
|THE SLAVE’S DREAM||19|
|THE GOOD PART||20|
|THE SLAVE IN THE DISMAL SWAMP||20|
|THE SLAVE SINGING AT MIDNIGHT||21|
|THE QUADROON GIRL||21|
|THE SPANISH STUDENT||22|
|THE BELFRY OF BRUGES AND OTHER POEMS||60|
|THE BELFRY OF BRUGES||61|
|A GLEAM OF SUNSHINE||62|
|THE ARSENAL AT SPRINGFIELD||63|
|RAIN IN SUMMER||66|
|TO A CHILD||67|
|THE OCCULTATION OF ORION||69|
|TO THE DRIVING CLOUD||71|
|AFTERNOON IN FEBRUARY||72|
|TO AN OLD DANISH SONG-BOOK||73|
|WALTER VON DER VOGELWEID||73|
|THE OLD CLOCK ON THE STAIRS||75|
|THE ARROW AND THE SONG||76|
|THE EVENING STAR||76|
|PART THE FIRST||78|
|PART THE SECOND||93|
|THE SEASIDE AND THE FIRESIDE||110|
|BY THE SEASIDE||110|
|THE SECRET OF THE SEA||116|
|SIR HUMPHREY GILBERT||117|
|THE FIRE OF DRIFT-WOOD||118|
|BY THE FIRESIDE||119|
|SAND OF THE DESERT IN AN HOUR-GLASS||120|
|THE OPEN WINDOW||121|
|KING WITLAF’S DRINKING-HORN||121|
|PEGASUS IN POUND||122|
|THE COURTSHIP OF MILES STANDISH||200|
|FLIGHT THE FIRST||224|
|BIRDS OF PASSAGE||224|
|THE LADDER OF ST. AUGUSTINE||226|
|THE PHANTOM SHIP||227|
|THE WARDEN OF THE CINQUE PORTS||228|
|IN THE CHURCHYARD AT CAMBRIDGE||229|
|THE EMPEROR’S BIRD’S-NEST||230|
|THE TWO ANGELS||230|
|DAYLIGHT AND MOONLIGHT||231|
|THE JEWISH CEMETERY AT NEWPORT||231|
|MY LOST YOUTH||234|
|THE GOLDEN MILE-STONE||236|
|THE DISCOVERER OF THE NORTH CAPE||238|
|THE FIFTIETH BIRTHDAY OF AGASSIZ||239|
|FLIGHT THE SECOND||241|
|A DAY OF SUNSHINE||243|
|SOMETHING LEFT UNDONE||243|
|TALES OF A WAYSIDE INN||244|
|THE WAYSIDE INN||244|
|THE LANDLORD’S TALE.||248|
|THE STUDENT’S TALE||251|
|THE SPANISH JEW’S TALE||256|
|THE SICILIAN’S TALE||257|
|THE MUSICIAN’S TALE||261|
|THE THEOLOGIAN’S TALE||280|
|THE POET’S TALE||284|
|THE SICILIAN’S TALE||289|
|THE SPANISH JEW’S TALE||292|
|THE STUDENT’S TALE||293|
|THE MUSICIAN’S TALE||297|
|THE POET’S TALE||301|
|THE THEOLOGIAN’S TALE||304|
|THE STUDENT’S SECOND TALE||306|
|THE SPANISH JEW’S TALE||312|
|THE POET’S TALE||313|
|THE STUDENT’S TALE||314|
|THE THEOLOGIAN’S TALE||319|
|THE SICILIAN’S TALE||325|
|THE SPANISH JEW’S SECOND TALE||330|
|THE MUSICIAN’S TALE||332|
|THE LANDLORD’S TALE||334|
|THE BRIDGE OF CLOUD||339|
|THE WIND OVER THE CHIMNEY||340|
|THE BELLS OF LYNN||341|
|KILLED AT THE FORD.||342|
|BIRDS OF PASSAGE||345|
|THE HAUNTED CHAMBER||345|
|THE BROOK AND THE WAVE||347|
|THE MASQUE OF PANDORA||347|
|CHORUS OF THE GRACES||348|
|CHORUS OF THE FATES||350|
|THE HANGING OF THE CRANE||358|
|A BOOK OF SONNETS||365|
|THE SOUND OF THE SEA||367|
|A SUMMER DAY BY THE SEA||368|
|A NAMELESS GRAVE||368|
|THE OLD BRIDGE AT FLORENCE||369|
|IL PONTE VECCHIO DI FIRENZE||369|
|IN THE CHURCHYARD AT TARRYTOWN||370|
|THE DESCENT OF THE MUSES||370|
|THE HARVEST MOON||371|
|TO THE RIVER RHONE||372|
|THE THREE SILENCES OF MOLINOS||372|
|THE TWO RIVERS||372|
|ST. JOHN’S, CAMBRIDGE||373|
|THE FOUR PRINCESSES AT WILNA||374|
|THE CROSS OF SNOW||375|
|BIRDS OF PASSAGE||375|
|THE SERMON OF ST. FRANCIS||379|
|BIRDS OF PASSAGE||386|
|THE HERONS OF ELMWOOD||386|
|A DUTCH PICTURE||387|
|CASTLES IN SPAIN||388|
|THE REVENGE OF RAIN-IN-THE-FACE||390|
|TO THE RIVER YVETTE||390|
|THE EMPEROR’S GLOVE||390|
|A BALLAD OF THE FRENCH FLEET||391|
|THE LEAP OF ROUSHAN BEG||392|
|HAROUN AL RASCHID||393|
|A WRAITH IN THE MIST||393|
|THE THREE KINGS||393|
|THE WHITE CZAR||394|
|THE CHAMBER OVER THE GATE||396|
|FROM MY ARM-CHAIR||396|
|THE IRON PEN||397|
|HELEN OF TYRE||399|
|OLD ST. DAVID’S AT RADNOR||400|
|MAIDEN AND WEATHERCOCK||401|
|THE TIDE RISES, THE TIDE FALLS||401|
|THE BURIAL OF THE POET||402|
|IN THE HARBOR||403|
|THE POET’S CALENDAR||403|
|THE FOUR LAKES OF MADISON||405|
|VICTOR AND VANQUISHED||405|
|THE CHILDREN’S CRUSADE||406|
|FOUR BY THE CLOCK.||408|
|THE CITY AND THE SEA||410|
|TO THE AVON||411|
|INSCRIPTION ON THE SHANKLIN FOUNTAIN||414|
|THE BELLS OF SAN BLAS||414|
|CHRISTUS: A MYSTERY||415|
|THE FIRST PASSOVER||416|
|THE SECOND PASSOVER.||429|
|THE THIRD PASSOVER||445|
|COURT-YARD OF THE CASTLE||467|
|A ROOM IN THE FARM-HOUSE||472|
|THE CHAMBER OF GOTTLIEB AND URSULA||474|
|A VILLAGE CHURCH||476|
|A ROOM IN THE FARM-HOUSE||481|
|IN THE GARDEN||481|
|SQUARE IN FRONT OF THE CATHEDRAL||484|
|IN THE CATHEDRAL||486|
|II. MARY AT THE WELL||488|
|IV. THE WISE MEN OF THE EAST||489|
|V. THE FLIGHT INTO EGYPT||490|
|VI. THE SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENTS||490|
|VII. JESUS AT PLAY WITH HIS SCHOOLMATES||491|
|VIII. THE VILLAGE SCHOOL||492|
|IX. CROWNED WITH FLOWERS||492|
|THE CONVENT OF HIRSCHAU IN THE BLACK FOREST.||494|
|THE NEIGHBORING NUNNERY||504|
|THE DEVIL’S BRIDGE||509|
|THE ST. GOTHARD PASS||509|
|AT THE FOOT OF THE ALPS||510|
|THE INN AT GENOA||512|
|THE FARM-HOUSE IN THE ODENWALD||519|
|THE CASTLE OF VAUTSBERG ON THE RHINE||521|
|A CHAMBER IN THE WARTBURG. MORNING. MARTIN LUTHER WRITING.||523|
|GILES COREY OF THE SALEM FARMS||556|
|SCENE II. — ANTIOCHUS; JASON; THE SAMARITAN AMBASSADORS.||584|
|SCENE III. — ANTIOCHUS; JASON.||585|
|SCENE II. — THE MOTHER; ANTIOCHUS; SIRION,||587|
|SCENE II — JUDAS MACCABAEUS; JEWISH FUGITIVES.||589|
|SCENE III. — JUDAS MACCABAEUS; NICANOR.||590|
|SCENE IV. — JUDAS MACCABAEUS; CAPTAINS AND SOLDIERS.||591|
|SCENE II. — JUDAS MACCABAEUS; JASON; JEWS,||592|
|SCENE II — ANTIOCHUS; PHILIP; A MESSENGER||595|
|PROLOGUE AT ISCHIA||596|
|MONOLOGUE: THE LAST JUDGMENT||599|
|FROM THE SPANISH||648|
|BY LOPE DE VEGA||653|
|BY LOPE DE VEGA||654|
|BY FRANCISCO DE ALDANA||654|
|ANCIENT SPANISH BALLADS.||655|
|VIDA DE SAN MILLAN||656|
|SAN MIGUEL, THE CONVENT||657|
|BY GONZALO DE BERCEO||657|
|SANTA TERESA’S BOOK-MARK||658|
|BY SANTA TERESA DE AVILA||658|
|FROM THE CANCIONEROS||658|
|BY DIEGO DE SALDANA||658|
|BY CRISTOBAL DE GASTILLOJO||659|
|BY EL COMMENDADOR ESCRIVA||659|
|FROM THE SWEDISH AND DANISH||659|
|BY ESAIAS TEGNER||659|
|THE CHILDREN OF THE LORD’S SUPPER||662|
|THE ELECTED KNIGHT||671|
|FROM THE GERMAN||672|
|THE BIRD AND THE SHIP||673|
|SONG OF THE BELL||674|
|THE CASTLE BY THE SEA||674|
|THE BLACK KNIGHT||675|
|SONG OF THE SILENT LAND||675|
|THE LUCK OF EDENHALL||676|
|THE TWO LOCKS OF HAIR||677|
|THE HEMLOCK TREE.||677|
|ANNIE OF THARAW||677|
|THE STATUE OVER THE CATHEDRAL DOOR||678|
|THE LEGEND OF THE CROSSBILL||678|
|THE SEA HATH ITS PEARLS||678|
|THE BEST MEDICINES||679|
|POVERTY AND BLINDNESS||679|
|LAW OF LIFE||679|
|THE RESTLESS HEART||679|
|ART AND TACT||679|
|BLESSED ARE THE DEAD||680|
|FROM THE ANGLO-SAXON||681|
|BEOWULF’S EXPEDITION TO HEORT.||681|
|THE SOUL’S COMPLAINT AGAINST THE BODY||683|
|FROM THE FRENCH||683|
|FROM THE PARADISE OF LOVE||683|
|THE RETURN OF SPRING||684|
|THE CHILD ASLEEP||684|
|DEATH OF ARCHBISHOP TURPIN||685|
|THE BLIND GIRL OF CASTEL CUILLE||685|
|A CHRISTMAS CAROL||691|
|BY FRANCOISE MALHERBE||692|
|TO CARDINAL RICHELIEU||692|
|THE ANGEL AND THE CHILD||692|
|ON THE TERRACE OF THE AIGALADES||693|
|TO MY BROOKLET||694|
|WILL EVER THE DEAR DAYS COME BACK AGAIN?||694|
|AT LA CHAUDEAU||695|
|A QUIET LIFE.||695|
|THE WINE OF JURANCON||695|
|FROM THE ITALIAN||696|
|THE TERRESTRIAL PARADISE||697|
|THE NATURE OF LOVE||701|
|FROM THE PORTUGUESE||701|
|BY GIL VICENTE||701|
|FROM EASTERN SOURCES||701|
|A TARTAR SONG||701|
|THE SIEGE OF KAZAN||702|
|THE BOY AND THE BROOK||703|
|TO THE STORK||703|
|FROM THE LATIN||703|
|OVID IN EXILE||705|
Greek poem here—Euripides.
Pleasant it was, when woods were green,
And winds were soft and low,
To lie amid some sylvan scene.
Where, the long drooping boughs between,
Shadows dark and sunlight sheen
Alternate come and go;
Or where the denser grove receives
No sunlight from above,
But the dark foliage interweaves
In one unbroken roof of leaves,
Underneath whose sloping eaves
The shadows hardly move.
Beneath some patriarchal tree
I lay upon the ground;
His hoary arms uplifted he,
And all the broad leaves over me
Clapped their little hands in glee,
With one continuous sound;—
A slumberous sound, a sound that brings
The feelings of a dream,
As of innumerable wings,
As, when a bell no longer swings,
Faint the hollow murmur rings
O’er meadow, lake, and stream.
And dreams of that which cannot die,
Bright visions, came to me,
As lapped in thought I used to lie,
And gaze into the summer sky,
Where the sailing clouds went by,
Like ships upon the sea;
Dreams that the soul of youth engage
Ere Fancy has been quelled;
Old legends of the monkish page,
Traditions of the saint and sage,
Tales that have the rime of age,
And chronicles of Eld.
And, loving still these quaint old themes,
Even in the city’s throng
I feel the freshness of the streams,
That, crossed by shades and sunny gleams,
Water the green land of dreams,
The holy land of song.
Therefore, at Pentecost, which brings
The Spring, clothed like a bride,
When nestling buds unfold their wings,
And bishop’s-caps have golden rings,
Musing upon many things,
I sought the woodlands wide.
The green trees whispered low and mild;
It was a sound of joy!
They were my playmates when a child,
And rocked me in their arms so wild!
Still they looked at me and smiled,
As if I were a boy;
And ever whispered, mild and low,
“Come, be a child once more!”
And waved their long arms to and fro,
And beckoned solemnly and slow;
O, I could not choose but go
Into the woodlands hoar,—
Into the blithe and breathing air,
Into the solemn wood,
Solemn and silent everywhere
Nature with folded hands seemed there
Kneeling at her evening prayer!
Like one in prayer I stood.
Before me rose an avenue
Of tall and sombrous pines;
Abroad their fan-like branches grew,
And, where the sunshine darted through,
Spread a vapor soft and blue,
In long and sloping lines.
And, falling on my weary brain,
Like a fast-falling shower,
The dreams of youth came back again,
Low lispings of the summer rain,
Dropping on the ripened grain,
As once upon the flower.
Visions of childhood! Stay, O stay!
Ye were so sweet and wild!
And distant voices seemed to say,
“It cannot be! They pass away!
Other themes demand thy lay;
Thou art no more a child!
“The land of Song within thee lies,
Watered by living springs;
The lids of Fancy’s sleepless eyes
Are gates unto that Paradise,
Holy thoughts, like stars, arise,
Its clouds are angels’ wings.
“Learn, that henceforth thy song shall be,
Not mountains capped with snow,
Nor forests sounding like the sea,
Nor rivers flowing ceaselessly,
Where the woodlands bend to see
The bending heavens below.
“There is a forest where the din
Of iron branches sounds!
A mighty river roars between,
And whosoever looks therein
Sees the heavens all black with sin,
Sees not its depths, nor bounds.
“Athwart the swinging branches cast,
Soft rays of sunshine pour;
Then comes the fearful wintry blast
Our hopes, like withered leaves, fail fast;
Pallid lips say, ’It is past!
We can return no more!,
“Look, then, into thine heart, and write!
Yes, into Life’s deep stream!
All forms of sorrow and delight,
All solemn Voices of the Night,
That can soothe thee, or affright,—
Be these henceforth thy theme.”
I heard the trailing garments of the Night
Sweep through her marble halls!
I saw her sable skirts all fringed with light
From the celestial walls!
I felt her presence, by its spell of might,
Stoop o’er me from above;
The calm, majestic presence of the Night,
As of the one I love.
I heard the sounds of sorrow and delight,
The manifold, soft chimes,
That fill the haunted chambers of the Night
Like some old poet’s rhymes.
From the cool cisterns of the midnight air
My spirit drank repose;
The fountain of perpetual peace flows there,—
From those deep cisterns flows.
O holy Night! from thee I learn to bear
What man has borne before!
Thou layest thy finger on the lips of Care,
And they complain no more.
Peace! Peace! Orestes-like I breathe this
Descend with broad-winged flight,
The welcome, the thrice-prayed for, the most fair,
The best-beloved Night!
A PSALM OF LIFE. WHAT THE HEART OF THE YOUNG MAN SAID TO THE PSALMIST.
Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,—act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;—
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
There is a Reaper, whose name is Death,
And, with his sickle keen,
He reaps the bearded grain at a breath,
And the flowers that grow between.
“Shall I have naught that is fair?” saith
“Have naught but the bearded grain?
Though the breath of these flowers is sweet to me,
I will give them all back again.”
He gazed at the flowers with tearful eyes,
He kissed their drooping leaves;
It was for the Lord of Paradise
He bound them in his sheaves.
“My Lord has need of these flowerets gay,”
The Reaper said, and smiled;
“Dear tokens of the earth are they,
Where he was once a child.
“They shall all bloom in fields of light,
Transplanted by my care,
And saints, upon their garments white,
These sacred blossoms wear.”
And the mother gave, in tears and pain,
The flowers she most did love;
She knew she should find them all again
In the fields of light above.
O, not in cruelty, not in wrath,
The Reaper came that day;
’T was an angel visited the green earth,
And took the flowers away.
The night is come, but not too soon;
And sinking silently,
All silently, the little moon
Drops down behind the sky.
There is no light in earth or heaven
But the cold light of stars;
And the first watch of night is given
To the red planet Mars.
Is it the tender star of love?
The star of love and dreams?
O no! from that blue tent above,
A hero’s armor gleams.
And earnest thoughts within me rise,
When I behold afar,
Suspended in the evening skies,
The shield of that red star.
O star of strength! I see thee stand
And smile upon my pain;
Thou beckonest with thy mailed hand,
And I am strong again.
Within my breast there is no light
But the cold light of stars;
I give the first watch of the night
To the red planet Mars.
The star of the unconquered will,
He rises in my breast,
Serene, and resolute, and still,
And calm, and self-possessed.
And thou, too, whosoe’er thou art,
That readest this brief psalm,
As one by one thy hopes depart,
Be resolute and calm.
O fear not in a world like this,
And thou shalt know erelong,
Know how sublime a thing it is
To suffer and be strong.
When the hours of Day are numbered,
And the voices of the Night
Wake the better soul, that slumbered,
To a holy, calm delight;
Ere the evening lamps are lighted,
And, like phantoms grim and tall,
Shadows from the fitful firelight
Dance upon the parlor wall;
Then the forms of the departed
Enter at the open door;
The beloved, the true-hearted,
Come to visit me once more;
He, the young and strong, who cherished
Noble longings for the strife,
By the roadside fell and perished,
Weary with the march of life!
They, the holy ones and weakly,
Who the cross of suffering bore,
Folded their pale hands so meekly,
Spake with us on earth no more!
And with them the Being Beauteous,
Who unto my youth was given,
More than all things else to love me,
And is now a saint in heaven.
With a slow and noiseless footstep
Comes that messenger divine,
Takes the vacant chair beside me,
Lays her gentle hand in mine.
And she sits and gazes at me
With those deep and tender eyes,
Like the stars, so still and saint-like,
Looking downward from the skies.
Uttered not, yet comprehended,
Is the spirit’s voiceless prayer,
Soft rebukes, in blessings ended,
Breathing from her lips of air.
Oh, though oft depressed and lonely,
All my fears are laid aside,
If I but remember only
Such as these have lived and died!
Spake full well, in language quaint and olden,
One who dwelleth by the castled Rhine,
When he called the flowers, so blue and golden,
Stars, that in earth’s firmament do shine.
Stars they are, wherein we read our history,
As astrologers and seers of eld;
Yet not wrapped about with awful mystery,
Like the burning stars, which they beheld.
Wondrous truths, and manifold as wondrous,
God hath written in those stars above;
But not less in the bright flowerets under us
Stands the revelation of his love.
Bright and glorious is that revelation,
Written all over this great world of ours;
Making evident our own creation,
In these stars of earth, these golden flowers.
And the Poet, faithful and far-seeing,
Sees, alike in stars and flowers, a part
Of the self-same, universal being,
Which is throbbing in his brain and heart.
Gorgeous flowerets in the sunlight shining,
Blossoms flaunting in the eye of day,
Tremulous leaves, with soft and silver lining,
Buds that open only to decay;
Brilliant hopes, all woven in gorgeous tissues,
Flaunting gayly in the golden light;
Large desires, with most uncertain issues,
Tender wishes, blossoming at night!
These in flowers and men are more than seeming;
Workings are they of the self-same powers,
Which the Poet, in no idle dreaming,
Seeth in himself and in the flowers.
Everywhere about us are they glowing,
Some like stars, to tell us Spring is born;
Others, their blue eyes with tears o’er-flowing,
Stand like Ruth amid the golden corn;
Not alone in Spring’s armorial bearing,
And in Summer’s green-emblazoned field,
But in arms of brave old Autumn’s wearing,
In the centre of his brazen shield;
Not alone in meadows and green alleys,
On the mountain-top, and by the brink
Of sequestered pools in woodland valleys,
Where the slaves of nature stoop to drink;
Not alone in her vast dome of glory,
Not on graves of bird and beast alone,
But in old cathedrals, high and hoary,
On the tombs of heroes, carved in stone;
In the cottage of the rudest peasant,
In ancestral homes, whose crumbling towers,
Speaking of the Past unto the Present,
Tell us of the ancient Games of Flowers;
In all places, then, and in all seasons,
Flowers expand their light and soul-like wings,
Teaching us, by most persuasive reasons,
How akin they are to human things.
And with childlike, credulous affection
We behold their tender buds expand;
Emblems of our own great resurrection,
Emblems of the bright and better land.
I have read, in some old, marvellous tale,
Some legend strange and vague,
That a midnight host of spectres pale
Beleaguered the walls of Prague.
Beside the Moldau’s rushing stream,
With the wan moon overhead,
There stood, as in an awful dream,
The army of the dead.
White as a sea-fog, landward bound,
The spectral camp was seen,
And, with a sorrowful, deep sound,
The river flowed between.
No other voice nor sound was there,
No drum, nor sentry’s pace;
The mist-like banners clasped the air,
As clouds with clouds embrace.
But when the old cathedral bell
Proclaimed the morning prayer,
The white pavilions rose and fell
On the alarmed air.
Down the broad valley fast and far
The troubled army fled;
Up rose the glorious morning star,
The ghastly host was dead.
I have read, in the marvellous heart of man,
That strange and mystic scroll,
That an army of phantoms vast and wan
Beleaguer the human soul.
Encamped beside Life’s rushing stream,
In Fancy’s misty light,
Gigantic shapes and shadows gleam
Portentous through the night.
Upon its midnight battle-ground
The spectral camp is seen,
And, with a sorrowful, deep sound,
Flows the River of Life between.
No other voice nor sound is there,
In the army of the grave;
No other challenge breaks the air,
But the rushing of Life’s wave.
And when the solemn and deep churchbell
Entreats the soul to pray,
The midnight phantoms feel the spell,
The shadows sweep away.
Down the broad Vale of Tears afar
The spectral camp is fled;
Faith shineth as a morning star,
Our ghastly fears are dead.
Yes, the Year is growing old,
And his eye is pale and bleared!
Death, with frosty hand and cold,
Plucks the old man by the beard,
The leaves are falling, falling,
Solemnly and slow;
Caw! caw! the rooks are calling,
It is a sound of woe,
A sound of woe!
Through woods and mountain passes
The winds, like anthems, roll;
They are chanting solemn masses,
Singing, “Pray for this poor soul,
And the hooded clouds, like friars,
Tell their beads in drops of rain,
And patter their doleful prayers;
But their prayers are all in vain,
All in vain!
There he stands in the foul weather,
The foolish, fond Old Year,
Crowned with wild flowers and with heather,
Like weak, despised Lear,
A king, a king!
Then comes the summer-like day,
Bids the old man rejoice!
His joy! his last! O, the man gray
Loveth that ever-soft voice,
Gentle and low.
To the crimson woods he saith,
To the voice gentle and low
Of the soft air, like a daughter’s breath,
“Pray do not mock me so!
Do not laugh at me!”
And now the sweet day is dead;
Cold in his arms it lies;
No stain from its breath is spread
Over the glassy skies,
No mist or stain!
Then, too, the Old Year dieth,
And the forests utter a moan,
Like the voice of one who crieth
In the wilderness alone,
“Vex not his ghost!”
Then comes, with an awful roar,
Gathering and sounding on,
The storm-wind from Labrador,
The wind Euroclydon,
Howl! howl! and from the forest
Sweep the red leaves away!
Would, the sins that thou abhorrest,
O Soul! could thus decay,
And be swept away!
For there shall come a mightier blast,
There shall be a darker day;
And the stars, from heaven down-cast
Like red leaves be swept away!
AN APRIL DAY
When the warm sun, that brings
Seed-time and harvest, has returned again,
’T is sweet to visit the still wood, where springs
The first flower of the plain.
I love the season well,
When forest glades are teeming with bright forms,
Nor dark and many-folded clouds foretell
The coming-on of storms.
From the earth’s loosened
The sapling draws its sustenance, and thrives;
Though stricken to the heart with winter’s cold,
The drooping tree revives.
The softly-warbled song
Comes from the pleasant woods, and colored wings
Glance quick in the bright sun, that moves along
The forest openings.
When the bright sunset fills
The silver woods with light, the green slope throws
Its shadows in the hollows of the hills,
And wide the upland glows.
And when the eve is born,
In the blue lake the sky, o’er-reaching far,
Is hollowed out and the moon dips her horn,
And twinkles many a star.
Inverted in the tide
Stand the gray rocks, and trembling shadows throw,
And the fair trees look over, side by side,
And see themselves below.
Sweet April! many a thought
Is wedded unto thee, as hearts are wed;
Nor shall they fail, till, to its autumn brought,
Life’s golden fruit is shed.
With what a glory comes and goes the year!
The buds of spring, those beautiful harbingers
Of sunny skies and cloudless times, enjoy
Life’s newness, and earth’s garniture spread out;
And when the silver habit of the clouds
Comes down upon the autumn sun, and with
A sober gladness the old year takes up
His bright inheritance of golden fruits,
A pomp and pageant fill the splendid scene.
There is a beautiful spirit breathing now
Its mellow richness on the clustered trees,
And, from a beaker full of richest dyes,
Pouring new glory on the autumn woods,
And dipping in warm light the pillared clouds.
Morn on the mountain, like a summer bird,
Lifts up her purple wing, and in the vales
The gentle wind, a sweet and passionate wooer,
Kisses the blushing leaf, and stirs up life
Within the solemn woods of ash deep-crimsoned,
And silver beech, and maple yellow-leaved,
Where Autumn, like a faint old man, sits down
By the wayside a-weary. Through the trees
The golden robin moves. The purple finch,
That on wild cherry and red cedar feeds,
A winter bird, comes with its plaintive whistle,
And pecks by the witch-hazel, whilst aloud
From cottage roofs the warbling blue-bird sings,
And merrily, with oft-repeated stroke,
Sounds from the threshing-floor the busy flail.
O what a glory doth this world put on
For him who, with a fervent heart, goes forth
Under the bright and glorious sky, and looks
On duties well performed, and days well spent!
For him the wind, ay, and the yellow leaves,
Shall have a voice, and give him eloquent teachings.
He shall so hear the solemn hymn that Death
Has lifted up for all, that he shall go
To his long resting-place without a tear.
When winter winds are piercing chill,
And through the hawthorn blows the gale,
With solemn feet I tread the hill,
That overbrows the lonely vale.
O’er the bare upland, and away
Through the long reach of desert woods,
The embracing sunbeams chastely play,
And gladden these deep solitudes.
Where, twisted round the barren oak,
The summer vine in beauty clung,
And summer winds the stillness broke,
The crystal icicle is hung.
Where, from their frozen urns, mute springs
Pour out the river’s gradual tide,
Shrilly the skater’s iron rings,
And voices fill the woodland side.
Alas! how changed from the fair scene,
When birds sang out their mellow lay,
And winds were soft, and woods were green,
And the song ceased not with the day!
But still wild music is abroad,
Pale, desert woods! within your crowd;
And gathering winds, in hoarse accord,
Amid the vocal reeds pipe loud.
Chill airs and wintry winds! my ear
Has grown familiar with your song;
I hear it in the opening year,
I listen, and it cheers me long.
At the consecration of PULASKI’S banner.
When the dying flame of day
Through the chancel shot its ray,
Far the glimmering tapers shed
Faint light on the cowled head;
And the censer burning swung,
Where, before the altar, hung
The crimson banner, that with prayer
Had been consecrated there.
And the nuns’ sweet hymn was heard the while,
Sung low, in the dim, mysterious aisle.
“Take thy banner! May
Proudly o’er the good and brave;
When the battle’s distant wail
Breaks the sabbath of our vale.
When the clarion’s music thrills
To the hearts of these lone hills,
When the spear in conflict shakes,
And the strong lance shivering breaks.
“Take thy banner! and, beneath
The battle-cloud’s encircling wreath,
Guard it, till our homes are free!
Guard it! God will prosper thee!
In the dark and trying hour,
In the breaking forth of power,
In the rush of steeds and men,
His right hand will shield thee then.
“Take thy banner!
But when night
Closes round the ghastly fight,
If the vanquished warrior bow,
Spare him! By our holy vow,
By our prayers and many tears,
By the mercy that endears,
Spare him! he our love hath shared!
Spare him! as thou wouldst be spared!
“Take thy banner! and
Thou shouldst press the soldier’s bier,
And the muffled drum should beat
To the tread of mournful feet,
Then this crimson flag shall be
Martial cloak and shroud for thee.”
The warrior took that banner proud,
And it was his martial cloak and shroud!
I stood upon the hills, when heaven’s wide
Was glorious with the sun’s returning march,
And woods were brightened, and soft gales
Went forth to kiss the sun-clad vales.
The clouds were far beneath me; bathed in light,
They gathered mid-way round the wooded height,
And, in their fading glory, shone
Like hosts in battle overthrown.
As many a pinnacle, with shifting glance.
Through the gray mist thrust up its shattered lance,
And rocking on the cliff was left
The dark pine blasted, bare, and cleft.
The veil of cloud was lifted, and below
Glowed the rich valley, and the river’s flow
Was darkened by the forest’s shade,
Or glistened in the white cascade;
Where upward, in the mellow blush of day,
The noisy bittern wheeled his spiral way.
I heard the distant waters dash,
I saw the current whirl and flash,
And richly, by the blue lake’s silver beach,
The woods were bending with a silent reach.
Then o’er the vale, with gentle swell,
The music of the village bell
Came sweetly to the echo-giving hills;
And the wild horn, whose voice the woodland fills,
Was ringing to the merry shout,
That faint and far the glen sent out,
Where, answering to the sudden shot, thin smoke,
Through thick-leaved branches, from the dingle broke.
If thou art worn and hard beset
With sorrows, that thou wouldst forget,
If thou wouldst read a lesson, that will keep
Thy heart from fainting and thy soul from sleep,
Go to the woods and hills! No tears
Dim the sweet look that Nature wears.
THE SPIRIT OF POETRY
There is a quiet spirit in these woods,
That dwells where’er the gentle south-wind blows;
Where, underneath the white-thorn, in the glade,
The wild flowers bloom, or, kissing the soft air,
The leaves above their sunny palms outspread.
With what a tender and impassioned voice
It fills the nice and delicate ear of thought,
When the fast ushering star of morning comes
O’er-riding the gray hills with golden scarf;
Or when the cowled and dusky-sandaled Eve,
In mourning weeds, from out the western gate,
And this is the sweet spirit, that doth fill
The world; and, in these wayward days of youth,
My busy fancy oft embodies it,
As a bright image of the light and beauty
That dwell in nature; of the heavenly forms
We worship in our dreams, and the soft hues
That stain the wild bird’s wing, and flush the clouds
When the sun sets. Within her tender eye
The heaven of April, with its changing light,
And when it wears the blue of May, is hung,
And on her lip the rich, red rose. Her hair
Is like the summer tresses of the trees,
When twilight makes them brown, and on her cheek
Blushes the richness of an autumn sky,
With ever-shifting beauty. Then her breath,
It is so like the gentle air of Spring,
As, front the morning’s dewy flowers, it comes
Full of their fragrance, that it is a joy
To have it round us, and her silver voice
Is the rich music of a summer bird,
Heard in the still night, with its passionate cadence.
On sunny slope and beechen swell,
The shadowed light of evening fell;
And, where the maple’s leaf was brown,
With soft and silent lapse came down,
The glory, that the wood receives,
At sunset, in its golden leaves.
Far upward in the mellow light
Rose the blue hills. One cloud of white,
Around a far uplifted cone,
In the warm blush of evening shone;
An image of the silver lakes,
By which the Indian’s soul awakes.
But soon a funeral hymn was heard
Where the soft breath of evening stirred
The tall, gray forest; and a band
Of stern in heart, and strong in hand,
Came winding down beside the wave,
To lay the red chief in his grave.
They sang, that by his native bowers
He stood, in the last moon of flowers,
And thirty snows had not yet shed
Their glory on the warrior’s head;
But, as the summer fruit decays,
So died he in those naked days.
A dark cloak of the roebuck’s skin
Covered the warrior, and within
Its heavy folds the weapons, made
For the hard toils of war, were laid;
The cuirass, woven of plaited reeds,
And the broad belt of shells and beads.
Before, a dark-haired virgin train
Chanted the death dirge of the slain;
Behind, the long procession came
Of hoary men and chiefs of fame,
With heavy hearts, and eyes of grief,
Leading the war-horse of their chief.
Stripped of his proud and martial dress,
Uncurbed, unreined, and riderless,
With darting eye, and nostril spread,
And heavy and impatient tread,
He came; and oft that eye so proud
Asked for his rider in the crowd.
They buried the dark chief; they freed
Beside the grave his battle steed;
And swift an arrow cleaved its way
To his stern heart! One piercing neigh
Arose, and, on the dead man’s plain,
The rider grasps his steed again.
Ye voices, that arose
After the Evening’s close,
And whispered to my restless heart repose!
Go, breathe it in the ear
Of all who doubt and fear,
And say to them, “Be of good cheer!”
Ye sounds, so low and calm,
That in the groves of balm
Seemed to me like an angel’s psalm!
Go, mingle yet once more
With the perpetual roar
Of the pine forest dark and hoar!
Tongues of the dead, not lost
But speaking from deaths frost,
Like fiery tongues at Pentecost!
Glimmer, as funeral lamps,
Amid the chills and damps
Of the vast plain where Death encamps!
THE SKELETON IN ARMOR
“Speak! speak I thou fearful guest
Who, with thy hollow breast
Still in rude armor drest,
Comest to daunt me!
Wrapt not in Eastern balms,
Bat with thy fleshless palms
Stretched, as if asking alms,
Why dost thou haunt me?”
Then, from those cavernous eyes
Pale flashes seemed to rise,
As when the Northern skies
Gleam in December;
And, like the water’s flow
Under December’s snow,
Came a dull voice of woe
From the heart’s chamber.
“I was a Viking old!
My deeds, though manifold,
No Skald in song has told,
No Saga taught thee!
Take heed, that in thy verse
Thou dost the tale rehearse,
Else dread a dead man’s curse;
For this I sought thee.
“Far in the Northern Land,
By the wild Baltic’s strand,
I, with my childish hand,
Tamed the gerfalcon;
And, with my skates fast-bound,
Skimmed the half-frozen Sound,
That the poor whimpering hound
Trembled to walk on.
“Oft to his frozen lair
Tracked I the grisly bear,
While from my path the hare
Fled like a shadow;
Oft through the forest dark
Followed the were-wolf’s bark,
Until the soaring lark
Sang from the meadow.
“But when I older grew,
Joining a corsair’s crew,
O’er the dark sea I flew
With the marauders.
Wild was the life we led;
Many the souls that sped,
Many the hearts that bled,
By our stern orders.
“Many a wassail-bout
Wore the long Winter out;
Often our midnight shout
Set the cocks crowing,
As we the Berserk’s tale
Measured in cups of ale,
Draining the oaken pail,
Filled to o’erflowing.
“Once as I told in glee
Tales of the stormy sea,
Soft eyes did gaze on me,
Burning yet tender;
And as the white stars shine
On the dark Norway pine,
On that dark heart of mine
Fell their soft splendor.
“I wooed the blue-eyed maid,
Yielding, yet half afraid,
And in the forest’s shade
Our vows were plighted.
Under its loosened vest
Fluttered her little breast
Like birds within their nest
By the hawk frighted.
“Bright in her father’s hall
Shields gleamed upon the wall,
Loud sang the minstrels all,
Chanting his glory;
When of old Hildebrand
I asked his daughter’s hand,
Mute did the minstrels stand
To hear my story.
“While the brown ale he quaffed,
Loud then the champion laughed,
And as the wind-gusts waft
The sea-foam brightly,
So the loud laugh of scorn,
Out of those lips unshorn,
From the deep drinking-horn
Blew the foam lightly.
“She was a Prince’s child,
I but a Viking wild,
And though she blushed and smiled,
I was discarded!
Should not the dove so white
Follow the sea-mew’s flight,
Why did they leave that night
Her nest unguarded?
“Scarce had I put to sea,
Bearing the maid with me,
Fairest of all was she
Among the Norsemen!
When on the white sea-strand,
Waving his armed hand,
Saw we old Hildebrand,
With twenty horsemen.
“Then launched they to the blast,
Bent like a reed each mast,
Yet we were gaining fast,
When the wind failed us;
And with a sudden flaw
Came round the gusty Skaw,
So that our foe we saw
Laugh as he hailed us.
“And as to catch the gale
Round veered the flapping sail,
Death I was the helmsman’s hail,
Death without quarter!
Mid-ships with iron keel
Struck we her ribs of steel
Down her black hulk did reel
Through the black water!
“As with his wings aslant,
Sails the fierce cormorant,
Seeking some rocky haunt
With his prey laden,
So toward the open main,
Beating to sea again,
Through the wild hurricane,
Bore I the maiden.
“Three weeks we westward bore,
And when the storm was o’er,
Cloud-like we saw the shore
Stretching to leeward;
There for my lady’s bower
Built I the lofty tower,
Which, to this very hour,
Stands looking seaward.
“There lived we many years;
Time dried the maiden’s tears
She had forgot her fears,
She was a mother.
Death closed her mild blue eyes,
Under that tower she lies;
Ne’er shall the sun arise
On such another!
“Still grew my bosom then.
Still as a stagnant fen!
Hateful to me were men,
The sunlight hateful!
In the vast forest here,
Clad in my warlike gear,
Fell I upon my spear,
O, death was grateful!
“Thus, seamed with many scars,
Bursting these prison bars,
Up to its native stars
My soul ascended!
There from the flowing bowl
Deep drinks the warrior’s soul,
Skoal! to the Northland! skoal!”
Thus the tale ended.
It was the schooner Hesperus,
That sailed the wintry sea;
And the skipper had taken his little daughter,
To bear him company.
Blue were her eyes as the fairy-flax,
Her cheeks like the dawn of day,
And her bosom white as the hawthorn buds,
That ope in the month of May.
The skipper he stood beside the helm,
His pipe was in his month,
And he watched how the veering flaw did blow
The smoke now West, now South.
Then up and spake an old Sailor,
Had sailed to the Spanish Main,
“I pray thee, put into yonder port,
For I fear a hurricane.
“Last night, the moon had a golden ring,
And to-night no moon we see!”
The skipper, he blew a whiff from his pipe,
And a scornful laugh laughed he.
Colder and louder blew the wind,
A gale from the Northeast.
The snow fell hissing in the brine,
And the billows frothed like yeast.
Down came the storm, and smote amain
The vessel in its strength;
She shuddered and paused, like a frighted steed,
Then leaped her cable’s length.
“Come hither! come hither! my little daughter,
And do not tremble so;
For I can weather the roughest gale
That ever wind did blow.”
He wrapped her warm in his seaman’s coat
Against the stinging blast;
He cut a rope from a broken spar,
And bound her to the mast.
“O father! I hear the church-bells ring,
O say, what may it be?”
“’Tis a fog-bell on a rock-bound coast!”—
And he steered for the open sea.
“O father! I hear the sound of guns,
O say, what may it be?”
“Some ship in distress, that cannot live
In such an angry sea!”
“O father! I see a gleaming light
O say, what may it be?”
But the father answered never a word,
A frozen corpse was he.
Lashed to the helm, all stiff and stark,
With his face turned to the skies,
The lantern gleamed through the gleaming snow
On his fixed and glassy eyes.
Then the maiden clasped her hands and prayed
That saved she might be;
And she thought of Christ, who stilled the wave,
On the Lake of Galilee.
And fast through the midnight dark and drear,
Through the whistling sleet and snow,
Like a sheeted ghost, the vessel swept
Tow’rds the reef of Norman’s Woe.
And ever the fitful gusts between
A sound came from the land;
It was the sound of the trampling surf
On the rocks and the hard sea-sand.
The breakers were right beneath her bows,
She drifted a dreary wreck,
And a whooping billow swept the crew
Like icicles from her deck.
She struck where the white and fleecy waves
Looked soft as carded wool,
But the cruel rocks, they gored her side
Like the horns of an angry bull.
Her rattling shrouds, all sheathed in ice,
With the masts went by the board;
Like a vessel of glass, she stove and sank,
Ho! ho! the breakers roared!
At daybreak, on the bleak sea-beach,
A fisherman stood aghast,
To see the form of a maiden fair,
Lashed close to a drifting mast.
The salt sea was frozen on her breast,
The salt tears in her eyes;
And he saw her hair, like the brown sea-weed,
On the billows fall and rise.
Such was the wreck of the Hesperus,
In the midnight and the snow!
Christ save us all from a death like this,
On the reef of Norman’s Woe!
Under a spreading chestnut-tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.
His hair is crisp, and black, and long,
His face is like the tan;
His brow is wet with honest sweat,
He earns whate’er he can,
And looks the whole world in the face,
For he owes not any man.
Week in, week out, from morn till night,
You can hear his bellows blow;
You can hear him swing his heavy sledge,
With measured beat and slow,
Like a sexton ringing the village bell,
When the evening sun is low.
And children coming home from school
Look in at the open door;
They love to see the flaming forge,
And bear the bellows roar,
And catch the burning sparks that fly
Like chaff from a threshing-floor.
He goes on Sunday to the church,
And sits among his boys;
He hears the parson pray and preach,
He hears his daughter’s voice,
Singing in the village choir,
And it makes his heart rejoice.
It sounds to him like her mother’s voice,
Singing in Paradise!
He needs must think of her once more,
How in the grave she lies;
And with his hard, rough hand he wipes
A tear out of his eyes.
Onward through life he goes;
Each morning sees some task begin,
Each evening sees it close
Something attempted, something done,
Has earned a night’s repose.
Thanks, thanks to thee, my worthy friend,
For the lesson thou hast taught!
Thus at the flaming forge of life
Our fortunes must be wrought;
Thus on its sounding anvil shaped
Each burning deed and thought.
The rising moon has hid the stars;
Her level rays, like golden bars,
Lie on the landscape green,
With shadows brown between.
And silver white the river gleams,
As if Diana, in her dreams,
Had dropt her silver bow
Upon the meadows low.
On such a tranquil night as this,
She woke Endymion with a kiss,
When, sleeping in the grove,
He dreamed not of her love.
Like Dian’s kiss, unasked, unsought,
Love gives itself, but is not bought;
Nor voice, nor sound betrays
Its deep, impassioned gaze.
It comes,—the beautiful, the free,
The crown of all humanity,—
In silence and alone
To seek the elected one.
It lifts the boughs, whose shadows deep
Are Life’s oblivion, the soul’s sleep,
And kisses the closed eyes
Of him, who slumbering lies.
O weary hearts! O slumbering eyes!
O drooping souls, whose destinies
Are fraught with fear and pain,
Ye shall be loved again!
No one is so accursed by fate,
No one so utterly desolate,
But some heart, though unknown,
Responds unto his own.
Responds,—as if with unseen wings,
An angel touched its quivering strings;
And whispers, in its song,
“’Where hast thou stayed so long?”
No hay pajaros en los nidos de antano.
The sun is bright,—the air is clear,
The darting swallows soar and sing.
And from the stately elms I hear
The bluebird prophesying Spring.
So blue you winding river flows,
It seems an outlet from the sky,
Where waiting till the west-wind blows,
The freighted clouds at anchor lie.
All things are new;—the buds, the leaves,
That gild the elm-tree’s nodding crest,
And even the nest beneath the eaves;—
There are no birds in last year’s nest!
All things rejoice in youth and love,
The fulness of their first delight!
And learn from the soft heavens above
The melting tenderness of night.
Maiden, that read’st this simple rhyme,
Enjoy thy youth, it will not stay;
Enjoy the fragrance of thy prime,
For oh, it is not always May!
Enjoy the Spring of Love and Youth,
To some good angel leave the rest;
For Time will teach thee soon the truth,
There are no birds in last year’s nest!
The day is cold, and dark, and dreary
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,
But at every gust the dead leaves fall,
And the day is dark and dreary.
My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;
It rains, and the wind is never weary;
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,
And the days are dark and dreary.
Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life some rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.
I like that ancient Saxon phrase, which calls
The burial-ground God’s-Acre! It is just;
It consecrates each grave within its walls,
And breathes a benison o’er the sleeping dust.
God’s-Acre! Yes, that blessed name imparts
Comfort to those, who in the grave have sown
The seed that they had garnered in their hearts,
Their bread of life, alas! no more their own.
Into its furrows shall we all be cast,
In the sure faith, that we shall rise again
At the great harvest, when the archangel’s blast
Shall winnow, like a fan, the chaff and grain.
Then shall the good stand in immortal bloom,
In the fair gardens of that second birth;
And each bright blossom mingle its perfume
With that of flowers, which never bloomed on earth.
With thy rude ploughshare, Death, turn up the sod,
And spread the furrow for the seed we sow;
This is the field and Acre of our God,
This is the place where human harvests grow!
River! that in silence windest
Through the meadows, bright and free,
Till at length thy rest thou findest
In the bosom of the sea!
Four long years of mingled feeling,
Half in rest, and half in strife,
I have seen thy waters stealing
Onward, like the stream of life.
Thou hast taught me, Silent River!
Many a lesson, deep and long;
Thou hast been a generous giver;
I can give thee but a song.
Oft in sadness and in illness,
I have watched thy current glide,
Till the beauty of its stillness
Overflowed me, like a tide.
And in better hours and brighter,
When I saw thy waters gleam,
I have felt my heart beat lighter,
And leap onward with thy stream.
Not for this alone I love thee,
Nor because thy waves of blue
From celestial seas above thee
Take their own celestial hue.
Where yon shadowy woodlands hide thee,
And thy waters disappear,
Friends I love have dwelt beside thee,
And have made thy margin dear.
More than this;—thy name reminds me
Of three friends, all true and tried;
And that name, like magic, binds me
Closer, closer to thy side.
Friends my soul with joy remembers!
How like quivering flames they start,
When I fan the living embers
On the hearth-stone of my heart!
’T is for this, thou Silent River!
That my spirit leans to thee;
Thou hast been a generous giver,
Take this idle song from me.
Blind Bartimeus at the gates Of Jericho in darkness waits; He hears the crowd;—he hears a breath Say, “It is Christ of Nazareth!” And calls, in tones of agony, Greek here
The thronging multitudes increase;
Blind Bartimeus, hold thy peace!
But still, above the noisy crowd,
The beggar’s cry is shrill and loud;
Until they say, “He calleth thee!”
Then saith the Christ, as silent stands
The crowd, “What wilt thou at my hands?”
And he replies, “O give me light!
Rabbi, restore the blind man’s sight.
And Jesus answers, ‘Greek here’
Ye that have eyes, yet cannot see,
In darkness and in misery,
Recall those mighty Voices Three,
Filled is Life’s goblet to the brim;
And though my eyes with tears are dim,
I see its sparkling bubbles swim,
And chant a melancholy hymn
With solemn voice and slow.
No purple flowers,—no garlands green,
Conceal the goblet’s shade or sheen,
Nor maddening draughts of Hippocrene,
Like gleams of sunshine, flash between
Thick leaves of mistletoe.
This goblet, wrought with curious art,
Is filled with waters, that upstart,
When the deep fountains of the heart,
By strong convulsions rent apart,
Are running all to waste.
And as it mantling passes round,
With fennel is it wreathed and crowned,
Whose seed and foliage sun-imbrowned
Are in its waters steeped and drowned,
And give a bitter taste.
Above the lowly plants it towers,
The fennel, with its yellow flowers,
And in an earlier age than ours
Was gifted with the wondrous powers,
Lost vision to restore.
It gave new strength, and fearless mood;
And gladiators, fierce and rude,
Mingled it in their daily food;
And he who battled and subdued,
A wreath of fennel wore.
Then in Life’s goblet freely press,
The leaves that give it bitterness,
Nor prize the colored waters less,
For in thy darkness and distress
New light and strength they give!
And he who has not learned to know
How false its sparkling bubbles show,
How bitter are the drops of woe,
With which its brim may overflow,
He has not learned to live.
The prayer of Ajax was for light;
Through all that dark and desperate fight
The blackness of that noonday night
He asked but the return of sight,
To see his foeman’s face.
Let our unceasing, earnest prayer
Be, too, for light,—for strength to bear
Our portion of the weight of care,
That crushes into dumb despair
One half the human race.
O suffering, sad humanity!
O ye afflicted one; who lie
Steeped to the lips in misery,
Longing, and yet afraid to die,
Patient, though sorely tried!
I pledge you in this cup of grief,
Where floats the fennel’s bitter leaf!
The Battle of our Life is brief
The alarm,—the struggle,—the relief,
Then sleep we side by side.
Maiden! with the meek, brown eyes,
In whose orbs a shadow lies
Like the dusk in evening skies!
Thou whose locks outshine the sun,
Golden tresses, wreathed in one,
As the braided streamlets run!
Standing, with reluctant feet,
Where the brook and river meet,
Womanhood and childhood fleet!
Gazing, with a timid glance,
On the brooklet’s swift advance,
On the river’s broad expanse!
Deep and still, that gliding stream
Beautiful to thee must seem,
As the river of a dream.
Then why pause with indecision,
When bright angels in thy vision
Beckon thee to fields Elysian?
Seest thou shadows sailing by,
As the dove, with startled eye,
Sees the falcon’s shadow fly?
Hearest thou voices on the shore,
That our ears perceive no more,
Deafened by the cataract’s roar?
O, thou child of many prayers!
Life hath quicksands,—Life hath snares
Care and age come unawares!
Like the swell of some sweet tune,
Morning rises into noon,
May glides onward into June.
Childhood is the bough, where slumbered
Birds and blossoms many-numbered;—
Age, that bough with snows encumbered.
Gather, then, each flower that grows,
When the young heart overflows,
To embalm that tent of snows.
Bear a lily in thy hand;
Gates of brass cannot withstand
One touch of that magic wand.
Bear through sorrow, wrong, and ruth,
In thy heart the dew of youth,
On thy lips the smile of truth!
O, that dew, like balm, shall steal
Into wounds that cannot heal,
Even as sleep our eyes doth seal;
And that smile, like sunshine, dart
Into many a sunless heart,
For a smile of God thou art.
The shades of night were falling fast,
As through an Alpine village passed
A youth, who bore, ’mid snow and ice,
A banner with the strange device,
His brow was sad; his eye beneath,
Flashed like a falchion from its sheath,
And like a silver clarion rung
The accents of that unknown tongue,
In happy homes he saw the light
Of household fires gleam warm and bright;
Above, the spectral glaciers shone,
And from his lips escaped a groan,
“Try not the Pass!” the old man said:
“Dark lowers the tempest overhead,
The roaring torrent is deep and wide!
And loud that clarion voice replied,
“Oh stay,” the maiden said, “and
Thy weary head upon this breast!”
A tear stood in his bright blue eye,
But still he answered, with a sigh,
“Beware the pine-tree’s withered branch!
Beware the awful avalanche!”
This was the peasant’s last Good-night,
A voice replied, far up the height,
At break of day, as heavenward
The pious monks of Saint Bernard
Uttered the oft-repeated prayer,
A voice cried through the startled air,
A traveller, by the faithful hound,
Half-buried in the snow was found,
Still grasping in his hand of ice
That banner with the strange device,
There in the twilight cold and gray,
Lifeless, but beautiful, he lay,
And from the sky, serene and far,
A voice fell, like a falling star,
Poems on slavery.
[The following poems, with one exception, were written at sea, in the latter part of October, 1842. I had not then heard of Dr. Channing’s death. Since that event, the poem addressed to him is no longer appropriate. I have decided, however, to let it remain as it was written, in testimony of my admiration for a great and good man.]
The pages of thy book I read,
And as I closed each one,
My heart, responding, ever said,
“Servant of God! well done!”
Well done! Thy words are great and bold;
At times they seem to me,
Like Luther’s, in the days of old,
Half-battles for the free.
Go on, until this land revokes
The old and chartered Lie,
The feudal curse, whose whips and yokes
A voice is ever at thy side
Speaking in tones of might,
Like the prophetic voice, that cried
To John in Patmos, “Write!”
Write! and tell out this bloody tale;
Record this dire eclipse,
This Day of Wrath, this Endless Wail,
This dread Apocalypse!
Beside the ungathered rice he lay,
His sickle in his hand;
His breast was bare, his matted hair
Was buried in the sand.
Again, in the mist and shadow of sleep,
He saw his Native Land.
Wide through the landscape of his dreams
The lordly Niger flowed;
Beneath the palm-trees on the plain
Once more a king he strode;
And heard the tinkling caravans
Descend the mountain-road.
He saw once more his dark-eyed queen
Among her children stand;
They clasped his neck, they kissed his cheeks,
They held him by the hand!—
A tear burst from the sleeper’s lids
And fell into the sand.
And then at furious speed he rode
Along the Niger’s bank;
His bridle-reins were golden chains,
And, with a martial clank,
At each leap he could feel his scabbard of steel
Smiting his stallion’s flank.
Before him, like a blood-red flag,
The bright flamingoes flew;
From morn till night he followed their flight,
O’er plains where the tamarind grew,
Till he saw the roofs of Caffre huts,
And the ocean rose to view.
At night he heard the lion roar,
And the hyena scream,
And the river-horse, as he crushed the reeds
Beside some hidden stream;
And it passed, like a glorious roll of drums,
Through the triumph of his dream.
The forests, with their myriad tongues,
Shouted of liberty;
And the Blast of the Desert cried aloud,
With a voice so wild and free,
That he started in his sleep and smiled
At their tempestuous glee.
He did not feel the driver’s whip,
Nor the burning heat of day;
For Death had illumined the Land of Sleep,
And his lifeless body lay
A worn-out fetter, that the soul
Had broken and thrown away!
THAT SHALL NOT BE TAKEN AWAY
She dwells by Great Kenhawa’s side,
In valleys green and cool;
And all her hope and all her pride
Are in the village school.
Her soul, like the transparent air
That robes the hills above,
Though not of earth, encircles there
All things with arms of love.
And thus she walks among her girls
With praise and mild rebukes;
Subduing e’en rude village churls
By her angelic looks.
She reads to them at eventide
Of One who came to save;
To cast the captive’s chains aside
And liberate the slave.
And oft the blessed time foretells
When all men shall be free;
And musical, as silver bells,
Their falling chains shall be.
And following her beloved Lord,
In decent poverty,
She makes her life one sweet record
And deed of charity.
For she was rich, and gave up all
To break the iron bands
Of those who waited in her hall,
And labored in her lands.
Long since beyond the Southern Sea
Their outbound sails have sped,
While she, in meek humility,
Now earns her daily bread.
It is their prayers, which never cease,
That clothe her with such grace;
Their blessing is the light of peace
That shines upon her face.
In dark fens of the Dismal Swamp
The hunted Negro lay;
He saw the fire of the midnight camp,
And heard at times a horse’s tramp
And a bloodhound’s distant bay.
Where will-o’-the-wisps and glow-worms shine,
In bulrush and in brake;
Where waving mosses shroud the pine,
And the cedar grows, and the poisonous vine
Is spotted like the snake;
Where hardly a human foot could pass,
Or a human heart would dare,
On the quaking turf of the green morass
He crouched in the rank and tangled grass,
Like a wild beast in his lair.
A poor old slave, infirm and lame;
Great scars deformed his face;
On his forehead he bore the brand of shame,
And the rags, that hid his mangled frame,
Were the livery of disgrace.
All things above were bright and fair,
All things were glad and free;
Lithe squirrels darted here and there,
And wild birds filled the echoing air
With songs of Liberty!
On him alone was the doom of pain,
From the morning of his birth;
On him alone the curse of Cain
Fell, like a flail on the garnered grain,
And struck him to the earth!
Loud he sang the psalm of David!
He, a Negro and enslaved,
Sang of Israel’s victory,
Sang of Zion, bright and free.
In that hour, when night is calmest,
Sang he from the Hebrew Psalmist,
In a voice so sweet and clear
That I could not choose but hear,
Songs of triumph, and ascriptions,
Such as reached the swart Egyptians,
When upon the Red Sea coast
Perished Pharaoh and his host.
And the voice of his devotion
Filled my soul with strange emotion;
For its tones by turns were glad,
Sweetly solemn, wildly sad.
Paul and Silas, in their prison,
Sang of Christ, the Lord arisen,
And an earthquake’s arm of might
Broke their dungeon-gates at night.
But, alas! what holy angel
Brings the Slave this glad evangel?
And what earthquake’s arm of might
Breaks his dungeon-gates at night?
In Ocean’s wide domains,
Half buried in the sands,
Lie skeletons in chains,
With shackled feet and hands.
Beyond the fall of dews,
Deeper than plummet lies,
Float ships, with all their crews,
No more to sink nor rise.
There the black Slave-ship swims,
Freighted with human forms,
Whose fettered, fleshless limbs
Are not the sport of storms.
These are the bones of Slaves;
They gleam from the abyss;
They cry, from yawning waves,
“We are the Witnesses!”
Within Earth’s wide domains
Are markets for men’s lives;
Their necks are galled with chains,
Their wrists are cramped with gyves.
Dead bodies, that the kite
In deserts makes its prey;
Murders, that with affright
Scare school-boys from their play!
All evil thoughts and deeds;
Anger, and lust, and pride;
The foulest, rankest weeds,
That choke Life’s groaning tide!
These are the woes of Slaves;
They glare from the abyss;
They cry, from unknown graves,
“We are the Witnesses!
The Slaver in the broad lagoon
Lay moored with idle sail;
He waited for the rising moon,
And for the evening gale.
Under the shore his boat was tied,
And all her listless crew
Watched the gray alligator slide
Into the still bayou.
Odors of orange-flowers, and spice,
Reached them from time to time,
Like airs that breathe from Paradise
Upon a world of crime.
The Planter, under his roof of thatch,
Smoked thoughtfully and slow;
The Slaver’s thumb was on the latch,
He seemed in haste to go.
He said, “My ship at anchor rides
In yonder broad lagoon;
I only wait the evening tides,
And the rising of the moon.
Before them, with her face upraised,
In timid attitude,
Like one half curious, half amazed,
A Quadroon maiden stood.
Her eyes were large, and full of light,
Her arms and neck were bare;
No garment she wore save a kirtle bright,
And her own long, raven hair.
And on her lips there played a smile
As holy, meek, and faint,
As lights in some cathedral aisle
The features of a saint.
“The soil is barren,—the farm is
The thoughtful planter said;
Then looked upon the Slaver’s gold,
And then upon the maid.
His heart within him was at strife
With such accursed gains:
For he knew whose passions gave her life,
Whose blood ran in her veins.
But the voice of nature was too weak;
He took the glittering gold!
Then pale as death grew the maiden’s cheek,
Her hands as icy cold.
The Slaver led her from the door,
He led her by the hand,
To be his slave and paramour
In a strange and distant land!
Beware! The Israelite of old, who tore
The lion in his path,—when, poor and blind,
He saw the blessed light of heaven no more,
Shorn of his noble strength and forced to grind
In prison, and at last led forth to be
A pander to Philistine revelry,—
Upon the pillars of the temple laid
His desperate hands, and in its overthrow
Destroyed himself, and with him those who made
A cruel mockery of his sightless woe;
The poor, blind Slave, the scoff and jest of all,
Expired, and thousands perished in the fall!
There is a poor, blind Samson in this land,
Shorn of his strength and bound in bonds of steel,
Who may, in some grim revel, raise his hand,
And shake the pillars of this Commonweal,
Till the vast Temple of our liberties.
A shapeless mass of wreck and rubbish lies.
Hypolito Students of Alcala.
The count of Lara
don Carlos Gentlemen of Madrid.
The archbishop of Toledo.
Beltran Cruzado Count of the Gypsies.
Bartolome Roman A young Gypsy.
The padre Cura of Guadarrama.
Pedro Crespo Alcalde.
Francisco Lara’s Servant.
Chispa Victorian’s Servant.
Preciosa A Gypsy Girl.
Angelica A poor Girl.
Martina The Padre Cura’s Niece.
Dolores Preciosa’s Maid.
Gypsies, Musicians, etc.
Scene I.—The count of Lara’s chambers. Night. The count in his dressing-gown, smoking and conversing with don Carlos.
Lara. You were not at the play tonight, Don
How happened it?
Don C. I had engagements elsewhere.
Pray who was there?
Lara. Why all the town and court.
The house was crowded; and the busy fans
Among the gayly dressed and perfumed ladies
Fluttered like butterflies among the flowers.
There was the Countess of Medina Celi;
The Goblin Lady with her Phantom Lover,
Her Lindo Don Diego; Dona Sol,
And Dona Serafina, and her cousins.
Don C. What was the play?
Lara. It was a dull affair;
One of those comedies in which you see,
As Lope says, the history of the world
Brought down from Genesis to the Day of Judgment.
There were three duels fought in the first act,
Three gentlemen receiving deadly wounds,
Laying their hands upon their hearts, and saying,
“O, I am dead!” a lover in a closet,
An old hidalgo, and a gay Don Juan,
A Dona Inez with a black mantilla,
Followed at twilight by an unknown lover,
Who looks intently where he knows she is not!
Don C. Of course, the Preciosa danced to-night?
Lara. And never better. Every footstep
As lightly as a sunbeam on the water.
I think the girl extremely beautiful.
Don C. Almost beyond the privilege of woman!
I saw her in the Prado yesterday.
Her step was royal,—queen-like,—and her face
As beautiful as a saint’s in Paradise.
Lara. May not a saint fall from her Paradise,
And be no more a saint?
Don C. Why do you ask?
Lara. Because I have heard it said this angel
And though she is a virgin outwardly,
Within she is a sinner; like those panels
Of doors and altar-pieces the old monks
Painted in convents, with the Virgin Mary
On the outside, and on the inside Venus!
Don C. You do her wrong; indeed, you do her wrong!
She is as virtuous as she is fair.
Lara. How credulous you are! Why look
There’s not a virtuous woman in Madrid,
In this whole city! And would you persuade me
That a mere dancing-girl, who shows herself,
Nightly, half naked, on the stage, for money,
And with voluptuous motions fires the blood
Of inconsiderate youth, is to be held
A model for her virtue?
Don C. You forget
She is a Gypsy girl.
Lara. And therefore won
Don C. Nay, not to be won at all!
The only virtue that a Gypsy prizes
Is chastity. That is her only virtue.
Dearer than life she holds it. I remember
A Gypsy woman, a vile, shameless bawd,
Whose craft was to betray the young and fair;
And yet this woman was above all bribes.
And when a noble lord, touched by her beauty,
The wild and wizard beauty of her race,
Offered her gold to be what she made others,
She turned upon him, with a look of scorn,
And smote him in the face!
Lara. And does that prove
That Preciosa is above suspicion?
Don C. It proves a nobleman may be repulsed
When he thinks conquest easy. I believe
That woman, in her deepest degradation,
Holds something sacred, something undefiled,
Some pledge and keepsake of her higher nature,
And, like the diamond in the dark, retains
Some quenchless gleam of the celestial light!
Lara. Yet Preciosa would have taken the gold.
Don C. (rising). I do not think so.
Lara. I am sure of it.
But why this haste? Stay yet a little longer,
And fight the battles of your Dulcinea.
Don C. ’T is late. I must begone,
for if I stay
You will not be persuaded.
Lara. Yes; persuade me.
Don C. No one so deaf as he who will not hear!
Lara. No one so blind as he who will not see!
Don C. And so good night. I wish you pleasant
And greater faith in woman. [Exit.
Lara. Greater faith!
I have the greatest faith; for I believe
Victorian is her lover. I believe
That I shall be to-morrow; and thereafter
Another, and another, and another,
Chasing each other through her zodiac,
As Taurus chases Aries.
(Enter Francisco with a casket.)
What speed with Preciosa?
Fran. None, my lord.
She sends your jewels back, and bids me tell you
She is not to be purchased by your gold.
Lara. Then I will try some other way to win
Pray, dost thou know Victorian?
Fran. Yes, my lord;
I saw him at the jeweller’s to-day.
Lara. What was he doing there?
Fran. I saw him buy
A golden ring, that had a ruby in it.
Lara. Was there another like it?
Fran. One so like it
I could not choose between them.
Lara. It is well.
To-morrow morning bring that ring to me.
Do not forget. Now light me to my bed.
Scene ii. — A street in Madrid. Enter Chispa, followed by musicians, with a bagpipe, guitars, and other instruments.
Chispa. Abernuncio Satanas! and a plague on all lovers who ramble about at night, drinking the elements, instead of sleeping quietly in their beds. Every dead man to his cemetery, say I; and every friar to his monastery. Now, here’s my master, Victorian, yesterday a cow-keeper, and to-day a gentleman; yesterday a student, and to-day a lover; and I must be up later than the nightingale, for as the abbot sings so must the sacristan respond. God grant he may soon be married, for then shall all this serenading cease. Ay, marry! marry! marry! Mother, what does marry mean? It means to spin, to bear children, and to weep, my daughter! And, of a truth, there is something more in matrimony than the wedding-ring. (To the musicians.) And now, gentlemen, Pax vobiscum! as the ass said to the cabbages. Pray, walk this way; and don’t hang down your heads. It is no disgrace to have an old father and a ragged shirt. Now, look you, you are gentlemen who lead the life of crickets; you enjoy hunger by day and noise by night. Yet, I beseech you, for this once be not loud, but pathetic; for it is a serenade to a damsel in bed, and not to the Man in the Moon. Your object is not to arouse and terrify, but to soothe and bring lulling dreams. Therefore, each shall not play upon his instrument as if it were the only one in the universe, but gently, and with a certain modesty, according with the others. Pray, how may I call thy name, friend?
First Mus. Geronimo Gil, at your service.
Chispa. Every tub smells of the wine that is in it. Pray, Geronimo, is not Saturday an unpleasant day with thee?
First Mus. Why so?
Chispa. Because I have heard it said that Saturday is an unpleasant day with those who have but one shirt. Moreover, I have seen thee at the tavern, and if thou canst run as fast as thou canst drink, I should like to hunt hares with thee. What instrument is that?
First Mus. An Aragonese bagpipe.
Chispa. Pray, art thou related to the bagpiper of Bujalance, who asked a maravedi for playing, and ten for leaving off?
First Mus. No, your honor.
Chispa. I am glad of it. What other instruments have we?
Second and Third Musicians. We play the bandurria.
Chispa. A pleasing instrument. And thou?
Fourth Mus. The fife.
Chispa. I like it; it has a cheerful, soul-stirring sound, that soars up to my lady’s window like the song of a swallow. And you others?
Other Mus. We are the singers, please your honor.
Chispa. You are too many.
Do you think we are going to sing
mass in the cathedral of Cordova? Four men can make but little use of one shoe, and I see not how you can all sing in one song. But follow me along the garden wall. That is the way my master climbs to the lady’s window, it is by the Vicar’s skirts that the Devil climbs into the belfry. Come, follow me, and make no noise.
Scene III. — Preciosa’s chamber. She stands at the open window.
Prec. How slowly through the lilac-scented
Descends the tranquil moon! Like thistle-down
The vapory clouds float in the peaceful sky;
And sweetly from yon hollow vaults of shade
The nightingales breathe out their souls in song.
And hark! what songs of love, what soul-like sounds,
Answer them from below!
Stars of the summer night!
Far in yon azure deeps,
Hide, hide your golden light!
My lady sleeps!
Moon of the summer night!
Far down yon western steeps,
Sink, sink in silver light!
My lady sleeps!
Wind of the summer night!
Where yonder woodbine creeps,
Fold, fold thy pinions light!
My lady sleeps!
Dreams of the summer night!
Tell her, her lover keeps
Watch! while in slumbers light
My lady sleeps
(Enter Victorian by the balcony.)
Vict. Poor little dove! Thou tremblest like a leaf!
Prec. I am so frightened! ’T is
for thee I tremble!
I hate to have thee climb that wall by night!
Did no one see thee?
Vict. None, my love, but thou.
Prec. ’T is very dangerous; and when thou
I chide myself for letting thee come here
Thus stealthily by night. Where hast thou been?
Since yesterday I have no news from thee.
Vict. Since yesterday I have been in Alcala.
Erelong the time will come, sweet Preciosa,
When that dull distance shall no more divide us;
And I no more shall scale thy wall by night
To steal a kiss from thee, as I do now.
Prec. An honest thief, to steal but what thou givest.
Vict. And we shall sit together unmolested,
And words of true love pass from tongue to tongue,
As singing birds from one bough to another.
Prec. That were a life to make time envious!
I knew that thou wouldst come to me to-night.
I saw thee at the play.
Vict. Sweet child of air!
Never did I behold thee so attired
And garmented in beauty as to-night!
What hast thou done to make thee look so fair?
Prec. Am I not always fair?
Vict. Ay, and so fair
That I am jealous of all eyes that see thee,
And wish that they were blind.
Prec. I heed them not;
When thou art present, I see none but thee!
Vict. There’s nothing fair nor beautiful,
Something from thee, that makes it beautiful.
Prec. And yet thou leavest me for those dusty books.
Vict. Thou comest between me and those books
I see thy face in everything I see!
The paintings in the chapel wear thy looks,
The canticles are changed to sarabands,
And with the leaned doctors of the schools
I see thee dance cachuchas.
Prec. In good sooth,
I dance with learned doctors of the schools
Vict. And with whom, I pray?
Prec. A grave and reverend Cardinal, and his
The Archbishop of Toledo.
Vict. What mad jest
Prec. It is no jest; indeed it is not.
Vict. Prithee, explain thyself.
Prec. Why, simply thus.
Thou knowest the Pope has sent here into Spain
To put a stop to dances on the stage.
Vict. I have heard it whispered.
Prec. Now the Cardinal,
Who for this purpose comes, would fain behold
With his own eyes these dances; and the Archbishop
Has sent for me—
Vict. That thou mayst dance before them!
Now viva la cachucha! It will breathe
The fire of youth into these gray old men!
’T will be thy proudest conquest!
Prec. Saving one.
And yet I fear these dances will be stopped,
And Preciosa be once more a beggar.
Vict. The sweetest beggar that e’er
asked for alms;
With such beseeching eyes, that when I saw thee
I gave my heart away!
Prec. Dost thou remember
When first we met?
Vict. It was at Cordova,
In the cathedral garden. Thou wast sitting
Under the orange-trees, beside a fountain.
Prec. ’T was Easter-Sunday. The
Filled all the air with fragrance and with joy.
The priests were singing, and the organ sounded,
And then anon the great cathedral bell.
It was the elevation of the Host.
We both of us fell down upon our knees,
Under the orange boughs, and prayed together.
I never had been happy till that moment.
Vict. Thou blessed angel!
Prec. And when thou wast gone
I felt an acting here. I did not speak
To any one that day. But from that day
Bartolome grew hateful unto me.
Vict. Remember him no more. Let not
Come between thee and me. Sweet Preciosa!
I loved thee even then, though I was silent!
Prec. I thought I ne’er should see thy
Thy farewell had a sound of sorrow in it.
Vict. That was the first sound in the song
Scarce more than silence is, and yet a sound.
Hands of invisible spirits touch the strings
Of that mysterious instrument, the soul,
And play the prelude of our fate. We hear
The voice prophetic, and are not alone.
Prec. That is my faith. Dust thou believe these warnings?
Vict. So far as this. Our feelings and
Tend ever on, and rest not in the Present.
As drops of rain fall into some dark well,
And from below comes a scarce audible sound,
So fall our thoughts into the dark Hereafter,
And their mysterious echo reaches us.
Prec. I have felt it so, but found no words
to say it!
I cannot reason; I can only feel!
But thou hast language for all thoughts and feelings.
Thou art a scholar; and sometimes I think
We cannot walk together in this world!
The distance that divides us is too great!
Henceforth thy pathway lies among the stars;
I must not hold thee back.
Vict. Thou little sceptic!
Dost thou still doubt? What I most prize in woman
Is her affections, not her intellect!
The intellect is finite; but the affections
Are infinite, and cannot be exhausted.
Compare me with the great men of the earth;
What am I? Why, a pygmy among giants!
But if thou lovest,—mark me! I say lovest,
The greatest of thy sex excels thee not!
The world of the affections is thy world,
Not that of man’s ambition. In that stillness
Which most becomes a woman, calm and holy,
Thou sittest by the fireside of the heart,
Feeding its flame. The element of fire
Is pure. It cannot change nor hide its nature,
But burns as brightly in a Gypsy camp
As in a palace hall. Art thou convinced?
Prec. Yes, that I love thee, as the good love
But not that I am worthy of that heaven.
How shall I more deserve it?
Vict. Loving more.
Prec. I cannot love thee more; my heart is full.
Vict. Then let it overflow, and I will drink
As in the summer-time the thirsty sands
Drink the swift waters of the Manzanares,
And still do thirst for more.
A Watchman (in the street). Ave Maria
Purissima! ’T is midnight and serene!
Vict. Hear’st thou that cry?
Prec. It is a hateful sound,
To scare thee from me!
Vict. As the hunter’s horn
Doth scare the timid stag, or bark of hounds
The moor-fowl from his mate.
Prec. Pray, do not go!
Vict. I must away to Alcala to-night.
Think of me when I am away.
Prec. Fear not!
I have no thoughts that do not think of thee.
Vict. (giving her a ring).
And to remind thee of my love, take this;
A serpent, emblem of Eternity;
A ruby,—say, a drop of my heart’s blood.
Prec. It is an ancient saying, that the ruby
Brings gladness to the wearer, and preserves
The heart pure, and, if laid beneath the pillow,
Drives away evil dreams. But then, alas!
It was a serpent tempted Eve to sin.
Vict. What convent of barefooted
Taught thee so much theology?
Prec. (laying her hand upon his mouth). Hush!
Good night! and may all holy angels guard thee!
Vict. Good night! good night! Thou art
my guardian angel!
I have no other saint than thou to pray to!
(He descends by the balcony.)
Prec. Take care, and do not hurt thee. Art thou safe?
Vict. (from the garden).
Safe as my love for thee! But art thou safe?
Others can climb a balcony by moonlight
As well as I. Pray shut thy window close;
I am jealous of the perfumed air of night
That from this garden climbs to kiss thy lips.
Prec. (throwing down her handkerchief).
Thou silly child! Take this to blind thine eyes.
It is my benison!
Vict. And brings to me
Sweet fragrance from thy lips, as the soft wind
Wafts to the out-bound mariner the breath
Of the beloved land he leaves behind.
Prec. Make not thy voyage long.
Vict. To-morrow night
Shall see me safe returned. Thou art the star
To guide me to an anchorage. Good night!
My beauteous star! My star of love, good night!
Prec. Good night!
Watchman (at a distance). Ave Maria Purissima!
Scene IV. — An inn on the road to Alcala.
Baltasar asleep on a bench. Enter Chispa.
Chispa. And here we are, halfway to Alcala, between cocks and midnight. Body o’ me! what an inn this is! The lights out, and the landlord asleep. Hola! ancient Baltasar!
Bal. (waking). Here I am.
Chispa. Yes, there you are, like a one-eyed Alcalde in a town without inhabitants. Bring a light, and let me have supper.
Bal. Where is your master?
Chispo. Do not trouble yourself about him. We have stopped a moment to breathe our horses; and, if he chooses to walk up and down in the open air, looking into the sky as one who hears it rain, that does not satisfy my hunger, you know. But be quick, for I am in a hurry, and every man stretches his legs according to the length of his coverlet. What have we here?
Bal. (setting a light on the table). Stewed rabbit.
Chispa (eating). Conscience of Portalegre! Stewed kitten, you mean!
Bal. And a pitcher of Pedro Ximenes, with a roasted pear in it.
Chispa (drinking). Ancient Baltasar, amigo! You know how to cry wine and sell vinegar. I tell you this is nothing but Vino Tinto of La Mancha, with a tang of the swine-skin.
Bal. I swear to you by Saint Simon and Judas, it is all as I say.
Chispa. And I swear to you by Saint Peter and Saint Paul, that it is no such thing. Moreover, your supper is like the hidalgo’s dinner, very little meat and a great deal of tablecloth.
Bal. Ha! ha! ha!
Chispa. And more noise than nuts.
Bal. Ha! ha! ha! You must have your joke, Master Chispa. But shall I not ask Don Victorian in, to take a draught of the Pedro Ximenes?
Chispa. No; you might as well say, “Don’t-you-want-some?” to a dead man.
Bal. Why does he go so often to Madrid?
Chispa. For the same reason that he eats no supper. He is in love. Were you ever in love, Baltasar?
Bal. I was never out of it, good Chispa. It has been the torment of my life.
Chispa. What! are you on fire, too, old hay-stack? Why, we shall never be able to put you out.
Vict. (without). Chispa!
Chispa. Go to bed, Pero Grullo, for the cocks are crowing.
Vict. Ea! Chispa! Chispa!
Chispa. Ea! Senor.
Come with me, ancient Baltasar, and bring
water for the horses. I will pay for the supper tomorrow.
Scene V. — Victorian’s chambers at Alcala. Hypolito asleep in an arm-chair. He awakes slowly.
Hyp. I must have been asleep! ay, sound asleep!
And it was all a dream. O sleep, sweet sleep
Whatever form thou takest, thou art fair,
Holding unto our lips thy goblet filled
Out of Oblivion’s well, a healing draught!
The candles have burned low; it must be late.
Where can Victorian be? Like Fray Carrillo,
The only place in which one cannot find him
Is his own cell. Here’s his guitar, that seldom
Feels the caresses of its master’s hand.
Open thy silent lips, sweet instrument!
And make dull midnight merry with a song.
(He plays and sings.)
What do you want of Padre Francisco?
Here is a pretty young maiden
Who wants to confess her sins!
Open the door and let her come in,
I will shrive her from every sin.
Vict. Padre Hypolito! Padre Hypolito!
Hyp. What do you want of Padre Hypolito?
Vict. Come, shrive me straight; for, if love
be a sin,
I am the greatest sinner that doth live.
I will confess the sweetest of all crimes,
A maiden wooed and won.
Hyp. The same old tale
Of the old woman in the chimney-corner,
Who, while the pot boils, says, “Come here, my child;
I’ll tell thee a story of my wedding-day.”
Vict. Nay, listen, for my heart is full; so
That I must speak.
Hyp. Alas! that heart of thine
Is like a scene in the old play; the curtain
Rises to solemn music, and lo! enter
The eleven thousand virgins of Cologne!
Vict. Nay, like the Sibyl’s volumes,
thou shouldst say;
Those that remained, after the six were burned,
Being held more precious than the nine together.
But listen to my tale. Dost thou remember
The Gypsy girl we saw at Cordova
Dance the Romalis in the market-place?
Hyp. Thou meanest Preciosa.
Vict. Ay, the same.
Thou knowest how her image haunted me
Long after we returned to Alcala.
She’s in Madrid.
Hyp. I know it.
Vict. And I’m in love.
Hyp. And therefore in Madrid when thou shouldst
Vict. O pardon me, my friend,
If I so long have kept this secret from thee;
But silence is the charm that guards such treasures,
And, if a word be spoken ere the time,
They sink again, they were not meant for us.
Hyp. Alas! alas! I see thou art in love.
Love keeps the cold out better than a cloak.
It serves for food and raiment. Give a Spaniard
His mass, his olla, and his Dona Luisa—
Thou knowest the proverb. But pray tell me, lover,
How speeds thy wooing? Is the maiden coy?
Write her a song, beginning with an Ave;
Sing as the monk sang to the Virgin Mary,
Ave! cujus calcem clare
Nec centenni commendare
Sciret Seraph studio!
Vict. Pray, do not jest! This is no
time for it!
I am in earnest!
Hyp. Seriously enamored?
What, ho! The Primus of great Alcala
Enamored of a Gypsy? Tell me frankly,
How meanest thou?
Vict. I mean it honestly.
Hyp. Surely thou wilt not marry her!
Vict. Why not?
Hyp. She was betrothed to one Bartolome,
If I remember rightly, a young Gypsy
Who danced with her at Cordova.
Vict. They quarrelled,
And so the matter ended.
Hyp. But in truth
Thou wilt not marry her.
Vict. In truth I will.
The angels sang in heaven when she was born!
She is a precious jewel I have found
Among the filth and rubbish of the world.
I’ll stoop for it; but when I wear it here,
Set on my forehead like the morning star,
The world may wonder, but it will not laugh.
Hyp. If thou wear’st nothing else upon
’T will be indeed a wonder.
Vict. Out upon thee
With thy unseasonable jests! Pray tell me,
Is there no virtue in the world?
Hyp. Not much.
What, think’st thou, is she doing at this moment;
Now, while we speak of her?
Vict. She lies asleep,
And from her parted lips her gentle breath
Comes like the fragrance from the lips of flowers.
Her tender limbs are still, and on her breast
The cross she prayed to, ere she fell asleep,
Rises and falls with the soft tide of dreams,
Like a light barge safe moored.
Hyp. Which means, in prose,
She’s sleeping with her mouth a little open!
Vict. O, would I had the old magician’s
To see her as she lies in childlike sleep!
Hyp. And wouldst thou venture?
Vict. Ay, indeed I would!
Hyp. Thou art courageous. Hast thou
How much lies hidden in that one word, now?
Vict. Yes; all the awful mystery of Life!
I oft have thought, my dear Hypolito,
That could we, by some spell of magic, change
The world and its inhabitants to stone,
In the same attitudes they now are in,
What fearful glances downward might we cast
Into the hollow chasms of human life!
What groups should we behold about the death-bed,
Putting to shame the group of Niobe!
What joyful welcomes, and what sad farewells!
What stony tears in those congealed eyes!
What visible joy or anguish in those cheeks!
What bridal pomps, and what funereal shows!
What foes, like gladiators, fierce and struggling!
What lovers with their marble lips together!
Hyp. Ay, there it is! and, if I were in love,
That is the very point I most should dread.
This magic glass, these magic spells of thine,
Might tell a tale were better left untold.
For instance, they might show us thy fair cousin,
The Lady Violante, bathed in tears
Of love and anger, like the maid of Colchis,
Whom thou, another faithless Argonaut,
Having won that golden fleece, a woman’s love,
Desertest for this Glauce.
Vict. Hold thy peace!
She cares not for me. She may wed another,
Or go into a convent, and, thus dying,
Marry Achilles in the Elysian Fields.
Hyp. (rising). And so, good night! Good morning, I should say.
(Clock strikes three.)
Hark! how the loud and ponderous mace of Time
Knocks at the golden portals of the day!
And so, once more, good night! We’ll speak more largely
Of Preciosa when we meet again.
Get thee to bed, and the magician, Sleep,
Shall show her to thee, in his magic glass,
In all her loveliness. Good night!
Vict. Good night!
But not to bed; for I must read awhile.
(Throws himself into the arm-chair which Hypolito has left, and lays a large book open upon his knees.)
Must read, or sit in revery and watch
The changing color of the waves that break
Upon the idle sea-shore of the mind!
Visions of Fame! that once did visit me,
Making night glorious with your smile, where are ye?
O, who shall give me, now that ye are gone,
Juices of those immortal plants that bloom
Upon Olympus, making us immortal?
Or teach me where that wondrous mandrake grows
Whose magic root, torn from the earth with groans,
At midnight hour, can scare the fiends away,
(Gradually sinks asleep.)
Scene I. — Preciosa’s chamber. Morning. Preciosa and angelica.
Prec. Why will you go so soon? Stay
The poor too often turn away unheard
From hearts that shut against them with a sound
That will be heard in heaven. Pray, tell me more
Of your adversities. Keep nothing from me.
What is your landlord’s name?
Ang. The Count of Lara.
Prec. The Count of Lara? O, beware that
Mistrust his pity,—hold no parley with him!
And rather die an outcast in the streets
Than touch his gold.
Ang. You know him, then!
Prec. As much
As any woman may, and yet be pure.
As you would keep your name without a blemish,
Beware of him!
Ang. Alas! what can I do?
I cannot choose my friends. Each word of kindness,
Come whence it may, is welcome to the poor.
Prec. Make me your friend. A girl so
young and fair
Should have no friends but those of her own sex.
What is your name?
Prec. That name
Was given you, that you might be an angel
To her who bore you! When your infant smile
Made her home Paradise, you were her angel.
O, be an angel still! She needs that smile.
So long as you are innocent, fear nothing.
No one can harm you! I am a poor girl,
Whom chance has taken from the public streets.
I have no other shield than mine own virtue.
That is the charm which has protected me!
Amid a thousand perils, I have worn it
Here on my heart! It is my guardian angel.
Ang. (rising). I thank you for this counsel, dearest lady.
Prec. Thank me by following it.
Ang. Indeed I will.
Prec. Pray, do not go. I have much more to say.
Ang. My mother is alone. I dare not leave her.
Prec. Some other time, then, when we meet
You must not go away with words alone.
(Gives her a purse.)
Take this. Would it were more.
Ang. I thank you, lady.
Prec. No thanks. To-morrow come to me
I dance to-night,—perhaps for the last time.
But what I gain, I promise shall be yours,
If that can save you from the Count of Lara.
Ang. O, my dear lady! how shall I be grateful
For so much kindness?
Prec. I deserve no thanks,
Thank Heaven, not me.
Ang. Both Heaven and you.
Remember that you come again tomorrow.
Ang. I will. And may the Blessed Virgin
And all good angels. [Exit.
Prec. May they guard thee too,
And all the poor; for they have need of angels.
Now bring me, dear Dolores, my basquina,
My richest maja dress,—my dancing dress,
And my most precious jewels! Make me look
Fairer than night e’er saw me! I’ve a prize
To win this day, worthy of Preciosa!
(Enter Beltran Cruzado.)
Cruz. Ave Maria!
Prec. O God! my evil genius!
What seekest thou here to-day?
Cruz. Thyself,—my child.
Prec. What is thy will with me?
Cruz. Gold! gold!
Prec. I gave thee yesterday; I have no more.
Cruz. The gold of the Busne,—give me his gold!
Prec. I gave the last in charity to-day.
Cruz. That is a foolish lie.
Prec. It is the truth.
Cruz. Curses upon thee! Thou art not
Hast thou given gold away, and not to me?
Not to thy father? To whom, then?
Prec. To one
Who needs it more.
Cruz. No one can need it more.
Prec. Thou art not poor.
Cruz. What, I, who lurk about
In dismal suburbs and unwholesome lanes
I, who am housed worse than the galley slave;
I, who am fed worse than the kennelled hound;
I, who am clothed in rags,—Beltran Cruzado,—
Prec. Thou hast a stout heart and strong hands.
Thou canst supply thy wants; what wouldst thou more?
Cruz. The gold of the Busne! give me his gold!
Prec. Beltran Cruzado! hear me once for all.
I speak the truth. So long as I had gold,
I gave it to thee freely, at all times,
Never denied thee; never had a wish
But to fulfil thine own. Now go in peace!
Be merciful, be patient, and ere long
Thou shalt have more.
Cruz. And if I have it not,
Thou shalt no longer dwell here in rich chambers,
Wear silken dresses, feed on dainty food,
And live in idleness; but go with me,
Dance the Romalis in the public streets,
And wander wild again o’er field and fell;
For here we stay not long.
Prec. What! march again?
Cruz. Ay, with all speed. I hate the
I cannot breathe shut up within its gates
Air,—I want air, and sunshine, and blue sky,
The feeling of the breeze upon my face,
The feeling of the turf beneath my feet,
And no walls but the far-off mountain-tops.
Then I am free and strong,—once more myself,
Beltran Cruzado, Count of the Cales!
Prec. God speed thee on thy march!—I cannot go.
Cruz. Remember who I am, and who thou art
Be silent and obey! Yet one thing more.
Prec. (with emotion). O, I beseech thee
If my obedience and blameless life,
If my humility and meek submission
In all things hitherto, can move in thee
One feeling of compassion; if thou art
Indeed my father, and canst trace in me
One look of her who bore me, or one tone
That doth remind thee of her, let it plead
In my behalf, who am a feeble girl,
Too feeble to resist, and do not force me
To wed that man! I am afraid of him!
I do not love him! On my knees I beg thee
To use no violence, nor do in haste
What cannot be undone!
Cruz. O child, child, child!
Thou hast betrayed thy secret, as a bird
Betrays her nest, by striving to conceal it.
I will not leave thee here in the great city
To be a grandee’s mistress. Make thee ready
To go with us; and until then remember
A watchful eye is on thee. [Exit.
Prec. Woe is me!
I have a strange misgiving in my heart!
But that one deed of charity I’ll do,
Befall what may; they cannot take that from me.
Scene ii — A room in the ARCHBISHOP’S Palace. The archbishop and a Cardinal seated.
Arch. Knowing how near it touched the public
And that our age is grown corrupt and rotten
By such excesses, we have sent to Rome,
Beseeching that his Holiness would aid
In curing the gross surfeit of the time,
By seasonable stop put here in Spain
To bull-fights and lewd dances on the stage.
All this you know.
Card. Know and approve.
Arch. And further,
That, by a mandate from his Holiness,
The first have been suppressed.
Card. I trust forever.
It was a cruel sport.
Arch. A barbarous pastime,
Disgraceful to the land that calls itself
Most Catholic and Christian.
Card. Yet the people
Murmur at this; and, if the public dances
Should be condemned upon too slight occasion,
Worse ills might follow than the ills we cure.
As Panem et Circenses was the cry
Among the Roman populace of old,
So Pan y Toros is the cry in Spain.
Hence I would act advisedly herein;
And therefore have induced your Grace to see
These national dances, ere we interdict them.
(Enter a Servant)
Serv. The dancing-girl, and with her the musicians
Your Grace was pleased to order, wait without.
Arch. Bid them come in. Now shall your
In what angelic, yet voluptuous shape
The Devil came to tempt Saint Anthony.
(Enter Preciosa, with a mantle thrown over her head. She advances slowly, in modest, half-timid attitude.)
Card. (aside). O, what a fair and ministering
Was lost to heaven when this sweet woman fell!
Prec. (kneeling before the archbishop).
I have obeyed the order of your Grace.
If I intrude upon your better hours,
I proffer this excuse, and here beseech
Your holy benediction.
Arch. May God bless thee,
And lead thee to a better life. Arise.
Card. (aside). Her acts are modest, and her
I did not look for this! Come hither, child.
Is thy name Preciosa?
Prec. Thus I am called.
Card. That is a Gypsy name. Who is thy father?
Prec. Beltran Cruzado, Count of the Cales.
Arch. I have a dim remembrance of that man:
He was a bold and reckless character,
A sun-burnt Ishmael!
Card. Dost thou remember
Thy earlier days?
Prec. Yes; by the Darro’s side
My childhood passed. I can remember still
The river, and the mountains capped with snow
The village, where, yet a little child,
I told the traveller’s fortune in the street;
The smuggler’s horse, the brigand and the shepherd;
The march across the moor; the halt at noon;
The red fire of the evening camp, that lighted
The forest where we slept; and, further back,
As in a dream or in some former life,
Gardens and palace walls.
Arch. ’T is the Alhambra,
Under whose towers the Gypsy camp was pitched.
But the time wears; and we would see thee dance.
Prec. Your Grace shall be obeyed.
(She lays aside her mantilla. The music of the cachucha is played, and the dance begins. The archbishop and the Cardinal look on with gravity and an occasional frown; then make signs to each other; and, as the dance continues, become more and more pleased and excited; and at length rise from their seats, throw their caps in the air, and applaud vehemently as the scene closes.)
Scene III. — The Prado. A long avenue of trees leading to the gate of Atocha. On the right the dome and spires of a convent. A fountain. Evening, don Carlos and Hypolito meeting.
Don C. Hola! good evening, Don Hypolito.
Hyp. And a good evening to my friend, Don Carlos. Some lucky star has led my steps this way. I was in search of you.
Don. C. Command me always.
Hyp. Do you remember, in Quevedo’s Dreams,
The miser, who, upon the Day of Judgment,
Asks if his money-bags would rise?
Don C. I do;
But what of that?
Hyp. I am that wretched man.
Don C. You mean to tell me yours have risen empty?
Hyp. And amen! said my Cid the Campeador.
Don C. Pray, how much need you?
Hyp. Some half-dozen ounces,
Which, with due interest—
Don C. (giving his purse). What, am I a Jew
To put my moneys out at usury?
Here is my purse.
Hyp. Thank you. A pretty purse.
Made by the hand of some fair Madrilena;
Perhaps a keepsake.
Don C. No, ’t is at your service.
Hyp. Thank you again. Lie there, good
And with thy golden mouth remind me often,
I am the debtor of my friend.
Don C. But tell me,
Come you to-day from Alcala?
Hyp. This moment.
Don C. And pray, how fares the brave Victorian?
Hyp. Indifferent well; that is to say, not
A damsel has ensnared him with the glances
Of her dark, roving eyes, as herdsmen catch
A steer of Andalusia with a lazo.
He is in love.
Don C. And is it faring ill
To be in love?
Hyp. In his case very ill.
Don C. Why so?
Hyp. For many reasons. First and foremost,
Because he is in love with an ideal;
A creature of his own imagination;
A child of air; an echo of his heart;
And, like a lily on a river floating,
She floats upon the river of his thoughts!
Don C. A common thing with poets. But who
This floating lily? For, in fine, some woman,
Some living woman,—not a mere ideal,—
Must wear the outward semblance of his thought.
Who is it? Tell me.
Hyp. Well, it is a woman!
But, look you, from the coffer of his heart
He brings forth precious jewels to adorn her,
As pious priests adorn some favorite saint
With gems and gold, until at length she gleams
One blaze of glory. Without these, you know,
And the priest’s benediction, ’t is a doll.
Don C. Well, well! who is this doll?
Hyp. Why, who do you think?
Don C. His cousin Violante.
Hyp. Guess again.
To ease his laboring heart, in the last storm
He threw her overboard, with all her ingots.
Don C. I cannot guess; so tell me who it is.
Hyp. Not I.
Don. C. Why not?
Hyp. (mysteriously). Why? Because Mari
Was married four leagues out of Salamanca!
Don C. Jesting aside, who is it?
Don C. Impossible! The Count of Lara tells
She is not virtuous.
Hyp. Did I say she was?
The Roman Emperor Claudius had a wife
Whose name was Messalina, as I think;
Valeria Messalina was her name.
But hist! I see him yonder through the trees,
Walking as in a dream.
Don C. He comes this way.
Hyp. It has been truly said by some wise man,
That money, grief, and love cannot be hidden.
(Enter Victorian in front.)
Vict. Where’er thy step has passed is
These groves are sacred! I behold thee walking
Under these shadowy trees, where we have walked
At evening, and I feel thy presence now;
Feel that the place has taken a charm from thee,
And is forever hallowed.
Hyp. Mark him well!
See how he strides away with lordly air,
Like that odd guest of stone, that grim Commander
Who comes to sup with Juan in the play.
Don C. What ho! Victorian!
Hyp. Wilt thou sup with us?
Vict. Hola! amigos! Faith, I did not
How fares Don Carlos?
Don C. At your service ever.
Vict. How is that young and green-eyed Gaditana
That you both wot of?
Don C. Ay, soft, emerald eyes!
She has gone back to Cadiz.
Hyp. Ay de mi!
Vict. You are much to blame for letting her
A pretty girl; and in her tender eyes
Just that soft shade of green we sometimes see
In evening skies.
Hyp. But, speaking of green eyes,
Are thine green?
Vict. Not a whit. Why so?
Hyp. I think
The slightest shade of green would be becoming,
For thou art jealous.
Vid. No, I am not jealous.
Hyp. Thou shouldst be.
Hyp. Because thou art in love.
And they who are in love are always jealous.
Therefore thou shouldst be.
Vict. Marry, is that all?
Farewell; I am in haste. Farewell, Don Carlos.
Thou sayest I should be jealous?
Hyp. Ay, in truth
I fear there is reason. Be upon thy guard.
I hear it whispered that the Count of Lara
Lays siege to the same citadel.
Then he will have his labor for his pains.
Hyp. He does not think so, and Don Carlos
He boasts of his success.
Vict. How’s this, Don Carlos?
Don. C. Some hints of it I heard from his
He spoke but lightly of the lady’s virtue,
As a gay man might speak.
Vict. Death and damnation!
Hyp. Now what a coil is here! The Avenging Child
Scene IV. — Preciosa’s chamber. She is sitting, with a book in her hand, near a table, on which are flowers. A bird singing in its cage. The count of Lara enters behind unperceived.
All are sleeping, weary heart!
Thou, thou only sleepless art!
Heigho! I wish Victorian were here.
I know not what it is makes me so restless!
(The bird sings.)
Thou little prisoner with thy motley coat,
That from thy vaulted, wiry dungeon singest,
Like thee I am a captive, and, like thee,
I have a gentle jailer. Lack-a-day!
All are sleeping, weary
Thou, thou only sleepless art!
All this throbbing, all this aching,
Evermore shall keep thee waking,
For a heart in sorrow breaking
Thinketh ever of its smart!
Thou speakest truly, poet! and methinks
More hearts are breaking in this world of ours
Than one would say. In distant villages
And solitudes remote, where winds have wafted
The barbed seeds of love, or birds of passage
Scattered them in their flight, do they take root,
And grow in silence, and in silence perish.
Who hears the falling of the forest leaf?
Or who takes note of every flower that dies?
Heigho! I wish Victorian would come.
(Turns to lay down her boot and perceives the count.)
Lara. Senora, pardon me.
Prec. How’s this? Dolores!
Lara. Pardon me—
Lara. Be not alarmed; I found no one in waiting.
If I have been too bold—
Prec. (turning her back upon him). You are
Retire! retire, and leave me!
Lara. My dear lady,
First hear me! I beseech you, let me speak!
’T is for your good I come.
Prec. (turning toward him with indignation).
You are the Count of Lara, but your deeds
Would make the statues of your ancestors
Blush on their tombs! Is it Castilian honor,
Is it Castilian pride, to steal in here
Upon a friendless girl, to do her wrong?
O shame! shame! shame! that you, a nobleman,
Should be so little noble in your thoughts
As to send jewels here to win my love,
And think to buy my honor with your gold!
I have no words to tell you how I scorn you!
Begone! The sight of you is hateful to me!
Begone, I say!
Lara. Be calm; I will not harm you.
Prec. Because you dare not.
Lara. I dare anything!
Therefore beware! You are deceived in me.
In this false world, we do not always know
Who are our friends and who our enemies.
We all have enemies, and all need friends.
Even you, fair Preciosa, here at court
Have foes, who seek to wrong you.
Prec. If to this
I owe the honor of the present visit,
You might have spared the coming. Raving spoken,
Once more I beg you, leave me to myself.
Lara. I thought it but a friendly part to
What strange reports are current here in town.
For my own self, I do not credit them;
But there are many who, not knowing you,
Will lend a readier ear.
Prec. There was no need
That you should take upon yourself the duty
Of telling me these tales.
Lara. Malicious tongues
Are ever busy with your name.
I’ve no protectors. I am a poor girl,
Exposed to insults and unfeeling jests.
They wound me, yet I cannot shield myself.
I give no cause for these reports. I live
Retired; am visited by none.
Lara. By none?
O, then, indeed, you are much wronged!
Prec. How mean you?
Lara. Nay, nay; I will not wound your gentle
By the report of idle tales.
Prec. Speak out!
What are these idle tales? You need not spare me.
Lara. I will deal frankly with you.
This window, as I think, looks toward the street,
And this into the Prado, does it not?
In yon high house, beyond the garden wall,—
You see the roof there just above the trees,—
There lives a friend, who told me yesterday,
That on a certain night,—be not offended
If I too plainly speak,—he saw a man
Climb to your chamber window. You are silent!
I would not blame you, being young and fair—
(He tries to embrace her. She starts back, and draws a dagger from her bosom.)
Prec. Beware! beware! I am a Gypsy girl!
Lay not your hand upon me. One step nearer
And I will strike!
Lara. Pray you, put up that dagger.
Prec. I do not fear. I have a heart
In whose strength I can trust.
Lara. Listen to me
I come here as your friend,—I am your friend,—
And by a single word can put a stop
To all those idle tales, and make your name
Spotless as lilies are. Here on my knees,
Fair Preciosa! on my knees I swear,
I love you even to madness, and that love
Has driven me to break the rules of custom,
And force myself unasked into your presence.
(Victorian enters behind.)
Prec. Rise, Count of Lara! That is not
For such as you are. It becomes you not
To kneel before me. I am strangely moved
To see one of your rank thus low and humbled;
For your sake I will put aside all anger,
All unkind feeling, all dislike, and speak
In gentleness, as most becomes a woman,
And as my heart now prompts me. I no more
Will hate you, for all hate is painful to me.
But if, without offending modesty
And that reserve which is a woman’s glory,
I may speak freely, I will teach my heart
To love you.
Lara. O sweet angel!
Prec. Ay, in truth,
Far better than you love yourself or me.
Lara. Give me some sign of this,—the
Let me but kiss your hand!
Prec. Nay, come no nearer.
The words I utter are its sign and token.
Misunderstand me not! Be not deceived!
The love wherewith I love you is not such
As you would offer me. For you come here
To take from me the only thing I have,
My honor. You are wealthy, you have friends
And kindred, and a thousand pleasant hopes
That fill your heart with happiness; but I
Am poor, and friendless, having but one treasure,
And you would take that from me, and for what?
To flatter your own vanity, and make me
What you would most despise. O sir, such love,
That seeks to harm me, cannot be true love.
Indeed it cannot. But my love for you
Is of a different kind. It seeks your good.
It is a holier feeling. It rebukes
Your earthly passion, your unchaste desires,
And bids you look into your heart, and see
How you do wrong that better nature in you,
And grieve your soul with sin.
Lara. I swear to you,
I would not harm you; I would only love you.
I would not take your honor, but restore it,
And in return I ask but some slight mark
Of your affection. If indeed you love me,
As you confess you do, O let me thus
With this embrace—
Vict. (rushing forward). Hold! hold!
This is too much.
What means this outrage?
Lara. First, what right have you
To question thus a nobleman of Spain?
Vict. I too am noble, and you are no more!
Out of my sight!
Lara. Are you the master here?
Vict. Ay, here and elsewhere, when the wrong
Gives me the right!
Prec. (to Lara). Go! I beseech you, go!
Vict. I shall have business with you, Count, anon!
Lara. You cannot come too soon!
O, we have been betrayed!
Vict. Ha! ha! betrayed!
’T is I have been betrayed, not we!—not we!
Prec. Dost thou imagine—
Vict. I imagine nothing;
I see how ’t is thou whilest the time away
When I am gone!
Prec. O speak not in that tone!
It wounds me deeply.
Vict. ’T was not meant to flatter.
Prec. Too well thou knowest the presence of
Is hateful to me!
Vict. Yet I saw thee stand
And listen to him, when he told his love.
Prec. I did not heed his words.
Vict. Indeed thou didst,
And answeredst them with love.
Prec. Hadst thou heard all—
Vict. I heard enough.
Prec. Be not so angry with me.
Vict. I am not angry; I am very calm.
Prec. If thou wilt let me speak—
Vict. Nay, say no more.
I know too much already. Thou art false!
I do not like these Gypsy marriages!
Where is the ring I gave thee?
Prec. In my casket.
Vict. There let it rest! I would not
have thee wear it:
I thought thee spotless, and thou art polluted!
Prec. I call the Heavens to witness—
Vict. Nay, nay, nay!
Take not the name of Heaven upon thy lips!
They are forsworn!
Prec. Victorian! dear Victorian!
Vict. I gave up all for thee; myself, my fame,
My hopes of fortune, ay, my very soul!
And thou hast been my ruin! Now, go on!
Laugh at my folly with thy paramour,
And, sitting on the Count of Lara’s knee,
Say what a poor, fond fool Victorian was!
(He casts her from him and rushes out.)
Prec. And this from thee!
Scene V. — The count of Lara’s rooms. Enter the count.
Lara. There’s nothing in this world
so sweet as love,
And next to love the sweetest thing is hate!
I’ve learned to hate, and therefore am revenged.
A silly girl to play the prude with me!
The fire that I have kindled—
What tidings from Don Juan?
Fran. Good, my lord;
He will be present.
Lara. And the Duke of Lermos?
Fran. Was not at home.
Lara. How with the rest?
Fran. I’ve found
The men you wanted. They will all be there,
And at the given signal raise a whirlwind
Of such discordant noises, that the dance
Must cease for lack of music.
Lara. Bravely done.
Ah! little dost thou dream, sweet Preciosa,
What lies in wait for thee. Sleep shall not close
Thine eyes this night! Give me my cloak and sword. [Exeunt.
Scene vi. — A retired spot beyond
the city gates. Enter
Victorian and Hypolito.
Vict. O shame! O shame! Why do
I walk abroad
By daylight, when the very sunshine mocks me,
And voices, and familiar sights and sounds
Cry, “Hide thyself!” O what a thin partition
Doth shut out from the curious world the knowledge
Of evil deeds that have been done in darkness!
Disgrace has many tongues. My fears are windows,
Through which all eyes seem gazing. Every face
Expresses some suspicion of my shame,
And in derision seems to smile at me!
Hyp. Did I not caution thee? Did I not
I was but half persuaded of her virtue?
Vict. And yet, Hypolito, we may be wrong,
We may be over-hasty in condemning!
The Count of Lara is a cursed villain.
Hyp. And therefore is she cursed, loving him.
Vid. She does not love him! ’T is for gold! for gold!
Hyp. Ay, but remember, in the public streets
He shows a golden ring the Gypsy gave him,
A serpent with a ruby in its mouth.
Vict. She had that ring from me! God!
she is false!
But I will be revenged! The hour is passed.
Where stays the coward?
Hyp. Nay, he is no coward;
A villain, if thou wilt, but not a coward.
I’ve seen him play with swords; it is his pastime.
And therefore be not over-confident,
He’ll task thy skill anon. Look, here he comes.
(Enter Lara followed by FRNANCISCO)
Lara. Good evening, gentlemen.
Hyp. Good evening, Count.
Lara. I trust I have not kept you long in waiting.
Vict. Not long, and yet too long. Are you prepared?
Lara. I am.
Hyp. It grieves me much to see this quarrel
Between you, gentlemen. Is there no way
Left open to accord this difference,
But you must make one with your swords?
Vict. No! none!
I do entreat thee, dear Hypolito,
Stand not between me an my foe. Too long
Our tongues have spoken. Let these tongues of steel
End our debate. Upon your guard, Sir Count.
(They fight. Victorian disarms the count.)
Your life is mine; and what shall now withhold me
From sending your vile soul to its account?
Lara. Strike! strike!
Vict. You are disarmed. I will not
I will not murder you. Take up your sword.
(Francisco hands the count his sword, and Hypolito interposes.)
Hyp. Enough! Let it end here!
The Count of Lara
Has shown himself a brave man, and Victorian
A generous one, as ever. Now be friends.
Put up your swords; for, to speak frankly to you,
Your cause of quarrel is too slight a thing
To move you to extremes.
Lara. I am content,
I sought no quarrel. A few hasty words,
Spoken in the heat of blood, have led to this.
Vict. Nay, something more than that.
Lara. I understand you.
Therein I did not mean to cross your path.
To me the door stood open, as to others.
But, had I known the girl belonged to you,
Never would I have sought to win her from you.
The truth stands now revealed; she has been false
To both of us.
Vict. Ay, false as hell itself!
Lara. In truth, I did not seek her; she sought
And told me how to win her, telling me
The hours when she was oftenest left alone.
Vict. Say, can you prove this to me?
O, pluck out
These awful doubts, that goad me into madness!
Let me know all! all! all!
Lara. You shall know all.
Here is my page, who was the messenger
Between us. Question him. Was it not so,
Fran. Ay, my lord.
Lara. If further proof
Is needful, I have here a ring she gave me.
Vict. Pray let me see that ring! It is the same!
(Throws it upon the ground, and tramples upon it.)
Thus may she perish who once wore that ring!
Thus do I spurn her from me; do thus trample
Her memory in the dust! O Count of Lara,
We both have been abused, been much abused!
I thank you for your courtesy and frankness.
Though, like the surgeon’s hand, yours gave me pain,
Yet it has cured my blindness, and I thank you.
I now can see the folly I have done,
Though ’t is, alas! too late. So fare you well!
To-night I leave this hateful town forever.
Regard me as your friend. Once more farewell!
Hyp. Farewell, Sir Count.
[Exeunt Victorian and Hypolito.
Lara. Farewell! farewell! farewell! Thus have I cleared the field of my worst foe! I have none else to fear; the fight is done, The citadel is stormed, the victory won!
[Exit with Francisco.
Scene VII. — A lane in the suburbs.
Night. Enter Cruzado and
Cruz. And so, Bartolome, the expedition failed. But where wast thou for the most part?
Bart. In the Guadarrama mountains, near San Ildefonso.
Cruz. And thou bringest nothing back with thee? Didst thou rob no one?
Bart. There was no one to rob, save a party of students from Segovia, who looked as if they would rob us; and a jolly little friar, who had nothing in his pockets but a missal and a loaf of bread.
Cruz. Pray, then, what brings thee back to Madrid?
Bart. First tell me what keeps thee here?
Bart. And she brings me back. Hast thou forgotten thy promise?
Cruz. The two years are not passed yet. Wait patiently. The girl shall be thine.
Bart. I hear she has a Busne lover.
Cruz. That is nothing.
Bart. I do not like it. I hate him,—the son of a Busne harlot. He goes in and out, and speaks with her alone, and I must stand aside, and wait his pleasure.
Cruz. Be patient, I say. Thou shalt have thy revenge. When the time comes, thou shalt waylay him.
Bart. Meanwhile, show me her house.
Cruz. Come this way. But thou wilt not find her. She dances at the play to-night.
Bart. No matter. Show me the
Scene VIII. — The Theatre. The orchestra plays the cachucha. Sound of castanets behind the scenes. The curtain rises, and discovers Preciosa in the attitude of commencing the dance. The cachucha. Tumult; hisses; cries of “Brava!” and “Afuera!” She falters and pauses. The music stops. General confusion. Preciosa faints.
Scene IX. — The count of Lara’s chambers. Lara and his friends at supper.
Lara. So, Caballeros, once more many thanks! You have stood by me bravely in this matter. Pray fill your glasses.
Don J. Did you mark, Don Luis,
How pale she looked, when first the noise began,
And then stood still, with her large eyes dilated!
Her nostrils spread! her lips apart! Her bosom
Tumultuous as the sea!
Don L. I pitied her.
Lara. Her pride is humbled; and this very
I mean to visit her.
Don J. Will you serenade her?
Lara. No music! no more music!
Don L. Why not music?
It softens many hearts.
Lara. Not in the humor
She now is in. Music would madden her.
Don J. Try golden cymbals.
Don L. Yes, try Don Dinero;
A mighty wooer is your Don Dinero.
Lara. To tell the truth, then, I have bribed
But, Caballeros, you dislike this wine.
A bumper and away; for the night wears.
A health to Preciosa.
(They rise and drink.)
Lara. (holding up his glass).
Thou bright and flaming minister of Love!
Thou wonderful magician! who hast stolen
My secret from me, and mid sighs of passion
Caught from my lips, with red and fiery tongue,
Her precious name! O nevermore henceforth
Shall mortal lips press thine; and nevermore
A mortal name be whispered in thine ear.
Go! keep my secret!
(Drinks and dashes the goblet down.)
Don J. Ite! missa est!
Scene X. — Street and garden wall.
Night. Enter Cruzado and
Cruz. This is the garden wall, and above it, yonder, is her house. The window in which thou seest the light is her window. But we will not go in now.
Bart. Why not?
Cruz. Because she is not at home.
Bart. No matter; we can wait. But how is this? The gate is bolted. (Sound of guitars and voices in a neighboring street.) Hark! There comes her lover with his infernal serenade! Hark!
Good night! Good night, beloved!
I come to watch o’er thee!
To be near thee,—to be near thee,
Alone is peace for me.
Thine eyes are stars of morning,
Thy lips are crimson flowers!
Good night! Good night beloved,
While I count the weary hours.
Cruz. They are not coming this way.
Bart. Wait, they begin again.
Song (coming nearer).
Ah! thou moon that shinest
All night long enlighten
My sweet lady-love!
Moon that shinest,
All night long enlighten!
Bart. Woe be to him, if he comes this way!
Cruz. Be quiet, they are passing down the street.
Song (dying away).
The nuns in the cloister
Sang to each other;
For so many sisters
Is there not one brother!
Ay, for the partridge, mother!
The cat has run away with the partridge!
Puss! puss! puss!
Bart. Follow that! follow that!
Come with me. Puss! puss!
(Exeunt. On the opposite side enter the count of Lara and gentlemen, with Francisco.)
Lara. The gate is fast. Over the wall,
And draw the bolt. There, so, and so, and over.
Now, gentlemen, come in, and help me scale
Yon balcony. How now? Her light still burns.
Move warily. Make fast the gate, Francisco.
(Exeunt. Re-enter Cruzado and Bartolome.)
Bart. They went in at the gate. Hark! I hear them in the garden. (Tries the gate.) Bolted again! Vive Cristo! Follow me over the wall.
(They climb the wall.)
Scene XI. — Preciosa’s bedchamber. Midnight. She is sleeping in an armchair, in an undress. Dolores watching her.
Dol. She sleeps at last!
(Opens the window, and listens.)
All silent in the street,
And in the garden. Hark!
Prec. (in her sleep). I must go hence!
Give me my cloak!
Dol. He comes! I hear his footsteps.
Prec. Go tell them that I cannot dance to-night;
I am too ill! Look at me! See the fever
That burns upon my cheek! I must go hence.
I am too weak to dance.
(Signal from the garden.)
Dol. (from the window). Who’s there?
Voice (from below). A friend.
Dol. I will undo the door. Wait till I come.
Prec. I must go hence. I pray you do
not harm me!
Shame! shame! to treat a feeble woman thus!
Be you but kind, I will do all things for you.
I’m ready now,—give me my castanets.
Where is Victorian? Oh, those hateful lamps!
They glare upon me like an evil eye.
I cannot stay. Hark! how they mock at me!
They hiss at me like serpents! Save me! save me!
How late is it, Dolores?
Dol. It is midnight.
Prec. We must be patient. Smooth this pillow for me.
(She sleeps again. Noise from the garden, and voices.)
Another Voice. O villains! villains!
Lara. So! have at you!
Voice. Take that!
Lara. O, I am wounded!
Dol. (shutting the window). Jesu Maria!
Scene I. — A cross-road through a wood. In the background a distant village spire. Victorian and Hypolito, as travelling students, with guitars, sitting under the trees. Hypolito plays and sings.
Perjured, false, treacherous Love!
Of all that mankind may not rue!
To him who keeps most faith with thee.
Woe is me!
The falcon has the eyes of the dove.
Perjured, false, treacherous Love!
Vict. Yes, Love is ever busy with his shuttle,
Is ever weaving into life’s dull warp
Bright, gorgeous flowers and scenes Arcadian;
Hanging our gloomy prison-house about
With tapestries, that make its walls dilate
In never-ending vistas of delight.
Hyp. Thinking to walk in those Arcadian pastures,
Thou hast run thy noble head against the wall.
Give us clearly to comprehend,
All thy pleasures, all thy sweets!
They are cheats,
Thorns below and flowers above.
Perjured, false, treacherous Love!
Vict. A very pretty song. I thank thee for it.
Hyp. It suits thy case.
Vict. Indeed, I think it does.
What wise man wrote it?
Hyp. Lopez Maldonado.
Vict. In truth, a pretty song.
Hyp. With much truth in it.
I hope thou wilt profit by it; and in earnest
Try to forget this lady of thy love.
Vict. I will forget her! All dear recollections
Pressed in my heart, like flowers within a book,
Shall be torn out, and scattered to the winds!
I will forget her! But perhaps hereafter,
When she shall learn how heartless is the world,
A voice within her will repeat my name,
And she will say, “He was indeed my friend!”
O, would I were a soldier, not a scholar,
That the loud march, the deafening beat of drums,
The shattering blast of the brass-throated trumpet,
The din of arms, the onslaught and the storm,
And a swift death, might make me deaf forever
To the upbraidings of this foolish heart!
Hyp. Then let that foolish heart upbraid no
To conquer love, one need but will to conquer.
Vict. Yet, good Hypolito, it is in vain
I throw into Oblivion’s sea the sword
That pierces me; for, like Excalibar,
With gemmed and flashing hilt, it will not sink.
There rises from below a hand that grasp it,
And waves it in the air; and wailing voices
Are heard along the shore.
Hyp. And yet at last
Down sank Excalibar to rise no more.
This is not well. In truth, it vexes me.
Instead of whistling to the steeds of Time,
To make them jog on merrily with life’s burden,
Like a dead weight thou hangest on the wheels.
Thou art too young, too full of lusty health
To talk of dying.
Vict. Yet I fain would die!
To go through life, unloving and unloved;
To feel that thirst and hunger of the soul
We cannot still; that longing, that wild impulse,
And struggle after something we have not
And cannot have; the effort to be strong
And, like the Spartan boy, to smile, and smile,
While secret wounds do bleed beneath our cloaks
All this the dead feel not,—the dead alone!
Would I were with them!
Hyp. We shall all be soon.
Vict. It cannot be too soon; for I am weary
Of the bewildering masquerade of Life,
Where strangers walk as friends, and friends as strangers;
Where whispers overheard betray false hearts;
And through the mazes of the crowd we chase
Some form of loveliness, that smiles, and beckons,
And cheats us with fair words, only to leave us
A mockery and a jest; maddened,—confused,—
Not knowing friend from foe.
Hyp. Why seek to know?
Enjoy the merry shrove-tide of thy youth!
Take each fair mask for what it gives itself,
Nor strive to look beneath it.
Vict. I confess,
That were the wiser part. But Hope no longer
Comforts my soul. I am a wretched man,
Much like a poor and shipwrecked mariner,
Who, struggling to climb up into the boat,
Has both his bruised and bleeding hands cut off,
And sinks again into the weltering sea,
Helpless and hopeless!
Hyp. Yet thou shalt not perish.
The strength of thine own arm is thy salvation.
Above thy head, through rifted clouds, there shines
A glorious star. Be patient. Trust thy star!
(Sound of a village belt in the distance.)
Vict. Ave Maria! I hear the sacristan
Ringing the chimes from yonder village belfry!
A solemn sound, that echoes far and wide
Over the red roofs of the cottages,
And bids the laboring hind a-field, the shepherd,
Guarding his flock, the lonely muleteer,
And all the crowd in village streets, stand still,
And breathe a prayer unto the blessed Virgin!
Hyp. Amen! amen! Not half a league from
The village lies.
Vict. This path will lead us to it,
Scene ii. — Public square in the village of Guadarrama. The Ave Maria still tolling. A crowd of villagers, with their hats in their hands, as if in prayer. In front, a group of Gypsies. The bell rings a merrier peal. A Gypsy dance. Enter Pancho, followed by Pedro Crespo.
Pancho. Make room, ye vagabonds and Gypsy
Make room for the Alcalde and for me!
Pedro C. Keep silence all! I have an edict
From our most gracious lord, the King of Spain,
Jerusalem, and the Canary Islands,
Which I shall publish in the market-place.
Open your ears and listen!
(Enter the padre Cura at the door of his cottage.)
Good day! and, pray you, hear this edict read.
Padre C. Good day, and God be with you! Pray, what is it?
Pedro C. An act of banishment against the Gypsies!
(Agitation and murmurs in the crowd.)
Pedro C. (reads). “I hereby order and
That the Egyptian an Chaldean strangers,
Known by the name of Gypsies, shall henceforth
Be banished from the realm, as vagabonds
And beggars; and if, after seventy days,
Any be found within our kingdom’s bounds,
They shall receive a hundred lashes each;
The second time, shall have their ears cut off;
The third, be slaves for life to him who takes them,
Or burnt as heretics. Signed, I, the King.”
Vile miscreants and creatures unbaptized!
You hear the law! Obey and disappear!
Pancho. And if in seventy days you are not
Dead or alive I make you all my slaves.
(The Gypsies go out in confusion, showing signs of fear and discontent. Pancho follows.)
Padre C. A righteous law! A very righteous
Pray you, sit down.
Pedro C. I thank you heartily.
(They seat themselves on a bench at the padre CURAS door. Sound of guitars heard at a distance, approaching during the dialogue which follows.)
A very righteous judgment, as you say.
Now tell me, Padre Cura,—you know all things,
How came these Gypsies into Spain?
Padre C. Why, look you;
They came with Hercules from Palestine,
And hence are thieves and vagrants, Sir Alcalde,
As the Simoniacs from Simon Magus,
And, look you, as Fray Jayme Bleda says,
There are a hundred marks to prove a Moor
Is not a Christian, so ’t is with the Gypsies.
They never marry, never go to mass,
Never baptize their children, nor keep Lent,
Nor see the inside of a church,—nor—nor—
Pedro C. Good reasons, good, substantial reasons
No matter for the other ninety-five.
They should be burnt, I see it plain enough,
They should be bunt.
(Enter Victorian and Hypolito playing.)
Padre C. And pray, whom have we here?
Pedro C. More vagrants! By Saint Lazarus, more vagrants!
Hyp. Good evening, gentlemen! Is this Guadarrama?
Padre C. Yes, Guadarrama, and good evening to you.
Hyp. We seek the Padre Cura of the village;
And, judging from your dress and reverend mien,
You must be he.
Padre C. I am. Pray, what’s your pleasure?
Hyp. We are poor students, traveling in vacation. You know this mark?
(Touching the wooden spoon in his hat-band.
Padre C. (joyfully). Ay, know it, and have worn it.
Pedro C. (aside). Soup-eaters!
by the mass! The worst of vagrants!
And there’s no law against them. Sir, your servant.
Padre C. Your servant, Pedro Crespo.
Hyp. Padre Cura,
Front the first moment I beheld your face,
I said within myself, “This is the man!”
There is a certain something in your looks,
A certain scholar-like and studious something,—
You understand,—which cannot be mistaken;
Which marks you as a very learned man,
In fine, as one of us.
Vict. (aside). What impudence!
Hyp. As we approached, I said to my companion,
“That is the Padre Cura; mark my words!”
Meaning your Grace. “The other man,” said I,
Who sits so awkwardly upon the bench,
Must be the sacristan.”
Padre C. Ah! said you so?
Why, that was Pedro Crespo, the alcalde!
Hyp. Indeed! you much astonish me! His
Was not so full of dignity and grace
As an alcalde’s should be.
Padre C. That is true.
He’s out of humor with some vagrant Gypsies,
Who have their camp here in the neighborhood.
There’s nothing so undignified as anger.
Hyp. The Padre Cura will excuse our boldness,
If, from his well-known hospitality,
We crave a lodging for the night.
Padre C. I pray you!
You do me honor! I am but too happy
To have such guests beneath my humble roof.
It is not often that I have occasion
To speak with scholars; and Emollit mores,
Nec sinit esse feros, Cicero says.
Hyp. ’T is Ovid, is it not?
Padre C. No, Cicero.
Hyp. Your Grace is right. You are the
Now what a dunce was I to think it Ovid!
But hang me if it is not! (Aside.)
Padre C. Pass this way.
He was a very great man, was Cicero!
Pray you, go in, go in! no ceremony.
Scene III. — A room in the padre Cura’s house. Enter the padre and Hypolito.
Padre C. So then, Senor, you come from Alcala. I am glad to hear it. It was there I studied.
Hyp. And left behind an honored name, no doubt. How may I call your Grace?
Padre C. Geronimo
De Santillana, at your Honor’s service.
Hyp. Descended from the Marquis Santillana?
From the distinguished poet?
Padre C. From the Marquis,
Not from the poet.
Hyp. Why, they were the same.
Let me embrace you! O some lucky star
Has brought me hither! Yet once more!—once more!
Your name is ever green in Alcala,
And our professor, when we are unruly,
Will shake his hoary head, and say, “Alas!
It was not so in Santillana’s time!”
Padre C. I did not think my name remembered there.
Hyp. More than remembered; it is idolized.
Padre C. Of what professor speak you?
Padre C. I don’t remember any Timoneda.
Hyp. A grave and sombre man, whose beetling
O’erhangs the rushing current of his speech
As rocks o’er rivers hang. Have you forgotten?
Padre C. Indeed, I have. O, those were pleasant
Those college days! I ne’er shall see the like!
I had not buried then so many hopes!
I had not buried then so many friends!
I’ve turned my back on what was then before me;
And the bright faces of my young companions
Are wrinkled like my own, or are no more.
Do you remember Cueva?
Hyp. Cueva? Cueva?
Padre C. Fool that I am! He was before your
You’re a mere boy, and I am an old man.
Hyp. I should not like to try my strength with you.
Padre C. Well, well. But I forget; you must
Martina! ho! Martina! ’T is my niece.
Hyp. You may be proud of such a
niece as that.
I wish I had a niece. Emollit mores.
He was a very great man, was Cicero!
Your servant, fair Martina.
Mart. Servant, sir.
Padre C. This gentleman is hungry. See thou
Let us have supper.
Mart. ’T will be ready soon.
Padre C. And bring a bottle of my Val-de-Penas
Out of the cellar. Stay; I’ll go myself.
Pray you. Senor, excuse me. [Exit.
Hyp. Hist! Martina!
One word with you. Bless me I what handsome eyes!
To-day there have been Gypsies in the village.
Is it not so?
Mart. There have been Gypsies here.
Hyp. Yes, and have told your fortune.
Mart. (embarrassed). Told my fortune?
Hyp. Yes, yes; I know they did. Give
me your hand.
I’ll tell you what they said. They said,—they said,
The shepherd boy that loved you was a clown,
And him you should not marry. Was it not?
Mart. (surprised). How know you that?
Hyp. O, I know more than that,
What a soft, little hand! And then they said,
A cavalier from court, handsome, and tall
And rich, should come one day to marry you,
And you should be a lady. Was it not!
He has arrived, the handsome cavalier.
(Tries to kiss her. She runs off. Enter Victorian, with a letter.)
Vict. The muleteer has come.
Hyp. So soon?
Vict. I found him
Sitting at supper by the tavern door,
And, from a pitcher that he held aloft
His whole arm’s length, drinking the blood-red wine.
Hyp. What news from Court?
Vict. He brought this letter only.
O cursed perfidy! Why did I let
That lying tongue deceive me! Preciosa,
Sweet Preciosa! how art thou avenged!
Hyp. What news is this, that makes thy cheek
And thy hand tremble?
Vict. O, most infamous!
The Count of Lara is a worthless villain!
Hyp. That is no news, forsooth.
Vict. He strove in vain
To steal from me the jewel of my soul,
The love of Preciosa. Not succeeding,
He swore to be revenged; and set on foot
A plot to ruin her, which has succeeded.
She has been hissed and hooted from the stage,
Her reputation stained by slanderous lies
Too foul to speak of; and, once more a beggar,
She roams a wanderer over God’s green earth
Housing with Gypsies!
Hyp. To renew again
The Age of Gold, and make the shepherd swains
Desperate with love, like Gasper Gil’s Diana.
Redit et Virgo!
Vict. Dear Hypolito,
How have I wronged that meek, confiding heart!
I will go seek for her; and with my tears
Wash out the wrong I’ve done her!
Hyp. O beware!
Act not that folly o’er again.
Vict. Ay, folly,
Delusion, madness, call it what thou wilt,
I will confess my weakness,—I still love her!
Still fondly love her!
(Enter the padre Cura.)
Hyp. Tell us, Padre Cura,
Who are these Gypsies in the neighborhood?
Padre C. Beltran Cruzado and his crew.
Vict. Kind Heaven,
I thank thee! She is found! is found again!
Hyp. And have they with them a pale, beautiful
Padre C. Ay, a pretty girl.
The gentleman seems moved.
Hyp. Yes, moved with hunger,
He is half famished with this long day’s journey.
Padre C. Then, pray you, come this
way. The supper waits.
Scene IV. — A post-house on the road to Segovia, not far from the village of Guadarrama. Enter Chispa, cracking a whip, and singing the cachucha.
Chispa. Halloo! Don Fulano! Let us have horses, and quickly. Alas, poor Chispa! what a dog’s life dost thou lead! I thought, when I left my old master Victorian, the student, to serve my new master Don Carlos, the gentleman, that I, too, should lead the life of a gentleman; should go to bed early, and get up late. For when the abbot plays cards, what can you expect of the friars? But, in running away from the thunder, I have run into the lightning. Here I am in hot chase after my master and his Gypsy girl. And a good beginning of the week it is, as he said who was hanged on Monday morning.
(Enter don Carlos)
Don C. Are not the horses ready yet?
Chispa. I should think not, for the hostler seems to be asleep. Ho! within there! Horses! horses! horses! (He knocks at the gate with his whip, and enter mosquito, putting on his jacket.)
Mosq. Pray, have a little patience. I’m not a musket.
Chispa. Health and pistareens! I’m glad to see you come on dancing, padre! Pray, what’s the news?
Mosq. You cannot have fresh horses; because there are none.
Chispa. Cachiporra! Throw that bone to another dog. Do I look like your aunt?
Mosq. No; she has a beard.
Chispa. Go to! go to!
Mosq. Are you from Madrid?
Chispa. Yes; and going to Estramadura. Get us horses.
Mosq. What’s the news at Court?
Chispa. Why, the latest news is, that I am going to set up a coach, and I have already bought the whip.
(Strikes him round the legs.)
Mosq. Oh! oh! You hurt me!
Don C. Enough of this folly. Let us have horses. (Gives money to mosquito.) It is almost dark; and we are in haste. But tell me, has a band of Gypsies passed this way of late?
Mosq. Yes; and they are still in the neighborhood.
Don C. And where?
Mosq. Across the fields yonder,
in the woods near Guadarrama.
Don C. Now this is lucky. We will visit the Gypsy camp.
Chispa. Are you not afraid of the evil eye? Have you a stag’s horn with you?
Don C. Fear not. We will pass the night at the village.
Chispa. And sleep like the Squires of Hernan Daza, nine under one blanket.
Don C. I hope we may find the Preciosa among them.
Chispa. Among the Squires?
Don C. No; among the Gypsies, blockhead!
Chispa. I hope we may; for we are
giving ourselves trouble
enough on her account. Don’t you think so? However, there is no catching trout without wetting one’s trousers. Yonder come the horses.
Scene V. — The Gypsy camp in the forest. Night. Gypsies working at a forge. Others playing cards by the firelight. Gypsies (at the forge sing).
On the top of a mountain I stand,
With a crown of red gold in my hand,
Wild Moors come trooping over the lea
O how from their fury shall I flee, flee, flee?
O how from their fury shall I flee?
First Gypsy (playing). Down with your John-Dorados,
Down with your John-Dorados, and let us make an end.
Gypsies (at the forge sing).
Loud sang the Spanish cavalier,
And thus his ditty ran;
God send the Gypsy lassie here,
And not the Gypsy man.
First Gypsy (playing). There you are in your morocco!
Second Gypsy. One more game. The Alcalde’s
doves against the
Padre Cura’s new moon.
First Gypsy. Have at you, Chirelin.
Gypsies (at the forge sing).
At midnight, when the moon began
To show her silver flame,
There came to him no Gypsy man,
The Gypsy lassie came.
(Enter Beltran Cruzado.)
Cruz. Come hither, Murcigalleros and Rastilleros; leave work, leave play; listen to your orders for the night. (Speaking to the right.) You will get you to the village, mark you, by the stone cross.
Cruz. (to the left). And you, by the pole with the hermit’s head upon it.
Cruz. As soon as you see the planets are out, in with you, and be busy with the ten commandments, under the sly, and Saint Martin asleep. D’ye hear?
Cruz. Keep your lanterns open, and, if you see a goblin or a papagayo, take to your trampers. Vineyards and Dancing John is the word. Am I comprehended?
Gypsies. Ay! ay!
Cruz. Away, then!
(Exeunt severally. Cruzado walks up the stage, and disappears among the trees. Enter Preciosa.)
Prec. How strangely gleams through the gigantic
The red light of the forge! Wild, beckoning shadows
Stalk through the forest, ever and anon
Rising and bending with the flickering flame,
Then flitting into darkness! So within me
Strange hopes and fears do beckon to each other,
My brightest hopes giving dark fears a being
As the light does the shadow. Woe is me
How still it is about me, and how lonely!
(Bartolome rushes in.)
Bart. Ho! Preciosa!
Prec. O Bartolome!
Bart. Lo! I am here.
Prec. Whence comest thou?
Bart. From the rough ridges of the wild Sierra,
From caverns in the rocks, from hunger, thirst,
And fever! Like a wild wolf to the sheepfold.
Come I for thee, my lamb.
Prec. O touch me not!
The Count of Lara’s blood is on thy hands!
The Count of Lara’s curse is on thy soul!
Do not come near me! Pray, begone from here
Thou art in danger! They have set a price
Upon thy head!
Bart. Ay, and I’ve wandered long
Among the mountains; and for many days
Have seen no human face, save the rough swineherd’s.
The wind and rain have been my sole companions.
I shouted to them from the rocks thy name,
And the loud echo sent it back to me,
Till I grew mad. I could not stay from thee,
And I am here! Betray me, if thou wilt.
Prec. Betray thee? I betray thee?
I come for thee! for thee I thus brave death!
Fly with me o’er the borders of this realm!
Fly with me!
Prec. Speak of that no more. I cannot.
I’m thine no longer.
Bart. O, recall the time
When we were children! how we played together,
How we grew up together; how we plighted
Our hearts unto each other, even in childhood!
Fulfil thy promise, for the hour has come.
I’m hunted from the kingdom, like a wolf!
Fulfil thy promise.
Prec. ’T was my father’s promise.
Not mine. I never gave my heart to thee,
Nor promised thee my hand!
Bart. False tongue of woman!
And heart more false!
Prec. Nay, listen unto me.
I will speak frankly. I have never loved thee;
I cannot love thee. This is not my fault,
It is my destiny. Thou art a man
Restless and violent. What wouldst thou with me,
A feeble girl, who have not long to live,
Whose heart is broken? Seek another wife,
Better than I, and fairer; and let not
Thy rash and headlong moods estrange her from thee.
Thou art unhappy in this hopeless passion,
I never sought thy love; never did aught
To make thee love me. Yet I pity thee,
And most of all I pity thy wild heart,
That hurries thee to crimes and deeds of blood,
Beware, beware of that.
Bart. For thy dear sake
I will be gentle. Thou shalt teach me patience.
Prec. Then take this farewell, and depart
Thou must not linger here.
Bart. Come, come with me.
Prec. Hark! I hear footsteps.
Bart. I entreat thee, come!
Prec. Away! It is in vain.
Bart. Wilt thou not come?
Bart. Then woe, eternal woe,
Thou shalt not be another’s. Thou shalt die.
Prec. All holy angels keep me in this hour!
Spirit of her who bore me, look upon me!
Mother of God, the glorified, protect me!
Christ and the saints, be merciful unto me!
Yet why should I fear death? What is it to die?
To leave all disappointment, care, and sorrow,
To leave all falsehood, treachery, and unkindness,
All ignominy, suffering, and despair,
And be at rest forever! O dull heart,
Be of good cheer! When thou shalt cease to beat,
Then shalt thou cease to suffer and complain!
(Enter Victorian and Hypolito behind.)
Vict. ’T is she! Behold, how beautiful
Under the tent-like trees!
Hyp. A woodland nymph!
Vict. I pray thee, stand aside. Leave me.
Hyp. Be wary.
Do not betray thyself too soon.
Vict. (disguising his voice). Hist! Gypsy!
Prec. (aside, with emotion).
That voice! that voice from heaven! O speak again!
Who is it calls?
Vict. A friend.
Prec. (aside). ’T is he! ’T
I thank thee, Heaven, that thou hast heard my prayer,
And sent me this protector! Now be strong, Be strong, my heart! I must dissemble here. False friend or true?
Vict. A true friend to the true;
Fear not; come hither. So; can you tell fortunes?
Prec. Not in the dark. Come nearer to
Give me your hand. It is not crossed, I see.
Vict. (putting a piece of gold into her hand). There is the cross.
Prec. Is ’t silver?
Vict. No, ’t is gold.
Prec. There’s a fair lady at the Court, who loves you, And for yourself alone.
Vict. Fie! the old story!
Tell me a better fortune for my money;
Not this old woman’s tale!
Prec. You are passionate;
And this same passionate humor in your blood
Has marred your fortune. Yes; I see it now;
The line of life is crossed by many marks.
Shame! shame! O you have wronged the maid who loved you!
How could you do it?
Vict. I never loved a maid;
For she I loved was then a maid no more.
Prec. How know you that?
Vict. A little bird in the air
Whispered the secret.
Prec. There, take back your gold!
Your hand is cold, like a deceiver’s hand!
There is no blessing in its charity!
Make her your wife, for you have been abused;
And you shall mend your fortunes, mending hers.
Vict. (aside). How like an angel’s speaks
the tongue of woman,
When pleading in another’s cause her own!
That is a pretty ring upon your finger.
Pray give it me. (Tries to take the ring.)
Prec. No; never from my hand
Shall that be taken!
Vict. Why, ’t is but a ring.
I’ll give it back to you; or, if I keep it,
Will give you gold to buy you twenty such.
Prec. Why would you have this ring?
Vict. A traveller’s fancy,
A whim, and nothing more. I would fain keep it
As a memento of the Gypsy camp
In Guadarrama, and the fortune-teller
Who sent me back to wed a widowed maid.
Pray, let me have the ring.
Prec. No, never! never!
I will not part with it, even when I die;
But bid my nurse fold my pale fingers thus,
That it may not fall from them. ’T is a token
Of a beloved friend, who is no more.
Vict. How? dead?
Prec. Yes; dead to me; and worse than dead.
He is estranged! And yet I keep this ring.
I will rise with it from my grave hereafter,
To prove to him that I was never false.
Vict. (aside). Be still, my swelling heart!
one moment, still!
Why, ’t is the folly of a love-sick girl.
Come, give it me, or I will say ’t is mine,
And that you stole it.
Prec. O, you will not dare
To utter such a falsehood!
Vict. I not dare?
Look in my face, and say if there is aught
I have not dared, I would not dare for thee!
(She rushes into his arms.)
Prec. ’T is thou! ’t is thou!
Yes; yes; my heart’s elected!
My dearest-dear Victorian! my soul’s heaven!
Where hast thou been so long? Why didst thou leave me?
Vict. Ask me not now, my dearest Preciosa.
Let me forget we ever have been parted!
Prec. Hadst thou not come—
Vict. I pray thee, do not chide me!
Prec. I should have perished here among these Gypsies.
Vict. Forgive me, sweet! for what I made thee
Think’st thou this heart could feel a moment’s joy,
Thou being absent? O, believe it not!
Indeed, since that sad hour I have not slept,
For thinking of the wrong I did to thee
Dost thou forgive me? Say, wilt thou forgive me?
Prec. I have forgiven thee. Ere those
words of anger
Were in the book of Heaven writ down against thee,
I had forgiven thee.
Vict. I’m the veriest fool
That walks the earth, to have believed thee false.
It was the Count of Lara—
Prec. That bad man
Has worked me harm enough. Hast thou not heard—
Vict. I have heard all. And yet speak
on, speak on!
Let me but hear thy voice, and I am happy;
For every tone, like some sweet incantation,
Calls up the buried past to plead for me.
Speak, my beloved, speak into my heart,
Whatever fills and agitates thine own.
(They walk aside.)
Hyp. All gentle quarrels in the pastoral poets,
All passionate love scenes in the best romances,
All chaste embraces on the public stage,
All soft adventures, which the liberal stars
Have winked at, as the natural course of things,
Have been surpassed here by my friend, the student,
And this sweet Gypsy lass, fair Preciosa!
Prec. Senor Hypolito! I kiss your hand.
Pray, shall I tell your fortune?
Hyp. Not to-night;
For, should you treat me as you did Victorian,
And send me back to marry maids forlorn,
My wedding day would last from now till Christmas.
Chispa (within). What ho! the Gypsies, ho!
Halloo! halloo! halloo! halloo!
(Enters booted, with a whip and lantern.
Vict. What now
Why such a fearful din? Hast thou been robbed?
Chispa. Ay, robbed and murdered; and good
evening to you,
My worthy masters.
Vict. Speak; what brings thee here?
Chispa (to Preciosa).
Good news from Court; good news! Beltran Cruzado,
The Count of the Cales, is not your father,
But your true father has returned to Spain
Laden with wealth. You are no more a Gypsy.
Vict. Strange as a Moorish tale!
Chispa. And we have all
Been drinking at the tavern to your health,
As wells drink in November, when it rains.
Vict. Where is the gentlemen?
Chispa. As the old
His body is in Segovia,
His soul is in Madrid,
Prec. Is this a dream? O, if it be a
Let me sleep on, and do not wake me yet!
Repeat thy story! Say I’m not deceived!
Say that I do not dream! I am awake;
This is the Gypsy camp; this is Victorian,
And this his friend, Hypolito! Speak! speak!
Let me not wake and find it all a dream!
Vict. It is a dream, sweet child! a waking
A blissful certainty, a vision bright
Of that rare happiness, which even on earth
Heaven gives to those it loves. Now art thou rich,
As thou wast ever beautiful and good;
And I am now the beggar.
Prec. (giving him her hand). I have still
A hand to give.
Chispa (aside). And I have two to take.
I’ve heard my grandmother say, that Heaven gives almonds
To those who have no teeth. That’s nuts to crack,
I’ve teeth to spare, but where shall I find almonds?
Vict. What more of this strange story?
Chispa. Nothing more.
Your friend, Don Carlos, is now at the village
Showing to Pedro Crespo, the Alcalde,
The proofs of what I tell you. The old hag,
Who stole you in your childhood, has confessed;
And probably they’ll hang her for the crime,
To make the celebration more complete.
Vict. No; let it be a day of general joy;
Fortune comes well to all, that comes not late.
Now let us join Don Carlos.
Hyp. So farewell,
The student’s wandering life! Sweet serenades,
Sung under ladies’ windows in the night,
And all that makes vacation beautiful!
To you, ye cloistered shades of Alcala,
To you, ye radiant visions of romance,
Written in books, but here surpassed by truth,
The Bachelor Hypolito returns,
And leaves the Gypsy with the Spanish Student.
Scene vi. — A pass in the Guadarrama mountains. Early morning. A muleteer crosses the stage, sitting sideways on his mule and lighting a paper cigar with flint and steel.
If thou art sleeping, maiden,
Awake and open thy door,
’T is the break of day, and we must away,
O’er meadow, and mount, and moor.
Wait not to find thy slippers,
But come with thy naked feet;
We shall have to pass through the dewy grass,
And waters wide and fleet.
(Disappears down the pass. Enter a Monk. A shepherd appears on the rocks above.)
Monk. Ave Maria, gratia plena. Ola! good man!
Monk. Is this the road to Segovia?
Shep. It is, your reverence.
Monk. How far is it?
Shep. I do not know.
Monk. What is that yonder in the valley?
Shep. San Ildefonso.
Monk. A long way to breakfast.
Shep. Ay, marry.
Monk. Are there robbers in these mountains?
Shep. Yes, and worse than that.
Monk. Santa Maria! Come with me to San Ildefonso, and thou shalt be well rewarded.
Shep. What wilt thou give me?
Monk. An Agnus Dei and my benediction.
(They disappear. A mounted Contrabandista passes, wrapped in his cloak, and a gun at his saddle-bow. He goes down the pass singing.)
Worn with speed is my good steed,
And I march me hurried, worried;
Onward, caballito mio,
With the white star in thy forehead!
Onward, for here comes the Ronda,
And I hear their rifles crack!
Ay, jaleo! Ay, ay, jaleo!
Ay, jaleo! They cross our track.
(Song dies away. Enter Preciosa, on horseback,
Victorian, Hypolito, don Carlos, and Chispa, on foot, and armed.)
Vict. This is the highest point. Here
let us rest.
See, Preciosa, see how all about us
Kneeling, like hooded friars, the misty mountains
Receive the benediction of the sun!
O glorious sight!
Prec. Most beautiful indeed!
Hyp. Most wonderful!
Vict. And in the vale below,
Where yonder steeples flash like lifted halberds,
San Ildefonso, from its noisy belfries,
Sends up a salutation to the morn,
As if an army smote their brazen shields,
And shouted victory!
Prec. And which way lies Segovia?
Vict. At a great distance yonder.
Dost thou not see it?
Prec. No. I do not see it.
Vict. The merest flaw that dents the horizon’s
Hyp. ’T is a notable old town,
Boasting an ancient Roman aqueduct,
And an Alcazar, builded by the Moors,
Wherein, you may remember, poor Gil Blas
Was fed on Pan del Rey. O, many a time
Out of its grated windows have I looked
Hundreds of feet plumb down to the Eresma,
That, like a serpent through the valley creeping,
Glides at its foot.
Prec. O yes! I see it now,
Yet rather with my heart than with mine eyes,
So faint it is. And all my thoughts sail thither,
Freighted with prayers and hopes, and forward urged
Against all stress of accident, as in
The Eastern Tale, against the wind and tide
Great ships were drawn to the Magnetic Mountains,
And there were wrecked, and perished in the sea!
Vict. O gentle spirit! Thou didst bear
Blasts of adversity and frosts of fate!
But the first ray of sunshine that falls on thee
Melts thee to tears! O, let thy weary heart
Lean upon mine! and it shall faint no more,
Nor thirst, nor hunger; but be comforted
And filled with my affection.
Prec. Stay no longer!
My father waits. Methinks I see him there,
Now looking from the window, and now watching
Each sound of wheels or footfall in the street,
And saying, “Hark! she comes!” O father! father!
(They descend the pass. Chispa remains behind.)
Chispa. I have a father, too, but he is a dead one. Alas and alack-a-day. Poor was I born, and poor do I remain. I neither win nor lose. Thus I was, through the world, half the time on foot, and the other half walking; and always as merry as a thunder-storm in the night. And so we plough along, as the fly said to the ox. Who knows what may happen? Patience, and shuffle the cards! I am not yet so bald that you can see my brains; and perhaps, after all, I shall some day go to Rome, and come back Saint Peter. Benedicite! [Exit.
(A pause. Then enter Bartolome wildly, as if in pursuit, with a carbine in his hand.)
Bart. They passed this way! I hear their
Yonder I see them! Come, sweet caramillo,
This serenade shall be the Gypsy’s last!
(Fires down the pass.)
Ha! ha! Well whistled, my sweet caramillo!
Well whistled!—I have missed her!—O my God!
(The shot is returned. Bartolome falls).
THE BELFRY OF BRUGES CARILLON
In the ancient town of Bruges,
In the quaint old Flemish city,
As the evening shades descended,
Low and loud and sweetly blended,
Low at times and loud at times,
And changing like a poet’s rhymes,
Rang the beautiful wild chimes
From the Belfry in the market
Of the ancient town of Bruges.
Then, with deep sonorous clangor
Calmly answering their sweet anger,
When the wrangling bells had ended,
Slowly struck the clock eleven,
And, from out the silent heaven,
Silence on the town descended.
Silence, silence everywhere,
On the earth and in the air,
Save that footsteps here and there
Of some burgher home returning,
By the street lamps faintly burning,
For a moment woke the echoes
Of the ancient town of Bruges.
But amid my broken slumbers
Still I heard those magic numbers,
As they loud proclaimed the flight
And stolen marches of the night;
Till their chimes in sweet collision
Mingled with each wandering vision,
Mingled with the fortune-telling
Gypsy-bands of dreams and fancies,
Which amid the waste expanses
Of the silent land of trances
Have their solitary dwelling;
All else seemed asleep in Bruges,
In the quaint old Flemish city.
And I thought how like these chimes
Are the poet’s airy rhymes,
All his rhymes and roundelays,
His conceits, and songs, and ditties,
From the belfry of his brain,
Scattered downward, though in vain,
On the roofs and stones of cities!
For by night the drowsy ear
Under its curtains cannot hear,
And by day men go their ways,
Hearing the music as they pass,
But deeming it no more, alas!
Than the hollow sound of brass.
Yet perchance a sleepless wight,
Lodging at some humble inn
In the narrow lanes of life,
When the dusk and hush of night
Shut out the incessant din
Of daylight and its toil and strife,
May listen with a calm delight
To the poet’s melodies,
Till he hears, or dreams he hears,
Intermingled with the song,
Thoughts that he has cherished long;
Hears amid the chime and singing
The bells of his own village ringing,
And wakes, and finds his slumberous eyes
Wet with most delicious tears.
Thus dreamed I, as by night I lay
In Bruges, at the Fleur-de-Ble,
Listening with a wild delight
To the chimes that, through the night
Bang their changes from the Belfry
Of that quaint old Flemish city.
In the market-place of Bruges stands the belfry old and brown; Thrice consumed and thrice rebuilded, still it watches o’er the town.
As the summer morn was breaking, on that lofty tower
And the world threw off the darkness, like the weeds of widowhood.
Thick with towns and hamlets studded, and with streams
and vapors gray,
Like a shield embossed with silver, round and vast the landscape lay.
At my feet the city slumbered. From its chimneys,
here and there,
Wreaths of snow-white smoke, ascending, vanished, ghost-like, into air.
Not a sound rose from the city at that early morning
But I heard a heart of iron beating in the ancient tower.
From their nests beneath the rafters sang the swallows
wild and high;
And the world, beneath me sleeping, seemed more distant than the sky.
Then most musical and solemn, bringing back the olden
With their strange, unearthly changes rang the melancholy chimes,
Like the psalms from some old cloister, when the nuns
sing in the choir;
And the great bell tolled among them, like the chanting of a friar.
Visions of the days departed, shadowy phantoms filled
They who live in history only seemed to walk the earth again;
All the Foresters of Flanders,—mighty Baldwin
Bras de Fer,
Lyderick du Bucq and Cressy Philip, Guy de Dampierre.
I beheld the pageants splendid that adorned those
days of old;
Stately dames, like queens attended, knights who bore the Fleece of Gold
Lombard and Venetian merchants with deep-laden argosies;
Ministers from twenty nations; more than royal pomp and ease.
I beheld proud Maximilian, kneeling humbly on the
I beheld the gentle Mary, hunting with her hawk and hound;
And her lighted bridal-chamber, where a duke slept
with the queen,
And the armed guard around them, and the sword unsheathed between.
I beheld the Flemish weavers, with Namur and Juliers
Marching homeward from the bloody battle of the Spurs of Gold;
Saw the light at Minnewater, saw the White Hoods moving
Saw great Artevelde victorious scale the Golden Dragon’s nest.
And again the whiskered Spaniard all the land with
And again the wild alarum sounded from the tocsin’s throat;
Till the bell of Ghent responded o’er lagoon
and dike of sand,
“I am Roland! I am Roland! there is victory in the land!”
Then the sound of drums aroused me. The awakened
Chased the phantoms I had summoned back into their graves once more.
Hours had passed away like minutes; and, before I
Lo! the shadow of the belfry crossed the sun-illumined square.
This is the place. Stand still, my steed,
Let me review the scene,
And summon from the shadowy Past
The forms that once have been.
The Past and Present here unite
Beneath Time’s flowing tide,
Like footprints hidden by a brook,
But seen on either side.
Here runs the highway to the town;
There the green lane descends,
Through which I walked to church with thee,
O gentlest of my friends!
The shadow of the linden-trees
Lay moving on the grass;
Between them and the moving boughs,
A shadow, thou didst pass.
Thy dress was like the lilies,
And thy heart as pure as they:
One of God’s holy messengers
Did walk with me that day.
I saw the branches of the trees
Bend down thy touch to meet,
The clover-blossoms in the grass
Rise up to kiss thy feet,
“Sleep, sleep to-day, tormenting cares,
Of earth and folly born!”
Solemnly sang the village choir
On that sweet Sabbath morn.
Through the closed blinds the golden sun
Poured in a dusty beam,
Like the celestial ladder seen
By Jacob in his dream.
And ever and anon, the wind,
Sweet-scented with the hay,
Turned o’er the hymn-book’s fluttering leaves
That on the window lay.
Long was the good man’s sermon,
Yet it seemed not so to me;
For he spake of Ruth the beautiful,
And still I thought of thee.
Long was the prayer he uttered,
Yet it seemed not so to me;
For in my heart I prayed with him,
And still I thought of thee.
But now, alas! the place seems changed;
Thou art no longer here:
Part of the sunshine of the scene
With thee did disappear.
Though thoughts, deep-rooted in my heart,
Like pine-trees dark and high,
Subdue the light of noon, and breathe
A low and ceaseless sigh;
This memory brightens o’er the past,
As when the sun, concealed
Behind some cloud that near us hangs
Shines on a distant field.
This is the Arsenal. From floor to ceiling,
Like a huge organ, rise the burnished arms;
But front their silent pipes no anthem pealing
Startles the villages with strange alarms.
Ah! what a sound will rise, how wild and dreary,
When the death-angel touches those swift keys
What loud lament and dismal Miserere
Will mingle with their awful symphonies
I hear even now the infinite fierce chorus,
The cries of agony, the endless groan,
Which, through the ages that have gone before us,
In long reverberations reach our own.
On helm and harness rings the Saxon hammer,
Through Cimbric forest roars the Norseman’s song,
And loud, amid the universal clamor,
O’er distant deserts sounds the Tartar gong.
I hear the Florentine, who from his palace
Wheels out his battle-bell with dreadful din,
And Aztec priests upon their teocallis
Beat the wild war-drums made of serpent’s skin;
The tumult of each sacked and burning village;
The shout that every prayer for mercy drowns;
The soldiers’ revels in the midst of pillage;
The wail of famine in beleaguered towns;
The bursting shell, the gateway wrenched asunder,
The rattling musketry, the clashing blade;
And ever and anon, in tones of thunder,
The diapason of the cannonade.
Is it, O man, with such discordant noises,
With such accursed instruments as these,
Thou drownest Nature’s sweet and kindly voices,
And jarrest the celestial harmonies?
Were half the power, that fills the world with terror,
Were half the wealth, bestowed on camps and courts,
Given to redeem the human mind from error,
There were no need of arsenals or forts:
The warrior’s name would be a name abhorred!
And every nation, that should lift again
Its hand against a brother, on its forehead
Would wear forevermore the curse of Cain!
Down the dark future, through long generations,
The echoing sounds grow fainter and then cease;
And like a bell, with solemn, sweet vibrations,
I hear once more the voice of Christ say, “Peace!”
Peace! and no longer from its brazen portals
The blast of War’s great organ shakes the skies!
But beautiful as songs of the immortals,
The holy melodies of love arise.
In the valley of the Pegnitz, where across broad meadow-lands
Rise the blue Franconian mountains, Nuremberg, the ancient, stands.
Quaint old town of toil and traffic, quaint old town
of art and song,
Memories haunt thy pointed gables, like the rooks that round them throng:
Memories of the Middle Ages, when the emperors, rough
Had their dwelling in thy castle, time-defying, centuries old;
And thy brave and thrifty burghers boasted, in their
That their great imperial city stretched its hand through every clime.
In the court-yard of the castle, bound with many an
Stands the mighty linden planted by Queen Cunigunde’s hand;
On the square the oriel window, where in old heroic
Sat the poet Melchior singing Kaiser Maximilian’s praise.
Everywhere I see around me rise the wondrous world
Fountains wrought with richest sculpture standing in the common mart;
And above cathedral doorways saints and bishops carved
By a former age commissioned as apostles to our own.
In the church of sainted Sebald sleeps enshrined his
And in bronze the Twelve Apostles guard from age to age their trust;
In the church of sainted Lawrence stands a pix of
Like the foamy sheaf of fountains, rising through the painted air.
Here, when Art was still religion, with a simple,
Lived and labored Albrecht Durer, the Evangelist of Art;
Hence in silence and in sorrow, toiling still with
Like an emigrant he wandered, seeking for the Better Land.
Emigravit is the inscription on the tombstone where
Dead he is not, but departed,—for the artist never dies.
Fairer seems the ancient city, and the sunshine seems
That he once has trod its pavement, that he once has breathed its air!
Through these streets so broad and stately, these
obscure and dismal lanes,
Walked of yore the Mastersingers, chanting rude poetic strains.
From remote and sunless suburbs came they to the friendly
Building nests in Fame’s great temple, as in spouts the swallows build.
As the weaver plied the shuttle, wove he too the mystic
And the smith his iron measures hammered to the anvil’s chime;
Thanking God, whose boundless wisdom makes the flowers
of poesy bloom
In the forge’s dust and cinders, in the tissues of the loom.
Here Hans Sachs, the cobbler-poet, laureate of the
Wisest of the Twelve Wise Masters, in huge folios sang and laughed.
But his house is now an ale-house, with a nicely sanded
And a garland in the window, and his face above the door;
Painted by some humble artist, as in Adam Puschman’s
As the old man gray and dove-like, with his great beard white and long.
And at night the swart mechanic comes to drown his
cark and care,
Quaffing ale from pewter tankard; in the master’s antique chair.
Vanished is the ancient splendor, and before my dreamy
Wave these mingled shapes and figures, like a faded tapestry.
Not thy Councils, not thy Kaisers, win for thee the
But thy painter, Albrecht Durer, and Hans Sachs thy cobbler-bard.
Thus, O Nuremberg, a wanderer from a region far away,
As he paced thy streets and court-yards, sang in thought his careless lay:
Gathering from the pavement’s crevice, as a
floweret of the soil,
The nobility of labor,—the long pedigree of toil.
The Norman baron
Dans les moments de la vie ou la reflexion devient plus calme
et plus profonde, ou l’interet et l’avarice parlent moins haut que la raison, dans les instants de chagrin domestique, de maladie, et de peril de mort, les nobles se repentirent de posseder des serfs, comme d’une chose peu agreable a Dieu, qui avait cree tous les hommes a son image.—Thierry, Conquete de l’Angleterre.
In his chamber, weak and dying,
Was the Norman baron lying;
Loud, without, the tempest thundered
And the castle-turret shook,
In this fight was Death the gainer,
Spite of vassal and retainer,
And the lands his sires had plundered,
Written in the Doomsday Book.
By his bed a monk was seated,
Who in humble voice repeated
Many a prayer and pater-noster,
From the missal on his knee;
And, amid the tempest pealing,
Sounds of bells came faintly stealing,
Bells, that from the neighboring kloster
Rang for the Nativity.
In the hall, the serf and vassal
Held, that night their Christmas wassail;
Many a carol, old and saintly,
Sang the minstrels and the waits;
And so loud these Saxon gleemen
Sang to slaves the songs of freemen,
That the storm was heard but faintly,
Knocking at the castle-gates.
Till at length the lays they chanted
Reached the chamber terror-haunted,
Where the monk, with accents holy,
Whispered at the baron’s ear.
Tears upon his eyelids glistened,
As he paused awhile and listened,
And the dying baron slowly
Turned his weary head to hear.
“Wassail for the kingly stranger
Born and cradled in a manger!
King, like David, priest, like Aaron,
Christ is born to set us free!”
And the lightning showed the sainted
Figures on the casement painted,
And exclaimed the shuddering baron,
In that hour of deep contrition
He beheld, with clearer vision,
Through all outward show and fashion,
Justice, the Avenger, rise.
All the pomp of earth had vanished,
Falsehood and deceit were banished,
Reason spake more loud than passion,
And the truth wore no disguise.
Every vassal of his banner,
Every serf born to his manor,
All those wronged and wretched creatures,
By his hand were freed again.
And, as on the sacred missal
He recorded their dismissal,
Death relaxed his iron features,
And the monk replied, “Amen!”
Many centuries have been numbered
Since in death the baron slumbered
By the convent’s sculptured portal,
Mingling with the common dust:
But the good deed, through the ages
Living in historic pages,
Brighter grows and gleams immortal,
Unconsumed by moth or rust
How beautiful is the rain!
After the dust and heat,
In the broad and fiery street,
In the narrow lane,
How beautiful is the rain!
How it clatters along the roofs,
Like the tramp of hoofs
How it gushes and struggles out
From the throat of the overflowing spout!
Across the window-pane
It pours and pours;
And swift and wide,
With a muddy tide,
Like a river down the gutter roars
The rain, the welcome rain!
The sick man from his chamber looks
At the twisted brooks;
He can feel the cool
Breath of each little pool;
His fevered brain
Grows calm again,
And he breathes a blessing on the rain.
From the neighboring school
Come the boys,
With more than their wonted noise
And down the wet streets
Sail their mimic fleets,
Till the treacherous pool
Ingulfs them in its whirling
And turbulent ocean.
In the country, on every side,
Where far and wide,
Like a leopard’s tawny and spotted hide,
Stretches the plain,
To the dry grass and the drier grain
How welcome is the rain!
In the furrowed land
The toilsome and patient oxen stand;
Lifting the yoke encumbered head,
With their dilated nostrils spread,
They silently inhale
The clover-scented gale,
And the vapors that arise
From the well-watered and smoking soil.
For this rest in the furrow after toil
Their large and lustrous eyes
Seem to thank the Lord,
More than man’s spoken word.
Near at hand,
From under the sheltering trees,
The farmer sees
His pastures, and his fields of grain,
As they bend their tops
To the numberless beating drops
Of the incessant rain.
He counts it as no sin
That he sees therein
Only his own thrift and gain.
These, and far more than these,
The Poet sees!
He can behold
Walking the fenceless fields of air;
And from each ample fold
Of the clouds about him rolled
The showery rain,
As the farmer scatters his grain.
He can behold
That have not yet been wholly told,—
Have not been wholly sung nor said.
For his thought, that never stops,
Follows the water-drops
Down to the graves of the dead,
Down through chasms and gulfs profound,
To the dreary fountain-head
Of lakes and rivers under ground;
And sees them, when the rain is done,
On the bridge of colors seven
Climbing up once more to heaven,
Opposite the setting sun.
Thus the Seer,
With vision clear,
Sees forms appear and disappear,
In the perpetual round of strange,
From birth to death, from death to birth,
From earth to heaven, from heaven to earth;
Till glimpses more sublime
Of things, unseen before,
Unto his wondering eyes reveal
The Universe, as an immeasurable wheel
In the rapid and rushing river of Time.
Dear child! how radiant on thy mother’s knee,
With merry-making eyes and jocund smiles,
Thou gazest at the painted tiles,
Whose figures grace,
With many a grotesque form and face.
The ancient chimney of thy nursery!
The lady with the gay macaw,
The dancing girl, the grave bashaw
With bearded lip and chin;
And, leaning idly o’er his gate,
Beneath the imperial fan of state,
The Chinese mandarin.
With what a look of proud command
Thou shakest in thy little hand
The coral rattle with its silver bells,
Making a merry tune!
Thousands of years in Indian seas
That coral grew, by slow degrees,
Until some deadly and wild monsoon
Dashed it on Coromandel’s sand!
Those silver bells
Reposed of yore,
As shapeless ore,
Far down in the deep-sunken wells
Of darksome mines,
In some obscure and sunless place,
Beneath huge Chimborazo’s base,
Or Potosi’s o’erhanging pines
And thus for thee, O little child,
Through many a danger and escape,
The tall ships passed the stormy cape;
For thee in foreign lands remote,
Beneath a burning, tropic clime,
The Indian peasant, chasing the wild goat,
Himself as swift and wild,
In falling, clutched the frail arbute,
The fibres of whose shallow root,
Uplifted from the soil, betrayed
The silver veins beneath it laid,
The buried treasures of the miser, Time.
But, lo! thy door is left ajar!
Thou hearest footsteps from afar!
And, at the sound,
Thou turnest round
With quick and questioning eyes,
Like one, who, in a foreign land,
Beholds on every hand
Some source of wonder and surprise!
And, restlessly, impatiently,
Thou strivest, strugglest, to be free,
The four walls of thy nursery
Are now like prison walls to thee.
No more thy mother’s smiles,
No more the painted tiles,
Delight thee, nor the playthings on the floor,
That won thy little, beating heart before;
Thou strugglest for the open door.
Through these once solitary halls
Thy pattering footstep falls.
The sound of thy merry voice
Makes the old walls
Jubilant, and they rejoice
With the joy of thy young heart,
O’er the light of whose gladness
No shadows of sadness
From the sombre background of memory start.
Once, ah, once, within these walls,
One whom memory oft recalls,
The Father of his Country, dwelt.
And yonder meadows broad and damp
The fires of the besieging camp
Encircled with a burning belt.
Up and down these echoing stairs,
Heavy with the weight of cares,
Sounded his majestic tread;
Yes, within this very room
Sat he in those hours of gloom,
Weary both in heart and head.
But what are these grave thoughts to thee?
Out, out! into the open air!
Thy only dream is liberty,
Thou carest little how or where.
I see thee eager at thy play,
Now shouting to the apples on the tree,
With cheeks as round and red as they;
And now among the yellow stalks,
Among the flowering shrubs and plants,
As restless as the bee.
Along the garden walks,
The tracks of thy small carriage-wheels I trace;
And see at every turn how they efface
Whole villages of sand-roofed tents,
That rise like golden domes
Above the cavernous and secret homes
Of wandering and nomadic tribes of ants.
Ah, cruel little Tamerlane,
Who, with thy dreadful reign,
Dost persecute and overwhelm
These hapless Troglodytes of thy realm!
What! tired already! with those suppliant looks,
And voice more beautiful than a poet’s books,
Or murmuring sound of water as it flows.
Thou comest back to parley with repose;
This rustic seat in the old apple-tree,
With its o’erhanging golden canopy
Of leaves illuminate with autumnal hues,
And shining with the argent light of dews,
Shall for a season be our place of rest.
Beneath us, like an oriole’s pendent nest,
From which the laughing birds have taken wing,
By thee abandoned, hangs thy vacant swing.
Dream-like the waters of the river gleam;
A sailless vessel drops adown the stream,
And like it, to a sea as wide and deep,
Thou driftest gently down the tides of sleep.
O child! O new-born denizen
Of life’s great city! on thy head
The glory of the morn is shed,
Like a celestial benison!
Here at the portal thou dost stand,
And with thy little hand
Thou openest the mysterious gate
Into the future’s undiscovered land.
I see its valves expand,
As at the touch of Fate!
Into those realms of love and hate,
Into that darkness blank and drear,
By some prophetic feeling taught,
I launch the bold, adventurous thought,
Freighted with hope and fear;
As upon subterranean streams,
In caverns unexplored and dark,
Men sometimes launch a fragile bark,
Laden with flickering fire,
And watch its swift-receding beams,
Until at length they disappear,
And in the distant dark expire.
By what astrology of fear or hope
Dare I to cast thy horoscope!
Like the new moon thy life appears;
A little strip of silver light,
And widening outward into night
The shadowy disk of future years;
And yet upon its outer rim,
A luminous circle, faint and dim,
And scarcely visible to us here,
Rounds and completes the perfect sphere;
A prophecy and intimation,
A pale and feeble adumbration,
Of the great world of light, that lies
Behind all human destinies.
Ah! if thy fate, with anguish fraught,
Should be to wet the dusty soil
With the hot tears and sweat of toil,—
To struggle with imperious thought,
Until the overburdened brain,
Weary with labor, faint with pain,
Like a jarred pendulum, retain
Only its motion, not its power,—
Remember, in that perilous hour,
When most afflicted and oppressed,
From labor there shall come forth rest.
And if a more auspicious fate
On thy advancing steps await
Still let it ever be thy pride
To linger by the laborer’s side;
With words of sympathy or song
To cheer the dreary march along
Of the great army of the poor,
O’er desert sand, o’er dangerous moor.
Nor to thyself the task shall be
Without reward; for thou shalt learn
The wisdom early to discern
True beauty in utility;
As great Pythagoras of yore,
Standing beside the blacksmith’s door,
And hearing the hammers, as they smote
The anvils with a different note,
Stole from the varying tones, that hung
Vibrant on every iron tongue,
The secret of the sounding wire.
And formed the seven-chorded lyre.
Enough! I will not play the Seer;
I will no longer strive to ope
The mystic volume, where appear
The herald Hope, forerunning Fear,
And Fear, the pursuivant of Hope.
Thy destiny remains untold;
For, like Acestes’ shaft of old,
The swift thought kindles as it flies,
And burns to ashes in the skies.
I saw, as in a dream sublime,
The balance in the hand of Time.
O’er East and West its beam impended;
And day, with all its hours of light,
Was slowly sinking out of sight,
While, opposite, the scale of night
Silently with the stars ascended.
Like the astrologers of eld,
In that bright vision I beheld
Greater and deeper mysteries.
I saw, with its celestial keys,
Its chords of air, its frets of fire,
The Samian’s great Aeolian lyre,
Rising through all its sevenfold bars,
From earth unto the fixed stars.
And through the dewy atmosphere,
Not only could I see, but hear,
Its wondrous and harmonious strings,
In sweet vibration, sphere by sphere,
From Dian’s circle light and near,
Onward to vaster and wider rings.
Where, chanting through his beard of snows,
Majestic, mournful, Saturn goes,
And down the sunless realms of space
Reverberates the thunder of his bass.
Beneath the sky’s triumphal arch
This music sounded like a march,
And with its chorus seemed to be
Preluding some great tragedy.
Sirius was rising in the east;
And, slow ascending one by one,
The kindling constellations shone.
Begirt with many a blazing star,
Stood the great giant Algebar,
Orion, hunter of the beast!
His sword hung gleaming by his side,
And, on his arm, the lion’s hide
Scattered across the midnight air
The golden radiance of its hair.
The moon was pallid, but not faint;
And beautiful as some fair saint,
Serenely moving on her way
In hours of trial and dismay.
As if she heard the voice of God,
Unharmed with naked feet she trod
Upon the hot and burning stars,
As on the glowing coals and bars,
That were to prove her strength, and try
Her holiness and her purity.
Thus moving on, with silent pace,
And triumph in her sweet, pale face,
She reached the station of Orion.
Aghast he stood in strange alarm!
And suddenly from his outstretched arm
Down fell the red skin of the lion
Into the river at his feet.
His mighty club no longer beat
The forehead of the bull; but he
Reeled as of yore beside the sea,
When, blinded by Oenopion,
He sought the blacksmith at his forge,
And, climbing up the mountain gorge,
Fixed his blank eyes upon the sun.
Then, through the silence overhead,
An angel with a trumpet said,
The reign of violence is o’er!”
And, like an instrument that flings
Its music on another’s strings,
The trumpet of the angel cast
Upon the heavenly lyre its blast,
And on from sphere to sphere the words
Re-echoed down the burning chords,—
The reign of violence is o’er!”
I stood on the bridge at midnight,
As the clocks were striking the hour,
And the moon rose o’er the city,
Behind the dark church-tower.
I saw her bright reflection
In the waters under me,
Like a golden goblet falling
And sinking into the sea.
And far in the hazy distance
Of that lovely night in June,
The blaze of the flaming furnace
Gleamed redder than the moon.
Among the long, black rafters
The wavering shadows lay,
And the current that came from the ocean
Seemed to lift and bear them away;
As, sweeping and eddying through them,
Rose the belated tide,
And, streaming into the moonlight,
The seaweed floated wide.
And like those waters rushing
Among the wooden piers,
A flood of thoughts came o’er me
That filled my eyes with tears.
How often, oh, how often,
In the days that had gone by,
I had stood on that bridge at midnight
And gazed on that wave and sky!
How often, oh, how often,
I had wished that the ebbing tide
Would bear me away on its bosom
O’er the ocean wild and wide!
For my heart was hot and restless,
And my life was full of care,
And the burden laid upon me
Seemed greater than I could bear.
But now it has fallen from me,
It is buried in the sea;
And only the sorrow of others
Throws its shadow over me.
Yet whenever I cross the river
On its bridge with wooden piers,
Like the odor of brine from the ocean
Comes the thought of other years.
And I think how many thousands
Of care-encumbered men,
Each bearing his burden of sorrow,
Have crossed the bridge since then.
I see the long procession
Still passing to and fro,
The young heart hot and restless,
And the old subdued and slow!
And forever and forever,
As long as the river flows,
As long as the heart has passions,
As long as life has woes;
The moon and its broken reflection
And its shadows shall appear,
As the symbol of love in heaven,
And its wavering image here.
Gloomy and dark art thou, O chief of the mighty Omahas;
Gloomy and dark as the driving cloud, whose name thou hast taken!
Wrapt in thy scarlet blanket, I see thee stalk through the city’s
Narrow and populous streets, as once by the margin of rivers
Stalked those birds unknown, that have left us only their footprints.
What, in a few short years, will remain of thy race but the footprints?
How canst thou walk these streets, who hast trod the
green turf of the prairies!
How canst thou breathe this air, who hast breathed the sweet air of the mountains!
Ah! ’t is in vain that with lordly looks of disdain thou dost challenge
Looks of disdain in return, and question these walls and these pavements,
Claiming the soil for thy hunting-grounds, while down-trodden millions
Starve in the garrets of Europe, and cry from its caverns that they, too,
Have been created heirs of the earth, and claim its division!
Back, then, back to thy woods in the regions west
of the Wabash!
There as a monarch thou reignest. In autumn the leaves of the maple
Pave the floors of thy palace-halls with gold, and in summer
Pine-trees waft through its chambers the odorous breath of their branches.
There thou art strong and great, a hero, a tamer of horses!
There thou chasest the stately stag on the banks of the Elkhorn,
Or by the roar of the Running-Water, or where the Omaha
Calls thee, and leaps through the wild ravine like a brave of the
Hark! what murmurs arise from the heart of those mountainous
Is it the cry of the Foxes and Crows, or the mighty Behemoth,
Who, unharmed, on his tusks once caught the bolts of the thunder,
And now lurks in his lair to destroy the race of the red man?
Far more fatal to thee and thy race than the Crows and the Foxes,
Far more fatal to thee and thy race than the tread of Behemoth,
Lo! the big thunder-canoe, that steadily breasts the Missouri’s
Merciless current! and yonder, afar on the prairies, the camp-fires
Gleam through the night; and the cloud of dust in the gray of the daybreak
Marks not the buffalo’s track, nor the Mandan’s dexterous horse-race;
It is a caravan, whitening the desert where dwell the Camanches!
Ha! how the breath of these Saxons and Celts, like the blast of the east-wind,
Drifts evermore to the west the scanty smokes of thy wigwams!
THE DAY IS DONE
The day is done, and the darkness
Falls from the wings of Night,
As a feather is wafted downward
From an eagle in his flight.
I see the lights of the village
Gleam through the rain and the mist,
And a feeling of sadness comes o’er me
That my soul cannot resist:
A feeling of sadness and longing,
That is not akin to pain,
And resembles sorrow only
As the mist resembles the rain.
Come, read to me some poem,
Some simple and heartfelt lay,
That shall soothe this restless feeling,
And banish the thoughts of day.
Not from the grand old masters,
Not from the bards sublime,
Whose distant footsteps echo
Through the corridors of Time.
For, like strains of martial music,
Their mighty thoughts suggest
Life’s endless toil and endeavor;
And to-night I long for rest.
Read from some humbler poet,
Whose songs gushed from his heart,
As showers from the clouds of summer,
Or tears from the eyelids start;
Who, through long days of labor,
And nights devoid of ease,
Still heard in his soul the music
Of wonderful melodies.
Such songs have power to quiet
The restless pulse of care,
And come like the benediction
That follows after prayer.
Then read from the treasured volume
The poem of thy choice,
And lend to the rhyme of the poet
The beauty of thy voice.
And the night shall be filled with music
And the cares, that infest the day,
Shall fold their tents, like the Arabs,
And as silently steal away.
The day is ending,
The night is descending;
The marsh is frozen,
The river dead.
Through clouds like ashes
The red sun flashes
On village windows
That glimmer red.
The snow recommences;
The buried fences
Mark no longer
The road o’er the plain;
While through the meadows,
Like fearful shadows,
A funeral train.
The bell is pealing,
And every feeling
Within me responds
To the dismal knell;
Shadows are trailing,
My heart is bewailing
And tolling within
Like a funeral bell.
Welcome, my old friend,
Welcome to a foreign fireside,
While the sullen gales of autumn
Shake the windows.
The ungrateful world
Has, it seems, dealt harshly with thee,
Since, beneath the skies of Denmark,
First I met thee.
There are marks of age,
There are thumb-marks on thy margin,
Made by hands that clasped thee rudely,
At the alehouse.
Soiled and dull thou art;
Yellow are thy time-worn pages,
As the russet, rain-molested
Leaves of autumn.
Thou art stained with wine
Scattered from hilarious goblets,
As the leaves with the libations
Yet dost thou recall
Days departed, half-forgotten,
When in dreamy youth I wandered
By the Baltic,—
When I paused to hear
The old ballad of King Christian
Shouted from suburban taverns
In the twilight.
Thou recallest bards,
Who in solitary chambers,
And with hearts by passion wasted,
Wrote thy pages.
Thou recallest homes
Where thy songs of love and friendship
Made the gloomy Northern winter
Bright as summer.
Once some ancient Scald,
In his bleak, ancestral Iceland,
Chanted staves of these old ballads
To the Vikings.
Once in Elsinore,
At the court of old King Hamlet
Yorick and his boon companions
Sang these ditties.
Once Prince Frederick’s Guard
Sang them in their smoky barracks;—
Suddenly the English cannon
Joined the chorus!
Peasants in the field,
Sailors on the roaring ocean,
Students, tradesmen, pale mechanics,
All have sung them.
Thou hast been their friend;
They, alas! have left thee friendless!
Yet at least by one warm fireside
Art thou welcome.
And, as swallows build
In these wide, old-fashioned chimneys,
So thy twittering songs shall nestle
In my bosom,—
Quiet, close, and warm,
Sheltered from all molestation,
And recalling by their voices
Youth and travel.
Vogelweid the Minnesinger,
When he left this world of ours,
Laid his body in the cloister,
Under Wurtzburg’s minster towers.
And he gave the monks his treasures,
Gave them all with this behest:
They should feed the birds at noontide
Daily on his place of rest;
Saying, “From these wandering minstrels
I have learned the art of song;
Let me now repay the lessons
They have taught so well and long.”
Thus the bard of love departed;
And, fulfilling his desire,
On his tomb the birds were feasted
By the children of the choir.
Day by day, o’er tower and turret,
In foul weather and in fair,
Day by day, in vaster numbers,
Flocked the poets of the air.
On the tree whose heavy branches
Overshadowed all the place,
On the pavement, on the tombstone,
On the poet’s sculptured face,
On the cross-bars of each window,
On the lintel of each door,
They renewed the War of Wartburg,
Which the bard had fought before.
There they sang their merry carols,
Sang their lauds on every side;
And the name their voices uttered
Was the name of Vogelweid.
Till at length the portly abbot
Murmured, “Why this waste of food?
Be it changed to loaves henceforward
For our tasting brotherhood.”
Then in vain o’er tower and turret,
From the walls and woodland nests,
When the minster bells rang noontide,
Gathered the unwelcome guests.
Then in vain, with cries discordant,
Clamorous round the Gothic spire,
Screamed the feathered Minnesingers
For the children of the choir.
Time has long effaced the inscriptions
On the cloister’s funeral stones,
And tradition only tells us
Where repose the poet’s bones.
But around the vast cathedral,
By sweet echoes multiplied,
Still the birds repeat the legend,
And the name of Vogelweid.
INSCRIPTION FOR AN ANTIQUE PITCHER
Come, old friend! sit down and listen!
From the pitcher, placed between us,
How the waters laugh and glisten
In the head of old Silenus!
Old Silenus, bloated, drunken,
Led by his inebriate Satyrs;
On his breast his head is sunken,
Vacantly he leers and chatters.
Fauns with youthful Bacchus follow;
Ivy crowns that brow supernal
As the forehead of Apollo,
And possessing youth eternal.
Round about him, fair Bacchantes,
Bearing cymbals, flutes, and thyrses,
Wild from Naxian groves, or Zante’s
Vineyards, sing delirious verses.
Thus he won, through all the nations,
Bloodless victories, and the farmer
Bore, as trophies and oblations,
Vines for banners, ploughs for armor.
Judged by no o’erzealous rigor,
Much this mystic throng expresses:
Bacchus was the type of vigor,
And Silenus of excesses.
These are ancient ethnic revels,
Of a faith long since forsaken;
Now the Satyrs, changed to devils,
Frighten mortals wine-o’ertaken.
Now to rivulets from the mountains
Point the rods of fortune-tellers;
Youth perpetual dwells in fountains,—
Not in flasks, and casks, and cellars.
Claudius, though he sang of flagons
And huge tankards filled with Rhenish,
From that fiery blood of dragons
Never would his own replenish.
Even Redi, though he chaunted
Bacchus in the Tuscan valleys,
Never drank the wine he vaunted
In his dithyrambic sallies.
Then with water fill the pitcher
Wreathed about with classic fables;
Ne’er Falernian threw a richer
Light upon Lucullus’ tables.
Come, old friend, sit down and listen
As it passes thus between us,
How its wavelets laugh and glisten
In the head of old Silenus!
L’eternite est une pendule, dont le balancier dit et redit sans cesse ces deux mots seulement dans le silence des tombeaux: “Toujours! jamais! Jamais! toujours!”—Jacques BRIDAINE.
Somewhat back from the village street
Stands the old-fashioned country-seat.
Across its antique portico
Tall poplar-trees their shadows throw;
And from its station in the hall
An ancient timepiece says to all,—
Half-way up the stairs it stands,
And points and beckons with its hands
From its case of massive oak,
Like a monk, who, under his cloak,
Crosses himself, and sighs, alas!
With sorrowful voice to all who pass,—
By day its voice is low and light;
But in the silent dead of night,
Distinct as a passing footstep’s fall,
It echoes along the vacant hall,
Along the ceiling, along the floor,
And seems to say, at each chamber-door,—
Through days of sorrow and of mirth,
Through days of death and days of birth,
Through every swift vicissitude
Of changeful time, unchanged it has stood,
And as if, like God, it all things saw,
It calmly repeats those words of awe,—
In that mansion used to be
His great fires up the chimney roared;
The stranger feasted at his board;
But, like the skeleton at the feast,
That warning timepiece never ceased,—
There groups of merry children played,
There youths and maidens dreaming strayed;
O precious hours! O golden prime,
And affluence of love and time!
Even as a Miser counts his gold,
Those hours the ancient timepiece told,—
From that chamber, clothed in white,
The bride came forth on her wedding night;
There, in that silent room below,
The dead lay in his shroud of snow;
And in the hush that followed the prayer,
Was heard the old clock on the stair,—
All are scattered now and fled,
Some are married, some are dead;
And when I ask, with throbs of pain.
“Ah! when shall they all meet again?”
As in the days long since gone by,
The ancient timepiece makes reply,—
Never here, forever there,
Where all parting, pain, and care,
And death, and time shall disappear,—
Forever there, but never here!
The horologe of Eternity
Sayeth this incessantly,—
I shot an arrow into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For, so swiftly it flew, the sight
Could not follow it in its flight.
I breathed a song into the air,
It fell to earth, I knew not where;
For who has sight so keen and strong,
That it can follow the flight of song?
Long, long afterward, in an oak
I found the arrow, still unbroke;
And the song, from beginning to end,
I found again in the heart of a friend.
Half of my life is gone, and I have let
The years slip from me and have not fulfilled
The aspiration of my youth, to build
Some tower of song with lofty parapet.
Not indolence, nor pleasure, nor the fret
Of restless passions chat would not be stilled,
But sorrow, and a care that almost killed,
Kept me from what I may accomplish yet;
Though, half way up the hill, I see the Past
Lying beneath me with its sounds and sights,—
A city in the twilight dim and vast,
With smoking roofs, soft bells, and gleaming lights.—
And hear above me on the autumnal blast
The cataract of Death far thundering from the heights.
Lo! in the painted oriel of the West,
Whose panes the sunken sun incarnadines,
Like a fair lady at her casement, shines
The evening star, the star of love and rest!
And then anon she doth herself divest
Of all her radiant garments, and reclines
Behind the sombre screen of yonder pines,
With slumber and soft dreams of love oppressed.
O my beloved, my sweet Hesperus!
My morning and my evening star of love!
My best and gentlest lady! even thus,
As that fair planet in the sky above,
Dost thou retire unto thy rest at night,
And from thy darkened window fades the light.
Thou comest, Autumn, heralded by the rain,
With banners, by great gales incessant fanned,
Brighter than brightest silks of Samarcand,
And stately oxen harnessed to thy wain!
Thou standest, like imperial Charlemagne,
Upon thy bridge of gold; thy royal hand
Outstretched with benedictions o’er the land,
Blessing the farms through all thy vast domain!
Thy shield is the red harvest moon, suspended
So long beneath the heaven’s o’er-hanging eaves;
Thy steps are by the farmer’s prayers attended;
Like flames upon an altar shine the sheaves;
And, following thee, in thy ovation splendid,
Thine almoner, the wind, scatters the golden leaves!
Tuscan, that wanderest through the realms of gloom,
With thoughtful pace, and sad, majestic eyes,
Stern thoughts and awful from thy soul arise,
Like Farinata from his fiery tomb.
Thy sacred song is like the trump of doom;
Yet in thy heart what human sympathies,
What soft compassion glows, as in the skies
The tender stars their clouded lamps relume!
Methinks I see thee stand, with pallid cheeks,
By Fra Hilario in his diocese,
As up the convent-walls, in golden streaks,
The ascending sunbeams mark the day’s decrease;
And, as he asks what there the stranger seeks,
Thy voice along the cloister whispers, “Peace!”
Dealing its dole,
The Curfew Bell
Is beginning to toll.
Cover the embers,
And put out the light;
Toil comes with the morning,
And rest with the night.
Dark grow the windows,
And quenched is the fire;
Sound fades into silence,—
All footsteps retire.
No voice in the chambers,
No sound in the hall!
Sleep and oblivion
Reign over all!
The book is completed,
And closed, like the day;
And the hand that has written it
Lays it away.
Dim grow its fancies;
Forgotten they lie;
Like coals in the ashes,
They darken and die.
Song sinks into silence,
The story is told,
The windows are darkened,
The hearth-stone is cold.
Darker and darker
The black shadows fall;
Sleep and oblivion
Reign over all.
A TALE OF ACADIE
This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines
and the hemlocks,
Bearded with moss, and in garments green, indistinct in the twilight,
Stand like Druids of eld, with voices sad and prophetic,
Stand like harpers hoar, with beards that rest on their bosoms.
Loud from its rocky caverns, the deep-voiced neighboring ocean
Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.
This is the forest primeval; but where are the hearts
that beneath it
Leaped like the roe, when he hears in the woodland the voice of the huntsman
Where is the thatch-roofed village, the home of Acadian farmers,—
Men whose lives glided on like rivers that water the woodlands,
Darkened by shadows of earth, but reflecting an image of heaven?
Waste are those pleasant farms, and the farmers forever departed!
Scattered like dust and leaves, when the mighty blasts of October
Seize them, and whirl them aloft, and sprinkle them far o’er the ocean
Naught but tradition remains of the beautiful village of Grand-Pre.
Ye who believe in affection that hopes, and endures,
and is patient,
Ye who believe in the beauty and strength of woman’s devotion,
List to the mournful tradition still sung by the pines of the forest;
List to a Tale of Love in Acadie, home of the happy.
In the Acadian land, on the shores of the Basin of
Distant, secluded, still, the little village of Grand-Pre
Lay in the fruitful valley. Vast meadows stretched to the eastward,
Giving the village its name, and pasture to flocks without number.
Dikes, that the hands of the farmers had raised with labor incessant,
Shut out the turbulent tides; but at stated seasons the flood-gates
Opened, and welcomed the sea to wander at will o’er the meadows.
West and south there were fields of flax, and orchards and cornfields
Spreading afar and unfenced o’er the plain; and away to the northward
Blomidon rose, and the forests old, and aloft on the mountains
Sea-fogs pitched their tents, and mists from the mighty Atlantic
Looked on the happy valley, but ne’er from their station descended
There, in the midst of its farms, reposed the Acadian village.
Strongly built were the houses, with frames of oak and of hemlock,
Such as the peasants of Normandy built in the reign of the Henries.
Thatched were the roofs, with dormer-windows; and gables projecting
Over the basement below protected and shaded the doorway.
There in the tranquil evenings of summer, when brightly the sunset
Lighted the village street and gilded the vanes on the chimneys,
Matrons and maidens sat in snow-white caps and in kirtles
Scarlet and blue and green, with distaffs spinning the golden
Flax for the gossiping looms, whose noisy shuttles within doors
Mingled their sound with the whir of the wheels and the songs of the maidens,
Solemnly down the street came the parish priest, and the children
Paused in their play to kiss the hand he extended to bless them.
Reverend walked he among them; and up rose matrons and maidens,
Hailing his slow approach with words of affectionate welcome.
Then came the laborers home from the field, and serenely
Somewhat apart from the village, and nearer the
Basin of Minas,
Benedict Bellefontaine, the wealthiest farmer of Grand-Pre,
Dwelt on his goodly acres: and with him, directing his household,
Gentle Evangeline lived, his child, and the pride of the village.
Stalworth and stately in form was the man of seventy winters;
Hearty and hale was he, an oak that is covered with snow-flakes;
White as the snow were his locks, and his cheeks as brown as the oak-leaves.
Fair was she to behold, that maiden of seventeen summers.
Black were her eyes as the berry that grows on the thorn by the wayside,
Black, yet how softly they gleamed beneath the brown shade of her tresses!
Sweet was her breath as the breath of kine that feed in the meadows.
When in the harvest heat she bore to the reapers at noontide
Flagons of home-brewed ale, ah! fair in sooth was the maiden,
Fairer was she when, on Sunday morn, while the bell from its turret
Sprinkled with holy sounds the air, as the priest with his hyssop
Sprinkles the congregation, and scatters blessings upon them,
Down the long street she passed, with her chaplet of beads and her missal,
Wearing her Norman cap and her kirtle of blue, and the ear-rings,
Brought in the olden time from France, and since, as an heirloom,
Handed down from mother to child, through long generations.
But a celestial brightness—a more ethereal beauty—
Shone on her face and encircled her form, when, after confession,
Homeward serenely she walked with God’s benediction upon her.
When she had passed, it seemed like the ceasing of exquisite music.
Firmly builded with rafters of oak, the house of
Stood on the side of a hill commanding the sea; and a shady
Sycamore grew by the door, with a woodbine wreathing around it.
Rudely carved was the porch, with seats beneath; and a footpath
Led through an orchard wide, and disappeared in the meadow.
Under the sycamore-tree were hives overhung by a penthouse,
Such as the traveller sees in regions remote by the roadside,
Built o’er a box for the poor, or the blessed image of Mary.
Farther down, on the slope of the hill, was the well with its moss-grown
Bucket, fastened with iron, and near it a trough for
Thus, at peace with God and the world, the farmer
Lived on his sunny farm, and Evangeline governed his household.
Many a youth, as he knelt in the church and opened his missal,
Fixed his eyes upon her as the saint of his deepest devotion;
Happy was he who might touch her hand or the hem of her garment!
Many a suitor came to her door, by the darkness befriended,
And, as he knocked and waited to hear the sound of her footsteps,
Knew not which beat the louder, his heart or the knocker of iron;
Or at the joyous feast of the Patron Saint of the village,
Bolder grew, and pressed her hand in the dance as he whispered
Hurried words of love, that seemed a part of the music.
But, among all who came, young Gabriel only was welcome;
Gabriel Lajeunesse, the son of Basil the blacksmith,
Who was a mighty man in the village, and honored of all men;
For, since the birth of time, throughout all ages and nations,
Has the craft of the smith been held in repute by the people.
Basil was Benedict’s friend. Their children from earliest childhood
Grew up together as brother and sister; and Father Felician,
Priest and pedagogue both in the village, had taught them their letters
Out of the selfsame book, with the hymns of the church and the plain-song.
But when the hymn was sung, and the daily lesson completed,
Swiftly they hurried away to the forge of Basil the blacksmith.
There at the door they stood, with wondering eyes to behold him
Take in his leathern lap the hoof of the horse as a plaything,
Nailing the shoe in its place; while near him the tire of the cart-wheel
Lay like a fiery snake, coiled round in a circle of cinders.
Oft on autumnal eves, when without in the gathering darkness
Bursting with light seemed the smithy, through every cranny and crevice,
Warm by the forge within they watched the laboring bellows,
And as its panting ceased, and the sparks expired in the ashes,
Merrily laughed, and said they were nuns going into the chapel.
Oft on sledges in winter, as swift as the swoop of the eagle,
Down the hillside hounding, they glided away o’er
Now had the season returned, when the nights grow
colder and longer,
And the retreating sun the sign of the Scorpion enters.
Birds of passage sailed through the leaden air, from the ice-bound,
Desolate northern bays to the shores of tropical islands,
Harvests were gathered in; and wild with the winds of September
Wrestled the trees of the forest, as Jacob of old with the angel.
All the signs foretold a winter long and inclement.
Bees, with prophetic instinct of want, had hoarded their honey
Till the hives overflowed; and the Indian bunters asserted
Cold would the winter be, for thick was the fur of the foxes.
Such was the advent of autumn. Then followed that beautiful season,
Called by the pious Acadian peasants the Summer of All-Saints!
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape
Lay as if new-created in all the freshness of childhood.
Peace seemed to reign upon earth, and the restless heart of the ocean
Was for a moment consoled. All sounds were in harmony blended.
Voices of children at play, the crowing of cocks in the farm-yards,
Whir of wings in the drowsy air, and the cooing of pigeons,
All were subdued and low as the murmurs of love, and the great sun
Looked with the eye of love through the golden vapors around him;
While arrayed in its robes of russet and scarlet and yellow,
Bright with the sheen of the dew, each glittering tree of the forest
Flashed like the plane-tree the Persian adorned with mantles and
Now recommenced the reign of rest and affection
Day with its burden and heat had departed, and twilight descending
Brought back the evening star to the sky, and the herds to the homestead.
Pawing the ground they came, and resting their necks on each other,
And with their nostrils distended inhaling the freshness of evening.
Foremost, bearing the bell, Evangeline’s beautiful heifer,
Proud of her snow-white hide, and the ribbon that waved from her collar,
In-doors, warm by the wide-mouthed fireplace, idly
Sat in his elbow-chair, and watched how the flames and the smoke-wreaths
Struggled together like foes in a burning city. Behind him,
Nodding and mocking along the wall, with gestures fantastic,
Darted his own huge shadow, and vanished away into darkness.
Faces, clumsily carved in oak, on the back of his arm-chair
Laughed in the flickering light, and the pewter plates on the dresser
Caught and reflected the flame, as shields of armies the sunshine.
Fragments of song the old man sang, and carols of Christmas,
Such as at home, in the olden time, his fathers before him
Sang in their Norman orchards and bright Burgundian vineyards.
Close at her father’s side was the gentle Evangeline seated,
Spinning flax for the loom, that stood in the corner behind her.
Silent awhile were its treadles, at rest was its diligent shuttle,
While the monotonous drone of the wheel, like the drone of a bagpipe,
Followed the old man’s songs and united the fragments together.
As in a church, when the chant of the choir at intervals ceases,
Footfalls are heard in the aisles, or words of the priest at the altar,
So, in each pause of the song, with measured motion the clock clicked.
Thus as they sat, there were footsteps heard, and,
Sounded the wooden latch, and the door swung back on its hinges.
Benedict knew by the hob-nailed shoes it was Basil the blacksmith,
And by her beating heart Evangeline knew who was with him.
“Welcome!” the farmer exclaimed, as their footsteps paused on the threshold.
“Welcome, Basil, my friend! Come, take thy place on the settle
Close by the chimney-side, which is always empty without thee;
Take from the shelf overhead thy pipe and the box of tobacco;
Never so much thyself art thou as when through the curling
Smoke of the pipe or the forge thy friendly and jovial face gleams
Round and red as the harvest moon through the mist of the marshes.”
Then, with a smile of content, thus answered Basil the blacksmith,
Taking with easy air the accustomed seat by the fireside:—
“Benedict Bellefontaine, thou hast ever thy jest and thy ballad!
Ever in cheerfullest mood art thou, when others are filled with
Gloomy forebodings of ill, and see only ruin before them.
Happy art thou, as if every day thou hadst picked up a horseshoe.”
Pausing a moment, to take the pipe that Evangeline brought him,
And with a coal from the embers had lighted, he slowly continued:—
“Four days now are passed since the English ships at their anchors
Ride in the Gaspereau’s mouth, with their cannon pointed against us.
What their design may be is unknown; but all are commanded
On the morrow to meet in the church, where his Majesty’s mandate
Will be proclaimed as law in the land. Alas! in the mean time
Many surmises of evil alarm the hearts of the people.”
Then made answer the farmer:—“Perhaps some friendlier purpose
Brings these ships to our shores. Perhaps the harvests in England
By untimely rains or untimelier heat have been blighted,
And from our bursting barns they would feed their cattle and children.”
“Not so thinketh the folk in the village,” said, warmly, the blacksmith,
Shaking his head, as in doubt; then, heaving a sigh, he continued:—
“Louisburg is not forgotten, nor Beau Sejour, nor Port Royal.
Many already have fled to the forest, and lurk on its outskirts,
Waiting with anxious hearts the dubious fate of to-morrow.
Arms have been taken from us, and warlike weapons of all kinds;
Nothing is left but the blacksmith’s sledge and the scythe of the mower.”
Then with a pleasant smile made answer the jovial farmer:—
“Safer are we unarmed, in the midst of our flocks and our cornfields,
Safer within these peaceful dikes, besieged by the ocean,
Than our fathers in forts, besieged by the enemy’s cannon.
Fear no evil, my friend, and to-night may no shadow of sorrow
Fall on this house and hearth; for this is the night of the contract.
Built are the house and the barn. The merry lads of the village
Strongly have built them and well; and, breaking the
Bent like a laboring oar, that toils in the surf of
Bent, but not broken, by age was the form of the notary public;
Shocks of yellow hair, like the silken floss of the maize, hung
Over his shoulders; his forehead was high; and glasses with horn bows
Sat astride on his nose, with a look of wisdom supernal.
Father of twenty children was he, and more than a hundred
Children’s children rode on his knee, and heard his great watch tick.
Four long years in the times of the war had he languished a captive,
Suffering much in an old French fort as the friend of the English.
Now, though warier grown, without all guile or suspicion,
Ripe in wisdom was he, but patient, and simple, and childlike.
He was beloved by all, and most of all by the children;
For he told them tales of the Loup-garou in the forest,
And of the goblin that came in the night to water the horses,
And of the white Letiche, the ghost of a child who unchristened
Died, and was doomed to haunt unseen the chambers of children;
And how on Christmas eve the oxen talked in the stable,
And how the fever was cured by a spider shut up in a nutshell,
And of the marvellous powers of four-leaved clover and horseshoes,
With whatsoever else was writ in the lore of the village.
Then up rose from his seat by the fireside Basil the blacksmith,
Knocked from his pipe the ashes, and slowly extending his right hand,
“Father Leblanc,” he exclaimed, “thou hast heard the talk in the village,
And, perchance, canst tell us some news of these ships and their errand.”
Then with modest demeanor made answer the notary public,—
“Gossip enough have I heard, in sooth, yet am never the wiser;
And what their errand may be I know not better than others.
Yet am I not of those who imagine some evil intention
Brings them here, for we are at peace; and why then molest us?”
“God’s name!” shouted the hasty and somewhat irascible blacksmith;
“Must we in all things look for the how, and the why, and the wherefore?
Daily injustice is done, and might is the right of the strongest!”
But, without heeding his warmth, continued the notary public,—
“Man is unjust, but God is just; and finally justice
Triumphs; and well I remember a story, that often consoled me,
When as a captive I lay in the old French fort at Port Royal.”
This was the old man’s favorite tale, and he loved to repeat it
Then Evangeline lighted the brazen lamp on the table,
Filled, till it overflowed, the pewter tankard with home-brewed
Nut-brown ale, that was famed for its strength in the village of Grand-Pre;
While from his pocket the notary drew his papers and inkhorn,
Wrote with a steady hand the date and the age of the parties,
Naming the dower of the bride in flocks of sheep and in cattle.
Orderly all things proceeded, and duly and well were completed,
And the great seal of the law was set like a sun on the margin.
Then from his leathern pouch the farmer threw on the table
Three times the old man’s fee in solid pieces of silver;
And the notary rising, and blessing the bride and the bridegroom,
Lifted aloft the tankard of ale and drank to their welfare.
Wiping the foam from his lip, he solemnly bowed and departed,
While in silence the others sat and mused by the fireside,
Till Evangeline brought the draught-board out of its corner.
Soon was the game begun. In friendly contention the old men
Laughed at each lucky hit, or unsuccessful manoeuver,
Laughed when a man was crowned, or a breach was made in the king-row
Meanwhile apart, in the twilight gloom of a window’s embrasure,
Sat the lovers, and whispered together, beholding the moon rise
Over the pallid sea and the silvery mist of the meadows.
Silently one by one, in the infinite meadows of heaven,
Blossomed the lovely stars, the forget-me-nots of the angels.
Thus was the evening passed. Anon the bell
from the belfry
Rang out the hour of nine, the village curfew, and straightway
Rose the guests and departed; and silence reigned in the household.
Many a farewell word and sweet good-night on the door-step
Lingered long in Evangeline’s heart, and filled it with gladness.
Carefully then were covered the embers that glowed on the hearth-stone,
And on the oaken stairs resounded the tread of the farmer.
Soon with a soundless step the foot of Evangeline followed.
Up the staircase moved a luminous space in the darkness,
Lighted less by the lamp than the shining face of the maiden.
Silent she passed the hall, and entered the door of her chamber.
Simple that chamber was, with its curtains of white, and its clothes-press
Ample and high, on whose spacious shelves were carefully folded
Linen and woollen stuffs, by the hand of Evangeline woven.
This was the precious dower she would bring to her husband in marriage,
Better than flocks and herds, being proofs of her skill as a housewife.
Soon she extinguished her lamp, for the mellow and radiant moonlight
Streamed through the windows, and lighted the room, till the heart of the maiden
Swelled and obeyed its power, like the tremulous tides of the ocean.
Ah! she was fair, exceeding fair to behold, as she stood with
Naked snow-white feet on the gleaming floor of her chamber!
Little she dreamed that below, among the trees of the orchard,
Waited her lover and watched for the gleam of her lamp and her shadow.
Yet were her thoughts of him, and at times a feeling of sadness
Passed o’er her soul, as the sailing shade of clouds in the moonlight
Flitted across the floor and darkened the room for a moment.
And, as she gazed from the window, she saw serenely the moon pass
Forth from the folds of a cloud, and one star follow her footsteps,
As out of Abraham’s tent young Ishmael wandered with Hagar!
Pleasantly rose next morn the sun on the village of
Pleasantly gleamed in the soft, sweet air the Basin of Minas,
Where the ships, with their wavering shadows, were riding at anchor.
Life had long been astir in the village, and clamorous labor
Knocked with its hundred hands at the golden gates of the morning.
Now from the country around, from the farms and neighboring hamlets,
Came in their holiday dresses the blithe Acadian peasants.
Many a glad good-morrow and jocund laugh from the young folk
Made the bright air brighter, as up from the numerous meadows,
Where no path could be seen but the track of wheels in the greensward,
Group after group appeared, and joined, or passed on the highway.
Long ere noon, in the village all sounds of labor were silenced.
Thronged were the streets with people; and noisy groups at the house-doors
Under the open sky, in the odorous air of the orchard,
Stript of its golden fruit, was spread the feast of betrothal.
There in the shade of the porch were the priest and the notary seated;
There good Benedict sat, and sturdy Basil the blacksmith.
Not far withdrawn from these, by the cider-press and the beehives,
Michael the fiddler was placed, with the gayest of hearts and of waistcoats.
Shadow and light from the leaves alternately played on his snow-white
Hair, as it waved in the wind; and the jolly face of the fiddler
Glowed like a living coal when the ashes are blown from the embers.
Gayly the old man sang to the vibrant sound of his fiddle,
Tous les Bourgeois de Chartres, and Le Carillon de Dunkerque,
And anon with his wooden shoes beat time to the music.
Merrily, merrily whirled the wheels of the dizzying dances
Under the orchard-trees and down the path to the meadows;
Old folk and young together, and children mingled among them.
Fairest of all the maids was Evangeline, Benedict’s daughter!
Noblest of all the youths was Gabriel, son of the blacksmith!
So passed the morning away. And lo! with a
Sounded the bell from its tower, and over the meadows a drum beat.
Thronged erelong was the church with men. Without, in the churchyard,
Waited the women. They stood by the graves, and hung on the headstones
Garlands of autumn-leaves and evergreens fresh from the forest.
Then came the guard from the ships, and marching proudly among them
Entered the sacred portal. With loud and dissonant clangor
Echoed the sound of their brazen drums from ceiling and casement,—
Echoed a moment only, and slowly the ponderous portal
Closed, and in silence the crowd awaited the will of the soldiers.
Then uprose their commander, and spoke from the steps of the altar,
Holding aloft in his hands, with its seals, the royal commission.
“You are convened this day,” he said, “by his Majesty’s orders.
Clement and kind has he been; but how you have answered his kindness,
Let your own hearts reply! To my natural make and my temper
Painful the task is I do, which to you I know must be grievous.
Yet must I bow and obey, and deliver the will of our monarch;
Namely, that all your lands, and dwellings, and cattle of all kinds
Forfeited be to the crown; and that you yourselves
In the midst of the strife and tumult of angry contention,
Lo! the door of the chancel opened, and Father Felician
Entered, with serious mien, and ascended the steps of the altar.
Raising his reverend hand, with a gesture he awed into silence
All that clamorous throng; and thus he spake to his people;
Deep were his tones and solemn; in accents measured and mournful
Spake he, as, after the tocsin’s alarum, distinctly the clock strikes.
“What is this that ye do, my children? what madness has seized you?
Forty years of my life have I labored among you, and taught you,
Not in word alone, but in deed, to love one another!
Is this the fruit of my toils, of my vigils and prayers and privations?
Have you so soon forgotten all lessons of love and forgiveness?
This is the house of the Prince of Peace, and would you profane it
Thus with violent deeds and hearts overflowing with hatred?
Lo! where the crucified Christ from his cross is gazing upon you!
See! in those sorrowful eyes what meekness and holy compassion!
Hark! how those lips still repeat the prayer, ‘O Father, forgive them!’
Let us repeat that prayer in the hour when the wicked assail us,
Let us repeat it now, and say, ‘O Father, forgive them!’”
Few were his words of rebuke, but deep in the hearts of his people
Sank they, and sobs of contrition succeeded the passionate outbreak,
While they repeated his prayer, and said, “O Father, forgive them!”
Then came the evening service. The tapers
gleamed from the altar.
Fervent and deep was the voice of the priest and the people responded,
Not with their lips alone, but their hearts; and the Ave Maria
Sang they, and fell on their knees, and their souls, with devotion translated,
Rose on the ardor of prayer, like Elijah ascending to heaven.
Meanwhile had spread in the village the tidings
of ill, and on all sides
Wandered, wailing, from house to house the women and children.
Long at her father’s door Evangeline stood, with her right hand
Shielding her eyes from the level rays of the sun, that, descending,
Lighted the village street with mysterious splendor, and roofed each
Peasant’s cottage with golden thatch, and emblazoned its windows.
Long within had been spread the snow-white cloth on the table;
There stood the wheaten loaf, and the honey fragrant with wild-flowers;
There stood the tankard of ale, and the cheese fresh brought from the dairy;
And, at the head of the board, the great arm-chair of the farmer.
Thus did Evangeline wait at her father’s door, as the sunset
Threw the long shadows of trees o’er the broad ambrosial meadows.
Ah! on her spirit within a deeper shadow had fallen,
And from the fields of her soul a fragrance celestial ascended,—
Charity, meekness, love, and hope, and forgiveness, and patience!
Then, all-forgetful of self, she wandered into the village,
Cheering with looks and words the mournful hearts of the women,
As o’er the darkening fields with lingering steps they departed,
Urged by their household cares, and the weary feet of their children.
Down sank the great red sun, and in golden, glimmering vapors
Veiled the light of his face, like the Prophet descending from Sinai.
Sweetly over the village the bell of the Angelus sounded.
Meanwhile, amid the gloom, by the church Evangeline
All was silent within; and in vain at the door and the windows
Stood she, and listened and looked, till, overcome by emotion,
“Gabriel!” cried she aloud with tremulous voice; but no answer
Came from the graves of the dead, nor the gloomier grave of the living.
Slowly at length she returned to the tenantless house of her father.
Smouldered the fire on the hearth, on the board was the supper untasted,
Empty and drear was each room, and haunted with phantoms of terror.
Sadly echoed her step on the stair and the floor of her chamber.
In the dead of the night she heard the disconsolate rain fall
Loud on the withered leaves of the sycamore-tree by the window.
Keenly the lightning flashed; and the voice of the echoing thunder
Told her that God was in heaven, and governed the world he created!
Then she remembered the tale she had heard of the justice of Heaven;
Soothed was her troubled soul, and she peacefully slumbered till morning.
Four times the sun had risen and set; and now on the
Cheerily called the cock to the sleeping maids of the farm-house.
Soon o’er the yellow fields, in silent and mournful procession,
Came from the neighboring hamlets and farms the Acadian women,
Driving in ponderous wains their household goods to the sea-shore,
Pausing and looking back to gaze once more on their dwellings,
Ere they were shut from sight by the winding road and the woodland.
Close at their sides their children ran, and urged on the oxen,
While in their little hands they clasped some fragments of playthings.
Thus to the Gaspereau’s mouth they hurried;
and there on the sea-beach
Piled in confusion lay the household goods of the peasants.
All day long between the shore and the ships did the boats ply;
All day long the wains came laboring down from the village.
Late in the afternoon, when the sun was near to his setting,
Echoed far o’er the fields came the roll of drums from the churchyard.
Thither the women and children thronged. On a sudden the church-doors
Opened, and forth came the guard, and marching in gloomy procession
Followed the long-imprisoned, but patient, Acadian farmers.
Even as pilgrims, who journey afar from their homes and their country,
Sing as they go, and in singing forget they are weary and wayworn,
So with songs on their lips the Acadian peasants descended
Down from the church to the shore, amid their wives and their daughters.
Foremost the young men came; and, raising together their voices,
Sang with tremulous lips a chant of the Catholic Missions:—
“Sacred heart of the Saviour! O inexhaustible fountain!
Fill our hearts this day with strength and submission and patience!”
Then the old men, as they marched, and the women that stood by the wayside
Joined in the sacred psalm, and the birds in the sunshine above them
Mingled their notes therewith, like voices of spirits departed.
Half-way down to the shore Evangeline waited in
Not overcome with grief, but strong in the hour of affliction,—
Calmly and sadly she waited, until the procession approached her,
And she beheld the face of Gabriel pale with emotion.
Team then filled her eyes, and, eagerly running to meet him,
Clasped she his hands, and laid her head on his shoulder, and whispered,—
“Gabriel! be of good cheer! for if we love one another
Nothing, in truth, can harm us, whatever mischances may happen!”
Smiling she spake these words; then suddenly paused, for her father
Saw she slowly advancing. Alas! how changed was his aspect!
Gone was the glow from his cheek, and the fire from his eye, and his footstep
Heavier seemed with the weight of the heavy heart in his bosom.
But with a smile and a sigh, she clasped his neck and embraced him,
Speaking words of endearment where words of comfort availed not.
Thus to the Gaspereau’s mouth moved on that mournful procession.
There disorder prevailed, and the tumult and stir
Busily plied the freighted boats; and in the confusion
Wives were torn from their husbands, and mothers, too late, saw their children
Left on the land, extending their arms, with wildest entreaties.
So unto separate ships were Basil and Gabriel carried,
While in despair on the shore Evangeline stood with her father.
Half the task was not done when the sun went down, and the twilight
Deepened and darkened around; and in haste the refluent ocean
Fled away from the shore, and left the line of the sand-beach
Covered with waifs of the tide, with kelp and the slippery sea-weed.
Farther back in the midst of the household goods and the wagons,
Like to a gypsy camp, or a leaguer after a battle,
All escape cut off by the sea, and the sentinels near them,
Lay encamped for the night the houseless Acadian farmers.
Back to its nethermost caves retreated the bellowing ocean,
Dragging adown the beach the rattling pebbles, and leaving
Inland and far up the shore the stranded boats of the sailors.
Then, as the night descended, the herds returned from their pastures;
Sweet was the moist still air with the odor of milk from their udders;
Lowing they waited, and long, at the well-known bars of the farm-yard,—
Waited and looked in vain for the voice and the hand of the milkmaid.
Silence reigned in the streets; from the church no Angelus sounded,
Rose no smoke from the roofs, and gleamed no lights from the windows.
But on the shores meanwhile the evening fires had
Built of the drift-wood thrown on the sands from wrecks in the tempest.
Round them shapes of gloom and sorrowful faces were gathered,
Voices of women were heard, and of men, and the crying of children.
Onward from fire to fire, as from hearth to hearth in his parish,
Wandered the faithful priest, consoling and blessing and cheering,
Like unto shipwrecked Paul on Melita’s desolate sea-shore.
Thus he approached the place where Evangeline sat with her father,
And in the flickering light beheld the face of the old man,
Haggard and hollow and wan, and without either thought or emotion,
E’en as the face of a clock from which the hands have been taken.
Vainly Evangeline strove with words and caresses to cheer him,
Vainly offered him food; yet he moved not, he looked not, he spake not
But, with a vacant stare, ever gazed at the flickering fire-light.
“Benedicite!” murmured the priest, in tones of compassion.
More he fain would have said, but his heart was full, and his accents
Faltered and paused on his lips, as the feet of a child on a threshold,
Hushed by the scene he beholds, and the awful presence of sorrow.
Silently, therefore, he laid his hand on the head of the maiden,
Raising his tearful eyes to the silent stars that above them
Moved on their way, unperturbed by the wrongs and sorrows of mortals.
Then sat he down at her side, and they wept together in silence.
Suddenly rose from the south a light, as in autumn
Moon climbs the crystal walls of heaven, and o’er the horizon
Titan-like stretches its hundred hands upon mountain and meadow,
Seizing the rocks and the rivers, and piling huge shadows together.
Broader and ever broader it gleamed on the roofs of the village,
Gleamed on the sky and the sea, and the ships that lay in the roadstead.
Columns of shining smoke uprose, and flashes of flame were
Thrust through their folds and withdrawn, like the quivering hands of a martyr.
Then as the wind seized the gleeds and the burning thatch, and, uplifting,
Whirled them aloft through the air, at once from a hundred house-tops
Started the sheeted smoke with flashes of flame intermingled.
These things beheld in dismay the crowd on the shore
and on shipboard.
Speechless at first they stood, then cried aloud in their anguish,
“We shall behold no more our homes in the village of Grand-Pre!”
Loud on a sudden the cocks began to crow in the farm-yards,
Thinking the day had dawned; and anon the lowing of cattle
Came on the evening breeze, by the barking of dogs interrupted.
Then rose a sound of dread, such as startles the sleeping encampments
Far in the western prairies or forests that skirt the Nebraska,
When the wild horses affrighted sweep by with the speed of the whirlwind,
Or the loud bellowing herds of buffaloes rush to the river.
Such was the sound that arose on the night, as the herds and the horses
Broke through their folds and fences, and madly rushed o’er the meadows.
Overwhelmed with the sight, yet speechless, the
priest and the maiden
Gazed on the scene of terror that reddened and widened before them;
And as they turned at length to speak to their silent companion,
Lo! from his seat he had fallen, and stretched abroad on the sea-shore
Motionless lay his form, from which the soul had departed.
Slowly the priest uplifted the lifeless head, and the maiden
Knelt at her father’s side, and wailed aloud in her terror.
Then in a swoon she sank, and lay with her head on his bosom.
Through the long night she lay in deep, oblivious slumber;
And when she woke from the trance, she beheld a multitude near her.
Faces of friends she beheld, that were mournfully gazing upon her,
Pallid, with tearful eyes, and looks of saddest compassion.
Still the blaze of the burning village illumined the landscape,
Reddened the sky overhead, and gleamed on the faces around her,
And like the day of doom it seemed to her wavering senses.
Then a familiar voice she heard, as it said to the people,—
“Let us bury him here by the sea. When a happier season
Brings us again to our homes from the unknown land of our exile,
Then shall his sacred dust be piously laid in the churchyard.”
Such were the words of the priest. And there in haste by the sea-side,
Many a weary year had passed since the burning of
When on the falling tide the freighted vessels departed,
Bearing a nation, with all its household gods, into exile.
Exile without an end, and without an example in story.
Far asunder, on separate coasts, the Acadians landed;
Scattered were they, like flakes of snow, when the wind from the northeast
Strikes aslant through the fogs that darken the Banks of Newfoundland.
Friendless, homeless, hopeless, they wandered from city to city,
From the cold lakes of the North to sultry Southern savannas,—
From the bleak shores of the sea to the lands where the Father of Waters
Seizes the hills in his hands, and drags them down to the ocean,
Deep in their sands to bury the scattered bones of the mammoth.
Friends they sought and homes; and many, despairing, heart-broken,
Asked of the earth but a grave, and no longer a friend nor a fireside.
Written their history stands on tablets of stone in the churchyards.
Long among them was seen a maiden who waited and wandered,
Lowly and meek in spirit, and patiently suffering all things.
Fair was she and young; but, alas! before her extended,
Dreary and vast and silent, the desert of life, with its pathway
Marked by the graves of those who had sorrowed and suffered before her,
Passions long extinguished, and hopes long dead and abandoned,
As the emigrant’s way o’er the Western desert is marked by
Camp-fires long consumed, and bones that bleach in the sunshine.
Something there was in her life incomplete, imperfect, unfinished;
As if a morning of June, with all its music and sunshine,
Suddenly paused in the sky, and, fading, slowly descended
Into the east again, from whence it late had arisen.
Sometimes she lingered in towns, till, urged by the fever within her,
Urged by a restless longing, the hunger and thirst of the spirit,
She would commence again her endless search and endeavor;
Sometimes in churchyards strayed, and gazed on the crosses and tombstones,
Sat by some nameless grave, and thought that perhaps in its bosom
It was the month of May. Far down the Beautiful
Past the Ohio shore and past the mouth of the Wabash,
Into the golden stream of the broad and swift Mississippi,
Floated a cumbrous boat, that was rowed by Acadian boatmen.
It was a band of exiles: a raft, as it were, from the shipwrecked
Nation, scattered along the coast, now floating together,
Bound by the bonds of a common belief and a common misfortune;
Men and women and children, who, guided by hope or by hearsay,
Sought for their kith and their kin among the few-acred farmers
On the Acadian coast, and the prairies of fair Opelousas.
With them Evangeline went, and her guide, the Father Felician.
Onward o’er sunken sands, through a wilderness sombre with forests,
Day after day they glided adown the turbulent river;
Night after night, by their blazing fires, encamped on its borders.
Now through rushing chutes, among green islands, where plumelike
Cotton-trees nodded their shadowy crests, they swept with the current,
Then emerged into broad lagoons, where silvery sand-bars
Lay in the stream, and along the wimpling waves of their margin,
Shining with snow-white plumes, large flocks of pelicans waded.
Level the landscape grew, and along the shores of the river,
Shaded by china-trees, in the midst of luxuriant gardens,
Stood the houses of planters, with negro-cabins and dove-cots.
They were approaching the region where reigns perpetual summer,
Where through the Golden Coast, and groves of orange and citron,
Sweeps with majestic curve the river away to the eastward.
They, too, swerved from their course; and, entering the Bayou of Plaquemine,
Soon were lost in a maze of sluggish and devious waters,
Which, like a network of steel, extended in every direction.
Over their heads the towering and tenebrous boughs of the cypress
Met in a dusky arch, and trailing mosses in mid-air
Waved like banners that hang on the walls of ancient cathedrals.
Deathlike the silence seemed, and unbroken, save by the herons
Home to their roasts in the cedar-trees returning at sunset,
Or by the owl, as he greeted the moon with demoniac laughter.
Lovely the moonlight was as it glanced and gleamed on the water,
Gleamed on the columns of cypress and cedar sustaining the arches,
Down through whose broken vaults it fell as through chinks in a ruin.
Dreamlike, and indistinct, and strange were all things around them;
And o’er their spirits there came a feeling of wonder and sadness,—
Strange forebodings of ill, unseen and that cannot be compassed.
As, at the tramp of a horse’s hoof on the turf of the prairies,
Far in advance are closed the leaves of the shrinking mimosa,
So, at the hoof-beats of fate, with sad forebodings of evil,
Shrinks and closes the heart, ere the stroke of doom has attained it.
But Evangeline’s heart was sustained by a vision,
Then in his place, at the prow of the boat, rose
one of the oarsmen,
And, as a signal sound, if others like them peradventure
Sailed on those gloomy and midnight streams, blew a blast on his bugle.
Wild through the dark colonnades and corridors leafy the blast rang,
Breaking the seal of silence, and giving tongues to the forest.
Soundless above them the banners of moss just stirred to the music.
Multitudinous echoes awoke and died in the distance,
Over the watery floor, and beneath the reverberant branches;
But not a voice replied; no answer came from the darkness;
And, when the echoes had ceased, like a sense of pain was the silence.
Then Evangeline slept; but the boatmen rowed through the midnight,
Silent at times, then singing familiar Canadian boat-songs,
Such as they sang of old on their own Acadian rivers,
While through the night were heard the mysterious sounds of the desert,
Far off,—indistinct,—as of wave or wind in the forest,
Mixed with the whoop of the crane and the roar of the grim alligator.
Thus ere another noon they emerged from the shades;
and before them
Lay, in the golden sun, the lakes of the Atchafalaya.
Water-lilies in myriads rocked on the slight undulations
Made by the passing oars, and, resplendent in beauty, the lotus
Lifted her golden crown above the heads of the boatmen.
Faint was the air with the odorous breath of magnolia blossoms,
And with the heat of noon; and numberless sylvan islands,
Fragrant and thickly embowered with blossoming hedges of roses,
Near to whose shores they glided along, invited to slumber.
Soon by the fairest of these their weary oars were suspended.
Under the boughs of Wachita willows, that grew by the margin,
Safely their boat was moored; and scattered about on the greensward,
Tired with their midnight toil, the weary travellers slumbered.
Over them vast and high extended the cope of a cedar.
Swinging from its great arms, the trumpet-flower and the grapevine
Hung their ladder of ropes aloft like the ladder of Jacob,
On whose pendulous stairs the angels ascending, descending,
Were the swift humming-birds, that flitted from blossom to blossom.
Such was the vision Evangeline saw as she slumbered beneath it.
Filled was her heart with love, and the dawn of an opening heaven
Lighted her soul in sleep with the glory of regions celestial.
Nearer, ever nearer, among the numberless islands,
Darted a light, swift boat, that sped away o’er the water,
Urged on its course by the sinewy arms of hunters and trappers.
Northward its prow was turned, to the land of the bison and beaver.
At the helm sat a youth, with countenance thoughtful and careworn.
Dark and neglected locks overshadowed his brow, and a sadness
Somewhat beyond his years on his face was legibly written.
Gabriel was it, who, weary with waiting, unhappy and restless,
Sought in the Western wilds oblivion of self and of sorrow.
Swiftly they glided along, close under the lee of the island,
But by the opposite bank, and behind a screen of palmettos,
So that they saw not the boat, where it lay concealed in the willows,
All undisturbed by the dash of their oars, and unseen, were the sleepers,
Angel of God was there none to awaken the slumbering maiden.
Swiftly they glided away, like the shade of a cloud on the prairie.
After the sound of their oars on the tholes had died in the distance,
As from a magic trance the sleepers awoke, and the maiden
Said with a sigh to the friendly priest, “O Father Felician!
Something says in my heart that near me Gabriel wanders.
Is it a foolish dream, an idle and vague superstition?
Or has an angel passed, and revealed the truth to my spirit?”
Then, with a blush, she added, “Alas for my credulous fancy!
Unto ears like thine such words as these have no meaning.”
But made answer the reverend man, and he smiled as he answered,—
“Daughter, thy words are not idle; nor are they to me without meaning.
Feeling is deep and still; and the word that floats on the surface
Is as the tossing buoy, that betrays where the anchor is hidden.
Therefore trust to thy heart, and to what the world calls illusions.
Gabriel truly is near thee; for not far away to the southward,
On the banks of the Teche, are the towns of St. Maur and St. Martin.
There the long-wandering bride shall be given again to her bridegroom,
There the long-absent pastor regain his flock and his sheepfold.
Beautiful is the land, with its prairies and forests of fruit-trees;
Under the feet a garden of flowers, and the bluest of heavens
Bending above, and resting its dome on the walls of the forest.
They who dwell there have named it the Eden of Louisiana.”
With these words of cheer they arose and continued
Softly the evening came. The sun from the western horizon
Like a magician extended his golden wand o’er the landscape;
Twinkling vapors arose; and sky and water and forest
Seemed all on fire at the touch, and melted and mingled together.
Hanging between two skies, a cloud with edges of silver,
Floated the boat, with its dripping oars, on the motionless water.
Filled was Evangeline’s heart with inexpressible sweetness.
Touched by the magic spell, the sacred fountains of
Near to the bank of the river, o’ershadowed
by oaks, from whose branches
Garlands of Spanish moss and of mystic mistletoe flaunted,
Such as the Druids cut down with golden hatchets at Yule-tide,
Stood, secluded and still, the house of the herdsman. A garden
Girded it round about with a belt of luxuriant blossoms,
Filling the air with fragrance. The house itself was of timbers
Hewn from the cypress-tree, and carefully fitted together.
Large and low was the roof; and on slender columns supported,
Rose-wreathed, vine-encircled, a broad and spacious veranda,
Haunt of the humming-bird and the bee, extended around it.
At each end of the house, amid the flowers of the garden,
Stationed the dove-cots were, as love’s perpetual symbol,
Scenes of endless wooing, and endless contentions of rivals.
Silence reigned o’er the place. The line of shadow and sunshine
Ran near the tops of the trees; but the house itself was in shadow,
And from its chimney-top, ascending and slowly expanding
Into the evening air, a thin blue column of smoke rose.
In the rear of the house, from the garden gate, ran a pathway
Through the great groves of oak to the skirts of the limitless prairie,
Into whose sea of flowers the sun was slowly descending.
Full in his track of light, like ships with shadowy canvas
Hanging loose from their spars in a motionless calm in the tropics,
Stood a cluster of trees, with tangled cordage of grapevines.
Just where the woodlands met the flowery surf of
Mounted upon his horse, with Spanish saddle and stirrups,
Sat a herdsman, arrayed in gaiters and doublet of deerskin.
Broad and brown was the face that from under the Spanish sombrero
Gazed on the peaceful scene, with the lordly look
Then glad voices were heard, and up from the banks
of the river,
Borne aloft on his comrades’ arms, came Michael the fiddler.
Long under Basil’s roof had he lived like a god on Olympus,
Having no other care than dispensing music to mortals.
Far renowned was he for his silver locks and his fiddle.
“Long live Michael,” they cried, “our brave Acadian minstrel!”
As they bore him aloft in triumphal procession; and straightway
Father Felician advanced with Evangeline, greeting the old man
Kindly and oft, and recalling the past, while Basil, enraptured,
Hailed with hilarious joy his old companions and gossips,
Laughing loud and long, and embracing mothers and daughters.
Much they marvelled to see the wealth of the cidevant blacksmith,
All his domains and his herds, and his patriarchal demeanor;
Much they marvelled to hear his tales of the soil and the climate,
And of the prairie; whose numberless herds were his who would take them;
Each one thought in his heart, that he, too, would go and do likewise.
Thus they ascended the steps, and, crossing the breezy veranda,
Entered the hall of the house, where already the supper of Basil
Waited his late return; and they rested and feasted together.
Over the joyous feast the sudden darkness descended.
All was silent without, and, illuming the landscape with silver,
Fair rose the dewy moon and the myriad stars; but within doors,
Brighter than these, shone the faces of friends in the glimmering lamplight.
Then from his station aloft, at the head of the table, the herdsman
Poured forth his heart and his wine together in endless profusion.
Lighting his pipe, that was filled with sweet Natchitoches tobacco,
Thus he spake to his guests, who listened, and smiled as they listened:—
“Welcome once more, my friends, who long have been friendless and homeless,
Welcome once more to a home, that is better perchance than the old one!
Here no hungry winter congeals our blood like the rivers;
Here no stony ground provokes the wrath of the farmer.
Smoothly the ploughshare runs through the soil, as a keel through the water.
All the year round the orange-groves are in blossom; and grass grows
More in a single night than a whole Canadian summer.
Here, too, numberless herds run wild and unclaimed in the prairies;
Here, too, lands may be had for the asking, and forests of timber
With a few blows of the axe are hewn and framed into houses.
After your houses are built, and your fields are yellow with harvests,
No King George of England shall drive you away from your homesteads,
Burning your dwellings and barns, and stealing your farms and your cattle.”
Speaking these words, he blew a wrathful cloud from his nostrils,
While his huge, brown hand came thundering down on the table,
So that the guests all started; and Father Felician, astounded,
Suddenly paused, with a pinch of snuff half-way to
Meanwhile, apart, at the head of the hall, the priest
and the herdsman
Sat, conversing together of past and present and future;
While Evangeline stood like one entranced, for within her
Olden memories rose, and loud in the midst of the music
Heard she the sound of the sea, and an irrepressible sadness
Came o’er her heart, and unseen she stole forth into the garden.
Beautiful was the night. Behind the black wall of the forest,
Tipping its summit with silver, arose the moon. On the river
Fell here and there through the branches a tremulous gleam of the moonlight,
Like the sweet thoughts of love on a darkened and devious spirit.
Nearer and round about her, the manifold flowers of the garden
Poured out their souls in odors, that were their prayers and confessions
Unto the night, as it went its way, like a silent Carthusian.
Fuller of fragrance than they, and as heavy with shadows and night-dews,
Hung the heart of the maiden. The calm and the magical moonlight
Seemed to inundate her soul with indefinable longing;
As, through the garden gate, and beneath the shade of the oak-trees,
Passed she along the path to the edge of the measureless prairie.
Silent it lay, with a silvery haze upon it, and fire-flies
Gleaming and floating away in mingled and infinite numbers.
Over her head the stars, the thoughts of God in the heavens,
Shone on the eyes of man who had ceased to marvel and worship,
Save when a blazing comet was seen on the walls of that temple,
As if a hand had appeared and written upon them, “Upharsin.”
And the soul of the maiden, between the stars and the fire-flies,
Wandered alone, and she cried, “O Gabriel! O my beloved!
Art thou so near unto me, and yet I cannot behold
Bright rose the sun next day; and all the flowers
of the garden
Bathed his shining feet with their tears, and anointed his tresses
With the delicious balm that they bore in their vases of crystal.
“Farewell!” said the priest, as he stood at the shadowy threshold;
“See that you bring us the Prodigal Son from his fasting and famine,
And, too, the Foolish Virgin, who slept when the bridegroom was coming.”
“Farewell!” answered the maiden, and, smiling, with Basil descended
Down to the river’s brink, where the boatmen already were waiting.
Thus beginning their journey with morning, and sunshine, and gladness,
Swiftly they followed the flight of him who was speeding before them,
Blown by the blast of fate like a dead leaf over the desert.
Not that day, nor the next, nor yet the day that succeeded,
Found they trace of his course, in lake or forest or river,
Nor, after many days, had they found him; but vague and uncertain
Rumors alone were their guides through a wild and desolate Country;
Till, at the little inn of the Spanish town of Adayes,
Weary and worn, they alighted, and learned from the garrulous landlord,
That on the day before, with horses and guides and companions,
Gabriel left the village, and took the road of the prairies.
Far in the West there lies a desert land, where the
Lift, through perpetual snows, their lofty and luminous summits.
Down from their jagged, deep ravines, where the gorge, like a gateway,
Opens a passage rude to the wheels of the emigrant’s wagon,
Westward the Oregon flows and the Walleway and Owyhee.
Eastward, with devious course, among the Wind-river Mountains,
Through the Sweet-water Valley precipitate leaps the Nebraska;
And to the south, from Fontaine-qui-bout and the Spanish sierras,
Fretted with sands and rocks, and swept by the wind of the desert,
Numberless torrents, with ceaseless sound, descend to the ocean,
Like the great chords of a harp, in loud and solemn vibrations.
Spreading between these streams are the wondrous, beautiful prairies,
Billowy bays of grass ever rolling in shadow and sunshine,
Into this wonderful land, at the base of the Ozark
Gabriel far had entered, with hunters and trappers behind him.
Day after day, with their Indian guides, the maiden and Basil
Followed his flying steps, and thought each day to o’ertake him.
Sometimes they saw, or thought they saw, the smoke of his camp-fire
Rise in the morning air from the distant plain; but at nightfall,
When they had reached the place, they found only embers and ashes.
And, though their hearts were sad at times and their bodies were weary,
Hope still guided them on, as the magic Fata Morgana
Showed them her lakes of light, that retreated and vanished before them.
Once, as they sat by their evening fire, there silently
Into the little camp an Indian woman, whose features
Wore deep traces of sorrow, and patience as great as her sorrow.
She was a Shawnee woman returning home to her people,
From the far-off hunting-grounds of the cruel Camanches,
Where her Canadian husband, a Coureur-des-Bois, had been murdered.
Touched were their hearts at her story, and warmest and friendliest welcome
Gave they, with words of cheer, and she sat and feasted among them
On the buffalo-meat and the venison cooked on the embers.
But when their meal was done, and Basil and all his companions,
Worn with the long day’s march and the chase of the deer and the bison,
Stretched themselves on the ground, and slept where the quivering fire-light
Flashed on their swarthy cheeks, and their forms wrapped up in their blankets
Then at the door of Evangeline’s tent she sat and repeated
Slowly, with soft, low voice, and the charm of her Indian accent,
All the tale of her love, with its pleasures, and pains, and reverses.
Much Evangeline wept at the tale, and to know that another
Hapless heart like her own had loved and had been disappointed.
Moved to the depths of her soul by pity and woman’s
Early upon the morrow the march was resumed; and
Said, as they journeyed along, “On the western slope of these mountains
Dwells in his little village the Black Robe chief of the Mission.
Much he teaches the people, and tells them of Mary and Jesus;
Loud laugh their hearts with joy, and weep with pain, as they hear him.”
Then, with a sudden and secret emotion, Evangeline answered,
“Let us go to the Mission, for there good tidings await us!”
Thither they turned their steeds; and behind a spur of the mountains,
Just as the sun went down, they heard a murmur of voices,
And in a meadow green and broad, by the bank of a river,
Saw the tents of the Christians, the tents of the Jesuit Mission.
Under a towering oak, that stood in the midst of the village,
Knelt the Black Robe chief with his children. A crucifix fastened
High on the trunk of the tree, and overshadowed by
Slowly, slowly, slowly the days succeeded each other,—
Days and weeks and months; and the fields of maize that were springing
Green from the ground when a stranger she came, now waving above her,
Lifted their slender shafts, with leaves interlacing, and forming
Cloisters for mendicant crows and granaries pillaged by squirrels.
Then in the golden weather the maize was husked, and the maidens
Blushed at each blood-red ear, for that betokened a lover,
But at the crooked laughed, and called it a thief in the corn-field.
Even the blood-red ear to Evangeline brought not her lover.
“Patience!” the priest would say; “have faith, and thy prayer will be answered!
Look at this vigorous plant that lifts its head from the meadow,
See how its leaves are turned to the north, as true as the magnet;
This is the compass-flower, that the finger of God has planted
Here in the houseless wild, to direct the traveller’s journey
Over the sea-like, pathless, limitless waste of the desert.
So came the autumn, and passed, and the winter,—yet
Gabriel came not;
Blossomed the opening spring, and the notes of the robin and bluebird
Sounded sweet upon wold and in wood, yet Gabriel came not.
But on the breath of the summer winds a rumor was wafted
Sweeter than song of bird, or hue or odor of blossom.
Far to the north and east, it said, in the Michigan forests,
Gabriel had his lodge by the banks of the Saginaw River,
And, with returning guides, that sought the lakes of St. Lawrence,
Saying a sad farewell, Evangeline went from the Mission.
When over weary ways, by long and perilous marches,
She had attained at length the depths of the Michigan forests,
Found she the hunter’s lodge deserted and fallen to ruin!
Thus did the long sad years glide on, and in seasons
Divers and distant far was seen the wandering maiden;—
Now in the Tents of Grace of the meek Moravian Missions,
Now in the noisy camps and the battle-fields of the army,
Now in secluded hamlets, in towns and populous cities.
Like a phantom she came, and passed away unremembered.
Fair was she and young, when in hope began the long journey;
Faded was she and old, when in disappointment it ended.
Each succeeding year stole something away from her beauty,
Leaving behind it, broader and deeper, the gloom and the shadow.
Then there appeared and spread faint streaks of gray o’er her forehead,
Dawn of another life, that broke o’er her earthy horizon,
As in the eastern sky the first faint streaks of the morning.
In that delightful land which is washed by the Delaware’s
Guarding in sylvan shades the name of Penn the apostle,
Stands on the banks of its beautiful stream the city he founded.
There all the air is balm, and the peach is the emblem of beauty,
And the streets still re-echo the names of the trees of the forest,
As if they fain would appease the Dryads whose haunts they molested.
There from the troubled sea had Evangeline landed, an exile,
Finding among the children of Penn a home and a country.
There old Rene Leblanc had died; and when he departed,
Saw at his side only one of all his hundred descendants.
Something at least there was in the friendly streets of the city,
Something that spake to her heart, and made her no longer a stranger;
And her ear was pleased with the Thee and Thou of the Quakers,
For it recalled the past, the old Acadian country,
Where all men were equal, and all were brothers and
Then it came to pass that a pestilence fell on the
Presaged by wondrous signs, and mostly by flocks of wild pigeons,
Darkening the sun in their flight, with naught in their craws but an acorn.
And, as the tides of the sea arise in the month of September,
Flooding some silver stream, till it spreads to a lake in the meadow,
So death flooded life, and, o’erflowing its natural margin,
Spread to a brackish lake, the silver stream of existence.
Wealth had no power to bribe, nor beauty to charm, the oppressor;
But all perished alike beneath the scourge of his anger;—
Only, alas! the poor, who had neither friends nor attendants,
Crept away to die in the almshouse, home of the homeless.
Then in the suburbs it stood, in the midst of meadows and woodlands;
Now the city surrounds it; but still, with its gateway and wicket
Meek, in the midst of splendor, its humble walls seem
Thus, on a Sabbath morn, through the streets, deserted
Wending her quiet way, she entered the door of the almshouse.
Sweet on the summer air was the odor of flowers in the garden;
And she paused on her way to gather the fairest among them,
That the dying once more might rejoice in their fragrance and beauty.
Then, as she mounted the stairs to the corridors, cooled by the east-wind,
Distant and soft on her ear fell the chimes from the belfry of Christ Church,
While, intermingled with these, across the meadows were wafted
Sounds of psalms, that were sung by the Swedes in their church at Wicaco.
Soft as descending wings fell the calm of the hour on her spirit;
Something within her said, “At length thy trials are ended”;
And, with light in her looks, she entered the chambers of sickness.
Noiselessly moved about the assiduous, careful attendants,
Moistening the feverish lip, and the aching brow, and in silence
Closing the sightless eyes of the dead, and concealing their faces,
Where on their pallets they lay, like drifts of snow by the roadside.
Many a languid head, upraised as Evangeline entered,
Turned on its pillow of pain to gaze while she passed, for her presence
Fell on their hearts like a ray of the sun on the walls of a prison.
And, as she looked around, she saw how Death, the consoler,
Laying his hand upon many a heart, had healed it forever.
Many familiar forms had disappeared in the night time;
Vacant their places were, or filled already by strangers.
Suddenly, as if arrested by fear or a feeling of
Still she stood, with her colorless lips apart, while a shudder
Ran through her frame, and, forgotten, the flowerets dropped from her fingers,
And from her eyes and cheeks the light and bloom of the morning.
Then there escaped from her lips a cry of such terrible anguish,
That the dying heard it, and started up from their pillows.
On the pallet before her was stretched the form of an old man.
Long, and thin, and gray were the locks that shaded his temples;
But, as he lay in the in morning light, his face for a moment
Seemed to assume once more the forms of its earlier manhood;
So are wont to be changed the faces of those who are dying.
Hot and red on his lips still burned the flush of the fever,
As if life, like the Hebrew, with blood had besprinkled
All was ended now, the hope, and the fear, and the
All the aching of heart, the restless, unsatisfied longing,
All the dull, deep pain, and constant anguish of patience!
And, as she pressed once more the lifeless head to her bosom,
Meekly she bowed her own, and murmured, “Father, I thank thee!”
Still stands the forest primeval; but far away from
Side by side, in their nameless graves, the lovers are sleeping.
Under the humble walls of the little Catholic churchyard,
In the heart of the city, they lie, unknown and unnoticed.
Daily the tides of life go ebbing and flowing beside them,
Thousands of throbbing hearts, where theirs are at rest and forever,
Thousands of aching brains, where theirs no longer are busy,
Thousands of toiling hands, where theirs have ceased from their labors,
Thousands of weary feet, where theirs have completed their journey!
Still stands the forest primeval; but under the
shade of its branches
Dwells another race, with other customs and language.
Only along the shore of the mournful and misty Atlantic
Linger a few Acadian peasants, whose fathers from exile
Wandered back to their native land to die in its bosom.
In the fisherman’s cot the wheel and the loom are still busy;
Maidens still wear their Norman caps and their kirtles of homespun,
And by the evening fire repeat Evangeline’s story,
While from its rocky caverns the deep-voiced, neighboring ocean
Speaks, and in accents disconsolate answers the wail of the forest.
As one who, walking in the twilight gloom,
Hears round about him voices as it darkens,
And seeing not the forms from which they come,
Pauses from time to time, and turns and hearkens;
So walking here in twilight, O my friends!
I hear your voices, softened by the distance,
And pause, and turn to listen, as each sends
His words of friendship, comfort, and assistance.
If any thought of mine, or sung or told,
Has ever given delight or consolation,
Ye have repaid me back a thousand-fold,
By every friendly sign and salutation.
Thanks for the sympathies that ye have shown!
Thanks for each kindly word, each silent token,
That teaches me, when seeming most alone,
Friends are around us, though no word be spoken.
Kind messages, that pass from land to land;
Kind letters, that betray the heart’s deep history,
In which we feel the pressure of a hand,—
One touch of fire,—and all the rest is mystery!
The pleasant books, that silently among
Our household treasures take familiar places,
And are to us as if a living tongue
Spice from the printed leaves or pictured faces!
Perhaps on earth I never shall behold,
With eye of sense, your outward form and semblance;
Therefore to me ye never will grow old,
But live forever young in my remembrance.
Never grow old, nor change, nor pass away!
Your gentle voices will flow on forever,
When life grows bare and tarnished with decay,
As through a leafless landscape flows a river.
Not chance of birth or place has made us friends,
Being oftentimes of different tongues and nations,
But the endeavor for the selfsame ends,
With the same hopes, and fears, and aspirations.
Therefore I hope to join your seaside walk,
Saddened, and mostly silent, with emotion;
Not interrupting with intrusive talk
The grand, majestic symphonies of ocean.
Therefore I hope, as no unwelcome guest,
At your warm fireside, when the lamps are lighted,
To have my place reserved among the rest,
Nor stand as one unsought and uninvited!
THE BUILDING OF THE SHIP
“Build me straight, O worthy Master!
Stanch and strong, a goodly vessel,
That shall laugh at all disaster,
And with wave and whirlwind wrestle!”
The merchant’s word
Delighted the Master heard;
For his heart was in his work, and the heart
Giveth grace unto every Art.
A quiet smile played round his lips,
As the eddies and dimples of the tide
Play round the bows of ships,
That steadily at anchor ride.
And with a voice that was full of glee,
He answered, “Erelong we will launch
A vessel as goodly, and strong, and stanch,
As ever weathered a wintry sea!”
And first with nicest skill and art,
Perfect and finished in every part,
A little model the Master wrought,
Which should be to the larger plan
What the child is to the man,
Its counterpart in miniature;
That with a hand more swift and sure
The greater labor might be brought
To answer to his inward thought.
And as he labored, his mind ran o’er
The various ships that were built of yore,
And above them all, and strangest of all
Towered the Great Harry, crank and tall,
Whose picture was hanging on the wall,
With bows and stern raised high in air,
And balconies hanging here and there,
And signal lanterns and flags afloat,
And eight round towers, like those that frown
From some old castle, looking down
Upon the drawbridge and the moat.
And he said with a smile, “Our ship, I wis,
Shall be of another form than this!”
It was of another form, indeed;
Built for freight, and yet for speed,
A beautiful and gallant craft;
Broad in the beam, that the stress of the blast,
Pressing down upon sail and mast,
Might not the sharp bows overwhelm;
Broad in the beam, but sloping aft
With graceful curve and slow degrees,
That she might be docile to the helm,
And that the currents of parted seas,
Closing behind, with mighty force,
Might aid and not impede her course.
In the ship-yard stood the Master,
With the model of the vessel,
That should laugh at all disaster,
And with wave and whirlwind wrestle!
Covering many a rood of ground,
Lay the timber piled around;
Timber of chestnut, and elm, and oak,
And scattered here and there, with these,
The knarred and crooked cedar knees;
Brought from regions far away,
From Pascagoula’s sunny bay,
And the banks of the roaring Roanoke!
Ah! what a wondrous thing it is
To note how many wheels of toil
One thought, one word, can set in motion!
There’s not a ship that sails the ocean,
But every climate, every soil,
Must bring its tribute, great or small,
And help to build the wooden wall!
The sun was rising o’er the sea,
And long the level shadows lay,
As if they, too, the beams would be
Of some great, airy argosy.
Framed and launched in a single day.
That silent architect, the sun,
Had hewn and laid them every one,
Ere the work of man was yet begun.
Beside the Master, when he spoke,
A youth, against an anchor leaning,
Listened, to catch his slightest meaning.
Only the long waves, as they broke
In ripples on the pebbly beach,
Interrupted the old man’s speech.
Beautiful they were, in sooth,
The old man and the fiery youth!
The old man, in whose busy brain
Many a ship that sailed the main
Was modelled o’er and o’er again;—
The fiery youth, who was to be
the heir of his dexterity,
The heir of his house, and his daughter’s hand,
When he had built and launched from land
What the elder head had planned.
“Thus,” said he, “will we build
Lay square the blocks upon the slip,
And follow well this plan of mine.
Choose the timbers with greatest care;
Of all that is unsound beware;
For only what is sound and strong
to this vessel stall belong.
Cedar of Maine and Georgia pine
Here together shall combine.
A goodly frame, and a goodly fame,
And the union be her name!
For the day that gives her to the sea
Shall give my daughter unto thee!”
The Master’s word
Enraptured the young man heard;
And as he turned his face aside,
With a look of joy and a thrill of pride,
Her father’s door,
He saw the form of his promised bride.
The sun shone on her golden hair,
And her cheek was glowing fresh and fair,
With the breath of morn and the soft sea air.
Like a beauteous barge was she,
Still at rest on the sandy beach,
Just beyond the billow’s reach;
Was the restless, seething, stormy sea!
Ah, how skilful grows the hand
That obeyeth Love’s command!
It is the heart, and not the brain,
That to the highest doth attain,
And he who followeth Love’s behest
Far excelleth all the rest!
Thus with the rising of the sun
Was the noble task begun
And soon throughout the ship-yard’s bounds
Were heard the intermingled sounds
Of axes and of mallets, plied
With vigorous arms on every side;
Plied so deftly and so well,
That, ere the shadows of evening fell,
The keel of oak for a noble ship,
Scarfed and bolted, straight and strong
Was lying ready, and stretched along
The blocks, well placed upon the slip.
Happy, thrice happy, every one
Who sees his labor well begun,
And not perplexed and multiplied,
By idly waiting for time and tide!
And when the hot, long day was o’er,
The young man at the Master’s door
Sat with the maiden calm and still.
And within the porch, a little more
Removed beyond the evening chill,
The father sat, and told them tales
Of wrecks in the great September gales,
Of pirates coasting the Spanish Main,
And ships that never came back again,
The chance and change of a sailor’s life,
Want and plenty, rest and strife,
His roving fancy, like the wind,
That nothing can stay and nothing can bind,
And the magic charm of foreign lands,
With shadows of palms, and shining sands,
Where the tumbling surf,
O’er the coral reefs of Madagascar,
Washes the feet of the swarthy Lascar,
Day by day the vessel grew,
With timbers fashioned strong and true,
Stemson and keelson and sternson-knee,
Till, framed with perfect symmetry,
A skeleton ship rose up to view!
And around the bows and along the side
The heavy hammers and mallets plied,
Till after many a week, at length,
Wonderful for form and strength,
Sublime in its enormous bulk,
Loomed aloft the shadowy hulk!
And around it columns of smoke, up-wreathing.
Rose from the boiling, bubbling, seething
Caldron, that glowed,
With the black tar, heated for the sheathing.
And amid the clamors
Of clattering hammers,
He who listened heard now and then
The song of the Master and his men:—
“Build me straight, O worthy Master.
Stanch and strong, a goodly vessel,
That shall laugh at all disaster,
And with wave and whirlwind wrestle!”
With oaken brace and copper band,
Lay the rudder on the sand,
That, like a thought, should have control
Over the movement of the whole;
And near it the anchor, whose giant hand
Would reach down and grapple with the land,
And immovable and fast
Hold the great ship against the bellowing blast!
And at the bows an image stood,
By a cunning artist carved in wood,
With robes of white, that far behind
Seemed to be fluttering in the wind.
It was not shaped in a classic mould,
Not like a Nymph or Goddess of old,
Or Naiad rising from the water,
But modelled from the Master’s daughter!
On many a dreary and misty night,
’T will be seen by the rays of the signal light,
Speeding along through the rain and the dark,
Like a ghost in its snow-white sark,
The pilot of some phantom bark,
Guiding the vessel, in its flight,
By a path none other knows aright!
Behold, at last,
Each tall and tapering mast
Is swung into its place;
Shrouds and stays
Holding it firm and fast!
In the deer-haunted forests of Maine,
When upon mountain and plain
Lay the snow,
They fell,—those lordly pines!
Those grand, majestic pines!
’Mid shouts and cheers
The jaded steers,
Panting beneath the goad,
Dragged down the weary, winding road
Those captive kings so straight and tall,
To be shorn of their streaming hair,
And, naked and bare,
To feel the stress and the strain
Of the wind and the reeling main,
Would remind them forevermore
Of their native forests they should not see again.
The slender, graceful spars
Poise aloft in the air,
And at the mast-head,
White, blue, and red,
A flag unrolls the stripes and stars.
Ah! when the wanderer, lonely, friendless,
In foreign harbors shall behold
That flag unrolled,
’T will be as a friendly hand
Stretched out from his native land,
Filling his heart with memories sweet and endless!
All is finished! and at length
Has come the bridal day
Of beauty and of strength.
To-day the vessel shall be launched!
With fleecy clouds the sky is blanched,
And o’er the bay,
Slowly, in all his splendors dight,
The great sun rises to behold the sight.
The ocean old,
Strong as youth, and as uncontrolled,
Paces restless to and fro,
Up and down the sands of gold.
His beating heart is not at rest;
And far and wide,
With ceaseless flow,
His beard of snow
Heaves with the heaving of his breast.
He waits impatient for his bride.
There she stands,
With her foot upon the sands,
Decked with flags and streamers gay,
In honor of her marriage day,
Her snow-white signals fluttering, blending,
Round her like a veil descending,
Ready to be
The bride of the gray old sea.
On the deck another bride
Is standing by her lover’s side.
Shadows from the flags and shrouds,
Like the shadows cast by clouds,
Broken by many a sunny fleck,
Fall around them on the deck.
The prayer is said,
The service read,
The joyous bridegroom bows his head;
And in tear’s the good old Master
Shakes the brown hand of his son,
Kisses his daughter’s glowing cheek
In silence, for he cannot speak,
And ever faster
Down his own the tears begin to run.
The worthy pastor—
The shepherd of that wandering flock,
That has the ocean for its wold,
That has the vessel for its fold,
Leaping ever from rock to rock—
Spake, with accents mild and clear,
Words of warning, words of cheer,
But tedious to the bridegroom’s ear.
He knew the chart
Of the sailor’s heart,
All its pleasures and its griefs,
All its shallows and rocky reefs,
All those secret currents, that flow
With such resistless undertow,
And lift and drift, with terrible force,
The will from its moorings and its course.
Therefore he spake, and thus said he:—
“Like unto ships far off at sea,
Outward or homeward bound, are we.
Before, behind, and all around,
Floats and swings the horizon’s bound,
Seems at its distant rim to rise
And climb the crystal wall of the skies,
And then again to turn and sink,
As if we could slide from its outer brink.
Ah! it is not the sea,
It is not the sea that sinks and shelves,
That rock and rise
With endless and uneasy motion,
Now touching the very skies,
Now sinking into the depths of ocean.
Ah! if our souls but poise and swing
Like the compass in its brazen ring,
Ever level and ever true
To the toil and the task we have to do,
We shall sail securely, and safely reach
The Fortunate Isles, on whose shining beach
The sights we see, and the sounds we hear,
Will be those of joy and not of fear!”
Then the Master,
With a gesture of command,
Waved his hand;
And at the word,
Loud and sudden there was heard,
All around them and below,
The sound of hammers, blow on blow,
Knocking away the shores and spurs.
And see! she stirs!
She starts,—she moves,—she seems to feel
The thrill of life along her keel,
And, spurning with her foot the ground,
With one exulting, joyous bound,
She leaps into the ocean’s arms!
And lo! from the assembled crowd
There rose a shout, prolonged and loud,
That to the ocean seemed to say,
“Take her, O bridegroom, old and gray,
Take her to thy protecting arms,
With all her youth and all her charms!”
How beautiful she is! How fair
She lies within those arms, that press
Her form with many a soft caress
Of tenderness and watchful care!
Sail forth into the sea, O ship!
Through wind and wave, right onward steer!
The moistened eye, the trembling lip,
Are not the signs of doubt or fear.
Sail forth into the sea of life,
O gentle, loving, trusting wife,
And safe from all adversity
Upon the bosom of that sea
Thy comings and thy goings be!
For gentleness and love and trust
Prevail o’er angry wave and gust;
And in the wreck of noble lives
Something immortal still survives!
Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State!
Sail on, O union, strong and great!
Humanity with all its fears,
With all the hopes of future years,
Is hanging breathless on thy fate!
We know what Master laid thy keel,
What Workmen wrought thy ribs of steel,
Who made each mast, and sail, and rope,
What anvils rang, what hammers beat,
In what a forge and what a heat
Were shaped the anchors of thy hope!
Fear not each sudden sound and shock,
’T is of the wave and not the rock;
’T is but the flapping of the sail,
And not a rent made by the gale!
In spite of rock and tempest’s roar,
In spite of false lights on the shore,
Sail on, nor fear to breast the sea
Our hearts, our hopes, are all with thee,
Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears,
Our faith triumphant o’er our fears,
Are all with thee,—are all with thee!
When descends on the Atlantic
Storm-wind of the equinox,
Landward in his wrath he scourges
The toiling surges,
Laden with seaweed from the rocks:
From Bermuda’s reefs; from edges
Of sunken ledges,
In some far-off, bright Azore;
From Bahama, and the dashing,
Surges of San Salvador;
From the tumbling surf, that buries
The Orkneyan skerries,
Answering the hoarse Hebrides;
And from wrecks of ships, and drifting
On the desolate, rainy seas;—
Ever drifting, drifting, drifting
On the shifting
Currents of the restless main;
Till in sheltered coves, and reaches
Of sandy beaches,
All have found repose again.
So when storms of wild emotion
Strike the ocean
Of the poet’s soul, erelong
From each cave and rocky fastness,
In its vastness,
Floats some fragment of a song:
Front the far-off isles enchanted,
Heaven has planted
With the golden fruit of Truth;
From the flashing surf, whose vision
In the tropic clime of Youth;
From the strong Will, and the Endeavor
Wrestle with the tides of Fate
From the wreck of Hopes far-scattered,
Floating waste and desolate;—
Ever drifting, drifting, drifting
On the shifting
Currents of the restless heart;
Till at length in books recorded,
They, like hoarded
Household words, no more depart.
Just above yon sandy bar,
As the day grows fainter and dimmer,
Lonely and lovely, a single star
Lights the air with a dusky glimmer
Into the ocean faint and far
Falls the trail of its golden splendor,
And the gleam of that single star
Is ever refulgent, soft, and tender.
Chrysaor, rising out of the sea,
Showed thus glorious and thus emulous,
Leaving the arms of Callirrhoe,
Forever tender, soft, and tremulous.
Thus o’er the ocean faint and far
Trailed the gleam of his falchion brightly;
Is it a God, or is it a star
That, entranced, I gaze on nightly!
Ah! what pleasant visions haunt me
As I gaze upon the sea!
All the old romantic legends,
All my dreams, come back to me.
Sails of silk and ropes of sandal,
Such as gleam in ancient lore;
And the singing of the sailors,
And the answer from the shore!
Most of all, the Spanish ballad
Haunts me oft, and tarries long,
Of the noble Count Arnaldos
And the sailor’s mystic song.
Like the long waves on a sea-beach,
Where the sand as silver shines,
With a soft, monotonous cadence,
Flow its unrhymed lyric lines:—
Telling how the Count Arnaldos,
With his hawk upon his hand,
Saw a fair and stately galley,
Steering onward to the land;—
How he heard the ancient helmsman
Chant a song so wild and clear,
That the sailing sea-bird slowly
Poised upon the mast to hear,
Till his soul was full of longing,
And he cried, with impulse strong,—
“Helmsman! for the love of heaven,
Teach me, too, that wondrous song!”
“Wouldst thou,”—so the helmsman
“Learn the secret of the sea?
Only those who brave its dangers
Comprehend its mystery!”
In each sail that skims the horizon,
In each landward-blowing breeze,
I behold that stately galley,
Hear those mournful melodies;
Till my soul is full of longing
For the secret of the sea,
And the heart of the great ocean
Sends a thrilling pulse through me.
The twilight is sad and cloudy,
The wind blows wild and free,
And like the wings of sea-birds
Flash the white caps of the sea.
But in the fisherman’s cottage
There shines a ruddier light,
And a little face at the window
Peers out into the night.
Close, close it is pressed to the window,
As if those childish eyes
Were looking into the darkness,
To see some form arise.
And a woman’s waving shadow
Is passing to and fro,
Now rising to the ceiling,
Now bowing and bending low.
What tale do the roaring ocean,
And the night-wind, bleak and wild,
As they beat at the crazy casement,
Tell to that little child?
And why do the roaring ocean,
And the night-wind, wild and bleak,
As they beat at the heart of the mother,
Drive the color from her cheek?
Southward with fleet of ice
Sailed the corsair Death;
Wild and fast blew the blast,
And the east-wind was his breath.
His lordly ships of ice
Glisten in the sun;
On each side, like pennons wide,
Flashing crystal streamlets run.
His sails of white sea-mist
Dripped with silver rain;
But where he passed there were cast
Leaden shadows o’er the main.
Eastward from Campobello
Sir Humphrey Gilbert sailed;
Three days or more seaward he bore,
Then, alas! the land-wind failed.
Alas! the land-wind failed,
And ice-cold grew the night;
And nevermore, on sea or shore,
Should Sir Humphrey see the light.
He sat upon the deck,
The Book was in his hand
“Do not fear! Heaven is as near,”
He said, “by water as by land!”
In the first watch of the night,
Without a signal’s sound,
Out of the sea, mysteriously,
The fleet of Death rose all around.
The moon and the evening star
Were hanging in the shrouds;
Every mast, as it passed,
Seemed to rake the passing clouds.
They grappled with their prize,
At midnight black and cold!
As of a rock was the shock;
Heavily the ground-swell rolled.
Southward through day and dark,
They drift in close embrace,
With mist and rain, o’er the open main;
Yet there seems no change of place.
Southward, forever southward,
They drift through dark and day;
And like a dream, in the Gulf-Stream
Sinking, vanish all away.
The rocky ledge runs far into the sea,
And on its outer point, some miles away,
The Lighthouse lifts its massive masonry,
A pillar of fire by night, of cloud by day.
Even at this distance I can see the tides,
Upheaving, break unheard along its base,
A speechless wrath, that rises and subsides
In the white lip and tremor of the face.
And as the evening darkens, lo! how bright,
Through the deep purple of the twilight air,
Beams forth the sudden radiance of its light
With strange, unearthly splendor in the glare!
Not one alone; from each projecting cape
And perilous reef along the ocean’s verge,
Starts into life a dim, gigantic shape,
Holding its lantern o’er the restless surge.
Like the great giant Christopher it stands
Upon the brink of the tempestuous wave,
Wading far out among the rocks and sands,
The night-o’ertaken mariner to save.
And the great ships sail outward and return,
Bending and bowing o’er the billowy swells,
And ever joyful, as they see it burn,
They wave their silent welcomes and farewells.
They come forth from the darkness, and their sails
Gleam for a moment only in the blaze,
And eager faces, as the light unveils,
Gaze at the tower, and vanish while they gaze.
The mariner remembers when a child,
On his first voyage, he saw it fade and sink;
And when, returning from adventures wild,
He saw it rise again o’er ocean’s brink.
Steadfast, serene, immovable, the same
Year after year, through all the silent night
Burns on forevermore that quenchless flame,
Shines on that inextinguishable light!
It sees the ocean to its bosom clasp
The rocks and sea-sand with the kiss of peace;
It sees the wild winds lift it in their grasp,
And hold it up, and shake it like a fleece.
The startled waves leap over it; the storm
Smites it with all the scourges of the rain,
And steadily against its solid form
Press the great shoulders of the hurricane.
The sea-bird wheeling round it, with the din
Of wings and winds and solitary cries,
Blinded and maddened by the light within,
Dashes himself against the glare, and dies.
A new Prometheus, chained upon the rock,
Still grasping in his hand the fire of Jove,
It does not hear the cry, nor heed the shock,
But hails the mariner with words of love.
“Sail on!” it says, “sail on, ye
And with your floating bridge the ocean span;
Be mine to guard this light from all eclipse,
Be yours to bring man nearer unto man!”
DEVEREUX FARM, NEAR MARBLEHEAD
We sat within the farm-house old,
Whose windows, looking o’er the bay,
Gave to the sea-breeze, damp and cold,
An easy entrance, night and day.
Not far away we saw the port,
The strange, old-fashioned, silent town,
The lighthouse, the dismantled fort,
The wooden houses, quaint and brown.
We sat and talked until the night,
Descending, filled the little room;
Our faces faded from the sight,
Our voices only broke the gloom.
We spake of many a vanished scene,
Of what we once had thought and said,
Of what had been, and might have been,
And who was changed, and who was dead;
And all that fills the hearts of friends,
When first they feel, with secret pain,
Their lives thenceforth have separate ends,
And never can be one again;
The first slight swerving of the heart,
That words are powerless to express,
And leave it still unsaid in part,
Or say it in too great excess.
The very tones in which we spake
Had something strange, I could but mark;
The leaves of memory seemed to make
A mournful rustling in the dark.
Oft died the words upon our lips,
As suddenly, from out the fire
Built of the wreck of stranded ships,
The flames would leap and then expire.
And, as their splendor flashed and failed,
We thought of wrecks upon the main,
Of ships dismasted, that were hailed
And sent no answer back again.
The windows, rattling in their frames,
The ocean, roaring up the beach,
The gusty blast, the bickering flames,
All mingled vaguely in our speech.
Until they made themselves a part
Of fancies floating through the brain,
The long-lost ventures of the heart,
That send no answers back again.
O flames that glowed! O hearts that yearned!
They were indeed too much akin,
The drift-wood fire without that burned,
The thoughts that burned and glowed within.
There is no flock, however watched and tended,
But one dead lamb is there!
There is no fireside, howsoe’er defended,
But has one vacant chair!
The air is full of farewells to the dying,
And mournings for the dead;
The heart of Rachel, for her children crying,
Will not be comforted!
Let us be patient! These severe afflictions
Not from the ground arise,
But oftentimes celestial benedictions
Assume this dark disguise.
We see but dimly through the mists and vapors;
Amid these earthly damps
What seem to us but sad, funereal tapers
May be heaven’s distant lamps.
There is no Death! What seems so is transition;
This life of mortal breath
Is but a suburb of the life elysian,
Whose portal we call Death.
She is not dead,—the child of our affection,—
But gone unto that school
Where she no longer needs our poor protection,
And Christ himself doth rule.
In that great cloister’s stillness and seclusion,
By guardian angels led,
Safe from temptation, safe from sin’s pollution,
She lives, whom we call dead.
Day after day we think what she is doing
In those bright realms of air;
Year after year, her tender steps pursuing,
Behold her grown more fair.
Thus do we walk with her, and keep unbroken
The bond which nature gives,
Thinking that our remembrance, though unspoken,
May reach her where she lives.
Not as a child shall we again behold her;
For when with raptures wild
In our embraces we again enfold her,
She will not be a child;
But a fair maiden, in her Father’s mansion,
Clothed with celestial grace;
And beautiful with all the soul’s expansion
Shall we behold her face.
And though at times impetuous with emotion
And anguish long suppressed,
The swelling heart heaves moaning like the ocean,
That cannot be at rest,—
We will be patient, and assuage the feeling
We may not wholly stay;
By silence sanctifying, not concealing,
The grief that must have way.
All are architects of Fate,
Working in these walls of Time;
Some with massive deeds and great,
Some with ornaments of rhyme.
Nothing useless is, or low;
Each thing in its place is best;
And what seems but idle show
Strengthens and supports the rest.
For the structure that we raise,
Time is with materials filled;
Our to-days and yesterdays
Are the blocks with which we build.
Truly shape and fashion these;
Leave no yawning gaps between;
Think not, because no man sees,
Such things will remain unseen.
In the elder days of Art,
Builders wrought with greatest care
Each minute and unseen part;
For the Gods see everywhere.
Let us do our work as well,
Both the unseen and the seen;
Make the house, where Gods may dwell,
Beautiful, entire, and clean.
Else our lives are incomplete,
Standing in these walls of Time,
Broken stairways, where the feet
Stumble as they seek to climb.
Build to-day, then, strong and sure,
With a firm and ample base;
And ascending and secure
Shall to-morrow find its place.
Thus alone can we attain
To those turrets, where the eye
Sees the world as one vast plain,
And one boundless reach of sky.
A handful of red sand, from the hot clime
Of Arab deserts brought,
Within this glass becomes the spy of Time,
The minister of Thought.
How many weary centuries has it been
About those deserts blown!
How many strange vicissitudes has seen,
How many histories known!
Perhaps the camels of the Ishmaelite
Trampled and passed it o’er,
When into Egypt from the patriarch’s sight
His favorite son they bore.
Perhaps the feet of Moses, burnt and bare,
Crushed it beneath their tread;
Or Pharaoh’s flashing wheels into the air
Scattered it as they sped;
Or Mary, with the Christ of Nazareth
Held close in her caress,
Whose pilgrimage of hope and love and faith
Illumed the wilderness;
Or anchorites beneath Engaddi’s palms
Pacing the Dead Sea beach,
And singing slow their old Armenian psalms
In half-articulate speech;
Or caravans, that from Bassora’s gate
With westward steps depart;
Or Mecca’s pilgrims, confident of Fate,
And resolute in heart!
These have passed over it, or may have passed!
Now in this crystal tower
Imprisoned by some curious hand at last,
It counts the passing hour,
And as I gaze, these narrow walls expand;
Before my dreamy eye
Stretches the desert with its shifting sand,
Its unimpeded sky.
And borne aloft by the sustaining blast,
This little golden thread
Dilates into a column high and vast,
A form of fear and dread.
And onward, and across the setting sun,
Across the boundless plain,
The column and its broader shadow run,
Till thought pursues in vain.
The vision vanishes! These walls again
Shut out the lurid sun,
Shut out the hot, immeasurable plain;
The half-hour’s sand is run!
The old house by the lindens
Stood silent in the shade,
And on the gravelled pathway
The light and shadow played.
I saw the nursery windows
Wide open to the air;
But the faces of the children,
They were no longer there.
The large Newfoundland house-dog
Was standing by the door;
He looked for his little playmates,
Who would return no more.
They walked not under the lindens,
They played not in the hall;
But shadow, and silence, and sadness
Were hanging over all.
The birds sang in the branches,
With sweet, familiar tone;
But the voices of the children
Will be heard in dreams alone!
And the boy that walked beside me,
He could not understand
Why closer in mine, ah! closer,
I pressed his warm, soft hand!
Witlaf, a king of the Saxons,
Ere yet his last he breathed,
To the merry monks of Croyland
His drinking-horn bequeathed,—
That, whenever they sat at their revels,
And drank from the golden bowl,
They might remember the donor,
And breathe a prayer for his soul.
So sat they once at Christmas,
And bade the goblet pass;
In their beards the red wine glistened
Like dew-drops in the grass.
They drank to the soul of Witlaf,
They drank to Christ the Lord,
And to each of the Twelve Apostles,
Who had preached his holy word.
They drank to the Saints and Martyrs
Of the dismal days of yore,
And as soon as the horn was empty
They remembered one Saint more.
And the reader droned from the pulpit
Like the murmur of many bees,
The legend of good Saint Guthlac,
And Saint Basil’s homilies;
Till the great bells of the convent,
From their prison in the tower,
Guthlac and Bartholomaeus,
Proclaimed the midnight hour.
And the Yule-log cracked in the chimney,
And the Abbot bowed his head,
And the flamelets flapped and flickered,
But the Abbot was stark and dead.
Yet still in his pallid fingers
He clutched the golden bowl,
In which, like a pearl dissolving,
Had sunk and dissolved his soul.
But not for this their revels
The jovial monks forbore,
For they cried, “Fill high the goblet!
We must drink to one Saint more!”
By his evening fire the artist
Pondered o’er his secret shame;
Baffled, weary, and disheartened,
Still he mused, and dreamed of fame.
’T was an image of the Virgin
That had tasked his utmost skill;
But, alas! his fair ideal
Vanished and escaped him still.
From a distant Eastern island
Had the precious wood been brought
Day and night the anxious master
At his toil untiring wrought;
Till, discouraged and desponding,
Sat he now in shadows deep,
And the day’s humiliation
Found oblivion in sleep.
Then a voice cried, “Rise, O master!
From the burning brand of oak
Shape the thought that stirs within thee!”
And the startled artist woke,—
Woke, and from the smoking embers
Seized and quenched the glowing wood;
And therefrom he carved an image,
And he saw that it was good.
O thou sculptor, painter, poet!
Take this lesson to thy heart:
That is best which lieth nearest;
Shape from that thy work of art.
Once into a quiet village,
Without haste and without heed,
In the golden prime of morning,
Strayed the poet’s winged steed.
It was Autumn, and incessant
Piped the quails from shocks and sheaves,
And, like living coals, the apples
Burned among the withering leaves.
Loud the clamorous bell was ringing
From its belfry gaunt and grim;
’T was the daily call to labor,
Not a triumph meant for him.
Not the less he saw the landscape,
In its gleaming vapor veiled;
Not the less he breathed the odors
That the dying leaves exhaled.
Thus, upon the village common,
By the school-boys he was found;
And the wise men, in their wisdom,
Put him straightway into pound.
Then the sombre village crier,
Ringing loud his brazen bell,
Wandered down the street proclaiming
There was an estray to sell.
And the curious country people,
Rich and poor, and young and old,
Came in haste to see this wondrous
Winged steed, with mane of gold.
Thus the day passed, and the evening
Fell, with vapors cold and dim;
But it brought no food nor shelter,
Brought no straw nor stall, for him.
Patiently, and still expectant,
Looked he through the wooden bars,
Saw the moon rise o’er the landscape,
Saw the tranquil, patient stars;
Till at length the bell at midnight
Sounded from its dark abode,
And, from out a neighboring farm-yard
Loud the cock Alectryon crowed.
Then, with nostrils wide distended,
Breaking from his iron chain,
And unfolding far his pinions,
To those stars he soared again.
On the morrow, when the village
Woke to all its toil and care,
Lo! the strange steed had departed,
And they knew not when nor where.
But they found, upon the greensward
Where his straggling hoofs had trod,
Pure and bright, a fountain flowing
From the hoof-marks in the sod.
From that hour, the fount unfailing
Gladdens the whole region round,
Strengthening all who drink its waters,
While it soothes them with its sound.
I heard a voice, that cried,
“Balder the Beautiful
Is dead, is dead!”
And through the misty air
Passed like the mournful cry
Of sunward sailing cranes.
I saw the pallid corpse
Of the dead sun
Borne through the Northern sky.
Blasts from Niffelheim
Lifted the sheeted mists
Around him as he passed.
And the voice forever cried,
“Balder the Beautiful
Is dead, is dead!”
And died away
Through the dreary night,
In accents of despair.
Balder the Beautiful,
God of the summer sun,
Fairest of all the Gods!
Light from his forehead beamed,
Runes were upon his tongue,
As on the warrior’s sword.
All things in earth and air
Bound were by magic spell
Never to do him harm;
Even the plants and stones;
All save the mistletoe,
The sacred mistletoe!
Hoeder, the blind old God,
Whose feet are shod with silence,
Pierced through that gentle breast
With his sharp spear, by fraud
Made of the mistletoe,
The accursed mistletoe!
They laid him in his ship,
With horse and harness,
As on a funeral pyre.
A ring upon his finger,
And whispered in his ear.
They launched the burning ship!
It floated far away
Over the misty sea,
Till like the sun it seemed,
Sinking beneath the waves.
Balder returned no more!
So perish the old Gods!
But out of the sea of Time
Rises a new land of song,
Fairer than the old.
Over its meadows green
Walk the young bards and sing.
Build it again,
O ye bards,
Fairer than before!
Ye fathers of the new race,
Feed upon morning dew,
Sing the new Song of Love!
The law of force is dead!
The law of love prevails!
Thor, the thunderer,
Shall rule the earth no more,
No more, with threats,
Challenge the meek Christ.
Sing no more,
O ye bards of the North,
Of Vikings and of Jarls!
Of the days of Eld
Preserve the freedom only,
Not the deeds of blood!
ON MRS. KEMBLE’S READINGS FROM SHAKESPEARE
O precious evenings! all too swiftly sped!
Leaving us heirs to amplest heritages
Of all the best thoughts of the greatest sages,
And giving tongues unto the silent dead!
How our hearts glowed and trembled as she read,
Interpreting by tones the wondrous pages
Of the great poet who foreruns the ages,
Anticipating all that shall be said!
O happy Reader! having for thy text
The magic book, whose Sibylline leaves have caught
The rarest essence of all human thought!
O happy Poet! by no critic vext!
How must thy listening spirit now rejoice
To be interpreted by such a voice!
God sent his Singers upon earth
With songs of sadness and of mirth,
That they might touch the hearts of men,
And bring them back to heaven again.
The first, a youth, with soul of fire,
Held in his hand a golden lyre;
Through groves he wandered, and by streams,
Playing the music of our dreams.
The second, with a bearded face,
Stood singing in the market-place,
And stirred with accents deep and loud
The hearts of all the listening crowd.
A gray old man, the third and last,
Sang in cathedrals dim and vast,
While the majestic organ rolled
Contrition from its mouths of gold.
And those who heard the Singers three
Disputed which the best might be;
For still their music seemed to start
Discordant echoes in each heart,
But the great Master said, “I see
No best in kind, but in degree;
I gave a various gift to each,
To charm, to strengthen, and to teach.
“These are the three great chords of might,
And he whose ear is tuned aright
Will hear no discord in the three,
But the most perfect harmony.”
Take them, O Death! and bear away
Whatever thou canst call thine own!
Thine image, stamped upon this clay,
Doth give thee that, but that alone!
Take them, O Grave! and let them lie
Folded upon thy narrow shelves,
As garments by the soul laid by,
And precious only to ourselves!
Take them, O great Eternity!
Our little life is but a gust
That bends the branches of thy tree,
And trails its blossoms in the dust!
FOR MY BROTHER’S ORDINATION
Christ to the young man said: “Yet one
If thou wouldst perfect be,
Sell all thou hast and give it to the poor,
And come and follow me!”
Within this temple Christ again, unseen,
Those sacred words hath said,
And his invisible hands to-day have been
Laid on a young man’s head.
And evermore beside him on his way
The unseen Christ shall move,
That he may lean upon his arm and say,
“Dost thou, dear Lord, approve?”
Beside him at the marriage feast shall be,
To make the scene more fair;
Beside him in the dark Gethsemane
Of pain and midnight prayer.
O holy trust! O endless sense of rest!
Like the beloved John
To lay his head upon the Saviour’s breast,
And thus to journey on!
The song of Hiawatha
Notes from HIAWATHA follow
Should you ask me, whence these stories?
Whence these legends and traditions,
With the odors of the forest
With the dew and damp of meadows,
With the curling smoke of wigwams,
With the rushing of great rivers,
With their frequent repetitions,
And their wild reverberations
As of thunder in the mountains?
I should answer, I should tell you,
“From the forests and the prairies,
From the great lakes of the Northland,
From the land of the Ojibways,
From the land of the Dacotahs,
From the mountains, moors, and fen-lands
Where the heron, the Shuh-shuh-gah,
Feeds among the reeds and rushes.
I repeat them as I heard them
From the lips of Nawadaha,
The musician, the sweet singer.”
Should you ask where Nawadaha
Found these songs so wild and wayward,
Found these legends and traditions,
I should answer, I should tell you,
“In the bird’s-nests of the forest,
In the lodges of the beaver,
In the hoof-prints of the bison,
In the eyry of the eagle!
“All the wild-fowl sang them to him,
In the moorlands and the fen-lands,
In the melancholy marshes;
Chetowaik, the plover, sang them,
Mahng, the loon, the wild-goose, Wawa,
The blue heron, the Shuh-shuh-gah,
And the grouse, the Mushkodasa!”
If still further you should ask me,
Saying, “Who was Nawadaha?
Tell us of this Nawadaha,”
I should answer your inquiries
Straightway in such words as follow.
“In the vale of Tawasentha,
In the green and silent valley,
By the pleasant water-courses,
Dwelt the singer Nawadaha.
Round about the Indian village
Spread the meadows and the corn-fields,
On the Mountains of the Prairie,
On the great Red Pipe-stone Quarry,
Gitche Manito, the mighty,
He the Master of Life, descending,
On the red crags of the quarry
Stood erect, and called the nations,
Called the tribes of men together.
From his footprints flowed a river,
The Four Winds
“Honor be to Mudjekeewis!”
Cried the warriors, cried the old men,
When he came in triumph homeward
With the sacred Belt of Wampum,
From the regions of the North-Wind,
From the kingdom of Wabasso,
From the land of the White Rabbit.
He had stolen the Belt of Wampum
From the neck of Mishe-Mokwa,
From the Great Bear of the mountains,
From the terror of the nations,
As he lay asleep and cumbrous
On the summit of the mountains,
Like a rock with mosses on it,
Spotted brown and gray with mosses.
Silently he stole upon him,
Till the red nails of the monster
Almost touched him, almost scared him,
Till the hot breath of his nostrils
Warmed the hands of Mudjekeewis,
As he drew the Belt of Wampum
Over the round ears, that heard not,
Over the small eyes, that saw not,
Over the long nose and nostrils,
The black muffle of the nostrils,
Out of which the heavy breathing
Warmed the hands of Mudjekeewis.
Then he swung aloft his war-club,
Shouted loud and long his war-cry,
Smote the mighty Mishe-Mokwa
In the middle of the forehead,
Right between the eyes he smote him.
With the heavy blow bewildered,
Rose the Great Bear of the mountains;
But his knees beneath him trembled,
And he whimpered like a woman,
As he reeled and staggered forward,
As he sat upon his haunches;
And the mighty Mudjekeewis,
Standing fearlessly before him,
Taunted him in loud derision,
Spake disdainfully in this wise:—
“Hark you, Bear! you are a coward;
And no Brave, as you pretended;
Else you would not cry and whimper
Like a miserable woman!
Bear! you know our tribes are hostile,
Long have been at war together;
Now you find that we are strongest,
You go sneaking in the forest,
You go hiding in the mountains!
Had you conquered me in battle
Not a groan would I have uttered;
But you, Bear! sit here and whimper,
And disgrace your tribe by crying,
Like a wretched Shaugodaya,
Like a cowardly old woman!”
Then again he raised his war-club,
Smote again the Mishe-Mokwa
In the middle of his forehead,
Broke his skull, as ice is broken
When one goes to fish in Winter.
Thus was slain the Mishe-Mokwa,
He the Great Bear of the mountains,
He the terror of the nations.
“Honor be to Mudjekeewis!”
With a shout exclaimed the people,
“Honor be to Mudjekeewis!
Henceforth he shall be the West-Wind,
And hereafter and forever
Shall he hold supreme dominion
Over all the winds of heaven.
Call him no more Mudjekeewis,
Call him Kabeyun, the West-Wind!”
Thus was Mudjekeewis chosen
Father of the Winds of Heaven.
For himself he kept the West-Wind,
Gave the others to his children;
Unto Wabun gave the East-Wind,
Gave the South to Shawondasee,
And the North-Wind, wild and cruel,
To the fierce Kabibonokka.
Downward through the evening twilight,
In the days that are forgotten,
In the unremembered ages,
From the full moon fell Nokomis,
Fell the beautiful Nokomis,
She a wife, but not a mother.
She was sporting with her women,
Swinging in a swing of grape-vines,
When her rival, the rejected,
Full of jealousy and hatred,
Cut the leafy swing asunder,
Cut in twain the twisted grape-vines,
And Nokomis fell affrighted
Downward through the evening twilight,
On the Muskoday, the meadow,
On the prairie full of blossoms.
“See! a star falls!” said the people;
HIAWATHA AND MUDJEKEEWIS
Out of childhood into manhood
Now had grown my Hiawatha,
Skilled in all the craft of hunters,
Learned in all the lore of old men,
In all youthful sports and pastimes,
In all manly arts and labors.
Swift of foot was Hiawatha;
He could shoot an arrow from him,
And run forward with such fleetness,
That the arrow fell behind him!
Strong of arm was Hiawatha;
He could shoot ten arrows upward,
Shoot them with such strength and swiftness,
That the tenth had left the bow-string
Ere the first to earth had fallen!
He had mittens, Minjekahwun,
Magic mittens made of deer-skin;
When upon his hands he wore them,
He could smite the rocks asunder,
You shall hear how Hiawatha
Prayed and fasted in the forest,
Not for greater skill in hunting,
Not for greater craft in fishing,
Not for triumphs in the battle,
And renown among the warriors,
But for profit of the people,
For advantage of the nations.
First he built a lodge for fasting,
Built a wigwam in the forest,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
In the blithe and pleasant Spring-time,
In the Moon of Leaves he built it,
And, with dreams and visions many,
Seven whole days and nights he fasted.
On the first day of his fasting
Through the leafy woods he wandered;
Saw the deer start from the thicket,
Saw the rabbit in his burrow,
Heard the pheasant, Bena, drumming,
Heard the squirrel, Adjidaumo,
Rattling in his hoard of acorns,
Saw the pigeon, the Omeme,
Building nests among the pine-trees,
And in flocks the wild-goose, Wawa,
Flying to the fen-lands northward,
Whirring, wailing far above him.
“Master of Life!” he cried, desponding,
“Must our lives depend on these things?”
On the next day of his fasting
By the river’s brink he wandered,
Through the Muskoday, the meadow,
Saw the wild rice, Mahnomonee,
Saw the blueberry, Meenahga,
And the strawberry, Odahmin,
And the gooseberry, Shahbomin,
And the grape-vine, the Bemahgut,
Trailing o’er the alder-branches,
Filling all the air with fragrance!
“Master of Life!” he cried, desponding,
“Must our lives depend on these things?”
On the third day of his fasting
By the lake he sat and pondered,
By the still, transparent water;
Saw the sturgeon, Nahma, leaping,
Two good friends had Hiawatha,
Singled out from all the others,
Bound to him in closest union,
And to whom he gave the right hand
Of his heart, in joy and sorrow;
Chibiabos, the musician,
And the very strong man, Kwasind.
Straight between them ran the pathway,
Never grew the grass upon it;
Singing birds, that utter falsehoods,
Found no eager ear to listen,
Could not breed ill-will between them,
For they kept each other’s counsel,
Spake with naked hearts together,
Pondering much and much contriving
How the tribes of men might prosper.
Most beloved by Hiawatha
Was the gentle Chibiabos,
He the best of all musicians,
He the sweetest of all singers.
Beautiful and childlike was he,
Brave as man is, soft as woman,
Pliant as a wand of willow,
Stately as a deer with antlers.
When he sang, the village listened;
All the warriors gathered round him,
All the women came to hear him;
Now he stirred their souls to passion,
Now he melted them to pity.
From the hollow reeds he fashioned
Flutes so musical and mellow,
That the brook, the Sebowisha,
Ceased to murmur in the woodland,
That the wood-birds ceased from singing,
And the squirrel, Adjidaumo,
Ceased his chatter in the oak-tree,
And the rabbit, the Wabasso,
Sat upright to look and listen.
Yes, the brook, the Sebowisha,
Pausing, said, “O Chibiabos,
Teach my waves to flow in music,
Softly as your words in singing!”
Yes, the bluebird, the Owaissa,
Envious, said, “O Chibiabos,
Teach me tones as wild and wayward,
Teach me songs as full of frenzy!”
Yes, the robin, the Opechee,
Joyous, said, “O Chibiabos,
Teach me tones as sweet and tender,
Teach me songs as full of gladness!”
And the whippoorwill, Wawonaissa,
Sobbing, said, “O Chibiabos,
Teach me tones as melancholy,
Teach me songs as full of sadness!”
All the many sounds of nature
Borrowed sweetness from his singing;
All the hearts of men were softened
By the pathos of his music;
For he sang of peace and freedom,
Sang of beauty, love, and longing;
Sang of death, and life undying
In the Islands of the Blessed,
In the kingdom of Ponemah,
In the land of the Hereafter.
Very dear to Hiawatha
Was the gentle Chibiabos,
He the best of all musicians,
He the sweetest of all singers;
For his gentleness he loved him,
And the magic of his singing.
Dear, too, unto Hiawatha
Was the very strong man, Kwasind,
He the strongest of all mortals,
He the mightiest among many;
For his very strength he loved him,
For his strength allied to goodness.
Idle in his youth was Kwasind,
Very listless, dull, and dreamy,
“Give me of your bark, O Birch-tree!
Of your yellow bark, O Birch-tree!
Growing by the rushing river,
Tall and stately in the valley!
I a light canoe will build me,
Build a swift Cheemaun for sailing,
That shall float on the river,
Like a yellow leaf in Autumn,
Like a yellow water-lily!
“Lay aside your cloak, O Birch-tree!
Lay aside your white-skin wrapper,
For the Summer-time is coming,
And the sun is warm in heaven,
And you need no white-skin wrapper!”
Thus aloud cried Hiawatha
In the solitary forest,
By the rushing Taquamenaw,
When the birds were singing gayly,
In the Moon of Leaves were singing,
And the sun, from sleep awaking,
Started up and said, “Behold me!
Gheezis, the great Sun, behold me!”
And the tree with all its branches
Rustled in the breeze of morning,
Saying, with a sigh of patience,
“Take my cloak, O Hiawatha!”
With his knife the tree he girdled;
Just beneath its lowest branches,
Just above the roots, he cut it,
Till the sap came oozing outward;
Down the trunk, from top to bottom,
Sheer he cleft the bark asunder,
With a wooden wedge he raised it,
Stripped it from the trunk unbroken.
“Give me of your boughs, O Cedar!
Of your strong and pliant branches,
My canoe to make more steady,
Make more strong and firm beneath me!”
Through the summit of the Cedar
Went a sound, a cry of horror,
Went a murmur of resistance;
But it whispered, bending downward,
’Take my boughs, O Hiawatha!”
Down he hewed the boughs of cedar,
Shaped them straightway to a framework,
Like two bows he formed and shaped them,
Like two bended bows together.
“Give me of your roots, O Tamarack!
Of your fibrous roots, O Larch-tree!
My canoe to bind together,
So to bind the ends together
That the water may not enter,
That the river may not wet me!”
And the Larch, with all its fibres,
Shivered in the air of morning,
Touched his forehead with its tassels,
Slid, with one long sigh of sorrow.
“Take them all, O Hiawatha!”
Forth upon the Gitche Gumee,
On the shining Big-Sea-Water,
With his fishing-line of cedar,
Of the twisted bark of cedar,
Forth to catch the sturgeon Nahma,
Mishe-Nahma, King of Fishes,
In his birch canoe exulting
All alone went Hiawatha.
Through the clear, transparent water
He could see the fishes swimming
Far down in the depths below him;
See the yellow perch, the Sahwa,
Like a sunbeam in the water,
See the Shawgashee, the craw-fish,
Like a spider on the bottom,
On the white and sandy bottom.
At the stern sat Hiawatha,
With his fishing-line of cedar;
In his plumes the breeze of morning
Played as in the hemlock branches;
On the bows, with tail erected,
Sat the squirrel, Adjidaumo;
In his fur the breeze of morning
Played as in the prairie grasses.
On the white sand of the bottom
Lay the monster Mishe-Nahma,
Lay the sturgeon, King of Fishes;
Through his gills he breathed the water,
With his fins he fanned and winnowed,
With his tail he swept the sand-floor.
There he lay in all his armor;
On each side a shield to guard him,
Plates of bone upon his forehead,
Down his sides and back and shoulders
Plates of bone with spines projecting
Painted was he with his war-paints,
Stripes of yellow, red, and azure,
Spots of brown and spots of sable;
And he lay there on the bottom,
Fanning with his fins of purple,
As above him Hiawatha
In his birch canoe came sailing,
With his fishing-line of cedar.
“Take my bait,” cried Hiawatha,
Down into the depths beneath him,
“Take my bait, O Sturgeon, Nahma!
Come up from below the water,
Let us see which is the stronger!”
And he dropped his line of cedar
Through the clear, transparent water,
Waited vainly for an answer,
Long sat waiting for an answer,
And repeating loud and louder,
“Take my bait, O King of Fishes!”
Quiet lay the sturgeon, Nahma,
Fanning slowly in the water,
Looking up at Hiawatha,
Listening to his call and clamor,
His unnecessary tumult,
Till he wearied of the shouting;
And he said to the Kenozha,
To the pike, the Maskenozha,
“Take the bait of this rude fellow,
Break the line of Hiawatha!”
In his fingers Hiawatha
Felt the loose line jerk and tighten;
As he drew it in, it tugged so
That the birch canoe stood endwise,
Like a birch log in the water,
With the squirrel, Adjidaumo,
Perched and frisking on the summit.
Full of scorn was Hiawatha
When he saw the fish rise upward,
Saw the pike, the Maskenozha,
Coming nearer, nearer to him,
And he shouted through the water,
“Esa! esa! shame upon you!
You are but the pike, Kenozha,
You are not the fish I wanted,
You are not the King of Fishes!”
HIAWATHA AND THE PEARL-FEATHER
On the shores of Gitche Gumee,
Of the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood Nokomis, the old woman,
Pointing with her finger westward,
O’er the water pointing westward,
To the purple clouds of sunset.
Fiercely the red sun descending
Burned his way along the heavens,
Set the sky on fire behind him,
As war-parties, when retreating,
Burn the prairies on their war-trail;
And the moon, the Night-sun, eastward,
Suddenly starting from his ambush,
Followed fast those bloody footprints,
Followed in that fiery war-trail,
With its glare upon his features.
And Nokomis, the old woman,
Pointing with her finger westward,
Spake these words to Hiawatha:
“Yonder dwells the great Pearl-Feather,
Megissogwon, the Magician,
Manito of Wealth and Wampum,
Guarded by his fiery serpents,
Guarded by the black pitch-water.
You can see his fiery serpents,
The Kenabeek, the great serpents,
Coiling, playing in the water;
You can see the black pitch-water
Stretching far away beyond them,
To the purple clouds of sunset!
“He it was who slew my father,
By his wicked wiles and cunning,
When he from the moon descended,
When he came on earth to seek me.
He, the mightiest of Magicians,
Sends the fever from the marshes,
Sends the pestilential vapors,
Sends the poisonous exhalations,
Sends the white fog from the fen-lands,
Sends disease and death among us!
“Take your bow, O Hiawatha,
Take your arrows, jasper-headed,
Take your war-club, Puggawaugun,
And your mittens, Minjekahwun,
And your birch-canoe for sailing,
And the oil of Mishe-Nahma,
So to smear its sides, that swiftly
You may pass the black pitch-water;
Slay this merciless magician,
Save the people from the fever
That he breathes across the fen-lands,
And avenge my father’s murder!”
Straightway then my Hiawatha
Armed himself with all his war-gear,
Launched his birch-canoe for sailing;
With his palm its sides he patted,
Said with glee, “Cheemaun, my darling,
O my Birch-canoe! leap forward,
Where you see the fiery serpents,
Where you see the black pitch-water!”
Forward leaped Cheemaun exulting,
And the noble Hiawatha
Sang his war-song wild and woful,
And above him the war-eagle,
The Keneu, the great war-eagle,
Master of all fowls with feathers,
Screamed and hurtled through the heavens.
Soon he reached the fiery serpents,
The Kenabeek, the great serpents,
Lying huge upon the water,
Sparkling, rippling in the water,
Lying coiled across the passage,
With their blazing crests uplifted,
Breathing fiery fogs and vapors,
So that none could pass beyond them.
But the fearless Hiawatha
Cried aloud, and spake in this wise:
“Let me pass my way, Kenabeek,
Let me go upon my journey!”
And they answered, hissing fiercely,
“As unto the bow the cord is,
So unto the man is woman;
Though she bends him, she obeys him,
Though she draws him, yet she follows,
Useless each without the other!”
Thus the youthful Hiawatha
Said within himself and pondered,
Much perplexed by various feelings,
Listless, longing, hoping, fearing,
Dreaming still of Minnehaha,
Of the lovely Laughing Water,
In the land of the Dacotahs.
“Wed a maiden of your people,”
Warning said the old Nokomis;
“Go not eastward, go not westward,
For a stranger, whom we know not!
Like a fire upon the hearth-stone
Is a neighbor’s homely daughter,
Like the starlight or the moonlight
Is the handsomest of strangers!”
Thus dissuading spake Nokomis,
And my Hiawatha answered
You shall hear how Pau-Puk-Keewis,
How the handsome Yenadizze
Danced at Hiawatha’s wedding;
How the gentle Chibiabos,
He the sweetest of musicians,
Sang his songs of love and longing;
How Iagoo, the great boaster,
He the marvellous story-teller,
Told his tales of strange adventure,
That the feast might be more joyous,
That the time might pass more gayly,
And the guests be more contented.
Sumptuous was the feast Nokomis
Made at Hiawatha’s wedding;
All the bowls were made of bass-wood,
White and polished very smoothly,
All the spoons of horn of bison,
Black and polished very smoothly.
She had sent through all the village
Messengers with wands of willow,
As a sign of invitation,
As a token of the feasting;
And the wedding guests assembled,
Clad in all their richest raiment,
Robes of fur and belts of wampum,
Splendid with their paint and plumage,
Beautiful with beads and tassels.
First they ate the sturgeon, Nahma,
And the pike, the Maskenozha,
Caught and cooked by old Nokomis;
Then on pemican they feasted,
Pemican and buffalo marrow,
Haunch of deer and hump of bison,
Yellow cakes of the Mondamin,
And the wild rice of the river.
But the gracious Hiawatha,
And the lovely Laughing Water,
And the careful old Nokomis,
Tasted not the food before them,
Only waited on the others
Only served their guests in silence.
And when all the guests had finished,
Old Nokomis, brisk and busy,
From an ample pouch of otter,
Filled the red-stone pipes for smoking
With tobacco from the South-land,
Mixed with bark of the red willow,
And with herbs and leaves of fragrance.
Then she said, “O Pau-Puk-Keewis,
Dance for us your merry dances,
Dance the Beggar’s Dance to please us,
That the feast may be more joyous,
That the time may pass more gayly,
And our guests be more contented!”
Then the handsome Pau-Puk-Keewis,
He the idle Yenadizze,
He the merry mischief-maker,
Whom the people called the Storm-Fool,
Rose among the guests assembled.
Skilled was he in sports and pastimes,
THE SON OF THE EVENING STAR
Can it be the sun descending
O’er the level plain of water?
Or the Red Swan floating, flying,
Wounded by the magic arrow,
Staining all the waves with crimson,
With the crimson of its life-blood,
Filling all the air with splendor,
With the splendor of its plumage?
Yes; it is the sun descending,
Sinking down into the water;
All the sky is stained with purple,
All the water flushed with crimson!
No; it is the Red Swan floating,
Diving down beneath the water;
To the sky its wings are lifted,
With its blood the waves are reddened!
Over it the Star of Evening
Melts and trembles through the purple,
Hangs suspended in the twilight.
No; it is a bead of wampum
On the robes of the Great Spirit
As he passes through the twilight,
Walks in silence through the heavens.
This with joy beheld Iagoo
And he said in haste: “Behold it!
See the sacred Star of Evening!
You shall hear a tale of wonder,
Hear the story of Osseo,
Son of the Evening Star, Osseo!
“Once, in days no more remembered,
Ages nearer the beginning,
When the heavens were closer to us,
And the Gods were more familiar,
In the North-land lived a hunter,
With ten young and comely daughters,
Tall and lithe as wands of willow;
Only Oweenee, the youngest,
She the wilful and the wayward,
She the silent, dreamy maiden,
Was the fairest of the sisters.
“All these women married warriors,
Married brave and haughty husbands;
Only Oweenee, the youngest,
Laughed and flouted all her lovers,
All her young and handsome suitors,
And then married old Osseo,
Old Osseo, poor and ugly,
Broken with age and weak with coughing,
Always coughing like a squirrel.
“Ah, but beautiful within him
Was the spirit of Osseo,
From the Evening Star descended,
Star of Evening, Star of Woman,
Star of tenderness and passion!
All its fire was in his bosom,
All its beauty in his spirit,
All its mystery in his being,
All its splendor in his language!
BLESSING THE CORNFIELDS
Sing, O Song of Hiawatha,
Of the happy days that followed,
In the land of the Ojibways,
In the pleasant land and peaceful!
Sing the mysteries of Mondamin,
Sing the Blessing of the Cornfields!
Buried was the bloody hatchet,
Buried was the dreadful war-club,
Buried were all warlike weapons,
And the war-cry was forgotten.
There was peace among the nations;
Unmolested roved the hunters,
Built the birch canoe for sailing,
Caught the fish in lake and river,
Shot the deer and trapped the beaver;
Unmolested worked the women,
Made their sugar from the maple,
Gathered wild rice in the meadows,
Dressed the skins of deer and beaver.
All around the happy village
Stood the maize-fields, green and shining,
Waved the green plumes of Mondamin,
Waved his soft and sunny tresses,
Filling all the land with plenty.
’T was the women who in Spring-time
Planted the broad fields and fruitful,
Buried in the earth Mondamin;
’T was the women who in Autumn
Stripped the yellow husks of harvest,
Stripped the garments from Mondamin,
Even as Hiawatha taught them.
Once, when all the maize was planted,
Hiawatha, wise and thoughtful,
Spake and said to Minnehaha,
To his wife, the Laughing Water:
“You shall bless to-night the cornfields,
Draw a magic circle round them,
To protect them from destruction,
Blast of mildew, blight of insect,
Wagemin, the thief of cornfields,
Paimosaid, who steals the maize-ear!
“In the night, when all is silence,
In the night, when all is darkness,
When the Spirit of Sleep, Nepahwin,
Shuts the doors of all the wigwams,
So that not an ear can hear you,
So that not an eye can see you,
Rise up from your bed in silence,
Lay aside your garments wholly,
Walk around the fields you planted,
Round the borders of the cornfields,
Covered by your tresses only,
Robed with darkness as a garment.
“Thus the fields shall be more fruitful,
And the passing of your footsteps
Draw a magic circle round them,
So that neither blight nor mildew,
Neither burrowing worm nor insect,
Shall pass o’er the magic circle;
Not the dragon-fly, Kwo-ne-she,
Nor the spider, Subbekashe,
Nor the grasshopper, Pah-puk-keena;
Nor the mighty caterpillar,
Way-muk-kwana, with the bear-skin,
King of all the caterpillars!”
On the tree-tops near the cornfields
Sat the hungry crows and ravens,
Kahgahgee, the King of Ravens,
With his band of black marauders.
And they laughed at Hiawatha,
Till the tree-tops shook with laughter,
With their melancholy laughter,
At the words of Hiawatha.
“Hear him!” said they; “hear the Wise Man,
Hear the plots of Hiawatha!”
When the noiseless night descended
Broad and dark o’er field and forest,
When the mournful Wawonaissa
Sorrowing sang among the hemlocks,
In those days said Hiawatha,
“Lo! how all things fade and perish!
From the memory of the old men
Pass away the great traditions,
The achievements of the warriors,
The adventures of the hunters,
All the wisdom of the Medas,
All the craft of the Wabenos,
All the marvellous dreams and visions
Of the Jossakeeds, the Prophets!
“Great men die and are forgotten,
Wise men speak; their words of wisdom
Perish in the ears that hear them,
Do not reach the generations
That, as yet unborn, are waiting
In the great, mysterious darkness
Of the speechless days that shall be!
“On the grave-posts of our fathers
Are no signs, no figures painted;
Who are in those graves we know not,
Only know they are our fathers.
Of what kith they are and kindred,
From what old, ancestral Totem,
Be it Eagle, Bear, or Beaver,
They descended, this we know not,
Only know they are our fathers.
“Face to face we speak together,
But we cannot speak when absent,
Cannot send our voices from us
To the friends that dwell afar off;
Cannot send a secret message,
But the bearer learns our secret,
May pervert it, may betray it,
May reveal it unto others.”
Thus said Hiawatha, walking
In the solitary forest,
Pondering, musing in the forest,
On the welfare of his people.
From his pouch he took his colors,
Took his paints of different colors,
On the smooth bark of a birch-tree
Painted many shapes and figures,
Wonderful and mystic figures,
And each figure had a meaning,
Each some word or thought suggested.
Gitche Manito the Mighty,
He, the Master of Life, was painted
As an egg, with points projecting
To the four winds of the heavens.
Everywhere is the Great Spirit,
Was the meaning of this symbol.
Mitche Manito the Mighty,
He the dreadful Spirit of Evil,
As a serpent was depicted,
As Kenabeek, the great serpent.
Very crafty, very cunning,
Is the creeping Spirit of Evil,
Was the meaning of this symbol.
Life and Death he drew as circles,
Life was white, but Death was darkened;
Sun and moon and stars he painted,
Man and beast, and fish and reptile,
Forests, mountains, lakes, and rivers.
For the earth he drew a straight line,
For the sky a bow above it;
White the space between for daytime,
Filled with little stars for night-time;
On the left a point for sunrise,
On the right a point for sunset,
On the top a point for noontide,
And for rain and cloudy weather
Waving lines descending from it.
Footprints pointing towards a wigwam
Were a sign of invitation,
Were a sign of guests assembling;
Bloody hands with palms uplifted
Were a symbol of destruction,
Were a hostile sign and symbol.
All these things did Hiawatha
Show unto his wondering people,
And interpreted their meaning,
In those days the Evil Spirits,
All the Manitos of mischief,
Fearing Hiawatha’s wisdom,
And his love for Chibiabos,
Jealous of their faithful friendship,
And their noble words and actions,
Made at length a league against them,
To molest them and destroy them.
Hiawatha, wise and wary,
Often said to Chibiabos,
“O my brother! do not leave me,
Lest the Evil Spirits harm you!”
Chibiabos, young and heedless,
Laughing shook his coal-black tresses,
Answered ever sweet and childlike,
“Do not fear for me, O brother!
Harm and evil come not near me!”
Once when Peboan, the Winter,
Roofed with ice the Big-Sea-Water,
When the snow-flakes, whirling downward,
Hissed among the withered oak-leaves,
Changed the pine-trees into wigwams,
Covered all the earth with silence,—
Armed with arrows, shod with snow-shoes,
Heeding not his brother’s warning,
Fearing not the Evil Spirits,
Forth to hunt the deer with antlers
All alone went Chibiabos.
Right across the Big-Sea-Water
Sprang with speed the deer before him.
With the wind and snow he followed,
O’er the treacherous ice he followed,
Wild with all the fierce commotion
And the rapture of the hunting.
But beneath, the Evil Spirits
Lay in ambush, waiting for him,
Broke the treacherous ice beneath him,
Dragged him downward to the bottom,
Buried in the sand his body.
Unktahee, the god of water,
He the god of the Dacotahs,
Drowned him in the deep abysses
Of the lake of Gitche Gumee.
From the headlands Hiawatha
Sent forth such a wail of anguish,
Such a fearful lamentation,
That the bison paused to listen,
And the wolves howled from the prairies,
And the thunder in the distance
Starting answered “Baim-wawa!”
Then his face with black he painted,
With his robe his head he covered,
In his wigwam sat lamenting,
Seven long weeks he sat lamenting,
Uttering still this moan of sorrow:—
You shall hear how Pau-Puk-Keewis,
He, the handsome Yenadizze,
Whom the people called the Storm-Fool,
Vexed the village with disturbance;
You shall hear of all his mischief,
And his flight from Hiawatha,
And his wondrous transmigrations,
And the end of his adventures.
On the shores of Gitche Gumee,
On the dunes of Nagow Wudjoo,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water
Stood the lodge of Pau-Puk-Keewis.
It was he who in his frenzy
Whirled these drifting sands together,
On the dunes of Nagow Wudjoo,
When, among the guests assembled,
He so merrily and madly
Danced at Hiawatha’s wedding,
Danced the Beggar’s Dance to please them.
Now, in search of new adventures,
From his lodge went Pau-Puk-Keewis,
Came with speed into the village,
Found the young men all assembled
In the lodge of old Iagoo,
Listening to his monstrous stories,
To his wonderful adventures.
He was telling them the story
Of Ojeeg, the Summer-Maker,
How he made a hole in heaven,
How he climbed up into heaven,
And let out the summer-weather,
The perpetual, pleasant Summer;
How the Otter first essayed it;
How the Beaver, Lynx, and Badger
Tried in turn the great achievement,
From the summit of the mountain
Smote their fists against the heavens,
Smote against the sky their foreheads,
Cracked the sky, but could not break it;
How the Wolverine, uprising,
Made him ready for the encounter,
Bent his knees down, like a squirrel,
Drew his arms back, like a cricket.
“Once he leaped,” said old Iagoo,
“Once he leaped, and lo! above him
Bent the sky, as ice in rivers
When the waters rise beneath it;
Twice he leaped, and lo! above him
Cracked the sky, as ice in rivers
When the freshet is at highest!
Thrice he leaped, and lo! above him
Broke the shattered sky asunder,
And he disappeared within it,
And Ojeeg, the Fisher Weasel,
With a bound went in behind him!”
“Hark you!” shouted Pau-Puk-Keewis
As he entered at the doorway;
“I am tired of all this talking,
Tired of old Iagoo’s stories,
Tired of Hiawatha’s wisdom.
Here is something to amuse you,
Better than this endless talking.”
Then from out his pouch of wolf-skin
Forth he drew, with solemn manner,
All the game of Bowl and Counters,
Pugasaing, with thirteen pieces.
White on one side were they painted,
And vermilion on the other;
Two Kenabeeks or great serpents,
Two Ininewug or wedge-men,
One great war-club, Pugamaugun,
And one slender fish, the Keego,
Four round pieces, Ozawabeeks,
And three Sheshebwug or ducklings.
All were made of bone and painted,
All except the Ozawabeeks;
These were brass, on one side burnished,
And were black upon the other.
In a wooden bowl he placed them,
Shook and jostled them together,
THE HUNTING OF PAU-PUK-KEEWIS
Full of wrath was Hiawatha
When he came into the village,
Found the people in confusion,
Heard of all the misdemeanors,
All the malice and the mischief,
Of the cunning Pau-Puk-Keewis.
Hard his breath came through his nostrils,
Through his teeth he buzzed and muttered
Words of anger and resentment,
Hot and humming, like a hornet.
“I will slay this Pau-Puk-Keewis,
Slay this mischief-maker!” said he.
“Not so long and wide the world is,
Not so rude and rough the way is,
That my wrath shall not attain him,
That my vengeance shall not reach him!”
Then in swift pursuit departed
Hiawatha and the hunters
On the trail of Pau-Puk-Keewis,
Through the forest, where he passed it,
To the headlands where he rested;
But they found not Pau-Puk-Keewis,
Only in the trampled grasses,
In the whortleberry-bushes,
Found the couch where he had rested,
Found the impress of his body.
From the lowlands far beneath them,
From the Muskoday, the meadow,
Pau-Puk-Keewis, turning backward,
Made a gesture of defiance,
Made a gesture of derision;
And aloud cried Hiawatha,
From the summit of the mountains:
“Not so long and wide the world is,
Not so rude and rough the way is,
But my wrath shall overtake you,
And my vengeance shall attain you!”
Over rock and over river,
Through bush, and brake, and forest,
Ran the cunning Pau-Puk-Keewis;
Like an antelope he bounded,
Till he came unto a streamlet
In the middle of the forest,
To a streamlet still and tranquil,
That had overflowed its margin,
To a dam made by the beavers,
To a pond of quiet water,
Where knee-deep the trees were standing,
Where the water lilies floated,
Where the rushes waved and whispered.
On the dam stood Pau-Puk-Keewis,
On the dam of trunks and branches,
Through whose chinks the water spouted,
O’er whose summit flowed the streamlet.
From the bottom rose the beaver,
Looked with two great eyes of wonder,
THE DEATH OF KWASIND
Far and wide among the nations
Spread the name and fame of Kwasind;
No man dared to strive with Kwasind,
No man could compete with Kwasind.
But the mischievous Puk-Wudjies,
They the envious Little People,
They the fairies and the pygmies,
Plotted and conspired against him.
“If this hateful Kwasind,” said they,
“If this great, outrageous fellow
Goes on thus a little longer,
Tearing everything he touches,
Rending everything to pieces,
Filling all the world with wonder,
What becomes of the Puk-Wudjies?
Who will care for the Puk-Wudjies?
He will tread us down like mushrooms,
Drive us all into the water,
Give our bodies to be eaten
By the wicked Nee-ba-naw-baigs,
By the Spirits of the water!
So the angry Little People
All conspired against the Strong Man,
All conspired to murder Kwasind,
Yes, to rid the world of Kwasind,
The audacious, overbearing,
Heartless, haughty, dangerous Kwasind!
Now this wondrous strength of Kwasind
In his crown alone was seated;
In his crown too was his weakness;
There alone could he be wounded,
Nowhere else could weapon pierce him,
Nowhere else could weapon harm him.
Even there the only weapon
That could wound him, that could slay him,
Was the seed-cone of the pine-tree,
Was the blue cone of the fir-tree.
This was Kwasind’s fatal secret,
Known to no man among mortals;
But the cunning Little People,
The Puk-Wudjies, knew the secret,
Knew the only way to kill him.
So they gathered cones together,
Gathered seed-cones of the pine-tree,
Gathered blue cones of the fir-tree,
In the woods by Taquamenaw,
Brought them to the river’s margin,
Heaped them in great piles together,
Where the red rocks from the margin
Jutting overhang the river.
There they lay in wait for Kwasind,
The malicious Little People.
’T was an afternoon in Summer;
Very hot and still the air was,
Very smooth the gliding river,
Motionless the sleeping shadows:
Insects glistened in the sunshine,
Insects skated on the water,
Filled the drowsy air with buzzing,
With a far resounding war-cry.
Down the river came the Strong Man,
In his birch canoe came Kwasind,
Floating slowly down the current
Of the sluggish Taquamenaw,
Very languid with the weather,
Very sleepy with the silence.
From the overhanging branches,
From the tassels of the birch-trees,
Soft the Spirit of Sleep descended;
By his airy hosts surrounded,
His invisible attendants,
Came the Spirit of Sleep, Nepahwin;
Like a burnished Dush-kwo-ne-she,
Like a dragon-fly, he hovered
O’er the drowsy head of Kwasind.
To his ear there came a murmur
As of waves upon a sea-shore,
As of far-off tumbling waters,
As of winds among the pine-trees;
And he felt upon his forehead
Blows of little airy war-clubs,
Never stoops the soaring vulture
On his quarry in the desert,
On the sick or wounded bison,
But another vulture, watching
From his high aerial look-out,
Sees the downward plunge, and follows;
And a third pursues the second,
Coming from the invisible ether,
First a speck, and then a vulture,
Till the air is dark with pinions.
So disasters come not singly;
But as if they watched and waited,
Scanning one another’s motions,
When the first descends, the others
Follow, follow, gathering flock-wise
Round their victim, sick and wounded,
First a shadow, then a sorrow,
Till the air is dark with anguish.
Now, o’er all the dreary North-land,
Mighty Peboan, the Winter,
Breathing on the lakes and rivers,
Into stone had changed their waters.
From his hair he shook the snow-flakes,
Till the plains were strewn with whiteness,
One uninterrupted level,
As if, stooping, the Creator
With his hand had smoothed them over.
Through the forest, wide and wailing,
Roamed the hunter on his snow-shoes;
In the village worked the women,
Pounded maize, or dressed the deer-skin;
And the young men played together
On the ice the noisy ball-play,
On the plain the dance of snow-shoes.
One dark evening, after sundown,
In her wigwam Laughing Water
Sat with old Nokomis, waiting
Oh the long and dreary Winter!
Oh the cold and cruel Winter!
Ever thicker, thicker, thicker
Froze the ice on lake and river,
Ever deeper, deeper, deeper
Fell the snow o’er all the landscape,
Fell the covering snow, and drifted
Through the forest, round the village.
Hardly from his buried wigwam
Could the hunter force a passage;
With his mittens and his snow-shoes
Vainly walked he through the forest,
Sought for bird or beast and found none,
Saw no track of deer or rabbit,
In the snow beheld no footprints,
In the ghastly, gleaming forest
Fell, and could not rise from weakness,
Perished there from cold and hunger.
Oh the famine and the fever!
Oh the wasting of the famine!
Oh the blasting of the fever!
Oh the wailing of the children!
Oh the anguish of the women!
All the earth was sick and famished;
Hungry was the air around them,
Hungry was the sky above them,
And the hungry stars in heaven
Like the eyes of wolves glared at them!
Into Hiawatha’s wigwam
Came two other guests, as silent
As the ghosts were, and as gloomy,
Waited not to be invited
Did not parley at the doorway
Sat there without word of welcome
In the seat of Laughing Water;
Looked with haggard eyes and hollow
At the face of Laughing Water.
And the foremost said: “Behold me!
I am Famine, Bukadawin!”
And the other said: “Behold me!
I am Fever, Ahkosewin!”
And the lovely Minnehaha
Shuddered as they looked upon her,
Shuddered at the words they uttered,
Lay down on her bed in silence,
Hid her face, but made no answer;
Lay there trembling, freezing, burning
At the looks they cast upon her,
At the fearful words they uttered.
Forth into the empty forest
Rushed the maddened Hiawatha;
THE WHITE MAN’S FOOT
In his lodge beside a river,
Close beside a frozen river,
Sat an old man, sad and lonely.
White his hair was as a snow-drift;
Dull and low his fire was burning,
And the old man shook and trembled,
Folded in his Waubewyon,
In his tattered white-skin-wrapper,
Hearing nothing but the tempest
As it roared along the forest,
Seeing nothing but the snow-storm,
As it whirled and hissed and drifted.
All the coals were white with ashes,
And the fire was slowly dying,
As a young man, walking lightly,
At the open doorway entered.
Red with blood of youth his cheeks were,
Soft his eyes, as stars in Spring-time,
Bound his forehead was with grasses;
Bound and plumed with scented grasses,
On his lips a smile of beauty,
Filling all the lodge with sunshine,
In his hand a bunch of blossoms
Filling all the lodge with sweetness.
“Ah, my son!” exclaimed the old man,
“Happy are my eyes to see you.
Sit here on the mat beside me,
Sit here by the dying embers,
Let us pass the night together,
Tell me of your strange adventures,
Of the lands where you have travelled;
By the shore of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
At the doorway of his wigwam,
In the pleasant Summer morning,
Hiawatha stood and waited.
All the air was full of freshness,
All the earth was bright and joyous,
And before him, through the sunshine,
Westward toward the neighboring forest
Passed in golden swarms the Ahmo,
Passed the bees, the honey-makers,
Burning, singing in the sunshine.
Bright above him shone the heavens,
Level spread the lake before him;
From its bosom leaped the sturgeon,
Sparkling, flashing in the sunshine;
On its margin the great forest
Stood reflected in the water,
Every tree-top had its shadow,
Motionless beneath the water.
From the brow of Hiawatha
Gone was every trace of sorrow,
As the fog from off the water,
As the mist from off the meadow.
With a smile of joy and triumph,
With a look of exultation,
As of one who in a vision
Sees what is to be, but is not,
Stood and waited Hiawatha.
Toward the sun his hands were lifted,
Both the palms spread out against it,
And between the parted fingers
Fell the sunshine on his features,
Flecked with light his naked shoulders,
As it falls and flecks an oak-tree
NOTES THE SONG OF HIAWATHA.
This Indian Edda—if I may so call it—is founded on a tradition prevalent among the North American Indians, of a personage of miraculous birth, who was sent among them to clear their rivers, forests, and fishing-grounds, and to teach them the arts of peace.
He was known among different tribes by the several names of Michabou, Chiabo, Manabozo, Tarenyawagon, and Hiawatha. Mr. Schoolcraft gives an account of him in his Algic Researches, Vol. I. p. 134; and in his History, Condition, and Prospects of the Indian Tribes of the United States, Part III. p. 314, may be found the Iroquois form of the tradition, derived from the verbal narrations of an Onondaga chief.
Into this old tradition I have woven other curious Indian legends, drawn chiefly from the various and valuable writings of Mr. Schoolcraft, to whom the literary world is greatly indebted for his indefatigable zeal in rescuing from oblivion so much of the legendary lore of the Indians.
The scene of the poem is among the Ojibways on the southern shore of Lake Superior, in the region between the Pictured Rocks and the Grand Sable.
Adjidau’mo, the red squirrel.
Ahdeek’, the reindeer.
Ahmeek’, the beaver.
Annemee’kee, the thunder.
Apuk’wa. a bulrush.
Baim-wa’wa, the sound of the thunder.
Bemah’gut, the grapevine.
Be’na, the pheasant.
Big-Sea-Water, Lake Superior.
Chemaun’, a birch canoe.
Chetowaik’, the plover.
Chibia’bos, a musician; friend of Hiawatha; ruler in the Land of Spirits.
Dahin’da, the bull frog.
Dush-kwo-ne’she or Kwo-ne’she, the dragon fly.
Esa, shame upon you.
Ghee’zis, the sun.
Gitche Gu’mee, The Big-Sea-Water, Lake Superior.
Gitche Man’ito, the Great Spirit, the Master of Life.
Gushkewau’, the darkness.
Hiawa’tha, the Wise Man, the Teacher, son of Mudjekeewis, the
WestWind and Wenonah, daughter of Nokomis.
Ia’goo, a great boaster and story-teller.
Inin’ewug, men, or pawns in the Game of the Bowl.
Ishkoodah’, fire, a comet.
Jee’bi, a ghost, a spirit.
Joss’akeed, a prophet.
Kabibonok’ka, the North-Wind.
Kagh, the hedge-hog.
Ka’go, do not.
Kahgahgee’, the raven.
Kaween’, no indeed.
Kayoshk’, the sea-gull.
Kee’go, a fish.
Keeway’din, the Northwest wind, the Home-wind.
Kena’beek, a serpent.
Keneu’, the great war-eagle.
Keno’zha, the pickerel.
Ko’ko-ko’ho, the owl.
Kuntasoo’, the Game of Plum-stones.
Kwa’sind, the Strong Man.
Kwo-ne’she, or Dush-kwo-ne’she, the dragon-fly.
Mahnahbe’zee, the swan.
Mahng, the loon.
Mahn-go-tay’see, loon-hearted, brave.
Mahnomo’nee, wild rice.
Ma’ma, the woodpecker.
Maskeno’zha, the pike.
Me’da, a medicine-man.
Meenah’ga, the blueberry.
Megissog’won, the great Pearl-Feather, a magician, and the Manito
Meshinau’wa, a pipe-bearer.
Minjekah’wun, Hiawatha’s mittens.
Minneha’ha, Laughing Water; wife of Hiawatha; a water-fall in a
stream running into the Mississippi between Fort Snelling and the
Falls of St. Anthony.
Minne-wa’wa, a pleasant sound, as of the wind in the trees.
Mishe-Mo’kwa, the Great Bear.
Mishe-Nah’ma, the Great Sturgeon.
Miskodeed’, the Spring-Beauty, the Claytonia Virginica.
Monda’min, Indian corn.
Moon of Bright Nights, April.
Moon of Leaves, May.
Moon of Strawberries, June.
Moon of the Falling Leaves, September.
Moon of Snow-shoes, November.
Mudjekee’wis, the West-Wind; father of Hiawatha.
Mudway-aush’ka, sound of waves on a shore.
Mushkoda’sa, the grouse.
Nah’ma, the sturgeon.
Na’gow Wudj’oo, the Sand Dunes of Lake
In the Vale of Tawasentha.
This valley, now called Norman’s Kill; is in
Albany County, New
On the Mountains of the Prairie.
Mr. Catlin, in his Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and
Condition of the North American Indians, Vol. II p. 160, gives an interesting account of the Coteau des Prairies, and the Red Pipestone Quarry. He says:—
“Here (according to their traditions) happened the mysterious birth of the red pipe, which has blown its fumes of peace and war to the remotest corners of the continent; which has visited every warrior, and passed through its reddened stem the irrevocable oath of war and desolation. And here, also, the peace-breathing calumet was born, and fringed with the eagle’s quills, which has shed its thrilling fumes over the land, and soothed the fury of the relentless savage.
“The Great Spirit at an ancient period here called the Indian nations together, and, standing on the precipice of the red pipe-stone rock, broke from its wall a piece, and made a huge pipe by turning it in his hand, which he smoked over them, and to the North, the South, the East, and the West, and told them that this stone was red,—that it was their flesh,—that they must use it for their pipes of peace,—that it belonged to them all, and that the war-club and scalping-knife must not be raised on its ground. At the last whiff of his pipe his head went into a great cloud, and the whole surface of the rock for several miles was melted and glazed; two great ovens were opened beneath, and two women (guardian spirits of the place) entered them in a blaze of fire; and they are heard there yet (Tso-mec-cos-tee aud Tso-me-cos-te-won-dee), answering to the invocations of the high-priests or medicine-men, who consult them when they are visitors to this sacred place.”
Hark you, Bear! you are a coward.
This anecdote is from Heckewelder. In his account of the Indian Nations, he describes an Indian hunter as addressing a bear in nearly these words. “I was present,” he says, “at the delivery of this curious invective; when the hunter had despatched the bear, I asked him how he thought that poor animal could understand what he said to it. ‘O,’ said he in answer, ’the bear understood me very well; did you not observe how ashamed he looked while I was upbraiding him?"’—Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. I. p. 240.
Hush! the Naked Bear will hear thee!
Heckewelder, in a letter published in the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. IV. p. 260, speaks of this tradition as prevalent among the Mohicans and Delawares.
“Their reports,” he says, “run thus: that among all animals that had been formerly in this country, this was the most ferocious; that it was much larger than the largest of the common bears, and remarkably long-bodied; all over (except a spot of hair on its back of a white color) naked. . . . .
“The history of this animal used to be a subject of conversation among the Indians, especially when in the woods a hunting. I have also heard them say to their children when crying: ’Hush! the naked bear will hear you, be upon you, and devour you,’”
Where the Falls of Minnehaha, etc.
“The scenery about Fort Snelling is rich in beauty. The Falls of St. Anthony are familiar to travellers, and to readers of Indian sketches. Between the fort and these falls are the ‘Little Falls,’ forty feet in height, on a stream that empties into the Mississippi. The Indians called them Mine-hah-hah, or ‘laughing waters.’” — Mrs. EASTMAN’S Dacotah, or Legends of the Sioux, Introd., p. ii.
Sand Hills of the Nagow Wudjoo.
A description of the Grand Sable, or great sand-dunes of Lake Superior, is given in Foster and Whitney’s Report on the Geology of the Lake Superior Land District, Part ii. p. 131.
“The Grand Sable possesses a scenic interest little inferior to that of the Pictured Rocks. The explorer passes abruptly from a coast of consolidated sand to one of loose materials; and although in the one case the cliffs are less precipitous, yet in the other they attain a higher altitude. He sees before him a long reach of coast, resembling a vast sand-bank, more than three hundred and fifty feet in height, without a trace of vegetation. Ascending to the top, rounded hillocks of blown sand are observed, with occasional clumps of trees standing out like oases in the desert.”
Onaway! Awake, beloved!
The original of this song may be found in Littell’s
Vol. XXV. p. 45.
On the Red Swan floating, flying.
The fanciful tradition of the Red Swan may be found in Schoolcraft’s Algic Researches, Vol. II. p. 9. Three brothers were hunting on a wager to see who would bring home the first game.
“They were to shoot no other animal,” so the legend says, “but such as each was in the habit of killing. They set out different ways: Odjibwa, the youngest, had not gone far before he saw a bear, an animal he was not to kill, by the agreement. He followed him close, and drove an arrow through him, which brought him to the ground. Although contrary to the bet, he immediately commenced skinning him, when suddenly something red tinged all the air around him. He rubbed his eyes, thinking he was perhaps deceived; but without effect, for the red hue continued. At length he heard a strange noise at a distance. It first appeared like a human voice, but after following the sound for some distance, he reached the shores of a lake, and soon saw the object he was looking for. At a distance out in the lake sat a most beautiful Red Swan, whose plumage glittered in the sun, and who would now and then make the same noise he had heard. He was within long bow-shot, and, pulling the arrow from the bowstring up to his ear, took deliberate aim and shot. The arrow took no effect; and he shot and shot again till his quiver was empty. Still the swan remained, moving round and round, stretching its long neck and dipping its bill into the water, as if heedless of the arrows shot at it. Odjibwa ran home, and got all his own and his brother’s arrows and shot them all away. He then stood and gazed at the beautiful bird. While standing, he remembered his brother’s saying that in their deceased father’s medicine-sack were three magic arrows. Off he started, his anxiety to kill the swan overcoming all scruples. At any other time, he would have deemed it sacrilege to open his father’s medicine-sack; but now he hastily seized the three arrows and ran back, leaving the other contents of the sack scattered over the lodge. The swan was still there. He shot the first arrow with great precision, and came very near to it. The second came still closer; as he took the last arrow, he felt his arm firmer, and, drawing it up with vigor, saw it pass through the neck of the swan a little above the breast. Still it did not prevent the bird from flying off, which it did, however, at first slowly, flapping its wings and rising gradually into the airs and teen flying off toward the sinking of the sun.” — pp.10-12.
When I think of my beloved.
The original of this song may be found in Oneota, p. 15.
Sing the mysteries of Mondamin.
The Indians hold the maize, or Indian corn, in great veneration.
“They esteem it so important and divine a grain,” says Schoolcraft, “that their story-tellers invented various tales, in which this idea is symbolized under the form of a special gift from the Great Spirit. The Odjibwa-Algonquins, who call it Mon-da-min, that is, the Spirit’s grain or berry, have a pretty story of this kind, in which the stalk in full tassel is represented as descending from the sky, under the guise of a handsome youth, in answer to the prayers of a young man at his fast of virility, or coming to manhood.
“It is well known that corn-planting and corn-gathering, at least among all the still uncolonized tribes, are left entirely to the females and children, and a few superannuated old men. It is not generally known, perhaps, that this labor is not compulsory, and that it is assumed by the females as a just equivalent, in their view, for the onerous and continuous labor of the other sex, in providing meats, and skins for clothing, by the chase, and in defending their villages against their enemies, and keeping intruders off their territories. A good Indian housewife deems this a part of her prerogative, and prides herself to have a store of corn to exercise her hospitality, or duly honor her husband’s hospitality, in the entertainment of the lodge guests.” — Oneota, p. 82.
Thus the fields shall be more fruitful.
“A singular proof of this belief, in both sexes, of the mysterious influence of the steps of a woman on the vegetable and in sect creation, is found in an ancient custom, which was related to me, respecting corn-planting. It was the practice of the hunter’s wife, when the field of corn had been planted, to choose the first dark or overclouded evening to perform a secret circuit, sans habillement, around the field. For this purpose she slipped out of the lodge in the evening, unobserved, to some obscure nook, where she completely disrobed. Then, taking her matchecota, or principal garment, in one hand, she dragged it around the field. This was thought to insure a prolific crop, and to prevent the assaults of insects and worms upon the grain. It was supposed they could not creep over the charmed line.” — Oneota, p. 83.
With his prisoner-string he bound him.
“These cords,” says Mr. Tanner “are made of the bark of the elm-tree, by boiling and then immersing it in cold water. . . . The leader of a war party commonly carries several fastened about his waist, and if, in the course of the fight, any one of his young men take a prisoner, it is his duty to bring him immediately to the chief, to be tied, and the latter is responsible for his safe keeping.” — Narrative of Captivity and Adventures, p. 412.
Wagemin, the thief of cornfields,
Paimosaid, who steals the maize-ear.
“If one of the young female huskers finds a red ear of corn, it is typical of a brave admirer, and is regarded as a fitting present to some young warrior. But if the ear be crooked, and tapering to a point, no matter what color, the whole circle is set in a roar, and wa-ge-min is the word shouted aloud. It is the symbol of a thief in the cornfield. It is considered as the image of an old man stooping as he enters the lot. Had the chisel of Praxiteles been employed to produce this image, it could not more vividly bring to the minds of the merry group the idea of a pilferer of their favorite mondamin. . . .
“The literal meaning of the term is, a mass, or crooked ear of grain; but the ear of corn so called is a conventional type of a little old man pilfering ears of corn in a cornfield. It is in this manner that a single word or term, in these curious languages, becomes the fruitful parent of many ideas. And we can thus perceive why it is that the word wagemin is alone competent to excite merriment in the husking circle.
“This term is taken as the basis of the cereal chorus, or corn song, as sung by the Northern Algonquin tribes. It is coupled with the phrase Paimosaid,—a permutative form of the Indian substantive, made from the verb pim-o-sa, to walk. Its literal meaning is, he who walks, or the walker; but the ideas conveyed by it are, he who walks by night to pilfer corn. It offers, therefore, a kind of parallelism in expression to the preceding term.” — Oneota, p. 254.
Pugasaing, with thirteen pieces.
This Game of the Bowl is the principal game of hazard among the Northern tribes of Indians. Mr. Schoolcraft gives a particular account of it in Oneota, p. 85. “This game,” he says, “is very fascinating to some portions of the Indians. They stake at it their ornaments, weapons, clothing, canoes, horses, everything in fact they possess; and have been known, it is said, to set up their wives and children and even to forfeit their own liberty. Of such desperate stakes I have seen no examples, nor do I think the game itself in common use. It is rather confined to certain persons, who hold the relative rank of gamblers in Indian society,—men who are not noted as hunters or warriors, or steady providers for their families. Among these are persons who bear the term of Iena-dizze-wug, that is, wanderers about the country, braggadocios, or fops. It can hardly be classed with the popular games of amusement, by which skill and dexterity are acquired. I have generally found the chiefs and graver men of the tribes, who encouraged the young men to play ball, and are sure to be present at the customary sports, to witness, and sanction, and applaud them, speak lightly and disparagingly of this game of hazard. Yet it cannot be denied that some of the chiefs, distinguished in war and the chase, at the West, can be referred to as lending their example to its fascinating power.”
See also his history, Condition, and Prospects of the Indian Tribes, Part ii, p. 72.
To the Pictured Rocks of sandstone.
The reader will find a long description of the Pictured Rocks in Foster and Whitney’s Report on the Geology of the Lake Superior Land District, Part ii. p. 124. From this I make the following extract:—
“The Pictured Rocks may be described, in general terms, as a series of sandstone bluffs extending along the shore of Lake Superior for about five miles, and rising, in most places, vertically from the water, without any beach at the base, to a height varying from fifty to nearly two hundred feet. Were they simply a line of cliffs, they might not, so far as relates to height or extent, be worthy of a rank among great natural curiosities, although such an assemblage of rocky strata, washed by the waves of the great lake, would not, under any circumstances, be destitute of grandeur. To the voyager, coasting along their base in his frail canoe, they would, at all times, be an object of dread; the recoil of the surf, the rock-bound coast, affording, for miles, no place of refuge,—the lowering sky, the rising wind,—all these would excite his apprehension, and induce him to ply a vigorous oar until the dreaded wall was passed. But in the Pictured Rocks there are two features which communicate to the scenery a wonderful and almost unique character. These are, first, the curious manner in which the cliffs have been excavated and worn away by the action of the lake, which, for centuries, has dashed an ocean-like surf against their base; and, second, the equally curious manner in which large portions of the surface have been colored by bands of brilliant hues.
“It is from the latter circumstance that the name, by which these cliffs are known to the American traveller, is derived; while that applied to them by the French voyageurs (’Les Portails’) is derived from the former, and by far the most striking peculiarity.
“The term Pictured Rocks has been in use for a great length of time; but when it was first applied, we have been unable to discover. It would seem that the first travellers were more impressed with the novel and striking distribution of colors on the surface than with the astonishing variety of form into which the cliffs themselves have been worn. . . .
“Our voyageurs had many legends to relate of the pranks of the Menni-bojou in these caverns, and, in answer to our inquiries, seemed disposed to fabricate stories, without end, of the achievements of this Indian deity.”
Toward the Sun his hands were lifted.
In this manner, and with such salutations, was Father Marquette received by the Illinois. See his Voyages et Decouvertes, Section V.
END HIAWATHA NOTES
In the Old Colony days, in Plymouth the land of the
To and fro in a room of his simple and primitive dwelling,
Clad in doublet and hose, and boots of Cordovan leather,
Strode, with a martial air, Miles Standish the Puritan Captain.
Buried in thought he seemed, with his hands behind him, and pausing
Ever and anon to behold his glittering weapons of warfare,
Hanging in shining array along the walls of the chamber,—
Cutlass and corselet of steel, and his trusty sword of Damascus,
Curved at the point and inscribed with its mystical Arabic sentence,
While underneath, in a corner, were fowling-piece, musket, and matchlock.
Short of stature he was, but strongly built and athletic,
Broad in the shoulders, deep-chested, with muscles and sinews of iron;
Brown as a nut was his face, but his russet beard was already
Flaked with patches of snow, as hedges sometimes in November.
Near him was seated John Alden, his friend, and household companion,
Writing with diligent speed at a table of pine by the window;
Fair-haired, azure-eyed, with delicate Saxon complexion,
Having the dew of his youth, and the beauty thereof, as the captives
Whom Saint Gregory saw, and exclaimed, “Not Angles, but Angels.”
Youngest of all was he of the men who came in the Mayflower.
Suddenly breaking the silence, the diligent scribe
Spake, in the pride of his heart, Miles Standish the Captain of Plymouth.
“Look at these arms,” he said, “the warlike weapons that hang here
Burnished and bright and clean, as if for parade or inspection!
This is the sword of Damascus I fought with in Flanders; this breastplate,
Well I remember the day! once saved my life in a skirmish;
Here in front you can see the very dint of the bullet
Fired point-blank at my heart by a Spanish arcabucero.
Had it not been of sheer steel, the forgotten bones of Miles Standish
Would at this moment be mould, in their grave in the Flemish morasses.”
Thereupon answered John Alden, but looked not up from his writing:
“Truly the breath of the Lord hath slackened the speed of the bullet;
He in his mercy preserved you, to be our shield and our weapon!”
Still the Captain continued, unheeding the words of the stripling:
“See, how bright they are burnished, as if in an arsenal hanging;
That is because I have done it myself, and not left it to others.
Serve yourself, would you be well served, is an excellent adage;
So I take care of my arms, as you of your pens and your inkhorn.
Then, too, there are my soldiers, my great, invincible army,
Twelve men, all equipped, having each his rest and his matchlock,
Eighteen shillings a month, together with diet and pillage,
And, like Caesar, I know the name of each of my soldiers!”
This he said with a smile, that danced in his eyes, as the sunbeams
Long at the window he stood, and wistfully gazed
on the landscape,
Washed with a cold gray mist, the vapory breath of the east-wind,
Forest and meadow and hill, and the steel-blue rim of the ocean,
Lying silent and sad, in the afternoon shadows and sunshine.
Over his countenance flitted a shadow like those on the landscape,
Gloom intermingled with light; and his voice was subdued with emotion,
Tenderness, pity, regret, as after a pause he proceeded:
“Yonder there, on the hill by the sea, lies buried Rose Standish;
Beautiful rose of love, that bloomed for me by the wayside!
She was the first to die of all who came in the Mayflower!
Green above her is growing the field of wheat we have sown there,
Better to hide from the Indian scouts the graves of our people,
Lest they should count them and see how many already have perished!”
Sadly his face he averted, and strode up and down, and was thoughtful.
Fixed to the opposite wall was a shelf of books,
and among them
Prominent three, distinguished alike for bulk and for binding;
Bariffe’s Artillery Guide, and the Commentaries of Caesar,
Out of the Latin translated by Arthur Goldinge of London,
And, as if guarded by these, between them was standing the Bible.
Musing a moment before them, Miles Standish paused, as if doubtful
Which of the three he should choose for his consolation and comfort,
Whether the wars of the Hebrews, the famous campaigns of the Romans,
Or the Artillery practice, designed for belligerent Christians.
Finally down from its shelf he dragged the ponderous Roman,
Seated himself at the window, and opened the book, and in silence
Turned o’er the well-worn leaves, where thumb-marks thick on the margin,
Like the trample of feet, proclaimed the battle was hottest.
Nothing was heard in the room but the hurrying pen of the stripling,
Busily writing epistles important, to go by the Mayflower,
Ready to sail on the morrow, or next day at latest, God willing!
Homeward bound with the tidings of all that terrible winter,
Letters written by Alden, and full of the name of Priscilla,
Full of the name and the fame of the Puritan maiden Priscilla!
LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP
Nothing was heard in the room but the hurrying pen
of the stripling,
Or an occasional sigh from the laboring heart of the Captain,
Reading the marvellous words and achievements of Julius Caesar.
After a while he exclaimed, as he smote with his hand, palm downwards,
Heavily on the page: “A wonderful man was this Caesar!
You are a writer, and I am a fighter, but here is a fellow
Who could both write and fight, and in both was equally skilful!”
Straightway answered and spake John Alden, the comely, the youthful:
“Yes, he was equally skilled, as you say, with his pen and his weapons.
Somewhere have I read, but where I forget, he could dictate
Seven letters at once, at the same time writing his memoirs.”
“Truly,” continued the Captain, not heeding or hearing the other,
“Truly a wonderful man was Caius Julius Caesar!
Better be first, he said, in a little Iberian village,
Than be second in Rome, and I think he was right when he said it.
Twice was he married before he was twenty, and many times after;
Battles five hundred he fought, and a thousand cities he conquered;
He, too, fought in Flanders, as he himself has recorded;
Finally he was stabbed by his friend, the orator Brutus!
Now, do you know what he did on a certain occasion in Flanders,
When the rear-guard of his army retreated, the front giving way too,
And the immortal Twelfth Legion was crowded so closely together
There was no room for their swords? Why, he seized a shield from a soldier,
Put himself straight at the head of his troops, and commanded the captains,
Calling on each by his name, to order forward the ensigns;
Then to widen the ranks, and give more room for their weapons;
So he won the day, the battle of something-or-other.
That’s what I always say; if you wish a thing to be well done,
You must do it yourself, you must not leave it to others!”
All was silent again; the Captain continued his
Nothing was heard in the room but the hurrying pen of the stripling
Writing epistles important to go next day by the Mayflower,
Filled with the name and the fame of the Puritan maiden Priscilla;
Every sentence began or closed with the name of Priscilla,
Till the treacherous pen, to which he confided the secret,
Strove to betray it by singing and shouting the name of Priscilla!
Finally closing his book, with a bang of the ponderous cover,
Sudden and loud as the sound of a soldier grounding his musket,
Thus to the young man spake Miles Standish the Captain of Plymouth:
“When you have finished your work, I have something important to tell you.
Be not however in haste; I can wait; I shall not be impatient!”
Straightway Alden replied, as he folded the last of his letters,
Pushing his papers aside, and giving respectful attention:
“Speak; for whenever you speak, I am always
When he had spoken, John Alden, the fair-haired,
All aghast at his words, surprised, embarrassed, bewildered,
Trying to mask his dismay by treating the subject with lightness,
Trying to smile, and yet feeling his heart stand still in his bosom,
Just as a timepiece stops in a house that is stricken by lightning,
Thus made answer and spake, or rather stammered than answered:
“Such a message as that, I am sure I should mangle and mar it;
If you would have it well done,—I am only repeating your maxim,—
You must do it yourself, you must not leave it to others!”
But with the air of a man whom nothing can turn from his purpose,
Gravely shaking his head, made answer the Captain of Plymouth:
“Truly the maxim is good, and I do not mean to gainsay it;
But we must use it discreetly, and not waste powder for nothing.
Now, as I said before, I was never a maker of phrases.
I can march up to a fortress and summon the place to surrender,
But march up to a woman with such a proposal, I dare not.
I’m not afraid of bullets, nor shot from the mouth of a cannon,
But of a thundering “No!” point-blank from the mouth of a woman,
That I confess I’m afraid of, nor am I ashamed to confess it!
So you must grant my request, for you are an elegant
THE LOVER’S ERRAND
So the strong will prevailed, and Alden went on his
Out of the street of the village, and into the paths of the forest,
Into the tranquil woods, where blue-birds and robins were building
Towns in the populous trees, with hanging gardens of verdure,
Peaceful, aerial cities of joy and affection and freedom.
All around him was calm, but within him commotion and conflict,
Love contending with friendship, and self with each generous impulse.
To and fro in his breast his thoughts were heaving and dashing,
As in a foundering ship, with every roll of the vessel,
Washes the bitter sea, the merciless surge of the ocean!
“Must I relinquish it all,” he cried with a wild lamentation,
“Must I relinquish it all, the joy, the hope, the illusion?
Was it for this I have loved, and waited, and worshipped in silence?
Was it for this I have followed the flying feet and the shadow
Over the wintry sea, to the desolate shores of New England?
Truly the heart is deceitful, and out of its depths of corruption
Rise, like an exhalation, the misty phantoms of passion;
Angels of light they seem, but are only delusions of Satan.
All is clear to me now; I feel it, I see it distinctly!
This is the hand of the Lord; it is laid upon me in anger,
For I have followed too much the heart’s desires and devices,
Worshipping Astaroth blindly, and impious idols of Baal.
This is the cross I must bear; the sin and the swift retribution.”
So through the Plymouth woods John Alden went on
Crossing the brook at the ford, where it brawled over pebble and shallow,
Gathering still, as he went, the May-flowers blooming around him,
Fragrant, filling the air with a strange and wonderful sweetness,
Children lost in the woods, and covered with leaves in their slumber.
“Puritan flowers,” he said, “and the type of Puritan maidens,
Modest and simple and sweet, the very type of Priscilla!
So I will take them to her; to Priscilla the May-flower of Plymouth,
Modest and simple and sweet, as a parting gift will I take them;
Breathing their silent farewells, as they fade and wither and perish,
Soon to be thrown away as is the heart of the giver.”
So he entered the house: and the hum of the
wheel and the singing
Suddenly ceased; for Priscilla, aroused by his step on the threshold,
Rose as he entered, and gave him her hand, in signal of welcome,
Saying, “I knew it was you, when I heard your step in the passage;
For I was thinking of you, as I sat there singing and spinning.”
Awkward and dumb with delight, that a thought of him had been mingled
Thus in the sacred psalm, that came from the heart of the maiden,
Silent before her he stood, and gave her the flowers for an answer,
Finding no words for his thought. He remembered that day in the winter,
After the first great snow, when he broke a path from the village,
Reeling and plunging along through the drifts that encumbered the doorway,
Stamping the snow from his feet as he entered the house, and Priscilla
Laughed at his snowy locks, and gave him a seat by the fireside,
Grateful and pleased to know he had thought of her in the snow-storm.
Had he but spoken then! perhaps not in vain had he spoken;
Now it was all too late; the golden moment had vanished!
So he stood there abashed, and gave her the flowers for an answer.
Then they sat down and talked of the birds and the
Talked of their friends at home, and the Mayflower that sailed on the morrow.
“I have been thinking all day,” said gently the Puritan maiden,
“Dreaming all night, and thinking all day, of the hedge-rows of England,—
They are in blossom now, and the country is all like a garden;
Thinking of lanes and fields, and the song of the lark and the linnet,
Seeing the village street, and familiar faces of neighbors
Going about as of old, and stopping to gossip together,
And, at the end of the street, the village church, with the ivy
Climbing the old gray tower, and the quiet graves in the churchyard.
Kind are the people I live with, and dear to me my religion;
Still my heart is so sad, that I wish myself back in Old England.
You will say it is wrong, but I cannot help it: I almost
Wish myself back in Old England, I feel so lonely and wretched.”
Thereupon answered the youth:—“Indeed
I do not condemn you;
Stouter hearts than a woman’s have quailed in this terrible winter.
Yours is tender and trusting, and needs a stronger to lean on;
So I have come to you now, with an offer and proffer of marriage
Made by a good man and true, Miles Standish the Captain of Plymouth!”
Thus he delivered his message, the dexterous writer
Did not embellish the theme, nor array it in beautiful phrases,
But came straight to the point, and blurted it out like a schoolboy;
Even the Captain himself could hardly have said it more bluntly.
Mute with amazement and sorrow, Priscilla the Puritan maiden
Looked into Alden’s face, her eyes dilated with wonder,
Feeling his words like a blow, that stunned her and rendered her speechless;
Till at length she exclaimed, interrupting the ominous silence:
“If the great Captain of Plymouth is so very eager to wed me,
Why does he not come himself, and take the trouble to woo me?
If I am not worth the wooing, I surely am not worth the winning!”
Then John Alden began explaining and smoothing the matter,
Making it worse as he went, by saying the Captain was busy,—
Had no time for such things;—such things! the words grating harshly
Fell on the ear of Priscilla; and swift as a flash she made answer:
“Has he no time for such things, as you call it, before he is married,
Would he be likely to find it, or make it, after the wedding?
That is the way with you men; you don’t understand us, you cannot.
When you have made up your minds, after thinking of this one and that one,
Choosing, selecting, rejecting, comparing one with another,
Then you make known your desire, with abrupt and sudden avowal,
And are offended and hurt, and indignant perhaps, that a woman
Does not respond at once to a love that she never suspected,
Does not attain at a bound the height to which you have been climbing.
Still John Alden went on, unheeding the words of
Urging the suit of his friend, explaining, persuading, expanding;
Spoke of his courage and skill, and of all his battles in Flanders,
How with the people of God he had chosen to suffer affliction,
How, in return for his zeal, they had made him Captain of Plymouth;
He was a gentleman born, could trace his pedigree plainly
Back to Hugh Standish of Duxbury Hall, in Lancashire, England,
Who was the son of Ralph, and the grandson of Thurston de Standish;
Heir unto vast estates, of which he was basely defrauded,
Still bore the family arms, and had for his crest a cock argent
Combed and wattled gules, and all the rest of the blazon.
He was a man of honor, of noble and generous nature;
Though he was rough, he was kindly; she knew how during the winter
He had attended the sick, with a hand as gentle as woman’s;
Somewhat hasty and hot, he could not deny it, and headstrong,
Stern as a soldier might be, but hearty, and placable always,
Not to be laughed at and scorned, because he was little of stature;
For he was great of heart, magnanimous, courtly, courageous;
Any woman in Plymouth, nay, any woman in England,
Might be happy and proud to be called the wife of Miles Standish!
But as he warmed and glowed, in his simple and eloquent
Quite forgetful of self, and full of the praise of his rival,
Archly the maiden smiled, and, with eyes over-running with laughter,
Said, in a tremulous voice, “Why don’t you speak for yourself, John?”
Into the open air John Alden, perplexed and bewildered,
Rushed like a man insane, and wandered alone by the sea-side;
Paced up and down the sands, and bared his head to the east-wind,
Cooling his heated brow, and the fire and fever within him.
Slowly as out of the heavens, with apocalyptical splendors,
Sank the City of God, in the vision of John the Apostle,
So, with its cloudy walls of chrysolite, jasper, and sapphire,
Sank the broad red sun, and over its turrets uplifted
Glimmered the golden reed of the angel who measured the city.
“Welcome, O wind of the East!” he exclaimed
in his wild exultation,
“Welcome, O wind of the East, from the caves of the misty Atlantic!
Blowing o’er fields of dulse, and measureless meadows of sea-grass,
Blowing o’er rocky wastes, and the grottos and gardens of ocean!
Lay thy cold, moist hand on my burning forehead, and wrap me
Close in thy garments of mist, to allay the fever within me!”
Like an awakened conscience, the sea was moaning
Beating remorseful and loud the mutable sands of the sea-shore.
Fierce in his soul was the struggle and tumult of passions contending;
Love triumphant and crowned, and friendship wounded and bleeding,
Passionate cries of desire, and importunate pleadings of duty!
“Is it my fault,” he said, “that the maiden has chosen between us?
Is it my fault that he failed,—my fault that I am the victor?”
Then within him there thundered a voice, like the voice of the Prophet:
“It hath displeased the Lord!”—and he thought of David’s transgression,
Bathsheba’s beautiful face, and his friend in the front of the battle!
Shame and confusion of guilt, and abasement and self-condemnation,
Overwhelmed him at once; and he cried in the deepest contrition:
“It hath displeased the Lord! It is the temptation of Satan!”
Then, uplifting his head, he looked at the sea,
and beheld there
Dimly the shadowy form of the Mayflower riding at anchor,
Rocked on the rising tide, and ready to sail on the morrow;
Heard the voices of men through the mist, the rattle of cordage
Thrown on the deck, the shouts of the mate, and the sailors’ “Ay, ay, Sir!”
Clear and distinct, but not loud, in the dripping air of the twilight.
Still for a moment he stood, and listened, and stared at the vessel,
Then went hurriedly on, as one who, seeing a phantom,
Stops, then quickens his pace, and follows the beckoning shadow.
“Yes, it is plain to me now,” he murmured; “the hand of the Lord is
Leading me out of the land of darkness, the bondage of error,
Through the sea, that shall lift the walls of its waters around me,
Hiding me, cutting me off, from the cruel thoughts that pursue me.
Back will I go o’er the ocean, this dreary land will abandon,
Her whom I may not love, and him whom my heart has offended.
Better to be in my grave in the green old churchyard in England,
Close by my mother’s side, and among the dust of my kindred;
Better be dead and forgotten, than living in shame and dishonor!
Sacred and safe and unseen, in the dark of the narrow chamber
With me my secret shall lie, like a buried jewel that glimmers
Bright on the hand that is dust, in the chambers of silence and darkness,—
Yes, as the marriage ring of the great espousal hereafter!”
Thus as he spake, he turned, in the strength of
his strong resolution,
Leaving behind him the shore, and hurried along in the twilight,
Through the congenial gloom of the forest silent and sombre,
Till he beheld the lights in the seven houses of Plymouth,
Shining like seven stars in the dusk and mist of the evening.
Soon he entered his door, and found the redoubtable Captain
Sitting alone, and absorbed in the martial pages of Caesar,
Fighting some great campaign in Hainault or Brabant or Flanders.
“Long have you been on your errand,” he
Then John Alden spake, and related the wondrous
From beginning to end, minutely, just as it happened;
How he had seen Priscilla, and how he had sped in his courtship,
Only smoothing a little, and softening down her refusal.
But when he came at length to the words Priscilla had spoken,
Words so tender and cruel: “Why don’t you speak for yourself, John?”
Up leaped the Captain of Plymouth, and stamped on the floor, till his armor
Clanged on the wall, where it hung, with a sound of sinister omen.
All his pent-up wrath burst forth in a sudden explosion,
Even as a hand-grenade, that scatters destruction around it.
Wildly he shouted, and loud: “John Alden! you have betrayed me!
Me, Miles Standish, your friend! have supplanted, defrauded, betrayed me!
One of my ancestors ran his sword through the heart of Wat Tyler;
Who shall prevent me from running my own through the heart of a traitor?
Yours is the greater treason, for yours is a treason to friendship!
You, who lived under my roof, whom I cherished and loved as a brother;
You, who have fed at my board, and drunk at my cup, to whose keeping
I have intrusted my honor, my thoughts the most sacred and secret,—
You too, Brutus! ah woe to the name of friendship hereafter!
Brutus was Caesar’s friend, and you were mine, but henceforward
Let there be nothing between us save war, and implacable hatred!”
So spake the Captain of Plymouth, and strode about
in the chamber,
Chafing and choking with rage; like cords were the veins on his temples.
But in the midst of his anger a man appeared at the doorway,
Bringing in uttermost haste a message of urgent importance,
Rumors of danger and war and hostile incursions of Indians!
Straightway the Captain paused, and, without further question or parley,
Took from the nail on the wall his sword with its scabbard of iron,
Buckled the belt round his waist, and, frowning fiercely, departed.
Alden was left alone. He heard the clank of the scabbard
Growing fainter and fainter, and dying away in the distance.
Then he arose from his seat, and looked forth into the darkness,
Felt the cool air blow on his cheek, that was hot with the insult,
Lifted his eyes to the heavens, and, folding his hands as in childhood,
Prayed in the silence of night to the Father who seeth in secret.
Meanwhile the choleric Captain strode wrathful away
to the council,
Found it already assembled, impatiently waiting his coming;
Men in the middle of life, austere and grave in deportment,
Only one of them old, the hill that was nearest to heaven,
Covered with snow, but erect, the excellent Elder of Plymouth.
God had sifted three kingdoms to find the wheat for this planting,
Then had sifted the wheat, as the living seed of a nation;
So say the chronicles old, and such is the faith of the people!
Near them was standing an Indian, in attitude stern and defiant,
Naked down to the waist, and grim and ferocious in aspect;
While on the table before them was lying unopened a Bible,
Ponderous, bound in leather, brass-studded, printed in Holland,
And beside it outstretched the skin of a rattle-snake glittered,
Filled, like a quiver, with arrows; a signal and challenge of warfare,
Brought by the Indian, and speaking with arrowy tongues of defiance.
This Miles Standish beheld, as he entered, and heard them debating
What were an answer befitting the hostile message and menace,
Talking of this and of that, contriving, suggesting, objecting;
One voice only for peace, and that the voice of the Elder,
Judging it wise and well that some at least were converted,
Rather than any were slain, for this was but Christian behavior!
Then out spake Miles Standish, the stalwart Captain of Plymouth,
Muttering deep in his throat, for his voice was husky with anger,
“What! do you mean to make war with milk and the water of roses?
Is it to shoot red squirrels you have your howitzer planted
There on the roof of the church, or is it to shoot red devils?
Truly the only tongue that is understood by a savage
Must be the tongue of fire that speaks from the mouth of the cannon!”
Thereupon answered and said the excellent Elder of Plymouth,
Somewhat amazed and alarmed at this irreverent language:
“Not so thought Saint Paul, nor yet the other Apostles;
Not from the cannon’s mouth were the tongues of fire they spake with!”
But unheeded fell this mild rebuke on the Captain,
Who had advanced to the table, and thus continued discoursing:
“Leave this matter to me, for to me by right it pertaineth.
War is a terrible trade; but in the cause that is righteous,
Sweet is the smell of powder; and thus I answer the challenge!”
Then from the rattlesnake’s skin, with a sudden,
Jerking the Indian arrows, he filled it with powder and bullets
Full to the very jaws, and handed it back to the savage,
Saying, in thundering tones: “Here, take it! this is your answer!”
Silently out of the room then glided the glistening savage,
Bearing the serpent’s skin, and seeming himself like a serpent,
Winding his sinuous way in the dark to the depths of the forest.
THE SAILING OF THE MAYFLOWER
Just in the gray of the dawn, as the mists uprose
from the meadows,
There was a stir and a sound in the slumbering village of Plymouth;
Clanging and clicking of arms, and the order imperative, “Forward!”
Given in tone suppressed, a tramp of feet, and then silence.
Figures ten, in the mist, marched slowly out of the village.
Standish the stalwart it was, with eight of his valorous army,
Led by their Indian guide, by Hobomok, friend of the white men,
Northward marching to quell the sudden revolt of the savage.
Giants they seemed in the mist, or the mighty men of King David;
Giants in heart they were, who believed in God and the Bible,—
Ay, who believed in the smiting of Midianites and Philistines.
Over them gleamed far off the crimson banners of morning;
Under them loud on the sands, the serried billows, advancing,
Fired along the line, and in regular order retreated.
Many a mile had they marched, when at length the
village of Plymouth
Woke from its sleep, and arose, intent on its manifold labors.
Sweet was the air and soft; and slowly the smoke from the chimneys
Rose over roofs of thatch, and pointed steadily eastward;
Men came forth from the doors, and paused and talked of the weather,
Said that the wind had changed, and was blowing fair for the Mayflower;
Talked of their Captain’s departure, and all the dangers that menaced,
He being gone, the town, and what should be done in his absence.
Merrily sang the birds, and the tender voices of women
Consecrated with hymns the common cares of the household.
Out of the sea rose the sun, and the billows rejoiced at his coming;
Beautiful were his feet on the purple tops of the mountains;
Beautiful on the sails of the Mayflower riding at anchor,
Battered and blackened and worn by all the storms of the winter.
Loosely against her masts was hanging and flapping her canvas,
Rent by so many gales, and patched by the hands of the sailors.
Suddenly from her side, as the sun rose over the ocean,
Darted a puff of smoke, and floated seaward; anon rang
Loud over field and forest the cannon’s roar, and the echoes
Heard and repeated the sound, the signal-gun of departure!
Ah! but with louder echoes replied the hearts of the people!
Meekly, in voices subdued, the chapter was read from the Bible,
Meekly the prayer was begun, but ended in fervent entreaty!
Then from their houses in haste came forth the Pilgrims of Plymouth,
Men and women and children, all hurrying down to the sea-shore,
Eager, with tearful eyes, to say farewell to the Mayflower,
Homeward bound o’er the sea, and leaving them here in the desert.
Foremost among them was Alden. All night he
had lain without slumber,
Turning and tossing about in the heat and unrest of his fever.
He had beheld Miles Standish, who came back late from the council,
Stalking into the room, and heard him mutter and murmur,
Sometimes it seemed a prayer, and sometimes it sounded like swearing.
Once he had come to the bed, and stood there a moment in silence;
Then he had turned away, and said: “I will not awake him;
Let him sleep on, it is best; for what is the use of more talking!”
Then he extinguished the light, and threw himself down on his pallet,
Dressed as he was, and ready to start at the break of the morning,—
Covered himself with the cloak he had worn in his campaigns in Flanders,—
Slept as a soldier sleeps in his bivouac, ready for action.
But with the dawn he arose; in the twilight Alden beheld him
Put on his corselet of steel, and all the rest of his armor,
Buckle about his waist his trusty blade of Damascus,
Take from the corner his musket, and so stride out of the chamber.
Often the heart of the youth had burned and yearned to embrace him,
Often his lips had essayed to speak, imploring for pardon;
All the old friendship came back, with its tender and grateful emotions;
But his pride overmastered the nobler nature within him,—
Pride, and the sense of his wrong, and the burning fire of the insult.
So he beheld his friend departing in anger, but spake not,
Saw him go forth to danger, perhaps to death, and he spake not!
Then he arose from his bed, and heard what the people were saying,
Joined in the talk at the door, with Stephen and Richard and Gilbert,
Joined in the morning prayer, and in the reading of Scripture,
And, with the others, in haste went hurrying down to the sea-shore,
Down to the Plymouth Rock, that had been to their feet as a door-step
Into a world unknown,—the corner-stone of a nation!
There with his boat was the Master, already a little
Lest he should lose the tide, or the wind might shift to the eastward,
Square-built, hearty, and strong, with an odor of ocean about him,
Speaking with this one and that, and cramming letters and parcels
Into his pockets capacious, and messages mingled together
Into his narrow brain, till at last he was wholly bewildered.
Nearer the boat stood Alden, with one foot placed on the gunwale,
One still firm on the rock, and talking at times with the sailors,
Seated erect on the thwarts, all ready and eager for starting.
He too was eager to go, and thus put an end to his anguish,
Thinking to fly from despair, that swifter than keel is or canvas,
Thinking to drown in the sea the ghost that would rise and pursue him.
But as he gazed on the crowd, he beheld the form of Priscilla
Standing dejected among them, unconscious of all that was passing.
Fixed were her eyes upon his, as if she divined his
Meanwhile the Master alert, but with dignified air
Scanning with watchful eye the tide and the wind and the weather,
Walked about on the sands; and the people crowded around him
Saying a few last words, and enforcing his careful remembrance.
Then, taking each by the hand, as if he were grasping a tiller,
Into the boat he sprang, and in haste shoved off to his vessel,
Glad in his heart to get rid of all this worry and flurry,
Glad to be gone from a land of sand and sickness and sorrow,
Short allowance of victual, and plenty of nothing but Gospel!
Lost in the sound of the oars was the last farewell of the Pilgrims.
O strong hearts and true! not one went back in the Mayflower!
No, not one looked back, who had set his hand to this ploughing!
Soon were heard on board the shouts and songs of
Heaving the windlass round, and hoisting the ponderous anchor.
Then the yards were braced, and all sails set to the west-wind,
Blowing steady and strong; and the Mayflower sailed from the harbor,
Rounded the point of the Gurnet, and leaving far to the southward
Island and cape of sand, and the Field of the First Encounter,
Took the wind on her quarter, and stood for the open Atlantic,
Borne on the send of the sea, and the swelling hearts of the Pilgrims.
Long in silence they watched the receding sail of
Much endeared to them all, as something living and human;
Then, as if filled with the spirit, and wrapt in a vision prophetic,
Baring his hoary head, the excellent Elder of Plymouth
Said, “Let us pray!” and they prayed, and thanked the Lord and took courage.
Mournfully sobbed the waves at the base of the rock, and above them
Bowed and whispered the wheat on the hill of death, and their kindred
Seemed to awake in their graves, and to join in the prayer that they uttered.
Sun-illumined and white, on the eastern verge of the ocean
Gleamed the departing sail, like a marble slab in a graveyard;
Buried beneath it lay for ever all hope of escaping.
Lo! as they turned to depart, they saw the form of an Indian,
Watching them from the hill; but while they spake with each other,
Pointing with outstretched hands, and saying, “Look!” he had vanished.
So they returned to their homes; but Alden lingered a little,
Musing alone on the shore, and watching the wash of the billows
Round the base of the rock, and the sparkle and flash of the sunshine,
Like the spirit of God, moving visibly over the waters.
Thus for a while he stood, and mused by the shore
of the ocean,
Thinking of many things, and most of all of Priscilla;
And as if thought had the power to draw to itself, like the loadstone,
Whatsoever it touches, by subtile laws of its nature,
Lo! as he turned to depart, Priscilla was standing beside him.
“Are you so much offended, you will not speak
to me?” said she.
“Am I so much to blame, that yesterday, when you were pleading
Warmly the cause of another, my heart, impulsive and wayward,
Pleaded your own, and spake out, forgetful perhaps of decorum?
Certainly you can forgive me for speaking so frankly, for saying
What I ought not to have said, yet now I can never unsay it;
For there are moments in life, when the heart is so full of emotion,
That if by chance it be shaken, or into its depths like a pebble
Drops some careless word, it overflows, and its secret,
Spilt on the ground like water, can never be gathered together.
Yesterday I was shocked, when I heard you speak of Miles Standish,
Praising his virtues, transforming his very defects into virtues,
Praising his courage and strength, and even his fighting in Flanders,
As if by fighting alone you could win the heart of a woman,
Quite overlooking yourself and the rest, in exalting your hero.
Therefore I spake as I did, by an irresistible impulse.
You will forgive me, I hope, for the sake of the friendship between us,
Which is too true and too sacred to be so easily broken!”
Thereupon answered John Alden, the scholar, the friend of Miles Standish:
“I was not angry with you, with myself alone
Mute and amazed was Alden; and listened and looked
Thinking he never had seen her more fair, more divine in her beauty.
He who but yesterday pleaded so glibly the cause of another,
Stood there embarrassed and silent, and seeking in vain for an answer.
So the maiden went on, and little divined or imagined
What was at work in his heart, that made him so awkward and speechless.
“Let us, then, be what we are, and speak what we think, and in all things
Keep ourselves loyal to truth, and the sacred professions of friendship.
It is no secret I tell you, nor am I ashamed to declare it:
I have liked to be with you, to see you, to speak with you always.
So I was hurt at your words, and a little affronted to hear you
Urge me to marry your friend, though he were the Captain Miles Standish.
For I must tell you the truth: much more to me is your friendship
Than all the love he could give, were he twice the hero you think him.”
Casting a farewell look at the glimmering sail of
Distant, but still in sight, and sinking below the horizon,
Homeward together they walked, with a strange, indefinite feeling,
That all the rest had departed and left them alone in the desert.
But, as they went through the fields in the blessing and smile of the sunshine,
Lighter grew their hearts, and Priscilla said very archly:
“Now that our terrible Captain has gone in pursuit of the Indians,
Where he is happier far than he would be commanding a household,
You may speak boldly, and tell me of all that happened between you,
When you returned last night, and said how ungrateful you found me.”
Thereupon answered John Alden, and told her the whole of the story,—
Told her his own despair, and the direful wrath of Miles Standish.
Whereat the maiden smiled, and said between laughing and earnest,
“He is a little chimney, and heated hot in a moment!”
But as he gently rebuked her, and told her how much he had suffered,—
How he had even determined to sail that day in the Mayflower,
And had remained for her sake, on hearing the dangers that threatened,—
All her manner was changed, and she said with a faltering accent,
“Truly I thank you for this: how good you have been to me always!”
Thus, as a pilgrim devout, who toward Jerusalem
Taking three steps in advance, and one reluctantly backward,
Urged by importunate zeal, and withheld by pangs of contrition;
Slowly but steadily onward, receding yet ever advancing,
Journeyed this Puritan youth to the Holy Land of his longings,
Urged by the fervor of love, and withheld by remorseful misgivings.
THE MARCH OF MILES STANDISH
Meanwhile the stalwart Miles Standish was marching
Winding through forest and swamp, and along the trend of the sea-shore,
All day long, with hardly a halt, the fire of his anger
Burning and crackling within, and the sulphurous odor of powder
Seeming more sweet to his nostrils than all the scents of the forest.
Silent and moody he went, and much he revolved his discomfort;
He who was used to success, and to easy victories always,
Thus to be flouted, rejected, and laughed to scorn by a maiden,
Thus to be mocked and betrayed by the friend whom most he had trusted!
Ah! ’t was too much to be borne, and he fretted and chafed in his armor!
“I alone am to blame,” he muttered,
“for mine was the folly.
What has a rough old soldier, grown grim and gray in the harness,
Used to the camp and its ways, to do with the wooing of maidens?
’T was but a dream,—let it pass,—let it vanish like so many others!
What I thought was a flower, is only a weed, and is worthless;
Out of my heart will I pluck it, and throw it away, and henceforward
Be but a fighter of battles, a lover and wooer of dangers!”
Thus he revolved in his mind his sorry defeat and discomfort,
While he was marching by day or lying at night in the forest,
Looking up at the trees, and the constellations beyond them.
After a three days’ march he came to an Indian
Pitched on the edge of a meadow, between the sea and the forest;
Women at work by the tents, and the warriors, horrid with war-paint,
Seated about a fire, and smoking and talking together;
Who, when they saw from afar the sudden approach of the white men,
Saw the flash of the sun on breastplate and sabre and musket,
Straightway leaped to their feet, and two, from among them advancing,
Came to parley with Standish, and offer him furs as a present;
Friendship was in their looks, but in their hearts there was hatred.
Braves of the tribe were these, and brothers gigantic in stature,
Huge as Goliath of Gath, or the terrible Og, king of Bashan;
One was Pecksuot named, and the other was called Wattawamat.
Round their necks were suspended their knives in scabbards of wampum,
Two-edged, trenchant knives, with points as sharp as a needle.
Other arms had they none, for they were cunning and crafty.
“Welcome, English!” they said,—these words they had learned from the traders
Touching at times on the coast, to barter and chaffer for peltries.
Then in their native tongue they began to parley with Standish,
Through his guide and interpreter Hobomok, friend of the white man,
Begging for blankets and knives, but mostly for muskets and powder,
Kept by the white man, they said, concealed, with the plague, in his cellars,
Ready to be let loose, and destroy his brother the red man!
But when Standish refused, and said he would give them the Bible,
Suddenly changing their tone, they began to boast
and to bluster.
Then Wattawamat advanced with a stride in front of the other,
And, with a lofty demeanor, thus vauntingly spake to the Captain:
“Now Wattawamat can see, by the fiery eyes of the Captain,
Angry is he in his heart; but the heart of the brave Wattawamat
Is not afraid at the sight. He was not born of a woman,
But on a mountain, at night, from an oak-tree riven by lightning,
Forth he sprang at a bound, with all his weapons about him,
Shouting, ‘Who is there here to fight with the brave Wattawamat?’”
Then he unsheathed his knife, and, whetting the blade on his left hand,
Held it aloft and displayed a woman’s face on the handle,
Saying, with bitter expression and look of sinister meaning:
“I have another at home, with the face of a man on the handle;
By and by they shall marry; and there will be plenty of children!”
Then stood Pecksuot forth, self-vaunting, insulting
While with his fingers he petted the knife that hung at his bosom,
Drawing it half from its sheath, and plunging it back, as he muttered,
“By and by it shall see; it shall eat; ah, ha! but shall speak not!
This is the mighty Captain the white men have sent to destroy us!
He is a little man; let him go and work with the women!”
Meanwhile Standish had noted the faces and figures
Peeping and creeping about from bush to tree in the forest,
Feigning to look for game, with arrows set on their bow-strings,
Drawing about him still closer and closer the net of their ambush.
But undaunted he stood, and dissembled and treated them smoothly;
So the old chronicles say, that were writ in the days of the fathers.
But when he heard their defiance, the boast, the taunt, and the insult,
All the hot blood of his race, of Sir Hugh and of Thurston de Standish,
Boiled and beat in his heart, and swelled in the veins of his temples.
Headlong he leaped on the boaster, and, snatching his knife from its scabbard,
Plunged it into his heart, and, reeling backward, the savage
Fell with his face to the sky, and a fiendlike fierceness upon it.
Straight there arose from the forest the awful sound of the war-whoop,
And, like a flurry of snow on the whistling wind of December,
Swift and sudden and keen came a flight of feathery arrows,
Then came a cloud of smoke, and out of the cloud came the lightning,
Out of the lightning thunder, and death unseen ran before it.
Frightened the savages fled for shelter in swamp and in thicket,
Hotly pursued and beset; but their sachem, the brave Wattawamat,
Fled not; he was dead. Unswerving and swift had a bullet
Passed through his brain, and he fell with both hands clutching the greensward,
Seeming in death to hold back from his foe the land of his fathers.
There on the flowers of the meadow the warriors
lay, and above them,
Silent, with folded arms, stood Hobomok, friend of the white man.
Smiling at length he exclaimed to the stalwart Captain of Plymouth:
“Pecksuot bragged very loud, of his courage, his strength, and his stature,—
Mocked the great Captain, and called him a little man; but I see now
Big enough have you been to lay him speechless before you!”
Thus the first battle was fought and won by the
stalwart Miles Standish.
When the tidings thereof were brought to the village of Plymouth,
And as a trophy of war the head of the brave Wattawamat
Scowled from the roof of the fort, which at once was a church and a fortress,
All who beheld it rejoiced, and praised the Lord, and took courage.
Only Priscilla averted her face from this spectre of terror,
Thanking God in her heart that she had not married Miles Standish;
Shrinking, fearing almost, lest, coming home from his battles,
He should lay claim to her hand, as the prize and reward of his valor.
Month after month passed away, and in Autumn the ships
of the merchants
Came with kindred and friends, with cattle and corn for the Pilgrims.
All in the village was peace; the men were intent on their labors,
Busy with hewing and building, with garden-plot and with merestead,
Busy with breaking the glebe, and mowing the grass in the meadows,
Searching the sea for its fish, and hunting the deer in the forest.
All in the village was peace; but at times the rumor of warfare
Filled the air with alarm, and the apprehension of danger.
Bravely the stalwart Miles Standish was scouring the land with his forces,
Waxing valiant in fight and defeating the alien armies,
Till his name had become a sound of fear to the nations.
Anger was still in his heart, but at times the remorse and contrition
Which in all noble natures succeed the passionate outbreak,
Came like a rising tide, that encounters the rush of a river,
Staying its current awhile, but making it bitter and brackish.
Meanwhile Alden at home had built him a new habitation,
Solid, substantial, of timber rough-hewn from the firs of the forest.
Wooden-barred was the door, and the roof was covered with rushes;
Latticed the windows were, and the window-panes were of paper,
Oiled to admit the light, while wind and rain were excluded.
There too he dug a well, and around it planted an orchard:
Still may be seen to this day some trace of the well and the orchard.
Close to the house was the stall, where, safe and secure from annoyance,
Raghorn, the snow-white steer, that had fallen to Alden’s allotment
In the division of cattle, might ruminate in the night-time
Over the pastures he cropped, made fragrant by sweet pennyroyal.
Oft when his labor was finished, with eager feet
would the dreamer
Follow the pathway that ran through the woods to the house of Priscilla,
Led by illusions romantic and subtile deceptions of fancy,
Pleasure disguised as duty, and love in the semblance of friendship.
Ever of her he thought, when he fashioned the walls of his dwelling;
Ever of her he thought, when he delved in the soil of his garden;
Ever of her he thought, when he read in his Bible on Sunday
Praise of the virtuous woman, as she is described in the Proverbs,—
How the heart of her husband doth safely trust in her always,
How all the days of her life she will do him good, and not evil,
How she seeketh the wool and the flax and worketh with gladness,
How she layeth her hand to the spindle and holdeth the distaff,
How she is not afraid of the snow for herself or her household,
Knowing her household are clothed with the scarlet cloth of her weaving!
So as she sat at her wheel one afternoon in the
Alden, who opposite sat, and was watching her dexterous fingers,
As if the thread she was spinning were that of his life and his fortune,
After a pause in their talk, thus spake to the sound of the spindle.
“Truly, Priscilla,” he said, “when I see you spinning and spinning,
Never idle a moment, but thrifty and thoughtful of others,
Suddenly you are transformed, are visibly changed in a moment;
You are no longer Priscilla, but Bertha the Beautiful Spinner.”
Here the light foot on the treadle grew swifter and swifter; the spindle
Uttered an angry snarl, and the thread snapped short in her fingers;
While the impetuous speaker, not heeding the mischief, continued:
“You are the beautiful Bertha, the spinner, the queen of Helvetia;
She whose story I read at a stall in the streets of Southampton,
Who, as she rode on her palfrey, o’er valley and meadow and mountain,
Ever was spinning her thread from a distaff fixed to her saddle.
She was so thrifty and good, that her name passed into a proverb.
So shall it be with your own, when the spinning-wheel shall no longer
Hum in the house of the farmer, and fill its chambers with music.
Then shall the mothers, reproving, relate how it was in their childhood,
Praising the good old times, and the days of Priscilla the spinner!”
Straight uprose from her wheel the beautiful Puritan maiden,
Pleased with the praise of her thrift from him whose praise was the sweetest,
Drew from the reel on the table a snowy skein of her spinning,
Thus making answer, meanwhile, to the flattering phrases of Alden:
“Come, you must not be idle; if I am a pattern for housewives,
Show yourself equally worthy of being the model of husbands.
Hold this skein on your hands, while I wind it, ready for knitting;
Then who knows but hereafter, when fashions have changed and the manners,
Fathers may talk to their sons of the good old times of John Alden!”
Thus, with a jest and a laugh, the skein on his hands she adjusted,
He sitting awkwardly there, with his arms extended before him,
She standing graceful, erect, and winding the thread from his fingers,
Sometimes chiding a little his clumsy manner of holding,
Sometimes touching his hands, as she disentangled expertly
Twist or knot in the yarn, unawares—for how could she help it?—
Sending electrical thrills through every nerve in his body.
Lo! in the midst of this scene, a breathless messenger
Bringing in hurry and heat the terrible news from the village.
Yes; Miles Standish was dead!—an Indian had brought them the tidings,—
Slain by a poisoned arrow, shot down in the front of the battle,
Into an ambush beguiled, cut off with the whole of his forces;
All the town would be burned, and all the people be murdered!
Such were the tidings of evil that burst on the hearts
Even as rivulets twain, from distant and separate
Seeing each other afar, as they leap from the rocks, and pursuing
Each one its devious path, but drawing nearer and nearer,
Rush together at last, at their trysting-place in the forest;
So these lives that had run thus far in separate channels,
Coming in sight of each other, then swerving and flowing asunder,
Parted by barriers strong, but drawing nearer and nearer,
Rushed together at last, and one was lost in the other.
Forth from the curtain of clouds, from the tent of
purple and scarlet,
Issued the sun, the great High-Priest, in his garments resplendent,
Holiness unto the Lord, in letters of light, on his forehead,
Round the hem of his robe the golden bells and pomegranates.
Blessing the world he came, and the bars of vapor beneath him
Gleamed like a grate of brass, and the sea at his feet was a laver!
This was the wedding morn of Priscilla the Puritan
Friends were assembled together; the Elder and Magistrate also
Graced the scene with their presence, and stood like the Law and the Gospel,
One with the sanction of earth and one with the blessing of heaven.
Simple and brief was the wedding, as that of Ruth and of Boaz.
Softly the youth and the maiden repeated the words of betrothal,
Taking each other for husband and wife in the Magistrate’s presence,
After the Puritan way, and the laudable custom of Holland.
Fervently then, and devoutly, the excellent Elder of Plymouth
Prayed for the hearth and the home, that were founded that day in affection,
Speaking of life and of death, and imploring divine benedictions.
Lo! when the service was ended, a form appeared
on the threshold,
Clad in armor of steel, a sombre and sorrowful figure!
Why does the bridegroom start and stare at the strange apparition?
Why does the bride turn pale, and hide her face on his shoulder?
Is it a phantom of air,—a bodiless, spectral illusion?
Is it a ghost from the grave, that has come to forbid the betrothal?
Long had it stood there unseen, a guest uninvited,
Great was the people’s amazement, and greater
yet their rejoicing,
Thus to behold once more the sun-burnt face of their Captain,
Whom they had mourned as dead; and they gathered and crowded about him,
Eager to see him and hear him, forgetful of bride and of bridegroom,
Questioning, answering, laughing, and each interrupting the other,
Till the good Captain declared, being quite overpowered and bewildered,
He had rather by far break into an Indian encampment,
Than come again to a wedding to which he had not been invited.
Meanwhile the bridegroom went forth and stood with
the bride at the doorway,
Breathing the perfumed air of that warm and beautiful morning.
Touched with autumnal tints, but lonely and sad in the sunshine,
Lay extended before them the land of toil and privation;
There were the graves of the dead, and the barren waste of the sea-shore,
There the familiar fields, the groves of pine, and the meadows;
But to their eyes transfigured, it seemed as the Garden of Eden,
Filled with the presence of God, whose voice was the sound of the ocean.
Soon was their vision disturbed by the noise and
stir of departure,
Friends coming forth from the house, and impatient of longer delaying,
Each with his plan for the day, and the work that was left uncompleted.
Then from a stall near at hand, amid exclamations of wonder,
Alden the thoughtful, the careful, so happy, so proud of Priscilla,
Brought out his snow-white steer, obeying the hand of its master,
Led by a cord that was tied to an iron ring in its nostrils,
Covered with crimson cloth, and a cushion placed for a saddle.
She should not walk, he said, through the dust and heat of the noonday;
Nay, she should ride like a queen, not plod along like a peasant.
Somewhat alarmed at first, but reassured by the others,
Placing her hand on the cushion, her foot in the hand of her husband,
Gayly, with joyous laugh, Priscilla mounted her palfrey.
“Nothing is wanting now,” he said with a smile, “but the distaff;
Then you would be in truth my queen, my beautiful Bertha!”
Onward the bridal procession now moved to their
Happy husband and wife, and friends conversing together.
Pleasantly murmured the brook, as they crossed the ford in the forest,
Pleased with the image that passed, like a dream of love through its bosom,
Tremulous, floating in air, o’er the depths of the azure abysses.
Down through the golden leaves the sun was pouring his splendors,
Gleaming on purple grapes, that, from branches above them suspended,
Mingled their odorous breath with the balm of the pine and the fir-tree,
Wild and sweet as the clusters that grew in the valley of Eshcol.
Like a picture it seemed of the primitive, pastoral ages,
Fresh with the youth of the world, and recalling Rebecca and Isaac,
Old and yet ever new, and simple and beautiful always,
Love immortal and young in the endless succession of lovers,
So through the Plymouth woods passed onward the bridal procession.
BIRDS OF PASSAGE.
. . come i gru van cantando lor lai, Facendo in aer di se lunga riga. — DANTE
Black shadows fall
From the lindens tall,
That lift aloft their massive wall
Against the southern sky;
And from the realms
Of the shadowy elms
A tide-like darkness overwhelms
The fields that round us lie.
But the night is fair,
A warm, soft vapor fills the air,
And distant sounds seem near,
And above, in the light
Of the star-lit night,
Swift birds of passage wing their flight
Through the dewy atmosphere.
I hear the beat
Of their pinions fleet,
As from the land of snow and sleet
They seek a southern lea.
I hear the cry
Of their voices high
Falling dreamily through the sky,
But their forms I cannot see.
O, say not so!
Those sounds that flow
In murmurs of delight and woe
Come not from wings of birds.
They are the throngs
Of the poet’s songs,
Murmurs of pleasures, and pains, and wrongs,
The sound of winged words.
This is the cry
Of souls, that high
On toiling, beating pinions, fly,
Seeking a warmer clime,
From their distant flight
Through realms of light
It falls into our world of night,
With the murmuring sound of rhyme.
OR THE POET’S FORETHOUGHT
Of Prometheus, how undaunted
On Olympus’ shining bastions
His audacious foot he planted,
Myths are told and songs are chanted,
Full of promptings and suggestions.
Beautiful is the tradition
Of that flight through heavenly portals,
The old classic superstition
Of the theft and the transmission
Of the fire of the Immortals!
First the deed of noble daring,
Born of heavenward aspiration,
Then the fire with mortals sharing,
Then the vulture,—the despairing
Cry of pain on crags Caucasian.
All is but a symbol painted
Of the Poet, Prophet, Seer;
Only those are crowned and sainted
Who with grief have been acquainted,
Making nations nobler, freer.
In their feverish exultations,
In their triumph and their yearning,
In their passionate pulsations,
In their words among the nations,
The Promethean fire is burning.
Shall it, then, be unavailing,
All this toil for human culture?
Through the cloud-rack, dark and trailing,
Must they see above them sailing
O’er life’s barren crags the vulture?
Such a fate as this was Dante’s,
By defeat and exile maddened;
Thus were Milton and Cervantes,
Nature’s priests and Corybantes,
By affliction touched and saddened.
But the glories so transcendent
That around their memories cluster,
And, on all their steps attendant,
Make their darkened lives resplendent
With such gleams of inward lustre!
All the melodies mysterious,
Through the dreary darkness chanted;
Thoughts in attitudes imperious,
Voices soft, and deep, and serious,
Words that whispered, songs that haunted!
All the soul in rapt suspension,
All the quivering, palpitating
Chords of life in utmost tension,
With the fervor of invention,
With the rapture of creating!
Ah, Prometheus! heaven-scaling!
In such hours of exultation
Even the faintest heart, unquailing,
Might behold the vulture sailing
Round the cloudy crags Caucasian!
Though to all there is not given
Strength for such sublime endeavor,
Thus to scale the walls of heaven,
And to leaven with fiery leaven
All the hearts of men for ever;
Yet all bards, whose hearts unblighted
Honor and believe the presage,
Hold aloft their torches lighted,
Gleaming through the realms benighted,
As they onward bear the message!
OR THE POET’S AFTERTHOUGHT
Have I dreamed? or was it real,
What I saw as in a vision,
When to marches hymeneal
In the land of the Ideal
Moved my thought o’er Fields Elysian?
What! are these the guests whose glances
Seemed like sunshine gleaming round me?
These the wild, bewildering fancies,
That with dithyrambic dances
As with magic circles bound me?
Ah! how cold are their caresses!
Pallid cheeks, and haggard bosoms!
Spectral gleam their snow-white dresses,
And from loose dishevelled tresses
Fall the hyacinthine blossoms!
O my songs! whose winsome measures
Filled my heart with secret rapture!
Children of my golden leisures!
Must even your delights and pleasures
Fade and perish with the capture?
Fair they seemed, those songs sonorous,
When they came to me unbidden;
Voices single, and in chorus,
Like the wild birds singing o’er us
In the dark of branches hidden.
Must each noble aspiration
Come at last to this conclusion,
Jarring discord, wild confusion,
Not with steeper fall nor faster,
From the sun’s serene dominions,
Not through brighter realms nor vaster,
In swift ruin and disaster,
Icarus fell with shattered pinions!
Sweet Pandora! dear Pandora!
Why did mighty Jove create thee
Coy as Thetis, fair as Flora,
Beautiful as young Aurora,
If to win thee is to hate thee?
No, not hate thee! for this feeling
Of unrest and long resistance
Is but passionate appealing,
A prophetic whisper stealing
O’er the chords of our existence.
Him whom thou dost once enamour,
Thou, beloved, never leavest;
In life’s discord, strife, and clamor,
Still he feels thy spell of glamour;
Him of Hope thou ne’er bereavest.
Weary hearts by thee are lifted,
Struggling souls by thee are strengthened,
Clouds of fear asunder rifted,
Truth from falsehood cleansed and sifted,
Lives, like days in summer, lengthened!
Therefore art thou ever clearer,
O my Sibyl, my deceiver!
For thou makest each mystery clearer,
And the unattained seems nearer,
When thou fillest my heart with fever!
Muse of all the Gifts and Graces!
Though the fields around us wither,
There are ampler realms and spaces,
Where no foot has left its traces:
Let us turn and wander thither!
Saint Augustine! well hast thou said,
That of our vices we can frame
A ladder, if we will but tread
Beneath our feet each deed of shame!
All common things, each day’s events,
That with the hour begin and end,
Our pleasures and our discontents,
Are rounds by which we may ascend.
The low desire, the base design,
That makes another’s virtues less;
The revel of the ruddy wine,
And all occasions of excess;
The longing for ignoble things;
The strife for triumph more than truth;
The hardening of the heart, that brings
Irreverence for the dreams of youth;
All thoughts of ill; all evil deeds,
That have their root in thoughts of ill;
Whatever hinders or impedes
The action of the nobler will;—
All these must first be trampled down
Beneath our feet, if we would gain
In the bright fields of fair renown
The right of eminent domain.
We have not wings, we cannot soar;
But we have feet to scale and climb
By slow degrees, by more and more,
The cloudy summits of our time.
The mighty pyramids of stone
That wedge-like cleave the desert airs,
When nearer seen, and better known,
Are but gigantic flights of stairs.
The distant mountains, that uprear
Their solid bastions to the skies,
Are crossed by pathways, that appear
As we to higher levels rise.
The heights by great men reached and kept
Were not attained by sudden flight,
But they, while their companions slept,
Were toiling upward in the night.
Standing on what too long we bore
With shoulders bent and downcast eyes,
We may discern—unseen before—
A path to higher destinies.
Nor deem the irrevocable Past,
As wholly wasted, wholly vain,
If, rising on its wrecks, at last
To something nobler we attain.
In Mather’s Magnalia Christi,
Of the old colonial time,
May be found in prose the legend
That is here set down in rhyme.
A ship sailed from New Haven,
And the keen and frosty airs,
That filled her sails at parting,
Were heavy with good men’s prayers.
“O Lord! if it be thy pleasure”—
Thus prayed the old divine—
“To bury our friends in the ocean,
Take them, for they are thine!”
But Master Lamberton muttered,
And under his breath said he,
“This ship is so crank and walty
I fear our grave she will be!”
And the ships that came from England,
When the winter months were gone,
Brought no tidings of this vessel
Nor of Master Lamberton.
This put the people to praying
That the Lord would let them hear
What in his greater wisdom
He had done with friends so dear.
And at last their prayers were answered:—
It was in the month of June,
An hour before the sunset
Of a windy afternoon,
When, steadily steering landward,
A ship was seen below,
And they knew it was Lamberton, Master,
Who sailed so long ago.
On she came, with a cloud of canvas,
Right against the wind that blew,
Until the eye could distinguish
The faces of the crew.
Then fell her straining topmasts,
Hanging tangled in the shrouds,
And her sails were loosened and lifted,
And blown away like clouds.
And the masts, with all their rigging,
Fell slowly, one by one,
And the hulk dilated and vanished,
As a sea-mist in the sun!
And the people who saw this marvel
Each said unto his friend,
That this was the mould of their vessel,
And thus her tragic end.
And the pastor of the village
Gave thanks to God in prayer,
That, to quiet their troubled spirits,
He had sent this Ship of Air.
A mist was driving down the British Channel,
The day was just begun,
And through the window-panes, on floor and panel,
Streamed the red autumn sun.
It glanced on flowing flag and rippling pennon,
And the white sails of ships;
And, from the frowning rampart, the black cannon
Hailed it with feverish lips.
Sandwich and Romney, Hastings, Hithe, and Dover
Were all alert that day,
To see the French war-steamers speeding over,
When the fog cleared away.
Sullen and silent, and like couchant lions,
Their cannon, through the night,
Holding their breath, had watched, in grim defiance,
The sea-coast opposite.
And now they roared at drum-beat from their stations
On every citadel;
Each answering each, with morning salutations,
That all was well.
And down the coast, all taking up the burden,
Replied the distant forts,
As if to summon from his sleep the Warden
And Lord of the Cinque Ports.
Him shall no sunshine from the fields of azure,
No drum-beat from the wall,
No morning gun from the black fort’s embrasure,
Awaken with its call!
No more, surveying with an eye impartial
The long line of the coast,
Shall the gaunt figure of the old Field Marshal
Be seen upon his post!
For in the night, unseen, a single warrior,
In sombre harness mailed,
Dreaded of man, and surnamed the Destroyer,
The rampart wall has scaled.
He passed into the chamber of the sleeper,
The dark and silent room,
And as he entered, darker grew, and deeper,
The silence and the gloom.
He did not pause to parley or dissemble,
But smote the Warden hoar;
Ah! what a blow! that made all England tremble
And groan from shore to shore.
Meanwhile, without, the surly cannon waited,
The sun rose bright o’erhead;
Nothing in Nature’s aspect intimated
That a great man was dead.
All houses wherein men have lived and died
Are haunted houses. Through the open doors
The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,
With feet that make no sound upon the floors.
We meet them at the door-way, on the stair,
Along the passages they come and go,
Impalpable impressions on the air,
A sense of something moving to and fro.
There are more guests at table, than the hosts
Invited; the illuminated hall
Is thronged with quiet, inoffensive ghosts,
As silent as the pictures on the wall.
The stranger at my fireside cannot see
The forms I see, nor hear the sounds I hear;
He but perceives what is; while unto me
All that has been is visible and clear.
We have no title-deeds to house or lands;
Owners and occupants of earlier dates
From graves forgotten stretch their dusty hands,
And hold in mortmain still their old estates.
The spirit-world around this world of sense
Floats like an atmosphere, and everywhere
Wafts through these earthly mists and vapors dense
A vital breath of more ethereal air.
Our little lives are kept in equipoise
By opposite attractions and desires;
The struggle of the instinct that enjoys,
And the more noble instinct that aspires.
These perturbations, this perpetual jar
Of earthly wants and aspirations high,
Come from the influence of an unseen star,
An undiscovered planet in our sky.
And as the moon from some dark gate of cloud
Throws o’er the sea a floating bridge of light,
Across whose trembling planks our fancies crowd
Into the realm of mystery and night,—
So from the world of spirits there descends
A bridge of light, connecting it with this,
O’er whose unsteady floor, that sways and bends,
Wander our thoughts above the dark abyss.
In the village churchyard she lies,
Dust is in her beautiful eyes,
No more she breathes, nor feels, nor stirs;
At her feet and at her head
Lies a slave to attend the dead,
But their dust is white as hers.
Was she a lady of high degree,
So much in love with the vanity
And foolish pomp of this world of ours?
Or was it Christian charity,
And lowliness and humility,
The richest and rarest of all dowers?
Who shall tell us? No one speaks;
No color shoots into those cheeks,
Either of anger or of pride,
At the rude question we have asked;
Nor will the mystery be unmasked
By those who are sleeping at her side.
Hereafter?—And do you think to look
On the terrible pages of that Book
To find her failings, faults, and errors?
Ah, you will then have other cares,
In your own short-comings and despairs,
In your own secret sins and terrors!
Once the Emperor Charles of Spain,
With his swarthy, grave commanders,
I forget in what campaign,
Long besieged, in mud and rain,
Some old frontier town of Flanders.
Up and down the dreary camp,
In great boots of Spanish leather,
Striding with a measured tramp,
These Hidalgos, dull and damp,
Cursed the Frenchmen, cursed the weather.
Thus as to and fro they went,
Over upland and through hollow,
Giving their impatience vent,
Perched upon the Emperor’s tent,
In her nest, they spied a swallow.
Yes, it was a swallow’s nest,
Built of clay and hair of horses,
Mane, or tail, or dragoon’s crest,
Found on hedge-rows east and west,
After skirmish of the forces.
Then an old Hidalgo said,
As he twirled his gray mustachio,
“Sure this swallow overhead
Thinks the Emperor’s tent a shed,
And the Emperor but a Macho!”
Hearing his imperial name
Coupled with those words of malice,
Half in anger, half in shame,
Forth the great campaigner came
Slowly from his canvas palace.
“Let no hand the bird molest,”
Said he solemnly, “nor hurt her!”
Adding then, by way of jest,
“Golondrina is my guest,
’Tis the wife of some deserter!”
Swift as bowstring speeds a shaft,
Through the camp was spread the rumor,
And the soldiers, as they quaffed
Flemish beer at dinner, laughed
At the Emperor’s pleasant humor.
So unharmed and unafraid
Sat the swallow still and brooded,
Till the constant cannonade
Through the walls a breach had made,
And the siege was thus concluded.
Then the army, elsewhere bent,
Struck its tents as if disbanding,
Only not the Emperor’s tent,
For he ordered, ere he went,
Very curtly, “Leave it standing!”
So it stood there all alone,
Loosely flapping, torn and tattered,
Till the brood was fledged and flown,
Singing o’er those walls of stone
Which the cannon-shot had shattered.
Two angels, one of Life and one of Death,
Passed o’er our village as the morning broke;
The dawn was on their faces, and beneath,
The sombre houses hearsed with plumes of smoke.
Their attitude and aspect were the same,
Alike their features and their robes of white;
But one was crowned with amaranth, as with flame,
And one with asphodels, like flakes of light.
I saw them pause on their celestial way;
Then said I, with deep fear and doubt oppressed,
“Beat not so loud, my heart, lest thou betray
The place where thy beloved are at rest!”
And he who wore the crown of asphodels,
Descending, at my door began to knock,
And my soul sank within me, as in wells
The waters sink before an earthquake’s shock.
I recognized the nameless agony,
The terror and the tremor and the pain,
That oft before had filled or haunted me,
And now returned with threefold strength again.
The door I opened to my heavenly guest,
And listened, for I thought I heard God’s voice;
And, knowing whatsoe’er he sent was best,
Dared neither to lament nor to rejoice.
Then with a smile, that filled the house with light,
“My errand is not Death, but Life,” he said;
And ere I answered, passing out of sight,
On his celestial embassy he sped.
’T was at thy door, O friend! and not at mine,
The angel with the amaranthine wreath,
Pausing, descended, and with voice divine,
Whispered a word that had a sound like Death.
Then fell upon the house a sudden gloom,
A shadow on those features fair and thin;
And softly, from that hushed and darkened room,
Two angels issued, where but one went in.
All is of God! If he but wave his hand,
The mists collect, the rain falls thick and loud,
Till, with a smile of light on sea and land,
Lo! he looks back from the departing cloud.
Angels of Life and Death alike are his;
Without his leave they pass no threshold o’er;
Who, then, would wish or dare, believing this,
Against his messengers to shut the door?
In broad daylight, and at noon,
Yesterday I saw the moon
Sailing high, but faint and white,
As a school-boy’s paper kite.
In broad daylight, yesterday,
I read a Poet’s mystic lay;
And it seemed to me at most
As a phantom, or a ghost.
But at length the feverish day
Like a passion died away,
And the night, serene and still,
Fell on village, vale, and hill.
Then the moon, in all her pride,
Like a spirit glorified,
Filled and overflowed the night
With revelations of her light.
And the Poet’s song again
Passed like music through my brain;
Night interpreted to me
All its grace and mystery.
How strange it seems! These Hebrews in their
Close by the street of this fair seaport town,
Silent beside the never-silent waves,
At rest in all this moving up and down!
The trees are white with dust, that o’er their
Wave their broad curtains in the south-wind’s breath,
While underneath such leafy tents they keep
The long, mysterious Exodus of Death.
And these sepulchral stones, so old and brown,
That pave with level flags their burial-place,
Seem like the tablets of the Law, thrown down
And broken by Moses at the mountain’s base.
The very names recorded here are strange,
Of foreign accent, and of different climes;
Alvares and Rivera interchange
With Abraham and Jacob of old times.
“Blessed be God! for he created Death!”
The mourners said, “and Death is rest and peace”;
Then added, in the certainty of faith,
“And giveth Life that never more shall cease.”
Closed are the portals of their Synagogue,
No Psalms of David now the silence break,
No Rabbi reads the ancient Decalogue
In the grand dialect the Prophets spake.
Gone are the living, but the dead remain,
And not neglected; for a hand unseen,
Scattering its bounty, like a summer rain,
Still keeps their graves and their remembrance green.
How came they here? What burst of Christian
What persecution, merciless and blind,
Drove o’er the sea—that desert desolate—
These Ishmaels and Hagars of mankind?
They lived in narrow streets and lanes obscure,
Ghetto and Judenstrass, in mirk and mire;
Taught in the school of patience to endure
The life of anguish and the death of fire.
All their lives long, with the unleavened bread
And bitter herbs of exile and its fears,
The wasting famine of the heart they fed,
And slaked its thirst with marah of their tears.
Anathema maranatha! was the cry
That rang from town to town, from street to street;
At every gate the accursed Mordecai
Was mocked and jeered, and spurned by Christian feet.
Pride and humiliation hand in hand
Walked with them through the world where’er they went;
Trampled and beaten were they as the sand,
And yet unshaken as the continent.
For in the background figures vague and vast
Of patriarchs and of prophets rose sublime,
And all the great traditions of the Past
They saw reflected in the coming time.
And thus for ever with reverted look
The mystic volume of the world they read,
Spelling it backward, like a Hebrew book,
Till life became a Legend of the Dead.
But ah! what once has been shall be no more!
The groaning earth in travail and in pain
Brings forth its races, but does not restore,
And the dead nations never rise again.
In the Valley of the Vire
Still is seen an ancient mill,
With its gables quaint and queer,
And beneath the window-sill,
On the stone,
These words alone:
“Oliver Basselin lived here.”
Far above it, on the steep,
Ruined stands the old Chateau;
Nothing but the donjon-keep
Left for shelter or for show.
Its vacant eyes
Stare at the skies,
Stare at the valley green and deep.
Once a convent, old and brown,
Looked, but ah! it looks no more,
From the neighboring hillside down
On the rushing and the roar
Of the stream
Whose sunny gleam
Cheers the little Norman town.
In that darksome mill of stone,
To the water’s dash and din,
Careless, humble, and unknown,
Sang the poet Basselin
Songs that fill
That ancient mill
With a splendor of its own.
Never feeling of unrest
Broke the pleasant dream he dreamed;
Only made to be his nest,
All the lovely valley seemed;
Of soaring higher
Stirred or fluttered in his breast.
True, his songs were not divine;
Were not songs of that high art,
Which, as winds do in the pine,
Find an answer in each heart;
But the mirth
Of this green earth
Laughed and revelled in his line.
From the alehouse and the inn,
Opening on the narrow street,
Came the loud, convivial din,
Singing and applause of feet,
The laughing lays
That in those days
Sang the poet Basselin.
In the castle, cased in steel,
Knights, who fought at Agincourt,
Watched and waited, spur on heel;
But the poet sang for sport
Songs that rang
Songs that lowlier hearts could feel.
In the convent, clad in gray,
Sat the monks in lonely cells,
Paced the cloisters, knelt to pray,
And the poet heard their bells;
But his rhymes
Found other chimes,
Nearer to the earth than they.
Gone are all the barons bold,
Gone are all the knights and squires,
Gone the abbot stern and cold,
And the brotherhood of friars;
Not a name
Remains to fame,
From those mouldering days of old!
But the poet’s memory here
Of the landscape makes a part;
Like the river, swift and clear,
Flows his song through many a heart;
That ancient mill,
In the Valley of the Vire.
Under the walls of Monterey
At daybreak the bugles began to play,
In the mist of the morning damp and gray,
These were the words they seemed to say:
“Come forth to thy death,
Forth he came, with a martial tread;
Firm was his step, erect his head;
He who so well the bugle played,
Could not mistake the words it said:
“Come forth to thy death,
He looked at the earth, he looked at the sky,
He looked at the files of musketry,
And he said, with a steady voice and eye,
“Take good aim; I am ready to die!”
Thus challenges death
Twelve fiery tongues flashed straight and red,
Six leaden balls on their errand sped;
Falls to the ground, but he is not dead;
His name was not stamped on those balls of lead,
And they only scath
Three balls are in his breast and brain,
But he rises out of the dust again,
The water he drinks has a bloody stain;
“O kill me, and put me out of my pain!”
In his agony prayeth
Forth dart once more those tongues of flame,
And the bugler has died a death of shame,
His soul has gone back to whence it came,
And no one answers to the name,
When the Sergeant saith,
Under the walls of Monterey
By night a bugle is heard to play,
Through the mist of the valley damp and gray
The sentinels hear the sound, and say,
“That is the wraith
Of Victor Galbraith!”
Often I think of the beautiful town
That is seated by the sea;
Often in thought go up and down
The pleasant streets of that dear old town,
And my youth comes back to me.
And a verse of a Lapland song
Is haunting my memory still:
“A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”
I can see the shadowy lines of its trees,
And catch, in sudden gleams,
The sheen of the far-surrounding seas,
And islands that were the Hersperides
Of all my boyish dreams.
And the burden of that old song,
It murmurs and whispers still:
“A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”
I remember the black wharves and the slips,
And the sea-tides tossing free;
And Spanish sailors with bearded lips,
And the beauty and mystery of the ships,
And the magic of the sea.
And the voice of that wayward song
Is singing and saying still:
“A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”
I remember the bulwarks by the shore,
And the fort upon the hill;
The sunrise gun, with its hollow roar,
The drum-beat repeated o’er and o’er,
And the bugle wild and shrill.
And the music of that old song
Throbs in my memory still:
“A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”
I remember the sea-fight far away,
How it thundered o’er the tide!
And the dead captains, as they lay
In their graves, o’erlooking the tranquil bay,
Where they in battle died.
And the sound of that mournful song
Goes through me with a thrill:
“A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”
I can see the breezy dome of groves,
The shadows of Deering’s Woods;
And the friendships old and the early loves
Come back with a sabbath sound, as of doves
In quiet neighborhoods.
And the verse of that sweet old song,
It flutters and murmurs still:
“A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”
I remember the gleams and glooms that dart
Across the schoolboy’s brain;
The song and the silence in the heart,
That in part are prophecies, and in part
Are longings wild and vain.
And the voice of that fitful song
Sings on, and is never still:
“A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”
There are things of which I may not speak;
There are dreams that cannot die;
There are thoughts that make the strong heart weak,
And bring a pallor into the cheek,
And a mist before the eye.
And the words of that fatal song
Come over me like a chill:
“A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”
Strange to me now are the forms I meet
When I visit the dear old town;
But the native air is pure and sweet,
And the trees that o’ershadow each well-known street,
As they balance up and down,
Are singing the beautiful song,
Are sighing and whispering still:
“A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”
And Deering’s Woods are fresh and fair,
And with joy that is almost pain
My heart goes back to wander there,
And among the dreams of the days that were,
I find my lost youth again.
And the strange and beautiful song,
The groves are repeating it still:
“A boy’s will is the wind’s will,
And the thoughts of youth are long, long thoughts.”
In that building, long and low,
With its windows all a-row,
Like the port-holes of a hulk,
Human spiders spin and spin,
Backward down their threads so thin
Dropping, each a hempen bulk.
At the end, an open door;
Squares of sunshine on the floor
Light the long and dusky lane;
And the whirring of a wheel,
Dull and drowsy, makes me feel
All its spokes are in my brain.
As the spinners to the end
Downward go and reascend,
Gleam the long threads in the sun;
While within this brain of mine
Cobwebs brighter and more fine
By the busy wheel are spun.
Two fair maidens in a swing,
Like white doves upon the wing,
First before my vision pass;
Laughing, as their gentle hands
Closely clasp the twisted strands,
At their shadow on the grass.
Then a booth of mountebanks,
With its smell of tan and planks,
And a girl poised high in air
On a cord, in spangled dress,
With a faded loveliness,
And a weary look of care.
Then a homestead among farms,
And a woman with bare arms
Drawing water from a well;
As the bucket mounts apace,
With it mounts her own fair face,
As at some magician’s spell.
Then an old man in a tower,
Ringing loud the noontide hour,
While the rope coils round and round
Like a serpent at his feet,
And again, in swift retreat,
Nearly lifts him from the ground.
Then within a prison-yard,
Faces fixed, and stern, and hard,
Laughter and indecent mirth;
Ah! it is the gallows-tree!
Breath of Christian charity,
Blow, and sweep it from the earth!
Then a school-boy, with his kite
Gleaming in a sky of light,
And an eager, upward look;
Steeds pursued through lane and field;
Fowlers with their snares concealed;
And an angler by a brook.
Ships rejoicing in the breeze,
Wrecks that float o’er unknown seas,
Anchors dragged through faithless sand;
Sea-fog drifting overhead,
And, with lessening line and lead,
Sailors feeling for the land.
All these scenes do I behold,
These, and many left untold,
In that building long and low;
While the wheel goes round and round,
With a drowsy, dreamy sound,
And the spinners backward go.
Leafless are the trees; their purple branches
Spread themselves abroad, like reefs of coral,
In the Red Sea of the Winter sunset.
From the hundred chimneys of the village,
Like the Afreet in the Arabian story,
Tower aloft into the air of amber.
At the window winks the flickering fire-light;
Here and there the lamps of evening glimmer,
Answering one another through the darkness.
On the hearth the lighted logs are glowing,
And like Ariel in the cloven pine-tree
For its freedom
Groans and sighs the air imprisoned in them.
By the fireside there are old men seated,
Seeing ruined cities in the ashes,
Of the Past what it can ne’er restore them.
By the fireside there are youthful dreamers,
Building castles fair, with stately stairways,
Of the Future what it cannot give them.
By the fireside tragedies are acted
In whose scenes appear two actors only,
Wife and husband,
And above them God the sole spectator.
By the fireside there are peace and comfort,
Wives and children, with fair, thoughtful faces,
For a well-known footstep in the passage.
Each man’s chimney is his Golden Mile-stone;
Is the central point, from which he measures
Through the gateways of the world around him.
In his farthest wanderings still he sees it;
Hears the talking flame, the answering night-wind,
As he heard them
When he sat with those who were, but are not.
Happy he whom neither wealth nor fashion,
Nor the march of the encroaching city,
Drives an exile
From the hearth of his ancestral homestead.
We may build more splendid habitations,
Fill our rooms with paintings and with sculptures,
But we cannot
Buy with gold the old associations!
This song of mine
Is a Song of the Vine,
To be sung by the glowing embers
Of wayside inns,
When the rain begins
To darken the drear Novembers.
It is not a song
Of the Scuppernong,
From warm Carolinian valleys,
Nor the Isabel
And the Muscadel
That bask in our garden alleys.
Nor the red Mustang,
Whose clusters hang
O’er the waves of the Colorado,
And the fiery flood
Of whose purple blood
Has a dash of Spanish bravado.
For richest and best
Is the wine of the West,
That grows by the Beautiful River;
Whose sweet perfume
Fills all the room
With a benison on the giver.
And as hollow trees
Are the haunts of bees,
For ever going and coming;
So this crystal hive
Is all alive
With a swarming and buzzing and humming.
Very good in its way
Is the Verzenay,
Or the Sillery soft and creamy;
But Catawba wine
Has a taste more divine,
More dulcet, delicious, and dreamy.
There grows no vine
By the haunted Rhine,
By Danube or Guadalquivir,
Nor on island or cape,
That bears such a grape
As grows by the Beautiful River.
Drugged is their juice
For foreign use,
When shipped o’er the reeling Atlantic,
To rack our brains
With the fever pains,
That have driven the Old World frantic.
To the sewers and sinks
With all such drinks,
And after them tumble the mixer;
For a poison malign
Is such Borgia wine,
Or at best but a Devil’s Elixir.
While pure as a spring
Is the wine I sing,
And to praise it, one needs but name it;
For Catawba wine
Has need of no sign,
No tavern-bush to proclaim it.
And this Song of the Vine,
This greeting of mine,
The winds and the birds shall deliver
To the Queen of the West,
In her garlands dressed,
On the banks of the Beautiful River.
Whene’er a noble deed is wrought,
Whene’er is spoken a noble thought,
Our hearts, in glad surprise,
To higher levels rise.
The tidal wave of deeper souls
Into our inmost being rolls,
And lifts us unawares
Out of all meaner cares.
Honor to those whose words or deeds
Thus help us in our daily needs,
And by their overflow
Raise us from what is low!
Thus thought I, as by night I read
Of the great army of the dead,
The trenches cold and damp,
The starved and frozen camp,—
The wounded from the battle-plain,
In dreary hospitals of pain,
The cheerless corridors,
The cold and stony floors.
Lo! in that house of misery
A lady with a lamp I see
Pass through the glimmering gloom,
And flit from room to room.
And slow, as in a dream of bliss,
The speechless sufferer turns to kiss
Her shadow, as it falls
Upon the darkening walls.
As if a door in heaven should be
Opened and then closed suddenly,
The vision came and went,
The light shone and was spent.
On England’s annals, through the long
Hereafter of her speech and song,
That light its rays shall cast
From portals of the past.
A Lady with a Lamp shall stand
In the great history of the land,
A noble type of good,
Nor even shall be wanting here
The palm, the lily, and the spear,
The symbols that of yore
Saint Filomena bore.
A LEAF FROM KING ALFRED’S OROSIUS
Othere, the old sea-captain,
Who dwelt in Helgoland,
To King Alfred, the Lover of Truth,
Brought a snow-white walrus-tooth,
Which he held in his brown right hand.
His figure was tall and stately,
Like a boy’s his eye appeared;
His hair was yellow as hay,
But threads of a silvery gray
Gleamed in his tawny beard.
Hearty and hale was Othere,
His cheek had the color of oak;
With a kind of laugh in his speech,
Like the sea-tide on a beach,
As unto the King he spoke.
And Alfred, King of the Saxons,
Had a book upon his knees,
And wrote down the wondrous tale
Of him who was first to sail
Into the Arctic seas.
“So far I live to the northward,
No man lives north of me;
To the east are wild mountain-chains;
And beyond them meres and plains;
To the westward all is sea.
“So far I live to the northward,
From the harbor of Skeringes-hale,
If you only sailed by day,
With a fair wind all the way,
More than a month would you sail.
“I own six hundred reindeer,
With sheep and swine beside;
I have tribute from the Finns,
Whalebone and reindeer-skins,
And ropes of walrus-hide.
“I ploughed the land with horses,
But my heart was ill at ease,
For the old seafaring men
Came to me now and then,
With their sagas of the seas;—
“Of Iceland and of Greenland,
And the stormy Hebrides,
And the undiscovered deep;—
I could not eat nor sleep
For thinking of those seas.
“To the northward stretched the desert,
How far I fain would know;
So at last I sallied forth,
And three days sailed due north,
As far as the whale-ships go.
“To the west of me was the ocean,
To the right the desolate shore,
But I did not slacken sail
For the walrus or the whale,
Till after three days more.
“The days grew longer and longer,
Till they became as one,
And southward through the haze
I saw the sullen blaze
Of the red midnight sun.
“And then uprose before me,
Upon the water’s edge,
The huge and haggard shape
Of that unknown North Cape,
Whose form is like a wedge.
“The sea was rough and stormy,
The tempest howled and wailed,
And the sea-fog, like a ghost,
Haunted that dreary coast,
But onward still I sailed.
“Four days I steered to eastward,
Four days without a night:
Round in a fiery ring
Went the great sun, O King,
With red and lurid light.”
Here Alfred, King of the Saxons,
Ceased writing for a while;
And raised his eyes from his book,
With a strange and puzzled look,
And an incredulous smile.
But Othere, the old sea-captain,
He neither paused nor stirred,
Till the King listened, and then
Once more took up his pen,
And wrote down every word.
“And now the land,” said Othere,
“Bent southward suddenly,
And I followed the curving shore
And ever southward bore
Into a nameless sea.
“And there we hunted the walrus,
The narwhale, and the seal;
Ha! ’t was a noble game!
And like the lightning’s flame
Flew our harpoons of steel.
“There were six of us all together,
Norsemen of Helgoland;
In two days and no more
We killed of them threescore,
And dragged them to the strand!”
Here Alfred the Truth-Teller
Suddenly closed his book,
And lifted his blue eyes,
With doubt and strange surmise
Depicted in their look.
And Othere the old sea-captain
Stared at him wild and weird,
Then smiled, till his shining teeth
Gleamed white from underneath
His tawny, quivering beard.
And to the King of the Saxons,
In witness of the truth,
Raising his noble head,
He stretched his brown hand, and said,
“Behold this walrus-tooth!”
A wind came up out of the sea,
And said, “O mists, make room for me.”
It hailed the ships, and cried, “Sail on,
Ye mariners, the night is gone.”
And hurried landward far away,
Crying, “Awake! it is the day.”
It said unto the forest, “Shout!
Hang all your leafy banners out!”
It touched the wood-bird’s folded wing,
And said, “O bird, awake and sing.”
And o’er the farms, “O chanticleer,
Your clarion blow; the day is near.”
It whispered to the fields of corn,
“Bow down, and hail the coming morn.”
It shouted through the belfry-tower,
“Awake, O bell! proclaim the hour.”
It crossed the churchyard with a sigh,
And said, “Not yet! in quiet lie.”
MAY 28, 1857
It was fifty years ago
In the pleasant month of May,
In the beautiful Pays de Vaud,
A child in its cradle lay.
And Nature, the old nurse, took
The child upon her knee,
Saying: “Here is a story-book
Thy Father has written for thee.”
“Come, wander with me,” she said,
“Into regions yet untrod;
And read what is still unread
In the manuscripts of God.”
And he wandered away and away
With Nature, the dear old nurse,
Who sang to him night and day
The rhymes of the universe.
And whenever the way seemed long,
Or his heart began to fail,
She would sing a more wonderful song,
Or tell a more marvellous tale.
So she keeps him still a child,
And will not let him go,
Though at times his heart beats wild
For the beautiful Pays de Vaud;
Though at times he hears in his dreams
The Ranz des Vaches of old,
And the rush of mountain streams
From glaciers clear and cold;
And the mother at home says, “Hark!
For his voice I listen and yearn;
It is growing late and dark,
And my boy does not return!”
Come to me, O ye children!
For I hear you at your play,
And the questions that perplexed me
Have vanished quite away.
Ye open the eastern windows,
That look towards the sun,
Where thoughts are singing swallows
And the brooks of morning run.
In your hearts are the birds and the sunshine,
In your thoughts the brooklet’s flow,
But in mine is the wind of Autumn
And the first fall of the snow.
Ah! what would the world be to us
If the children were no more?
We should dread the desert behind us
Worse than the dark before.
What the leaves are to the forest,
With light and air for food,
Ere their sweet and tender juices
Have been hardened into wood,—
That to the world are children;
Through them it feels the glow
Of a brighter and sunnier climate
Than reaches the trunks below.
Come to me, O ye children!
And whisper in my ear
What the birds and the winds are singing
In your sunny atmosphere.
For what are all our contrivings,
And the wisdom of our books,
When compared with your caresses,
And the gladness of your looks?
Ye are better than all the ballads
That ever were sung or said;
For ye are living poems,
And all the rest are dead.
Have you read in the Talmud of old,
In the Legends the Rabbins have told
Of the limitless realms of the air,—
Have you read it,—the marvellous story
Of Sandalphon, the Angel of Glory,
Sandalphon, the Angel of Prayer?
How, erect, at the outermost gates
Of the City Celestial he waits,
With his feet on the ladder of light,
That, crowded with angels unnumbered,
By Jacob was seen, as he slumbered
Alone in the desert at night?
The Angels of Wind and of Fire
Chant only one hymn, and expire
With the song’s irresistible stress;
Expire in their rapture and wonder,
As harp-strings are broken asunder
By music they throb to express.
But serene in the rapturous throng,
Unmoved by the rush of the song,
With eyes unimpassioned and slow,
Among the dead angels, the deathless
Sandalphon stands listening breathless
To sounds that ascend from below;—
From the spirits on earth that adore,
From the souls that entreat and implore
In the fervor and passion of prayer;
From the hearts that are broken with losses,
And weary with dragging the crosses
Too heavy for mortals to bear.
And he gathers the prayers as he stands,
And they change into flowers in his hands,
Into garlands of purple and red;
And beneath the great arch of the portal,
Through the streets of the City Immortal
Is wafted the fragrance they shed.
It is but a legend, I know,—
A fable, a phantom, a show,
Of the ancient Rabbinical lore;
Yet the old mediaeval tradition,
The beautiful, strange superstition,
But haunts me and holds me the more.
When I look from my window at night,
And the welkin above is all white,
All throbbing and panting with stars,
Among them majestic is standing
Sandalphon the angel, expanding
His pinions in nebulous bars.
And the legend, I feel, is a part
Of the hunger and thirst of the heart,
The frenzy and fire of the brain,
That grasps at the fruitage forbidden,
The golden pomegranates of Eden,
To quiet its fever and pain.
THE CHILDREN’S HOUR
Between the dark and the daylight,
When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,
That is known as the Children’s Hour.
I hear in the chamber above me
The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
And voices soft and sweet.
From my study I see in the lamplight,
Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
And Edith with golden hair.
A whisper, and then a silence:
Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
To take me by surprise.
A sudden rush from the stairway,
A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
They enter my castle wall!
They climb up into my turret
O’er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
They seem to be everywhere.
They almost devour me with kisses,
Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!
Do you think, o blue-eyed banditti,
Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
Is not a match for you all!
I have you fast in my fortress,
And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
In the round-tower of my heart.
And there will I keep you forever,
Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
And moulder in dust away!
Under Mount Etna he lies,
It is slumber, it is not death;
For he struggles at times to arise,
And above him the lurid skies
Are hot with his fiery breath.
The crags are piled on his breast,
The earth is heaped on his head;
But the groans of his wild unrest,
Though smothered and half suppressed,
Are heard, and he is not dead.
And the nations far away
Are watching with eager eyes;
They talk together and say,
“To-morrow, perhaps to-day,
Euceladus will arise!”
And the old gods, the austere
Oppressors in their strength,
Stand aghast and white with fear
At the ominous sounds they hear,
And tremble, and mutter, “At length!”
Ah me! for the land that is sown
With the harvest of despair!
Where the burning cinders, blown
From the lips of the overthrown
Enceladus, fill the air.
Where ashes are heaped in drifts
Over vineyard and field and town,
Whenever he starts and lifts
His head through the blackened rifts
Of the crags that keep him down.
See, see! the red light shines!
’T is the glare of his awful eyes!
And the storm-wind shouts through the pines
Of Alps and of Apennines,
At anchor in Hampton Roads we lay,
On board of the cumberland, sloop-of-war;
And at times from the fortress across the bay
The alarum of drums swept past,
Or a bugle blast
From the camp on the shore.
Then far away to the south uprose
A little feather of snow-white smoke,
And we knew that the iron ship of our foes
Was steadily steering its course
To try the force
Of our ribs of oak.
Down upon us heavily runs,
Silent and sullen, the floating fort;
Then comes a puff of smoke from her guns,
And leaps the terrible death,
With fiery breath,
From each open port.
We are not idle, but send her straight
Defiance back in a full broadside!
As hail rebounds from a roof of slate,
Rebounds our heavier hail
From each iron scale
Of the monster’s hide.
“Strike your flag!” the rebel cries,
In his arrogant old plantation strain.
“Never!” our gallant Morris replies;
“It is better to sink than to yield!”
And the whole air pealed
With the cheers of our men.
Then, like a kraken huge and black,
She crushed our ribs in her iron grasp!
Down went the Cumberland all a wrack,
With a sudden shudder of death,
And the cannon’s breath
For her dying gasp.
Next morn, as the sun rose over the bay,
Still floated our flag at the mainmast head.
Lord, how beautiful was Thy day!
Every waft of the air
Was a whisper of prayer,
Or a dirge for the dead.
Ho! brave hearts that went down in the seas
Ye are at peace in the troubled stream;
Ho! brave land! with hearts like these,
Thy flag, that is rent in twain,
Shall be one again,
And without a seam!
Out of the bosom of the Air,
Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
Silent, and soft, and slow
Descends the snow.
Even as our cloudy fancies take
Suddenly shape in some divine expression,
Even as the troubled heart doth make
In the white countenance confession,
The troubled sky reveals
The grief it feels.
This is the poem of the air,
Slowly in silent syllables recorded;
This is the secret of despair,
Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,
Now whispered and revealed
To wood and field.
O gift of God! O perfect day:
Whereon shall no man work, but play;
Whereon it is enough for me,
Not to be doing, but to be!
Through every fibre of my brain,
Through every nerve, through every vein,
I feel the electric thrill, the touch
Of life, that seems almost too much.
I hear the wind among the trees
Playing celestial symphonies;
I see the branches downward bent,
Like keys of some great instrument.
And over me unrolls on high
The splendid scenery of the sky,
Where though a sapphire sea the sun
Sails like a golden galleon,
Towards yonder cloud-land in the West,
Towards yonder Islands of the Blest,
Whose steep sierra far uplifts
Its craggy summits white with drifts.
Blow, winds! and waft through all the rooms
The snow-flakes of the cherry-blooms!
Blow, winds! and bend within my reach
The fiery blossoms of the peach!
O Life and Love! O happy throng
Of thoughts, whose only speech is song!
O heart of man! canst thou not be
Blithe as the air is, and as free?
Labor with what zeal we will,
Something still remains undone,
Something uncompleted still
Waits the rising of the sun.
By the bedside, on the stair,
At the threshold, near the gates,
With its menace or its prayer,
Like a mendicant it waits;
Waits, and will not go away;
Waits, and will not be gainsaid;
By the cares of yesterday
Each to-day is heavier made;
Till at length the burden seems
Greater than our strength can bear,
Heavy as the weight of dreams,
Pressing on us everywhere.
And we stand from day to day,
Like the dwarfs of times gone by,
Who, as Northern legends say,
On their shoulders held the sky.
O little feet! that such long years
Must wander on through hopes and fears,
Must ache and bleed beneath your load;
I, nearer to the wayside inn
Where toil shall cease and rest begin,
Am weary, thinking of your road!
O little hands! that, weak or strong,
Have still to serve or rule so long,
Have still so long to give or ask;
I, who so much with book and pen
Have toiled among my fellow-men,
Am weary, thinking of your task.
O little hearts! that throb and beat
With such impatient, feverish heat,
Such limitless and strong desires;
Mine that so long has glowed and burned,
With passions into ashes turned
Now covers and conceals its fires.
O little souls! as pure and white
And crystalline as rays of light
Direct from heaven, their source divine;
Refracted through the mist of years,
How red my setting sun appears,
How lurid looks this soul of mine!
One Autumn night, in Sudbury town,
Across the meadows bare and brown,
The windows of the wayside inn
Gleamed red with fire-light through the leaves
Of woodbine, hanging from the eaves
Their crimson curtains rent and thin.
As ancient is this hostelry
As any in the land may be,
Built in the old Colonial day,
When men lived in a grander way,
With ampler hospitality;
A kind of old Hobgoblin Hall,
Now somewhat fallen to decay,
With weather-stains upon the wall,
And stairways worn, and crazy doors,
And creaking and uneven floors,
And chimneys huge, and tiled and tall.
A region of repose it seems,
A place of slumber and of dreams,
Remote among the wooded hills!
For there no noisy railway speeds,
Its torch-race scattering smoke and gleeds;
But noon and night, the panting teams
Stop under the great oaks, that throw
Tangles of light and shade below,
On roofs and doors and window-sills.
Across the road the barns display
Their lines of stalls, their mows of hay,
Through the wide doors the breezes blow,
The wattled cocks strut to and fro,
And, half effaced by rain and shine,
The Red Horse prances on the sign.
Round this old-fashioned, quaint abode
Deep silence reigned, save when a gust
Went rushing down the county road,
And skeletons of leaves, and dust,
A moment quickened by its breath,
Shuddered and danced their dance of death,
And through the ancient oaks o’erhead
Mysterious voices moaned and fled.
But from the parlor of the inn
A pleasant murmur smote the ear,
Like water rushing through a weir:
Oft interrupted by the din
Of laughter and of loud applause,
And, in each intervening pause,
The music of a violin.
The fire-light, shedding over all
The splendor of its ruddy glow,
Filled the whole parlor large and low;
It gleamed on wainscot and on wall,
It touched with more than wonted grace
Fair Princess Mary’s pictured face;
It bronzed the rafters overhead,
On the old spinet’s ivory keys
It played inaudible melodies,
It crowned the sombre clock with flame,
The hands, the hours, the maker’s name,
And painted with a livelier red
The Landlord’s coat-of-arms again;
And, flashing on the window-pane,
Emblazoned with its light and shade
The jovial rhymes, that still remain,
Writ near a century ago,
By the great Major Molineaux,
Whom Hawthorne has immortal made.
Before the blazing fire of wood
Erect the rapt musician stood;
And ever and anon he bent
His head upon his instrument,
And seemed to listen, till he caught
Confessions of its secret thought,—
The joy, the triumph, the lament,
The exultation and the pain;
Then, by the magic of his art,
He soothed the throbbings of its heart,
And lulled it into peace again.
Around the fireside at their ease
There sat a group of friends, entranced
With the delicious melodies
Who from the far-off noisy town
Had to the wayside inn come down,
To rest beneath its old oak-trees.
The fire-light on their faces glanced,
Their shadows on the wainscot danced,
And, though of different lands and speech,
Each had his tale to tell, and each
Was anxious to be pleased and please.
And while the sweet musician plays,
Let me in outline sketch them all,
Perchance uncouthly as the blaze
With its uncertain touch portrays
Their shadowy semblance on the wall.
But first the Landlord will I trace;
Grave in his aspect and attire;
A man of ancient pedigree,
A Justice of the Peace was he,
Known in all Sudbury as “The Squire.”
Proud was he of his name and race,
Of old Sir William and Sir Hugh,
And in the parlor, full in view,
His coat-of-arms, well framed and glazed,
Upon the wall in colors blazed;
He beareth gules upon his shield,
A chevron argent in the field,
With three wolf’s heads, and for the crest
A Wyvern part-per-pale addressed
Upon a helmet barred; below
The scroll reads, “By the name of Howe.”
And over this, no longer bright,
Though glimmering with a latent light,
Was hung the sword his grandsire bore
In the rebellious days of yore,
Down there at Concord in the fight.
A youth was there, of quiet ways,
A Student of old books and days,
To whom all tongues and lands were known
And yet a lover of his own;
With many a social virtue graced,
And yet a friend of solitude;
A man of such a genial mood
The heart of all things he embraced,
And yet of such fastidious taste,
He never found the best too good.
Books were his passion and delight,
And in his upper room at home
Stood many a rare and sumptuous tome,
In vellum bound, with gold bedight,
Great volumes garmented in white,
Recalling Florence, Pisa, Rome.
He loved the twilight that surrounds
The border-land of old romance;
Where glitter hauberk, helm, and lance,
And banner waves, and trumpet sounds,
And ladies ride with hawk on wrist,
And mighty warriors sweep along,
Magnified by the purple mist,
The dusk of centuries and of song.
The chronicles of Charlemagne,
Of Merlin and the Mort d’Arthure,
Mingled together in his brain
With tales of Flores and Blanchefleur,
Sir Ferumbras, Sir Eglamour,
Sir Launcelot, Sir Morgadour,
Sir Guy, Sir Bevis, Sir Gawain.
A young Sicilian, too, was there;
In sight of Etna born and bred,
Some breath of its volcanic air
Was glowing in his heart and brain,
And, being rebellious to his liege,
After Palermo’s fatal siege,
Across the western seas he fled,
In good King Bomba’s happy reign.
His face was like a summer night,
All flooded with a dusky light;
His hands were small; his teeth shone white
As sea-shells, when he smiled or spoke;
His sinews supple and strong as oak;
Clean shaven was he as a priest,
Who at the mass on Sunday sings,
Save that upon his upper lip
His beard, a good palm’s length least,
Level and pointed at the tip,
Shot sideways, like a swallow’s wings.
The poets read he o’er and o’er,
And most of all the Immortal Four
Of Italy; and next to those,
The story-telling bard of prose,
Who wrote the joyous Tuscan tales
Of the Decameron, that make
Fiesole’s green hills and vales
Remembered for Boccaccio’s sake.
A Spanish Jew from Alicant
With aspect grand and grave was there;
Vender of silks and fabrics rare,
And attar of rose from the Levant.
Like an old Patriarch he appeared,
Abraham or Isaac, or at least
Some later Prophet or High-Priest;
With lustrous eyes, and olive skin,
And, wildly tossed from cheeks and chin,
The tumbling cataract of his beard.
His garments breathed a spicy scent
Of cinnamon and sandal blent,
Like the soft aromatic gales
That meet the mariner, who sails
Through the Moluccas, and the seas
That wash the shores of Celebes.
All stories that recorded are
By Pierre Alphonse he knew by heart,
And it was rumored he could say
The Parables of Sandabar,
And all the Fables of Pilpay,
Or if not all, the greater part!
Well versed was he in Hebrew books,
Talmud and Targum, and the lore
Of Kabala; and evermore
There was a mystery in his looks;
His eyes seemed gazing far away,
As if in vision or in trance
He heard the solemn sackbut play,
And saw the Jewish maidens dance.
A Theologian, from the school
Of Cambridge on the Charles, was there;
Skilful alike with tongue and pen,
He preached to all men everywhere
The Gospel of the Golden Rule,
The New Commandment given to men,
Thinking the deed, and not the creed,
Would help us in our utmost need.
With reverent feet the earth he trod,
Nor banished nature from his plan,
But studied still with deep research
To build the Universal Church,
Lofty as in the love of God,
And ample as the wants of man.
A Poet, too, was there, whose verse
Was tender, musical, and terse;
The inspiration, the delight,
The gleam, the glory, the swift flight,
Of thoughts so sudden, that they seem
The revelations of a dream,
All these were his; but with them came
No envy of another’s fame;
He did not find his sleep less sweet
For music in some neighboring street,
Nor rustling hear in every breeze
The laurels of Miltiades.
Honor and blessings on his head
While living, good report when dead,
Who, not too eager for renown,
Accepts, but does not clutch, the crown!
Last the Musician, as he stood
Illumined by that fire of wood;
Fair-haired, blue-eyed, his aspect blithe.
His figure tall and straight and lithe,
And every feature of his face
Revealing his Norwegian race;
A radiance, streaming from within,
Around his eyes and forehead beamed,
The instrument on which he played
Was in Cremona’s workshops made,
By a great master of the past,
Ere yet was lost the art divine;
Fashioned of maple and of pine,
That in Tyrolian forests vast
Had rocked and wrestled with the blast;
Exquisite was it in design,
Perfect in each minutest part.
A marvel of the lutist’s art;
And in its hollow chamber, thus,
The maker from whose hands it came
Had written his unrivalled name,—
And when he played, the atmosphere
Was filled with magic, and the ear
Caught echoes of that Harp of Gold,
Whose music had so weird a sound,
The hunted stag forgot to bound,
The leaping rivulet backward rolled,
The birds came down from bush and tree,
The dead came from beneath the sea,
The maiden to the harper’s knee!
The music ceased; the applause was loud,
The pleased musician smiled and bowed;
The wood-fire clapped its hands of flame,
The shadows on the wainscot stirred,
And from the harpsichord there came
A ghostly murmur of acclaim,
A sound like that sent down at night
By birds of passage in their flight,
From the remotest distance heard.
Then silence followed; then began
A clamor for the Landlord’s tale,—
The story promised them of old,
They said, but always left untold;
And he, although a bashful man,
And all his courage seemed to fail,
Finding excuse of no avail,
Yielded; and thus the story ran.
PAUL REVERE’S RIDE.
Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,—
One, if by land, and two, if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm
For the country folk to be up and to arm,”
Then he said, “Good night!” and with muffled
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.
Meanwhile, his friend, through alley and street,
Wanders and watches with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.
Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry-chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,—
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town,
And the moonlight flowing over all.
Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night-encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel’s tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent
And seeming to whisper, “All is well!”
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,—
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide, like a bridge of boats.
Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse’s side,
Now gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle-girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry-tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry’s height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns!
A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet:
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders, that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.
It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer’s dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.
It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, blank and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.
It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadows brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket-ball.
You know the rest. In the books you have read,
How the British Regulars fired and fled,—
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farm-yard wall,
Chasing the red-coats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.
So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,—
A cry of defiance and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo forevermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.
The Landlord ended thus his tale,
Then rising took down from its nail
The sword that hung there, dim with dust
And cleaving to its sheath with rust,
And said, “This sword was in the fight.”
The Poet seized it, and exclaimed,
“It is the sword of a good knight,
Though homespun was his coat-of-mail;
What matter if it be not named
Joyeuse, Colada, Durindale,
Excalibar, or Aroundight,
Or other name the books record?
Your ancestor, who bore this sword
As Colonel of the Volunteers,
Mounted upon his old gray mare,
Seen here and there and everywhere,
To me a grander shape appears
Than old Sir William, or what not,
Clinking about in foreign lands
With iron gauntlets on his hands,
And on his head an iron pot!”
All laughed; the Landlord’s face grew red
As his escutcheon on the wall;
He could not comprehend at all
The drift of what the Poet said;
For those who had been longest dead
Were always greatest in his eyes;
And be was speechless with surprise
To see Sir William’s plumed head
Brought to a level with the rest,
And made the subject of a jest.
And this perceiving, to appease
The Landlord’s wrath, the others’ fears,
The Student said, with careless ease,
“The ladies and the cavaliers,
The arms, the loves, the courtesies,
The deeds of high emprise, I sing!
Thus Ariosto says, in words
That have the stately stride and ring
Of armed knights and clashing swords.
Now listen to the tale I bring
Listen! though not to me belong
The flowing draperies of his song,
The words that rouse, the voice that charms.
The Landlord’s tale was one of arms,
Only a tale of love is mine,
Blending the human and divine,
A tale of the Decameron, told
In Palmieri’s garden old,
By Fiametta, laurel-crowned,
While her companions lay around,
And heard the intermingled sound
Of airs that on their errands sped,
And wild birds gossiping overhead,
And lisp of leaves, and fountain’s fall,
And her own voice more sweet than all,
Telling the tale, which, wanting these,
Perchance may lose its power to please.”
THE FALCON OF SER FEDERIGO
One summer morning, when the sun was hot,
Weary with labor in his garden-plot,
On a rude bench beneath his cottage eaves,
Ser Federigo sat among the leaves
Of a huge vine, that, with its arms outspread,
Hung its delicious clusters overhead.
Below him, through the lovely valley flowed
The river Arno, like a winding road,
And from its banks were lifted high in air
The spires and roofs of Florence called the Fair;
To him a marble tomb, that rose above
His wasted fortunes and his buried love.
For there, in banquet and in tournament,
His wealth had lavished been, his substance spent,
To woo and lose, since ill his wooing sped,
Monna Giovanna, who his rival wed,
Yet ever in his fancy reigned supreme,
The ideal woman of a young man’s dream.
Then he withdrew, in poverty and pain,
To this small farm, the last of his domain,
His only comfort and his only care
To prune his vines, and plant the fig and pear;
His only forester and only guest
His falcon, faithful to him, when the rest,
Whose willing hands had found so light of yore
The brazen knocker of his palace door,
Had now no strength to lift the wooden latch,
That entrance gave beneath a roof of thatch.
Companion of his solitary ways,
Purveyor of his feasts on holidays,
On him this melancholy man bestowed
The love with which his nature overflowed.
And so the empty-handed years went round,
Vacant, though voiceful with prophetic sound,
And so, that summer morn, he sat and mused
With folded, patient hands, as he was used,
And dreamily before his half-closed sight
Floated the vision of his lost delight.
Beside him, motionless, the drowsy bird
Dreamed of the chase, and in his slumber heard
The sudden, scythe-like sweep of wings, that dare
The headlong plunge thro’ eddying gulfs of air,
Then, starting broad awake upon his perch,
Tinkled his bells, like mass-bells in a church,
And, looking at his master, seemed to say,
“Ser Federigo, shall we hunt to-day?”
Ser Federigo thought not of the chase;
The tender vision of her lovely face,
I will not say he seems to see, he sees
In the leaf-shadows of the trellises,
Herself, yet not herself; a lovely child
With flowing tresses, and eyes wide and wild,
Coming undaunted up the garden walk,
And looking not at him, but at the hawk.
“Beautiful falcon!” said he, “would that I
Might hold thee on my wrist, or see thee fly!”
The voice was hers, and made strange echoes start
Through all the haunted chambers of his heart,
As an aeolian harp through gusty doors
Of some old ruin its wild music pours.
“Who is thy mother, my fair boy?” he said,
His hand laid softly on that shining head.
“Monna Giovanna. Will you let me stay
A little while, and with your falcon play?
We live there, just beyond your garden wall,
In the great house behind the poplars tall.”
So he spake on; and Federigo heard
As from afar each softly uttered word,
And drifted onward through the golden gleams
And shadows of the misty sea of dreams,
As mariners becalmed through vapors drift,
And feel the sea beneath them sink and lift,
And hear far off the mournful breakers roar,
And voices calling faintly from the shore!
Then, waking from his pleasant reveries
He took the little boy upon his knees,
And told him stories of his gallant bird,
Till in their friendship he became a third.
Monna Giovanna, widowed in her prime,
Had come with friends to pass the summer time
In her grand villa, half-way up the hill,
O’erlooking Florence, but retired and still;
With iron gates, that opened through long lines
Of sacred ilex and centennial pines,
And terraced gardens, and broad steps of stone,
And sylvan deities, with moss o’ergrown,
And fountains palpitating in the heat,
And all Val d’Arno stretched beneath its feet.
Here in seclusion, as a widow may,
The lovely lady whiled the hours away,
Pacing in sable robes the statued hall,
Herself the stateliest statue among all,
And seeing more and more, with secret joy,
Her husband risen and living in her boy,
Till the lost sense of life returned again,
Not as delight, but as relief from pain.
And now a shadow and a terror fell
On the great house, as if a passing-bell
Tolled from the tower, and filled each spacious room
With secret awe, and preternatural gloom;
The petted boy grew ill, and day by day
Pined with mysterious malady away.
The mother’s heart would not be comforted;
Her darling seemed to her already dead,
And often, sitting by the sufferer’s side,
“What can I do to comfort thee?” she cried.
At first the silent lips made no reply,
But moved at length by her importunate cry,
“Give me,” he answered, with imploring tone,
“Ser Federigo’s falcon for my own!”
No answer could the astonished mother make;
How could she ask, e’en for her darling’s sake,
Such favor at a luckless lover’s hand,
Well knowing that to ask was to command?
Well knowing, what all falconers confessed,
In all the land that falcon was the best,
The master’s pride and passion and delight,
And the sole pursuivant of this poor knight.
But yet, for her child’s sake, she could no less
Than give assent to soothe his restlessness,
So promised, and then promising to keep
Her promise sacred, saw him fall asleep.
The morrow was a bright September morn;
The earth was beautiful as if new-born;
There was that nameless splendor everywhere,
That wild exhilaration in the air,
Which makes the passers in the city street
Congratulate each other as they meet.
Two lovely ladies, clothed in cloak and hood,
Passed through the garden gate into the wood,
Under the lustrous leaves, and through the sheen
Of dewy sunshine showering down between.
The one, close-hooded, had the attractive grace
Which sorrow sometimes lends a woman’s face;
Her dark eyes moistened with the mists that roll
From the gulf-stream of passion in the soul;
The other with her hood thrown back, her hair
Making a golden glory in the air,
Her cheeks suffused with an auroral blush,
Her young heart singing louder than the thrush.
So walked, that morn, through mingled light and shade,
Each by the other’s presence lovelier made,
Monna Giovanna and her bosom friend,
Intent upon their errand and its end.
They found Ser Federigo at his toil,
Like banished Adam, delving in the soil;
And when he looked and these fair women spied,
The garden suddenly was glorified;
His long-lost Eden was restored again,
And the strange river winding through the plain
No longer was the Arno to his eyes,
But the Euphrates watering Paradise!
Monna Giovanna raised her stately head,
And with fair words of salutation said:
“Ser Federigo, we come here as friends,
Hoping in this to make some poor amends
For past unkindness. I who ne’er before
Would even cross the threshold of your door,
I who in happier days such pride maintained,
Refused your banquets, and your gifts disdained,
This morning come, a self-invited guest,
To put your generous nature to the test,
And breakfast with you under your own vine.”
To which he answered: “Poor desert of mine,
Not your unkindness call it, for if aught
Is good in me of feeling or of thought,
From you it comes, and this last grace outweighs
All sorrows, all regrets of other days.”
And after further compliment and talk,
Among the asters in the garden walk
He left his guests; and to his cottage turned,
And as he entered for a moment yearned
For the lost splendors of the days of old,
The ruby glass, the silver and the gold,
And felt how piercing is the sting of pride,
By want embittered and intensified.
He looked about him for some means or way
To keep this unexpected holiday;
Searched every cupboard, and then searched again,
Summoned the maid, who came, but came in vain;
“The Signor did not hunt to-day,” she said,
“There’s nothing in the house but wine and bread.”
Then suddenly the drowsy falcon shook
His little bells, with that sagacious look,
Which said, as plain as language to the ear,
“If anything is wanting, I am here!”
Yes, everything is wanting, gallant bird!
The master seized thee without further word.
Like thine own lure, he whirled thee round; ah me!
The pomp and flutter of brave falconry,
The bells, the jesses, the bright scarlet hood,
The flight and the pursuit o’er field and wood,
All these forevermore are ended now;
No longer victor, but the victim thou!
Then on the board a snow-white cloth he spread,
Laid on its wooden dish the loaf of bread,
Brought purple grapes with autumn sunshine hot,
The fragrant peach, the juicy bergamot;
Then in the midst a flask of wine he placed,
And with autumnal flowers the banquet graced.
Ser Federigo, would not these suffice
Without thy falcon stuffed with cloves and spice?
When all was ready, and the courtly dame
With her companion to the cottage came,
Upon Ser Federigo’s brain there fell
The wild enchantment of a magic spell!
The room they entered, mean and low and small,
Was changed into a sumptuous banquet-hall,
With fanfares by aerial trumpets blown;
The rustic chair she sat on was a throne;
He ate celestial food, and a divine
Flavor was given to his country wine,
And the poor falcon, fragrant with his spice,
A peacock was, or bird of paradise!
When the repast was ended, they arose
And passed again into the garden-close.
Then said the lady, “Far too well I know
Remembering still the days of long ago,
Though you betray it not with what surprise
You see me here in this familiar wise.
You have no children, and you cannot guess
What anguish, what unspeakable distress
A mother feels, whose child is lying ill,
Nor how her heart anticipates his will.
And yet for this, you see me lay aside
All womanly reserve and check of pride,
And ask the thing most precious in your sight,
Your falcon, your sole comfort and delight,
Which if you find it in your heart to give,
My poor, unhappy boy perchance may live.”
Ser Federigo listens, and replies,
With tears of love and pity in his eyes:
“Alas, dear lady! there can be no task
So sweet to me, as giving when you ask.
One little hour ago, if I had known
This wish of yours, it would have been my own.
But thinking in what manner I could best
Do honor to the presence of my guest,
I deemed that nothing worthier could be
Than what most dear and precious was to me,
And so my gallant falcon breathed his last
To furnish forth this morning our repast.”
In mute contrition, mingled with dismay,
The gentle lady tuned her eyes away,
Grieving that he such sacrifice should make,
And kill his falcon for a woman’s sake,
Yet feeling in her heart a woman’s pride,
That nothing she could ask for was denied;
Then took her leave, and passed out at the gate
With footstep slow and soul disconsolate.
Three days went by, and lo! a passing-bell
Tolled from the little chapel in the dell;
Ten strokes Ser Federigo heard, and said,
Breathing a prayer, “Alas! her child is dead!”
Three months went by; and lo! a merrier chime
Rang from the chapel bells at Christmas time;
The cottage was deserted, and no more
Ser Federigo sat beside its door,
But now, with servitors to do his will,
In the grand villa, half-way up the hill,
Sat at the Christmas feast, and at his side
Monna Giovanna, his beloved bride,
Never so beautiful, so kind, so fair,
Enthroned once more in the old rustic chair,
High-perched upon the back of which there stood
The image of a falcon carved in wood,
And underneath the inscription, with date,
“All things come round to him who will but wait.”
Soon as the story reached its end,
One, over eager to commend,
Crowned it with injudicious praise;
And then the voice of blame found vent,
And fanned the embers of dissent
Into a somewhat lively blaze.
The Theologian shook his head;
“These old Italian tales,” he said,
“From the much-praised Decameron down
Through all the rabble of the rest,
Are either trifling, dull, or lewd;
The gossip of a neighborhood
In some remote provincial town,
A scandalous chronicle at best!
They seem to me a stagnant fen,
Grown rank with rushes and with reeds,
Where a white lily, now and then,
Blooms in the midst of noxious weeds
And deadly nightshade on its banks.”
To this the Student straight replied,
“For the white lily, many thanks!
One should not say, with too much pride,
Fountain, I will not drink of thee!
Nor were it grateful to forget,
That from these reservoirs and tanks
Even imperial Shakespeare drew
His Moor of Venice, and the Jew,
And Romeo and Juliet,
And many a famous comedy.”
Then a long pause; till some one said,
“An Angel is flying overhead!”
At these words spake the Spanish Jew,
And murmured with an inward breath:
“God grant, if what you say be true,
It may not be the Angel of Death!”
And then another pause; and then,
Stroking his beard, he said again:
“This brings back to my memory
A story in the Talmud told,
That book of gems, that book of gold,
Of wonders many and manifold,
A tale that often comes to me,
And fills my heart, and haunts my brain,
And never wearies nor grows old.”
THE LEGEND OF RABBI BEN LEVI
Rabbi Ben Levi, on the Sabbath, read
A volume of the Law, in which it said,
“No man shall look upon my face and live.”
And as he read, he prayed that God would give
His faithful servant grace with mortal eye
To look upon His face and yet not die.
Then fell a sudden shadow on the page,
And, lifting up his eyes, grown dim with age
He saw the Angel of Death before him stand,
Holding a naked sword in his right hand.
Rabbi Ben Levi was a righteous man,
Yet through his veins a chill of terror ran.
With trembling voice he said, “What wilt thou here?”
The angel answered, “Lo! the time draws near
When thou must die; yet first, by God’s decree,
Whate’er thou askest shall be granted thee.”
Replied the Rabbi, “Let these living eyes
First look upon my place in Paradise.”
Then said the Angel, “Come with me and look.”
Rabbi Ben Levi closed the sacred book,
And rising, and uplifting his gray head,
“Give me thy sword,” he to the Angel said,
“Lest thou shouldst fall upon me by the way.”
The angel smiled and hastened to obey,
Then led him forth to the Celestial Town,
And set him on the wall, whence, gazing down,
Rabbi Ben Levi, with his living eyes,
Might look upon his place in Paradise.
Then straight into the city of the Lord
The Rabbi leaped with the Death-Angel’s sword,
And through the streets there swept a sudden breath
Of something there unknown, which men call death.
Meanwhile the Angel stayed without and cried,
“Come back!” To which the Rabbi’s voice replied,
“No! in the name of God, whom I adore,
I swear that hence I will depart no more!”
Then all the Angels cried, “O Holy One,
See what the son of Levi here hath done!
The kingdom of Heaven he takes by violence,
And in Thy name refuses to go hence!”
The Lord replied, “My Angels, be not wroth;
Did e’er the son of Levi break his oath?
Let him remain; for he with mortal eye
Shall look upon my face and yet not die.”
Beyond the outer wall the Angel of Death
Heard the great voice, and said, with panting breath,
“Give back the sword, and let me go my way.”
Whereat the Rabbi paused, and answered, “Nay!
Anguish enough already hath it caused
Among the sons of men.” And while he paused
He heard the awful mandate of the Lord
Resounding through the air, “Give back the sword!”
The Rabbi bowed his head in silent prayer;
Then said he to the dreadful Angel, “Swear,
No human eye shall look on it again;
But when thou takest away the souls of men,
Thyself unseen, and with an unseen sword,
Thou wilt perform the bidding of the Lord.”
The Angel took the sword again, and swore,
And walks on earth unseen forevermore.
He ended: and a kind of spell
Upon the silent listeners fell.
His solemn manner and his words
Had touched the deep, mysterious chords,
That vibrate in each human breast
Alike, but not alike confessed.
The spiritual world seemed near;
And close above them, full of fear,
Its awful adumbration passed,
A luminous shadow, vague and vast.
They almost feared to look, lest there,
Embodied from the impalpable air,
They might behold the Angel stand,
Holding the sword in his right hand.
At last, but in a voice subdued,
Not to disturb their dreamy mood,
Said the Sicilian: “While you spoke,
Telling your legend marvellous,
Suddenly in my memory woke
The thought of one, now gone from us,—
An old Abate, meek and mild,
My friend and teacher, when a child,
Who sometimes in those days of old
The legend of an Angel told,
Which ran, as I remember, thus?’
KING ROBERT OF SICILY
Robert of Sicily, brother of Pope Urbane
And Valmond, Emperor of Allemaine,
Apparelled in magnificent attire,
With retinue of many a knight and squire,
On St. John’s eve, at vespers, proudly sat
And heard the priests chant the Magnificat,
And as he listened, o’er and o’er again
Repeated, like a burden or refrain,
He caught the words, “Deposuit potentes
De sede, et exaltavit humiles”;
And slowly lifting up his kingly head
He to a learned clerk beside him said,
“What mean these words?” The clerk made answer meet,
“He has put down the mighty from their seat,
And has exalted them of low degree.”
Thereat King Robert muttered scornfully,
“’T is well that such seditious words are sung
Only by priests and in the Latin tongue;
For unto priests and people be it known,
There is no power can push me from my throne!”
And leaning back, he yawned and fell asleep,
Lulled by the chant monotonous and deep.
When he awoke, it was already night;
The church was empty, and there was no light,
Save where the lamps, that glimmered few and faint,
Lighted a little space before some saint.
He started from his seat and gazed around,
But saw no living thing and heard no sound.
He groped towards the door, but it was locked;
He cried aloud, and listened, and then knocked,
And uttered awful threatenings and complaints,
And imprecations upon men and saints.
The sounds re-echoed from the roof and walls
As if dead priests were laughing in their stalls.
At length the sexton, hearing from without
The tumult of the knocking and the shout,
And thinking thieves were in the house of prayer,
Came with his lantern, asking, “Who is there?”
Half choked with rage, King Robert fiercely said,
“Open: ’tis I, the King! Art thou afraid?”
The frightened sexton, muttering, with a curse,
“This is some drunken vagabond, or worse!”
Turned the great key and flung the portal wide;
A man rushed by him at a single stride,
Haggard, half naked, without hat or cloak,
Who neither turned, nor looked at him, nor spoke,
But leaped into the blackness of the night,
And vanished like a spectre from his sight.
Robert of Sicily, brother of Pope Urbane
And Valmond, Emperor of Allemaine,
Despoiled of his magnificent attire,
Bareheaded, breathless, and besprent with mire,
With sense of wrong and outrage desperate,
Strode on and thundered at the palace gate;
Rushed through the courtyard, thrusting in his rage
To right and left each seneschal and page,
And hurried up the broad and sounding stair,
His white face ghastly in the torches’ glare.
From hall to hall he passed with breathless speed;
Voices and cries he heard, but did not heed,
Until at last he reached the banquet-room,
Blazing with light and breathing with perfume.
There on the dais sat another king,
Wearing his robes, his crown, his signet-ring,
King Robert’s self in features, form, and height,
But all transfigured with angelic light!
It was an Angel; and his presence there
With a divine effulgence filled the air,
An exaltation, piercing the disguise,
Though none the hidden Angel recognize.
A moment speechless, motionless, amazed,
The throneless monarch on the Angel gazed,
Who met his look of anger and surprise
With the divine compassion of his eyes;
Then said, “Who art thou? and why com’st thou here?”
To which King Robert answered, with a sneer,
“I am the King, and come to claim my own
From an impostor, who usurps my throne!”
And suddenly, at these audacious words,
Up sprang the angry guests, and drew their swords;
The Angel answered, with unruffled brow,
“Nay, not the King, but the King’s Jester, thou
Henceforth shall wear the bells and scalloped cape,
And for thy counsellor shalt lead an ape;
Thou shalt obey my servants when they call,
And wait upon my henchmen in the hall!”
Deaf to King Robert’s threats and cries and
They thrust him from the hall and down the stairs;
A group of tittering pages ran before,
And as they opened wide the folding door,
His heart failed, for he heard, with strange alarms,
The boisterous laughter of the men-at-arms,
And all the vaulted chamber roar and ring
With the mock plaudits of “Long live the King!”
Next morning, waking with the day’s first beam,
He said within himself, “It was a dream!”
But the straw rustled as he turned his head,
There were the cap and bells beside his bed,
Around him rose the bare, discolored walls,
Close by, the steeds were champing in their stalls,
And in the corner, a revolting shape,
Shivering and chattering sat the wretched ape.
It was no dream; the world he loved so much
Had turned to dust and ashes at his touch!
Days came and went; and now returned again
To Sicily the old Saturnian reign;
Under the Angel’s governance benign
The happy island danced with corn and wine,
And deep within the mountain’s burning breast
Enceladus, the giant, was at rest.
Meanwhile King Robert yielded to his fate,
Sullen and silent and disconsolate.
Dressed in the motley garb that Jesters wear,
With look bewildered and a vacant stare,
Close shaven above the ears, as monks are shorn,
By courtiers mocked, by pages laughed to scorn,
His only friend the ape, his only food
What others left,—he still was unsubdued.
And when the Angel met him on his way,
And half in earnest, half in jest, would say
Sternly, though tenderly, that he might feel
The velvet scabbard held a sword of steel,
“Art thou the King?” the passion of his woe
Burst from him in resistless overflow,
And, lifting high his forehead, he would fling
The haughty answer back, “I am, I am the King!”
Almost three years were ended; when there came
Ambassadors of great repute and name
From Valmond, Emperor of Allemaine,
Unto King Robert, saying that Pope Urbane
By letter summoned them forthwith to come
On Holy Thursday to his city of Rome.
The Angel with great joy received his guests,
And gave them presents of embroidered vests,
And velvet mantles with rich ermine lined,
And rings and jewels of the rarest kind.
Then he departed with them o’er the sea
Into the lovely land of Italy,
Whose loveliness was more resplendent made
By the mere passing of that cavalcade,
With plumes, and cloaks, and housings, and the stir
Of jewelled bridle and of golden spur.
And lo! among the menials, in mock state,
Upon a piebald steed, with shambling gait,
His cloak of fox-tails flapping in the wind,
The solemn ape demurely perched behind,
King Robert rode, making huge merriment
In all the country towns through which they went.
The Pope received them with great pomp and blare
Of bannered trumpets, on Saint Peter’s square,
Giving his benediction and embrace,
Fervent, and full of apostolic grace.
While with congratulations and with prayers
He entertained the Angel unawares,
Robert, the Jester, bursting through the crowd,
Into their presence rushed, and cried aloud,
“I am the King! Look, and behold in me
Robert, your brother, King of Sicily!
This man, who wears my semblance to your eyes,
Is an impostor in a king’s disguise.
Do you not know me? does no voice within
Answer my cry, and say we are akin?”
The Pope in silence, but with troubled mien,
Gazed at the Angel’s countenance serene;
The Emperor, laughing, said, “It is strange sport
To keep a mad man for thy Fool at court!”
And the poor, baffled Jester in disgrace
Was hustled back among the populace.
In solemn state the Holy Week went by,
And Easter Sunday gleamed upon the sky;
The presence of the Angel, with its light,
Before the sun rose, made the city bright,
And with new fervor filled the hearts of men,
Who felt that Christ indeed had risen again.
Even the Jester, on his bed of straw,
With haggard eyes the unwonted splendor saw,
He felt within a power unfelt before,
And, kneeling humbly on his chamber floor,
He heard the rushing garments of the Lord
Sweep through the silent air, ascending heavenward.
And now the visit ending, and once more
Valmond returning to the Danube’s shore,
Homeward the Angel journeyed, and again
The land was made resplendent with his train,
Flashing along the towns of Italy
Unto Salerno, and from thence by sea.
And when once more within Palermo’s wall,
And, seated on the throne in his great hall,
He heard the Angelus from convent towers,
As if the better world conversed with ours,
He beckoned to King Robert to draw nigher,
And with a gesture bade the rest retire;
And when they were alone, the Angel said,
“Art thou the King?” Then, bowing down his head,
King Robert crossed both hands upon his breast,
And meekly answered him: “Thou knowest best!
My sins as scarlet are; let me go hence,
And in some cloister’s school of penitence,
Across those stones, that pave the way to heaven,
Walk barefoot, till my guilty soul be shriven!”
The Angel smiled, and from his radiant face
A holy light illumined all the place,
And through the open window, loud and clear,
They heard the monks chant in the chapel near,
Above the stir and tumult of the street:
“He has put down the mighty from their seat,
And has exalted them of low degree!”
And through the chant a second melody
Rose like the throbbing of a single string:
“I am an Angel, and thou art the King!”
King Robert, who was standing near the throne,
Lifted his eyes, and lo! he was alone!
But all apparelled as in days of old,
With ermined mantle and with cloth of gold;
And when his courtiers came, they found him there
Kneeling upon the floor, absorbed in, silent prayer.
And then the blue-eyed Norseman told
A Saga of the days of old.
“There is,” said he, “a wondrous book
Of Legends in the old Norse tongue,
Of the dead kings of Norroway,—
Legends that once were told or sung
In many a smoky fireside nook
Of Iceland, in the ancient day,
By wandering Saga-man or Scald;
Heimskringla is the volume called;
And he who looks may find therein
The story that I now begin.”
And in each pause the story made
Upon his violin he played,
As an appropriate interlude,
Fragments of old Norwegian tunes
That bound in one the separate runes,
And held the mind in perfect mood,
Entwining and encircling all
The strange and antiquated rhymes
with melodies of olden times;
As over some half-ruined wall,
Disjointed and about to fall,
Fresh woodbines climb and interlace,
And keep the loosened stones in place.
THE SAGA OF KING OLAF
THE CHALLENGE OF THOR
I am the God Thor,
I am the War God,
I am the Thunderer!
Here in my Northland,
My fastness and fortress,
Reign I forever!
Here amid icebergs
Rule I the nations;
This is my hammer,
Miolner the mighty;
Giants and sorcerers
Cannot withstand it!
These are the gauntlets
Wherewith I wield it,
And hurl it afar off;
This is my girdle;
Whenever I brace it,
Strength is redoubled!
The light thou beholdest
Stream through the heavens,
In flashes of crimson,
Is but my red beard
Blown by the night-wind,
Affrighting the nations!
Jove is my brother;
Mine eyes are the lightning;
The wheels of my chariot
Roll in the thunder,
The blows of my hammer
Ring in the earthquake!
Force rules the world still,
Has ruled it, shall rule it;
Meekness is weakness,
Strength is triumphant,
Over the whole earth
Still is it Thor’s-Day!
Thou art a God too,
And thus single-handed
Unto the combat,
Gauntlet or Gospel,
Here I defy thee!
KING OLAF’S RETURN
And King Olaf heard the cry,
Saw the red light in the sky,
Laid his hand upon his sword,
As he leaned upon the railing,
And his ships went sailing, sailing
Northward into Drontheim fiord.
There he stood as one who dreamed;
And the red light glanced and gleamed
On the armor that he wore;
And he shouted, as the rifled
Streamers o’er him shook and shifted,
“I accept thy challenge, Thor!”
To avenge his father slain,
And reconquer realm and reign,
Came the youthful Olaf home,
Through the midnight sailing, sailing,
Listening to the wild wind’s wailing,
And the dashing of the foam.
To his thoughts the sacred name
Of his mother Astrid came,
And the tale she oft had told
Of her flight by secret passes
Through the mountains and morasses,
To the home of Hakon old.
Then strange memories crowded back
Of Queen Gunhild’s wrath and wrack,
And a hurried flight by sea;
Of grim Vikings, and the rapture
Of the sea-fight, and the capture,
And the life of slavery.
How a stranger watched his face
In the Esthonian market-place,
Scanned his features one by one,
Saying, “We should know each other;
I am Sigurd, Astrid’s brother,
Thou art Olaf, Astrid’s son!”
Then as Queen Allogia’s page,
Old in honors, young in age,
Chief of all her men-at-arms;
Till vague whispers, and mysterious,
Reached King Valdemar, the imperious,
Filling him with strange alarms.
Then his cruisings o’er the seas,
Westward to the Hebrides,
And to Scilly’s rocky shore;
And the hermit’s cavern dismal,
Christ’s great name and rites baptismal
in the ocean’s rush and roar.
All these thoughts of love and strife
Glimmered through his lurid life,
As the stars’ intenser light
Through the red flames o’er him trailing,
As his ships went sailing, sailing,
Northward in the summer night.
Trained for either camp or court,
Skilful in each manly sport,
Young and beautiful and tall;
Art of warfare, craft of chases,
Swimming, skating, snow-shoe races
Excellent alike in all.
When at sea, with all his rowers,
He along the bending oars
Outside of his ship could run.
He the Smalsor Horn ascended,
And his shining shield suspended,
On its summit, like a sun.
On the ship-rails he could stand,
Wield his sword with either hand,
And at once two javelins throw;
At all feasts where ale was strongest
Sat the merry monarch longest,
First to come and last to go.
Norway never yet had seen
One so beautiful of mien,
One so royal in attire,
When in arms completely furnished,
Harness gold-inlaid and burnished,
Mantle like a flame of fire.
Thus came Olaf to his own,
When upon the night-wind blown
Passed that cry along the shore;
And he answered, while the rifted
Streamers o’er him shook and shifted,
“I accept thy challenge, Thor!”
THORA OF RIMOL
“Thora of Rimol! hide me! hide me!
Danger and shame and death betide me!
For Olaf the King is hunting me down
Through field and forest, through thorp and town!”
Thus cried Jarl Hakon
To Thora, the fairest of women.
Hakon Jarl! for the love I bear thee
Neither shall shame nor death come near thee!
But the hiding-place wherein thou must lie
Is the cave underneath the swine in the sty.”
Thus to Jarl Hakon
Said Thora, the fairest of women.
So Hakon Jarl and his base thrall Karker
Crouched in the cave, than a dungeon darker,
As Olaf came riding, with men in mail,
Through the forest roads into Orkadale,
Demanding Jarl Hakon
Of Thorn, the fairest of women.
“Rich and honored shall be whoever
The head of Hakon Jarl shall dissever!”
Hakon heard him, and Karker the slave,
Through the breathing-holes of the darksome cave.
Alone in her chamber
Wept Thora, the fairest of women.
Said Karker, the crafty, “I will not slay thee!
For all the king’s gold I will never betray thee!”
“Then why dost thou turn so pale, O churl,
And then again black as the earth?” said the Earl.
More pale and more faithful
Was Thora, the fairest of women.
From a dream in the night the thrall started, saying,
“Round my neck a gold ring King Olaf was laying!”
And Hakon answered, “Beware of the king!
He will lay round thy neck a blood-red ring.”
At the ring on her finger
Gazed Thorn, the fairest of women.
At daybreak slept Hakon, with sorrows encumbered,
But screamed and drew up his feet as he slumbered;
The thrall in the darkness plunged with his knife,
And the Earl awakened no more in this life.
But wakeful and weeping
Sat Thorn, the fairest of women.
At Nidarholm the priests are all singing,
Two ghastly heads on the gibbet are swinging;
One is Jarl Hakon’s and one is his thrall’s,
And the people are shouting from windows and walls;
While alone in her chamber
Swoons Thorn, the fairest of women.
QUEEN SIGRID THE HAUGHTY
Queen Sigrid the Haughty sat proud and aloft
In her chamber, that looked over meadow and croft.
Why dost thou sorrow so?
The floor with tassels of fir was besprent,
Filling the room with their fragrant scent.
She heard the birds sing, she saw the sun shine,
The air of summer was sweeter than wine.
Like a sword without scabbard the bright river lay
Between her own kingdom and Norroway.
But Olaf the King had sued for her hand,
The sword would be sheathed, the river be spanned.
Her maidens were seated around her knee,
Working bright figures in tapestry.
And one was singing the ancient rune
Of Brynhilda’s love and the wrath of Gudrun.
And through it, and round it, and over it all
Sounded incessant the waterfall.
The Queen in her hand held a ring of gold,
From the door of Lade’s Temple old.
King Olaf had sent her this wedding gift,
But her thoughts as arrows were keen and swift.
She had given the ring to her goldsmiths twain,
Who smiled, as they handed it back again.
And Sigrid the Queen, in her haughty way,
Said, “Why do you smile, my goldsmiths, say?”
And they answered: “O Queen! if the truth
must be told,
The ring is of copper, and not of gold!”
The lightning flashed o’er her forehead and
She only murmured, she did not speak:
“If in his gifts he can faithless be,
There will be no gold in his love to me.”
A footstep was heard on the outer stair,
And in strode King Olaf with royal air.
He kissed the Queen’s hand, and he whispered
And swore to be true as the stars are above.
But she smiled with contempt as she answered:
Will you swear it, as Odin once swore, on the ring?”
And the King: “O speak not of Odin to me,
The wife of King Olaf a Christian must be.”
Looking straight at the King, with her level brows,
She said, “I keep true to my faith and my vows.”
Then the face of King Olaf was darkened with gloom,
He rose in his anger and strode through the room.
“Why, then, should I care to have thee?”
“A faded old woman, a heathenish jade!”
His zeal was stronger than fear or love,
And he struck the Queen in the face with his glove.
Then forth from the chamber in anger he fled,
And the wooden stairway shook with his tread.
Queen Sigrid the Haughty said under her breath,
“This insult, King Olaf, shall be thy death!”
Why dost thou sorrow so?
THE SKERRY OF SHRIEKS
Now from all King Olaf’s farms
Gathered on the Eve of Easter;
To his house at Angvalds-ness
Fast they press,
Drinking with the royal feaster.
Loudly through the wide-flung door
Came the roar
Of the sea upon the Skerry;
And its thunder loud and near
Reached the ear,
Mingling with their voices merry.
“Hark!” said Olaf to his Scald,
Halfred the Bald,
“Listen to that song, and learn it!
Half my kingdom would I give,
As I live,
If by such songs you would earn it!
“For of all the runes and rhymes
Of all times,
Best I like the ocean’s dirges,
When the old harper heaves and rocks,
His hoary locks
Flowing and flashing in the surges!”
Halfred answered: “I am called
Nothing hinders me or daunts me.
Hearken to me, then, O King,
While I sing
The great Ocean Song that haunts me.”
“I will hear your song sublime
Some other time,”
Says the drowsy monarch, yawning,
And retires; each laughing guest
Applauds the jest;
Then they sleep till day is dawning.
Facing up and down the yard,
King Olaf’s guard
Saw the sea-mist slowly creeping
O’er the sands, and up the hill,
Round the house where they were sleeping.
It was not the fog he saw,
Nor misty flaw,
That above the landscape brooded;
It was Eyvind Kallda’s crew
Of warlocks blue
With their caps of darkness hooded!
Round and round the house they go,
Magic circles to encumber
And imprison in their ring
Olaf the King,
As he helpless lies in slumber.
Then athwart the vapors dun
The Easter sun
Streamed with one broad track of splendor!
in their real forms appeared
The warlocks weird,
Awful as the Witch of Endor.
Blinded by the light that glared,
They groped and stared
Round about with steps unsteady;
From his window Olaf gazed,
“Who are these strange people?” said he.
“Eyvind Kallda and his men!”
From the yard a sturdy farmer;
While the men-at-arms apace
Filled the place,
Busily buckling on their armor.
From the gates they sallied forth,
South and north,
Scoured the island coast around them,
Seizing all the warlock band,
Foot and hand
On the Skerry’s rocks they bound them.
And at eve the king again
Called his train,
And, with all the candles burning,
Silent sat and heard once more
The sullen roar
Of the ocean tides returning.
Shrieks and cries of wild despair
Filled the air,
Growing fainter as they listened;
Then the bursting surge alone
Thus the sorcerers were christened!
“Sing, O Scald, your song sublime,
Cried King Olaf: “it will cheer me!”
Said the Scald, with pallid cheeks,
“The Skerry of Shrieks
Sings too loud for you to hear me!”
THE WRAITH OF ODIN
The guests were loud, the ale was strong,
King Olaf feasted late and long;
The hoary Scalds together sang;
O’erhead the smoky rafters rang.
Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
The door swung wide, with creak and din;
A blast of cold night-air came in,
And on the threshold shivering stood
A one-eyed guest, with cloak and hood.
Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
The King exclaimed, “O graybeard pale!
Come warm thee with this cup of ale.”
The foaming draught the old man quaffed,
The noisy guests looked on and laughed.
Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
Then spake the King: “Be not afraid;
Sit here by me.” The guest obeyed,
And, seated at the table, told
Tales of the sea, and Sagas old.
Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
And ever, when the tale was o’er,
The King demanded yet one more;
Till Sigurd the Bishop smiling said,
“’T is late, O King, and time for bed.”
Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
The King retired; the stranger guest
Followed and entered with the rest;
The lights were out, the pages gone,
But still the garrulous guest spake on.
Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
As one who from a volume reads,
He spake of heroes and their deeds,
Of lands and cities he had seen,
And stormy gulfs that tossed between.
Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
Then from his lips in music rolled
The Havamal of Odin old,
With sounds mysterious as the roar
Of billows on a distant shore.
Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
“Do we not learn from runes and rhymes
Made by the gods in elder times,
And do not still the great Scalds teach
That silence better is than speech?”
Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
Smiling at this, the King replied,
“Thy lore is by thy tongue belied;
For never was I so enthralled
Either by Saga-man or Scald,”
Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
The Bishop said, “Late hours we keep!
Night wanes, O King! ’t is time for sleep!”
Then slept the King, and when he woke
The guest was gone, the morning broke.
Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
They found the doors securely barred,
They found the watch-dog in the yard,
There was no footprint in the grass,
And none had seen the stranger pass.
Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
King Olaf crossed himself and said:
“I know that Odin the Great is dead;
Sure is the triumph of our Faith,
The one-eyed stranger was his wraith.”
Dead rides Sir Morten of Fogelsang.
Olaf the King, one summer
Blew a blast on his bugle-horn,
Sending his signal through the land of Drontheim.
And to the Hus-Ting held at
Gathered the farmers far and near,
With their war weapons ready to confront him.
Ploughing under the morning
Old Iron-Beard in Yriar
Heard the summons, chuckling with a low laugh.
He wiped the sweat-drops from
Unharnessed his horses from the plough,
And clattering came on horseback to King Olaf.
He was the churliest of the
Little he cared for king or earls;
Bitter as home-brewed ale were his foaming passions.
Hodden-gray was the garb he
And by the Hammer of Thor he swore;
He hated the narrow town, and all its fashions.
But he loved the freedom of
His ale at night, by the fireside warm,
Gudrun his daughter, with her flaxen tresses.
He loved his horses and his
The smell of the earth, and the song of birds,
His well-filled barns, his brook with its water-cresses.
Huge and cumbersome was his
His beard, from which he took his name,
Frosty and fierce, like that of Hymer the Giant.
So at the Hus-Ting he appeared,
The farmer of Yriar, Iron-Beard,
On horseback, in an attitude defiant.
And to King Olaf he cried
Out of the middle of the crowd,
That tossed about him like a stormy ocean:
“Such sacrifices shalt
To Odin and to Thor, O King,
As other kings have done in their devotion!”
King Olaf answered: “I
This land to be a Christian land;
Here is my Bishop who the folk baptizes!
“But if you ask me to
Your sacrifices, stained with gore,
Then will I offer human sacrifices!
“Not slaves and peasants
shall they be,
But men of note and high degree,
Such men as Orm of Lyra and Kar of Gryting!”
Then to their Temple strode he in,
And loud behind him heard the din
Of his men-at-arms and the peasants fiercely fighting.
There in the Temple, carved
The image of great Odin stood,
And other gods, with Thor supreme among them.
King Olaf smote them with
Of his huge war-axe, gold inlaid,
And downward shattered to the pavement flung them.
At the same moment rose without,
From the contending crowd, a shout,
A mingled sound of triumph and of wailing.
And there upon the trampled
The farmer iron-Beard lay slain,
Midway between the assailed and the assailing.
King Olaf from the doorway
“Choose ye between two things, my folk,
To be baptized or given up to slaughter!”
And seeing their leader stark
The people with a murmur said,
“O King, baptize us with thy holy water”;
So all the Drontheim land
A Christian land in name and fame,
In the old gods no more believing and trusting.
And as a blood-atonement,
King Olaf wed the fair Gudrun;
And thus in peace ended the Drontheim Hus-Ting!
On King Olaf’s bridal night
Shines the moon with tender light,
And across the chamber streams
Its tide of dreams.
At the fatal midnight hour,
When all evil things have power,
In the glimmer of the moon
Close against her heaving breast
Something in her hand is pressed
Like an icicle, its sheen
Is cold and keen.
On the cairn are fixed her eyes
Where her murdered father lies,
And a voice remote and drear
She seems to hear.
What a bridal night is this!
Cold will be the dagger’s kiss;
Laden with the chill of death
Is its breath.
Like the drifting snow she sweeps
To the couch where Olaf sleeps;
Suddenly he wakes and stirs,
His eyes meet hers.
“What is that,” King Olaf said,
“Gleams so bright above thy head?
Wherefore standest thou so white
In pale moonlight?”
“’T is the bodkin that I wear
When at night I bind my hair;
It woke me falling on the floor;
’T is nothing more.”
“Forests have ears, and fields have eyes;
Often treachery lurking lies
Underneath the fairest hair!
Ere the earliest peep of morn
Blew King Olaf’s bugle-horn;
And forever sundered ride
Bridegroom and bride!
THANGBRAND THE PRIEST
Short of stature, large of limb,
Burly face and russet beard,
All the women stared at him,
When in Iceland he appeared.
“Look!” they said,
With nodding head,
“There goes Thangbrand, Olaf’s Priest.”
All the prayers he knew by rote,
He could preach like Chrysostome,
From the Fathers he could quote,
He had even been at Rome,
A learned clerk,
A man of mark,
Was this Thangbrand, Olaf’s Priest,
He was quarrelsome and loud,
And impatient of control,
Boisterous in the market crowd,
Boisterous at the wassail-bowl,
Would drink and swear,
Swaggering Thangbrand, Olaf’s Priest
In his house this malcontent
Could the King no longer bear,
So to Iceland he was sent
To convert the heathen there,
One summer day
Sailed this Thangbrand, Olaf’s Priest.
There in Iceland, o’er their books
Pored the people day and night,
But he did not like their looks,
Nor the songs they used to write.
“All this rhyme
Is waste of time!”
Grumbled Thangbrand, Olaf’s Priest.
To the alehouse, where he sat
Came the Scalds and Saga-men;
Is it to be wondered at,
That they quarrelled now and then,
When o’er his beer
Began to leer
Drunken Thangbrand, Olaf’s Priest?
All the folk in Altafiord
Boasted of their island grand;
Saying in a single word,
“Iceland is the finest land
That the sun
Doth shine upon!”
Loud laughed Thangbrand, Olaf’s Priest.
And he answered: “What’s the use
Of this bragging up and down,
When three women and one goose
Make a market in your town!”
On poor Thangbrand, Olaf’s Priest.
Something worse they did than that;
And what vexed him most of all
Was a figure in shovel hat,
Drawn in charcoal on the wall;
With words that go
“This is Thangbrand, Olaf’s Priest.”
Hardly knowing what he did,
Then he smote them might and main,
Thorvald Veile and Veterlid
Lay there in the alehouse slain.
“To-day we are gold,
Muttered Thangbrand, Olaf’s Priest.
Much in fear of axe and rope,
Back to Norway sailed he then.
“O, King Olaf! little hope
Is there of these Iceland men!”
With bending head,
Pious Thangbrand, Olaf’s Priest.
RAUD THE STRONG
“All the old gods are dead,
All the wild warlocks fled;
But the White Christ lives and reigns,
And throughout my wide domains
His Gospel shall be spread!”
On the Evangelists
Thus swore King Olaf.
But still in dreams of the night
Beheld he the crimson light,
And heard the voice that defied
Him who was crucified,
And challenged him to the fight.
To Sigurd the Bishop
King Olaf confessed it.
And Sigurd the Bishop said,
“The old gods are not dead,
For the great Thor still reigns,
And among the Jarls and Thanes
The old witchcraft still is spread.”
Thus to King Olaf
Said Sigurd the Bishop.
“Far north in the Salten Fiord,
By rapine, fire, and sword,
Lives the Viking, Raud the Strong;
All the Godoe Isles belong
To him and his heathen horde.”
Thus went on speaking
Sigurd the Bishop.
“A warlock, a wizard is he,
And lord of the wind and the sea;
And whichever way he sails,
He has ever favoring gales,
By his craft in sorcery.”
Here the sign of the cross
Made devoutly King Olaf.
“With rites that we both abhor,
He worships Odin and Thor;
So it cannot yet be said,
That all the old gods are dead,
And the warlocks are no more,”
Flushing with anger
Said Sigurd the Bishop.
Then King Olaf cried aloud:
“I will talk with this mighty Raud,
And along the Salten Fiord
Preach the Gospel with my sword,
Or be brought back in my shroud!”
So northward from Drontheim
Sailed King Olaf!
BISHOP SIGURD AT SALTEN FIORD
Loud the angry wind was wailing
As King Olaf’s ships came sailing
Northward out of Drontheim haven
To the mouth of Salten Fiord.
Though the flying sea-spray drenches
Fore and aft the rowers’ benches,
Not a single heart is craven
Of the champions there on board.
All without the Fiord was quiet
But within it storm and riot,
Such as on his Viking cruises
Raud the Strong was wont to ride.
And the sea through all its tide-ways
Swept the reeling vessels sideways,
As the leaves are swept through sluices,
When the flo