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Title: Colors of Life - Poems and Songs and Sonnets
Author: Eastman, Max
Language: English
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  COLORS OF LIFE



  NEW POETRY: FALL 1918


  _By Robert Graves_
    FAIRIES AND FUSILIERS

  _By Gilbert Frankau_
    THE OTHER SIDE

  _By Max Eastman_
    COLORS OF LIFE

  _By Kahlil Gibran_
    THE MADMAN



  COLORS OF LIFE

  POEMS AND SONGS AND SONNETS

  BY
  MAX EASTMAN


  NEW YORK     ALFRED A. KNOPF     MCMXVIII


  COPYRIGHT, 1918, BY
  ALFRED A. KNOPF, INC.


  PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



A PREFACE

ABOUT AMERICAN POETRY


It is impossible for me, feeling and watching the eternal tidal currents
of liberty and individual life against tyranny and the type, which are
clashing and rearing up their highest crimsoned waves at this hour, to
publish without some word of deprecation a book of poems so personal for
the most part, and reflecting my own too easy taste of freedom rather
than my share in the world's struggle towards an age and universe of it.
That struggle has always occupied my thoughts, and often my energies,
and yet I have never identified myself with it or found my undivided
being there. I have found that rather in individual experience and in
those moments of energetic idleness when the life of universal nature
seemed to come to its bloom of realization in my consciousness. Life is
older than liberty. It is greater than revolution. It burns in both
camps. And life is what I love. And though I love life for all men and
women, and so inevitably stand in the ranks of revolution against the
cruel system of these times, I loved it first for myself. Its
essence--the essence of life--is variety and specific depth, and it can
not be found in monotonous consecration to a general principle.
Therefore I have feared and avoided this consecration, which earnest
friends for some reason always expect me to exemplify, and my poetry has
never entered, even so deeply as it might, into those tempests of social
change that are coloring our thoughts today.

Poetry that has life for its subject, and untempered reality, is rather
expected to manifest that irregular flow and exuberance of material over
structure with which Walt Whitman challenged the world. In America at
least the freedom and poignant candor of strong art is associated with
the tradition that he founded, and little is granted to that other
tradition which finds its original in Edgar Allan Poe. There existed in
Europe, however, a succession of poets whose eyes turned back in
admiration to Poe, and they were the poets of reality and those who
touched the mood of social revolt. And for my part I think there is a
modern validity in the attitudes of both these poets, and a certain
adjudication between them which a perfectly impersonal science might
propose.

Every one who reads this book will be familiar, I suppose, with Walt
Whitman's ideal of an American poetry so free and strong and
untrammelled of ornamentation that it should go out of the books it was
published in and stand up with the hills and forests on the earth. "The
Poetry of the future," he said.



CONTENTS


  AMERICAN IDEALS OF POETRY--A PREFACE  13


POEMS

  COMING TO PORT                        43

  THE LONELY BATHER                     45

  IN MY ROOM                            46

  HOURS                                 47

  FIRE AND WATER                        48

  YOU MAKE NO ANSWER                    49

  OUT OF A DARK NIGHT                   50

  A MORNING                             51

  ANNIVERSARY                           52

  AUTUMN LIGHT                          53

  A MODERN MESSIAH                      54

  IN A RED CROSS HOSPITAL               55

  A VISIT                               56

  TO LOVE                               58

  CAR-WINDOW                            59

  LITTLE FISHES                         60

  INVOCATION                            61

  SOMETIMES                             62

  TO MARIE SUKLOFF--AN ASSASSIN         63

  TO AN ACTRESS                         65

  EYES                                  66

  X RAYS                                67


SONNETS

  A PREFACE ABOUT SONNETS               71

  A PRAISEFUL COMPLAINT                 74

  THOSE YOU DINED WITH                  75

  THE PASSIONS OF A CHILD               76

  AS THE CRAG EAGLE                     77

  TO MY FATHER                          78

  TO EDWARD S. MARTIN                   79

  EUROPE--1914                          80

  ISADORA DUNCAN                        81

  THE SUN                               82

  THE NET                               83

  A DUNE SONNET                         84


SONGS

  SEA-SHORE                             87

  RAINY SONG                            88

  A HYMN TO GOD                         90

  COMING SPRING                         91

  DAISIES                               92

  BOBOLINK                              93

  DIOGENES                              94


EARLIER POEMS

  A PREFACE ABOUT THEIR PHILOSOPHY      97

  AT THE AQUARIUM                      102

  EARTH'S NIGHT                        103

  THE THOUGHT OF PROTAGORAS            104

  TO THE ASCENDING MOON                107

  LEIF ERICSON                         110

  MIDNIGHT                             116

  IN MARCH                             117

  THE FLOWERS AT CHURCH                118

  TO THE LITTLE BED AT NIGHT           120

  IN A DUNGEON OF RUSSIA               121

  TO A TAWNY THRUSH                    125

  THE SAINT GAUDENS STATUES            127

  SUMMER SUNDAY                        129



AMERICAN IDEALS OF POETRY

A PREFACE


It is impossible for me, feeling and watching the eternal tidal currents
of liberty and individual life against tyranny and the type, which are
clashing and rearing up their highest crimsoned waves at this hour, to
publish without some word of deprecation a book of poems so personal for
the most part, and reflecting my own too easy taste of freedom rather
than my sense of the world's struggle towards an age and universe of it.
That struggle has always occupied my thoughts, and often my energies,
and yet I have never identified myself with it or found my undivided
being there. I have found that rather in individual experience, and in
those moments of energetic idleness when the life of universal nature
seemed to come to its bloom of realization in my consciousness. Life is
older than liberty. It is greater than revolution. It burns in both
camps. And life is what I love. And though I love life for all men and
women, and so inevitably stand in the ranks of revolution against the
cruel system of these times, I love it also for myself. And its
essence--the essence of life--is variety and specific depth. It can not
be found in monotonous consecration to a general principle. Therefore I
have feared and avoided this consecration, which earnest friends for
some reason always expect me to exemplify, and my poetry has never
entered even so deeply as it might into those tempests of social change
that are coloring our thoughts today.


Poetry that has life for its subject, and democratic reality, is rather
expected to manifest that irregular flow and exuberance of material over
structure with which Walt Whitman challenged the world. In America at
least the freedom and poignant candor of strong art is associated with
the tradition that he founded, and little is granted to that other
tradition which finds its original in Edgar Allan Poe. There existed in
Europe, however, a succession of poets whose eyes turned back in
admiration to Poe, and they were poets of reality, and those who touched
the mood of democratic revolt. And for my part I think there is a modern
validity in the attitudes of both these poets, a certain adjudication
between them which a perfectly impersonal science might propose; and
that is what I should like to discuss with those who may enter
sympathetically into this little volume.

They will all be familiar, I suppose, with Walt Whitman's ideal of an
American poetry so free and strong and untrammelled of ornamentation,
that it should go out of the books it was published in and stand up with
the hills and forests on the earth.


"The poetry of the future," he said, "aims at the free expression of
emotion, (which means far, far more than appears at first,) and to
arouse and initiate, more than to define or finish....

"In my opinion the time has arrived to essentially break down the
barriers of form between prose and poetry. I say the latter is
henceforth to win and maintain its character regardless of rhyme, and
the measurement-rules of iambic, spondee, dactyl, &c., and that even if
rhyme and those measurements continue to furnish the medium for inferior
writers and themes, (especially for persiflage and the comic, as there
seems henceforward, to the perfect taste, something inevitably comic in
rhyme, merely in itself, and anyhow,) the truest and greatest _Poetry_,
(while subtly and necessarily always rhythmic, and distinguishable
easily enough,) can never again, in the English language, be express'd
in arbitrary and rhyming metre, any more than the greatest eloquence, or
the truest power and passion. While admitting that the venerable and
heavenly forms of chiming versification have in their time play'd great
and fitting parts--that the pensive complaint, the ballads, wars,
amours, legends of Europe, &c., have, many of them, been inimitably
render'd in rhyming verse--that there have been very illustrious poets
whose shapes the mantle of such verse has beautifully and appropriately
envelopt--and though the mantle has fallen, with perhaps added beauty,
on some of our own age--it is, notwithstanding, certain to me, that the
day of such conventional rhyme is ended. In America, at any rate, and as
a medium of highest aesthetic practical or spiritual expression, present
or future, it palpably fails, and must fail, to serve. The Muse of the
Prairies, of California, Canada, Texas, and of the peaks of Colorado,
dismissing the literary, as well as social etiquette of over-sea
feudalism and caste, joyfully enlarging, adapting itself to comprehend
the size of the whole people, with the free play, emotions, pride,
passions, experiences, that belong to them, body and soul--to the
general globe, and all its relations in astronomy, as the savans portray
them to us--to the modern, the busy Nineteenth century, (as grandly
poetic as any, only different,) with steamships, railroads, factories,
electric telegraphs, cylinder presses--to the thought of the solidarity
of nations, the brotherhood and sisterhood of the entire earth--to the
dignity and heroism of the practical labor of farms, factories,
foundries, workshops, mines, or on ship-board, or on lakes and
rivers--resumes that other medium of expression, more flexible, more
eligible--soars to the freer, vast, diviner heaven of prose."


It may surprise some people to see this monumental challenge to the
poets of the future confronted with the pathetic memory of Edgar Allan
Poe. And yet it is natural to place these two poets in contrast, and the
weight neither of genius nor of influence is altogether upon one side.
They are the two American poets of unique distinction, and they are the
fountains of the two strongest influences in all modern poetry of the
occident. And it is worth observing that if Walt Whitman had written as
few pages of poetry as Poe did, his name would hardly be remembered,
whereas Poe would have established a literary tradition if he had
written but five sorrowful lyrics. His individuality was so poignant.
His art was so exquisite. And not only was his art exquisite, but his
philosophy of his art was as unique, assertive, and prodigious in
contempt for his predecessors, as that of Walt Whitman. I have never
read anything about any art more sheer and startling in its kind, than
Poe's essay on "The Philosophy of Composition"; and nothing more
energetically opposite to Walt Whitman could possibly be devised. To
convey the flavor of the contrast, I quote these sentences--inadequate
for any other purpose--from Poe's essay:

     "Most writers--poets in especial--prefer having it understood
     that they compose by a species of fine frenzy--an ecstatic
     intuition; and would positively shudder at letting the public
     take a peep behind the scenes at the elaborate and vacillating
     crudities of thought, at the true purposes seized only at the
     last moment, at the innumerable glimpses of idea that arrived
     not at the maturity of full view, at the fully matured fancies
     discarded in despair as unmanageable, at the cautious
     selections and rejections, at the painful erasures and
     interpolations--in a word, at the wheels and pinions, the
     tackle for scene-shifting, the step-ladders and demon-traps,
     the cock's feathers, the red paint and the black patches....

     "For my own part, I have neither sympathy with the repugnance
     alluded to, nor at any time the least difficulty in recalling
     to mind the progressive steps of any of my compositions; and,
     since the interest of an analysis, or reconstruction, such as I
     have considered a _desideratum_, is quite independent of any
     real or fancied interest in the thing analyzed, it will not be
     regarded as a breach of decorum on my part to show the _modus
     operandi_ by which some one of my own works was put together. I
     select 'The Raven' as most generally known....

     "Let us dismiss, as irrelevant to the poem _per se_, the
     circumstance--or say the necessity--which in the first place
     gave rise to the intention of composing _a_ poem that should
     suit at once the popular and critical taste.

     "We commence, then, with this intention.

     "The initial consideration was that of extent. If any literary
     work is too long to be read at one sitting, we must be content
     to dispense with the immensely important effect derivable from
     unity of impression; for, if two sittings be required, the
     affairs of the world interfere, and everything like totality is
     at once destroyed....

     "My next thought concerned the choice of an impression, or
     effect, to be conveyed: and here I may as well observe that,
     throughout the construction, I kept steadily in view the design
     of rendering the work _universally_ appreciable. I should be
     carried too far out of my immediate topic were I to
     demonstrate a point upon which I have repeatedly insisted, and
     which with the poetical stands not in the slightest need of
     demonstration--the point, I mean, that Beauty is the sole
     legitimate province of the poem....

     "But in subjects so handled, however skilfully, or with however
     vivid an array of incident, there is always a certain hardness
     or nakedness, which repels the artistical eye. Two things are
     invariably required: first, some amount of complexity, or more
     properly, adaptation; and, second, some amount of
     suggestiveness, some under-current, however indefinite, of
     meaning. It is this latter, in especial, which imparts to a
     work of art so much of that _richness_ (to borrow from colloquy
     a forcible term) which we are too fond of confounding with _the
     ideal_."

The opposition of these two characters and attitudes is complete. Upon
the one side a vast preoccupation with human meaning and morals, with
health and the common reality and love and democracy, a grand contempt
for beauty, and for the effort to attract or gratify a reader with
"verbal melody," a contempt for everything that savors of deliberate
technique in art. Upon the other side also contempt--contempt like a
piece of cold analytical steel for every pretense that the technique of
art is not deliberate, that poets are not seeking to attract and
gratify, that truth or moral or meaning instead of beauty is the portent
of a poem--a disposition to seek beauty in unique and even unhealthy
places, a lonely aristocratic heart of pain, and a preoccupation with
"verbal melody" never before or since equalled in poetry. The details of
this difference are fascinating, but the generalization of it is what
will illumine the modern problems about poetry. To Edgar Allan Poe a
poem was an objective thing, to Walt Whitman poetry was an act of
subjective expression. Poe would take sounds and melodies of words
almost actually into his hands, and carve and model them until he had
formed a beautiful vessel, and he would take emotions and imaginations
out of his heart and weave and inlay them in that vessel, and even the
crimson out of his blood, and finally for "enrichment" he would seek out
in his mind the hue of some meaning or moral to pour over it until it
was perfect. And these beautiful vessels he would set forth for view and
purchase, standing aside from them like a creative trader, proud, but no
more identified with them than as though he had made them out of the
colors of shells. To Walt Whitman a poem was not a thing. His poetry
was himself. His meanings, emotions, experiences, love and wonder of
life, filled him and he overflowed in language--without "art," without
purpose but to communicate his being. So he maintained. His poem was
never an object to him, even after it had flowed full and he sought to
perfect its contours. His emendations were not often objective
improvements; they were private remodellings to make the language a more
direct and fluent identity with what he considered himself. This was the
task upon which he labored as the poet of democracy and social love.

Now, it is not merely an accident, or a reflection upon America or upon
human nature, that Walt Whitman, with all his yearnings over the average
American and his offering of priesthood and poetry to the people, should
remain the poet of a rather esoteric few, whereas Poe--even with the
handful of poems he wrote--may be said to be acceptable to the
generality of men. The Raven, or Helen, or Annabelle Lee, or some sad
musical echo of the death of beauty, might be found in illuminated
covers on the most "average" of American parlor tables, but never
anything there of Walt Whitman--unless it be "Captain, My Captain!" the
one rather weak metrical poem he deigned to write. And there is
something deeply and really pathetic in this fact, and something which
only an adequate science of verse can explain. For the emotions and the
meanings of Walt Whitman's poetry are actually the ones that interest
simple and thoughtful people who have leisure to feel. His realizations
of life would be acceptable and be honored, as much at least as great
art is ever honored, by the "divine average," if they had been conveyed,
as Poe's were, in vessels of light, which would make them objective, and
from which they might brim over with excess of subjective meaning and
emotion.

I do not mean to express a wish that Walt Whitman had conveyed them so,
or the opinion that he could have been a more stupendous poetic and
moral hero of nature by writing otherwise than he did. His propulsive
determination to put forth in this facile nineteenth century culture,
sweet with the decay and light with the remnant fineries of feudal
grandeur, the original, vast, unfinished substance of man, was a
phenomenon like the rising of a volcanic continent amid ships on the
sea. No word but the words in his book can portray the magnitude of his
achievement; no critic but Envy could judge it except as itself and by
its own standard. But as a prophetic example of the poems of the
future, and especially the poems of democracy and social love, it
suffers a weakness--the weakness that Walt Whitman's character suffered.
It is egocentric and a little inconsiderate of the importance of other
people. Walt Whitman composed wonderful passages about universal social
love, but he could not be the universal poet exactly because he was not
social enough. He was not humble enough to be social. The rebel egoism
of democracy was in him the lordly and compelling thing, and though his
love for the world was prodigious, it was not the kind of love that
gives attention instinctively to the egoism of others.

There may be no grand passion for the idea, but there is a natural
companionship with the fact of "democracy," in Poe's statement that he
"kept steadily in view the design of rendering the work universally
appreciable," and that statement more characteristically distinguishes
his attitude from Walt Whitman's than the different ways they had of
talking about beauty. All poets who mould their poems objectively, even
though they may conceive themselves to be utterly alone with beauty, are
really in social communion with humanity. For that is what the word
_objective_ means. An object, or as we say, a "thing," differs from
other elements of our experience only in that it can be experienced in
the same form at different times and by different persons. And for an
object to be beautiful is for it to hold value in itself, so that
various perceivers may come from all sides and find it there. Therefore
one who moulds an object towards external perfection, however sad his
solitude, enters directly into the "universal friendship" toward which
Walt Whitman directed so much of the longing of his words. One who pours
out phrases direct from his emotion may experience a relief and glory
that implies listeners, and he may win listeners, but they will each
rebuild out of his phrases their own different poem, and they will
comprise in their number only those endowed with the special power to
build poems out of phrases poured out. And whatever we may wish were
true of the world, it is not true that the majority are so endowed.
Therefore the poetry that is highly subjective is almost inevitably the
poetry of a few; and the "direct expression of emotion" achieves a less
clear and general social communion than the embodiment of emotion in an
object of art.

It could be established, I believe, with mechanical precision, that the
rhythmic values most cherished by the social rebels who now write so
much "free verse," are values practically incommunicable to others, and
absolutely incommunicable by the method usually adopted, that of
printing words on a page. A little of that icy matter-of-fact realism
with which Poe used to scatter the sweet foggy thoughts of the
literarious, while it might not affect the art of these poets, would
surely reduce the volume of what they have to say about it. For
instance, here is the answer of one of them to an assertion that the
line division in free-verse is "arbitrary," and that if we copied one of
these long poems in solid prose, the poet himself could hardly ever
divide it again as it was:

"Free verse that is free verse is _not_ arbitrary. Much of it is, of
course--so are many canvases mere splashy imitations of Matisse. But
there is free verse that resolves itself into just those lines--a little
more subtly than sonnets or triolets--by virtue of pauses, of
heart-beats, of the quickness or slowness of your breath, and maybe of
your pulse itself.... It tries to give the rhythm value of those
hesitations, those quickenings and slowings of the flow of ideas, the
flutterings--it is _closer to the breath_, as modern music and modern
dance are, or as primitive music and primitive dance were."

It is impossible not to respond to such assertions, for we know in
ourselves what these exquisite differential experiences are. Any one who
has ever written love-letters--which are a kind of aboriginal
free-verse--knows what they are. And yet I believe it is obvious, if not
demonstrable, that most of them are too individual to be communicated
even to a lover. Human nature is too various for it to be true that the
same hesitations, the same quickenings and slowings of the flow of
ideas, flutterings of the breath or pulse, will reproduce themselves in
another upon the perception of the same visible symbols. And while this
fact may make the art of composition seem a little monotonous, it is
better that art should be monotonous than that the world should. And it
would be a monotonous world in which different people were so much
alike, or we ourselves so much alike at different moments, that these
minute filigrees of feeling should be altogether durable and capable of
being served round in paper and ink.

There are values of verbal rhythm in a flow of thought and feeling which
exist for one individual alone, and for him once only. There are other
values less delicate which he can reproduce in himself at will, but can
not altogether communicate to other minds whose thoughts and feelings
are too much their own. There are other values, still less delicate,
which he might communicate by vocal utterance and rhythmic gesture,
taking possession as it were of the very pulse and respiration of
others. But poetry which is composed for publication ought to occupy
itself with those rhythmic values which may be communicated to other
rhythmic minds through the printing of words on a page. It ought to do
this, at least, if it pretends to an attitude that is even in the most
minute degree social.

A mature science of rhythm might be imagined to stride into the room
where these poets are discussing the musical values of their verse,
seize two or three of the most "free" and subtle among them, lock them
into separate sound-proof chambers, and allow them to read one of their
favorite passages into the ear of an instrument designed to record in
spatial outline the pulsations of vocal accent. It is safe to assert
that there would be less identity in the actual pulsations recorded than
if the same two were reading a passage of highly wrought English
prose.[1] And the reason for this is that free verse imports into
English prose a form of punctuation that is exceedingly gross and yet
absolutely inconsequential. Its line division has neither a metrical
nor a logical significance that exists objectively. It can mean at any
time anything that is desirable to the whims, or needful to the
difficulties, of the reader or the writer. It is a very sign and
instrument of subjectivity. To incorporate in a passage of printed
symbols an indeterminate element so marked and so frequent as that, is
to say to the reader--"Take the passage and organize it into whatever
rhythmical pattern may please yourself." And that is what the reader of
free verse usually does, knowing that if he comes into any great
difficulty, he can make a full stop at the end of some line, and shift
the gears of his rhythm altogether. And since it is possible for one who
is rhythmically gifted to organize _any indeterminate series of
impressions whatever_ into an acceptable rhythm, he frequently produces
a very enjoyable piece of music, which he attributes to the author and,
having made it himself, is not unable to admire. Thus a good many poets
who could hardly beat a going march on a base drum, are enabled by the
gullibility and talent of their readers to come forward in this kind of
writing as musicians of special and elaborate skill. The "freedom" that
it gives them is not a freedom to build rhythms that are impossible in
prose, but a freedom from the necessity to build actual and continuous
rhythms. Free verse avails itself of the rhythmic appearance of poetry,
and it avoids the extreme rhythmic difficulties of prose, and so it will
certainly live as a supremely convenient way to write, among those not
too strongly appealed to by the greater convenience of not writing. But
as an object of the effort of ambitious artists I can not believe it
will widely survive the knowledge that it is merely a convenience, a
form of mumble and indetermination in their art.

Walt Whitman, however he may have been deceived about the social and
democratic character of his form, was not deceived, as the modern
eulogists of free verse are, about its subtlety. He thought that he had
gained in volume and directness of communion, but he knew that he was
discarding subtlety, discarding in advance all those beautiful and
decadent wonders of microscopic and morbid audacity that developed in
France among the admirers of Poe. The modern disciples of his form,
however, are materially of Poe's persuasion, and like to believe that
they have in free verse an instrument expressly fitted for the
communication of those wonders, and of the most delicate modulations of
that "verbal melody" that Whitman scorned. In this, from the true
standpoint of criticism, Whitman has a commanding advantage over them,
and what can be said of free-verse in general can not be said of his
poems. He did achieve the predominant thing that he aimed to achieve--he
made his poetry rough and artless in spite of his fineness and art. He
made it like the universe and like the presence of a man. In that
triumph it will stand. In that character it will mould and influence the
literature of democracy, because it will mould and influence all
literature in all lands.

     "Who touches this book touches a man."

There is, however, another ideal of poetry that Walt Whitman confused
with this one, and that he no more exemplified in his form than he
exemplified democratic and social communion. And this ideal is
predominant too in the minds of his modern followers. It is the ideal of
being natural, of being primitive, dismissing "refinements" and the
tricks of literary sophistication. He wanted his poetry to sound with
nature and the untutored heart of humanity. It was in the radiance of
this desire that he spoke of rhythmical prose as a "vast diviner
heaven," toward which poetry would move in its future development in
America. Prose seemed diviner to him because it seemed more simple, more
large with candor and directness. But here again a cool and clear
science will show that his nature led him in a contrary direction from
its ideal. The music of prose is only dissimilar to that of poetry in
its complexity, its subtle and refined _dissimulation_ of the
fundamental monotonous meter that exists, either expressed or implied,
in the heart of all rhythmical experience. Persons who can read the
rhythm of prose can do so because they have in their own breast, or
intellect, a subdued or tacit perpetual standard pulse-beat, around
which by various instinctive-mathematical tricks of substitution and
syncopation they so arrange the accents of the uttered syllables that
they fall in with its measure, and become one with it, increasing its
momentum and its effect of entrancement upon the nerves and body. There
is no rhythm without this metrical basis, no value in rhythm comparable
to the trance that its thrilling monotony engenders. Its undulations are
akin to the intrinsic character of neural motion, and that is why,
almost as though it were a chemical thing--a stimulant and narcotic--it
takes possession of our state-of-being and controls it.

Poetry only naïvely acknowledges this ecstatic monotony that lives in
the heart of all rhythm, brings it out into the light, and there openly
weaves upon it the patterns of melodic sound. Poetry is thus the more
natural, and both historically and psychologically, the more primitive
of the two arts. It is the more simple. Meter, and even rhyme, which is
but a colored, light drum-beat, accentuating the meter, are not
"ornaments" or "refinements" of something else which may be called
"rhythmical speech." They are the heart of rhythmical speech expressed
and exposed with a perfectly childlike and candid grandeur. Prose is the
refinement. Prose is the sophisticated and studio accomplishment--a
thing that vast numbers of people have not the fineness of endowment or
cultivation either to write or read. Prose is a civilized sublimation of
poetry, in which the original healthy intoxicant note of the tom-tom is
so laid over with fine traceries of related sound, that it can no longer
be identified at all except by the analytical eye of science.

Walt Whitman was not really playful and childlike enough to go back to
nature. His poetry was less primitive and savage, than it was superhuman
and sublime. His emotions were as though they came to him through a
celestial telescope. There is something more properly savage--something
at least truly barbarous--in a poem like Poe's "Bells." And in Poe's
insistence upon "beauty" as the sole legitimate province of the
poem--beauty, which he defines as a special and dispassionate
"excitement of the soul"--he is nearer to the mood of the snake dance.
Poetry was to him a deliberate perpetration of ecstasy. And one can see
in reading his verses how he was attuned to sway and quiver to the mere
syllabic singing of a kettledrum, until his naked visions grew more
intense and lovely than the passions and real meanings of his life. It
is actually primitive, as well as childlike, to play with poetry in this
intense and yet unsanctimonious way that Poe did, and Baudelaire too,
and Swinburne. Play is nearer to the heart of nature than aspiration. It
is healthier perhaps too, and more to the taste of the future, than
priesthood. I think the essence of what we call classical in an artist's
attitude is his quite frank acknowledgment that--whatever great things
may come of it--he is at play. The art of the Athenians was objective
and overt about being what it is, because the Athenians were educated,
as all free men should be, for play. They were making things, and the
eagerness of their hearts flowed freely out like a child's through their
eyes upon the things that they made. That pearl of adult degeneration,
the self, was very little cultivated in Athens; the "artistic
temperament" was unborn; and sin, and the perpetual yearning beyond of
Christians, had not been thought of. A little group of isolated and
exclusive miracles had not reduced all the true and current glories of
life to a status of ignobility, so that every great thing must contain
in itself intimations of otherness. The Athenians were radiantly
willing, without any cosmical preparation or blare of moral resolve, to
let the constellations stay where they are. It was their custom to "loaf
and invite their souls," to be "satisfied--see, dance, laugh, sing."
They were so maturely naïve that they would hardly understand what Walt
Whitman, with his declarations of animal independence, was trying to
recover from. And so it is by way of their happy and sun-loved city that
we can most surely go back to nature.

And when we have arrived at a mood that is really and childly natural--a
mood that will play, even with aspiration, and will spontaneously make
out of interesting materials "things" to play with, and when in that
mood we give our interest to the materials of reality in our own time,
then perhaps we shall find that we have arrived also at a poetry that
belongs to the people. For people are, in the depths of them and on the
average as they are born, still natural, still savage. And there is no
doubt that nature never fashioned them to work harder, or be more
serious, or filled with self-conscious purports, than was necessary. She
meant them to live and flow out upon the world with the bright colors of
their interest. And it will seem rather a fever in the light of
universal history, this hot subjective meaningfulness of everything we
modern occidentals value. The poets and the poet-painters of ancient
China knew that all life and nature was so sacred with the miracle of
being that only the lucid line and color was needed to command an
immortal reverence. They loved perfection devoutly, as it will rarely be
loved, but they too, with their gift of delicate freedom in kinship with
nature, were at play. And in Japan even today--surviving from that
time--there is a form of poetry that is objective and childlike, a
making of toys, or of exquisite metrical gems of imaginative
realization, and this is the only poetry in the world that is truly
popular, and is loved and cultivated by a whole nation.

If with this pagan and oriental love for the created thing--the same
love that kept a light in Poe's sombre heart--we enter somewhat
irreverently into Walt Whitman's volume, seeking our own treasure and
not hesitating to remove it from its bed of immortal slag, we do find
poems in new forms of exquisite and wonderful definition. Sometimes for
the length of one or two or three lines, and occasionally for a stanza,
and once for the whole poem--"When I heard at the close of the
day"--Walt Whitman seems to love and achieve the carved concentration of
image and emotion, the definite and thrilling chime of syllables along a
chain that begins and ends and has a native way of uttering itself to
all minds that are in tune. He seems, without losing that large grace of
freedom from the pose and elegance of words in a book, which was his
most original gift to the world, to possess himself of the mood that is
truly primitive, and social, and intelligible to the hearts of simple
people--the mood that loves with a curious wonder the poised and perfect
existence of a thing.


HUSH'D BE THE CAMPS

  Hush'd be the camps today;
  And, soldiers, let us drape our war-worn weapons;
  And each with musing soul retire, to celebrate,
  Our dear commander's death.

  No more for him life's stormy conflicts;
  Nor victory, nor defeat--no more time's dark events,
  Charging like ceaseless clouds across the sky.


RECONCILIATION

  Word over all, beautiful as the sky!
  Beautiful that war, and all its deeds of carnage, must in
      time be utterly lost;
  That the hands of the sisters Death and Night, incessantly
      softly wash again, and ever again, this soil'd world....

These sculptural sentences, with their rhythmic and still clarity of
form, if they had been the end and essence of his art, and not only a
by-accident of inevitable genius, might have led the way, not perhaps to
a great national poetry for America, but beyond that into something
international and belonging to the universe of man. The step forward
from them would not have been towards a greater sprawling and
subjectifying of rhythmic and poetic character, but towards an
increasing objective perfection which should still cling to the new and
breathless thing, the presence of one who lives and speaks his heart
naturally. I chose them, not only because they are among the most
musical and imaginative lines that Walt Whitman wrote, but also because
in bringing a mood that is calm and a lulling of wind in the world's
agonies of hate, they show themselves to be deep. And so it will not be
thought that when I say the poet of democracy will be a child who is at
play with the making of things, I desire to narrow the range and
poignancy of the things he will make. He will be free, and he will move
with a knowing and profound mind among all the experiences and the
dreams of men. But to whatever heights of rhapsody, or moral aspiration,
or now unimaginable truth, he may come, he will come as a child, whose
clear eyes and deliberate creative purposes are always appropriate and
never to be apologized for, because they are the purposes of nature.


FOOTNOTE:

[1] This statement is borne out by Mr. William Morrison Patterson's
account of the records of Amy Lowell's reading of her poems in his
laboratory. It constitutes the preface of the second edition of his
book, "The Rhythm of Prose"--a book which, upon the true basis of
experimentation, analyzes and defines convincingly for the first time
the nature of rhythmical experience, and the manner in which it is
derived by the reader both from prose and metrical poetry. Until it is
amplified or improved by further investigation, this book will surely be
the basis of every scientific discussion of the questions involved
here.



POEMS



COMING TO PORT


  Our motion on the soft still misty river
  Is like rest; and like the hours of doom
  That rise and follow one another ever,
  Ghosts of sleeping battle-cruisers loom
  And languish quickly in the liquid gloom.

  From watching them your eyes in tears are gleaming,
  And your heart is still; and like a sound
  In silence is your stillness in the streaming
  Of light-whispered laughter all around,
  Where happy passengers are homeward bound.

  Their sunny journey is in safety ending,
  But for you no journey has an end.
  The tears that to your eyes their light are lending
  Shine in softness to no waiting friend;
  Beyond the search of any eye they tend.

  There is no nest for the unresting fever
  Of your passion, yearning, hungry-veined;
  There is no rest nor blessedness forever
  That can clasp you, quivering and pained,
  Whose eyes burn ever to the Unattained.

  Like time, and like the river's fateful flowing,
  Flowing though the ship has come to rest,
  Your love is passing through the mist and going,
  Going infinitely from your breast,
  Surpassing time on its immortal quest.

  The ship draws softly to the place of waiting,
  All flush forward with a joyful aim,
  And while their hands with happy hands are mating,
  Lips are laughing out a happy name--
  You pause, and pass among them like a flame.



THE LONELY BATHER


  Loose-veined and languid as the yellow mist
  That swoons along the river in the sun,
  Your flesh of passion pale and amber-kissed
  With years of heat that through your veins have run,

  You lie with aching memories of love
  Alone and naked by the weeping tree,
  And indolent with inward longing move
  Your slim and sallow limbs despondently.

  If love came warm and burning to your dream,
  And filled you all your avid veins require,
  You would lie sadly still beside the stream,
  Sobbing in torture of that vivid fire;

  The same low sky would weave its fading blue,
  The river still exhale its misty rain,
  The willow trail its waving over you,
  Your longing only quickened into pain.

  Bed your desire among the pressing grasses;
  Lonely lie, and let your thirsting breasts
  Lie on you, lonely, till the fever passes,
  Till the undulation of your longing rests.



IN MY ROOM


  In this high room, my room of quiet space,
  Sun-yellow softened for my happiness,
  I learn of you, Wang Wei, and of your loves;
  Your rhythmic fisher sweet with solitude
  Beneath a willow by the river stream;
  Your agéd plum tree bearing lonely bloom
  Beside the torrent's thunder; misty buds
  Among your saplings; delicate-leaved bamboo.
  My room is sweet because of you, Wang Wei,
  Your tranquil and creative-fingered love
  So many mounds of mournful years ago
  In that cool valley where the colors lived.
  My ceiling slopes a little like far mountains.
  Your delicate-leaved bamboo can flourish here.

         *       *       *       *       *

     Wang Wei was a great Chinese painter and poet, of the 8th century.



HOURS


  Hours when I love you, are like tranquil pools,
  The liquid jewels of the forest, where
  The hunted runner dips his hand, and cools
  His fevered ankles, and the ferny air
  Comes blowing softly on his heaving breast,
  Hinting the sacred mystery of rest.



FIRE AND WATER


  Flame-Heart, take back your love. Swift, sure
  And poignant as the dagger to the mark,
  Your will is burning ever; it is pure.
  Mine is vague water welling through the dark,
  Holding all substances--except the spark.

  Picture the pleasure of the meadow stream
  When some clear striding naked-footed girl
  Cuts swift and straightly as a gleam
  Across its bosom ambling and aswirl
  With mooning eddies and soft lips acurl;

  Such was our meeting--fatefully so brief.
  I have no purpose and no power to clutch.
  Gleam onward, maiden, to your goal of grief;
  And I more sadly flow, remembering much,
  Yet doomed to take the form of all I touch.



YOU MAKE NO ANSWER


  You make no answer. You have stolen away
  Deliberately in that twilight sorrow
  Where the dark flame that is your being shines
  So well. Mysterious and deeply tender
  In your motion you have softly left me,
  And the little path along the house is still.
  And I, a child forsaken of its mother,
  I, a pilgrim leaning for a friend,
  Grow faint, and tell myself in terror that
  My love reborn and burning shall yet bring you--
  More than friend and slender-bodied mother--
  O sweet-passioned spirit, shining home!



OUT OF A DARK NIGHT


  Death is more tranquil than the life of love,
  More calm, more sure, and more unanguished.
  O the path among the trees is far more tranquil to the dead
  Than to these anxious hearts, uptroubled from their beds,
  Who pace in pallid darkness on the leaves,
  For no good reason--for no reason
  But because their limbs will not lie still upon the sheet.
  Their limbs will not lie still. O how I pity them.
  Sad hearts--their marrow is a-quiver,
  And they can not lie them down in tranquil sadness like the dead.



A MORNING


  Again this morning the bold autumn,
  Spreading through the woods her sacred fire,
  Brings the rich color of your presence
  Warmly luminous to my desire--

  Brings to my heart the dear wild worship,
  High and wayward as the windy air,
  And to my pulse the hot sweet passion
  Burning crimson like a poison there.



ANNIVERSARY


  The flowers we planted in the tender spring,
  And through the summer watched their blossoming,
  Died with our love in autumn's thoughtful weather,
  Died and dropped downward altogether.

  Today in April in the vivid grass
  They flash again their laughter, pink and yellow,
  They wake before the frosty sunbeams pass,
  Gay bold to leave their chilly pillow.

  But love sleeps longer in his wintry bed,
  He sleeps as though the lifting light were dead,
  And spring poured not her colors on the meadow,
  He sleeps in his cold sober shadow.



AUTUMN LIGHT


  So bright and soft is the sweet air of morning,
  And so tenderly the light descends,
  And blesses with its gentle-falling fingers
  All the leaves unto the valley's ends--

  It brings them all to being when it touches
  With its paleness every glowing vein;
  The wild and flaming hollows of the forest
  Kindle all their crimson in its rain;

  And every curve receives its share of morning,
  Every little shadow softly grows,
  And motion finds a melody more tender
  That like a phantom through the branches goes--

  So bright and soft and tranquil-rendering,
  And quiet in its giving, as though love,
  The morning dream of life, were born of longing,
  And really poured its being from above.



A MODERN MESSIAH


  Scarred with sensuality and pain
  And weary labor in a mind not hard
  Enough to think, a heart too always tender,
  Sits the Christ of failure with his lovers.
  They are wiser than his parables,
  But he more potent, for he has the gift
  Of hopelessness, and want of faith, and love.



IN A RED CROSS HOSPITAL


  Today I saw a face--it was a beak,
  That peered, with pale round yellow vapid eyes,
  Above the bloody muck that had been lips
  And teeth and chin. A plodding doctor poured
  Some water through a rubber down a hole
  He made in that black bag of horny blood.
  The beak revived, it smiled--as chickens smile.
  The doctor hopes he'll find the man a tongue
  To tell with, what he used to be.



A VISIT


  You came with your small tapering flame of passion
  Thinly burning like a nun's desire,
  Your eyes in slim and half-expectant fashion
  Faintly painting what your veins require
  With little pallid pyramids of fire.

  So very small and unfulfilled you sat,
  Building a little talk to keep you there,
  Your face and body pointed like a cat,
  Your legs not reaching down from any chair,
  Your thoughts not really reaching anywhere;

  So dumb and tiny--yet Love guessed your mood,
  And pressed his phial in its fervent bed,
  And poured his thrilling philtre in my blood,
  And all his lustre on your body shed,
  And hot enamel on the words you said;

  Your littleness became a monstrous thing,
  A rank retort, a hot and waiting vat,
  Your eyes green-copper like a snake in spring,
  And lusty-bold your laying off your hat,
  And fell your purpose like a hungry cat;

  The dark fell on us through our narrowed eyes,
  The heat lashed up around us from the floor,
  Encrimsoning the lips of our surprise
  To sway like music, and like burning pour
  Across the truth that parted us before.



TO LOVE


  Love, often your delicate fingers beckon,
  And always I follow.
  Oh, if I could stay, and possess your beauty
  Beckoning always!



CAR-WINDOW


  A light is laughing thro' the scattered rain,
  A color quickens in the meadow;
  Drops are still, upon the window-pane--
  They cast a silver shadow.



LITTLE FISHES


  A myriad curious fishes,
  Tiny and pink and pale,
  All swimming north together
  With rhythmical fin and tail--

  A mountain surges among them,
  They dart and startle and float,
  Mere wiggling minutes of terror,
  Into that mountain's throat.



INVOCATION


  Truth, be more precious to me than the eyes
  Of happy love; burn hotter in my throat
  Than passion; and possess me like my pride;
  More sweet than freedom; more desired than joy;
  More sacred than the pleasing of a friend.



SOMETIMES


  Sometimes a child's voice crying on the street
  Comes winging like an arrow through the wind
  To pierce my breast with you, my baby, and
  My pen is weak, and all my thinking dreams
  Are mist of yearning for the touch of you.



TO MARIE SUKLOFF--AN ASSASSIN


    In your lips moving fervently,
    Your eyes hot with fire,
  Life seems immortally young with desire,
    Life seems impetuous,
    Hungrily free,
  Having no faith but its burning to be.

    You could dance laughingly,
    Draw where you move,
  Hearts, hands and voices pouring you love.
    Youth be a carnival,
    Life be the queen,
  You could go dancing and singing and seen!

    Whence came that tenderness
    Cruel and wild,
  Arming with murder the hand of a child?
    Whence came that breaking fire,
    Nursed and caressed
  With passion's white fingers for tyranny's breast?

    In your soul sacredly,
    Deeper than fear,
  Burns there a miracle dreadful to hear?
    Virgin of murder,
    Was it God's breath,
  Begetting a savior, that filled you with Death?



TO AN ACTRESS


  You walk as vivid as a sunny storm
  Across the drinking meadows, through the eyes
  Of stricken men, with light and fury mingled,
  Making passionate and making young.
  You drive the mists, and lift the drooping heads,
  And in the sultry place of custom raise
  The naked colors of abounding life,
  And sound the crimson windy call of liberty.



EYES


  My heart is sick because of all the eyes
  That look upon you drinkingly.
  They almost touch you with their fever look!
  O keep your beauty like a mystic gem,
  Clear-surfaced--give no fibre grain of hold
  To those prehensile amorous bold eyes!
  My heart is sick!

                    O love, let not my heart
  Corrupt the flower of your liberty--
  Go spend your beauty like the summer sky
  That makes a radius of every glance,
  And with your morning color light them all!



X RAYS


  Your eyes were gem-like in that dim deep chamber
  Hushed and sombre with imprisoned fire,
  With yellow ghostly globes of intense æther
  Potent as the rays of pure desire.

  Your voice was startled into vivid wonder,
  When the winged wild whining mystic wheel
  Took flight and shot the dark with frosty crashings
  Like an ice-berg splitting to the keel.

  Your flesh was never warmer to my passion
  Than when, moving in that lumor green,
  We saw with eyes our fragile bones enamoured
  Clasping sadly on the pallid screen.

  You seemed so virginal and so undreaming
  Of the burning hunger in my eyes,
  To peer more fever-deeply in your being
  Than the very death of passion lies.

  The subtle-tuned shy motions of your spirit,
  Fashioned through the ages for the sun,
  Were dumb in that green lustre-haunted cavern
  Where you walked a naked skeleton;

  Slim-hipped and fluent and of lovely motion,
  Living to the tip of every bone,
  And ah, too exquisitely vivid-moving
  Ever to lie wanly down alone--

  To lie forever down so still and slender,
  Tracing on the ancient screen of night
  That naked and pale writing of the wonder
  Of your beauty breathing in the light.



SONNETS



A PREFACE ABOUT SONNETS


Although so complex and difficult to construct, the sonnet has always
seemed to me a natural and almost inevitable form. Whether the reason
lies in its intrinsic nature, or in the tradition that surrounds it, is
not easy to tell. A sonnet is almost exactly square, and yet it has a
division sufficiently off the centre to make its squareness admirable
instead of tiresome; and perhaps this simple trait, together with its
closely woven structure of rhyme, is what gives it the quiet assurance
it has--the tranquil rightness of a thing of nature or natural
convenience. I feel towards an excellent sonnet as I imagine an eager
horse may feel towards a good measure tightly filled up with golden
grain.

This feeling is due partly to a kind of honesty of which the squareness
of a sonnet is symbolic. It is a form in which poets can express
themselves when they are not rhapsodically excited. And very often they
are not so excited, and at such times if they write rapid lyrics they
have to whip themselves up with an emotion that they get out of the
writing rather than out of the facts. And this makes much lyric poetry
seem a little histrionic, whereas in order to create a sonnet at all, a
concentration and sustainment of feeling is required that is inevitably
equal to its more temperate pretensions.

The quality of being inevitably and honestly square may become a
dreadful thing, however. And it makes this form inappropriate for
persons who have not at least a certain degree of lyrical taste. In the
hands of such persons a sonnet is not a poem, but an enterprise. They
get inside that square with a whole lot of materials, colors and sounds
and old clothes of ideas, and they push them round, and if they can not
make them fill in properly and come up to the edges, they climb out and
get some more. And the result is so palpably spreadout an object, always
with lumps of imagery here and there, that it can not even be received
in the linear sequence that is natural to the eye and ear.

This fault can be avoided by having strongly in mind while composing a
sonnet, the virtues not specifically its own--the clarity, the running
and pouring in single stream, that are the qualities of song. And to
these qualities the strict convention of its rhymes and the traditional
relation of the sonnet's parts, ought to give way when there is a
conflict between them, for if a poem has not rhapsody, it is the more
important that it should have grace. At least that is my opinion, and I
offer this preface, in expiatory rather than boastful vein, to those
high priests of perfection who guard the sonnet as a kind of lonely
reliquary of their god.



A PRAISEFUL COMPLAINT


  You love me not as I love, or when I
  Grow listless of the crimson of your lips,
  And turn not to your burning finger-tips,
  You would show fierce and feverish your eye,
  And hotly my numb wilfulness decry,
  Holding your virtues over me like whips,
  And stinging with the visible eclipse
  Of that sweet poise of life I crucify!

  How can you pass so proudly from my face,
  With all the tendrils of your passion furled,
  So adequate and animal in grace,
  As one whose mate is only all the world!
  I never taste the sweet exceeding thought
  That you might love me, though I loved you not!



THOSE YOU DINED WITH


  They would have made you like a pageant, bold
  And nightly festive, lustre-lit for them,
  And round your beauty, like a dusky gem,
  Have poured the glamour of the pride of gold;
  And you would lie in life as in her bed
  The mistress of a pale king, indolent,
  Though hot her limbs and strong her languishment,
  And her deep spirit is unvisited.

  But I would see you like a gypsy, free
  As windy morning in the sunny air,
  Your wild warm self, your vivid self, to be,
  A miracle of nature's liberty,
  Giving your gift of being kind and fair,
  High, gay and careless-handed everywhere!



THE PASSIONS OF A CHILD


  The passions of a child attend his dreams.
  He lives, loves, hopes, remembers, is forlorn
  For legendary creatures, whom he deems
  Not too unreal--until one golden morn
  The gracious, all-awaking sun shines in
  Upon his tranquil pillow, and his eyes
  Are touched, and opened greatly, and begin
  To drink reality with rich surprise.

  I loved the impetuous souls of ancient story--
  Heroic characters, kings, queens, whose wills
  Like empires rose, achieved, and fell, in glory.
  I was a child, until the radiant dawn,
  Thy beauty, woke me--O thy spirit fills
  The stature of those heroes, they are gone!



AS THE CRAG EAGLE


  As the crag eagle to the zenith's height
  Wings his pursuit in his exalted hour
  Of her the tempest-reared, whose airy power
  Of plume and passion challenges his flight
  To that wild altitude, where they unite,
  In mutual tumultuous victory
  And the swift sting of nature's ecstasy,
  Their shuddering pinions and their skyward might--
  As they, the strong, to the full height of heaven
  Bear up that joy which to the strong is given,
  Thus, thus do we, whose stormy spirits quiver
  In the bold air of utter liberty,
  Clash equal at our highest, I and thee,
  Unconquered and unconquering forever!



TO MY FATHER


  The eastern hill hath scarce unveiled his head,
  And the deliberate sky hath but begun
  To meditate upon a future sun,
  When thou dost rise from thy impatient bed.
  Thy morning prayer unto the stars is said.
  And not unlike a child, the penance done
  Of sleep, thou goest to thy serious fun,
  Exuberant--yet with a whisper tread.

  And when that lord doth to the world appear,
  The jovial sun, he leans on his old hill,
  And levels forth to thee a golden smile--
  Thee in his garden, where each warming year
  Thou toilest in all joy with him, to fill
  And flood the soil with Summer for a while.



TO EDWARD S. MARTIN

FROM A PROFESSIONAL HOBO


  How old, my friend, is that fine-pointed pen
  Wherewith in smiling quietude you trace
  The maiden maxims of your writing-place,
  And on this gripped and mortal-sweating den
  And battle-pit of hunger now and then
  Dip out, with nice and intellectual grace,
  The faultless wisdoms of a nurtured race
  Of pale-eyed, pink, and perfect gentlemen!

  How long have art and wit and poetry,
  With all their power, been content, like you,
  To gild the smiling fineness of the few,
  To filmy-curtain what they dare not see,
  In multitudinous reality,
  The rough and bloody soul of what is true!

         *       *       *       *       *

     (In an editorial in _Life_, Mr. Martin had described as
     "professional hoboes" a number of revolutionary agitators whom
     he did not like--Pancho Villa, William D. Haywood, Wild Joe
     O'Carroll--and he did me the honor to include me among them.)



EUROPE--1914


  Since Athens died, the life that is a light
  Has never shone in Europe. Alien moods,
  The oriental morbid sanctitudes,
  Have darkened on her like the fear of night.
  In happy augury we dared to guess
  That her pure spirit shot one sunny glance
  Of paganry across the fields of France,
  Clear startling this dim fog of soulfulness.

  But now, with arms and carnage and the cries
  Of Holy Murder, rolling to the clouds
  Her bloody-shadowed smoke of sacrifice,
  The Superstition conquers, and the shrouds
  Of sick black wonder lay their murky blight
  Where shone of old the immortal-seeming light.



ISADORA DUNCAN


  You bring the fire and terror of the wars
  Of infidels in thunder-running hordes,
  With spears like sun-rays, shields, and wheeling swords
  Flame shape, death shape and shaped like scimitars,
  With crimson eagles and blue pennantry,
  And teeth and armor flashing, and white eyes
  Of battle horses, and the silver cries
  Of trumpets unto storm and victory!

  Who is this naked-footed lovely girl
  Of summer meadows dancing on the grass?
  So young and tenderly her footsteps pass,
  So dreamy-limbed and lightly wild and warm--
  The bugles murmur and the banners furl,
  And they are lost and vanished like a storm!



THE SUN


  Now autumn, and that sadness as of love
  Heroic in immortal solitude;
  Those veins of flaming passion through the wood;
  But in the blue and infinite above
  A shining circle like the light of truth,
  Self-poising; deathless his desire sublime,
  Whose motion is the measurement of time,
  Whose step is morning, and his smile is youth.

  No passion burns upon the livid earth
  Whose stain can tint that circle, or whose cry
  Can rout the tranquilly receiving sky.
  All passion, all its crimson stream, from birth
  To murder, bloom and pestilential blight,
  All flows beneath the sanction of his light.



THE NET


  The net brings up, how long and languidly,
  A million vivid quiverings of life,
  Keen-finned and gleaming like a steely knife,
  All colors, green and silver of the sea,
  All forms of skill and eagerness to be--
  They die and wither of the very breath
  That sounds your pity of their lavish death
  While they are leaping, star-like, to be free.

  They die and wither, but the agéd sea,
  Insane old salty womb of mystery,
  Is pregnant with a million million more,
  Whom she will suckle in her oozy floor,
  Whom she will vomit on a heedless shore,
  While onward her immortal currents pour.



A DUNE SONNET


  I was so lonely on the dunes to-day;
    The shadow of a bird passed o'er the sand,
    And I, a driftwood relic in my hand....
  Sea winds are not more lonely when they stray
  A little fitful and bewildered way
    In this wan acre, whose dry billows stand
    So pitilessly still of curve, so bland,
  And wide, and waiting, infinitely grey.

  In hollows I could almost hear them say,
  The misty breezes--Run, we will not stay
    In this unreal and spiritual land!
    Our soul of life is calling from the strand,
  Whose blue and breathing bosom leapt or lay
  Or laughed to us in shots of silver spray!



SONGS



SEA-SHORE


  The wind blows in along the sea--
    Its salty wet caresses
  Impart to all the ships that be
    A thrill before it passes.

  The tide is never at a stand,
    A mountain in its motion,
  Forever homing to the land,
    And ever to the ocean.

  And on its fickle, mighty breast
    The waters still are moving,
  With love in every running crest
    And laughter in the loving--

  Light love to touch the prows of ships
    That slip along so slenderly.
  I would as lightly touch your lips,
    And your heart as tenderly,

  If you would move with all that move,
    The flowing and caressing,
  Who have no firmness in their love,
    No sorrow in its passing.



RAINY SONG


  Down the dripping pathway dancing through the rain,
  Brown eyes of beauty, laugh to me again!

  Eyes full of starlight, moist over fire,
  Full of young wonder, touch my desire!

  O like a brown bird, like a bird's flight,
  Run through the rain drops lithely and light.

  Body like a gypsy, like a wild queen,
  Slim brown dress to slip through the green--

  The little leaves hold you as soft as a child,
  The little path loves you, the path that runs wild.

  Who would not love you, seeing you move,
  Warm-eyed and beautiful through the green grove?

  Let the rain kiss you, trickle through your hair,
  Laugh if my fingers mingle with it there,

  Laugh if my cheek too is misty and drips--
  Wetness is tender--laugh on my lips

  The happy sweet laughter of love without pain,
  Young love, the strong love, burning in the rain.



A HYMN TO GOD

IN TIME OF STRESS


  Lift, O dark and glorious Wonder,
  Once again thy gleaming sword,
  Cleave this killing doubt asunder
  With one sheer and sacred word!

  For my heart is weak and broken,
  And the struggle runs too high,
  And there is no burning token
  In the new immortal sky.

  Oh, not curb or courage only
  Does my hour demand of me,
  It is thought supreme and lonely
  And responsible and free!

  And I quail before the danger
  As a bark before the blast,
  When the beacon star's a stranger
  In the mountains piling fast,

  And there is no light but reason
  And the compass of the ship.
  God, a word of thine in season!
  God, a motion of thy lip!



COMING SPRING


  Ice is marching down the river,
    Gaily out to sea!
  Sunbeams o'er the snow-hills quiver,
    Setting torrents free!

  Yellow are the water-willows,
    Yellow clouds are they,
  Rising where the laden billows
    Swell along their way!

  Arrows of the sun are flying!
    Winter flees the light,
  And his chilly horn is sighing
    All the moisty night!

  Lovers of the balmy weather,
    Lovers of the sun!
  Drifts and duty melt together--
    Get your labors done!

  Ice is marching down the river,
    Gaily out to sea!
  Sing the healthy-hearted ever,
    Spring is liberty!



DAISIES


  Daisies, daisies, all surprise!
  Open wide your sunny eyes!
  See the linnet on the wing;
  See the crimson feather!
  See the life in every thing,
  Sun, and wind, and weather!
  Shadow of the passer-by,
  Bare-foot skipping over,
  Meadow where the heifers lie,
  Butter-cup, and clover!
  All is vivid, all is real,
  All is high surprising!
  Ye are pure to see and feel;
  Ye the gift are prizing
  Men and gods would perish for--
  Gods with all their thunder!--
  Could they have the thing ye are,
  Everlasting wonder!



BOBOLINK


  Bright little bird with a downward wing,
  How many birds within you sing?

  Two or three at the least it seems,
  Overflowing golden streams.

  If I could warble on a wing so strong,
  Filling five acres full of song,

  I'd never sit on the grey rail fence,
  I'd never utter a word of sense,

  I'd float forever in a light blue sky,
  Uttering joy to the passers-by!



DIOGENES


      A hut, and a tree,
      And a hill for me,
  And a piece of a weedy meadow.

      I'll ask no thing,
      Of God or King,
  But to clear away His shadow.



EARLIER POEMS



EARLIER POEMS

A PREFACE ABOUT THEIR PHILOSOPHY


Most of the friends who read the volume from which these poems are
selected, wanted to ask me what I meant by one of the titles, "The
Thought of Protagoras." And I meant so much--I meant to convey in that
phrase the hue of the philosophic background upon which the colors of my
life are drawn--that since I failed, I venture to enlarge its meaning
here with a word of confession.

An attitude that might be called affirmative scepticism is native to my
mind, and underlies every impulse that I have to portray the universal
character of life and truth. We seek among all our experiences for some
absolute and steadfast value by which, or toward which, we may guide
ourselves, but there is no absolute value except life itself, the having
of experiences. And among all our opinions we seek for an objective and
eternal truth, but nothing is eternally true except the variety of
opinions. Intermittently throughout the whole history of western, and I
suppose of eastern thought, this mood has arisen. It was the mood of
Protagoras, and of that Protagorean vein in Plato which is the height of
ancient wisdom. It arose again, after a period of bright-minded
investigation and formulation of "isms," in Sextus Empiricus and the
little group of Alexandrian scientists--the last light to go out in the
darkness of the reign of saints and theologies. Again, after those ages
of sombre and oppressive faith under the roof of the cathedral, it
appeared in the great Montaigne. The writings of Montaigne arrive in
history with a bold and tranquil flavor of delight in free meditation,
as though the too Sunday-serious world had at last made up its mind to
escape from church and go fishing. It is a reverent Sabbath holiday in
human thought. Almost immediately, however, the insane passion of belief
recurs. Descartes' attempt at a surgery of doubt is only the pathetic
opening of space for new and enormous growths of the old substance.
Spinoza follows him, the God-intoxicated man, and Leibnitz and other
monumental believers. And then David Hume quietly prepares, and once
more offers to mankind, in his clear, humble and noble enquiry about
Human Understanding, the sceptic wisdom, the moral equilibrium, that
would save its health and reason. But Kant and Hegel and those
mountainous Germans, the giants of soul-vapor, overwhelming again with
their rationalizations of primitive egotism, send all the world to the
mad-house of metaphysical conviction. And from this we are now again
issuing awakened--for the fifth time. And today the awakener is no
individual. The awakener is science--empirical science turning its brave
eyes upon man, its maker, to reveal the origin and destroy the excessive
pretensions of his thoughts. And so once again the sanity of the world
has been saved--or so at least it seems to one whose intellectual home
is in these ages of sacred doubt.

Thoughts that are abstract logically, are, psychologically, concrete
things. General ideas are specific occurrences. They are occurrences in
an individual mind, reflecting perhaps a material disturbance in a
brain. And these things and occurrences can, in the conception of
science, be explained as the result of antecedent causes. They, which
are the sovereign instruments of explanation, can themselves become the
subject of explanation, and therein lose their impersonality and their
universality which was their truth. Such, I think, is the modern
counterpart of the thought of Protagoras, summarized for the ancients
in his famous saying that "man is the measure of all things."

This thought used to come to my mind strongly in a seminar at Columbia
University, where in a shadowy corner of the great library at sunset we
gathered to read and study the writing of Spinoza. Our teacher was a
scholar of philosophy with the rarest gift of sinking himself
emotionally, as well as with intellect, into the metaphysical system of
the philosopher he studied. He is not the one I have portrayed in my
poem--that is a product of my imagination. But he seemed always so
ingenuous to me, in his acceptance of the existence of realities
corresponding to the vast abstractions of that philosopher of eternity,
that I could not but see continually in my fancy demons of time and the
concrete conspiring against him among the alleys of the book-shelves;
and there came the thought of death walking straight into that chamber
to annihilate the event of the individual idea--the only actual thing
denoted for me by his words of portentous and childish-universal import.
In my poem I tried to make such a death portray and prove to the
imagination the thought of Protagoras.

In another poem, Leif Ericson, I made the same reflection a theme of joy
and a kind of pagan sermon of life. The voyage of that wonderful sailor
out over the challenging blue, without knowledge and without sanction of
ends, is a symbol of the adventure of individual being. It is an example
to our hearts, so fond of faith and prudence, so little filled by nature
with moral courage and abandon.



AT THE AQUARIUM


  Serene the silver fishes glide,
  Stern-lipped, and pale, and wonder-eyed;
  As through the agéd deeps of ocean,
  They glide with wan and wavy motion.
  They have no pathway where they go,
  They flow like water to and fro.
  They watch with never winking eyes,
  They watch with staring, cold surprise,
  The level people in the air,
  The people peering, peering there,
  Who wander also to and fro,
  And know not why or where they go,
  Yet have a wonder in their eyes,
  Sometimes a pale and cold surprise.



EARTH'S NIGHT


  Sombre,
  Sombre is the night, the stars' light is dimmed
  With smoky exhalations of the earth,
  Whose ancient voice is lifted on the wind
  In ceaseless elegies and songs of tears.
  O earth, I hear thee mourning for thy dead!
  Thou art waving the long grass over thy graves;
  Murmuring over all thy resting children,
  That have run and wandered and gone down
  Upon thy bosom. Thou wilt mourn for him
  Who looketh now a moment on these stars,
  And in the moving boughs of this dark night
  Heareth the murmurous sorrow of thy heart.



THE THOUGHT OF PROTAGORAS


  My memory holds a tragic hour to prove,
  Or paint with bleeding stroke, the ancient thought
  That will to sorrow move all minds forever--
  All that love to know. It was the hour
  When lamps wink yellow in the winter twilight,
  And the hurriers go home to rest;
  And we whose task was meditation rose
  And wound a murmuring way among the books
  And effigies, the fading fragrance, of
  A vaulted library--a place to me
  Most like a dim vast cavernous brain, that holds
  All the world hath of musty memory
  In sombre convolutions that are dying.
  There at our faithful table every day,
  In the great shadow of this dissolution,
  We would speak of things eternal, things
  Divine, that change not. And we spoke with one
  Who was a leader of the way to them;
  A man born regal to the realms of thought.
  High, pale, and sculptural his brow,
  And high his concourse with the kings of old,
  Plato, and Aristotle, and the Jew--
  The bold, mild Jew who in his pensive chamber
  Fell in love with God. It was of him,
  And that unhungering love of his, he told us;
  And with soft and stately melody,
  The scholar's eloquence, he lifted us
  Sublime above the very motions of
  Our mortal being, and we walked with him
  The heights of meditation like the gods.
  I have no memory surpassing this.
  And yet--strange pity of our natures or
  Of his--there ran a rumor poisonous.
  Scandal breeds her brood in the house of prayer.
  And we, to whom these were like hours of prayer,
  We whispered things not all philosophy
  When he was gone. We knew but little where
  He went, or whence he came, but this we knew,
  That there was other love in him than what
  He taught us--love that makes more quickly pale!
  Ay, even he was tortured with the lure
  Of mortal motion in the eyes--and lips
  And limbs that were not warm to him alone
  Were warm to him. He drank mortality.
  Dim care, the ghost of retribution, sat
  In pallor on his brow, and made us whisper
  In the shadow of our meditations.
  Faintly, faintly did we feel the hour
  Advancing--livid painting of a thought!
  He spoke of Substance,--strangely--on that day--
  Eternal, self-existent, infinite--
  He seemed, I thought, to rest upon the name.
  And as he spoke there came on me that trance
  Of inattention, when the words would seem
  To drop their magic of containing things,
  And, by a shift, become but things themselves--
  Mere partial motions of the flesh of lips.
  I watched these motions, watched them blandly, till
  I knew I watched them, and that roused me, and
  I heard him saying, "Things, and moving things,
  Are merely modes of but one attribute,
  Of what is infinite in attributes,
  And may be called----" He spoke to there, and then--
  His pencil, the thin pencil, dropped--A crack
  Behind us--A quick step among the books--
  His hand, his head, his body all collapsed
  And fell, or settled utterly, before
  The fact came on us--he was shot and killed.
  But little I remember after that.
  What matters it? The deed, the quick red deed
  Was done, and all his speculations vanished
  Like a sound.



TO THE ASCENDING MOON


  Rise, rise, aerial creature, fill the sky
  With supreme wonder, and the bleak earth wash
  With mystery! Pale, pale enchantress, steer
  Thy flight high up into the purple blue,
  Where faint the stars beholding--rain from there
  Thy lucent influence upon this sphere!
    I fear thee, sacred mother of the mad!
  With thy deliberate magic thou of old
  Didst soothe the perplexed brains of idiots whipped,
  And scared, and lacerated for their cure--
  Ay, thou didst spread the balm of sleep on them,
  Give to their minds a curvéd emptiness
  Of silence like the heaven thou dwellest in;
  Yet didst thou also, with thy rayless light,
  Make mad the surest, draw from their smooth beds
  The very sons of Prudence, maniacs
  To wander forth among the bushes, howl
  Abroad like eager wolves, and snatch the air!
  Oft didst thou watch them prowl among the tombs
  Inviolate of the patient dead, toiling
  In deeds obscure with stealthy ecstasy,
  And thou didst palely peer among them, and
  Expressly shine into their unhinged eyes!
  I fear thee, languid mother of the mad!
  For thou hast still thy alien influence;
  Thou dost sow forth thro' all the fields and hills,
  And in all chambers of the natural earth,
  A difference most strange and luminous.
  This tree, that was the river sycamore,
  Is in thy pensive effluence become
  But the mind's mystic essence of a tree,
  Upright luxuriance thought upon--the stream
  Is liquid timeless motion undefined--
  The world's a gesture dim. Like rapturous thought,
  Which can the rigorous concrete obscure
  Unto annihilation, and create
  Upon the dark a universal vision,
  Thou--even on this bold and local earth,
  The site of the obtruding actual--
  Thou dost erect in awful purity
  The filmy architecture of all dreams.
  And they are perfect. Thou dost shed like light
  Perfection, and a vision give to man
  Of things superior to the tough act,
  Existence, and almost co-equals of
  His own unnamed, and free, and infinite wish!
  Phantoms, phantoms of the transfixed mind!
    Pour down, O moon, upon the listening earth--
  The earth unthinking, thy still eloquence!
  Shine in the children's eyes. They drink thy light,
  And laugh in innocence of sorcery,
  And love thy silver. I laugh not, nor gaze
  With half-closed lids upon the awakened night.
  Nay, oft when thou art hailed above the hill,
  I lean not forth, I hide myself in tasks,
  Even to the blunt comfort of routine
  I cling, to drowse my soul against thy charm,
  Yearning for thee, ethereal miracle!



LEIF ERICSON


  Through the murk of the ocean of history northward and far,
  I descry thee, O Sailor! Thy deed like the dive of a star
  Doth startle the ages of darkness through which it is hurled,
  Doth flash, and flare out, and is gone from the eyes of the world!

  What watchers beheld thee, and heralding followed thy lead,
  Or bugled the nations into the track of thy deed?
  What continent soundeth thy name, what people thy praise?
  Who sendeth the signal of gratitude back to the days
  When thou in thy boat didst put forth from the world, and defy
  Infinity, ignorance, tempest, and ocean, and sky?
  No, history brags not of God, nor doth history brag
  Of thee, sailor, who carried thy sail and thy sea-colored flag
  Clear over His seas, drove into His mystery old
  The prow of thy sixty-foot skerry, whose quivering hold
  Could dip but a cupful out of His watery wrath,
  That stormed thee, and snatched at thy bowsprit, and licked up thy path!

  When mythical rumor sky-carried ran over the earth,
  With the whisper of lands that were dreamed of beyond the red birth
  Of the west-wind, the blood of thy body took running fire
  To launch and be swift o'er the sea as a man's desire!

  O rare is the northern morning that shineth for thee!
  A million silvering crests on the cold blue sea--
  And the wind drives in from the jubilant sea to the land,
  And, catching thy laughter, it tosses the cloak in thy hand,
  As taunting thee forth to thy sails in the frosty air,
  Where thousands surround thee with awe and a wondering prayer.
  And they that stand with thee--tumultuous-hearted they stand!
  They bend at thy word--I hear the boat sing on the sand--
  And they slip to their oars as the boat leaps aloft on a wave,
  With thee at the windy helm, joyful and joyfully brave!

         *       *       *       *       *

  The depth of the billows is awful, the depth of the sky
  Is silent as God. Silent the dark on high.
  Naught sings to thy heart save thy heart and the wind, the wild giant
  Of ocean, agrin in the darkness, who rattles defiant
  A laugh through thy rigging, and howls from the clouds at thee,
  And moans in a mimic of pain and a murmurous glee.
  Still stern I behold thee, thy stature dim through the dark,
  Unmoved, unreleasing the helm of thy storm-driven bark.
  "O God of our fathers, give signs to our sea-worn eyes!
  Give sight to Thy sailors! Give but the sun to arise
  In the morn on an island pale in the haze of the west!
  O beam of the star in the north, is thy only behest
  To gesture me onward eternally unto no shore
  Of these high and wild waters, famed for their hunger of yore?
  Then give to thy sailor for life the courage of death,
  To encounter the taunt of this wind with a rougher breath
  Of gigantic contempt in the soul for where and when,
  So it be onward impetuous, living, onward again!
  He saileth safe who carrieth death on board,
  He flieth a laughing sail in the wrath of the Lord!"
  So sang thy heart to thy heart, and so to the swinging sea
  In a lull of the wind, the song of a spirit free!

  Serene adventurer, lover of distance divine,
  Pursuing thy love forever though never thine,
  O sun-tanned king with thy blue eyes over the sea,
  Who dares to sing, and live, the praise of thee?

  Not they that safe in a haven of certainty, steer
  From mooring to mooring with faith and with fear,
  And pray for a map of the universe, pointer, and plan,
  When all the blue waves of the ocean the courage of man
  Challenge to venture, not they are the praisers of thee!
  Nor they who sail for the cargo, and dream that the sea,
  In its wanton wild infinite wonder of motion and sound,
  Is bound by a purpose, as their little breathing is bound.
  The profit of thy great sailing to thee was small,
  And unto the world it was nothing--a man, that was all,
  And his deed like a star, to flame in the dull old sky!
  Of the story of apathy, age after decorous age going by!
  Grapes were thy import, winey and luscious to eat,
  Grapes, and a story--"The dew in the west was sweet!"
  Wine of the distance ever the reddest seems,
  And sweet is the world to the dreamer and doer of dreams!
  Weigh them, O pale-headed merchant--little ye know!
  Compute, O desk-dwellers, ye will not measure him so,
  For ye know only knowledge, ye know not the drive of the will
  That brought it with passion to birth--it driveth still
  Through the hearts of the kindred of earth, the forward fleeing,
  The kin of the stormy soul at the helm of all-being!
  Sailors, unreefed, and high-masted, and wet, and free,
  Who sail in the love of the billows, whose port is the sea--
  They sing thee, O Leif the Lucky, they sing thee sublime,
  And launch with thee, glad as with God, on the ocean of time!

         *       *       *       *       *

     Leif Ericson, the Norse adventurer, sailed to America 500 years
     before Columbus.



MIDNIGHT


                Midnight is come,
  And thinly in the deepness of the gloom
  Truth rises startle-eyed out of a tomb,
                And we are dumb.

                A death-bell tolls,
  And we still shudder round the too smooth bed,
  For Truth makes pallid watch above the dead,
                Freezing our souls.

                But day returns,
  Light and the garish life, and we are brave,
  For Truth sinks wanly down into her grave.
                Yet the heart yearns.



IN MARCH


  On a soaked fence-post a little blue-backed bird,
  Opening her sweet throat, has stirred
  A million music-ripples in the air
  That curl and circle everywhere.
  They break not shallow at my ear,
  But quiver far within. Warm days are near!



TO THE FLOWERS AT CHURCH


  Soft little daughters of the mead,
  The random bush, the wanton weed,
  That lived to love, and loved to breed,
      Who hither bound you?
  You're innocent of all the screed
      That blows around you.

  Sweet daffodils so laughing yellow,
  Beneath a bending pussy-willow,
  You need not try to gulp and swallow
      The Apostles' Creed,
  Or shudder at the fates that follow
      Adam's deed.

  Big bloody hymns the choir sings,
  And blows it to the King of Kings,
  The while you dream of humble things
      That wander there
  Where first you spread your golden wings
      On summer air;

  Like Jesus, simple and divine,
  In beauty, not in raiment fine,
  Who asked no high or holier shrine
      In which to pray,
  Than garden groves of Palestine
      'Neath olives gray.

  His name, I think, would still be bright
  Though churches were unbuilded quite,
  And they whose hearts are toward the height
      Should simple be,
  And lift their heads into the light
      As straight as ye.



TO THE LITTLE BED AT NIGHT


  Good-night, little bed, with your patient white pillow,
  Your light little spread, and your blanket of yellow!
  I wonder what leaves you so pensive to-night--
  The breezes are tender, the stars are so bright,
  I should think you would wrinkle a little and smile,
  And be happy to think we can sleep for a while.
  Are you waiting for something? Or are you just seeming
  To listen so breathlessly, hushed, as though dreaming
  A form that is fresher than breezes so light,
  A coming more precious than stars to the night,
  Who shall mould you as soft as the breast of a billow,
  And crown with all beauty your patient white pillow?
  Good-night, little bed--are you lonely so late?
  We will lie down together, together we'll wait.



IN A DUNGEON OF RUSSIA

_Scene_: A cell leading to the gallows.

_Characters_: A noble lady, who is an assassin.
              A common murderer.


  The chilling gray, a ghost of mortal dawn,
  Has touched them, and they know the hour. The guard
  Shifts guiltily his shoes upon the stone.
  They raise their eyes in languid terror; but
  The moment passes, and 'tis still again--
  Save, in some piteous way she moves her throat.
  There is a wandering of her burning eyes,
  Until they fix, and strangely stare upon
  The face of her companion. They would plead
  Against the heavy horror of his look;
  For not an idiot's corpse could strike the soul
  More sick with wonder.
                            "O look up and speak
  To me!"--Her voice is startling to the walls--
  "Speak any word against this gloom!"

                                            He moves
  A blood-deserted eye, but answers not.
  "Tell if 'twas cold and filthy where you lay!"

  "Ay, filthy cold! 'Twas cold enough to keep
  The carrion from rotting on these bones!
  They never kill us--never 'til we hang!"

  He spoke a brutal tongue against the gloom.
  And there was heard far off a step, a voice.
  The guard stood up; a quiver moved her limbs.

  "Give me some simple word. Give me your hand
  In comradeship. We die together--and
  The while we breathe--we are each other's world."

  "No--not your world, my lady! Though we die,
  I have no grace to give a hand to you.
  My hand is thick and dirty--yours is pale!"

  "You say 'my lady' in the very tomb!
  Will even death not laugh this weakness off
  Your tongue? To think nobility abides
  This hour! _My lady!_ O, it is a curse
  That whips me at the grave! I was not born--
  Can I not even die, a human soul?"
  "Yes, you can die! And better--you can kill!
  'Tis not your ladyship--the gallows' rope
  Snaps that to nothing! Death? Not death alone
  Can laugh at your nobility--I laugh.
  No--not your piteous ladyship--that dies.
  It is your crime that daunts me--That shall live!
  To plant, with this fine delicate little hand,
  Small heavy death into the very heart
  Of time-defended tyranny--that lives!
  The future is all life for you. For me--
  A glassy look, a yell into the air,
  And I am gone! No life springs up from me!
  I am the dirt that drank the drippings of
  A guilty murder--that is why I sit
  Like sickness here, and goad you with my shame!
  I'll take your hand. I'll tell you I was starved,
  Wrecked, shattered to the bones with drunken hunger,
  And I killed for gold. I'll tell you this--
  Your crime shall live to blot the memory
  Of mine, and me, and all the insane tribe
  Of us, who having strength in poverty
  Will not lie down and starve--blot off the world
  Our having been--the crime of our killed hopes,
  And gradual infamy!"

                              The fever gleam
  Was in his eyes--the future! There it burned
  A moment, while he stood to see the door
  Swing darkly open, and the guard salute.
  She stood beside him. And together in
  High union of their fainting hearts, they faced
  The hour that brought them to their level graves.

         *       *       *       *       *

  March, 1912.



TO A TAWNY THRUSH


  Pine spirit!
  Breath and voice of a wild glade!
  In the wild forest near it,
  In the cool hemlock or the leafy limb,
  Whereunder
  Thou didst run and wander
  Thro' the sun and shade,
  An elvish echo and a shadow dim,
  There in the twilight thou dost lift thy song,
  And give the stilly woods a silver tongue.
  Out of what liquid is thy laughing made?
  A sister of the water thou dost seem,
  The quivering cataract thou singest near,
  Whose glistening stream,
  Unto the listening ear,
  Thou dost outrun with thy cascade
  Of music beautiful and swift and clear--
  A joy unto the mournful forest given!
  As when afar
  A travelling star
  Across our midnight races,
  A moving gleam that quickly ceases,
  Lost in the blue black abyss of heaven,
  So doth thy light and silver singing
  Start and thrill
  The silence round thy piney hill,
  Unto the sober hour a jewel bringing--
  A mystery--a strain of rhythm fleeing--
  A vagrant echo winging
  Back to the unuttered theme of being!



THE SAINT GAUDENS STATUES


  Poet, thy dreams are grateful to the air
  And the light loves them. Tho' they murmur not,
  Their carven stillness is a music rare,
  And like the song of one whose tongue hath caught
  The clear ethereal essence of his thought.

  I hear the talkers come, the changing throngs
  That with the fashions of a day surround
  Thy visions, and I hear them quell their tongues,
  And hush their querulous shoes upon the ground;
  Thy dreams are with the crown of silence crowned--

  Though they feel not the glowing diadem,
  Who sleep for aye in their cool shapes of stone.
  Nor ever will the sunlight waken them,
  Nor ever will they turn their eyes and moan,
  To think that their brief Poet's life is gone.

  The tender and the lofty soul is gone,
  Who eyed them forth from darkness, and confessed
  His spirit's motion in unmoving stone.
  His praise upon no mortal tongue doth rest;
  By these unwhispering lips it is expressed.

  Soon will the ample arms of night withdraw
  Her shuffling children from the twilit hall--
  From that heroic presence, in dim awe
  Of whom the dark withholds a while her pall,
  And leaves him luminous above them all.

  Then are ye lost in darkness and alone,
  Ye ghostly spirits! And the moment rare
  Doth quicken that too sad and nameless stone,
  To move her robe, and spill her sable hair,
  And be in silence mingled with the air;

  For she is one with the dim glimmering hour,
  And the white spirits beautiful and still,
  And the veiled memory of the vanished power
  That moulded them, the high and infinite will
  That earth begets and earth does not fulfil.

         *       *       *       *       *

     These statues were exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum after
     the sculptor's death. The figures alluded to are the famous
     statue of Abraham Lincoln, and the monument in memory of Mrs.
     Henry Adams, the original of which is in the Rock Creek
     Cemetery at Washington.



SUMMER SUNDAY


  Borne on the low lake wind there floats to me,
  Out of the distant hill, a sigh of bells,
  Mystic, worshipful, almost unheard,
  As though the past should answer me, and I
  In pagan solitude bow down my head.



Transcriber's Notes:


  Passages in italics are indicated by _italics_.

  Punctuation has been corrected without note.

  Inconsistencies in spelling and hyphenation have been retained
  from the original.

  It is not always possible to determine if a new stanza begins at
  the top of a printed page, but every effort has been made by the
  transcriber to retain stanza breaks where appropriate.





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