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Title: Winona, A Dakota Legend - And Other Poems
Author: Huggins, Eli L.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                                _WINONA_

                            _A DAKOTA LEGEND_

                            _AND OTHER POEMS_

                                 _BY
                         CAPTAIN E. L. HUGGINS
                         2d Cavalry U. S. Army_

                           G. P. PUTNAM’S SONS

                  NEW YORK                     LONDON
          27 West Twenty-third St.  27 King William St., Strand

                           Knickerbocker Press
                                  1890

                             COPYRIGHT, 1890
                                   BY
                             ELI L. HUGGINS.

                    The Knickerbocker Press, New York
                   Electrotyped, Printed, and Bound by
                           G. P. Putnam’s Sons



CONTENTS.


Transcriber’s Note: Incorrect page numbering in the original has been
amended here.

                                                             PAGE

  WINONA, A DAKOTA LEGEND.

    PROEM.                                                      3

    PART I.                                                     9

    PART II.                                                   20

    PART III.                                                  33

  MISCELLANEOUS POEMS.

    TO A YOUNG MAN                                             43

    TELL ME, DEAR BIRD                                         45

    PERDITA                                                    47

    STANZAS TO ⸺                                               52

    LOVE’S TRIBUTE                                             55

    THE LITTLE SHEPHERDESS.—PASTORELLE                         57

    A FAREWELL                                                 58

    TO A FICKLE FAIR ONE                                       59

    TO THE SAME                                                59

    THE PALACE OF REPOSE                                       60

    MOODS                                                      63

    TO ⸺                                                       74

    TO ⸺                                                       76

    TO THE SAME                                                76

    TO THE SAME                                                76

  TRANSLATIONS AND IMITATIONS.

    IF MY VERSES HAD WINGS LIKE A BIRD.—HUGO                   79

    ’TWIXT SLEEP AND WAKING.—PROSPER BLANCHEMAIN               80

    WHITE SWAN SAILING.—FROM THE RUSSIAN,                      81

    THE ROSES OF SAADI.—DESBORDES-VALMORE,                     84

    ROSE-BUDS.—BÉRANGER                                        85

    THE BIRD I WAIT FOR.—MOREAU                                87

    VISIONS.—DE MUSSET                                         89

    THE FISHERMAN’S BRIDAL.—DELAVIGNE                          92

    YOU HAD MY WHOLE HEART.—DESBORDES-VALMORE                  95

    ART.—THÉOPHILE GAUTIER                                     97

    BARCAROLLE.—THÉOPHILE GAUTIER                             100

    SHADOWS.—THÉOPHILE GAUTIER                                103

    SONNET: OU VONT ILS?—SULLY PRUDHOMME,                     113

    THE GAY CASHIER.—ADAPTED FROM THE FRENCH                  114

    THE RAVAGES OF TIME.—SCARRON                              115

    HALLUCINATION.—FROM THE FRENCH.

      I.                                                      116

      II.                                                     117

      III.                                                    117

      IV. IN THE GROVE                                        118

    TO MY CRITICS.—DE MUSSET                                  119

    THE YOUTH AND THE OLD MAN.—FLORIAN                        121

    THE CATHEDRAL BELL AND ITS RIVAL.—IRIARTE                 123

    BLUE EYES AND BLACK EYES.—IMITATED FROM ANDALUSIAN COPLAS.

      I.                                                      125

      II.                                                     126

    COMPLAINT TO THE VIRGIN.—FROM A CUBAN POETESS             128

    THE CRUCIFIXION. OLD FRENCH SONNET                        132

    FROM THE SPANISH                                          133

    THE BOOK OF LIFE.—LAMARTINE                               134

  MEMORIAL DAY AND OTHER POEMS. DEDICATED TO THE G. A. R.

    TWENTY YEARS AGO. WRITTEN FOR MEMORIAL DAY, 1885          137

    ABRAHAM LINCOLN                                           141

    THE PRISONER’S DREAM                                      142

    HOW OFT A SENTRY SAD AND LONE                             143

    FROM COPLAS OF AN ANDALUSIAN SOLDIER                      144

    FROM THE SAME                                             145

    THE GLORY OF A SPANISH DRAGOON.—FROM THE SAME             146

    WRITTEN FOR A REUNION OF VETERANS IN THE YEAR 1915        148

  TWENTY-FIVE SONNETS.

    TO ⸺                                                      153

    POESY                                                     154

    THE ROSE                                                  155

    TO A FAIR SANTA BARBARAN                                  156

    LA DIVA                                                   157

    TO A HAPPY LOVER                                          158

    METEMPSYCHOSIS.

      I.                                                      159

      II.                                                     159

    THREE SONNETS IN MEMORIAM.

      I. DESPAIR—THE ABYSS                                    161

      II. QUESTIONING                                         161

      III. CONSOLATION                                        162

    IN MEMORY OF D. G. R.                                     163

    IN MEMORY OF JOHN BROWN OF OSSAWATTOMIE. INSCRIBED
        TO JOHN J. INGALLS.

      I.                                                      164

      II.                                                     165

      III.                                                    165

    OUR LOST ONES                                             167

    THE OCEAN OF THE PAST                                     168

    EVIL DAYS                                                 169

    ENVY AND SLANDER. TO N. N. M.                             170

    TRUE FREEDOM. TO J. F. F.                                 171

    “SOCIETY”                                                 172

    THE STAGNANT POOL                                         173

    THE MAN WITH THE MUCK RAKE                                174

    IMMORTALITY                                               175

    TO A YOUNG ARTIST                                         176



WINONA: A DAKOTA LEGEND



WINONA: A DAKOTA LEGEND.



PROEM.


    How changed, fair Minnetonka, is thy face
    Since first I saw thee in thy pristine grace.
    Electric lights fantastically glow,
    Swarming like fire-flies on the shores where long,
    Through countless summer nights a vanished throng,
    Only the Indian camp-fire flickered low.
    The odor of the baleful cigarette
    Assails us now, where the mild calumet
    Around the circle like a censer swung.
    The notes of Strauss intoxicate the air,
    And dainty feet in cadence twinkle there,
    Where in rude strains the warriors’ deeds were sung,
    And where the Indian lover’s plaintive flute
    Lured to the trysting-place the dusky maid.
    Discreetly hidden in the sylvan shade,
    The Anglomaniac comes to press his suit,
    And Patrick, too, out for a holiday,
    Strolls with his Bridget here _en dimanché_,
    And softly whispers in his charmer’s ear
    The same old tale, to lovers ever dear.
    The rustling leaves, the waves, the mating bird,
    Sing the same songs the Indian maiden heard.

    Save a few stately names, the vanished race
    Whose dust we daily trample leave no trace
    Or monument. None who that race have known
    Ere poisoned by the vices of our own,
    Deem it ignoble; but the white man’s breath,
    To him a besom of consuming death,
    Sweeps him like ashes from his natal hearth,
    E’en as one day some race of stronger birth
    Will sweep our children’s children from the earth.
    More noxious than the fabled upas tree,
    We blight his virtues first, and then with scorn
    Repel the hands extended once to save
    Our exiled fathers, fleeing o’er the wave.
    Yet in his deepest fall, the warrior, born
    Of warrior lineage fetterless and free,
    Retains unquenched in his unyielding soul
    A secret flame in spite of all control.
    He brooks no slavish, ignominious toil,
    By scourger driven to till the white man’s soil.
    Chained in Plutonian caverns far from day,
    His spirit swiftly chafes its bars away;
    Or by his own impatient hand released,
    With rapture bounds as to a marriage feast.
    Wealth, pomp, and power ne’er his soul affect;
    Still unabashed he stands, unmoved, erect,
    His blanket draped, albeit not too clean,
    About him with a Roman consul’s mien,
    And in the white light of a throne his eye
    Would meet, nor quail, the eye of majesty.
    His own war-eagle to the sun that soared,
    Gave back with eye undimmed its fiery glare,
    And sported with the speaking lightnings where
    The Thunder-Birds[1] along the tempest roared;
    Or swept the plain, but saw no Indian slave
    From the Pacific to Atlantic wave.

    Fair Minnetonka, thou art changed, and yet
    I know not if ’twere matter for regret.
    Thou wast a maid untried, with yielding heart,
    With flowing hair, and ample sheltering arms,
    And unabashed contours, whose rosy charms
    Were all untrammelled by the hand of art,
    And eyes of dreamy mystery, wherein
    E’en then thy triumphs dimly were foreseen;
    A worldly-wise and queenly woman now,
    Adorned with spoil of many victories,
    And flush of further conquest on thy brow;
    Jewels cannot thy native charms enhance,
    Nor can thy robes, too tightly laced perchance,
    The matchless beauty of thy form disguise.
    Through every change, by every tongue confessed,
    Peerless amid thy sisters East or West;
    Like her of whom the master-singer wrote,
    “Age cannot wither her nor custom stale
    Her infinite variety.”
                              Thus float
    My wandering thoughts, as on the balcony
    I sit alone bathed in the moonlight pale,
    And musing thus the scene changed suddenly:
    Hotel and cottage vanished; to the shore
    The prairie sloped a green unbroken floor.
    Eight lustrums back, through rosy summers fled,
    Adown a dwindling vista far I sped,
    A careless youth; again my hoary head
    Bloomed with the sunny wealth of twenty years.
    A day came back, a day without compeers,
    When with a bright companion long since dead,
    In my canoe I flitted o’er the lake,
    And our swift paddles scattered pearly tears
    Upon the smiling ripples in our wake.

    She, my companion, was a little maid
    Of somewhat rustic garb, of English speech,
    Yet something in her accents quaint and rich,
    And the warm tinge upon her cheek, betrayed
    The mingling crimson of a darker shade,—
    Her kinship to the remnant lingering still,
    Whose cone-shaped lodges picturesquely stood,
    Dotting the hither base of yonder hill,
    Like late leaves clinging, spite of growing chill,
    Upon the boughs of a November wood.
    Changing our mood, we idly drifted there,
    Two happy children in a cradling shell
    Poised ’twixt two azure vaults; the mystic spell
    Of Indian summer brooded in the air,
    Filling with human love and sympathy
    E’en things inanimate; the earth and sky
    Leaned to each other, and the rocks and trees,
    Like brothers, seemed sharing our reveries.

    “Tell me some legend of the lake,” I cried,
    “For in a spot that breathes on every side
    Such air of poesy, whose influence
    Subdues with such a charm our every sense,
    How many loving hearts have loved and died!
    How many souls as lofty and intense
    As those whose names throughout the whole world ring,
    In the high songs the olden minstrels sing!
    Who hears those voices e’en but for a day,
    The sound remains a part of him alway:
    Penelope the constant; Hero sweet;
    Briseis weeping at Achilles’ feet;
    Andromeda by wingèd Perseus found—
    Bright blossom to the sea-girt rock fast bound;
    The Lesbian queen of song, but passion’s slave,
    Who quenched her burning torch beneath the wave;
    Helen, whose beauty, like a fatal brand,
    Lit up the towers of Troy o’er sea and land;
    And Juliet, swaying at her window’s height,
    What slender lily in the wan moonlight.”

    “I do not know,” the little maid replied,
    “The names of which you speak, but ere she died
    My mother told me many stories old,
    Some joyous and some sad, of warriors bold,
    And spirits, haunting forest, plain, and stream.
    Each had its god, and creatures of strange form,
    Half beast, half human; all these figures seem
    Mingling away in a fantastic swarm,
    Dim as the faces of a last year’s dream,
    Or motes that mingle in a slant sunbeam.
    The legends vanish too; among them all
    This one alone, distinctly I recall.”

    The tale she told me then I now rehearse,
    Set in a frame of rude, unpolished verse.



PART I.


    Winona,[2] first-born daughter, was the name
    Of a Dakota girl who, long ago,
    Dwelt with her people here unknown to fame.
    Sweet word, Winona, how my heart and lips
    Cling to that name (my mother’s was the same
    Ere her form faded into death’s eclipse),
    Cling lovingly, and loth to let it go.
    All arts that unto savage life belong
    She knew, made moccasins, and dressed the game.
    From crippling fashions free, her well-knit frame
    At fifteen summers was mature and strong.
    She pitched the tipi,[3] dug the tipsin[4] roots,
    Gathered wild rice and store of savage fruits.
    Fearless and self-reliant, she could go
    Across the prairie on a starless night;
    She speared the fish while in his wildest flight,
    And almost like a warrior drew the bow.
    Yet she was not all hardness: the keen glance,
    Lighting the darkness of her eyes, perchance
    Betrayed no softness, but her voice, that rose
    O’er the weird circle of the midnight dance,
    Through all the gamut ran of human woes,
    Passion, and joy. A woman’s love she had
    For ornament; on gala days was clad
    In garments of the softest doeskin fine,
    With shells about her neck; moccasins neat
    Were drawn, like gloves, upon her little feet,
    Adorned with scarlet quills of porcupine.
    Innocent of the niceties refined
    That to the toilet her pale sisters bind,
    Yet much the same beneath the outer rind,
    She was, though all unskilled in bookish lore,
    A sound, sweet woman to the very core.

    Winona’s uncle, and step-father too,
    Was all the father that she ever knew;
    By the Absarakas[5] her own was slain
    Before her memory could his face retain.
    Two bitter years his widow mourned him dead,
    And then his elder brother she had wed.
    None loved Winona’s uncle; he was stern
    And harsh in manner, cold and taciturn,
    And none might see, without a secret fear,
    Those thin lips ever curling to a sneer.
    And yet he was of note and influence
    Among the chieftains; true he rarely lent
    More than his presence in the council tent,
    And when he rose to speak disdained pretence
    Of arts rhetoric, but his few words went
    Straight and incisive to the question’s core,
    And rarely was his counsel overborne.
    The Raven was the fitting name he bore,
    And though his winters wellnigh reached threescore,
    Few of his tribe excelled him in the chase.
    A warrior of renown, but never wore
    The dancing eagle plumes, and seemed to scorn
    The vanities and follies of his race.

    I said the Raven was beloved by none;
    But no, among the elders there was one
    Who often sought him, and the two would walk
    Apart for hours, and converse alone.
    The gossips, marvelling much what this might mean,
    Whispered that they at midnight had been seen
    Far from the village wrapped in secret talk.
    They seemed in truth an ill-assorted brace,
    But Nature oft in Siamese bond unites,
    By some strange tie, the farthest opposites.
    Gray Cloud was oily, plausible, and vain,
    A conjurer with subtle scheming brain;
    Too corpulent and clumsy for the chase,
    His lodge was still provided with the best,
    And though sometimes but a half welcome guest,
    He took his dish and spoon to every feast.[6]
    Priestcraft and leechcraft were combined in him,
    Two trades occult upon which knaves have thriven,
    Almost since man from Paradise was driven;
    Padding with pompous phrases worn and old
    Their scanty esoteric science dim,
    And gravely selling, at their weight in gold,
    Placebos colored to their patients’ whim.
    Man’s noblest mission here too oft is made,
    In heathen as in Christian lands, a trade.
    Holy the task to comfort and console
    The tortured body and the sin-sick soul,
    But pain and sorrow, even prayer and creed,
    Are turned too oft to instruments of greed.
    The conjurer claimed to bear a mission high:
    Mysterious omens of the earth and sky
    He knew to read; his medicine could find
    In time of need the buffalo, and bind
    In sleep the senses of the enemy.
    Perhaps not wholly a deliberate cheat,
    And yet dissimulation and deceit
    Oozed from his form obese at every pore.
    Skilled by long practice in the priestly art,
    To chill with superstitious fear the heart,
    And versed in all the legendary lore,
    He knew each herb and root that healing bore;
    But lest his flock might grow as wise as he,
    Disguised their use with solemn mummery.
    When all the village wrapped in slumber lay,
    His midnight incantations often fell,
    His chant now weirdly rose, now sank away,
    As o’er some dying child he cast his spell.
    And sometimes through his frame strange tremors ran—
    Magnetic waves, swept from the unknown pole
    Linking the body to the wavering soul;
    And swifter came his breath, as if to fan
    The feeble life spark, and his finger tips
    Were to the brow of pain like angel lips.
    No wonder if in moments such as these
    He half believed in his own deities,
    And thought his sacred rattle could compel
    The swarming powers unseen to serve him well.

    The Raven lay one evening in his tent
    With his accustomed crony at his side;
    Around their heads a graceful aureole
    Of smoke curled upward from the scarlet bowl
    Of Gray Cloud’s pipe with willow bark supplied.
    Winona’s thrifty mother came and went,
    Her form with household cares and burdens bent,
    Fresh fuel adds, and stirs the boiling pot.
    Meanwhile the young Winona, half reclined,
    Plies her swift needle, that resource refined
    For woman’s leisure, whatsoe’er her lot,
    The kingly palace or the savage cot.

    The cronies smoked without a sign or word,
    Passing the pipe sedately to and fro;
    Only a distant wail of hopeless woe,
    A mother mourning for her child, was heard,
    And Gray Cloud moved, as though the sound had stirred
    Some dusty memory; still that bitter wail,
    Rachel’s despairing cry without avail,
    That beats the brazen firmament in vain,
    Since the first mother wept o’er Abel slain.
    At length the conjurer’s lips the silence broke,
    Softly at first as to himself he spoke,
    Till warmed by his own swarming fancies’ brood
    He poured the strain almost in numbers rude.


THE COMBAT BETWEEN THE THUNDER-BIRDS AND THE WATER-DEMONS.

    Gray Cloud shall not be as other men,
    Dull clods that move and breathe a day or two,
    Ere other clods shall bury them from view.
    Tempest and sky have been my home, and when
    I pass from earth I shall find welcome there.
    Sons of the Thunder-Bird my playmates were,
    Ages ago[7] (the tallest oak to-day
    In all the land was but a grass blade then).
    Reared with such brethren, breathing such an air,
    My spirit grew as tall and bold as they;
    We tossed the ball and flushed the noble prey
    O’er happy plains from human footsteps far;
    And when our high chief’s voice to arm for war
    Rang out in tones that rent the morning sky,
    None of the band exulted more than I.

    A god might gaze and tremble at the sight
    Of our array that turned the day to night;
    With bow and shield and flame-tipped arrows all,
    Rushing together at our leader’s call,
    Like storm clouds sweeping round a mountain height.
    The lofty cliffs our warlike muster saw,
    Hard by the village of great Wabashaw,[8]
    Where through a lake the Mississippi flows;
    Far o’er the dwelling of our ancient foes,
    The hated Water-Demon[9] and his sons,
    Cold, dark and deep the sluggish current runs.

    Up from their caverns swarming, when they heard
    The rolling signal of the Thunder-Bird,
    The Water-Demon and his sons arose,
    And answered back the challenge of their foes.
    With horns tumultuous clashing like a herd
    Of warring elks that struggle for the does,
    They lashed the wave to clouds of spray and foam,
    Through which their forms uncouth, like buffaloes
    Seen dimly through a morning mist, did loom,
    Or isles at twilight rising from the shore.

    Though we were thirty, they at least fourscore,
    We rushed upon them, and a midnight pall
    Over the seething lake our pinions spread,
    ’Neath which our gleaming arrows thickly sped,
    As shooting stars that in the rice-moon fall.
    Rent by our beating wings the cloud-waves swung
    In eddies round us, and our leader’s roar
    Smote peal on peal, and from their bases flung
    The rocks that towered along the trembling shore.

    A Thunder-Bird—alas, my chosen friend,
    But even so a warrior’s life should end,—
    A Thunder-Bird was stricken; his bright beak,
    Cleaving the tumult like a lightning streak,
    Smote with a fiery hiss the watery plain;
    His upturned breast, where gleamed one fleck of red,
    His sable wings, one moment wide outspread,
    Blackened the whirlpool o’er his sinking head.

    The Water-Demon’s sons by scores were slain
    By our swift arrows falling like the rain;
    With yells of rage they sank beneath the wave
    That ran all redly now, but could not save.
    We asked not mercy, mercy never gave;
    Our flaming darts lit up the farthest caves,
    Fathoms below the reach of deepest line;
    Our cruel spears, taller than mountain pine,
    Mingled their life blood with the ruddy wave.

    The combat ceased, the Thunder-Birds had won.
    The Water-Demon with one favorite son
    Fled from the carnage and escaped our wrath.
    The vapors, thinly curling from the shore,
    Faint musky odors to our nostrils bore.
    The air was stilled, the silence of the dead;
    The sun, just starting on his downward path,
    A rosy mantle o’er the prairie shed,
    Save where, like vultures, ominous and still,
    We clustered close, on sullen wings outspread;
    And sometimes, with a momentary chill,
    A giant shadow swept o’er plain and hill,—
    A Thunder-Bird careering overhead,
    Seeking the track by which the foe had fled.

    While thus we hovered motionless, the sun
    Adown the west his punctual course had run,
    When lo, two shining points far up the stream
    That split the prairie with a silver seam,—
    The fleeing Water-Demon and his son;
    Like icicles they glittered in the beam
    Still struggling up from the horizon’s rim.
    His sleeping anger kindled at the sight,
    Our leader’s eyes glowed like a flaming brand.
    Thrilled by one impulse, all our sable band
    Dove through the gathering shadows of the night
    On wings outshaken for a headlong flight.
    Anger, revenge, but more than all the thirst,
    The glorious emulation to be first,
    Stung me like fire, and filled each quivering plume.
    With tenfold speed our sharp beaks cleft the gloom,
    A swarm of arrows singing to the mark,
    We hissed to pierce the foe ere yet ’twas dark.

    Still up the stream the Water-Demons fled,
    Their bodies glowed like fox-fire far ahead;
    But every moment saw the distance close
    Between our thirsting spear-heads and our foes.
    Louder the blast our buzzing pinions made
    Than mighty forest in a whirlwind swayed;
    The giant cliffs of Redwing speeding back,
    Like spectres melting from a cloudy wrack,
    Melted from view in our dissolving track.
    Kaposia’s village, clustered on the shore,
    With sound of snapping poles and tipis riven,
    Vanished like swan’s-down by a tempest driven.
    Stung by our flight, the keen air smote us sore
    As ragged hailstones; on, still on, we strained,
    And fast and faster on the chase we gained,
    But neck and neck the fierce pursuit remained,
    Till close ahead we saw the rocky walls
    O’er which the mighty river plunging falls,[10]
    And at their base the Water-Demons lay:
    The panting chase at last had turned to bay.

    Then thrilled my nerves with more than mortal strength;
    A breath of Deity was in the burst
    That bore me out a goodly lance’s length
    To meet the Water-Demon’s son accurst.
    His evil horn clanged hollow on my shield
    Just as my spear transfixed him through and through;
    A moment towering o’er the foam he reeled,
    Then sank beneath the roaring falls from view.
    A dying yell that haunts me yet he gave,
    And as he fell the crippled water coiled
    About him like a wounded snake, and boiled,
    leashing itself to madness o’er his grave.

    We knew not where the parent Demon fled;
    None of our spears might pierce his ancient mail,
    Welded with skill demoniac scale on scale.
    Some watery realm he wanders, and ’tis said
    That he is changed and bears a brighter form,
    And goodly sons again about him swarm;
    And peace, ’tis but a hollow truce I know,
    Now reigns between him and his ancient foe.
    He hates me still, and fain would do me harm,
    But neither man nor demon dares offend,
    Who hath the cruel Thunder-Bird for friend.



PART II.


    Nature hath her _élite_ in every land,
    Sealed by her signet, felt although unseen.
    Winona ’mid her fellows moved a queen,
    And scarce a youthful beau in all the band
    But sighed in secret longing for her hand.
    One only she distinguished o’er the rest,
    The latest aspirant for martial fame,
    Redstar, a youth whose coup-stick like his name
    (Till recently he had been plain Chaské)[11]
    Was new, fresh plucked the feathers on his crest.
    Just what the feats on which he based his claim
    To warlike glory it were hard to say;
    He ne’er had seen more than one trivial fray,
    But bold assurance sometimes wins the day.
    Winona gave him generous credit, too,
    For all the gallant deeds he meant to do.
    His gay, barbaric dress, his lofty air
    Enmeshed her in a sweet bewildering snare.
    Transfigured by the light of her own passion,
    She saw Chaské in much the usual fashion
    Of fairer maids, who love, or think they do.
    ’Tis not the man they love, but what he seems;
    A bright Hyperion, moving stately through
    The rosy ether of exalted dreams.

    Alas! that love, the purest and most real,
    Clusters forever round some form ideal;
    And martial things have some strange necromancy
    To captivate romantic maiden fancy.
    The very word “Lieutenant” hath a charm,
    E’en coupled with a vulgar face and form,
    A shrivelled heart and microscopic wit,
    Scarce for a coachman or a barber fit;
    His untried sword, his title, are to her
    Better than genius, wealth, or high renown;
    His uniform is sweeter than the gown
    Of an Episcopalian minister;
    And “dash,” for swagger but a synonym,
    Is knightly grace and chivalry with him.

    Unnoted young Winona’s passion grew,
    Chaské alone the tender secret knew;
    And he, too selfish love like hers to know,
    Warmed by her presence to a transient glow,
    Her silent homage drank as ’twere his due.
    Winona asked no more though madly fond,
    Nor hardly dreamed as yet of closer bond;
    But Chance, or Providence, or iron Fate
    (Call it what name you will), or soon or late,
    Bends to its purpose every human will,
    And brings to each its destined good or ill.


THE GROVE.

    O’erlooking Minnetonka’s shore,
    A grove enchanted lured of yore,
    Inured to their deepest woe and joy,
    A happy maiden and careless boy;
    Lured their feet to its inmost core,
    Where like snowy maidens the aspen trees
    Swayed and beckoned in the breeze,
    While the prairie grass, like rippling seas,
    Faintly murmuring lulling hymns,
    Rippled about their gleaming limbs.

    There is no such charm in a garden-close,
    However fair its bower and rose,
    As a place where the wild and free rejoice.
    Nor doth the storied and ivied arch
    Woo the heart with half so sweet a voice
    As the bowering arms of the wild-wood larch,
    Where the clematis and wild woodbine
    Festoon the flowering eglantine;
    Where in every flower, shrub, and tree
    Is heard the hum of the honey-bee,
    And the linden blossoms are softly stirred,
    As the fanning wings of the humming-bird
    Scatter a perfume of pollen dust,
    That mounts to the kindling soul like must;
    Where the turtles each spring their loves renew—
    The old, old story, “coo-roo, coo-roo,”
    Mingles with the wooing note
    That bubbles from the song-bird’s throat;
    Where on waves of rosy light at play,
    Mingle a thousand airy minions,
    And drifting as on a golden bay,
    The butterfly with his petal pinions,
    From isle to isle of his fair dominions
    Floats with the languid tides away;
    Where the squirrel and rabbit shyly mate,
    And none so timid but finds her fate;
    The meek hen-robin upon the nest
    Thrills to her lover’s flaming breast.
    Youth, Love, and Life, ’mid scenes like this,
    Go to the same sweet tune of bliss;
    E’en the flaming flowers of passion seem
    Pure as the lily buds that dream
    On the bosom of a mountain stream.

    Such was the grove that lured of yore,
    O’erlooking Minnetonka’s shore,
    Lured to their deepest woe and joy
    A happy maiden and careless boy,—
    Lured their feet to its inmost core;
    Where still mysterious shadows slept,
    While the plenilune from her path above
    With liquid amber bathed the grove,
    That through the tree-tops trickling crept,
    And every tender alley swept.
    The happy maiden and careless boy,
    Caught for a moment their deepest joy,
    And the iris hues of Youth and Love,
    A tender glamour about them wove;
    But the trembling shadows the aspens cast
    From the maiden’s spirit never passed;
    And the nectar was poisoned that thrilled and filled,
    From every treacherous leaf distilled,
    Her veins that night with a strange alloy.

    Swift came the hour that maid and boy must part;
    A glow unwonted, tinged with dusky red
    Winona’s conscious face as home she sped;
    And to the song exultant in her heart,
    Beat her light moccasins with rhythmic tread.
    But at the summit of a little hill,
    Along whose base the village lay outspread,
    A sudden sense of some impending ill
    Smote the sweet fever in her veins with chill.
    The lake she skirted, on whose mailèd breast
    Rode like a shield the moon from out the west.
    She neared her lodge, but there her quick eye caught
    The voice of Gray Cloud, and her steps were stayed,
    For over her of late an icy fear
    Brooded with vulture wings when he was near.

    She knew not why, her eye he never sought,
    Nor deigned to speak, and yet she felt dismayed
    At thought of him, as the mimosa’s leaf
    Before the fingers touch it shrinks with dread.
    She paused a moment, then with furtive tread
    Close to the tipi glided like a thief;
    With lips apart, and eager bended head,
    She listened there to what the conjurer said.

    His voice, low, musical, recounted o’er
    Strange tales of days when other forms he wore:
    How, far above the highest airy plain
    Where soars and sings the weird, fantastic crane,
    Wafted like thistle-down he strayed at will,
    With power almost supreme for good or ill,
    Over all lands and nations near and far,
    Beyond the seas, or ’neath the northern star,
    And long had pondered where were best to dwell
    When he should deign a human shape to wear.
    “Whether to be of them that buy and sell,
    With fish-scale eyes, and yellow corn-silk hair,
    Or with the stone-men chase the giant game.
    But wander where you may, no land can claim
    A sky so fair as ours; the sun each day
    Circles the earth with glaring eye, but sees
    No lakes or plains so beautiful as these;
    Nor e’er hath trod or shall upon the earth
    A race like ours of true Dakota birth.
    Our chiefs and sages, who so wise as they
    To counsel or to lead in peace or war,
    And heal the sick by deep mysterious law.
    Our beauteous warriors lithe of limb and strong,
    Fierce to avenge their own and others’ wrong,
    What gasping terror smites their battle song
    When, night-birds gathering near the dawn of day,
    Or wolves in chorus ravening for the prey,
    They burst upon the sleeping Chippeway;[12]
    Their women wail whose hated fingers dare
    To reap the harvest of our midnight hair;
    Swifter than eagles, as a panther fleet,
    A hungry panther seeking for his meat,
    So swift and noiseless their avenging feet.

           *       *       *       *       *

    Dakota matrons truest are and best,
    Dakota maidens too are loveliest.”

    He ceased, and soon, departing through the night,
    She watched his burly form till out of sight.
    And then the Raven spoke in whispers low:
    “Gray Cloud demands our daughter’s hand, and she
    Unto his tipi very soon must go.”
    Winona’s mother sought to make reply,
    But something checked her in his tone or eye.
    Again the Raven spoke, imperiously:
    “Winona is of proper age to wed;
    Her suitor suits me, let no more be said.”

    Winona heard no more; a rising wave
    Of mingled indignation, fear, and shame
    Like a resistless tempest shook her frame,
    The earth swam round her, and her senses reeled;
    Better for her a thousand times the grave
    Than life in Gray Cloud’s tent, but what could she
    Against the stern, implacable decree
    Of one whose will was never known to yield?

    Winona fled, scarce knowing where or how;
    Fled like a phantom through the moonlight cool
    Until she stood upon the rocky brow
    That overlooked a deep sequestered pool,
    Where slumbering in a grove-encircled bay
    Lake Minnetonka’s purest waters lay.
    Unto the brink she rushed, but faltered there—
    Life to the young is sweet; in vain her eye
    Swept for a moment grove and wave and sky
    With mute appeal. But see, two white swans fair
    Gleamed from the shadows that o’erhung the shore,
    Like moons emerging from a sable screen;
    Swimming abreast, what haughty king and queen,
    With arching necks their regal course they bore.
    Winona marvelled at the unwonted sight
    Of white swans swimming there at dead of night,
    Her frenzy half beguiling with the scene.
    Unearthly heralds sure, for in their wake
    What ruddy furrows seamed the placid lake.
    Almost beneath her feet they came, so near
    She might have tossed a pebble on their backs,
    When lo, their long necks pierced the waters clear,
    As down they dove, two shafts of purest light,
    And chasing fast on their descending tracks,
    A swarm of spirals luminous and white,
    Swirled to the gloom of nether depths from sight.

    Then all was still for some few moments’ space,
    So smooth the pool, so vanished every trace,
    It seemed that surely the fantastic pair
    Had been but snowy phantoms passing there.
    Winona hardly hoped to see them rise,
    But while she gazed with half expectant eyes,
    The waters strangely quivered in a place
    About the bigness of a tipi’s space,
    Where weirdly lighting up the hollow wave
    Beat a deep-glowing heart, whose pulsing ray
    Now faded to a rosy flush away,
    Now filled with fiery glare the farthest cave.
    A shapeless bulk arose, then, taking form,
    Bloomed forth upon the bosom of the lake
    A crystal rose, or hillock mammiform,
    And round its base the curling foam did break
    As round a sunny islet in a storm;
    And on it poised a swiftly changing form,
    With filmy mantle falling musical,
    And colors of the floating bubble’s ball,
    Fair and elusive as the sprites that play,
    Bright children of the sun-illumined spray,
    ’Mid rainbows of a mountain waterfall.
    Then mingling with the falling waters came
    In whispers sibilant Winona’s name;
    So indistinct and low that voice intense,
    That she, half frightened, cowering in the grass
    In much bewilderment at what did pass,
    Till thrice repeated noted not its sense.

    She rose, and on the very brink defined,
    Against the sky in silhouette outlined,
    Erect before the Water-Demon stood.
    Again those accents weird her wonder stirred,
    And this is what the listening maiden heard:
    “Thy fate, Winona, hangs on thine own choice
    To scorn or heed the Water-Demon’s voice.
    Gone are thy pleasant days of maidenhood,
    And evil hours draw nigh, but knowest thou not,
    That what thou fleest is the common lot
    Of all thy sisters? Thou must be the bride
    Of one thou lovest not, must toil for him,
    Watch for his coming, and endure his whim;
    Must share his tent, and lying at his side
    Weep for another till thine eyes grow dim.
    And he, so fondly loved, will pass thee by
    Indifferent with cold averted eye;
    E’en he, whose wanton hands and hated arms
    Have crushed the fair flower of thy maidenhood,
    Will weary of thy swiftly fading charms,
    And seek another when thy beauty wanes.
    Aha, thou shudderest; in thy tense veins,
    Fierce and rebellious, leaps the mingling blood
    Of countless warriors, high of soul and brave;
    And would’st thou quench their spirit ’neath the wave?
    Is Gray Cloud’s life more dear to thee than thine?
    The village sleeps, unguarded is his tent,
    Thy knife is keen, and unto thee is lent
    A spell to-night of potency malign.
    Cradled in blissful dreams alone he lies,
    And he shall stray so deep in sleep’s dominions,
    He would not waken though the rushing pinions
    Of his own Thunder-Bird should shake the sky.
    All freedom-loving spirits are with thee,
    Strike hard and fear not as thou would’st be free;
    Lest thine own hatred prove too weak a charm,
    The Water-Demon’s hate shall nerve thine arm.”

    The Water-Demon sank and disappeared,
    And faint and fainter fell those accents weird,
    Until the air was silent as the grave,
    Still as December’s crystal seal the wave.
    Homeward again Winona took her way.
    How changed in one short hour! no longer now
    The song-birds singing at her heart, but there
    A thousand gnashing furies made their lair,
    And urged her on; her nearest pathway lay
    Over a little hill, and on its brow
    A group of trees, whereof each blackened bough
    Bore up to heaven as if in protest mute
    Its clustering load of ghostly charnel fruit,[13]
    The swaddled forms of all the village dead—
    Maid, lusty warrior, and toothless hag,
    The infant and the conjurer with his bag,
    Peacefully rotting in their airy bed.
    As on a battle plain she saw them lie,
    Fouling the fairness of the moonlit sky;
    And heavily there flapped above her head,
    Some floating drapery or tress of hair,
    Loading with pestilential breath the air
    That fanned her temples, or the reeking wing
    Of unclean bird obscenely hovering;
    And something crossed her path that halting nigh,
    At the intruder glared with evil eye,—
    She hardly heeded passing swiftly by.

    Leaving behind that hideous umbrage fast,
    What wraith escaping from its tenement,
    Winona through the sleeping village passed,
    And pausing not, to Gray Cloud’s tipi went,
    Laid back the door, and with a stealthy tread,
    Entered and softly crouched beside his head.
    Her gaze that seemed to pierce his inmost thought,
    Keen as the ready knife her hand had sought,
    And through the open door the slant moonbeams
    Smiting the sleeper’s face awaked him not.
    He vaguely muttered in his wandering dreams
    Of “medicine,” and of the Thunder-Bird.
    As if to go, her knife she half returned;
    Whether her woman’s heart with pity stirred,
    Or superstitious awe, she slightly turned,
    But gazing still, over his features came
    The semblance of a smile, and his arms moved,
    Clasping in rosy dreams some form beloved,
    And his lips moved, and though no sound she heard,
    She thought they shaped her name, and a red flame
    Leaped to her brain, and through her vision passed;
    A raging demon seized and filled her frame,
    And like a lightning flash leaped forth her knife:
    That cold keen heart-pang is his last of life;
    The Water-Demon is avenged at last.



PART III.


    She struck but once, no need hath lightning stroke
    For second blow to rend the heart of oak,
    Nor waited there to see how Gray Cloud died;
    Her fury all in that fierce outburst spent,
    As from a charnel cave she fled the tent;
    The wolfish dog suspiciously outside
    Sniffed at her moccasins but let her pass.
    Her tipi soon she reached, distant no more
    Than arrow from a warrior’s bowstring sent,
    Paused but to wipe her knife upon the grass,
    And found her usual couch upon the floor.
    But not to sleep; she closed her eyes in vain,
    Shutting away the moonlight from her view;
    Darkness and moonlight wore the same dread hue,
    Flooding the universe with crimson stain.
    She clasped her bosom with her hands to still
    The throbbing of her heart that seemed to fill
    With tell-tale echoes all the air; an owl
    The secret with unearthly shrieks confessed,
    And Gray Cloud’s dog sent forth a doleful howl
    At intervals; but worse than all the rest,
    That dreadful drum still beating in her breast,
    As furious war-drums in the scalp-dance beat
    To the mad circling of delirious feet.

    Early next morning, as the first faint rays
    Of sunlight through the rustling lindens played,
    Two children sent to seek the conjurer’s aid,
    Gazed on the sight, with horror and amaze,
    Of Gray Cloud’s lifeless body rolled in blood.
    Fast through the village spread the news, and stirred
    With mingled fear and wonder all who heard.
    The oracles were baffled and dismayed,
    And spoke with muffled tones and looks of dread:
    “Some envious foeman lurking in the wood,
    With medicine more strong than his,” they said,
    “Stole in last night and gave the fatal wound.”
    The warriors scoured the country miles around,
    Seeking for sign or trail, but naught they found:
    The murderer left behind no clue or trace
    More than a vampire’s flight through darkling space.

    The Raven with a stoic calmness heard
    Of Gray Cloud’s death, nor showed by look or word
    The wrath that to its depth his being stirred.
    Winona heard the news with false surprise,
    As if just roused from sleep she rubbed her eyes;
    When she arose her knees like aspens shook,
    But this she quelled and forced a tranquil look
    To feign the calmness that her soul forsook.
    And when the mourning wail rose on the air,
    Winona’s voice was heard commingling there.
    She gathered with the other maidens where,
    On a rude bier, the conjurer’s body lay
    Adorned and decked in funeral array.
    She flung a handful of her sable hair,
    And wept such tears above the painted clay[14]
    As weeps a youthful widow, only heir,
    Over the coffin of a millionaire.

    Moons waxed to fulness and to sickles waned.
    The gossips still conversed with bated breath.
    The appalling mystery of Gray Cloud’s death,
    Wrapped in impenetrable gloom, remained
    A blighting shadow o’er the village spread.
    But youthful spirits are invincible,
    Nor fear nor superstition long can quell
    The bubbling flow of that perennial well;
    And so the youths and maidens soon regained
    The wonted gayety that late had fled.
    All save Winona, in whose face and mien,
    Unto the careless eye, no change was seen;
    But one that noted might sometimes espy
    A furtive fear that shot across her eye,
    As in a forest, ’thwart some bit of blue,
    Darts a rare bird that shuns the hunter’s view.
    Her laugh, though gay, a subtle change confessed,
    And in her attitude a vague unrest
    Betrayed a world of feelings unexprest.
    A shade less light her footsteps in the dance,
    And sometimes now the Raven’s curious glance
    Her soul with terrors new and strange oppressed.

    Grief shared is lighter, none had she to share
    Burdens that grew almost too great to bear,
    For Redstar sometimes seemed to look askance,
    And sought, they said, to win another breast.
    Winona feigned to laugh, but in her heart
    The rumor rankled like a poisoned dart.
    Sometimes she almost thought the Raven guessed
    The guilty secrets that her thoughts oppressed,
    And sought, whene’er she could, to shun his sight.
    Apart from human kind, still more and more,
    The Raven dwelt, and human speech forbore.
    And once upon a wild tempestuous night,
    When all the demons of the earth and air
    Like raging furies were embattled there,
    She, peering fearfully, amid the swarm
    Flitting athwart the flashes of the storm,
    By fitful gleams beheld the Raven’s form.
    To her he spoke not since the fateful night
    His chosen comrade passed from human sight,
    Save only once, forgetting he was by
    And half forgetting too her cares and woes,
    Unto her lips some idle jest arose.
    “Winona,” said the Raven, in a tone
    Of stern reproof that on the instant froze
    All thought of mirth, and when she met his eye,
    As by a serpent’s charm it fixed her own;
    The hate and anger of a soul intense
    Were all compressed in that remorseless glance,
    The coldly cruel meaning of whose sense
    Smote down the shield of her false innocence.
    She strove to wrest her eye from his in vain,
    Held by that gaze ophidian like a bird,
    As in a trance she neither breathed nor stirred.
    And gazing thus an icy little lance,
    Smaller than quill from wing of humming-bird,
    Shot from his eyes, and a keen stinging pain
    Sped through the open windows of her brain.
    Her senses failed, she sank upon the ground,
    And darkness veiled her eyes; she never knew
    How long this was, but when she slowly grew
    Back from death’s counterfeit, and looked around,
    So little change was there, that it might seem
    The scene had been but a disordered dream.
    The Raven sat in his accustomed place,
    Smoking his solitary pipe; his face,
    A gloomy mask that none might penetrate,
    Betrayed no sign of anger, grief, or hate;
    Absorbed so deep in thoughts that none might share,
    He noted not Winona’s presence there;
    From his disdainful lips the thin blue smoke
    From time to time in little spirals broke,
    Floating like languid sneers upon the air,
    And settling round him in a veil of blue
    So sinister to her disordered view,
    That she arose and quickly stole away.
    She shunned him more than ever from that day,
    And never more unmoved could she behold
    That countenance inscrutable and cold.

    But Hope and Love, like Indian summer’s glow,
    Gilding the prairies ere December’s snow,
    Lit with a transient beam Winona’s eye.
    The season for the Maidens’ Dance drew nigh,
    And Redstar vowed, whatever might betide,
    To claim her on the morrow as his bride.
    What now to her was all the world beside?
    The evil omens darkening all her sky,
    Malicious sneers, her rival’s envious eye,
    While her false lover lingered at her side,
    All passed like thistle-down unheeded by.

    The evening for the dance arrived at last;
    An ancient crier through the village passed,
    And summoned all the maidens to repair
    To the appointed place, a greensward where,
    Since last year unprofaned by human feet,
    Rustled the prairie grass and flowers sweet.
    None but the true and pure might enter there—
    Maidens whose souls unspotted had been kept.
    At set of sun the circle there was formed,
    And thitherward the happy maidens swarmed.
    The people gathered round to view the scene:
    Old men in broidered robes that trailing swept,
    And youths in all their finery arrayed,
    Dotting like tropic birds the prairie green,
    Their rival graces to the throng displayed.
    Winona came the last, but as she stept
    Into the mystic ring one word, “Beware!”
    Rang out in such a tone of high command
    That all was still, and every look was turned
    To where the Raven stood; his stern eye burned,
    And like a flower beneath that withering glare
    She faded fast. No need that heavy hand
    To lead Winona from the joyous band;
    No need those shameful words that stained the air:
    “Let not the sacred circle be defiled
    By one who, all too easily beguiled,
    Beneath her bosom bears a warrior’s child.”

    Winona swiftly fleeing, as she passed,
    One look upon her shrinking lover cast
    That scared his coward heart for many a day,
    Into the deepest woods she took her way.
    The dance was soon resumed, and as she fled,
    Like hollow laughter chasing overhead,
    Pursued the music and the maidens’ song.
    Just as she passed from sight an angry eye
    Glared for a moment from the western sky,
    And flung one quivering shaft of dazzling white,
    With tenfold thunder-peal, adown the night.
    Her mother followed her, and sought her long,
    Calling and listening through the falling dew,
    While fast and furious still the cadence grew
    Of the gay dance, whose distant music fell,
    Smiting the mother like a funeral knell.
    High rode the sun in heaven next day before
    The stricken mother found along the shore
    The object of her unremitting quest.
    The cooling wave whereon she lay at rest
    Had stilled the tumult of Winona’s breast.
    Along that shapely ruin’s plastic grace,
    And in the parting of her braided hair,
    The hopeless mother’s glances searching there
    The Thunder-Bird’s mysterious mark might trace.

    So died Winona, and let all beware,
    For vengeance follows fast and will not spare,
    Nor maid, nor warrior that dares offend
    Who hath the cruel Thunder-Bird for friend.


FOOTNOTES

[1] Thunder-Bird, a supernatural winged creature which causes thunder and
lightning by the flapping of its wings and the winking of its eyes.

[2] The name given by the Dakotas to the first-born, if a female.

[3] Tipi, skin tent.

[4] An edible root found on the prairies.

[5] The Crow Indians, hereditary foes of the Dakotas, call themselves
Absaraka, which means crow in their language.

[6] Each Indian guest at a banquet carries with him his own wooden bowl
and horn spoon.

[7] Many Indians believe in the transmigration of souls, and some of them
profess to remember previous states of existence.

[8] A renowned chief formerly living on Lake Pepin.

[9] A supernatural monster inhabiting the larger rivers and lakes, and
hereditary foe of the Thunder-Bird.

[10] The falls of St. Anthony.

[11] The name given to the first-born, if a male. Upon becoming a warrior
or performing some notable feat, the youth is permitted to select another
name.

[12] Hereditary foe of the Dakotas.

[13] The Dakotas formerly disposed of their dead by fastening them to the
branches of trees, or to rude platforms. This is still practised to some
extent.

[14] The Indians paint and adorn a body before sepulture.



MISCELLANEOUS POEMS



TO A YOUNG MAN.


    Caress thy pleasures with a reverent touch,
      Too soon at best their early fragrance flees.
    Seek not to know, to see, or taste too much:
      The sweetest, deepest cup hath still its lees;
    The blushing grape is not too rudely pressed,
    When gushes forth its richest and its best.

    Bird, bubble, butterfly on light wing straying,
      With changing tints of crimson, blue, and gold,
    Upon warm waves of summer sunlight swaying,
      When thy frail, flaming wing the boy shall hold,
    Alas, how soon its fragile charms expire!
    E’en so when strong men seize their soul’s desire.

    Rend not with ruthless hand the lily’s bell,
      To gather all its sweetness at a breath;
    Spill not the pearl deep in its bosom’s cell,
      The crystal gift Aurora’s tears bequeath.
    So shall a delicate perfume be thine,
    Through all the weary hours of day’s decline.

    The gentlest spirits of the earth and air—
      Sweet mysteries to ruder men unknown—
    Will yield delights as delicate as rare,
      The secret bowers of Love shall be thy own,
    The one great bliss, so long thy hope’s despair,
    Will press with eager feet to find thee there.



TELL ME, DEAR BIRD.


    In the warm twilight where I mused, there came
    A bird of unknown race with breast of flame.

    Tell me, dear bird, O bird with breast of flame,
    I conjure thee, e’en by his sacred name,
    How may I lure and win Love to my side?
    There is no lure for Love, in patience bide,
    And if he cometh not await him still,
    Love cometh only when and where he will.

    But when he cometh, bird with breast of flame,
    Teach me his roving feet to bind and tame.
    Many have sought to bind him, but in vain;
    He will not brook nor gold nor silken chain.
    If he is caught, Love languishes and dies,
    And ’tis not Love, if free to stay, he flies.

    Tell me, dear bird, O bird with breast of flame,
    When true Love comes, how may I know his name?
    What are the golden words upon his tongue:
    What message sweeter than a seraph’s song?
    Love hath no shibboleth, and where are words
    For the enraptured songs of summer birds?

    Tell me, dear Love, O bird with breast of flame,
    The deepest sense and meaning of thy name?
    Two all-sufficing souls for woe or bliss,
    But what they do, or what their converse is,
    Love only knows; they walk where none may see,
    Wrapped in the shades of a sweet mystery.



PERDITA.


    Far away under Hesper,
      In seas never crossed,
    Like a faint-uttered whisper,
      Forgotten and lost;
    Where no sail ever flies
      O’er the face of the deep,
    A lost island lies
      Forgotten, asleep.
    An island reposes,
      Distant and dim,
    Where a cloud-veil of roses
    Never uncloses,
    Dreams and reposes
      On the horizon’s rim.
    An island arrayed
      In such magical grace,
    It would seem to be made
      For some happier race.
    Each valley and bower
      Has a charm of its own;
    A perfume each flower,
      Elsewhere unknown;
    A charm of such power
      That once known to the heart,
    If but for an hour,
      It can never depart.
    E’en the surges of ocean,
      Ceasing their roar,
    Their rage and commotion,
      Sigh in on the shore
    With a melody saintly,
      As vespers that seem
    Chanted so quaintly,
    By sisters so saintly,
    Mingling so faintly
      With the voice of a dream.

    One summer time olden,
      That standeth alone
    With its memories golden,
      That isle was my own.
    O island enchanted!
      Where now does she rove—
    The bright nymph that haunted
      Thy fountain and grove,
    While still at her side,
      Whereever she strayed,
    By the mountain or tide,
      My footsteps were stayed?
    Do her pulses still beat
      To the pulses of yore?
    Say, now, do her feet
      Tread some pitiless shore,
    Still hoping to meet
      One who cometh no more?

    O that summer! its ray
      In my heart lingers yet,
    Long after the day-
      Star it came from has set.
    My star of the night
      And of morning was she,
    My song-bird, my white-
      Wingèd bark on the sea;
    My rainbow, illuming
      With beauty and light;
    My rose-garden, blooming,
    Sweetly perfuming
    The hours of the night.

    But at last, in its fleetness,
      It seemed that each day
    From the charm and the sweetness
      Took something away,
    Till the flowers all faded
      From summer’s bright crown,
      The skies were o’ershadowed,
    The forests were brown.
      In the voices of morning
    There crept a new tone,
    A faint whispered warning
      From regions unknown,
    And over each heart
      Stole a mystical fear
    That our joy would depart
      With the flight of the year.
    A pale, cold, new-comer
      Had entered our isle,
    From a land beyond summer
      And sunshine and smile,
    Subduing us quite,
      Though we saw not his face,
    As winter gives blight
      When it cometh apace.
    Her glances and mine
      Sought each other no more,
    Each fearing some sign
      Not seen there before.
    Yet no word was revealing
      Misgiving or chill;
    Each sought for concealing
    The deathly, congealing
      Foreboding of ill.

    But at last came a night
      When our last song was sung,
    And like children in fright
      Together we clung.
    No farewell was spoken,
      Our voices were dumb,
    But we knew without token
      That parting was come.
    In the darkness that bound us
      A night-bird did sing,
    And the black air around us
      Was moved by his wing,
    As in vulture waves sweeping
      He sped from the shore,
    And away from my keeping
      My Day-star he tore.



STANZAS TO ⸺.


    Bitter bewailing
    Sweet Life’s sad failing
    Is unavailing
      Your prayers or mine.
    Years onward sweeping
    Bring blight for reaping,
    For laughter weeping,
      Wormwood for wine.

    The old sweet vision
    Comes to derision
    The dream Elysian
      That once was ours.
    The rushing river
    Mocks our endeavor,
    And soon will sever
      My bark from yours.

    One joy shall bide me
    Whate’er betide me,
    This still shall guide me
      Till life shall fleet;
    Though friends forsake me,
    Fate rudely shake me,
    And Time shall break me
      Beneath his feet,

    No power above me
    From this can move me—
    My Queen did love me!
      One golden day
    Her proud heart found me,
    Her arms were around me,
    Her red lips crowned me
      A King for aye.

    O rapturous meeting!
    Thy passionate greeting
    Was the high beating
      Of a young soul,
    For one full yearning,
    Hour spurning,
    The fetters burning
      Of Fate’s control.

    The chilling power
    Of rank and dower
    That sacred hour
      Soon overcast,
    And from our faces
    Swept the faint traces
    Of those embraces,
      The first and last.

    She may recover,
    When days are over,
    Some happier lover,
      Forsaking me.
    I, e’en though hated,
    Am consecrated;
    More meanly mated
      Can never be.

    Let new flames redden
    Where light loves deaden,
    Let pulses leaden
      Leap forth anew;
    But on this altar
    Till breath shall falter,
    Though all else alter,
      Nought shall renew.



LOVE’S TRIBUTES.


    O that I might inspire my song with power
    To crown thy brows with more than queenly dower;
    To pour on thee a more than golden shower,
    And fill thy soul with sunshine every hour.

    Time breaks at last the lyre’s sweetest strings,
    And palls the sweetest note the minstrel sings,
    And riches fly away on falcon wings:
    Love only to his trust unchanging clings.

    Then be my song of whatsoe’er degree,
    And gifts however bright and fair to see,
    Rare trophies peril won by land and sea,
    Yet Love his own chief offering must be.

    All that the flower of Love may yield is thine,
    From blushing bud to clusters on the vine,
    With colors rich as rubies from the mine,
    And odors mounting to the soul like wine.

    But all, I know, is paltry in thine eyes,
    So far above them all thy worth doth rise.
    In vain my muse with feeble pinions tries
    To reach the regions where thy merit lies.

    Still o’er Love’s treasures hold thy sovereign sway;
    Taste them or spill them, keep or cast away;
    By night or daytime, hasten or delay,
    Trample them, cull them, go thine own sweet way.



THE LITTLE SHEPHERDESS.

PASTORELLE.


    Little lamb, I pray O come to me,
    None to caress and love have I but thee.
    Why art thou not some tender shepherd swain,
    Then loving thee would ease my weary pain.
    My sister Susan, she is fair and tall,
    And she may choose among the shepherds all,
    And she is called sweet names—my dear, my pet;
    Ah me! I’m brown, and I’m too little yet.

    Then stepping forth from a concealing shade,
    A youth beyond compare approached the maid,
    And, whisp’ring softly in her startled ear,
    She heard the tender words, “My pet, my dear.”
    She blushing stood, confused with downcast eyes,
    But heart and face were filled with glad surprise;
    And happier far than Susan tall and fair,
    The little nut-brown maiden trembling there.



A FAREWELL.


    ’Tis true that once I sighed for
      That tender heart of thine;
    I thought I could have died for
      The bliss I now decline.
    Too many swains enchanted,
      Since then within that heart,
    Have had sweet shelter granted
      For me to claim a part.

    Farewell, dear one, thy sorrow,
      Thy tears are all in vain;
    That tender heart to-morrow
      Will find some newer swain.
    Thou hast no necromancy
      To restore the passing sway,
    Of what was but the fancy
      Of an idle summer day.



TO A FICKLE FAIR ONE.


    Some birds mate three times in a year,
      And I have called thee oft my bird.
    I knew not even shame and fear
      Could bind thee long; take my last word,
          Good-bye, sweet bird.



TO THE SAME.


    Constancy and the Phœnix, birds that dwell
      In the bright realms of song, happy his fate
    Who elsewhere meets with one, for, mark it well,
      Sooner or later he will find its mate.



THE PALACE OF REPOSE.


    Helpless we start before the break of day,
    And grope along an unknown path our way,
    Or follow leaders blind, and many fall;
    But on we press, heedless and joyous all,
    As happy fledglings fluttering in the brake,
    That nothing reck of prowling fox or snake.
    When over us at last the daylight dawns,
    We bear the marks of many cruel thorns;
    But brightly on the far horizon gleams
    (Of more than earthly grace the vision seems)
    The Palace of Repose, that rears on high
    Its golden domes against the western sky,
    While warm and tender as a poet’s dreams,
    The restful radiance from each tower that streams.

    Now through the early morning air we fly,
    As the young shepherd sped with beaming eye
    Fast fixed upon the rose-born butterfly.
    Toward flowery vales and hills our pathway leads,
    But when we reach them all their beauty fades.
    Hills that were fairer, ere their paths were won,
    Than the long slopes of fountained Helicon,
    Are marred by poisonous weeds and flinty stone;
    And forms that seemed, against the distant skies,
    Winging their snowy way to Paradise,
    Are birds unclean, whose wings are like a breath
    From some great charnel-house in lands of death.
    And shifting sands beneath our feet are spread,
    And pitfalls numberless beset our way,
    Where noisome reptiles fill us with dismay;
    On either side lie, fathomless and dim,
    Wide plains where wander phantoms stark and grim.

    Noon comes; the goal no nearer, on we haste,
    Nor note the lengthening shadows of the past.
    Luring us on we hear the far, faint moan
    Of music, weird and sweet as Memnon’s tone,
    Heard in the desert by the traveller lone;
    Bewildering as the sounds the shepherds erst
    Heard in the vales of Thessaly, when first
    Apollo’s wondrous music on them burst.
    Of all that started with us, hand in hand,
    Only a few are left, a dwindling band.
    With haggard faces fixed upon the goal,
    E’en as the needle to the steadfast pole,
    Swifter and swifter, till the evening air
    Sings like a serpent through our back-blown hair.
    But lo, the night has come,
                              The sun goes down,
    His trailing robes with crimson glories crown
    The palace we had almost deemed was ours.
    Dearer than ever seem those fading towers,
    Whose oriel windows gleam like soul-lit eyes
    For one bright moment ere thick darkness lies
    On earth and sky, then trembling, faint, and sore,
    Closing our pathway, lo, we find a door,
    The entrance to a narrow house that still
    Blocks up the way of every human will.
    Wander where’er we may, this self-same goal
    Is reached at last by every weary soul.
    Our burdens fall unheeded, and our gains,—
    This is the end of all our toil and pains.

    Over the threshold hangs a shrunken lute,
    Upon a tree where grows nor flower nor fruit;
    Bewildering odors fill the heavy air,
    The nightshade and the wolf’s-bane mingle there;
    The faint perfume of rose and lily, too,
    Is swallowed up by asphodel and rue.
    We enter in, behold, a lowly bed,
    How sweet the poppied perfume o’er it shed,
    Where the red poppy swings its censer head.

    There sleep shall seize and bind us, sleep supreme,
    That knows no waking morn, no troubled dream.
    The years shall swiftly cover us from sight,
    In silence and insuperable night.



MOODS.


    My wayward youth had drained the cup of Life,
    Wasting its treasures in the fitful strife,
    The mad revolt of a rebellious soul,
    That beats the stubborn bars of Fate’s control.
    My foolish heart whispered, there is no God,
    And if there is, let cravens fear his rod:
    Be thy own god, slake thy imperious thirst
    Where’er thou wilt, no fountain is accurst.
    Many strange paths my restless feet had sought,
    Not all ignoble, but to each I brought
    The turbulence of will that grasps at all,
    And, failing, breaks itself against the wall.
    Too late I knew my impotence at last,
    When the bright glow of youth was overpast.

    Worn out, exhausted by the weary route
    That leads from knowledge to disgust and doubt,
    Defeat, deceit, and baffled purpose stole
    Like a corroding canker to my soul.
    I hated Life, scorned and despised my kind,
    So far astray may err the unbridled mind.
    I had been nigh to death; the sullen wave
    Already my consenting feet did lave,
    When one who thought to be my friend, and fain
    Had done me kindness, plucked me back again.
    They said my reason wandered, and had found
    A peaceful nook remote from sight or sound
    Of busy men; there by the moonlit sea
    On a soft couch I lay, where over me
    Through the low lattice the sea odors crept,
    And from the landward side about me swept
    Soft languid waves of amorous perfume,
    Of pollen-dust, of bursting bud and bloom.

    Wrecked by the storm of life, and cast aside
    Like drift rejected by the loathing tide,
    Vacant of heart and thought I lay; the air
    That wooed my cheek and gently stirred my hair,
    Laden with yearning voices of the spring,
    Awoke in me no answering tone or string.

    From the deep shadows of the sleeping wood
    A baleful night-bird swept the solitude;
    The shuddering moonlight like a living thing
    Shrank from the touch of his defiling wing;
    And fiercely following like an eager pack
    Of wingèd hounds upon his lurid track,
    Lewd mocking spirits filled the thickening air,
    Swarming as to a charnel banquet there.
    Close at my ear burst forth a piercing yell,
    As if each ghoul and fiend from nether hell
    Had burst its bonds, and joined that chorus fell;
    My quivering veins and nerves to frenzy stung,
    In discord jangled like a harp unstrung.
    Suddenly at my heart a quick sharp pluck,
    As ’twere some foot of small fierce bird had struck
    And griped me sore; then after some short space
    The keen pain seized me in another place;
    I felt myself clasped in a rude embrace,
    And o’er my body spread swift fleeting pangs,
    Sickening and deadly as a serpent’s fangs.
    Quivering in every limb then I was ’ware
    Of a strange woman bending o’er me there,
    With ashen hair, that in the moonlight pale
    Rippled about her shoulders like a veil;
    In her cold eyes that pierced me through and through,
    There dimly lurked a look that once I knew.
    Her face was bloodless, as of one that’s dead,
    But oh! her little mouth, how rosy red,
    Beset with glittering little fangs that bled,
    Fresh from the cruel feast whereon they fed.
    Cold was her bosom, and her clammy arms—
    No ruddy current warmed those shapely charms.
    The air grew stifling, and upon my ear
    Fell strident whispers chilling me with fear.

    “Dost thou not know my face? in my close kiss
    Lingers no essence of the olden bliss?
    Doth not my breath revive the ancient fire,
    And fill the shrunken veins of dead desire?
    I am the child of all thy joys; ere Death
    Swallowed them up each left with me some breath,
    Some drop of blood, some accent, or some look,
    A token from each fleeting hour I took;
    In me thy vanished raptures all unite
    The perfect fruit of all thy past delight.
    Long have I sought thee, now that thou art found,
    Now that my limbs about thee have been wound,
    And that my lips have fed upon thy face,
    Nothing shall tear thee more from my embrace;
    Dearer thou art to me than all that dwell
    In the wide triple realms, Earth, Heaven and Hell.
    Thou art my fruitful vineyard, and my well,
    My gilded mountain top, and flowery dell
    Whereon my lips shall pasture all the night,
    Vanishing only with the morning light.
    For in thy arms the olden joys I taste,
    And round us swarm the spectres of the past;
    The ruddy light still in their hollow eyes
    Lingers that shone upon our revelries
    In gay Lisboa’s palaces of pride,
    When every mask and cheek was flung aside,
    Virtue was mocked, and God and man defied.

    “And youthful joys far from Lisboa’s town
    Through some green byway of the years float down;
    Over fair Lusitania’s hills and plains
    Again we wander free from sinful stains;
    Though viewed through mist of tears, the earliest scenes
    Are brightest still whatever intervenes.
    The leafy songs that thrill the listening wood,
    And answering birds that make sweet interlude,
    The sylvan lakes illuminated by
    The rainbows arching all our summer sky,
    And swans that drift along the shore at rest—
    A string of pearls upon a swelling breast.”

    Ranging amid the garden groves of youth,
    The luring voice grew softer, till in sooth
    Like pulsing of a moonlight lute it fell,
    Lulling my senses with a rhythmic spell.
    I know not if I slumbered, but anon
    Those odious limbs about my own were thrown;
    I started up with thick and laboring breath,
    And sickening loathing almost unto death;
    “O Christ!” I cried, lo, at that sacred name
    The foul shape vanished, and instead one came
    Clad in soft light as from an inner flame,
    And held an ebon cross whereon there bled
    A great white Christ, with loving arms outspread.
    Singing afar a tender voice I heard,
    Faintly the accents fell, “Flee as a bird.”
    Then, as the spring-tides yearning to the moon,
    Flood the dry hollows where we walked at noon,
    E’en so the tidal-wave of feeling rose,
    And memories wakened from their long repose,
    And rushing back through many a dusty year
    Left me again a reverent child at prayer.

    Again the simple worshippers I saw
    Kneeling in fervent prayer; I heard with awe
    Once more the shameful tale recounted o’er:
    The buffets and revilings that He bore,
    The crown of thorns, the wormwood, and the gall,
    And our foul sins more bitter than them all,
    Filling the cup that our vile hands have pressed
    To the pure lips of our expiring Christ.
    Gazing upon the Saviour’s agony,
    Through my dark soul a cleansing current swept,
    And tears of humble penitence I wept.
    Softly I wept at first, then gathering force,
    Burst forth a storm of passionate remorse,
    Till my frail couch shook like an autumn leaf
    In the tempestuous torrent of my grief.
    Stretching my trembling hands, “O Christ!” I cried,
    “Would that with thee I might be crucified,
    So I might share thy love. O let me find
    Some sure retreat remote from all my kind,
    Far from the voice of priest or minister,
    Where reigns the silence of the sepulchre;
    To some far rocky island let me flee,
    Piercing the bosom of an unknown sea,
    There let me live in sweet converse with thee.
    Or in some Theban desert, too remote
    E’en for the sound of Memnon’s warning note,
    Or ’mid the rocks on Sinai’s shaking brow,
    Where the fierce fires of God’s anger glow;
    Or buried in some clammy convent cell,
    No matter where, dear Lord, so I may dwell
    Apart from all the universe but thee;
    So that my name may perish utterly
    From memory of man; so that no sound
    Of human voice or footstep may resound
    Through the deep portals of my solitude.
    There let me purge my sins with penance rude,
    The scourge, the midnight vigil, and the fast,
    Until I know thee, face to face at last.”
    How weak are all this life’s most tempting joys,
    Love, wealth, ambition, transitory toys,
    To those that flood the lonely anchorite
    In the rapt moments of his soul’s delight.
    The sweetest words of Jesus are not found
    In Holy Writ; who in his grace abound,
    Forsaking all the world to bear his cross,
    Counting all human love and honor dross;
    Who wears the thorny crown upon his head,
    And loveth better than his daily bread
    The scourge, the iron chain, the stony bed,
    Worn out with vigils, spent with sighs and tears,
    Jesus perchance may whisper in his ears,
    Sweeter than music of the choral spheres,
    The unwritten words that soothed the Magdalene.
    Perchance on Jesus’ bosom he may lean,
    A deeper sense than language can impart
    Lies in the throbbing of that wondrous heart.

    The moon went down, the night grew dark and dense,
    The aspiration of my soul intense
    Took real form and garb, or so it seemed,
    And bore me on to all that I had dreamed.
    Into the narrow dungeon where I lay
    The Saviour came, and gently put away
    My scourging hand; his smile ineffable
    With more than earthly radiance lit my cell—
    Sweeter than wanton couch had ever known,
    The rapture Jesus bringeth to his own.
    Naked and prone upon the dungeon stone,
    His love suffused me with a rosy glow.
    His words of grace and pardon, murmured low,
    Thrilled me and filled my spirit’s pulsing vein,
    Till like a ship impatient for the main
    Her snowy wings tugged at the anchor chain.

    I slept profoundly; when I woke, the sun
    Already more than half his course had run.
    Light willing feet were moving round my couch,
    And gentle hands with ministering touch.
    They brought me dainties, and their cheerful words,
    The hum of honey-bees, the voice of birds,
    The grand old forest’s potent influence
    Subdued and mingled with my every sense,
    And moved my being to accord and tune
    With all the leafy harmonies of June,
    As if some conscious hand beneficent
    A hideous nightmare pall had from me rent.

    I wandered out alone beneath the trees
    And in a tempting spot reclined at ease,
    My head in the cool shade, and at my feet
    Streaming the amber sunlight’s genial heat.
    My spirits rose, and quickening pulses beat,
    Surprised to find that living still was sweet.
    The tree-tops o’er me seemed to melt away—
    Green islets floating on an azure bay;
    And I in fancy floated with them, too,
    Drifting forever down the ether blue.
    Half dreaming thus, so quietly I lay
    The forest denizens resumed their play;
    But furtively, as though they feared to break
    The spell that brooded in the air, or wake
    Some discord slumbering in the solitude.
    A bird sang nigh me, but with voice subdued;
    The mossy oaks like kingly graybeards stood,
    And stretched inviting arms; the aspens wooed
    With myriad beckoning leaves, and each slant beam,
    Flung from the flying sun-god’s hand, did seem
    A rosy finger-tip that coyly pointed
    To some deep trysting-place by wood-nymphs haunted.
    Long vistas led away mysteriously,
    So tempting that I almost thought to see
    Arch faces from the nearer branches peeping,
    And clumsy satyrs in the distance leaping.

    The nymph, the satyr, and the bounding fawn
    That filled the groves of Thessaly are gone.
    The merry train that circled Oberon
    Trip it no more upon the moonlit lawn.
    But let them pass nor mourn the solitude:
    Far sweeter than the whole fantastic brood
    Is one weak, loving woman’s human form.
    A woman’s voice, low, tremulous, and warm,
    Hath a more potent spell to lull the charm
    Than Orphean lute, or siren’s song, where passed
    The wave-worn mariner lashed to his mast.

    Two doves thrust out their small heads timidly
    From the low branches of a neighboring tree,
    Looking askance, and peering through the green,
    Like foolish lovers fearing to be seen,
    Then, reassured, resumed their blissful play.
    I smiled to see them, thinking of a day,
    Just such another day as this, last year,
    When with a damsel I had wandered here,
    Amid these very vistas, and I thought
    Of a deep vine-clad arbor we had sought.
    Our words, our looks, our tender dalliance, all,
    Like birds of passage at the swallow’s call,
    Came trooping back, on light wings fluttering,
    And through me swept the quickening breath of spring.
    Seen through the shimmering aspen leaves afar
    A fair face twinkled on me like a star,
    And rustle of bright garments drawing nigh
    Fluttered my heart with strange expectancy.

           *       *       *       *       *

    And soon two happy lovers wandered far,
    And tarried till the rising of the evening star.



TO ⸺.


    Her heart is a flower that long hath slept
    Where clammy night-dews o’er it wept,
    But now to love and rapture wakes
    As the flushing glory of morning breaks,
    And the heavy tears that chilled it so
    Pure diamonds all in the sunshine glow.

    Her hair is a sea of golden waves
    Love’s beauteous temple wall that laves,
    Rippling o’er two rosy shells
    Wherein the soul of music dwells,
    To break in hyacinthine curl
    Caressing the base of purest pearl.

    Her eyes, twin mountain pools that lie
    Reflecting back the summer sky,
    A fringe of graceful poplars there
    Sway softly in the amorous air.
    Oh! he who fathoms those wondrous eyes
    Will see the joys of Paradise.

    A crimson little rose her mouth
    Exhales the memories of the South;
    And when its petals gently move,
    Breathing some tender word of love,
    No angel’s voice at gates of bliss
    Hath promise to compare with this.
    Her brow a page of vellum fair,
    ’Twere vain to seek for tracery there;
    Pure as Mount Athos, yet I know
    Beneath that alabaster brow
    One tender secret, guarded well,
    Stirs sweetly in its guarded cell.

           *       *       *       *       *

    How many hundred hearts have beat
    To the faint music of her feet;
    What yearning eyes devour the grass
    That ripples where her footsteps pass,
    Beneath her kirtle’s airy sweep,
    Like moonbeams glancing o’er the deep.

    A snowy miracle of grace
    Her circling arms, for whose embrace
    Hyperion’s self might vainly sigh.
    Oh! if within those arms to lie
    To happy mortal e’er were given,
    How tame were all the joys of heaven.
    Sheltered by those endearing charms
    From my own spirit’s dark alarms,
    Endymion were not half so blest
    Fainting upon his Phœbe’s breast.



TO ⸺.


    Revolving years another May-day bring;
    Earth at this bridal season’s glad return
    Blooms forth again in bridal robes of spring,
    Expectant, waiting, trembling, all things yearn.
    Cries then aloud the voice I thought was slain,
    Calls as of yore my stormy deep to thine;
    Answer is mute, I hear no voice but mine.



TO THE SAME.


    Rarer and dearer seen through smiles or tears,
    Each day thy well-remembered face appears,
    Beaming through all the clouds and mists of years.
    Enfolding thee in dreams, my yearning kisses
    Cling to that face till all our perished blisses
    Come back like phantoms dear that re-awaken,
    And haste to greet their loved ones long forsaken.



TO THE SAME.


    Right gladly would I twine a wreath of flowers,
    Each morn for thee from dewy garden bowers;
    But when I cull them, lo! they turn at view,
    E’en in my hands, to nightshade and to rue;
    Circling, beloved one, thy temples rare,
    Catching the halo of thy golden hair,
    Again they glow, roses and lilies there.



TRANSLATIONS AND IMITATIONS



IF MY VERSES HAD WINGS LIKE A BIRD.

AFTER VICTOR HUGO.


    If my verses had wings like a bird,
      To thy garden of perfume and light
      They would flutter with timid delight,
    If my verses had wings like a bird.

    If my verses, like fairies, had wings,
      To thy fireside at eve they would fly,
      To sparkle and gleam in thine eye,
    If my verses, like fairies, had wings.

    Pure pinions around and above,
      All day would rustle and gleam,
      They would whisper at night to thy dream,
    If my verses were wingèd like Love.



’TWIXT SLEEP AND WAKING.

AFTER THE FRENCH OF PROSPER BLANCHEMAIN.


    Lying alone last night, ’twixt sleep and waking,
    My cruel mistress passed, with queenly tread,
    With smile of cold disdain, and haughty head,
    And scornful eyes, whereat my heart was breaking;
    The vision was so true in all its seeming,
    I scarcely could believe that I was dreaming.

    But when she came, and o’er me lowly bending,
    Upon me rained the kisses of her mouth,
    Laden with all the perfume of the South,
    Murmuring the while of blisses never ending,
    And in her eyes I saw the love-light gleaming,—
    Ah! then I knew that I was only dreaming.



WHITE SWAN SAILING.

FROM THE RUSSIAN.


    White swan, sailing all the day,
    Peering in the wave below
    As thou sailest proud and slow,
    Round and round, and to and fro,
    Seekest thou another, say?
    Seest thou, in vaults below,
    Through the wave inscrutable,
    Joy of heaven or woe of hell?

    Cruel swan, why mock me so?
    Scornful sailing to and fro,
    Answering not my questionings,
    While above thy snowy breast
    Rises haughty neck and crest.
    Sure, beneath thy folded wings,
    Knowledge lies of many things—
    Secrets that I long to know.
    Voices of the hollow wave,
    Whispering as from a grave,
    Murmur to thy listening ear
    Secrets that I fain would hear.

    Lo, I see another crest
    Mirrored in the wave below,
    And a bosom white as snow
    Sails majestical and slow,
    Unto thine ’tis closely pressed;
    Face to face and breast to breast,
    Two white swans majestic go
    Round and round and to and fro.

    Peering through the hollow wave
    As into an open grave,
    Lo, I see another there;
    Find the face and form of one,
    Thought of whom I fain would shun
    More than all beneath the sun;
    Find a face already where
    Time’s inexorable touch
    Leaveth traces overmuch,
    And steely fingers soon will tear,
    Rending cruel furrows there.

    Peering through the hollow wave,
    Wistfully as in a grave,
    Could I see another breast
    As it was in Long Ago
    (Or perhaps I dreamed it so),
    Where my own might hope to rest;
    Not of mine the counterpart,
    But a bosom white as snow,
    Proud, but tender, pressed to mine,
    As thy double unto thine;
    Would the rapture slay me, say?
    Swelling, welling from my heart,
    Soul and body rend apart?
    Would the rapture slay me? nay,
    Such a death were sweeter bliss
    Than I find in life like this.



THE ROSES OF SAADI.

AFTER THE FRENCH OF DESBORDES-VALMORE.


    As I passed through the Valley of Roses to-day
      I gathered the fairest and sweetest for thee,
    But my robes were so full that the knots burst away,
      And all my sweet roses fell into the sea.

    A wave slowly bore them away from my sight,
      Flaming forth like a cloud-billow rosy and red;
    But on me you may breathe all their fragrance to-night,
      For my bosom is sweet with the odors they shed.



ROSE-BUDS.

AFTER THE FRENCH OF BÉRANGER.


    O timid rose-buds, why delay your bloom,
      The frost of Time is chill upon my hair;
    Unclose your petals, shed your sweet perfume,
      Like vesper incense on the evening air.

    Gladden my withered heart while yet you may,
      A rock is hid beneath each glowing wave;
    The ardent sun, wooing your lips to-day,
      To-morrow’s noon may mock your poet’s grave.

    And rose-buds, ere their time may pass away;
      The worm is there, an envious wind may blight;
    How many rose-buds have I seen decay,
      While thistles flaunt their colors in the light.

    I pluck nor buds, nor full-blown roses now,
      Your tender charms from me have naught to fear;
    No rosy wreath awaits this wrinkled brow,
      Let regal youth the crown and sceptre bear.

    Weary of strife, of cold, vain theorems,
      Of counting spots upon the sun’s fair face,
    Would that a bed beneath your friendly stems
      Were hollowed for my final resting-place.

    When the Great Reaper comes, let me be found
      Among the roses, fresh and pure as truth;
    Their perfume shed above me and around,
      Whispering my failing heart of Love and Youth.

    O timid rose-buds, why delay your bloom,
      The frost of Time is chill upon my hair;
    Unclose your petals, shed your sweet perfume
      Like vesper incense on the evening air.



THE BIRD I WAIT FOR.

AFTER THE FRENCH OF MOREAU.


    Dead, buried suns of former years arise,
      And flowers bloom I thought had died last spring;
    The birds that fled last fall our wintry skies
      People again the woods on joyous wing;
    At dawn soft rustling pinions waken me,
      And swallows darken window-pane and door;
    Breathless I listen, gazing wistfully,
      Alas, the bird I wait for comes no more.

    A high ambition swept my pulses through;
      Gazing one day upon the eagle’s flight,
    I pierced with him the heaven’s o’erarching blue,
      And beat my pinions at the gates of light.
    To-day the bird of Jove alone defies
      The sun-god’s burning glance, the tempest’s roar;
    I watch his flight unmoved, with listless eyes,
      The bird I fondly wait for comes no more.

    The lark pours forth his liquid flood of song,
      Seeking the secret covert where love lies,
    Wherein to weave a palace for his young;
      He sings his song, he loves his love and dies,
    His sweet small soul with his own music thrilled.
      O mocking warbler, cease the song to pour,
    Of Love victorious, fierce desire fulfilled,
      The bird I fondly wait for comes no more.

    The martin hovers o’er the slumbering bay,
      Deep mirrored in the blue abyss he lies,
    Now swiftly whirls and darts in idle play,
      Now rocked as in a poet’s reveries.
    O happy friend, follow thy fantasy,
      Dream on the wave, wanton along the shore,
    The bird I fondly wait for comes no more.

    Arrive at last, O messenger from heaven,
      Black envoy, bearing in thy beak of yore
    The bread to famishing Elijah given.
      Has God for me no portion I implore?
    It soon will be too late, the shadows press,
      And night-birds gather round my darkening door.
    Dead with the prophet in the wilderness,
      Alas, the bird I wait for comes no more.



VISIONS.

FROM THE FRENCH OF ALFRED DE MUSSET.


    One midnight when I was a wayward child,
    I read by stealth a romance weird and wild;
    My veins were tingling and my cheeks aflame,
    When suddenly before my vision came
    Two sad dark eyes appealing wistfully,
    A child in sable garb who looked like me.

    A child so like to me in form and face,
    It seemed a mirror standing in the place.
    He cast on me one long and earnest look,
    Then bent with me o’er the forbidden book.
    A smile mysterious he wore, but never spoke,
    And vanished from me as the daylight broke.

    The years sped by; one dreamy autumn day
    The eager chase had led me far astray;
    Fantastic shadows thronged the solitude
    Of the deep mountain forest where I stood,
    And there appeared beneath a spreading tree,
    A wanderer dressed in black, who looked like me.

    He held a quaint old lute and a fresh spray
    Of eglantine; I gently asked my way.
    He answered me no word, but took with pride
    A path straight up the towering mountain side.
    His parting glance fell on me with a thrill
    Of meaning so intense it haunts me still.

    Another year sped by; one night outside
    The room wherein my sainted mother died
    I stood alone, and friendless with my grief—
    Youth’s crushing grief that hopes not for relief,—
    I oped the door, lo, there on bended knee
    An orphan dressed in black who looked like me.

    Kneeling before the sacred ashes there
    He seemed a radiant angel in despair.
    His face was bathed in tears, his head was crowned
    With thorns, his lute was flung upon the ground,
    And o’er his sable garments flowed a tide
    Of crimson from the sword that pierced his side.

    Since then in every crisis I have known,
    Whether in busy town or desert lone,
    Angel or demon, whichsoe’er it be,
    That sable apparition comes to me.
    I never hear his voice, he stands apart,
    Yet like a brother twines about my heart.

    Now, all my idols burned in civil strife,
    Willing to love or re-create my life,
    My feet, self-exiled from their natal strand,
    Gather the dust of many a foreign land;
    A labyrinthine maze I vainly grope,
    Seeking the faint, vague vestige of a hope.

    Still in those moments when life’s pulses go
    Surging almost to fatal overflow,
    When the blind, fettered spirit seems at last
    Ready its fetters and its scales to cast,
    Before my vision comes, on land or sea,
    A wanderer, dressed in black, who looks like me.



THE FISHERMAN’S BRIDAL.

AFTER DELAVIGNE.


    The sea is high, the night is dark,
    Sweet son, O why unmoor thy bark
        Before the morning?
    On such a night as this last year,
    I fain had kept thy brother here;
        O heed the warning.
          But the fisherman smiling
            Bounded from shore,
          His labor beguiling,
            Bending the oar,
          Singing, she loveth me,
            No fear I know,
          No wave appalleth me,
            Loving her so.

    With white wing cleft the inky sky,
    A sea-bird with a plaintive cry,
        Saddening the air:
    The nest I built with so much toil,
    This night became the tempest’s spoil;
        Beware, beware!
          Still the fisherman smiling,
            Bending the oar,
          The darkness beguiling,
            Sang as before:
          My Nanna calleth me,
            No fear I know,
          No wave appalleth me,
            Loving her so.

    Faintly arose a sad appeal,
    Blent with the storm by which his keel
        Was rudely driven.
    O brother, ere thy knell shall toll,
    Pray for thy elder brother’s soul,
        Who died unshriven.
          But the message unheeded
            Its warning bore,
          As onward he speeded,
            Bending the oar,
          Murmuring, she calleth me,
            No fear I know,
          No wave appalleth me,
            Loving her so.

    Weary at dawn he reached the strand,
    But lo, there passed a mourning band;
        For whom? he cried.
    For whom, O fishermen, that bell
    That strikes upon my heart its knell?
        ’Tis for thy bride.
    Then as if on the shore,
            Stricken down by a dart,
          Deep darkness came o’er
            Him, chilling his heart,
          Whispering, she calleth me,
            No fear I know,
          No wave appalleth me,
            Loving her so.



YOU HAD MY WHOLE HEART.

FROM THE FRENCH OF DESBORDES VALMORE.


    You had my whole heart,
    I thought I had thine,
    No beguiling or art,
    A heart for a heart.

    Your heart is returned,
    But alas! where is mine?
    Your heart is returned,
    But mine you have spurned.

    The leaf and the bloom
    And the fruit of the same,
    Leaf, color, and bloom,
    Sweet flower and perfume.

    Oh, what hast thou done?
    My sovereign supreme,
    Oh, what hast thou done?
    Beneath the fair sun.

    An orphan bereft
    Of mother and home,
    An orphan bereft,
    With my grief I am left.

    Deserted, alone,
    Through the cold world to roam,
    Deserted, alone,
    But heaven hears my moan.

    One day you will muse,
    Broken-hearted and old,
    One day you will muse
    On the love you refuse.

    You will seek me one day
    But you shall not behold;
    You will call me one day,
    I shall not obey.

    You will come to my door
    With penitent head,
    A friend, as of yore,
    You will knock at my door.

    It will coldly be said,
    She is gone, she is dead;
    Her spirit has fled,
    Will coldly be said.



ART.

FROM THE FRENCH OF THÉOPHILE GAUTIER.


    Yes, art with grievous pangs is born
      From Nature’s most endearing molds;
            The child is torn,
      Not wooed, from fierce rebellious folds.

    Slay not thy art by false constraint,
      Yet know her rules are stern as Fate;
            Without complaint
      The muse should wear a buskin strait.

    Would’st have thy verse endure, thy muse
      The common facile forms must shun,
            The slipshod shoes
      In which so many feet have run.

    Sculptor, beware the plastic clay,
      Changing at every whim’s command
            From day to day,
      And marred by every careless hand.

    Strive with the marbles pure of Greece,
      Wrested from Paros’ snowy mines,
            Smite, and release
      The deep-imprisoned god-like lines.

    The chisel of Praxiteles
      Such peerless beauty had not known,
            If art in Greece
      Had deigned to use a meaner stone.

    Let the fierce molten metal fuse
      Heroic forms and high contours
            Of Syracuse;
      Nought but the matchless bronze endures.

    Upon the agate’s flinty face
      Apollo’s features high and pure
            In profile trace,
      With touches delicate and sure.

    Beware of water and pastel,
      Deep on fantastic vase and urn
            Thy colors frail
      In seven-fold heated furnace burn.

    Fashion the writhing, maddening limb
      Of nymph and goddess; bring once more
            The monsters grim,
      Dear to the blazonry of yore.

    The virgin mother saintly mild,
      Crowned with her nimbus; on her breast
            The wondrous child,
      The globe beneath the cross of Christ.

    Crowns fall and sceptres pass, robust
      And radiant art outlives them all.
            Torso and bust
      Survive the city’s triple wall.

    The medal by the ploughman found
      Reveals the countenance austere,
            The temples crowned,
      That filled the antique world with fear.

    Even the gods wax old and pass
      From high Olympus; verse alone,
            Stronger than brass,
      Preserves to fallen Zeus his throne.

    The graver guide with care supreme,
      The chisel smite, fix like a rock
            Thy floating dream
      Deep in the stem resisting block.

    Tongues and religions die, while art,
      Poised in the lofty realms of thought,
            Serene, apart,
      Exults in sempiternal youth.



BARCAROLLE.

FROM THE SAME.


    O sun-bright maiden, choose and say,
    Whither shall we two sail to-day?
    The rose’s breath is on the gale
    That softly moves our silken sail;
    Our masts of gleaming ivory
      Are strung like harps with yellow hair,
      That make Æolian music there;
    A seraph shall our pilot be.

    O sun-bright maiden, choose and say,
    Whither shall we two sail to-day?
    Our pinnace lifts her snowy wing
    And flutters like a living thing;
    And from the shore the morning wind
      Toys with our awning’s purple fold;
      Our rudder is of beaten gold
    And leaves a rosy track behind.

    O sun-bright maiden, choose and say,
    Whither shall we two sail to-day?
    Our hold with love-apples is stored,
    And all strange fruits, a goodly hoard;
    A wingèd boy sits at the prow,
      Pointing our path with beaming eye
      And smile of deepest mystery;
    A wreath of myrtle crowns his brow.

    O sun-bright maiden, choose and say,
    Whither in Love’s realm shall we stray?
    Say, shall we seek some storied isle,
    Where warm Ægean waters smile?
    Or shall I see the Arctic sun
      A flood of crimson glories shed
      At midnight on that golden head,
    Or sail to seas where pearls are won?

    O sun-bright maiden, choose and say
    Whither shall we two sail to-day?
    Follow the track of Heracles—
    Seeking the far Hesperides;
    Or where the South Sea flower expands,
      Float idly in the moonlight wan;
      Or sail beneath the rainbow’s span—
    Bright gateway to Love’s golden lands?

    O sun-bright maiden, choose and say,
    There is no one to say thee nay.
    O seek, she saith, that faithful shore
    Where loving hearts will change no more.
    Alas, my sails for many a year
      Have sped through all Love’s wide domain,
      Seeking that blessed shore in vain:
    That land is still unknown, my dear.



SHADOWS.

FROM THE SAME.


    Be still, my heart, keep silence, O my soul,
    Thy fierce rebellious transports are in vain,
    Oblivion’s turbid wave must o’er thee roll.

    Cease the faint pulsing of the weary brain,
    Fold up the remnant of thy wings at last,
    And rot, beneath the inexorable chain.

    Soon shalt thou be with refuse vile outcast,
    Flung down the bottomless abyss that still
    Yawns to the future from the darkling past.

    Thy hopes are dead, broken thy lofty will,
    Thy name and memory will be blotted out
    Before the rattling clods thy grave refill.

    No marble shaft for thee the heavens will flout,
    Nor tear-drenched willow shed her graceful spray,
    No lying epitaph the truth will scout,

    No choir will chant, no man of God will pray,
    No tears will silver the funereal pall—
    Dark cloud that hides thy shame from light of day.

    The felled tree strangely moves his comrades tall,
    Waking the echoes of the mountain side,
    But not a leaf will quiver at thy fall.

    Like the mute convoy of the suicide,
    Thou shalt wind down through night to find thy doom:
    Thy ashes shall be scattered far and wide.

    No circling rings shall break the sullen gloom
    Of the dark pool that closes o’er thy head,
    No widowed soul shall hover o’er thy tomb.

    For the chaste secrets which thy soul hath wed,
    With thee the pit shall bury them from view,
    Fathoms below the deepest deep-sea lead.

    Our Mother, Nature, hath her favorites too,
    Like any other dame, spoiled children they;
    Unwelcome waif, why should they share with you?

    Upon them fall the myrtle and the bay,
    E’en in the desert they would find at need
    Enchanted palaces along their way.

    Though for the morrow’s morn they take no heed,
    Yet through their fingers filter golden sands,
    And at a generous breast they freely feed.

    Kneading a withered breast with famished hands
    Their outcast brethren pine, or seek in vain
    Some kinder bosom in relentless lands.

    And if for them upon the desert plain
    Illusive gardens rise, and fountains play,
    They vanish like the rainbow after rain.

    Or if by chance a sunbeam gone astray
    Glints through the gloom that shrouds them evermore,
    A chilling cloud obscures th’ unwonted ray.

    The wisest plans but mock their hopes the more,
    Bringing them to derision and dismay:
    The sea engulfs them though they hug the shore.

    The tree shall crush them, hollow with decay,
    Whose grateful shade invites them to draw nigh:
    The heart they lean on wins them to betray.

    A turtle drops upon them from the sky;
    The tower that has braved a thousand years
    Falls without warning just as they pass by.

    The friend who shared their youthful smiles and tears
    Accuses them of treason to the crown,
    Sending them to the rack with blows and jeers.

    Born on the Danube, in the Seine they drown;
    Poor fools, why fly so far to find the fate
    That like a slimy monster sucks them down?

    Why strive with Fate? no jot will he abate;
    Even the brawny knees of Hercules
    Must bend or break before him soon or late.

    They drain a bitter cup with poisonous lees,
    A life ignoble and a death of shame,
    And in some potter’s field they find surcease;

    Or, dying nobly, leave behind no name,
    While, mounting on their bones, some brazen cheat
    Reaches the very pinnacle of Fame.

    Destiny mocks them from her lofty seat,
    Dipping their sponge in vinegar and gall:
    Want grinds them in the dust with iron feet.

    Hard by the accursed sea whose waves appal,
    A scape-goat lone, beneath the wingless skies,
    They wander where the ashen apples fall.

    Night takes for them a thousand baleful eyes,
    Piercing at once their deepest hiding-place:
    Straight to their heart each poisoned arrow flies.

    Thrust out of camp, the scape-goat of their race,
    Abhorred they live, and dead, the loathing earth
    Vomits their phantom from the burial-place.

    Such is thy history, O my soul, from birth;
    Dark pages with decaying odors rife,
    A maze of treachery, and pain, and dearth.

    Yet ’tis the story of a vulgar life;
    No title casts a glamour o’er its woes,
    No footlights gild its unromantic strife.

    Across the web the flying shuttle goes,
    Weaving with common threads a homely plot,
    Yet dark and sinister the pattern shows.

    Why woo so long a world that loves thee not?
    O soul, whence long have perished hope and faith,
    Why cling to life, when death is all thy lot?

    Sweeter than bridal bed the couch of death,
    More restful far than sleep; the asphodel
    Is sweeter than the crimson poppy’s breath.

    King, queen, and harlot, priest and infidel,
    Heaped up at random peacefully they rest,
    Commingling in one mighty urn pell-mell.

    Despairing brother, whose fast chilling breast
    Nor love, nor wine may warm, descend with me,
    And burst the shadowy gates an eager guest.

    Abase thy head, and bend thy stubborn knee;
    And like a Scythian chief in triumph led,
    Welcome the agony that sets thee free.

    One short, fierce agony, and all is said;
    Beneath the coffin lid, sealed once for all,
    Compose thy limbs as in a royal bed.

    Swift as the fleeting shadow on the wall
    Thy feeble footprints fall along the sand,
    Nor voice, nor echo will thy song recall.

    In the Corinthian brass thy feeble hand
    Can write no name; thy chisel cannot bite
    The marbles of Carrara pure and grand.

    He who would climb Fame’s towering mountain height
    Must have a double gift, a genius rare:
    Unto a happy star he must unite.

    Poet, alas! and lover, brethren are;
    Twins of the soul, each hath his cherished dream,
    Some saint ideal, worshipped from afar;

    Some fount of youth, some pure Pactolian stream,
    Some orb that beams with strange unearthly ray,
    Some flaming vision potent to redeem.

    The fount is dry, the vision fades away;
    The mystic light that led them through the night
    Dies in a marsh, and leaves them far astray.

    O God, to tread but once by morning light
    The alabaster palace of our dreams,
    Counting its colonnades with waking sight;

    To greet the lovely images that gleam
    Athwart the gardens of our revery,
    And drink the waters of its mystic stream;

    To make the plunge, piercing triumphantly
    The crystal vault, bring back the golden vase
    Long buried with the treasures of the sea.

    ’Twere fine to feel the thrill of flight through space,
    Adown the far empyrean to float,
    Or track the eagle in his headlong chase.

    To find the deed outstrip the noble thought,
    To find fit words to mate our passion’s cry,
    And pour the tide with its full burden fraught.

    Sailing through unknown seas, to catch the sigh
    Of mighty rivers, and through night’s eclipse
    See new worlds heaving upward to the sky;

    To feel upon the flower of our lips
    The regal kiss that sometimes hovers there;
    To find the glen wherein the rainbow dips;

    To stop the wheel of fortune in the air;
    To see before us on the glowing page
    The wavering thoughts our midnight musings bear.

    Such lots, alas, in this decrepit age
    Are rare; Polycrates might wear his ring,
    Nor fear to rouse the avenging goddess’ rage.

    Seeking the upper chambers where we cling,
    The cruel wave mounts upward step by step,
    Mingling its murmur with our revelling,

    Till slimy phocas, shapes that banish sleep,
    Gnash foully at our very bedsides there,
    Belched from the bowels of the nether deep.

    The church is dark, the altar cold and bare,
    And rending from their brows the aureole,
    The saints blaspheming die in their despair.

    The sun senescent, near his final goal,
    Casts from his bloodshot eye one baleful glare,
    Ere yet the heavens vanish like a scroll.

    Each living thing shall perish foul or fair,
    The flood will top the tallest mountain chain,
    For vengeance cometh on and will not spare.

    For twenty days and nights through wind and rain,
    The raven’s midnight wing, cleaving the waste,
    Seeks for a haven where to rest in vain.

    Headlong she falls, famished and spent at last,
    And as the widening circles mark the flood,
    All Earth is but a tomb whence life has passed.

    A common sepulchre for bad and good,
    Upon this wave no ark of safety rides,
    Bitter with tears and red with human blood.

    No second patriarch his vessel guides,
    A hive of life; a swelling fountain head,
    To burst upon Ararat’s rugged sides.

    Atlas has fallen! hark, O hark! o’erhead
    The crack of doom, the supports of the world
    Are snapped like reeds beneath Behemoth’s tread.

    Our Mother Earth, by storms of chaos whirled,
    Reels like a drunken harlot down through space,
    By wanton buffets from her orbit hurled.

    Unto the lips of an expiring race
    The Son holds up the cup of human woes;
    The Father sees with coldly sneering face.

    When will our crucifixion cease? still flows
    The ruddy current from our open side,
    And red drops cluster on our pallid brows.

    Enough of tears and blood; O turn aside
    The poisoned chalice; doth not this suffice?
    That Thy dear Son upon the cross has died?

    He died for naught; man still must pay the price
    Unless a newer Christ rise from the dead:
    The Pontiff asks a fresher sacrifice.

    For nigh two thousand years the Lamb hath bled;
    His empty veins leave not the faintest stain
    Upon the priestly knife that gleams o’erhead.

    Messiah cometh not, we watch in vain;
    The veil is rent, broken the altar stone,
    The worshippers are slain, the church o’erthrown.



SONNET: _OU VONT ILS?_

FROM THE FRENCH OF SULLY PRUDHOMME.


    To what strange land gather the slain of Love?
      Heaven were no world for them, it hath no bliss
      To match the raptures that they knew in this;
    No summer night, no dark secluded grove,
    Or deep ravine with sheltering boughs above;
      Nor can the foul fiends of the dread abyss
      So rend a soul as the fierce agonies
    Of Love’s disdain, the doubts and fears thereof.

    Tame were the joys of the bright sphere above
      To which the saints so ardently aspire,
      And vain the anguish of eternal fire
    To him who knows the martyrdom of Love.
    For souls consumed and dead there is no room
    In heaven or hell: oblivion is their doom.



THE GAY CASHIER.

ADAPTED FROM THE FRENCH.


    Two gallant burglars, who for many a day
    Had laid their plans, at last had made their way
    Into a bank upon a stormy night;
    Then with what fond, what rapturous delight
    Unto the vault they flew to seize the swag!
      O cruel joke, there was no swag at all:
    That night the gay cashier, a heartless wag,
      With all the funds had skipped for Montreal.



THE RAVAGES OF TIME.

SCARRON.


    The monuments of human pride and power,
      Engulfed by ocean wave or desert sand,
      And crushed by time’s inexorable hand,
    Built for eternity, last but an hour.
    Where are the hanging gardens and the towers
      Of Babylon? the marbles tall and grand
      That stood like gods on the Ægean strand?
    Fallen and crumbled. So shall crumble ours.

    Time slays or withers all on which we dote;
      His swift, remorseless touches ne’er relent,
      Destroying marble, mortar, and cement.
    Then why should I repine because my coat
    Is threadbare on the seams with three years’ wear,
    Out at the elbows, and beyond repair?



HALLUCINATION.

FROM THE FRENCH.


I.

    Last night, or did I dream? my lady led
      Me to a wall I oft had passed before,
      And opened there a curious secret door
    Made by some cunning workmen ages dead.
    We entered furtively, and as our tread
      Resounded on the long untrodden floor,
      Back swung the portal with a clanging roar.
    Fleeing like startled children on we sped,
    And found an inner chamber, where was spread
      A board with gold and crystal, and a store
      Of fruits and flowers from every unknown shore,
    And curious flasks, whose contents gleaming red
    A ruddy radiance o’er my lady shed,
      And flung fantastic flames upon the floor.


II.

    Bathed in the amber of an unseen flame,
      A royal couch with silken curtains fair
    Gleamed like a jewel in the alcove there;
    A dreamy languor stole through all my frame,
      Sweet beyond power of language to declare;
      A breath of perfume moved the swooning air,
    Stirring the golden ringlets of my dame;
    And while we faltered, lo, a small voice came:
    “O happy pair, with rosy forms aglow,
    Here lie within the temple’s deep alcove
    Sweet mysteries that I pant to have you know;
    Wine that hath stained the trampling feet of Love,
    And fruit that ripened in the sacred grove:
    Break every seal, and let the purple flow.”


III.

    I turned to seek my lady’s eyes, when lo!
      The vision vanished, and I stood alone
      Without the temple walls, whose cold gray stone
    Mocked my endeavor, rising row on row.
    I called my lady’s name, fearful and low.
      No answer, save the hoot-owl’s jeering tone,
      And the pale mocking moon that coldly shone.
    Now, sadly round the temple walls I go,
    Whose deepest mysteries I thought to know.
      I thought its inmost chamber mine; fond fool,
      I only stood within some vestibule,
    Where all men’s feet may wander to and fro,
    And saw, reflected from some mirror there,
    My own imaginings too warm and fair.


IV.

IN THE GROVE.

    Once more the huntress clad in silvery mail
      Seeks her Endymion, over hill and glade;
      Once more the hour so dear to youth and maid—
    The hour that all Love’s guardian spirits hail.
    Wrapped in the moonlight like a lucent veil,
      Is it for me, young priestess, that, arrayed
      Still in thy vestal robes, thy feet have strayed
    So far from where the sacred fires pale?

    Last night within the temple’s dim alcove
      I durst not lift my conscious eyes to thine.
      Lo, now thy lips and eyes have sought for mine,
      And round my neck thy sheltering arms entwine,
    While our commingling footsteps freely rove
    Through all the mysteries of the silent grove.



TO MY CRITICS.

IMITATED FROM DE MUSSET.


    My verse contains some images, ’tis true,
      On Byron’s pages found, what then, he too
      On other pages found them long before,
    (Byron, I think, would hardly grudge them me,
    Seeing I need them so much worse than he).
      Read carefully the old Italian lore,
    If you, to draw it very mild, would see
    How freely Byron borrowed; he or she
    As stupid as a school teacher must be
      Who thinks in eighteen hundred eighty-four
      To find a thought or rhyme not used before.
      And yet I must not speak of “waters blue,”
      Of “sunny skies,” and “eyes of heavenly hue,”
    Nor use some old stock metaphor at need
    Because, forsooth, pedantic fools may read,
    The same in every language,—Sanscrit, Greek,
    Hebrew and Latin, Dutch and Arabic.
    Great bards of yore, and they of yesterday,
    Before whose sun my rushlight pales away,
    To whose deep flood, my song is but a rill,—
    All, great and small, hear the same chorus still.
    Read the old rotting magazines and see
    The very venom that they void on me;
    The arsenal where roving malice meets
    The rusty darts that stung the heart of Keats.
    Vile innuendo, and malignant sneer,
    Blanche, Tray, and Sweetheart, hardly changed are here.

    The lowest place amid the minstrel throng
    Is all I claim; in the full tide of song
    My voice is lost; upon my page appears
    No burning message from supernal spheres.
    But Teian glow and Lesbian passion still
    A thousand lyres in every land they thrill.
    A chord once found belongs, the whole world through,
    To every minstrel that can strike it true.
    My verses rhyme (at least some of them do),
    And sweet as ever in our ear there chimes
    The melody of old recurrent rhymes.
    Dove ever mates with love, and bliss with kiss,
    In every song from Sappho’s day to this.



THE YOUTH AND THE OLD MAN.

FLORIAN.


    “Old man,” said an ambitious youth one day
    “Show me the path to wealth and fame, I pray.”
    Answering not, the old man mused awhile,
    His thin lips wreathing with a cynic smile,
    Then spoke: “Is fame thy wish? With earnest zeal
    Devote thyself to serve the commonweal;
    To her give all thy talents and thy time,
    The flush of youth, and vigorous manhood’s prime;
    And should the foeman come with deadly strife,
    In her defence be swift to lose thy life,
    Perchance with ‘failure’ branded on thy heart.
    The road to wealth is surer; seek the mart,
    Where cunning money-changers lie in wait,
    Casting their nets with watered stocks for bait.
    Or join the nobler throng, whose argosies
    Bear on white wings across the distant seas
    The honest——” “Hold, old man, I’ll none of these;
    With intrigue and deceit I would not soil
    My soul, and yet I shrink from sordid toil.”

    Again the old man mused in silence while
    Around his mouth hovered a cynic smile,
    Then answered thus: “Why, simply be a fool,
    And win both fame and wealth, in spite of rule.”



THE CATHEDRAL BELL AND ITS RIVAL.

IRIARTE.


    In a renowned cathedral hung a bell,
      The pride of all the country far and near;
    A bell whose deep vibrations never fell
      Save on the greatest church-days of the year.
    Then for some moments brief the air was thrilled
      By some deep strokes with solemn pause between;
    The heart devout with pious awe was filled,
      And sinners felt repentance swift and keen.

    Within a neighboring hamlet poor and small,
    With crumbling belfry tottering to its fall,
    There stood a paltry chapel low and mean;
    A cracked and rusty cow-bell hung therein,

    Harsh and discordant, but the sexton sly,
    Only upon the solemn days and high,
    Six times a year at most, its voice awoke,
    Like the cathedral bell with solemn stroke.
    This strange reserve, in parish bells unknown,
    Gave to the wretched bell a high renown.
    Its jangling equalled to the rustic’s ear
    The tones majestic of its grand compeer.

    Pretentious, owl-like silence oft supplies
    The lack of wit in those accounted wise.
    “Be swift to listen and be slow to speak,”
    If a high name for wisdom you would seek.



BLUE EYES AND BLACK EYES.

IMITATED FROM ANDALUSIAN COPLAS.


I.

    Two miracles are thy blue eyes,
        Haughty or tender;
    Robbing our Andalusian skies
        Of half their splendor.

    Celestial eyes of heaven’s own hue,
        Twin thrones of glory,
    Whose glances every day subdue
        New territory.

    Blue were the waters and the skies
        Of happy Eden;
    And blue should be a Christian’s eyes,
        Matron or maiden.

    By heaven those peerless orbs of blue
        To thee were given,
    And all the mischief that they do
        Is known in heaven.

    I thought thy blue eyes beacons fair,—
        O treacherous seeming;
    O treacherous waves of golden hair,
        That wrecked my dreaming!

    Two saints the blue eyes seemed to me
        That wrought my ruin:
    Who would have thought that saints could be
        A soul’s undoing?


II.

    Black eyes are truer still, I ween,
        Than any other:
    Dark were the eyes of Eden’s Queen,
        And Mary Mother.

    The holy ones of sacred lore
        All dark are painted,
    Inspired prophetess of yore
        And maiden sainted.

    Blue eyes are cold as polished steel,
        For all their splendor;
    While thine a lambent flame reveal,
        So warm and tender.

    Dearer thine olive hue, and eyes
        Of raven blackness,
    Than all the azure of the skies,
        And lily’s whiteness.

    Thine eyebrows are a Moorish grove,
        Whence issuing fleetly
    Two wingèd archers lightly rove,
        Wounding so sweetly.

    But when their victims bleeding lie
        Faintly appealing,
    Two tender blackamoors draw nigh
        With balm of healing.



COMPLAINT TO THE VIRGIN.

FROM A CUBAN POETESS.


    Mother ineffable, whose radiant brow
            The stars have crowned,
    O’er all earth’s daughters chosen, thou
            The sinless found;

    Of Adam’s fallen race, the first and last
            Untouched by strife,
    Whose beauteous feet unstained and pure have passed
            The snares of life.

    The angelic heralds at those spotless feet
            Once bent the knee,
    And now adore at the effulgent seat
            Eternally.

    A gift too pure and bright for earthly bloom,
            Flower of the sky;
    The odors of whose matchless grace perfume
            The courts on high.

    Look down in pity from thy lofty throne,
            Through realms of light,
    To where thy sorrowing sister walks alone
            In deepest night.

    Oh, see the endless waves of anguish fierce
            That o’er me roll!
    Hast thou not bled? did not the sword once pierce
            Thy tender soul?

    Beating the breakers on the outer bar
            My vessel lies;
    For me there beams no friendly guiding-star,
            No beacons rise.

    Blest beacon seen in my despairing dreams,
            Burst forth on me,
    And light my stormy pathway with thy beams,
            Star of the sea.

    O baleful night, when some malignant blast,
            Mocking and wild,
    Into an orphan’s cradle rudely cast
            A sleeping child!

    Of careless childhood’s flowers and smiles and tears,
            The tears were mine.
    Alas! I gather in maturer years
            No fruit or wine.

    All night I bruise my failing wings in vain,
            Seeking for rest—
    A bird unmated on an arid plain
            Without a nest.

    I roam a timid stranger on the earth—
            A foreign land—
    Bewildered by the light, the joy and mirth
            On every hand.

    A vine-clad mountain to the beaming skies
            That lifts its crest,
    While an abyss of untold horror lies
            Beneath its breast.

    Some loving souls at birth are consecrated
            To pain and grief;
    Through gloomy vales they stray, unknown, unmated,
            Without relief.

    I seek no longer these sad mysteries
            To penetrate;
    I must not murmur at the high decrees
            That fix my fate.

    They say that God regards with pitying eye
            The poor and weak,
    Smiting the haughty head, and passing by
            The low and meek.

    No daring oak, whose branches, heaven defying,
            Pierce the blue sky;
    A blighted leaf before the tempest flying,
            A reed am I.

    A poor blind pilgrim through the wilderness
            Groping my way,
    Striving with agonizing tears to press
            From night to day.

    A heart whence all illusions long have perished
            Seeks not for bliss.
    I ask not human love, O Mother cherished,
            I ask but this:

    A lowly shelter far from tongues maligning
            And bitter sneers;
    There let me pray and quench all fierce repining
            With grateful tears.

    And some glad morning through my cloister swelling,
            A golden portal
    May burst, and flood with rosy light my dwelling,
            And joys immortal.



THE CRUCIFIXION.

OLD FRENCH SONNET.


    While Jesus suffered for the human race
      Upon the tree, death came and found him there.
      Transfixed with shame, at first he did not dare
    To look upon his sovereign’s awful face.

    But Jesus, full of majesty and grace,
      Meekly bowed down his head, august and fair,
      Veiling the glory that it used to wear,
    And waves of darkness fell upon the place.

    Then shuddering Death his shameful task fulfilled;
      Earth to her centre rocked as though the day
      Of doom were come; the veil was rent away—
    All Nature moaned and quivered, horror-filled.

    The very stones were softened, thou alone,
    Vile scoffing sinner, took a heart of stone.



FROM THE SPANISH.


    Unhappy he who buys
      The toys that Cupid offers;
      For each delight he proffers
    Some dear illusion dies.
    Sell not thy dearest treasures
    For his too fleeting pleasures.



THE BOOK OF LIFE.

LAMARTINE.


    Each soul the Book of Life must read and prove—
      Fate turns the leaves whether we will or no.
    We cannot linger o’er the lines we love,
      Or hasten o’er the dreary lines of woe.
    We have not read the page of Love aright
    When, lo! the page of Death appalls our sight.



MEMORIAL DAY, AND OTHER POEMS.

DEDICATED TO THE G. A. R.



TWENTY YEARS AGO.

WRITTEN FOR MEMORIAL DAY IN 1885.


    For twenty years the snowy wings of Peace
    Over the land have brooded; flocks increase
    Upon the fields, now blessed by smiling stars,
    Where drave the reeking chariot-wheels of Mars.
    How like a falcon’s flight the years have flown,
    Since Appomattox rang the curtain down;
    And listening to my voice are tall young men,
    And women fair who were but children then.
    Our young Republic, freed from all his chains,
    For peaceful conquest girds his lusty reins.
    The smiling Mississippi to the sea
    Rolls as in days of old, unvexed and free,
    And East and West in one grand commonweal
    Are bound by triple bands of shining steel.
    The apple tree historic rots away;
    Our gunboats all have crumbled to decay;
    The rifle-pits that scarred the Southern plains
    Are washed away by twenty winters’ rains;
    The impetuous onset of the bayonet line
    Tramples no more the growing corn and vine,
    And nesting birds pour forth their raptures where
    The thunder-bolts of battle rent the air.
    But still remain in many hearts we know
    The ghastly scars of twenty years ago.
    How many a comrade’s widow treads alone
    A narrow path by cruel thorns o’ergrown!
    ’Tis long since song of mating bird has thrilled
    That lonely heart, with tender memories filled,—
    Memories still speeding backward to the time
    When, brave and beautiful in manhood’s prime,
    Her bridegroom more than twenty years ago
    Sprang at the bugle call to meet the foe.
    Strong men for other women dig the gold,
    Tread out the wine, and weave the silken fold;
    Her wine of Life in forests dark and dank
    The thirsty soil of Mississippi drank;
    Her daily lot for more than twenty years
    Has been the widow’s toil, and widow’s tears.

    Comrades, we’re growing old; upon our hairs
    Gather the frosts of more than twenty years,
    Since in the trench at Petersburg we lay,
    Or, gayly holding our triumphal way,
    Unto the sea we swept with Sherman’s pennon,
    Or heard the roar of Stonewall Jackson’s cannon,
    Waking the echoes of the Rapidan,
    Or through the valley whirled with Sheridan.
    Still surges up as though of yesterday
    The memory of those that passed away;
    Still floating down the vista of the years,
    We hear their voices, see their smiles and tears.
    In each successive strife how fast they fell—
    The tried companions that we knew so well.
    Some, fleeing from the ghastly prison pen,
    By bloodhounds tracked were slain in swamp and fen;
    Some ashes mingle with the sounding tide,
    And some enrich the rugged mountain side,
    Where the tall pines of frowning Kenesaw
    Quivered like reeds before the blast of war;
    Now looming up in shadowy ranks they stand
    Like guardian phantoms brooding o’er the land.
    No higher impulse thrilled the knights of old
    Who to the crusades like a torrent rolled,
    To pour for the dear cross their blood like wine
    Upon the plains of Holy Palestine,
    And feed on desert sands in the far East
    The jackals ravening for their glorious feast.

    They reck not where their scattered ashes rest
    Who speed to the reunion of the blest;
    As eaglets soaring to the gates of light
    Spurn the dull shells that long confined their flight.
    For you the amaranthine wreath we twine,
    Raise the high song, and pour the ruddy wine;
    For you the rhythmic beat of martial feet,
    As the long lines go swaying down the street;
    For you the plaintive reed’s subduing moan
    Commingles with the hautboy’s rapturous tone,
    The rolling drum, the thrilling trumpet blare,
    And silken banners float upon the air
    Like bright ethereal drapery trailing there.
    The noblest sons of Earth, of every clime,
    Welcome you to their galaxy sublime;
    And flowers, by maidens fairer still than they,
    Are offered to your sacred shades to-day;
    Roses and dittany—and lilies fair,
    Mingle their breath upon the vernal air;
    But sweeter than the fleeting gifts we bring
    Your memory perennial shall spring,
    And loving tears each spring-time shall bedew
    The flowers that loving hands shall here renew;
    And younger bards, with truer touch than mine,
    Will pour for you the flood of song divine,
    While millions yet unborn, with quickening breath,
    Will hear the tale heroic of your death.

    O host of gallant comrades sweeping by,
    Up the red track of glory to the sky—
    Reynolds, McPherson, Dahlgren, Garesché,
    And all the unknown names as brave as they,—
    Great hearts and souls as those of song and story,
    Whose only guerdon was a deathbed gory;
    As youthful as of yore we see you now,
    The flush of victory on each radiant brow,
    And youthful in our withering hearts shall glow
    Your generous valor in the Long Ago.



ABRAHAM LINCOLN.


    Song, legend, history, I scan in vain;
      Outside of Holy Writ, no shape appears
      So godlike as thy homely form; the spheres
    Darken and die, thy glory shall not wane.
    Monarchs have sat self-crowned upon the Seine
      And on the Tiber; nations sick with fears
      Have builded altars to them, drenched with tears
    And smoking with a hecatomb of slain.

    O Christ of Freedom, no high altars fume
      For thee, but freely flow the tears and blood,
    The pure sweet blood of thy own martyrdom,
      And tears of mingled grief and gratitude
    From the dark millions by thy pen set free,
    Led from their long Gethsemane by thee.



THE PRISONER’S DREAM.


    On the last sad day of the dying year,
      As I lay in my prison racked with pain,
    I heard the voices of children clear
      Swelling out on the night in a peaceful strain.
    They sang a farewell to the dying year,
      And the far faint tones of an organ fell
    With a soothing cadence upon my ear,
      And I slept at last in my loathsome cell.
    My body slept with its clanking chain,
      But the prison walls fled far away,
    And my spirit, glad and free again,
      Went forth as upon its bridal day.
    I never had thought again to sing,
      But a song welled forth from my joyous heart,
    As waters gush from a long-sealed spring
      When the chains of winter are rent apart.
    “I’m coming, I’m coming, my dove, my dear;
      In the heaven of thy arms, my own sweet wife,
    I’ll usher the birth of the glad new year;
      I’m coming, I’m coming, my love, my life!”

           *       *       *       *       *

    Hark! the clang of the changing sentry’s steel;
      Awaken, O fool, from thy blissful bed;
    On the stony floor of thy dungeon kneel,
      And hug thy chain, for the dream is fled.



HOW OFT A SENTRY SAD AND LONE.


    How oft, a sentry sad and lone,
      The starry midnight host I’ve counted,
    As up the eastern horizon
      Into the sky they slowly mounted.

    Two still seemed missing from their place,
      The brightest of the heavenly number;
    But now I find them in thy face,
      Nightly they beam upon my slumber.



FROM COPLAS OF AN ANDALUSIAN SOLDIER.


    If daring deeds might win thy vows,
      At nothing would I falter;
    I’d dare thy father’s beetling brows,
      Or those of grim Gibraltar.

    I’ll seek the thickest of the strife,
      And lofty deeds of glory;
    My girl shall be a General’s wife,
      Or mourn a lover gory.

    Light batteries on the fatal field,
      Their countless victims strewing,
    Are the bright eyes to which I yield
      For quarter meekly suing.

    Thy lips are silken banners, and
      Beneath their crimson lustre,
    In gleaming lines the soldiers stand,
      Two ranks prepared for muster.

    The girl that jilts a veteran bold
      To marry a clodhopper,
    Would throw away the finest gold
      To pick up worthless copper.



FROM THE SAME.


    The conscripts march, O cruel theft,
      While those that are rejected,
    The crooked and the lame, are left
      To comfort maids dejected.

    If swift promotion you would gain,
      Yet shrink from war and slaughter,
    The path is old and very plain—
      Marry the General’s daughter.



THE GLORY OF A SPANISH DRAGOON.

FROM THE SAME.


    My little Pepita
      Will be jealous I know,
    For I promised to meet her,
      But how can I go?
    I come off of guard,
      And go on police;
    My sergeant’s a hard
      One, and gives me no peace.
    There’s the devil to pay
      At fatigue duty too;
    Every hour of the day
      There is something to do.
    A soldier at work,
      What a pitiful sight!
    I’d desert to the Turk
      In the very next fight,
    But his way of baptizing
      You all will agree,
    Is quite too surprising,
      It would never suit me.
    But my sergeant is worse
      Than a Turk or a Jew,
    He finds something to curse
      At, whatever I do.
    At every roll-call,
      If I’m not upon time,
    Drill, stables, and all,
      He counts it a crime;
    He laughs at my story,
      In the guard-house I’m thrown,—
    And this is the glory
      Of a Spanish dragoon.



WRITTEN FOR A REUNION OF VETERANS IN THE YEAR 1915.


    Comrades, once more to-night we gather here,
    A dwindling band of graybeards; autumn sere
    Pales into winter, Indian summer’s glow
    Fades from the hills, reluctant still to go;
    And Earth itself fades from our sight away,
    Like rosy clouds that flit at close of day;
    In our hearts too the flame burns low at last,—
    An arctic winter closes round us fast.

    While the remaining grains, how few, alas!
    Of golden sand, pour through the hour-glass,
    Fill up, dear friends, your goblets once again,
    And warm the pulses in each shrunken vein
    With sunshine garnered on some Gallic plain,
    Or stolen from the vine-clad hills of Spain.
    Here’s to the living absent, comrades they
    So gay in camp, so dauntless in the fray,
    The lingering remnant of the mighty host
    That swept from far Atlanta to the coast.
    Since then their prows through every sea have foamed,
    And o’er five continents their feet have roamed,
    And plucked the brightest bays in fields afar,
    Who glittered brightest in the van of war.
    But fast and faster from our sight they fail,
    A few belated stragglers feebly hail
    Along the banks of Styx the boatman pale.
    Where’er they are, once more we pledge them all,
    Ere from the thinning ranks we too shall fall.

    Lift high the cup, a generous current pour,
    Libations to the chosen friends of yore,
    Who wander on the dim Plutonian shore.
    A mist arises from the wine-stained ground,
    And lo, what phantom faces gather round!
    Like storm-blown wreaths they flit—e’en so must we
    Soon pass like vapors blown across the sea.

    Now draw together, fling apart the doors
    Of wit and fancy, open up the stores
    Of feeling that have been repressed so long;
    Waken the voice of melody and song,
    These fleeting moments sweetly to prolong,
    And kindling up once more the altar fire,
    Let the last embers all in flame expire.



TWENTY-FIVE SONNETS



TO ⸺.


    Dear lady, doth the singer’s voice in thee
    Awake an answering chord? if not so, be
    Barren the song and all devoid of worth,
    Save to awaken idle scorn and mirth;
    Thy soul, self-poised in cold tranquillity,
    Will smile to think how foolish some may be.
    But if thy bosom swell with tender sighs,
    If the deep fountains of thy soul are stirred,
    Meeting some dear but unexpected word;
    If, answering mine, responsive pulses rise,
    And thy lips tremble to the happy eyes
    Suffused with pleasure at the glad surprise
    Of verses all too cold for thy completeness,
    Know thy own heart hath lent them all their sweetness.



POESY.


    Before the human hand a stylus held,
      Ere papyrus’ or parchment’s mute appeal,
      Sweet songs were sung whose echoes charm us still;
    From dying lips undying music welled.
    Wedded to strains from chosen souls that swelled,
      Were rescued from oblivion’s clammy seal,
      Fantastic legend, laws of commonweal,
    Heroic deeds in days of hoary eld.

    Muse of the lyre and harp, till latest day
      Thy voice shall bear along the shores of Time,
    While kingdoms crumble, and while tongues decay,
      The numbers of the ancient bards sublime.
    Still thy anointed favorites hold their sway,
    ’Mid falling stars, and gods that pass away.



THE ROSE.


    The flushing wave bloomed into wondrous flower,
      And rosy light burst forth unknown till then,
      When Aphrodite dawned on gods and men.
    Thy birth, O Rose, was in that mystic hour.
    Transcendent Rose, pride of the Paphian bower,
      And sweet consoler of the thorny glen,
      What virgin charms thy blush illumines when
    Upon the virgin heart Love seals his power.

    Fair as the lily was the Rose’s breast;
      But when the generous vine upon it bled,
      Swift blushes o’er its swelling beauties spread
    Till every leaf the tender flame confessed,
    While from thy wakened heart, O queenly Rose,
    Ambrosial incense on the air arose.



TO A FAIR SANTA BARBARAN.


    Why blooms the fairest flower ’neath rosy skies,
      Where all is bloom and fragrance? why unfold
      There, where the nectar that its petals hold
    Among the orange groves neglected lies,
    And all its perfume all unheeded dies!
      And thou, dear maid, with wealth of love untold,
      More precious far than mines of gems and gold,
    Why linger ’mid these cloyed and listless eyes?

    O with thy voice, and smile ineffable,
      And eyes so meet for sympathetic tears,
      Seek some sad land oppressed by grief and fears,
    A bright consoling angel there to dwell;
    Fly, ere thy robes are wet with honey dew,
    And thy own sweetness cloys thee through and through.



LA DIVA.


    A sea of faces ripple round her where,
      As on a sunny isle, the Diva glows
      Behind the footlights like a full-blown rose;
    A hush expectant fills the brooding air.

    But hist, O hist! what dying cygnet there?
      How bubbling from her alabaster throat
      Pours forth the wave of every passion’s note—
    Hope, fear, love’s ecstasy, and blank despair?

    A moment’s silence ere the plaudits rise,
      Till like a storm they beat the trembling walls,
    And white hands plash like wave-crests to the skies.
      Alas! ’tis o’er, the jealous curtain falls;
    And as the tumult of our rapture dies,
    A misty curtain veils our happy eyes.



TO A HAPPY LOVER.


    Flaunt not before the world thy happy love,
      Like the poor fatuous one whose pleasure lies
      Not in Love’s glance, but in the envious eyes
    Of other fools; deep in the myrtle grove
    Seek some untrodden way, shadowed above;
      There, if Love will, his unknown harmonies,
      His inmost heart and core, his tears and sighs,
    And unimagined mysteries thou mayest prove.

    But if thou find his choicest fruits and flowers,
      Guard them from eyes profane with jealous care;
      Love, proud but tender, brooks no sign-board there,
    Pointing the pathway to his sacred bowers;
    Himself the entrance, hidden and o’ergrown,
    Unto his chosen favorites will make known.



METEMPSYCHOSIS.


I.

    I was a huntsman in my youth, and knew
      Each bird and beast that haunts the forest tall,
      Or wings the air, hard by the water-fall.
    Over the plain and up the mountain blue
    My twanging bow was heard, my arrows flew.
      My bowstring now is rent, my arrows all
      Like spears that from the withered pine-cones fall,
    Have from my shrunken quiver vanished too.
    Yet sometimes o’er me steals the olden mood,
      And wandering in the forest deep and dark,
      I greet each old familiar tree and mark,
    Each spot whereon the lovely quarry stood,
    While faintly through my withered veins once more
    Leaps the triumphant thrill I knew of yore.


II.

    I shot an arrow through the wood one day
      In idle sport, and following where it led,
      I found a doe that I had raised and fed,
    Stricken, and bleeding fast her life away,
    Her tender fawn transfixed beside her lay;
      One random shaft two happy lives had sped.
      The dry leaves rustled to my startled tread,
    And filled my fluttering heart with strange dismay;
    For gazing in those failing eyes my soul
      Found there another soul, its very twin;
      Unseen for years, but bowered deep within
    The heart’s alcove,—oh, lost beyond control!
    Those murdered eyes still gaze as from a glass
    Framed in with bloody leaves and trampled grass.



THREE SONNETS IN MEMORIAM.


I.

DESPAIR—THE ABYSS.

    O dread abyss, narrow, but dark and deep,
      Still baffling all that men may do or dare
      To read the secrets of thy jealous care,
    The mystery that thy shuddering caverns keep,
    Over thy cruel mouth the earth I heap,
      Hiding my treasure like a miser there.
      My hollow doubting voice I lift in prayer;
    With ghastly lips I say: “’Tis but a sleep,
    And I shall find my loved one freed from sorrow,
      Glowing with love, and youth ineffable.”
    O fool, the only sure thing thou canst borrow
      From coming years is death, thou knowest well.
    Yet even this is gain; then hail each morrow
      That brings thee nearer to the self-same cell.


II.

QUESTIONING.

    Beneath the leafless trees alone I stand,
      Where we two stood in June. O loved one, where
      Are now the radiant hopes that filled the air,
    Circling around us swiftly like a band
    Of smiling sisters, clasping hand in hand?
      Dearer to me than all their visions fair
      This chill December night, so thou wert there.
    And hast thou sought with them some better land?

    Would heaven be darkened for one form the less
      From the bright throng who in His love rejoice?
      From the celestial choir could not one voice,
    Sweeter than all the rest, be spared to bless
    My solitude? Say, dost thou sleep alone,
    Voiceless, beneath the unrelenting stone?


III.

CONSOLATION.

    Alone? Ah, no: beneath the earth’s fair crust
      Assemble all the beautiful and good
      Whose memory transfigures womanhood;
    And kingly men are there, the brave, the just;
    How sweet to mingle with that sacred dust!
      Standing to-night where we so oft have stood,
      Their fragrance fills the silent solitude—
    Sweet flowers of human love and hope and trust.

    Where’er thou art, O sister of my soul,
      Treading with gleaming feet the streets of gold,
      Or softly mingling with the forest mold,
    Swift years shall bear me to the self-same goal,
    Our radiant heads in the same aureole,
      Or the same flower-roots thrill our ashes cold.



IN MEMORY OF D. G. R.


    Bathed in the morning sunlight thou didst stand,
      The sisters nine in homage gathered round,
      Son of Apollo, with his laurels crowned,
    His lyre of lyres trembling in thy hand.
    The brush and chisel at thy high command
      Enchantment wrought, but sweeter far resounds
      The music of thy verse, the soulful sounds
    Flung from thy pen as from a magic wand.

    Had all thy wondrous powers to song been given,
      What floods of melody had filled the air—
      Eros’ and Psyche’s voices mingling there.
    Alas! the wine is spilled, the lyre is riven,
    Stern Albion’s son, thy soft Italian name
    Lives only in the Pantheon of Fame.



IN MEMORY OF JOHN BROWN OF OSSAWATTOMIE.

INSCRIBED TO JOHN J. INGALLS.


I.

    A cloud for years o’erhung the border-land,
      Black, ominous, wherein were dimly seen
      Soul-terrifying shapes of beasts unclean,
    And men uncleaner still, a hideous band,
    Loathsome as reptiles from the slimy strand
      Of vanished seas, in ages pliocene.
      Prophets the portent read with vision keen,
    But lying seers cried “Peace,” throughout the land,
    ’Tis but a cloud-bank changing with the wind,
      And craven hearts draw their own pictures there,
    And traitors sneered, and from the pulpit whined
    Sleek hypocrites, blind leaders of the blind,
      Buyers of souls, who gathered gold with care,
      With gnashing and blaspheming filled the air.


II.

    A soul flamed forth like a titanic brand,
      Or fiery meteor through the murky sky,
      Thrilled by electric arrows from on high;
    And by swift wings of unseen seraphs fanned
    The baleful clouds dispersed, as though a hand
      Omnipotent had swept the firmament
      And from its face the darkening veil had rent.
    Vague shapes of fear, as by enchanter’s wand,
    Were changed to forms substantial, and arose
      The Nation’s foes, implacable and fierce.
      The canting knave, who chapter gave and verse
    To justify the trade in human woes,
    Slunk with his broad phylacteries away,
    And strong men armed them for the deadly fray.


III.

    True greatness is the greatest in defeat.
      A laurel wreath entwined about that head
      Had but obscured the glory that it shed.
    Unshaken in his high prophetic seat,
    Beyond all crowns of vict’ry grand and great
      In happier days, as when, illusions fled,
      His fierce foes found him lying ’mid his dead,
    Alike his spirit soared secure from Fate.
    So, when the charging battle standards meet,
      Gold fringe and silken fold are plucked away
      As by the myriad beaks of birds of prey,
    Still on the staff, high in his ancient seat,
    The brazen eagle sits, serene, the same,
    Pride of the legions o’er the battle’s flame.



OUR LOST ONES.

  “Hélas! dans le cercueil ils tombent en poussière
      Moins vite qu’en nos cœurs.”—HUGO.


    Brethren and sisters all, what do we here,
      With song and laughter, while around us stand,
      With dumb reproachful gaze, a shadowy band,
      The mournful shades of all our lost ones dear?
    O conquering power of the eternal years!
      How swiftly fade away on every hand
      Their memories throughout the joyous land,
    For whom we thought to shed eternal tears.

    Smiling above them wave the flowers and grass,
      Where cold and still those cherished forms are strown,
      Thickly as grain in the deep furrows sown,
    Or sheaves in fields where merry reapers pass.
    To dust they wither in our hearts, alas!
      More swiftly than beneath the cruel stone.



THE OCEAN OF THE PAST.


    My wistful eyes still sweep thy sullen breast,
      Dead sea, whose waves, once, following stroke on stroke,
      Have swallowed mast and sail and hull of oak.
    Now all thy cruel billows are at rest;
    Hushed is thy roar, and stilled each raging crest;
      No phantom from thy mists may I evoke,
      No more my prow or sail the waves provoke,
    Where sleeps my happy island of the blest.

    Lo, while I gaze, like the responsive swell
      Of some great yearning heart, the billows rise,
      Till, in wild tumult leaping to the skies,
    They toss the beauteous wrecks I loved so well,
      Resistless through the rending barriers roll
      And sob through all the caverns of my soul.



EVIL DAYS.


    O Youth, O Hope, O Love, all phantoms vain!
      Ye lured me long with promise false as sweet,
      But now your flight outstrips my faltering feet.
    Dear traitors, will ye ne’er return again?
    Love lingered last, but all have been too fleet.
      Now sinks the light of day in tears and pain,
      The glories of the night unheeded wane:
    Summer is winter, truth is but deceit.

    Shall I not find upon some vernal day,
      Fruition for the buds that blighted here?
    The golden hours of youth I cast away,
      How I would hold those wasted treasures dear!
    Still through the lonely chambers of my brain
    No more, no more, echoes the sad refrain.



ENVY AND SLANDER.

TO N. A. M.


    Envy is deathless, though the envious die,
      And shafts of slander, hissing through the dark,
      Have ever loved, like death, a shining mark.
    Then do not think those shafts could pass thee by.

    Thy conscious worth, and purpose pure and high
      Cannot defend from little curs that bark;
      No wall, high as the flight of morning lark,
    Can top the poisoned arrows as they fly.

    Rise o’er the herd in feeling, thought, or deed,
      And feel the bitter sting of Envy’s tongue;
      Rise higher yet, and thus confound the throng,—
    Only a respite brief thy soul may read.
    Success, e’en more than merit, is a crime
    To tongues as tireless as the feet of Time.



TRUE FREEDOM.

TO J. F. F.


    He is not truly free who fears to speak
      The burning words that flame from heart to tongue,
      When in the presence of a hoary wrong,
    E’en though upheld by gown and surplice sleek,
    And hears unheeded the oppressed and weak.
      Nor friendship from the great, the rich, the strong,
      Nor grateful plaudits from the servile throng,
    The free-born spirit must expect or seek.

    Think not that power and place will come to thee—
      Sooner some sordid soul the race will win;
      E’en in the days of Cid and Paladin,
    And glorious days of Arthur’s chivalry,
    The golden spurs by cravens oft were won,
    While hearts as brave as Arthur’s died unknown.



“SOCIETY.”


    Dear, simple friend, and did you think to find
      Aught but hypocrisy and fair smooth lies
      In this charmed circle, that would ostracize
    All for a pair of gloves the most refined,
    The noblest type of man or womankind?
      A set whose aspirations never rise
      Above the triumphs wealth and fashion buys;
    Who ape the opinions with devotion blind,
    The coats and gowns, of royal debauchees
    And their bold paramours from over seas.
      How hope a noble womanhood to gain
    Nourished upon such stifling airs as these.
      Fashion forbids to rise above a plane
      That dudes and lah-de-dahs can just attain.



THE STAGNANT POOL.


    Stooping beside a stagnant pool to drink
      I saw a woman, weary and forlorn,
      With hair unkempt, and garments stained and torn;
    All grace of womanhood was fled, no link
    Remained of happier days; along the brink
      Swept by a stately dame with words of scorn;
      “Though I had thirsted since the early morn,
    Before my feet in that foul wave should sink
    My willing lips should press the cup of death.”
      O scornful dame! before the night was black,
      Lo! I beheld thy swift feet speeding back,
    With robes dishevelled and with gasping breath,
    In this same wave thy parching lips to cool,
    As eagerly as ’twere a mountain pool.



THE MAN WITH THE MUCK-RAKE.


    An old and well-known allegory reading,
      I found a quaint and curious picture there,
      Of one who gathered straws and dirt with care,
    The golden crown above his head unheeding.
    Science to-day, than avarice more misleading,
      Hath slain our father’s faith and hope and prayer;
      We rake the seas, and sweep the earth and air
    To find new theories for our own impeding.

    And some for tinsel toys of social glory,
      And Church and State, toil through the grovelling years.
      How can we hear the music of the spheres,
    Clutching the muck-rakes of the allegory?
    Our blunted senses only can discern
    The paltry baubles over which we yearn.



IMMORTALITY.


    My vision floats far down the milky-way,
      A shining track across a shoreless sea
      As deep and boundless as eternity.
    Suns sail in myriads there, and comets stray,
    Youthful, while hoary ages roll away.
      O fleeting life, the stars that shine on me
      Smiled just the same when star-lit Galilee
    Beneath the Saviour’s feet in slumber lay.

    What countless swarms of man’s ephemeral race
      Live, love, and die, while ye sail coldly on!
      Yet they shall rise, the teeming millions gone,
    And gaze unmoved, while from their ancient place
    The morning stars like baleful meteors fleet,
    And while the heavens melt with fervent heat.



TO A YOUNG ARTIST.


    The matchless artists of the olden time
      Knew naught of critic’s jargon; to their toil
      Bending as one that digs a stony soil,
    Sparing nor bloom of youth nor manhood’s prime,
    They caught and fixed their floating dreams sublime.
      So must we shun all vain polemic broil,
      Nor vex our souls with theories’ turmoil
    If to ideal heights we fain would climb.

    Our vintage time is speeding fast away,
      The morning faileth; then with double will,
      In spite of noonday glare or evening chill,
    Gather the glowing clusters while we may.
    So may our failing eyes see some faint beams
    Shed o’er our work from our supernal dreams.


THE END.

           *       *       *       *       *

Transcriber’s Note:

In poem “Shadows”, final stanza, “vail” changed to “veil”.

In poem “Twenty Years Ago”, penultimate stanza, “plantive” changed to
“plaintive”.





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