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The Seaside and the Fireside
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Web Book Publications
The Seaside and the Fireside
As one who, walking in the twilight gloom, Hears round about him voices as it darkens,
And seeing not the forms from which they come, Pauses from time to time, and turns and hearkens;
So walking here in twilight, O my friends! I hear your voices, softened by the distance,
And pause, and turn to listen, as each sends His words of friendship, comfort, and assistance.
If any thought of mine, or sung or told, Has ever given delight or consolation,
Ye have repaid me back a thousand-fold, By every friendly sign and salutation.
Thanks for the sympathies that ye have shown! Thanks for each kindly word, each silent token,
That teaches me, when seeming most alone, Friends are around us, though no word be spoken.
Kind messages, that pass from land to land; Kind letters, that betray the heart's deep history,
In which we feel the pressure of a hand,-- One touch of fire,--and all the rest is mystery!
The pleasant books, that silently among
Our household treasures take familiar places,
And are to us as if a living tongue
Spice from the printed leaves or pictured faces!
Perhaps on earth I never shall behold,
With eye of sense, your outward form and semblance;
Therefore to me ye never will grow old,
But live forever young in my remembrance.
Never grow old, nor change, nor pass away! Your gentle voices will flow on forever,
When life grows bare and tarnished with decay,
As through a leafless landscape flows a river.
Not chance of birth or place has made us friends, Being oftentimes of different tongues and nations,
But the endeavor for the selfsame ends,
With the same hopes, and fears, and aspirations.
Therefore I hope to join your seaside walk, Saddened, and mostly silent, with emotion;
Not interrupting with intrusive talk The grand, majestic symphonies of ocean.
Therefore I hope, as no unwelcome guest, At your warm fireside, when the lamps are lighted,
To have my place reserved among the rest, Nor stand as one unsought and uninvited!
"Build me straight, O worthy Master! Stanch and strong, a goodly vessel,
That shall laugh at all disaster,
And with wave and whirlwind wrestle!"
The merchant's word
Delighted the Master heard;
For his heart was in his work, and the heart Giveth grace unto every Art.
A quiet smile played round his lips, As the eddies and dimples of the tide Play round the bows of ships,
That steadily at anchor ride.
And with a voice that was full of glee, He answered, "Erelong we will launch
A vessel as goodly, and strong, and stanch, As ever weathered a wintry sea!"
And first with nicest skill and art,
Perfect and finished in every part,
A little model the Master wrought,
Which should be to the larger plan
What the child is to the man,
Its counterpart in miniature;
That with a hand more swift and sure
The greater labor might be brought
To answer to his inward thought.
And as he labored, his mind ran o'er
The various ships that were built of yore, And above them all, and strangest of all Towered the Great Harry, crank and tall, Whose picture was hanging on the wall, With bows and stern raised high in air, And balconies hanging here and there,
And signal lanterns and flags afloat,
And eight round towers, like those that frown From some old castle, looking down
Upon the drawbridge and the moat.
And he said with a smile, "Our ship, I wis, Shall be of another form than this!"
It was of another form, indeed;
Built for freight, and yet for speed,
A beautiful and gallant craft;
Broad in the beam, that the stress of the blast, Pressing down upon sail and mast,
Might not the sharp bows overwhelm;
Broad in the beam, but sloping aft
With graceful curve and slow degrees, That she might be docile to the helm,
And that the currents of parted seas,
Closing behind, with mighty force,
Might aid and not impede her course.
In the ship-yard stood the Master,
With the model of the vessel,
That should laugh at all disaster,
And with wave and whirlwind wrestle!
Covering many a rood of ground,
Lay the timber piled around;
Timber of chestnut, and elm, and oak, And scattered here and there, with these, The knarred and crooked cedar knees; Brought from regions far away,
From Pascagoula's sunny bay,
And the banks of the roaring Roanoke! Ah! what a wondrous thing it is
To note how many wheels of toil
One thought, one word, can set in motion! There's not a ship that sails the ocean, But every climate, every soil,
Must bring its tribute, great or small, And help to build the wooden wall!
The sun was rising o'er the sea,
And long the level shadows lay,
As if they, too, the beams would be Of some great, airy argosy.
Framed and launched in a single day. That silent architect, the sun,
Had hewn and laid them every one, Ere the work of man was yet begun. Beside the Master, when he spoke, A youth, against an anchor leaning, Listened, to catch his slightest meaning. Only the long waves, as they broke In ripples on the pebbly beach,
Interrupted the old man's speech.
Beautiful they were, in sooth, The old man and the fiery youth! The old man, in whose busy brain Many a ship that sailed the main
Was modelled o'er and o'er again;--
The fiery youth, who was to be
the heir of his dexterity,
The heir of his house, and his daughter's hand, When he had built and launched from land What the elder head had planned.
"Thus," said he, "will we build this ship! Lay square the blocks upon the slip, And follow well this plan of mine. Choose the timbers with greatest care; Of all that is unsound beware;
For only what is sound and strong to this vessel stall belong.
Cedar of Maine and Georgia pine Here together shall combine.
A goodly frame, and a goodly fame, And the UNION be her name!
For the day that gives her to the sea Shall give my daughter unto thee!"
The Master's word
Enraptured the young man heard;
And as he turned his face aside,
With a look of joy and a thrill of pride, Standing before
Her father's door,
He saw the form of his promised bride. The sun shone on her golden hair,
And her cheek was glowing fresh and fair, With the breath of morn and the soft sea air. Like a beauteous barge was she,
Still at rest on the sandy beach,
Just beyond the billow's reach;
Was the restless, seething, stormy sea! Ah, how skilful grows the hand
That obeyeth Love's command!
It is the heart, and not the brain, That to the highest doth attain, And he who followeth Love's behest Far excelleth all the rest!
Thus with the rising of the sun
Was the noble task begun
And soon throughout the ship-yard's bounds Were heard the intermingled sounds Of axes and of mallets, plied
With vigorous arms on every side;
Plied so deftly and so well,
That, ere the shadows of evening fell, The keel of oak for a noble ship,
Scarfed and bolted, straight and strong Was lying ready, and stretched along The blocks, well placed upon the slip. Happy, thrice happy, every one
Who sees his labor well begun,
And not perplexed and multiplied,
By idly waiting for time and tide!
And when the hot, long day was o'er, The young man at the Master's door Sat with the maiden calm and still. And within the porch, a little more Removed beyond the evening chill,
The father sat, and told them tales Of wrecks in the great September gales, Of pirates coasting the Spanish Main, And ships that never came back again, The chance and change of a sailor's life, Want and plenty, rest and strife,
His roving fancy, like the wind,
That nothing can stay and nothing can bind, And the magic charm of foreign lands, With shadows of palms, and shining sands, Where the tumbling surf,
O'er the coral reefs of Madagascar, Washes the feet of the swarthy Lascar, As he lies alone and asleep on the turf. And the trembling maiden held her breath At the tales of that awful, pitiless sea, With all its terror and mystery,
The dim, dark sea, so like unto Death, That divides and yet unites mankind! And whenever the old man paused, a gleam From the bowl of his pipe would awhile illume The silent group in the twilight gloom, And thoughtful faces, as in a dream; And for a moment one might mark
What had been hidden by the dark,
That the head of the maiden lay at rest, Tenderly, on the young man's breast!
Day by day the vessel grew,
With timbers fashioned strong and true, Stemson and keelson and sternson-knee, Till, framed with perfect symmetry,
A skeleton ship rose up to view!
And around the bows and along the side The heavy hammers and mallets plied, Till after many a week, at length,
Wonderful for form and strength,
Sublime in its enormous bulk,
Loomed aloft the shadowy hulk!
And around it columns of smoke, up-wreathing. Rose from the boiling, bubbling, seething Caldron, that glowed,
With the black tar, heated for the sheathing. And amid the clamors
Of clattering hammers,
He who listened heard now and then
The song of the Master and his men:-- "Build me straight, O worthy Master.
Stanch and strong, a goodly vessel, That shall laugh at all disaster,
And with wave and whirlwind wrestle!"
With oaken brace and copper band,
Lay the rudder on the sand,
That, like a thought, should have control Over the movement of the whole;
And near it the anchor, whose giant hand Would reach down and grapple with the land, And immovable and fast
Hold the great ship against the bellowing blast! And at the bows an image stood,
By a cunning artist carved in wood,
With robes of white, that far behind
Seemed to be fluttering in the wind.
It was not shaped in a classic mould,
Not like a Nymph or Goddess of old,
Or Naiad rising from the water,
But modelled from the Master's daughter! On many a dreary and misty night,
'T will be seen by the rays of the signal light, Speeding along through the rain and the dark, Like a ghost in its snow-white sark,
The pilot of some phantom bark,
Guiding the vessel, in its flight,
By a path none other knows aright!
Behold, at last,
Each tall and tapering mast
Is swung into its place;
Shrouds and stays
Holding it firm and fast!
In the deer-haunted forests of Maine, When upon mountain and plain
Lay the snow,
They fell,--those lordly pines!
Those grand, majestic pines!
'Mid shouts and cheers
The jaded steers,
Panting beneath the goad,
Dragged down the weary, winding road
Those captive kings so straight and tall, To be shorn of their streaming hair,
And, naked and bare,
To feel the stress and the strain
Of the wind and the reeling main,
Would remind them forevermore
Of their native forests they should not see again.
The slender, graceful spars
Poise aloft in the air,
And at the mast-head,
White, blue, and red,
A flag unrolls the stripes and stars.
Ah! when the wanderer, lonely, friendless, In foreign harbors shall behold
That flag unrolled,
'T will be as a friendly hand
Stretched out from his native land,
Filling his heart with memories sweet and endless!
All is finished! and at length
Has come the bridal day
Of beauty and of strength.
To-day the vessel shall be launched! With fleecy clouds the sky is blanched, And o'er the bay,
Slowly, in all his splendors dight, The great sun rises to behold the sight.
The ocean old,
Strong as youth, and as uncontrolled, Paces restless to and fro,
Up and down the sands of gold.
His beating heart is not at rest;
And far and wide,
With ceaseless flow,
His beard of snow
Heaves with the heaving of his breast. He waits impatient for his bride.
There she stands,
With her foot upon the sands,
Decked with flags and streamers gay, In honor of her marriage day,
Her snow-white signals fluttering, blending, Round her like a veil descending,
Ready to be
The bride of the gray old sea.
On the deck another bride
Is standing by her lover's side. Shadows from the flags and shrouds, Like the shadows cast by clouds, Broken by many a sunny fleck, Fall around them on the deck.
The prayer is said,
The service read,
The joyous bridegroom bows his head; And in tear's the good old Master Shakes the brown hand of his son, Kisses his daughter's glowing cheek In silence, for he cannot speak, And ever faster
Down his own the tears begin to run. The worthy pastor--
The shepherd of that wandering flock, That has the ocean for its wold, That has the vessel for its fold, Leaping ever from rock to rock-- Spake, with accents mild and clear, Words of warning, words of cheer,
But tedious to the bridegroom's ear. He knew the chart
Of the sailor's heart,
All its pleasures and its griefs,
All its shallows and rocky reefs,
All those secret currents, that flow With such resistless undertow,
And lift and drift, with terrible force, The will from its moorings and its course. Therefore he spake, and thus said he:-- "Like unto ships far off at sea,
Outward or homeward bound, are we. Before, behind, and all around,
Floats and swings the horizon's bound, Seems at its distant rim to rise
And climb the crystal wall of the skies, And then again to turn and sink,
As if we could slide from its outer brink. Ah! it is not the sea,
It is not the sea that sinks and shelves, But ourselves
That rock and rise
With endless and uneasy motion,
Now touching the very skies,
Now sinking into the depths of ocean. Ah! if our souls but poise and swing
Like the compass in its brazen ring,
Ever level and ever true
To the toil and the task we have to do, We shall sail securely, and safely reach The Fortunate Isles, on whose shining beach The sights we see, and the sounds we hear, Will he those of joy and not of fear!"
Then the Master,
With a gesture of command, Waved his hand;
And at the word,
Loud and sudden there was heard,
All around them and below,
The sound of hammers, blow on blow, Knocking away the shores and spurs. And see! she stirs!
She starts,--she moves,--she seems to feel The thrill of life along her keel,
And, spurning with her foot the ground, With one exulting, joyous bound,
She leaps into the ocean's arms!
And lo! from the assembled crowd There rose a shout, prolonged and loud, That to the ocean seemed to say, "Take her, O bridegroom, old and gray, Take her to thy protecting arms, With all her youth and all her charms!"
How beautiful she is! How fair
She lies within those arms, that press Her form with many a soft caress
Of tenderness and watchful care!
Sail forth into the sea, O ship!
Through wind and wave, right onward steer! The moistened eye, the trembling lip, Are not the signs of doubt or fear.
Sail forth into the sea of life, O gentle, loving, trusting wife, And safe from all adversity Upon the bosom of that sea Thy comings and thy goings be! For gentleness and love and trust Prevail o'er angry wave and gust; And in the wreck of noble lives Something immortal still survives! Thou, too, sail on, O Ship of State!
Sail on, O UNION, strong and great! Humanity with all its fears,
With all the hopes of future years,
Is hanging breathless on thy fate!
We know what Master laid thy keel,
What Workmen wrought thy ribs of steel, Who made each mast, and sail, and rope, What anvils rang, what hammers beat, In what a forge and what a heat
Were shaped the anchors of thy hope! Fear not each sudden sound and shock, 'T is of the wave and not the rock;
'T is but the flapping of the sail,
And not a rent made by the gale!
In spite of rock and tempest's roar,
In spite of false lights on the shore,
Sail on, nor fear to breast the sea
Our hearts, our hopes, are all with thee, Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears, Our faith triumphant o'er our fears, Are all with thee,--are all with thee!
When descends on the Atlantic The gigantic
Storm-wind of the equinox,
Landward in his wrath he scourges The toiling surges,
Laden with seaweed from the rocks:
From Bermuda's reefs; from edges Of sunken ledges,
In some far-off, bright Azore;
From Bahama, and the dashing, Silver-flashing
Surges of San Salvador;
From the tumbling surf, that buries The Orkneyan skerries,
Answering the hoarse Hebrides;
And from wrecks of ships, and drifting Spars, uplifting
On the desolate, rainy seas;--
Ever drifting, drifting, drifting On the shifting
Currents of the restless main;
Till in sheltered coves, and reaches Of sandy beaches,
All have found repose again.
So when storms of wild emotion Strike the ocean
Of the poet's soul, erelong
From each cave and rocky fastness, In its vastness,
Floats some fragment of a song:
Front the far-off isles enchanted, Heaven has planted
With the golden fruit of Truth;
From the flashing surf, whose vision Gleams Elysian
In the tropic clime of Youth;
From the strong Will, and the Endeavor That forever
Wrestle with the tides of Fate
From the wreck of Hopes far-scattered, Tempest-shattered,
Floating waste and desolate;--
Ever drifting, drifting, drifting On the shifting
Currents of the restless heart;
Till at length in books recorded, They, like hoarded
Household words, no more depart.
Just above yon sandy bar,
As the day grows fainter and dimmer,
Lonely and lovely, a single star
Lights the air with a dusky glimmer
Into the ocean faint and far
Falls the trail of its golden splendor,
And the gleam of that single star Is ever refulgent, soft, and tender.
Chrysaor, rising out of the sea,
Showed thus glorious and thus emulous,
Leaving the arms of Callirrhoe,
Forever tender, soft, and tremulous.
Thus o'er the ocean faint and far
Trailed the gleam of his falchion brightly;
Is it a God, or is it a star
That, entranced, I gaze on nightly!
Ah! what pleasant visions haunt me As I gaze upon the sea!
All the old romantic legends, All my dreams, come back to me.
Sails of silk and ropes of sandal, Such as gleam in ancient lore;
And the singing of the sailors, And the answer from the shore!
Most of all, the Spanish ballad Haunts me oft, and tarries long,
Of the noble Count Arnaldos And the sailor's mystic song.
Like the long waves on a sea-beach, Where the sand as silver shines,
With a soft, monotonous cadence, Flow its unrhymed lyric lines:-
Telling how the Count Arnaldos, With his hawk upon his hand,
Saw a fair and stately galley, Steering onward to the land;--
How he heard the ancient helmsman Chant a song so wild and clear,
That the sailing sea-bird slowly Poised upon the mast to hear,
Till his soul was full of longing, And he cried, with impulse strong,--
"Helmsman! for the love of heaven, Teach me, too, that wondrous song!"
"Wouldst thou,"--so the helmsman answered, "Learn the secret of the sea?
Only those who brave its dangers
Comprehend its mystery!"
In each sail that skims the horizon, In each landward-blowing breeze,
I behold that stately galley,
Hear those mournful melodies;
Till my soul is full of longing
For the secret of the sea,
And the heart of the great ocean Sends a thrilling pulse through me. TWILIGHT
The twilight is sad and cloudy, The wind blows wild and free,
And like the wings of sea-birds Flash the white caps of the sea.
But in the fisherman's cottage There shines a ruddier light,
And a little face at the window Peers out into the night.
Close, close it is pressed to the window, As if those childish eyes
Were looking into the darkness, To see some form arise.
And a woman's waving shadow Is passing to and fro,
Now rising to the ceiling, Now bowing and bending low.
And the night-wind, bleak and wild, As they beat at the crazy casement,
Tell to that little child?
And why do the roaring ocean,
And the night-wind, wild and bleak,
As they beat at the heart of the mother, Drive the color from her cheek?
Southward with fleet of ice
Sailed the corsair Death;
Wild and fast blew the blast, And the east-wind was his breath.
His lordly ships of ice
Glisten in the sun;
On each side, like pennons wide, Flashing crystal streamlets run.
His sails of white sea-mist
Dripped with silver rain;
But where he passed there were cast Leaden shadows o'er the main.
Eastward from Campobello
Sir Humphrey Gilbert sailed;
Three days or more seaward he bore, Then, alas! the land-wind failed.
Alas! the land-wind failed,
And ice-cold grew the night;
And nevermore, on sea or shore, Should Sir Humphrey see the light.
He sat upon the deck,
The Book was in his hand
"Do not fear! Heaven is as near," He said, "by water as by land!"
In the first watch of the night, Without a signal's sound,
Out of the sea, mysteriously, The fleet of Death rose all around.
The moon and the evening star Were hanging in the shrouds;
Every mast, as it passed,
Seemed to rake the passing clouds.
They grappled with their prize, At midnight black and cold!
As of a rock was the shock; Heavily the ground-swell rolled.
Southward through day and dark, They drift in close embrace,
With mist and rain, o'er the open main; Yet there seems no change of place.
Southward, forever southward, They drift through dark and day;
And like a dream, in the Gulf-Stream Sinking, vanish all away.
The rocky ledge runs far into the sea, And on its outer point, some miles away,
The Lighthouse lifts its massive masonry, A pillar of fire by night, of cloud by day.
Even at this distance I can see the tides, Upheaving, break unheard along its base,
A speechless wrath, that rises and subsides In the white lip and tremor of the face.
And as the evening darkens, lo! how bright, Through the deep purple of the twilight air,
Beams forth the sudden radiance of its light With strange, unearthly splendor in the glare!
Not one alone; from each projecting cape And perilous reef along the ocean's verge,
Starts into life a dim, gigantic shape, Holding its lantern o'er the restless surge.
Like the great giant Christopher it stands Upon the brink of the tempestuous wave,
Wading far out among the rocks and sands, The night-o'ertaken mariner to save.
They come forth from the darkness, and their sails Gleam for a moment only in the blaze,
And eager faces, as the light unveils,
Gaze at the tower, and vanish while they gaze.
The mariner remembers when a child, On his first voyage, he saw it fade and sink;
And when, returning from adventures wild, He saw it rise again o'er ocean's brink.
Year after year, through all the silent night Burns on forevermore that quenchless flame,
Shines on that inextinguishable light!
It sees the ocean to its bosom clasp
The rocks and sea-sand with the kiss of peace;
It sees the wild winds lift it in their grasp, And hold it up, and shake it like a fleece.
The startled waves leap over it; the storm Smites it with all the scourges of the rain,
And steadily against its solid form
Press the great shoulders of the hurricane.
The sea-bird wheeling round it, with the din Of wings and winds and solitary cries,
Blinded and maddened by the light within, Dashes himself against the glare, and dies.
A new Prometheus, chained upon the rock, Still grasping in his hand the fire of Jove,
It does not hear the cry, nor heed the shock, But hails the mariner with words of love.
Whose windows, looking o'er the bay, Gave to the sea-breeze, damp and cold,
An easy entrance, night and day.
Not far away we saw the port,
The strange, old-fashioned, silent town,
The lighthouse, the dismantled fort, The wooden houses, quaint and brown.
We sat and talked until the night, Descending, filled the little room;
Our faces faded from the sight, Our voices only broke the gloom.
Of what we once had thought and said, Of what had been, and might have been,
And who was changed, and who was dead;
And all that fills the hearts of friends, When first they feel, with secret pain,
Their lives thenceforth have separate ends, And never can be one again;
The first slight swerving of the heart, That words are powerless to express,
And leave it still unsaid in part, Or say it in too great excess.
Oft died the words upon our lips, As suddenly, from out the fire
Built of the wreck of stranded ships, The flames would leap and then expire.
And, as their splendor flashed and failed, We thought of wrecks upon the main,
Of ships dismasted, that were hailed And sent no answer back again.
The windows, rattling in their frames, The ocean, roaring up the beach,
The gusty blast, the bickering flames, All mingled vaguely in our speech.
Until they made themselves a part Of fancies floating through the brain,
The long-lost ventures of the heart, That send no answers back again.
O flames that glowed! O hearts that yearned! They were indeed too much akin,
The drift-wood fire without that burned, The thoughts that burned and glowed within.
There is no flock, however watched and tended, But one dead lamb is there!
There is no fireside, howsoe'er defended, But has one vacant chair!
Let us be patient! These severe afflictions Not from the ground arise,
But oftentimes celestial benedictions Assume this dark disguise.
We see but dimly through the mists and vapors; Amid these earthly damps
What seem to us but sad, funereal tapers May be heaven's distant lamps.
There is no Death! What seems so is transition; This life of mortal breath
Is but a suburb of the life elysian,
Whose portal we call Death.
She is not dead,--the child of our affection,-- But gone unto that school
Where she no longer needs our poor protection, And Christ himself doth rule.
In that great cloister's stillness and seclusion, By guardian angels led,
Safe from temptation, safe from sin's pollution, She lives, whom we call dead.
Day after day we think what she is doing In those bright realms of air;
Year after year, her tender steps pursuing, Behold her grown more fair.
Thus do we walk with her, and keep unbroken The bond which nature gives,
Thinking that our remembrance, though unspoken, May reach her where she lives.
But a fair maiden, in her Father's mansion, Clothed with celestial grace;
And beautiful with all the soul's expansion Shall we behold her face.
And though at times impetuous with emotion And anguish long suppressed,
The swelling heart heaves moaning like the ocean, That cannot be at rest,--
We will be patient, and assuage the feeling We may not wholly stay;
By silence sanctifying, not concealing, The grief that must have way.
All are architects of Fate,
Working in these walls of Time;
Some with massive deeds and great, Some with ornaments of rhyme.
Nothing useless is, or low;
Each thing in its place is best;
And what seems but idle show Strengthens and supports the rest.
For the structure that we raise, Time is with materials filled;
Our to-days and yesterdays
Are the blocks with which we build.
Truly shape and fashion these; Leave no yawning gaps between;
Think not, because no man sees, Such things will remain unseen.
In the elder days of Art,
Builders wrought with greatest care
Each minute and unseen part;
For the Gods see everywhere.
Let us do our work as well,
Both the unseen and the seen;
Make the house, where Gods may dwell, Beautiful, entire, and clean.
Standing in these walls of Time, Broken stairways, where the feet
Stumble as they seek to climb.
Build to-day, then, strong and sure, With a firm and ample base;
And ascending and secure
Shall to-morrow find its place.
Thus alone can we attain
To those turrets, where the eye
Sees the world as one vast plain, And one boundless reach of sky.
A handful of red sand, from the hot clime Of Arab deserts brought,
Within this glass becomes the spy of Time, The minister of Thought.
How many weary centuries has it been About those deserts blown!
How many strange vicissitudes has seen, How many histories known!
Perhaps the feet of Moses, burnt and bare, Crushed it beneath their tread;
Or Pharaoh's flashing wheels into the air Scattered it as they sped;
Or Mary, with the Christ of Nazareth Held close in her caress,
Whose pilgrimage of hope and love and faith Illumed the wilderness;
Or anchorites beneath Engaddi's palms Pacing the Dead Sea beach,
And singing slow their old Armenian psalms In half-articulate speech;
Or caravans, that from Bassora's gate With westward steps depart;
Or Mecca's pilgrims, confident of Fate, And resolute in heart!
These have passed over it, or may have passed! Now in this crystal tower
Imprisoned by some curious hand at last, It counts the passing hour,
And as I gaze, these narrow walls expand; Before my dreamy eye
Stretches the desert with its shifting sand, Its unimpeded sky.
And borne aloft by the sustaining blast, This little golden thread
Dilates into a column high and vast, A form of fear and dread.
The vision vanishes! These walls again Shut out the lurid sun,
Shut out the hot, immeasurable plain; The half-hour's sand is run!
The old house by the lindens Stood silent in the shade,
And on the gravelled pathway The light and shadow played.
I saw the nursery windows Wide open to the air;
But the faces of the children, They were no longer there.
The large Newfoundland house-dog Was standing by the door;
He looked for his little playmates, Who would return no more.
They walked not under the lindens, They played not in the hall;
But shadow, and silence, and sadness Were hanging over all.
The birds sang in the branches, With sweet, familiar tone;
But the voices of the children Will be heard in dreams alone!
And the boy that walked beside me, He could not understand
Why closer in mine, ah! closer, I pressed his warm, soft hand! KING WITLAF'S DRINKING-HORN
Witlaf, a king of the Saxons, Ere yet his last he breathed,
To the merry monks of Croyland His drinking-horn bequeathed,--
That, whenever they sat at their revels, And drank from the golden bowl,
They might remember the donor, And breathe a prayer for his soul.
So sat they once at Christmas, And bade the goblet pass;
In their beards the red wine glistened Like dew-drops in the grass.
They drank to the soul of Witlaf, They drank to Christ the Lord,
And to each of the Twelve Apostles, Who had preached his holy word.
They drank to the Saints and Martyrs Of the dismal days of yore,
And as soon as the horn was empty They remembered one Saint more.
And the reader droned from the pulpit Like the murmur of many bees,
The legend of good Saint Guthlac, And Saint Basil's homilies;
Till the great bells of the convent, From their prison in the tower,
Guthlac and Bartholomaeus, Proclaimed the midnight hour.
Yet still in his pallid fingers He clutched the golden bowl,
In which, like a pearl dissolving, Had sunk and dissolved his soul.
But not for this their revels
The jovial monks forbore,
For they cried, "Fill high the goblet! We must drink to one Saint more!"
Pondered o'er his secret shame; Baffled, weary, and disheartened,
Still he mused, and dreamed of fame.
'T was an image of the Virgin That had tasked his utmost skill;
But, alas! his fair ideal
Vanished and escaped him still.
From a distant Eastern island
Had the precious wood been brought
Day and night the anxious master At his toil untiring wrought;
Till, discouraged and desponding, Sat he now in shadows deep,
And the day's humiliation
Found oblivion in sleep.
Then a voice cried, "Rise, O master! From the burning brand of oak
Shape the thought that stirs within thee!" And the startled artist woke,--
Woke, and from the smoking embers Seized and quenched the glowing wood;
And therefrom he carved an image, And he saw that it was good.
O thou sculptor, painter, poet! Take this lesson to thy heart:
That is best which lieth nearest; Shape from that thy work of art.
Once into a quiet village,
Without haste and without heed,
In the golden prime of morning, Strayed the poet's winged steed.
It was Autumn, and incessant
Piped the quails from shocks and sheaves,
And, like living coals, the apples
Burned among the withering leaves.
Loud the clamorous bell was ringing From its belfry gaunt and grim;
'T was the daily call to labor, Not a triumph meant for him.
Not the less he saw the landscape, In its gleaming vapor veiled;
Not the less he breathed the odors That the dying leaves exhaled.
By the school-boys he was found; And the wise men, in their wisdom,
Put him straightway into pound.
And the curious country people, Rich and poor, and young and old,
Came in haste to see this wondrous Winged steed, with mane of gold.
Thus the day passed, and the evening Fell, with vapors cold and dim;
But it brought no food nor shelter, Brought no straw nor stall, for him.
Looked he through the wooden bars, Saw the moon rise o'er the landscape,
Saw the tranquil, patient stars;
Till at length the bell at midnight Sounded from its dark abode,
And, from out a neighboring farm-yard Loud the cock Alectryon crowed.
Then, with nostrils wide distended, Breaking from his iron chain,
And unfolding far his pinions, To those stars he soared again.
On the morrow, when the village Woke to all its toil and care,
Lo! the strange steed had departed, And they knew not when nor where.
But they found, upon the greensward Where his straggling hoofs had trod,
Pure and bright, a fountain flowing From the hoof-marks in the sod.
I heard a voice, that cried, "Balder the Beautiful
Is dead, is dead!"
And through the misty air Passed like the mournful cry Of sunward sailing cranes.
I saw the pallid corpse
Of the dead sun
Borne through the Northern sky. Blasts from Niffelheim
Lifted the sheeted mists
Around him as he passed.
And the voice forever cried, "Balder the Beautiful
Is dead, is dead!"
And died away
Through the dreary night, In accents of despair.
Balder the Beautiful,
God of the summer sun,
Fairest of all the Gods!
Light from his forehead beamed, Runes were upon his tongue, As on the warrior's sword.
All things in earth and air Bound were by magic spell Never to do him harm; Even the plants and stones; All save the mistletoe, The sacred mistletoe!
Hoeder, the blind old God,
Whose feet are shod with silence, Pierced through that gentle breast With his sharp spear, by fraud Made of the mistletoe,
The accursed mistletoe!
They laid him in his ship, With horse and harness, As on a funeral pyre. Odin placed
A ring upon his finger, And whispered in his ear.
They launched the burning ship! It floated far away
Over the misty sea,
Till like the sun it seemed, Sinking beneath the waves. Balder returned no more!
So perish the old Gods!
But out of the sea of Time Rises a new land of song,
Fairer than the old.
Over its meadows green
Walk the young bards and sing.
Build it again,
O ye bards,
Fairer than before!
Ye fathers of the new race, Feed upon morning dew, Sing the new Song of Love! The law of force is dead! The law of love prevails! Thor, the thunderer,
Shall rule the earth no more, No more, with threats, Challenge the meek Christ.
Sing no more,
O ye bards of the North, Of Vikings and of Jarls! Of the days of Eld
Preserve the freedom only, Not the deeds of blood!
O precious evenings! all too swiftly sped!
Leaving us heirs to amplest heritages
Of all the best thoughts of the greatest sages, And giving tongues unto the silent dead!
How our hearts glowed and trembled as she read, Interpreting by tones the wondrous pages Of the great poet who foreruns the ages, Anticipating all that shall be said!
O happy Reader! having for thy text
The magic book, whose Sibylline leaves have caught The rarest essence of all human thought!
O happy Poet! by no critic vext!
How must thy listening spirit now rejoice To be interpreted by such a voice!
God sent his Singers upon earth With songs of sadness and of mirth, That they might touch the hearts of men, And bring them back to heaven again.
The first, a youth, with soul of fire,
Held in his hand a golden lyre;
Through groves he wandered, and by streams, Playing the music of our dreams.
The second, with a bearded face, Stood singing in the market-place, And stirred with accents deep and loud The hearts of all the listening crowd.
A gray old man, the third and last, Sang in cathedrals dim and vast, While the majestic organ rolled Contrition from its mouths of gold.
And those who heard the Singers three Disputed which the best might be; For still their music seemed to start Discordant echoes in each heart,
But the great Master said, "I see No best in kind, but in degree;
I gave a various gift to each,
To charm, to strengthen, and to teach.
"These are the three great chords of might, And he whose ear is tuned aright
Will hear no discord in the three,
But the most perfect harmony."
Take them, O Death! and bear away Whatever thou canst call thine own!
Thine image, stamped upon this clay, Doth give thee that, but that alone!
Take them, O Grave! and let them lie Folded upon thy narrow shelves,
As garments by the soul laid by, And precious only to ourselves!
Take them, O great Eternity!
Our little life is but a gust
That bends the branches of thy tree, And trails its blossoms in the dust!
Christ to the young man said: "Yet one thing more; If thou wouldst perfect be,
Sell all thou hast and give it to the poor, And come and follow me!"
Within this temple Christ again, unseen, Those sacred words hath said,
And his invisible hands to-day have been Laid on a young man's head.
And evermore beside him on his way The unseen Christ shall move,
That he may lean upon his arm and say, "Dost thou, dear Lord, approve?"
Beside him at the marriage feast shall be, To make the scene more fair;
Beside him in the dark Gethsemane Of pain and midnight prayer.
O holy trust! O endless sense of rest! Like the beloved John
To lay his head upon the Saviour's breast, And thus to journey on!