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UNDER THE WILLOWS AND OTHER POEMS
“THE WILLows," as was pointed out in the night I fairly ended my work. . . . I had de. introductory note to An Indian-Summer Rev- cided to put the “ June Idyl” in the forefront erie, was a clump of trees not far from Elm- and call it“ A June Idyl, and Other Poems." wood. Lowell took a peculiar pleasure in their But Fields told me that Whittier's new volume gnarled and umbrageous forms, and wrote to was to be called “A Summer Idyl ” - so I Fields while the volume which took its title was blocked there. Then I took “ Applefrom the trees was in press : “My heart was dore," merely because it was a pretty name, almost broken yesterday by seeing nailed to though I did not wish to put that in the van. my willow a board with_these words on it, So it was all settled for the second time. Then «These trees for sale.' The wretch is going I was suddenly moved to finish my “ Voyage to peddle them for firewood ! If I had the to Vinland," and, as I liked the poem, money, I would buy the piece of ground they thought no title so good as The Voyage stand on to save them the dear friends of a to Vinland, and Other Poems." But Fields lifetime. They would be a loss to the town. would not hear of it, and proposed that I But what can one do ? They belong to a man should rechristen the Idyl Elmwood," and who values them by the cord. I wish Fenn name the book after that. But the more I had sketched them at least. One of them thought of it, the less I liked it. It was throwI hope will stand a few years yet in my poem ing my sanctuary open and making a show
but he might just as well have outlasted house of my hermitage. _ It was indecent. So me and my works, making his own green I fumed and worried. I was riled. Then it ode every summer.” Not all the trees have occurred to me that I had taken the name of been destroyed, for some yet remain, and it “ June Idyl” as a pis-aller, because in my is a pleasure to record the refusal of a new haste I could think of nuthing else. Why not comer into the neighborhood to have one de- name it over ? So I hit upon “Under the stroyed which was inconveniently near thc site Willows," and that it is to be. . . . But it is of the house she was to build. She changed, awfully depressing work. They call back so instead, the site.
many moods, and they are so bad. I think, The varying minds Lowell was in regarding though, there is a suggestion of something the title of the volume may be learned from good in them at least, and they are not silly. the following letter to C. E. Norton, dated But how much the public will stand! I some
times wonder they don't drive all us authors ELMWOOD, October 7, 1868.
into a corner and make a battue of the whole “The summer is past, the harvest is concern at once. ended," and I have not yet written to you ! Well, I was resolved I would not write till In making the collection, the first miscellanethe printers had in their hands all the copy of ous one since the Poems published in 1849, Lowmy new volume of old poems. And that has ell gathered not only those published meantaken longer than I expected. I have been while in magazines and other periodicals, but Marthaized by many small troubles. But last went back and recovered some earlier verses.
TO CHARLES ELIOT NORTON We knew you child and youth and man,
A wonderful fellow to dream and plan,
- who THE wind is roistering out of doors,
knows ? My windows shake and my chimney roars; Well, well! 't is some comfort to toast My Elmwood chimneys seem crooning to
one's toes. me, As of old, in their moody, minor key, “ How many times have you sat at gaze And out of the past the hoarse wind blows, Till the mouldering fire forgot to blaze, As I sit in my arm-chair, and toast my toes. Shaping among the whimsical coals
Fancies and figures and shining goals! " Ho! ho! nine-and-forty,” they seem to What matters the ashes that cover those ? sing,
While hickory lasts you can toast your “ We saw you a little toddling thing.
“O dream-ship-builder! where are they Pipe blown through by the warm wild all,
breath of the West Your grand three-deckers, deep -chested Shepherding bis soft droves of fleecy cloud, and tall,
Gladness of woods, skies, waters, all in That should crush the waves under canvas
The bobolink has come, and, like the soul And anchor at last by the Fortunate Isles ? Of the sweet season vocal in a bird, There's
gray in your beard, the years turn Gurgles in ecstasy we know not what foes,
Save June ! Dear June! Now God be While you muse in your arm-chair, and praised for June. toast your toes.”
May is a pious fraud of the almanac, I sit and dream that I hear, as of yore, A ghastly parody of real Spring My Elmwood chimneys' deep-throated Shaped out of snow and breathed with roar ;
eastern wind; If much be gone, there is much remains ; Or if, o'er-confident, she trust the date, By the embers of loss I count my gains, And, with her handful of anemones, You and yours with the best, till the old Herself as shivery, steal into the sun, hope glows
The season need but turn his hour-glass In the fanciful flame, as I toast my toes.
And Winter suddenly, like crazy Lear, Instead of a fleet of broad-browed ships, Reels back, and brings the dead May in To send a child's armada of chips! Instead of the great guns, tier on tier, Her budding breasts and wan dislustred A freight of pebbles and grass - blades
With frosty streaks and drifts of bis white “Well, maybe more love with the less gift beard goes,
All overblown. Then, warmly walled with I growl, as, half moody, I toast my toes.
books, While my wood-fire supplies the sun's de
fect, UNDER THE WILLOWS Whispering old forest-sagas in its dreams,
I take my May down from the happy FRANK-HEARTED hostess of the field and
Where perch the world's rare song-birds in Gypsy, whose roof is every spreading tree,
a row, June is the pearl of our New England Waiting my choice to open with full breast, year.
And beg an alms of springtime, ne'er deStill a surprisal, though expected long,
nied Her coming startles. Long she lies in Indoors by vernal Chaucer, whose fresh wait,
woods Makes many a feint, peeps forth, draws Throb thick with merle and mavis all the coyly back,
year. Then, from some southern ambush in the sky,
July breathes hot, sallows the crispy fields, With one great gush of blossom storms the Curls up the wan leaves of the lilac-hedge, world.
And every eve cheats us with show of clouds A week ago the sparrow was divine; That braze the horizon's western rim, or The bluebird, shifting his light load of hang song
Motionless, with heaped canvas drooping From post to post along the cheerless idly, fence,
Like a dim fleet by starving men besieged, Was as a rhymer ere the poet come ; Conjectured half, and half descried afar, But now, ob rapture ! sunshine winged and Helpless of wind, and seeming to slip back voiced,
Adown the smooth curve of the oily sea.
But June is full of invitations sweet, A tree among my far progenitors, Forth from the chimney's yawn and thrice- Such sympathy is mine with all the race, read tomes
Such mutual recognition vaguely sweet To leisurely delights and sauntering There is between us. Surely there are thoughts
times That brook no ceiling narrower than the When they consent to own me of their blue.
kin, The cherry, drest for bridal, at my pane And condescend to me, and call me cousin, Brushes, then listens, Will he come? The Murmuring faint lullabies of eldest time, bee,
and yet dumbly felt with thrills All dusty as a miller, takes his toll
Moving the lips, though fruitless of all Of powdery gold, and grumbles. What a words. day
And I have many a lifelong leafy friend, To sun me and do nothing! Nay, I think Never estranged nor careful of my soul, Merely to bask and ripen
is sometimes That knows I hate the axe, and welcomes The student's wiser business ; the brain That forages all climes to line its cells, Within his tent as if I were a bird, Ranging both worlds on lightest wings of Or other free companion of the earth, wish,
Yet undegenerate to the shifts of men. Will not distil the juices it has sucked Among them one, an ancient willow, To the sweet substance of pellucid thought, spreads Except for him who hath the secret learned Eight balanced limbs, springing at once all To mix his blood with sunshine, and to
His deep-ridged trunk with upward slant The winds into his pulses. Hush! 't is diverse, he!
In outline like enormons beaker, fit My oriole, my glance of summer fire, For hand of Jotun, where mid snow and Is come at last, and, ever on the watch,
mist Twitches the packthread I had lightly He holds unwieldy revel. This tree, spared, wound
I know not by what grace,
for in the About the bough to help his housekeep
Of our New World subduers lingers yet Twitches and scouts by turns, blessing his Hereditary feud with trees, they being, luck,
(They and the red-man most) our fathers' Yet fearing me who laid it in his way,
foes, Nor, more than wiser we in our affairs, Is one of six, a willow Pleiades, Divines
the providence that hides and helps. The seventh fallen, that lean along the Heave, ho! Heave, ho! he whistles as the
Where the steep upland dips into the marsh, Slackens its hold; once more, now! and a Their roots, like molten metal cooled in flash
flowing, Lightens across the sunlight to the elm Stiffened in coils and runnels down the Where his mate dangles at her cup of
The friend of all the winds, wide-armed he Nor all his booty is the thread; he trails
towers My loosened thought with it along the And glints his steely aglets in the sun, air,
Or whitens fitfully with sudden bloom And I must follow, would I ever find Of leaves breeze-lifted, much as when a The inward rhyme to all this wealth of
Of devions minnows wheel from where a
pike I care not how men trace their ancestry, Lurks balanced 'neath the lily-pads, and To ape or Adam: let them please their
A rood of silver bellies to the day. But I in June am midway to believe Alas! no acorn from the British oak
'Neath which slim fairies tripping wrought Wiser than this, – to spend in all things those rings
else, Of greenest emerald, wherewith fireside life But of old friends to be most miserly. Did with the invisible spirit of Nature Each year to ancient friendships adds a wed,
ring, Was ever planted here! No darnel fancy As to an oak, and precious more and more, Might choke one useful blade in Puritan Without deservingness or help of ours, fields;
They grow, and, silent, wider spread, each With horn and hoof the good old Devil year, came,
Their unbought ring of shelter or of shade. The witch's broomstick was not contra- Sacred to me the lichens on the bark, band,
Which Nature's milliners would scrape But all that superstition had of fair,
away; Or piety of vative sweet, was doomed. Most dear and sacred every withered limb! And if there be who nurse unholy faiths, 'T is good to set them early, for our faith Fearing their god as if he were a wolf Pines as we age, and, after wrinkles come, That snuffed round every home and was Few plant, but water dead ones with vain
tears. There should be some to watch and keep alive
This willow is as old to me as life; All beautiful beliefs. And such was that, And under it full often have I stretched, By solitary shepherd first surmised
Feeling the warm earth like a thing alive, Under Thessalian oaks, loved by some maid And gathering virtue in at every pore Of royal stirp, that silent came and van- Till it possessed me wholly, and thought ished,
ceased, As near her nest the hermit thrush, nor Or was transfused in something to which dared
thought Confess a mortal name,
that faith which Is coarse and dull of sense. Myself was gave
lost, A Hamadryad to each tree; and I
Gone from me like an ache, and what reWill hold it true that in this willow dwells
mained The open-handed spirit, frank and blithe, Become a part of the universal joy. Of ancient Hospitality, long since,
My soul went forth, and, mingling with the With ceremonious thrift, bowed out of
Danced in the leaves; or, floating in the
cloud, In June 't is good to lie beneath a tree Saw its white double in the stream below; While the blithe season comforts every Or else, sublimed to purer ecstasy, sense,
Dilated in the broad blue over all. Steeps all the brain in rest, and heals the I was the wind that dappled the lush heart,
grass, Brimming it o'er with sweetness unawares, The tide that crept with coolness to its Fragrant and silent as that rosy snow
roots, Wherewith the pitying apple-tree fills up The thin-winged swallow skating on the And tenderly lines some last-year robin's air; nest.
The life that gladdened everything was There muse I of old times, old hopes, old
Was I then truly all that I beheld ? Old friends! The writing of those words Or is this stream of being but a glass has borne
Where the mind sees its visionary self, My fancy backward to the gracious past, As, when the kingfisher flits o'er his bay, The generous past, when all was possible, Across the river's hollow heaven below For all was then untried; the years between His picture flits, - another, yet the same ? Have taught some sweet, some bitter lessons, But suddenly the sound of human voice none
Or footfall, like the drop a chemist pours,
Doth in opacous cloud precipitate
Sharpen my wit upon his gritty mind, The consciousness that seemed but now In motion set obsequious to his wheel, dissolved
And in its quality not much unlike. Into an essence rarer than its own, And I am narrowed to myself once more. Nor wants my tree more punctual visitors.
The children, they who are the only rich, For here not long is solitude secure, Creating for the moment, and possessing Nor Fantasy left vacant to her spell. Whate'er they choose to feign, - for still Here, sometimes, in this paradise of shade,
with them Rippled with western winds, the dusty Kind Fancy plays the fairy godmother,
Strewing their lives with cheap material Seeing the treeless causey burn beyond, For wingëd horses and Aladdin's lamps, Halts to unroll his bundle of strange food Pure elfin-gold, by manhood's touch proAnd munch an unearned meal. I cannot
To dead leaves disenchanted, — long ago Liking this creature, lavish Summer's Between the branches of the tree fixed bedesman,
seats, Who from the almshouse steals when nights Making an o'erturned box their table. Oft grow warm,
The shrilling girls sit here between school Himself his large estate and only charge,
hours, To be the guest of haystack or of hedge, And play at What's my thought like ? while Nobly superior to the household gear
the boys, That forfeits us our privilege of nature. With whom the age chivalric ever bides, I bait him with my match-box and my Pricked on by knightly spur of female eyes, pouch,
Climb high to swing and shout on perilous Nor grudge the uncostly sympathy of boughs, smoke,
Or, from the willow's armory equipped His equal now, divinely unemployed. With musket dumb, green banner, edgeSome smack of Robin Hood is in the man,
less sword, Some secret league with wild wood-wander- Make good the rampart of their treeing things;
redoubt He is our ragged Duke, our barefoot Earl, 'Gainst eager British storming from below, By right of birth exonerate from toil, And keep alive the tale of Bunker's Hill. Who levies rent from us his tenants all, And serves the state by merely being. Here, too, the men that mend our village Here
ways, The Scissors-grinder, pausing, doffs his hat, Vexing Macadam's ghost with pounded And lets the kind breeze, with its delicate slate, fan,
Their nooning take ; much noisy talk they Winnow the heat from out his dank gray spend hair,
On horses and their ills; and, as John Bull A grimy Ulysses, a much-wandered man, Tells of Lord This or That, who was his Whose feet are known to all the populous friend, ways,
So these make boast of intimacies long And many men and manners he hath seen, With famous teams, and add large estiNot without fruit of solitary thought.
mates, He, as the habit is lonely men,
By competition swelled from mouth to Unused to try the temper of their mind
mouth, In fence with others, - positive and shy, Of how much they could draw, till one, ill Yet knows to put an edge upon his speech, pleased Pithily Saxon in unwilling talk.
To bave his legend overbid, retorts : Him I entrap with my long-suffering
“ You take and stretch truck-horses in a knife,
string And, while its poor blade hums away in From here to Long Wharf end, one thing sparks,