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There if you seek not, and gone if you look,
Ninety miles off as the eagle flies.
But mountains make not all the shore
That run through unimagined mazes,
Eastward as far as the eye can see,
How looks Appledore in a storm?
I have seen it when its crags seemed frantic,
Butting against the mad Atlantic, When surge on surge would heap enorme, Cliffs of emerald topped with snow, That lifted and lifted, and then let go A great white avalanche of thunder, A grinding, blinding, deafening ire Monadnock might have trembled under; And the island, whose rock-roots pierce below
To where they are warmed with the central fire,
You could feel its granite fibres racked,
Right at the breast of the swooping hill, And to rise again snorting a cataract Of rage-froth from every cranny and ledge, While the sea drew its breath in hoarse
And the next vast breaker curled its edge, Gathering itself for a mightier leap.
North, east, and south there are reefs and breakers
You would never dream of in smooth weather,
That toss and gore the sea for acres,
Bellowing and gnashing and snarling together;
Look northward, where Duck Island lies,
And over its crown you will see arise,
That glimmer, and then are gone from
As if the moon should suddenly kiss,
The long colonnades of Persepolis;
There is first a half-mile of tumult and fight,
Of dash and roar and tumble and fright,
Full and fair on White Island head,
A great mist-jotun you will see Lifting himself up silently High and huge o'er the lighthouse top, With hands of wavering spray outspread, Groping after the little tower,
That seems to shrink and shorten and cower,
Till the monster's arms of a sudden drop, And silently and fruitlessly
He sinks back into the sea.
You, meanwhile, where drenched you stand, Awaken once more to the rush and roar, And on the rock-point tighten your hand, As you turn and see a valley deep,
That was not there a moment before, Suck rattling down between you and a heap Of toppling billow, whose instant fall Must sink the whole island once for all, Or watch the silenter, stealthier seas
Feeling their way to you more and more; If they once should clutch you high as the knees,
They would whirl you down like a sprig of kelp,
Beyond all reach of hope or help; -
'Tis the sight of a lifetime to behold
With freaks of shadow and crimson stains;
As it notches the disk, and gains and gains,
From the body of day the sun-soul slips And the face of earth darkens; but now the strips
Of western vapor, straight and thin,
Of ashes o'erfeathers; northward turn
From the smouldering brands the film were blowing,
And brightening them down to the very
Yet they momently cool and dampen and deaden,
The crimson turns golden, the gold turns leaden,
Hardening into one black bar
O'er which, from the hollow heaven afar,
And over it, visible spirit of dew,
Ah, stir not, speak not, hold your breath,
No frail illusion; this were true,
That floats us from the Present's whirl
Call it not light, that mystery tender,
To indefinable emotion,
That glory, mellower than a mist
Which rims Square Rock, like what they
Of mitigated heavenly splendor Round the stern forehead of a Saint!
No more a vision, reddened, largened,
Knew you what silence was before?
"Your inspiration is still to you a living mistress - make her immortal in her promptings and her consolations by imaging her truly in art. Mine looks at me with eyes of paler flame and beckons across a gulf. You came into my loneliness like an incarnate aspiration. And it is dreary enough sometimes, for a mountain-peak on whose snow your foot makes the first mortal print is not so lonely as a room full of happy faces from which one is missing forever. This was originally the fifth stanza of The Windharp.
O tress! that so oft in my heart hast lain,
Rocked to rest within rest by its thankful beating, Say, which is harder to bear the pain Of laughter and light, or to wait in vain
'Neath the unleaved tree the impossible meeting? If Death's lips be icy, Life gives, iwis,
Some kisses more clay-cold and darkening than his ! Forgive me, but you spoke of it first." J. R. L. to W. J. Stillman, December 7, 1854.
With hand on latch, a vision white
The lamp's clear gleam flits up the stair;
Ah, in that chamber, whose rich air
"T is thirteen years; once more I
Sweet piece of bashful maiden art!
The English words had seemed too fain,
But these they drew us heart to heart, Yet held us tenderly apart;
She said, "Auf wiedersehen!"
STILL thirteen years: 't is autumn now
Lowell's second child, Rose, died after a week's illness in the spring of 1850. Her father wrote shortly after her death to Mr. Gay: "She was very beautiful-fair, with large dark-gray eyes and fine features. Her smile was especially charming, and she was full of smiles till her sickness began. Dear little child, she had never spoken, only smiled. To show you that I am not unable to go along with you in the feeling expressed in your letter, I will copy a few verses out of my common-place book." The verses were the first form of the following poem, and will be found in the notes at the end of this volume. The poem, with its personal feeling over a universal human experience, found its way into many hearts. It" has roused," Lowell wrote in 1875, strange echoes in men who assured me they were generally insensible to poetry. After all, the only stuff a solitary man has to spin is himself."
YES, faith is a goodly anchor;
When skies are sweet as a psalm, At the bows it lolls so stalwart,
In its bluff, broad-shouldered calm.
And when over breakers to leeward
But, after the shipwreck, tell me
In the breaking gulfs of sorrow,
No footing so solid as doubt,
Then better one spar of Memory,
One broken plank of the Past,
To the spirit its splendid conjectures,
Immortal? I feel it and know it,
There's a narrow ridge in the graveyard
Your logic, my friend, is perfect,
Your moral most drearily true; But, since the earth clashed on her coffin, I keep hearing that, and not you.
Console if you will, I can bear it;
'T is a well-meant alms of breath; But not all the preaching since Adam Has made Death other than Death.
It is pagan; but wait till you feel it,
That jar of our earth, that dull shock When the ploughshare of deeper passion Tears down to our primitive rock.
Communion in spirit! Forgive me,
For a touch of her hand on my cheek.
That little shoe in the corner,
So worn and wrinkled and brown, With its emptiness confutes you, And argues your wisdom down.
THE DEAD HOUSE
"I have a notion that the inmates of a house should never be changed. When the first occupants go out it should be burned, and a stone set up with 'Sacred to the Memory of a Home' on it. Suppose the body were eternal, and that when one spirit went out another took the lease. How frightful the strange expression of the eyes would be! I fancy sometimes that the look in the eyes of a familiar house changes when aliens have come into it. For certainly a dwelling adapts itself to its occupants. The front door of a hospitable man opens easily and looks broad, and you can read Welcome! on every step that leads to it.
I stopped there and tried to put that into verse. I have only half succeeded, and I shall not give it to you. I shall copy it and thrust it into Jane's letter." J. R. L. to C. E. Norton, August 31, 1858.
A similar fancy appears in an earlier letter to Mrs. Francis G. Shaw, to whom Lowell wrote January 11, 1853: "I spent Sunday with Edmund Quincy at Dedham, and, as I came back over the rail yesterday, I was roused from a reverie by seeing 'West Roxbury Station' written up over the door of a kind of Italian villa at which we stopped. I almost twisted my head off looking for the house on the hill. There it stood in mourning still, just as Frank painted it. The color suited my mood exactly. The eyes of the house were shut, the welcoming look it had was gone; it was dead. I am a Platonist about houses. They get to my eye a shape from the souls that inhabit them. My friends' dwellings seem as peculiar to them as their bodies, looks, and motions. People have no right to sell their dead houses; they should burn them as they used to burn corpses. .. I have buried that house now and flung my pious handful of earth over it and set up a headstone- and I shall never look up to the hill-top again, let me pass it never so often."
HERE once my step was quickened,
Here beckoned the opening door, And welcome thrilled from the threshold To the foot it had known before.
A glow came forth to meet me
From the flame that laughed in the grate, And shadows adance on the ceiling,
Danced blither with mine for a mate.
"I claim you, old friend," yawned the arm
chair, "This corner, you know, is your seat;"