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"Rest your slippers on me," beamed the
"I brighten at touch of your feet.”
"We know the practised finger,"
Said the books," that seems like brain;" And the shy page rustled the secret It had kept till I came again.
Sang the pillow, "My down once quivered On nightingales' throats that flew Through moonlit gardens of Hafiz
To gather quaint dreams for you."
Ah me, where the Past sowed heart's-ease,
Was not in the churchyard then.
But, I think, the house is unaltered, I will go and beg to look
At the rooms that were once familiar To my life as its bed to a brook.
Unaltered! Alas for the sameness
That makes the change but more! 'Tis a dead man I see in the mirrors, 'Tis his tread that chills the floor!
To learn such a simple lesson,
Need I go to Paris and Rome, That the many make the household, But only one the home?
"T was just a womanly presence, An influence unexprest,
But a rose she had worn, on my gravesod
Were more than long life with the rest!
'Twas a smile, 't was a garment's rustle, 'T was nothing that I can phrase, But the whole dumb dwelling grew conscious,
And put on her looks and ways.
Were it mine I would close the shutters,
For it died that autumn morning
That looks over woodland and corn.
I Go to the ridge in the forest
Pine in the distance,
Patient through sun or rain,
Right for the zenith heading,
Winnest broader horizons each year.
The voyage's struggle and strife, And then the darker and drearier Wreck of a broken life?
THE VOYAGE TO VINLAND
In the letter to Mr. Norton, quoted at the beginning of this section, reference is made to The Voyage to Vinland, which Lowell had some thought of making the title-poem of the volume. In the same letter he says further re"Part of [this poem], you rememgarding it: ber, was written eighteen years ago. I meant to have made it much longer, but maybe it is better as it is. I clapt a beginning upon it, patched it in the middle, and then got to what has always been my favorite part of the plan. This was to be a prophecy by Gudrida, a woman who went with them, of the future America. I have written in an unrhymed alliterated measure, in very short verse and stanzas of five lines each. It does not aim at following the law of the Icelandic alliterated stave, but hints at it and also at the asonante, without being properly either. But it runs well and is melodious, and we think it pretty good here, as does also Howells. Well, after that, of course, I was all for alliteration." The poem had apparently first borne the title of Leif's Voyage, as he writes of that poem to Mr. Briggs in 1850.
And safe as stars in all men's memories. Strange sagas read he in their sea-blue eyes Cold as the sea, grandly compassionless; Like life, they made him eager and then mocked.
Nay, broad awake, they would not let him be;
They shaped themselves gigantic in the mist,
They rose far-beckoning in the lamps of heaven,
They whispered invitation in the winds, And breath came from them, mightier than the wind,
To strain the lagging sails of his resolve, Till that grew passion which before was wish,
And youth seemed all too costly to be staked
On the soiled cards wherewith men played their game,
Letting Time pocket up the larger life, Lost with base gain of raiment, food, and roof.
"What helpeth lightness of the feet?" they said,
"Oblivion runs with swifter foot than
The hour that passes is her quiver-boy: When she draws bow, 't is not across the wind,
Nor 'gainst the sun her haste - snatched arrow sings,
For sun and wind have plighted faith to her:
Ere men have heard the sinew twang, behold
In the butt's heart her trembling messenger!
“The song is old and simple that I sing; But old and simple are despised as cheap, Though hardest to achieve of human things: Good were the days of yore, when men were tried
By ring of shields, as now by ring of words; But while the gods are left, and hearts of
Impatient is her foot, nor turns again."
Of interrupted wassail roared along.
Which, like a humming shaft, through many a stripe
Of day and night, across the unpathwayed
Shot the brave prow that cut on Vinland
The first rune in the Saga of the West.
Four weeks they sailed, a speck in sky-shut
Life, where was never life that knew itself,
Since Thought primeval brooded the abyss;
But brought it not, and on the thirtieth day Low in the west were wooded shores like cloud.
They shouted as men shout with sudden
But Biörn was silent, such strange loss
Men from the Northland,
Dark hair and fair hair,
Pick of all kindreds,
Them waits the New Land;
Leaving their sons' sons All things save song-craft, Plant long in growing, Thrusting its tap-root Deep in the Gone.
Here men shall grow up Strong from self-helping; Eyes for the present Bring they as eagles', Blind to the Past.
They shall make over Creed, law, and custom; Driving-men, doughty Builders of empire, Builders of men.
Here is no singer;
What should they sing of?
These the old gods hate,