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'T is ours to save our brethren, with peace Then think I of deep shadows on the and love to win
grass, Their darkened hearts from error, ere they Of meadows where in sun the cattle graze, harden it to sin;
Where, as the breezes pass, But if before his duty man with listless The gleaming rushes lean a thousand ways, spirit stands,
Of leaves that slumber in a cloudy mass, Erelong the Great Avenger takes the work or wbiten in the wind, of waters blue from out bis hands.
That from the distance sparkle through Some woodland gap, and of a sky above,
Where one white cloud like a stray lamb TO THE DANDELION
DEAR common flower, that grow'st be- My childhood's earliest thoughts are side the way,
linked with thee; Fringing the dusty road with harmless The sight of thee calls back the robin's gold,
song, First pledge of blithesome May,
Who, from the dark old tree Which children pluck, and, full of pride Beside the door, sang clearly all day long, uphold,
And I, secure in childish piety, High-hearted buccaneers, o'erjoyed that Listened as if I heard an angel sing they
With news from heaven, which he An Eldorado in the grass have found,
could bring Which not the rich earth's ample Fresh every day to my untainted ears round
When birds and flowers and I were May match in wealth, thou art more dear happy peers.
to me Than all the prouder summer-blooms How like a prodigal doth nature seem,
When thou, for all thy gold, so common art!
Thou teachest me to deem
Since each reflects in joy its scanty gleam Through the primeval hush of Indian seas, Of heaven, and could some wondrous secret Nor wrinkled the lean brow
show, Of age, to rob the lover's heart of ease;
Did we but pay the love we owe, 'Tis the Spring's largess, which she scat- And with a child's undoubting wisdom ters now
look To rich and poor alike, with lavish hand, On all these living pages of God's book.
Though most hearts never understand To take it at God's value, but pass by The offered wealth with unrewarded eye.
This poem was printed March 8, 1845, in the Thou art my tropics and mine Italy;
Broadway Journal, edited by C. F. Briggs. To look at thee unlocks a warmer clime; In a letter accompanying the poem Lowell The eyes thou givest me
confesses his dissatisfaction with the execution Are in the heart, and heed not space or as compared with the conception, and adds : time:
“ Written in the metre which I have chosen it Not in mid June the golden-cuirassed is perhaps too long, but the plot would have bee
sufficed for quite a long and elaborate poem, Feels a more summer-like warm ravish
into which a good deal of reflection and ex
perience might have been compressed."
Ye who, passing graves by night,
Cold and white, to freeze your eyes,
Some weak phantom, which your doubt
'Gainst the girl whose fingers thin
Hark! that rustle of a dress,
Never can these hills of bliss
But enough! Oh, do not dare
STUDIES FOR TWO HEADS
Into the absorbing clay. Who is he that skulks, afraid Of the trust he has betrayed, Shuddering if perchance a gleam Of old nobleness should stream Through the pent, unwholesome room, Where his shrunk soul cowers in gloom, Spirit sad beyond the rest By more instinct for the best? 'T is a poet who was sent For a bad world's punishment, By compelling it to see Golden glimpses of To Be, By compelling it to hear Songs that prove the angels near; Who was sent to be the tongue Of the weak and spirit-wrung, Whence the fiery-winged Despair In men's shrinking eyes might flare. 'T is our hope doth fashion us To base use or glorious: He who might have been a lark Of Truth's morning, from the dark Raining down melodious hope Of a freer, broader scope, Aspirations, prophecies, Of the spirit's full sunrise, Chose to be a bird of night, That, with eyes refusing light, Hooted from some hollow tree Of the world's idolatry. ”T is his punishment to hear Sweep of eager pinions near, And his own vain wings to feel Drooping downward to his heel, All their grace and import lost, Burdening his weary ghost: Ever walking by his side He must see his angel guide, Who at intervals doth turn Looks on him so sadly stern, With such ever-new surprise Of hushed anguish in her eyes, That it seems the light of day From around him shrinks away, Or drops blunted from the wall Built around him by his fall. Then the mountains, whose white peaks Catch the morning's earliest streaks, He must see, where prophets sit, Turning east their faces lit, Whence, with footsteps beautiful, To the earth, yet dim and dull, They the gladsome tidings bring Of the sunlight's hastening:
The second of these studies was from A. Bronson Alcott. See Letters II. 349, where Lowell has something to say of the ease with which he wrote at the time of this poem, i. e. before 1850. He was under an engagement at this time to write constantly for the AntiSlavery Standard, and he threw off many poems as part of the fulfilment of his engagement. The spur to activity came when his own mind was fertile, and some of his best known and most spontaneous work appeared at this time.
SOME sort of heart I know is hers, –
I chanced to feel her pulse one night; A brain she has that never errs,
And yet is never nobly right;
But, in some corner out of sight,
And, o'er the impatient infinite,
it seems a chemic test And drops upon you like an acid; It bites you with unconscious zest,
So clear and bright, so coldly placid; It holds you quietly aloof,
It holds, and yet it does not win you; It merely puts you to the proof
And sorts what qualities are in you; It smiles, but never brings you nearer,
It lights, her nature draws not nigh; 'T is but that yours is growing clearer
To her assays; — yes, try and try,
There, you are classified: she's gone
Far, far away into herself;
Are laid upon their proper shelf
No movement of the heart e'er jostles, Her friends are ranged on left and right, Here, silex, hornblende, sionite;
There, animal remains and fossils.
And yet, O subtile analyst,
That canst each property detect
Each tangled skein of intellect,
O brain exact, that in thy scales Canst weigh the sun and never err,
For once thy patient science fails, One problem still defies thy art;Thou never canst compute for her The distance and diameter
Of any simple human heart.
The omen of a fairer race;
The gulf wherein so many fall,
'Twixt possible and actual;
Systems and creeds pellmell together; 'T is strange as to a deaf man's eye, While trees uprooted splinter by,
The dumb turmoil of stormy weather;
Less of iconoclast than shaper, His spirit, safe behind the reach Of the tornado of his speech,
Burns calmly as glowworm's taper. So great in speech, but, ah ! in act
So overrun with vermin troubles, The coarse, sharp-cornered, ugly fact
Of life collapses all his bubbles: Had he but lived in Plato's day,
He might, unless my fancy errs, Have shared that golden voice's sway
O'er barefooted philosophers. Our nipping climate hardly suits The ripening of ideal fruits: His theories vanquish us all summer, But winter makes him dumb and dumber; To see him mid life's needful things
Is something painfully bewildering;
Tied to a mortal wife and children,
Exults and leaps toward the light,
Striving for more ideal height; And as the fountain, falling thence, Crawls baffled through the common gut
ter, So, from his speech's eminence, He shrinks into the present tense,
Unkinged by foolish bread and butter. Yet smile not, worldling, for in deeds
Not all of life that's brave and wise is; He strews an ampler future's seeds,
'T is your fault if no harvest rises; Smooth back the sneer; for is it naught
That all he is and has is Beauty's ?
Hear him but speak, and you will feel
The shadows of the Portico Over your tranquil spirit steal,
To modulate all joy and woe To one subdued, subduing glow; Above our squabbling business-hours, Like Phidian Jove's, his beauty lowers, His nature satirizes ours;
A form and front of Attic grace,
He shames the higgling market-place, And dwarfs our more mechanic powers.
What throbbing verse can fitly render That face so pure, so trembling-tender ?
Sensation glimmers through its rest,
As full of motion as a nest
'T is likest to Bethesda's stream, Forewarned through all its thrilling springs,
White with the angel's coming gleam, And rippled with his fanning wings.
Hear him unfold his plots and plans, And larger destinies seem man's ; You conjure from his glowing face
By soul the soul's gains must be wrought,
ON THE DEATH OF A
This poem was printed in the Democratic ON A PORTRAIT OF DANTE Review, October, 1844, and the friend was BY GIOTTO
doubtless C. F. Briggs. See the letter of consolation addressed to him in August, Letters I.
78-81. Can this be thou who, lean and pale, With such immitigable eye
DEATH never came so nigh to me before, Didst look upon those writhing souls in Nor showed me his mild face: oft had I bale,
mused And noté each vengeance, and pass by Of calm and peace and safe forgetfulness, Unmoved, save when thy heart by chance Of folded hands, closed eyes, and heart at Cast backward one forbidden glance,
rest, And saw Francesca, with child's glee, And slumber sound beneath a flowery turf,
Subdue and mount thy wild-horse knee Of faults forgotten, and an inner place And with proud bands control its fiery Kept sacred for us in the heart of friends; prance ?
But these were idle fancies, satisfied
With the mere husk of this great mystery, With half-drooped lids, and smooth, round And dwelling in the outward shows of brow,
things. And eye remote, that inly sees
Heaven is not mounted to on wings of Fair Beatrice's spirit wandering now
dreams, In some sea-lulled Hesperides,
Nor doth the unthankful happiness of Thou movest through the jarring street,
youth Secluded from the noise of feet
Aim thitherward, but floats from bloom to By her gift-blossom in thy hand,
bloom, Thy branch of palm from Holy Land;- With earth's warm patch of sunshine well No trace is here of ruin's fiery sleet.
'T is sorrow builds the shining ladder up, Yet there is something round thy lips Whose golden rounds are our calamities,
That prophesies the coming doom, Whereon our firm feet planting, nearer The soft, gray herald-shadow ere the
The spirit climbs, and hath its eyes unNotches the perfect disk with gloom;
sealed. A something that would banish thee, And thine untamed pursuer be,
True is it that Death's face seems stern From men and their unworthy fates,
and cold, Though Florence had not shut her gates, When he is sent to summon those we love, And Grief had loosed her clutch and let But all God's angels come to us disguised; thee free.
Sorrow and sickness, poverty and death,
One after other lift their frowning masks, Ah ! he who follows fearlessly
And we behold the seraph's face beneath, The beckonings of a poet-heart
All radiant with the glory and the calm Shall wander, and without the world's de- Of having looked upon the front of God. cree,
With every anguish of our earthly part A banished man in field and mart; The spirit's sight grows clearer; this was Harder than Florence' walls the bar
meant Which with deaf sternness holds him far When Jesus touched the blind man's lids From home and friends, till death's re
with clay. lease,
Life is the jailer, Death the angel sent And makes his only prayer for peace, To draw the unwilling bolts and set us free. Like thine, scarred veteran of a lifelong He flings not ope the ivory gate of Rest,
Only the fallen spirit knocks at that,