Слике страница
PDF
ePub

III.

His life's expense
Hath won for him coeval youth
With the immaculate prime of Truth ;

While we, who make pretence
At living on, and wake and eat and sleep,
And life's stale trick by repetition keep,

Our fickle permanence
(A poor leaf-shadow on a brook, whose play
Of busy idlesse ceases with our day)

Is the mere cheat of sense.

We bide our chance,
Unhappy, and make terms with Fate
A little more to let us wait;

He leads for aye the advance,
Hope's forlorn-hopes that plant the desperate good
For nobler Earths and days of manlier mood ;

Our wall of circumstance
Cleared at a bound, he flashes o'er the fight,
A saintly shape of fame, to cheer the right

And steel each wavering glance.

I write of one,
While with dim eyes I think of three ;
Who weeps not others fair and brave as he?

Ah, when the fight is won, Dear Land, whom triflers now make bold to scorn, (Thee! from whose forehead Earth awaits her morn,)

How nobler shall the sun
Flame in thy sky, how braver breathe thy air,
That thou bred'st children who for thee could dare

And die as thine have done !
1863.

ON BOARD THE '76. WRITTEN FOR MR. BRYANT'S SEVENTIETH BIRTHDAY.

NOVEMBER 3, 1864.

Our ship lay tumbling in an angry sea,

Her rudder gone, her main-mast o'er the side ; Her scuppers, from the waves' clutch staggering free

Trailed threads of priceless crimson through the tide : Sails, shrouds, and spars with pirate cannon torn,

We lay, awaiting morn.

Awaiting morn, such morn as mocks despair ?

And she that bore the promise of the world Within her sides, now hopeless, helmless, bare,

At random o'er the wildering waters hurled ;
The reek of battle drifting slow alee

Not sullener than we.
Morn came at last to peer into our woe,

When lo, a sail! Now surely help was nigh ; The red cross flames aloft, Christ's pledge ; but no,

Her black guns grinning hate, she rushes by
And hails us :—“Gains the leak ! Ay, so we thought !

Sink, then, with curses fraught !”
I leaned against my gun still angry-hot,

And my lids tingled with the tears held back ;
This scorn methought was crueller than shot :

The manly death-grip in the battle wrack,
Yard-arm to yard-arm, were more friendly far

Than such fear-smothered war.
There our foe wallowed, like a wounded brute

The fiercer for his hurt. What now were best?
Once more tug bravely at the peril's root,

Though death came with it? Or evade the test If right or wrong in this God's world of ours

Be leagued with higher powers ? Some, faintly loyal, felt their pulses lag

With the slow beat that doubts and then despairs ; Some, caitiff, would have struck the starry flag

That knits us with our past, and makes us heirs Of deeds high-hearted as were ever done

'Neath the all-seeing sun. But there was one, the Singer of our crew,

Upon whose head Age waved his peaceful sign, But whose red heart's-blood no surrender knew ;

And couchant under brows of massive line, The eyes, like guns beneath a parapet,

Watched, charged with lightnings yet. The voices of the hills did his obey ;

The torrents flashed and tumbled in his song ;
He brought our native fields from far away,

Or set us 'mid the innumerable throng
Of dateless woods, or where we heard the calm

Old homestead's evening psalm.

;

But now he sang of faith to things unseen,

Of freedom's birthright given to us in trust ; And words of doughty cheer he spoke between,

That made all earthly fortune seem as dust, Matched with that duty, old as Time and new,

Of being brave and true. We, listening, learned what makes the might of words, –

Manhood to back them, constant as a star His voice rammed home our cannon, edged our swords,

And sent our boarders shouting ; shroud and spar
Heard him and stiffened ; the sails heard, and wooed

The winds with loftier mood.
In our dark hours he manned our guns again ;

Remanned ourselves from his own manhood's store ; Pride, honour, country, throbbed through all his strain ;

And shall we praise ? God's praise was his before ; And on our futile laurels he looks down,

Himself our bravest crown.

ODE RECITED AT THE HARVARD

COMMEMORATION.

JULY 21, 1865.

I.

WEAK-WINGED is song,
Nor aims at that clear-ethered height
Whither the brave deed climbs for light :

We seem to do them wrong,
Bringing our robin's-leaf to deck their hearse
Who in warm life-blood wrote their nobler verse,
Our trivial song to honour those who come
With ears attuned to strenuous trump and drum,
And shaped in squadron-strophes their desire,
Live battle-odes whose lines were steel and fire :

Yet sometimes feathered words are strong,
A gracious memory to buoy up and save
From Lethe's dreamless ooze, the common grave
Of the unventurous throng.

II.
To-day our Reverend Mother welcomes back

Her wisest Scholars, those who understood
The deeper teaching of her mystic tome,
And offered their fresh lives to make it good :

No lore of Greece or Rome,

1

No science peddling with the names of things,
Or reading stars to find inglorious fates,

Can list our life with wings
Far from Death's idle gulf that for the many waits,

And lengthen out our dates
With that clear fame whose memory sings
In manly hearts to come, and nerves them and dilates :
Nor such thy teaching, Mother of us all !

Not such the trumpet-call
Of thy diviner mood,

That could thy sons entice
From happy homes and toils, the fruitful nest
Of those half-virtues which the world calls best

Into War's tumult rude ;

But rather far than stern device
The sponsors chose that round thy cradle stood

In the dim, unventured wood,
The VERITAS that lurks beneath

The letter's unprolific sheath,
Life of whate'er makes life worth living,
Seed-grain of high emprise, immortal food,

One heavenly thing whereof earth hath the giving.

III.

Many loved Truth, and lavished life's best oil

Amid the dusk of books to find her,
Content at last, for guerdon of their toil,
With the cast mantle she hath left behind her.

Many in sad faith sought for her,
Many with crossed hands sighed for her ;
But these, our brothers, fought for her,
At life's dear peril wrought for her,
So loved her that they died for her,
Tasting the raptured fleetness
Of her divine completeness :

Their higher instinct knew
Those love her best who to themselves are true,
And what they dare to dream of, dare to do;

They followed her and found her

Where all may hope to find,
Not in the ashes of the burnt-out mind,
But beautiful, with danger's sweetness round her.

Where faith made whole with deed
Breathes its awakening breath
Into the lifeless creed,
They saw her plumed and mailed,

With sweet stern face unveiled,
And all-repaying eyes, look proud on them in death.

IV.

Our slender life runs rippling by, and glides
Into the silent hollow of the past ;

What is there that abides
To make the next age better for the last?

Is earth too poor to give us
Something to live for here that shall outlive us ?

Some more substantial boon
Than such as flows and elbs with Fortune's fickle moon?

The little that we see
From doubt is never free;
The little that we do
Is but half-nobly true;

With our laborious hiving
What men call treasure, and the gods call dross,

Life seems a jest of Fate's contriving,

Only secure in every one's conniving,
A long account of nothings paid with loss,
Where we poor puppets, jerked by unseen wires,

After our little hour of strut and rave,
With all our pasteboard passions and desires,
Loves, hates, ambitions, and immortal tires,

Are tossed pell-mell together in the grave.
But stay! no age was e'er degenerate,
Unless men held it at too cheap a rate,
For in our likeness still we shape our fate

Ah, there is something here
Unfathomed by the cynic's sneer,
Something that gives our feeble light
A high immunity from ht,

Something that leaps life's narrow bars
To claim its birthright with the hosts of heaven ;

A seed of sunshine that doth leaven
Our earthly dulness with the beams of stars,

And glorify our clay
With light from fountains elder than the Day;

A conscience more divine than we,
A gladness fed with secret tears,
A vexing, forward-reaching sense
Of some more noble permanence ;

A light across the sea,
Which haunts the soul and will not let it be,
Still glimmering from the heights of undegenerate years.

V.
Whither leads the path
To ampler fates that leads ?

« ПретходнаНастави »