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Have you not made us lead of gold? To feed your crucible, not sold
Our temple's sacred chalices?"
Then o'er my senses came a change; My book seemed all traditions, Old legends of profoundest range, Diablery, and stories strange
Of goblins, elves, magicians.
Old gods in modern saints I found,
Old creeds in strange disguises; I thought them safely underground, And here they were, all safe and sound, Without a sign of phthisis.
Truth was, my outward eyes were closed,
Although I did not know it;
Deep into dream-land I had dozed,
And so was happily transposed
From proser into poet.
So what I read took flesh and blood,
And turned to living creatures :
The words were but the dingy bud
That bloomed, like Adam, from the mud,
To human forms and features.
I saw how Zeus was lodged once more
By Baucis and Philemon;
The text said, Not alone of yore,
But every day, at every door,
Knocks still the masking Demon."
DAIMON 't was printed in the book
And, as I read it slowly,
The letters stirred and changed, and took
Jove's stature, the Olympian look
Of painless melancholy.
He paused upon the threshold worn:
"With coin I cannot pay you;
Yet would I fain make some return;
The gift for cheapness do not spurn,
Accept this hen, I pray you.
"Plain feathers wears my Hemera,
And has from ages olden;
She makes her nest in common hay,
And yet, of all the birds that lay,
Her eggs alone are golden."
He turned, and could no more be seen; Old Baucis stared a moment,
Then tossed poor Partlet on the green, And with a tone, half jest, half spleen, Thus made her housewife's com
"The stranger had a queerish face,
His smile was hardly pleasant,
And, though he meant it for a grace,
Yet this old hen of barnyard race
Was but a stingy present.
"She's quite too old for laying eggs,
Nay, even to make a soup of;
One only needs to see her legs,
You might as well boil down the pegs
I made the brood-hen's coop of!
"Some eighteen score of such do I
Raise every year, her sisters;
Go, in the woods your fortunes try,
All day for one poor earthworm pry,
And scratch your toes to blisters!"
Philemon found the rede was good,
And, turning on the poor hen,
He clapt his hands, and stamped, and
Hunting the exile tow'rd the wood,
To house with snipe and moor-hen.
A poet saw and cried: "Hold! hold!
What are you doing, madman?
Spurn you more wealth than can be
The fowl that lays the eggs of gold,
Because she's plainly clad, man?
To him Philemon: "I'll not balk
Thy will with any shackle;
Wilt add a burden to thy walk?
There! take her without further talk;
You're both but fit to cackle!"
But scarce the poet touched the bird,
It swelled to stature regal;
And when her cloud-wide wings she
A whisper as of doom was heard,
'T was Jove's bolt-bearing eagle.
As when from far-off cloud-bergs springs
A crag, and, hurtling under,
From cliff to cliff the rumor flings,
So she from flight-foreboding wings
Shook out a murmurous thunder.
A FAMILIAR EPISTLE TO A FRIEND.
She gripped the poet to her breast,
And ever, upward soaring, Earth seemed a new moon in the west, And then one light among the rest
Where squadrons lie at mooring.
How tell to what heaven-hallowed seat
The eagle bent his courses?
The waves that on its bases beat,
The gales that round it weave and fleet,
Are life's creative forces.
Here was the bird's primeval nest,
High on a promontory Star-pharosed, where she takes her rest To brood new æons 'neath her breast, The future's unfledged glory.
I know not how, but I was there
All feeling, hearing, seeing;
It was not wind that stirred my hair
But living breath, the essence rare
Of unembodied being.
And in the nest an egg of gold
Lay soft in self-made lustre ; Gazing whereon, what depths untold Within, what marvels manifold, Seemed silently to muster !
Daily such splendors to confront
Is still to me and you sent?
It glowed as when Saint Peter's front, Illumed, forgets its stony wont,
And seems to throb translucent.
One saw therein the life of man,
(Or so the poet found it,) The yolk and white, conceive who can, Were the glad earth, that, floating, span In the glad heaven around it.
I knew this as one knows in dream,
Where no effects to causes
Are chained as in our work-day scheme,
And then was wakened by a scream
That seemed to come from Baucis.
"Bless Zeus!" she cried, "I'm safe below!"
First pale, then red as coral; And I, still drowsy, pondered slow, And seemed to find, but hardly know, Something like this for moral.
Each day the world is born anew For him who takes it rightly;
Not fresher that which Adam knew, Not sweeter that whose moonlit dew Entranced Arcadia nightly.
Rightly? That 's simply: 't is to see
Some substance casts these shadows Which we call Life and History, That aimless seem to chase and flee Like wind-gleams over meadows.
Simply? That's nobly: 't is to know
That God may still be met with,
Nor groweth old, nor doth bestow
These senses fine, this brain aglow,
To grovel and forget with.
Beauty, Herr Doctor, trust in me,
No chemistry will win you;
Charis still rises from the sea :
If you can't find her, might it be
Because you seek within you?
A FAMILIAR EPISTLE TO A FRIEND.
ALIKE I hate to be your debtor,
Or write a mere perfunctory letter;
For letters, so it seems to me,
Our careless quintessence should be,
Our real nature's truant play
When Consciousness looks t' other way,
Not drop by drop, with watchful skill,
Gathered in Art's deliberate still,
But life's insensible completeness
Got as the ripe grape gets its sweetness,
As if it had a way to fuse
The golden sunlight into juice.
Hopeless my mental pump I try;
The boxes hiss, the tube is dry;
As those petroleum wells that spout
Awhile like M. C.'s, then give out,
My spring, once full as Arethusa,
Is a mere bore as dry's Creusa;
And yet you ask me why I'm glum,
And why my graver Muse is dumb.
Ah me! I've reasons manifold
Condensed in one, I'm getting old!
When life, once past its fortieth year,
Wheels up its evening hemisphere,
The mind's own shadow, which the boy
Saw onward point to hope and joy,
Shifts round, irrevocably set
Tow'rd morning's loss and vain regret,
And, argue with it as we will,
The clock is unconverted still.
"But count the gains," I hear you say, "Which far the seeming loss outweigh; Friendships built firm 'gainst flood and wind
On rock-foundations of the mind;
Knowledge instead of scheming hope;
For wild adventure, settled scope;
Talents, from surface-ore profuse,
Tempered and edged to tools for use;
Judgment, for passion's headlong whirls;
Old sorrows crystalled into pearls ;
Losses by patience turned to gains,
Possessions now, that once were pains;
Joy's blossom gone, as go it must,
To ripen seeds of faith and trust;
Why heed a snow-flake on the roof
If fire within keep Age aloof
Though blundering north-winds push
With palms benumbed against the pane?"
My dear old Friend, you 're very wise;
We always are with others' eyes,
And see so clear! (our neighbor's deck
What reef the idiot's sure to wreck on; Folks when they learn how life has quizzed 'em
Are fain to make a shift with Wisdom,
And, finding she nor breaks nor bends,
Give her a letter to their friends.
Draw passion's torrent whoso will
Through sluices smooth to turn a mill,
And, taking solid toll of grist,
Forget the rainbow in the mist,
The exulting leap, the aimless haste
Scattered in iridescent waste;
Prefer who likes the sure esteem
To cheated youth's midsummer dream,
When every friend was more than
Each quicksand safe to build a fame on;
Believe that prudence snug excels
Youth's gross of verdant spectacles,
Through which earth's withered stubble
What 's Knowledge, with her stocks and lands,
To gay Conjecture's yellow strands? What's watching her slow flocks in
To ventures for the golden fleece ?
What her deep ships, safe under lee,
To youth's light craft, that drinks the
For Flying Islands making sail,
And failing where 't is gain to fail?
Ah me! Expereince (so we 're told),
Time's crucible, turns lead to gold;
Yet what's experience won but dross,
Cloud-gold transmuted to our loss?
What but base coin the best event
To the untried experiment?
'T was an old couple, says the poet,
That lodged the gods and did not know
Youth sees and knows them as they
Before Olympus' top was bare;
From Swampscot's flats his eye divine
Sees Venus rocking on the brine,
With lucent limbs, that somehow scat-
Charm that turns Doll to Cleopatra ;
Bacchus (that now is scarce induced
To give Eld's lagging blood a boost),
With cymbals' clang and pards to draw
Divine as Ariadne saw him,
Storms through Youth's pulse with all
And wins new Indies in his brain;
Apollo (with the old a trope,
A sort of finer Mister Pope),
Apollo- but the Muse forbids;
At his approach cast down thy lids,
And think it joy enough to hear
Far off his arrows singing clear;
He knows enough who silent knows
The quiver chiming as he goes;
He tells too much who e'er betrays
The shining Archer's secret ways.
Dear Friend, you're right and I am wrong;
My quibbles are not worth a song,
And I sophistically tease
My fancy sad to tricks like these.
I could not cheat you if I would;
You know me and my jesting mood,
Mere surface-foam, for pride concealing
The purpose of my deeper feeling.
I have not spilt one drop of joy
Poured in the senses of the boy,
Nor Nature fails my walks to bless
With all her golden inwardness;
And as blind nestlings, unafraid,
Stretch up wide-mouthed to every shade
By which their downy dream is stirred,
Taking it for the mother-bird,
So, when God's shadow, which is light,
Unheralded, by day or night,
My wakening instincts falls across,
Silent as sunbeams over moss,
In my heart's nest half-conscious things
Stir with a helpless sense of wings,
Lift themselves up, and tremble long
With premonitions sweet of song.
But let me end with a comparison
Never yet hit upon by e'er a son
Of our American Apollo,
(And there's where I shall beat them hollow,
If he is not a courtly St. John,
But, as West said, a Mohawk Injun.)
A poem 's like a cruise for whales:
Through untried seas the hunter sails,
His prow dividing waters known
To the blue iceberg's hulk alone;
At last, on farthest edge of day,
He marks the smoky puff of spray;
Then with bent oars the shallop flies
To where the basking quarry lies;
Then the excitement of the strife,
The crimsoned waves, ah, this is life!
But, the dead plunder once secured
And safe beside the vessel moored,
All that had stirred the blood before
Is so much blubber, nothing more,
(I mean no pun, nor image so
Mere sentimental verse, you know,)
And all is tedium, smoke, and soil,
In trying out the noisome oil.
Yes, this is life! And so the bard
Through briny deserts, never scarred
Since Noah's keel, a subject seeks,
And lies upon the watch for weeks;
That once harpooned and helpless lying,
What follows is but weary trying.
Now I've a notion, if a poet
Beat up for themes, his verse will show
I wait for subjects that hunt me,
By day or night won't let me be,
And hang about me like a curse,
Till they have made me into verse,
From line to line my fingers tease
Beyond my knowledge, as the bees
Build no new cell till those before
With limpid summer-sweet run o'er;
Then, if I neither sing nor shine,
Is it the subject's fault, or mine?
How strange are the freaks of memory!
The lessons of life we forget,
While a trifle, a trick of color,
In the wonderful web is set,
Set by some mordant of fancy,
And, spite of the wear and tear Of time or distance or trouble,
Insists on its right to be there.
A chance had brought us together;
Our talk was of matters-of-course; We were nothing, one to the other,
But a short half-hour's resource.
We spoke of French acting and actors,
And their easy, natural way:
Of the weather, for it was raining
As we drove home from the play.
We debated the social nothings
We bore ourselves so to discuss;
The thunderous rumors of battle
Were silent the while for us.
Arrived at her door, we left her
With a drippingly hurried adieu,
And our wheels went crunching the
Of the oak-darkened avenue.
As we drove away through the shadow, The candle she held in the door
From rain-varnished tree-trunk to tree- | A sweeter secret hides behind his fame, And Love steals shyly through the loud
Flashed fainter, and flashed
Flashed fainter, then wholly faded Before we had passed the wood; But the light of the face behind it Went with me and stayed for good.
The vision of scarce a moment,
And hardly marked at the time, It comes unbidden to haunt me, Like a scrap of ballad-rhyme.