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In a troubled doubt between sorrow and
words; At last with themselves they questioned
and pondered, “ Hereafter ? — who knoweth ?” and so
they sighed Down the long steps that lead to silence
The loath gate swings with rusty creak;
Once, parting there, we played at pain; There came a parting, when the weak And fading lips essayed to speak
Vainly, — “ Auf wiedersehen!" Somewhere is comfort, somewhere faith,
Though thou in outer dark remain; Ope sweet sad voice ennobles death, And still, for eighteen centuries saith
Softly, — “ Auf wiedersehen!” If earth another grave must bear,
Yet heaven hath won a sweeter strain, And something whispers my despair, That, from an orient chamber there,
Floats down, “ Auf wiedersehen!”
AFTER THE BURIAL
The little gate was reached at last,
Half hid in lilacs down the lane; She pushed it wide, and, as she past, A wistful look she backward cast, And said,
Auf wiedersehen /"
Lingered reluctant, and again
“ Auf wiedersehen?” The lamp's clear gleam flits up the stair;
I linger in delicious pain;
Thinks she, — “ Auf wiedersehen?
The turf that silences the lane;
I hear “ Auf wiedersehen!"
fain, But these — they drew us heart to heart, Yet held us tenderly apart;
She said, “ Auf wiedersehen!”
Lowell's second child, Rose, died after & 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.
STILL thirteen years: 't is autumn now
On field and hill, in heart and brain; The naked trees at evening sough; The leaf to the forsaken bough
Sighs not, — “ Auf wiedersehen!”
And when over breakers to leeward
The tattered surges are hurled,
With its grip on the base of the world,
THE DEAD HOUSE
But, after the shipwreck, tell me
What help in its iron thews, Still true to the broken bawser,
Deep down among sea-weed and ooze ? In the breaking gulfs of sorrow,
When the helpless feet stretch out And find in the deeps of darkness
No footing so solid as doubt,
Then better one spar of Memory,
One broken plank of the Past, That our human heart may cling to,
Though hopeless of shore at last ! To the spirit its splendid conjectures,
To the flesh its sweet despair, Its tears o'er the thin-worn locket
With its anguish of deathless hair!
Immortal ? I feel it and know it,
Who doubts it of such as she ? But that is the pang's very secret, Immortal
“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
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 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.
There 's a narrow ridge in the graveyard
Would scarce stay a child in his race, But to me and my thought it is wider
Than the star-sown vague of Space. 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,
But I, who am earthly and weak, Would give all my incomes from dream
land 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.
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;'
Rest your slippers on me," beamed the
fender, “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,
The Present plucks rue for us men! I come back : that scar unhealing
: Was not in the churchyard then.
I go to the ridge in the forest
To me 't is not cheer thou art singing:
'T was a smile, 't was a garment's rustle,
’T was nothing that I can phrase, But the whole dumb dwelling grew con
scious, And put on her looks and ways. Were it mine I would close the shutters,
Like lids when the life is fled, And the funeral fire should wind it,
This corpse of a home that is dead. For it died that autumn morning
When she, its soul, was borne To lie all dark on the hillside
That looks over woodland and corn.
As thou musest still of the ocean
The voyage's struggle and strife, And safe as stars in all men's memories.
Cold as the sea, grandly compassionless;
mocked. THE VOYAGE TO VINLAND Nay, broad awake, they would not let him
be; In the letter to Mr. Norton, quoted at the They shaped themselves gigantic in the beginning of this section, reference is made to
mist, The Voyage to Vinland, which Lowell had some They rose far-beckoning in the lamps of thought of making the title-poem of the vol
heaven, In the same letter he says further regarding it: “ Part of this poem), you remem
They whispered invitation in the winds, ber, was written eighteen years ago. I meant
And breath came from them, mightier than to have made it much louger, but maybe it
the wind, is better as it is. I clapt a beginning upon
To strain the lagging sails of his resolve, it, patched it in the middle, and then got to Till that grew passion which before was what has always been my favorite part of the
wish, plan. This was to be a prophecy by Gudrida, And youth seemed all too costly to be a woman who went with them, of the future
staked America. I have written in an unrhymed On the soiled cards wherewith men played alliterated measure, in very short verse and stanzas of five lines each. It does not aim at following the law of the Icelandic alliterated
Letting Time pocket up the larger life, stave, but hints at it and also at the asonante,
Lost with base gain of raiment, food, and without being properly either.
But it runs
roof. well and is melodious, and we think it pretty “What helpeth lightness of the feet ? " good here, as does also Howells. Well, after
they said, that, of course, I was all for alliteration." The “ Oblivion runs with swifter foot than poem had apparently first borne the title of
they; Leif's Voyage, as he writes of that poem to Mr. Or strength of sinew? New men come as Briggs in 1850.
And those sleep nameless; or renown in Biörn'S BECKONERS
Swords grave no name on the long-memNow Biörn, the son of Heriulf, bad ill days
oried rock Because the heart within him seethed with But moss shall hide it; they alone who blood
wring That would not be allayed with any toil, Some secret purpose from the unwilling Whether of war or hunting or the oar,
gods But was auhungered for some joy untried: Survive in song for yet a little while For the brain grew not weary with the To vex, like us, the dreams of later men, limbs,
Ourselves a dream, and dreamlike all we But, while they slept, still hammered like a
And by his thought the more discomforted, Denied all foothold. But the dream re- Till Eric Thurlson kept his Yule-tide feast: mained,
And thither came he, called among the rest, And every night with yellow-bearded kings Silent, lone-minded, a church-door to mirth: His sleep was haunted, — mighty men of But, ere deep draughts forbade such seri
old, Once yonng as he, now ancient like the As the grave Škald might chant nor after gods,
Then Eric looked at Thorwald where he sat From circumstance untoward feathers Mute as a cloud amid the stormy hall,
plucks And said: “O Skald, sing now an olden Crumpled and cheap; and barbs with iron
song, Such as our fathers heard who led great The hour that passes is her quiver-boy: lives;
When she draws bow, 't is not across the And, as the bravest on a shield is borne
wind, Along the waving host that shouts him king, Nor 'gainst the sun her haste - snatched So rode their thrones upon the thronging arrow sings,
For sun and wind have plighted faith to Then the old man arose; white-haired he
Ere men have heard the sinew twang, beWhite-bearded, and with eyes that looked
In the butt's heart her trembling messenFrom their still region of perpetual snow, Beyond the little smokes and stirs of men: His head was bowed with gathered flakes “ The song is old and simple that I sing;
But old and simple are despised as cheap, As winter bends the sea-foreboding pine, Though hardest to achieve of human things: But something triumphed in his brow and Good were the days of yore, when men eye,
were tried Which whoso saw it could not see and By ring of shields, as now by ring of words; crouch:
But while the gods are left, and hearts of Loud rang the emptied beakers as he mused,
men, Brooding his eyried thoughts; then, as an And wide-doored ocean, still the days are eagle
good. Circles smooth - winged above the wind- Still o'er the earth hastes Opportunity, vexed woods,
Seeking the hardy soul that seeks for her. So wheeled his soul into the air of song Be not abroad, nor deaf with household High o'er the stormy hall; and thus he sang:
That chatter loudest as they mean the “The fletcher for his arrow-shaft picks out least; Wood closest - grained, long - seasoned, Swift-willed is thrice - willed; late means straight as light;
nevermore; And from a quiver full of such as these Impatient is her foot, nor turns again.” The wary bowman, matched against his He ceased; upon his bosom sank his beard peers,
Sadly, as one who oft had seen her pass Long doubting, singles yet once more the Nor stayed her: and forthwith the frothy best.
tide Who is it needs such flawless shafts as Of interrupted wassail roared along. Fate ?
But Biörn, the son of Heriulf, sat apart What archer of his arrows is so choice, Musing, and, with his eyes upon the fire, Or hits the white so surely? They are men, Saw shapes of arrows, lost as soon as seen. The chosen of her quiver; nor for her “A ship,” he muttered, “is a winged bridge Will every reed suffice, or cross-grained That leadeth every way to man's desire, stick
And ocean the wide gate to manful luck." At random from life's vulgar fagot plucked: And then with that resolve his heart was Such answer household ends; but she will bent, have
Which, like a humming shaft, through Souls straight and clear, of toughest fibre, many a stripe sound
Of day and night, across the unpathwayed Down to the heart of heart; from these she strips
Shot the brave prow that cut on Vinland All needless stuff, all sapwood; seasons
The first rune in the Saga of the West.