Christopher Pearse Cranch.

The bird & the bell, with other poems online

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As one who in some cellar crypt has iept
His wines of many an autumn vintage, pressed
From wildwood grapes, or vineyard fields that slept
On sunny hillsides, by his own hand dressed ;
And calls his neighbors in to taste and share
His store ; yet overvaluing, perchance.
What seemed to keep for him a flavor rare
Which love might prize when critics frown askance :
So to my board I bid my friends, and ope
The hoarded flasks of many a varying year, —
The verse from lonely dells of dreamland won.
Or by sweet toiling on the sun-flecked slope
Of life, ere yet my summer leaves were sere
In lengthening shadows of the sinking sun.

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The Bibd and the Bell 1

The Three Muses .23

The Shadowed Riyee 35

NovEMBEE Trees 88

The Flower and the Bee 40

The Cataract Isle 42

In the Garden 45

In the Pine-Woods 46

Luna through a Lorgnette 47

In the Palais Rotal Garden 53

Cornucopia 55

A Friend 59

The Autumn Rain 63

Spirits in Prison 65

Blondel ... . . ^ 69

The Old Days and the New 78

Why? 77

Through the Fields to St. Peter's ... 88

Marion Dale 95

i^EILS 100

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Thb Spirit op the Age lOS

Atalanta 109

Al Hassan's Secret 112

My Old Palette 119

The Bobolinks 121

Crete 125

J. R. L. ON his Fiftieth Birthday . . . .128

Sea Shadows . 132

The Mountain Path 137

Bird Language ........ 141

The Changing Year 14S

Song, — " Soft, brown, smiling eyes ** . . . 14S

The I^usam op Pilate's Wipe 147

The Dispute op the Seven Bays . . . . 152

A Thrush in a Gilded Cage 156

Under the Skylight 158

I IN Thee, and Thou in Me 161

Ode, — Margaret Fuller Ossoli . . 163

Iapis 173

The Workshop and the Bronze . . 183

The Evening Primrose 185

In a Church 188

December 190

A Chinese Story 192

A Song op Home 195

A Spring-Growl, 197

Waiting by the Sea 200

Shelling Peas, — A Pastoral 203

Louis Napoleon ........ 207

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By the Shore op the Rivee 214

The American Pantheon 217 .

In the Forest of Fontainebleau , . , , 220

A Day of Memories 223

The Guest 227

October 229

To a Half-Friend 231

Music 234

Compensation 238

A Battle of the Elements 241

Memorial Hall .244

Dream-Life 247

The Century and the Nation, — *BK Poem . 251

The Lay op Thrym; or, The Hammer Recovered . 270

Michael Angelo Buonarotti 277

On Re-readino Tennyson's Princess .... 283


The Higher Law 287

Circumstance 288

Shakespeare 289

The Garden 290

The Garden {continued) 291

To G. W. C 292

To W. W. S. . 293

To W. W. S 294

To 0. B. P. 295

To O. B. P. {continued) 296

Youth and Age 297

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The Bueiax of -the Flag 301

The Rose of Death, — A Ballad .... 304

NovEMBEE 8th, 1864 309

Sonnets for the Times.

I. The Dark Tower 821

II. Deliverance 322

III. The Abolitionists 323

IV. The Dawn of Peace 824

V. The Dbath-Blow 825

VI. The Martyr 826

VII. Our Country 827

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1 HE reader will find in this poem allusions to events which have
passed in Italy, — fluent when the lines were written; but now
crystallized into history, — and prophecies, some of which have
come, or are coming true, while others have been fulfilled otherwise
than was foreboded. These passages of the poem may therefore
lose somewhat of the flavor they might have had if read at that
period. The rapid and wonderful scene-shifting, too, that has gone
on in the great European theatre of Church and State may have the
effect of dimming their freshness somewhat. But the thoughts and
principles here embodied can never cease to interest all who care
for liberty of thought and speech, and will maintain a supreme im-
portance so long as the Romish Church holds to its assumptions in
the face of the nineteenth century.

If much of the language in these verses apostrophizing this
mighty organization seems too imqnalified and denunciatory, it will
be seen that I have endeavored to give praise also where I felt it
to be due. But the poem was written in Catholic Europe, where I
was daily impressed with characteristics which stood out more baldly
prominent than any which come to our notice in America.

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f WAS earliest morning in the early spring,
In Florence. Winter, dark and damp and chill.
Had yielded to the fruit-trees' blossoming.
Though sullen rains swept from the mountains still.
The tender green scarce seemed to have a will
To peep above the sod and greet the sky, —
Like an o'er-timid child who dreads a stranger's eye.


The city slumbered in the dawning day ; —
Old towers and domes and roof-tiles looming dim.
Bridges and narrow streets and cloisters gray.
And sculptured churches, where the Latin hymn
By lamplight called to mass. As o'er a limb
The spells of witchcraft strong but noiseless fall,
The shadows of the Past reigned silent over all.

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Waking from sleep, I heard, but kwew not where,
A bird, that sang alone its early soiig.
The quick, clear warble leaping through the air, —
The voice of spring, that all the winter long
Had slept, — nuw burst in melodies as strong
And tremulous as Love's first pure delight ; —
I could not choose but bless a song so warm and bright.


Sweet bird ! the fresh, clear -sprinkle of thy voice
Came quickening all the springs of trust and love.
What heart could hear such joy, and not rejoice ?
Thou blithe remembrancer of field and grove,
Dropping thy fairy flute-notes from above.
Fresh message from the Beauty Infinite
That clasps the world around and fills it with delight !


It bore me to the breeze-swept banks of bloom.
To trees and falling waters, and the rush
Of south -winds sifting through'the pine-grove's gloom ;
Home-gardens filled with roses, and the gush
Of insect-trills in grass and roadside bush;
And apple-orchards flushed with blossoms sweet ;
And all that makes the round of nature most complete.

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It sang of freedom, dimmed by no alloy ;
Peace, unpossessed upon our troubled sphere ;
Some long Arcadian day of love and joy,
Unsoiled by fogs of superstitious fear ;
A world of noble beings born to cheer
The wilderness of life, and prove the fact
Of human grandeur in each thought and word and act.


What was it jarred the vision and the spell.
And brought the reflux of the day and place ?
Athwart the bird's song clanged a brazen bell.
Nature's improvisations could not face
That domineering voice ; and in the race
Of rival tongues the BeU outrang the Bird, —
The swinging, clamoring brass which all the city heard.


Santa Maria Novella's Church, hard by.
Calling its worshippers to morning prayer,
^From its old Campanile lifted high
In the dull dampness of the clouded air.
Poured out its monotones, and did not spare
Its ringing shocks of unremitting sound.
That soon my warbler's notes were swept away and drowned.

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Down from the time-stained belfry clanged the bell.
Joined in a moment by a hundred more.
Had I not heard the bird, I might have well
Floated on that sonorous flood that bore
Away all living voices, as with roar
Of deep vibrations, grand, monastic, bold.
Through street and stately square the metal music roUed.


Oft have I listened in the dead of night.
When all those towers like chanting priests have prayed ;
And the weird tones seemed tangled in the height
Of palaces, — as though aU Florence made
One great ghost-organ, and the pipes that played
Were the dark channelled streets, pouring along
In beats and muffled swells the deep resounding song.


So now the incessant peal filled all the air,
And the sweet bird-voice, utterly forced away.
Ceased. And it seemed as if some spirit fair
Were hurled into oblivion ; and the day
Grew suddenly more darkly, grimly gray.
Like a vast mort-cloth stretched from south to north.
While that tyrannic voice still rang its mandates forth.

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And so I mused upon tlie things that were.
And those that should be, or that might have been ;
And felt a life and freedom in the air,
And in the sprouting of the early green,
I could not match with man, who builds his screen
Darkening the sun, and in his own light stands.
And casts the shadow of himself along the lands.


For him who haunts the temples of the Past,
And shapes his fond ideals by its rules ;
Whose creed, whose labors, are but thoughts recast
In worn and shrunken moulds of antique schools, —
Copies of copies, wrought with others' tools ;
Por whom law stands for justice, Church for God,
Symbol for feet, for right divine the tyrant's rod ; —


Who fears to utter what his reason bids,
Unless it wears the colors of a sect ;
Who hardly dares to lift his heavy lids.
And greet the coming Day with head erect.
But apes each general posture and defect
Entailed by time, — alert in others' tracks.
Like owls that build in some time-mantled ruin's cracks ;-

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For him yon clanging Bell a symbol bears.
That deadens eveiy natural voice of spring.
Fitter for him the croaking chant, the prayers.
The torch, the cross, the censer's golden swing.
The organ-fugue, — a prisoned eagle's wing
Beating the frescoed dome, — the empty feast
Where at his tinselled altar stands the gay-robed priest.


O m%hty Church I who, old, but still adorned
With jewels of thy youth, — a wrinkled bride
Affianced to the blind, — so long hast scorned
The rising of the inevitable tide
That swells and surges up against thy pride, —
Thou, less the artist's than the tyrant's nurse.
Blight of philosophy, false star of poet's verse I —


What though thy forms be picturesque and old.
And, clustered round thee, works of noblest art
HaUow thy temples ! Once they may have told
Profound emotions of the inmost heart;
Now shadowed by a faith that stands apart.
And scowls against the sunlight shared abroad.
Burning in altar-nooks its candles to its god !

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The saints who toiled to help the world's distress ;
The noble lords of thought and speech divine ;
The prophets crying through Time's wilderness ;
The vast discoveries, the inventions fine
That stamped upon the centuries a sign
Of grandeur, — all, like music thundered down
By stern cathedral bells, were silenced by thy frown.


Chained to Madonnas and ascetic saints,
Even Art itself felt thy all-narrowing force.
The painter saw thee peeping o'er his paints ;
The sculptor's thought was fettered from its source ;
Thy gloomy cloisters shaped the builder's course ;
Thy organ drowned the shepherd's festive flute
With penitential groans, as though God's love were mute.


And yet, because there lurked some element
Of trutli within the doctrine, — to man's need
Some fitness in the form ; since more was meant
And more expressed than in the accepted creed, —
The artist's genius giving far less heed
To formulas than to his own ideal, —
The hand and heart wrought works the world has stamped
as real.

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What didst thou for the already teeming soil
Of souls like Dante, Baphael, Angelo,
Save to suggest a theme or pay their toil P
While they overlooked their prison walls, and so
Caught from the skies above and earth below
Splendors wherewith they lit thy tarnished crown.
And clothed thee with a robe thou claimest as thine own.


Names that in any age would have been great,
Works that to all time speak, and so belong,
Claim not as thine ; nor subsidize the fate
That gave them to the nations for a long.
Unceasing heritage. Amid a throng
Of starry lights they live. Thy clanging beUs
Can never drown their song, nor break their mighty spells.


No mother thou of Grenius, but the nurse.

Seek not to stamp a vulgar name upon
. The sons of Morning. Take the Poet*s verse,

But not the Poet. He is not thy son.

Enough for thee, if sometimes he hath gone

Into thy narrow fold from pastures wide.
Where through immortal flowers God pours the living tide.

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Enough if he hath decked thee with the wealth
Of his heaven-nurtured spirit, — showering gems
Of thought and fancy, coining youth and health
To gild with fame thy papal diadems ;
Plucking life's roses with their roots and stems
To wreathe an altar which returned him naught
But the poor patronage of some suspected thought


What didst thou for the studious sage who saw
Through nature's veils the great organic force, —
Who sought and found the all-pervading law
That holds the rolling planets in their course-?
When didst thou fail to check the flowing source
Of truths whose waters needs must inundate
The theologic dikes that guarded thy estate ?


Is there a daring thought thou hast not crushed ?
Is there a generous faith thou hast not cursed ?
Is there a whisper, howe*er low and hushed.
Breathed for the future, but thou wast the first
To silence with thy tortures, — thou the worst
Of antichrists, and cunningest of foes
That ever against God and man's great progress rose ?

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Yet life was in thee once. Thy earlier youth
Was flushed with blossoms of a heavenly bloora.
Thy blight began, when o'er God's common truth
And man's nobility thou didst assume
The dread prerogative of life and doom ;
And creeds which served as swaddling-bands were bound
Like grave-clothes round the limbs laid living under ground.


When man grows wiser than his creed allows.
And nobler than the church he has outgrown ;
When that which was his old familiar house
No longer is a home, but all alone.
Alone with God, he dares to lift the stone
From off the skylight between heaven and him, —
Then shines a grander day, then fade the spectres grim.


And never yet was growth, save when it broke
The letter of the dead scholastic form.
The bark drops oft*, and leaves the expanding oak
To stretch his giant arms through sun and storm.
The idols that upon his breast lay warm
The sage throws down, and breaks their hallowed shriiie,
And follows the great hand that points to light divine.

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But thou, Church I didst steal the mother's mask,
The counterfeit of Heaven, — so to enfold
Thy flock around thee. None looked near, to ask
" Art thou our mother, truly ? " None so bold
As lift thy veils, and show how hard and cold
Those eyes of tyranny, that mouth of guile.
That low and narrow brow, the witchcraft of that smile, —


That subtle smile, deluding while it warmed ;
That arrogant, inquisitorial nod ;
That hand that stabbed, like Herod, the new-formed
And childlike life which drew its breath from God,
And, for that star by which the Magi trod
The road to Bethlehem, the Good Shepherd's home,
Lit lurid idol-fires on thy seven hills of Rome.


Kome, paralyzed and dumb, — who sat a queen
Among the nations, now thy abject slave ;
Yet muttering in her cell, where gaunt and lean
Thy priests have kept her pining ! Who shall save
And lift the captive from her living grave ?
Is there no justice left to avert her doom.
Where monarchs sit and play tlieir chess-games on her

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And thou, too, Venice, moaning by the sea,
Which moans and chafes with thee, on Lido's beach, —
Thou, almost in despair lest there should be
In Europe's life no life within thy reach,
No respite from thy tyrant, — thou shalt teach
Thy Austrian despot yet what hoarded hate
And sudden strength can do to change thy sad estate !


For, lo, the fires are kindled. Hark ! afar.
At last the thunders mutter under ground,
The northern lights flash cimeters of war,
Sardinia's trumpets to the battle sound.
See Florence, Parma, Modena, unbound.
Leap to their feet, — and stout Romagna brave
The Cardinal's frown, and swear to cower no more a slave !


See Sicily, whose blood is Etna's veins
Of sleepless fire, heave with volcanic pants.
Seething, a restless surge of hearts and brains,
Till Garibaldi's quick Ithuriel lance
Wakes the whole South from its long, troubled trance.
And Naples, catching the contagious flame,
Welcomes her hero in with blessings on his name !

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The nations that in darkness sat have seen
The light. The blind receive their sight again.
The querulous old man who stands between
His children and their hopes, with threats insane,
Trembles, as though an earthquake split in twain
The crumbling rock beneath Saint Peter's dome ; t

And the last hiding-place of tyranny — is Rome.


For Italy, long pining, sad, and crushed,
Has hurled her royal despots from the land.
Back to her wasted heart the blood has gushed.
Her wan cheek blooms, and her once nerveless hand
Guides with firm touch the purpose she has planned.
Thank God ! thank generous France ! the battle smoke
Lifts from her bloody fields. See, at her feet her yoke !


Not like a maddened anarch does she rise :
The torch she holds is no destroying flame.
But a clear beacon, — like her own clear eyes
Straining across the war-clouds ; and the shame
Of wild misrule has never stained her name.
Calm and determined, politic yet bold.
She comes to take her place, — the Italy of old.

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She asks no boon, except to stand enrolled
Among the nations. Give her space and air.
Our Sister. She has pined in dungeons cold.
A little sunshine for our Sister fair,
A little hope to cover past despair.
God*s blessing on the long-lost, the unbound !
The earth has waited long ; the heavens now answer —
** Found ! '*


The nations greet her as some lovely guest
Arriving late, where friends pour out the wine.
Ay, press around, and pleclge her in the best
Your table yields, and in her praise combine !
And ye who love her most, press near, and twine
Her locks with wreaths, and in her large dark eyes
See all her sorrowing past, and her great future rise !


But thou who claim'st the keys of God's own heaven,
And who wouldst fain usurp the keys of earth, —
Thou, leagued with priests and tyrants who have given
Their hands, and pledged their oaths to blight the birth
Of thine own children's rights, — for scorn and mirth
One day shalt stand, thy juggling falsehoods named.
Thy plots and wiles unmasked, thy heaven-high titles
shamed !

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Look to the proud tiara on thy brow !
Its gems shall crush thee down like leaden weights.
Thy alchemy is dead ; and wouldst thou now
Thunder anathemas against the states
Whose powers are Time's irrefragable fates ?
Look to thy glories ! they must shrink away, —
With meaner pomp must fall, and sink into decay.


Lo, thou art numbered with the things that were.
Soon to be laid upon the dusty shelves
Of antiquaries, — once so strong and fair,
Now classed with spells of magic, midnight elves,
And all half-lies, that pass away themselves
When once a people rises to the light
Of primal truths and ccTmprehends its heaven-bom right*


Toil on ; but little canst thou do to-day.
The sun is risen. The daylight dims thy shrines.
The age outstrips thee, marching on its way.
And overflowing all thy boundary lines.
How art thou fallen, O star ! How lurid shines
Thy taper underneath the glowing sky !
How feeble grows thy voice, how lustreless thine eye !

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Like some huge shell left by the ebbing tide,
In which once dwelt some wonder of the sea.
Thou liest, and men know not that thy pride
Of place outlives thy earlier potency,
But, coming nearer to thy mystery.
Might call thee lovely, did not thy decay
And death-like odor drive them in contempt away.


So perish like thee all lies stereotyped
By human power or devilish artifice, —
Dark blot on Christ's pure shield, soon to be wiped
Away, and leave it fair for Heaven's free kiss ;
So perish like thee, drowned in Time's abyss.
All that hath robbed strong Genius of its youth.
All that hath ever barred the struggling soul from truth !


And yet we need not boast our larger scope
In this broad land, if creeds of later stamp
Still cast their gloom o'er manhood's dearest hope,
Still quench the heavenward flame of Reason's lamp.
And dogmas shamed by science still can cramp
The aspiring soul in dungeons scarce less drear
Than those of older times, when faith was one with fear.

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Nor dream that here the inquisitorial chair

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Online LibraryChristopher Pearse CranchThe bird & the bell, with other poems → online text (page 1 of 12)