Celia Thaxter.

The poems of Celia Thaxter online

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And clasp with girdle white the iron shore.

Close folded, safe within the sheltermg seed.
Blossom and bell and leafy beauty hide;

Nor icy blast, nor bitter spray they heed,
But patiently their wondrous change abide.

The heart of God through his creation stirs,
We thrill to feel it, trembling as the flowers

That die to live again, — his messengers,

To keep faith firm in these sad souls of ours.

The waves of Time may devastate our lives,
The frosts of age may check our failing breath.

They shall not touch the spirit that survives
Triumphant over doubt aud pain and death.



Across the narrow beach we flit,

One little sandpiper and I,
And fast I gather, bit by bit.

The scattered driftwood bleached and dry.
The wild waves reach their hands for it.

The wild wind raves, the tide runs high.
As up and down the beach we flit, —

One little sandpiper and I.

Above our heads the sullen clouds
Scud black and swift across the sky;

Like silent ghosts in misty shrouds
Stand out the white lighthouses high.

Almost as far as eye can reach
I see the close-reefed vessels fly,

As fast we flit along the beach, —
One little sandpiper and I.

I watch him as he skims along.

Uttering his sweet and iiiournfvd cry.
He starts not at my fitful song.

Or flash of fluttering drapery.
He has no thought of any wrong;

He scans me with a fearless eye.
Stanch friends are we, well tried and strong,

The little sandpiper and L


Comrade, where wilt thou be to-night

Wien the loosed storm breaks furiously t
My driftwood fire will burn so bright !

To what warm shelter canst thou fly ]
I do not fear for thee., though wroth

The tempest rushes throvigh the sky:
For are we not God's children both,

Thou, little sandpiper, and 1 1


September's slender crescent grows again
Distinct in yonder peaceful evening red,
Clearer the stars are sparkling overhead.

And all the sky is pure, without a stain.

Cool blows the evening wind from out the West

And bows the flowers, the last sweet flowers thai

bloom, —
Pale asters, many a heavy-waving plume

Of goldenrod that bends as if opprest.

The summer's songs are hushed. Up the lone shore
The weary waves wash sadly, and a grief
Sounds in the wind, like farewells fond and brief.

The cricket's chirp but makes the silence more.


Life's autumn comes; the leaves begin to fall;

The moods of spring and summer pass away;

The glory and the rapture, day hy day,
Depart, and soon the quiet grave folds alL

O thoughtful sky, how many eyes in vain
Are lifted to your beauty, full of tears!
How many hearts go back through all the years,

Heavy with loss, eager with questioning pain.

To read the dim Hereafter, to obtain

One glimpse beyond the earthly curtain, where
Their dearest dwell, where they may be or e'er

September's slender crescent shines again!


The swallow twitters about the eaves;

Blithely she sings, and sweet and clear;
Around her climb the woodbine leaves

In a golden atmosphere.

The summer wind sways leaf and spray,

That catch and cling to the cool gray wall*,

The bright sea stretches miles away,
And the noon sun shines o'er alL


In the chamber's shadow, quietly,

I stand and worship the sky and the loaves,

The golden air and the brilliant sea.
The swallow at the eaves.

Like a living jewel she sits and sings;

Fain would I read her riddle aright,
Fain would I know whence her rapture springs.

So strong m a thing so slight !

The fine, clear fire of joy that steals
Through all my spirit at what I see

In the glimpse my window's space reveals, —
That seems no mystery 1

But scarce for her joy can she utter her song;

Yet she knows not the beauty of skies or seas.
Is it bliss of living, so sweet and strong 1

Is it love, which is more than these t

happy creature ! what stirs thee so t
A spark of the gladness of God thou art.

Wliy should we seek to find and to know
The secret of thy heart 1

Before the gates of his mystery

Trembling we knock with an eager hand;
Silent behind them waiteth He;

Not yet may we understand.


But thrilling throughout the universe
Throbs the pulse of his mighty will,

Till we gain the knowledge of joy or curse
In the choice of good or iU.

He looks from the eyes of the little child,
And searches souls with their gaze so clear;

To the heart some agony makes wild
He whispers, "I am here."

He smiles in the face of every flower;

In the swallow's twitter of sweet content
He speaks, and we follow through every hour

The way his deep thought went.

Here should be courage and hope and faith ;

Naught has escaped the trace of his hand;
And a voice in the heart of his silence saith,

One day we shall understand.


Last night I stole away alone, to find
A mellow crescent setting o'er the sea.
And lingered in its light, while over me

Blew fitfully the grieving autumn wind.


And somewhat sadly to myself I said,

"Summer is gone," and watched how bright and

Through the moon's track the little waves sped
past, —
"Summer is gone! her golden days are dead."

Kegretfully I thought, " Since I have trod
Earth's ways with willing or reluctant feet.
Never did season bring me days more sweet.

Crowned with rare joys and priceless gifts from God.

"And they are gone: they will return no more."
The slender moon went down, all red and still:
The stars shone clear, the silent dews fell chill;

The waves with ceaseless murmur washed the shore.

A low voice spake: "And wherefore art thou sad?
Here in thy heart all summer folded lies.
And smiles in sunshine though the sweet time dies:

'T is thine to keep forever fresh and gladl "

Yea, gentle voice, though the fair days depart,
And skies grow cold above the restless sea,
God's gifts are measureless, and there shall be

Eternal summer in the grateful heart.




SAILORS, did sweet eyes look after you
The day you sailed away from sunny Spain ?

Bright eyes that followed fading ship and crew.
Melting in tender rain?

Did no one dream of that drear night to be,

Wild with the wind, fierce with the stinging snow,

When on yon granite point that frets the sea,
The ship met her death-blow 1

Fifty long years ago these sailors died:

(None know how many sleep beneath the waves:)
Fourteen gray headstones, rising side by side,

Point out their nameless graves, —

Lonely, unknown, deserted, but for me,

And the wild birds that flit with mournful cry.

And sadder winds, and voices of the sea
That moans perpetually.

Wives, mothers, maidens, wistfully, in vain
Questioned the distance for the yearning sail.

That, leaning landward, should liave stretched again
Wliite arms wide on the gale.



To bring back their beloved. Year by year,

"Weary they watched, till youth and beauty passed,

And lustrous eyes grow dim and ago drew near,
And hope was dead at last.

Still summer broods o'er that delicious land,

Kich, fragrant, warm with skies of golden glow:

Live any yet of that forsaken baud
"^Tio loved 80 long agol

O Spanish women, over the far seas,

Could I but show you where your dead repose!

Could I send tidings on this northern breeze
That strong and steady blows!

Dear dark-eyed sisters, you remember yet

These you have lost, but you can never know

One stands at their bleak graves whose eyes are
With thinking of your woe!


In childhood's season fair.
On many a balmy, moonless summer night,
While wheeled the lighthouse arms of dark and bright

Far through the humid air;


How patient have I been,
Sitting alone, a happy little maid.
Waiting to see, careless and unafraid,

My father's boat come in;

Close to the water's edge
Holding a tiny spark, that he might steer
(So dangerous the landing, far and near)

Safe past the ragged ledge.

T had no fears, — not one ;
The wild, wide waste of water leagues around
Washed ceaselessly ; there was no human sound,

And I was aU alone.

But Nature was so kind !
Like a dear friend I loved the loneliness;
My heart rose glad, as at some sweet caress,

When passed the wandering wind.

Yet it was joy to hear.
From out the darkness, sounds grow clear at last^
Of rattling rowlock, and of creaking mast,

And voices drawing near!

" Is 't thou, dear father 1 Say ! "
What well-known shout resounded in reply.
As loomed the tall sail, smitten suddenly

With the great lighthouse ray !


I will be patient now,
Dear Heavenly Father, waiting here for Thee:
I know the darkness holds Thee. Shall I be

Afraid, when it is Thoul

On thy eternal shore.
In pauses, when life's tide is at its prime,
I hear the everlasting rote of Time

Beating for evermore.

Shall I not then rejoice 1
Oh, never lost or sad should child of thine
Sit waiting, fearing lest there come no sign,

No whisper of thy voice!


That was a curlew calling overhead.

That fine, clear whistle shaken from the clouds:
See! hovering o'er the swamp with wings outspread.

He sinks where at its edge in shining crowds
The yellow violets dance as they unfold.
In the blithe spring wind, all their green and gold.

Blithe south-wind, spreading bloom upon the sea,
Drawing about the world this band of haze

Bo softly delicate, and bringing me

A touch of balm that like a blessing stays;


Though beauty like a dream bathes sea and land.
For the first time Death holds me by the hand.

Yet none the less the swallows weave above

Through the bright air a web of light and song,

And calling clear and sweet from cove to cove,
The sandpiper, the lonely rocks among,

Makes wistful music, and the singing sea

Sends its strong chorus upward solemnly.

Mother Nature, infinitely dear!
Vainly I search the beauty of thy face,

Vainly thy myriad voices charm my ear;

I cannot gather from thee any trace
Of God's intent. Help me to understand
Why, this sweet morn. Death holds me by the hand,

1 watch the waves, shoulder to shoulder set,

That strive and vanish and are seen no more.
The earth is sown with graves that we forget,

And races of mankind the wide world o'er
Bise, strive, and vanish, leaving naught behind.
Like changing waves swept by the changing wind.

"Hard-hearted, cold, and blind," she answers me,
" Vexing thy soul with riddles hard to guess !

No waste of any atom canst thou see.
Nor make I any gesture purposeless.



Lift thy dim eyes up to the conscious sky !
God meant that rapture in the curlew's cry.

"Ho holds his whirling worlds in check; not one

May from its awful orbit swerve aside;
Yot breathes He in this south-wind, bids the sun

Wako the fair flowers He fashioned, far and wide,
And this strong pain thou canst not understand
Is but his grasp on thy reluctant hand."


At daybrealt in the fresh light, joyfully

The fishermen drew in their laden net;
The shore shone rosy purple, and the sea
Was streaked with violet;

And pink with sunrise, many a shadowy sail

Lay southward, lighting up the sleeping bay;
And in the west the white moon, still and pale.
Faded before the day.

Silence was everj-where. The rising tide

Slowly filled every cove and inlet small;
A musical low whisper, multiplied,
You heard, and that was all.

No clouds at dawn, but as the sun climbed higher,
White columns, thunderous, splendid, up the sky


Floated and stood, heaped in his steady fire,
A stately company.

Stealing along the coast from cape to cape
The weird mirage crept tremulously on,
In many a magic change and wondrous shape.
Throbbing beneath the sun.

At noon the wind rose, swept the glassy sea

To sudden ripple, thrust against the clouds
A strenuous shoulder, gathering steadily,
Drove them before in crowds;

Till all the west was dark, and inky black

The level-ruffled water underneath.
And up the wind cloud tossed, — a ghostly rack,
In many a ragged wreath.

Then sudden roared the thunder, a great peal

Magnificent, that broke and rolled away ;
And down the wind plunged, like a furious keel,
Cleaving the sea to spray;

And brought the rain sweeping o'er land and sea.
And then was tumult! Lightning sharp and
Thunder, wind, rain, — a mighty jubilee
The heaven and earth between !


Loud the roused ocean sang, a chorus grand;

A solemn music rolled in undertone
Of waves that broke about, on either hand.
The little island lone;

Wliere, joyful in his tempest as his calm,
Held in the hollow of that hand of his,
I joined with heart and soul in God's great psalm,
Thrilled with a nameless bliss.

Soon lulled the wind, the summer storm soon died;

The shattered clouds went eastward, drifting slow;
From the low sun the rain-fringe swept aside,
Bright in his rosy glow,

And wide a splendor streamed through all the sky;

O'er sea and laud one soft, delicious blush.
That touched the gray rocks lightly, tenderly;
A transitory flush.

Warm, odorous gusts blew off the distant land,

With spice of pine-woods, breath of hay new
O'er miles of waves and sea scents cool and bland.
Full in our faces blown.

Slow faded the sweet light, and peacefully
The quiet stars came out, one after one:


The holy twilight fell upon the sea,
The summer day was done.

Such unalloyed delight its hours had given,

Musing, this thought rose in my grateful mind,
That God, who watches all things, up in heaven,
With patient eyes and kind.

Saw and was pleased, perhaps, one child of his

Dared to be happy like the little birds.
Because He gave his children days like this,
Rejoicing beyond words;

Dared, lifting up to Him untroubled eyes

In gratitude that worship is, and prayer,
Sing and be glad with ever new surprise,
He made his world so fair!


Softly Death touched her, and she passed away
Out of this glad, bright world she made more fair,

Sweet as the apple-blossoms, when in May
The orchards flush, of summer grown aware.

All that fresh, delicate beauty gone from sight,
That gentle, gracious presence felt no more!

How must the house be emptied of delight,

What shadows on the threshold she passed o'er!


She loved me. Surely I was grateful, yet
I could not give her back all sho gave me.

Ever I think of it with vagiio regret,
Musing upon a summer by the sea:

Kemembering troops of merry girls who pressed
About me — clinging arms and tender eyes,

And love, like scent of roses. With the rest
She came, to fill my heart with new surprise.

The day I left them all, and sailed away.

While o'er the calm sea, 'neath the soft gray sky,

They waved farewell, she followed me, to say
Yet once again her wistful, sweet "good-by."

At the boat's bow she drooped; her light-green dress
Swept o'er the skiff in many a graceful fold;

Her glowing face, bright with a mute caress.
Crowned with her lovely hair of shadowy gold:

And tears she dropped into the crystal brine
For me, unworthy — as we slowly swung

Free of the mooring. Her last look was mine,
Seeking me still the motley crowd among.

tender memory of the dead I hold

So precious through the fret and change of years!
Were I to live till Time itself grew old,

The sad sea would be sadder for those tears.



This grassy gorge, as daj'light failed last night,

I traversed toward the west, where, thin and

Bent like Diana's bow and silver bright.
Half lost in rosy haze, a crescent hung.

I paused upon the beach's upper edge:
The violet east all shadowy lay behind;

Southward the lighthouse glittered o'er the ledge,
And lightly, softly blew the western wind.

And at my feet, between the turf and stone,
Wild roses, bayberry, purple thistles tall.

And pink herb-robert grew, where shells were strewn
And morning-glory vines climbed over alL

I stooped the closely folded buds to note.
That gleamed in the dim light mysteriously,

While, full of whispers of the far-off rote,
Summer's enchanted dusk crept o'er the sea.

And sights and sounds and sea-scents delicate,
So wrought upon my soul with sense of bliss,

Happy I sat as if at lieaven's gate.

Asking on earth no greater joy than this.


And now, at dawn, upon the beach again,

Kneeling I wait the coming of the sun,
"Watching the looser-folded buds, and fain

To see the marvel of their day begun.

All the world lies so dewy-fresh and still!

^Yhispe^s so gently all the water wide,
Hardly it breaks the silence : from the hill

Come clear bird-voices mingling with the tide.

Sunset or dawn: which is the lovelier? Lo!

My darlings, sung to all tlie balmy night
By summer waves and softest winds that blow,

Begin to feel the thrilling of the light!

Bed lips of roses, waiting to be kissed

By early sunshine, soon in smiles will break.

But oh, ye morning-glories, that keep tryst
With the first ray of daybreak, ye awake!

O bells of triumph, ringing noiseless peals

Of unimagincd music to the day !
Almost I coidd believe each blossom feels

The same delight that sweeps my soul away.

bells of triumph! delicate trumpets, thrown

Heavenward and earthward, turned east, west, north,


In lavish beauty, who through you has blown

This sweet cheer of the morning with calm mouth 1

'T is God who breathes the triumph ; He who

The tender curves, and laid the tints divine
Along the lovely lines; the Eternal Thought

That troubles all our lives with wise design.

Tea, out of pain and death his beauty springs,
And out of doubt a deathless confidence:

Though we are shod with leaden cares, our wings
Shall lift us yet out of our deep suspense !

Thou great Creator! Pardon us who reach
For other heaven beyond this world of thine,

This matchless world, where thy least touch doth
Thy solemn lessons clearly, line on line.

And help us to be grateful, we who live
Such sordid, fretful lives of discontent.

Nor see the sunsliine nor the ilower, nor strive
To find the love thy bitter chastening meant.



Dropped the warm rain from the brooding sky

Softly all the summer afternoon;
Up the road I loitered carelessly,

Glad to be alive in blissful June.

Though so gray the sky, and though the mist
Swept the hills and half their beauty hid ;

Though the scattering drops the broad leaves kissed,
And no ray betwixt the vapor slid,

Yet the daisies tossed their white and gold

In the quiet fields on either side.
And the green gloom deepened in the old

Walnut-trees that flimg their branches wide;

And the placid river wound away

Westward to the hills through meadows fair,
riower-fringed and starred, while blithe and gay

Called the blackbirds through the balmy air.

Eight and left I scanned the landscape round ;

Every shape, and scent, and wild bird's call.
Every color, curve, and gentle sound,

Deep into my heart I gathered all.


Up I looked, and down upon the sod

Sprinkled thick with violets blue and bright j
" Surely, ' Through his garden walketh God, ' "
Low I whispered, full of my delight.

Like a vision, on the path before.

Came a little rosy, sun-browned maid,

Straying toward me from her cottage door,
Paused, up-looking shyly, half afraid.

Never word she spake, but gazing so.

Slow a smile rose to her clear brown eyes.

Overflowed her face with such a glow

That I thrilled with sudden, sweet surprise.

Here was sunshine 'neath the cloudy skies I
Low I knelt to bring her face to mine;

Sweeter, brighter grew her shining eyes,
Yet she gave me neither word nor sign.

But within her look a blessing beamed;

Meek I grew before it; was it just?
Was I worthy this pure light that streamed t

Such approval, and such love and trust!

Half the flowers I carried in my hands
Lightly in her pretty arms I laid:


Silent, but aa one who understands,
Clasped them close the rosy little maid.

Fair behind the honeysuckle spray
Shone her innocent, delightful face !

Then I rose and slowly went my way,
Left her standing, lighting all the place.

While her golden look stole after me.

Lovelier bloomed the violets whore T trod ;

More divine earth's beauty seemed to be :
"Through his garden visibly walked God."


Upon my lips she laid her touch divine.

And merry speech and careless laughter died ;

She fixed her melancholy eyes on mine,
And would not be denied.

I saw the west wind loose his cloudlets white
In flocks, careering tlirough the April sky ;

I could not sing though joy was at its height,
For she stood silent by.

I watched the lovely evening fade away ;
A mist was lightly drawn across the stars;


She broke my quiet dream, I heard her say,
" Behold your prison bars !

"Earth's gladness shall not satisfy your soul,
This beauty of the world in which you livej
The crowning grace that sanctifies the whole,
That, I alone can give."

I heard and shrank away from her afraid ;

But still she held me and would still abide;
Youth's bounding pulses slackened and obeyed,

"With slowly ebbing tide.

"Look thou beyond the evening star," she said,
"Beyond the changing splendors of the day;
Accept the pain, the weariness, the dread,
Accept and bid me stay ! "

I turned and clasped her close with sudden strength,
And slowly, sweetly, I became aware

Within my arms God's angel stood at length.
White-robed and calm and fair.

And now I look beyond the evening star,
Beyond the changing splendors of the day,

Knowing the pain He sends more precious far,
More beautiful, than they.




There is no wind at all to-niglit
To dash the drops against the pane;

No sound ahroad, nor any light,
And sadly f;ills the autumn rain;

There is no color in the world,

No lovely tint on hill or plain ;
The summer's golden sails are furled,

And sadly falls the autumn rain.

The earth lies tacitly beneath,

As it were dead to joy or pain:
It does not move, it does not breathe, —

And sadly falls the autumn rain.

And all my heart is patient too,

I wait till it shall wake again;
The songs of spring shall sound anew.

Though sadly falls the autumn rain.


Because I hold it sinful to despond,
And will not let the bitterness of life

Blind me with burning tears, but look beyond
Its tumult and its strife;


Because I lift my head above the mist,

Where the sun shines and the broad breezes blow,

By every ray and every raindrop kissed
That God's love doth bestow;

Think you I find no bitterness at all?

No burden to be borne, like Christian's pack ?
Think you there are no ready tears to fall

Because I keep them back?

Why should I hug life's ills with cold reserve,
To curse myself and all who love me? Nay!

A thousand times more good than I deserve
God gives me every day.

And in each one of these rebellious tears,

Kept bravely back, He makes a rainbow shine;

Grateful I take his slightest gift, no fears
Nor any doubts are mine.

Dark skies must clear, and when the clouds are past^
One golden day redeems a weary year;

Patient I listen, sure that sweet at last
Will sound his voice of cheer.

Then vex me not with chiding. Let me be.

I must be glad and grateful to the end.
I grudge you not your cold and darkness, — me

The powers of light befriend.



Fragrant and soft the summer wind doth blow.
Weary I lie, with heavy, half-shut eyes,
And watch, while wistful thoughts within me

The curtain idly swaying to and fro.

There comes a sound of household toil from far,
A woven murmur: voices shrill and sweet.
Clapping of doors, and restless moving feet,

And tokens faint of fret, and noise, and jar.

Without, the broad earth shimmers in the glare.
Through the clear noon high rides the blazing

The birds are hushed; the cricket's chirp alone

With tremulous music cleaves the drowsy air.

I think, — "Past the gray rocks the wavelets run;

The gold-brown seaweed drapes the ragged ledge;

And brooding, silent, at the water's edge
The white gull sitteth, shining in the sun."



We sail toward evening's lonely star

That trembles in the tender blue;
One single cloud, a dusky bar,

Burnt with dull carmine through and through,
Slow smouldering in the summer sky,

Lies low along the fading west.
How sweet to watch its splendors die,

Wave-cradled thus and wind-caressed!

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Online LibraryCelia ThaxterThe poems of Celia Thaxter → online text (page 2 of 11)