Celia Thaxter.

The poems of Celia Thaxter online

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And all her striving to the winds she cast,

And bowed her head and let the light die out,
For the wide sea lay calm as her dead love.

When evening feU, from the far land, in doubt,
Vainly to find that faithful star men strove.


Sailors and landsmen look, and women's eyes,
For pity ready, search in vain the night,

And wondering neighbor \xnto neighbor cries,

"Now what, think you, can ail Boon Island light?"

Out from the coast toward her high tower they sailed;

They found her watching, silent, by her dead,
A shadowy woman, who nor wept, nor wailed,

But answered what they spake, till all was said.

They bore the dead and living both away.

With anguish time seemed powerless to destroy
She turned, and backward gazed across the bay, —

Lost in the sad sea lay her rose of joy.


SOVEREIGN Master! stern and splendid power,

That calmly dost both Time and Death defy;
Lofty and lone as mountain peaks that tower.

Leading our thoughts up to the eternal sky:
Keeper of some divine, mysterious key,

Raising us far above all human care,
Unlockmg awful gates of harmony

To let heaven's light in on the world's despair;
Smiter of solemn chords that still command


Echoes in souls that suffer and aspire,
In the great moment while we hold thy hand,

Baptized with pain and rapture, tears and fire,
God lifts our saddened foreheads from the dust,
The everlasting God, in whom we trust !


O stateliest! who shall speak thy praise, who find

A fitting word to utter before thee 1
Thou lonely splendor, thou consummate mind,

Who marshalest thy hosts in majesty ;
Thy shadowy armies of resistless thought.

Thy subtile forces drawn from Nature's heart,
Thy solemn breathing, mighty music, wrought

Of life and death — a miracle thou art !
The restless tides of human life that swing

In stormy currents, thou dost touch and sway;
Deep tones within us answer, shuddering,

At thy resounding voice — we cast away
All our unworthiness, made strong by thee,
Thou great uplif ter of humanity !


And was it thus the master looked, think you 1
Is this the painter's fancy? Wlio can tell!

These strong and noble outlines should be true:
On the broad brow such majesty should dwelL


Yea, and these deep, indomitable eyes

Are surely his. Lo, the imperial -will
In every feature ! Mighty purpose lies

About the shut mouth, resolute and still.
Observe the head's pathetic attitude,

Bent forward, listening, — he that might not hear!
Ah, could the world's adoring gratitude,

So late to come, have made his life less drear!
Hearest thou, now, great soul beyond our ken.
Men's reverent voices answering thee, " Amen " 1


Most beautiful among the helpers thou!

All heaven's fresh air and sunshine at thy voice
Flood with refreshment many a weary brow.

And sad souls thrill with courage and rejoice
To hear God's gospel of pure gladness sound

So sure and clear in this bewildered world,
TUl tlie sick vapors that our sense confound

By cheerful winds are into nothing whirled.
O matchless melody ! perfect art !

lovely, lofty voice, unfaltering!
strong and radiant and divine Mozart,

Among earth's benefactors crowned a king!
Loved shalt thou be while time may yet endure,
Spirit of health, sweet, sound, and wise, and pure.



At tho open window I lean ;
Flowers in the garden without
Faint in the heat and the drought;

What does the music meani

For here, from the cold keys within,
Is a tempest of melody drawn;
Doubts, passionate questions, the dawn

Of high hope, and a triumph to win ;

While out in the garden, blood-red
The poppy droops, faint in tlio heat
Of the noon, and the sea-wind so sweet

Caresses its delicate head.

And still the strong music goes on

With its storming of beautiful heights,
With its sorrow that heaven requites,

And the victory fought for is won !

High with thy gift didst thou reach,
Schubert, whose genius superb
Nothing could check or could curb:

Thou lif test the heart with thy speech I



Calm is the close of the day,
All things are quiet and blest;
Low in the darkening west

The young moon sinks slowly away.

Without, in the twilight, I dream:
Within it is cheerful and bright
With faces that bloom in the light,

And the cold keys that silently gleam.

Then a magical touch draws near.
And a voice like a call of delight
Cleaves the calm of the beautiful night,

And I turn from my musing to hear.

Lo! the movement too wondrous to name!
Agitation and rapture, the press
As of myriad waves that caress.

And break into vanishing flame.

Ah! but the exquisite strain,

Sinking to pathos so sweet !

Is life then a lie and a cheat!
Hark to the hopeless refrain!


Comes a shock like the voice of a soul
Lost to good, to all beauty and joy,
Led alone by the powers that destroy,

And fighting with fiends for control.

Drops a chord like the grave's first clod.
Then again toss the waves of caprice,
Wild, delicate, sweet, with no peace,

No health, and no yielding to God.

Siren, that charmest the air

With this potent and passionate spell.
Sad as songs of the angels that fell.

Thou leadest alone to despair !

Wliat troubles the night 1 It grows chill —

Let the weird, wild music be;

Fronts us the infinite sea
And Nature is holy and still.


Sue walks beside the silent shore,
The tide is high, the breeze is still;

No ripple breaks the ocean floor,
The sunshine sleeps upon the hilL


The turf is warm beneath her feet,

Bordering the beach of stone and shell,

And thick about her path the sweet
Red blossoms of the pimpernel.

" Oh, sleep not yet, my flower ! " she cries,
"Nor prophesy of storm to come;
Tell me that under steadfast skies

Fair winds shall bring my lover home."

She stoops to gather flower and shell,
She sits, and, smiling, studies each;

She hears the full tide rise and swell,
And whisper softly on the beach.

Waking, she dreams a golden dream,
Eemembering with what still delight,

To watch the sunset's fading gleam.

Here by the waves they stood last night.

She leans on that encircling arm.
Divinely strong with power to draw

Her nature, as the moon doth charm
The swaying sea with heavenly law.

All lost in bliss the moments glide ;

She feels his whisper, his caress;
The murmur of the mustering tide

Brings her no presage of distress.


What breaks her dream ? She lifts her eyes

Eeluctant to destroy the spell;
The color from her bright cheek dies, —

Close folded is the pimpernel.

"With rapid glance she scans the sky ;

Kises a sudden wind, and grows.
And charged with storm the cloud-heaps lie.

Well may the scarlet blossoms close !

A touch, and bliss is turned to bale !

Life only keeps the sense of pain;
The world holds naught save one white sail

Flying before the wind and rain.

Broken upon the wheel of fear

She wears the storm- vexed hour away;

And now in gold and fire draws near
The sunset of her troubled day.

But to her sky is yet denied

The sun that lights the world for her;
She sweeps the rose-flushed ocean wide

With eager eyes the quick tears blur;

And lonely, lonely all the space

Stretches, with never sign of sail,
And sadder grows her wistful face,

And all the sunset splendors faiL


And cold and pale, in still despair,

With heavier grief than tongue can tell.

She sinks, — upon her lips a prayer,
Her cheek against the pimpernel.

Bright blossoms wet with showery tears
On her shut eyes their droplets shed.

Only the wakened waves she hears.
That, singing, drown his rapid tread.

"Sweet, I am here! " Joy's gates swing wide,
And heaven is theirs, and all is well,
And left beside the ebbing tide.
Forgotten, is the pimpernel.


PovEETY ! till now I never knew

The meaning of the word ! What lack is here !
pale mask of a soul great, good, and true !

mocking semblance stretched upon a bier!

Each atom of this devastated face

Was so instinct with power, with warmth and
What desert is so desolate ! No grace

Is left, no gleam, no change, no day, uo night.



Whore is the key that locked these gates of speech,
Once beautiful, where thought stood sentinel,

Wlicre sweetness sat, where wisdom passed, to teach
Our wealcness strength, our homage to compel 1

Despoiled at last, and waste and barren lies

This once so rich domain. Where lives and move%

In what new world, the siilendor of these eyes
That dauntless liglitened like imperial Jove's?

Annihilated, do you answer me ?

Blown out and vanished like a candle flame 1
Is nothing left but this pale effigy,

This silence drear, this dread without a namel

Has it been all in vain, our love and pride,
This yearning love that still pursues our friend

Into the awful dark, unsatisfied.

Bereft, and wrung with pain? Is this the endt

Would God so mock us ? To our human senso
No answer reaches through the doubtful air;

Yet with a living hope, profound, intense,
Our tortured souls rebel against despair;

As bowing to the bitter fate we go

Drooping and dumb as if beneath a curse;

But does not i>itying lUavcn answer "No!"
With all the voices of the universe 1



Lazily, through the warm gray afternoon,

We sailed toward the land;
Over the long sweep of the billows, soon,

We saw on either hand
Peninsula and cape and silver beach

Unfold before our eyes,
Lighthouse and roof and spire and wooded reach

Grew clear beyond surmise.
Behind us lay the islands that we loved,

Touched by a wandering gleam,
Melting in distance, where the white sails moved

Softly as in a dream.
Drifting past buoy and scarlet beacon slow.

We gained the coast at last.
And up the harbor, where no wind did blow,

We drew, and anchor cast.
The lovely land ! Green, the broad fields came down

Almost into the sea;
Nestled the quiet homesteads warm and brown,

Embraced by many a tree;
The gray above was streaked with smiling blue.

The snowy gulls sailed o'er;
The shining goldenrod waved, where it grew,

A welcome to the shore.
Peaceful the whole, and sweet. Beyond the sand

The dwelling-place I sought


Lay in the sunshine. All the scene I scanned.

Full of one wistful thought :
Saw any eyes our vessel near the shore

Trom vine- draped windows quaiut 1
"Waited my bright, shy darling at the door,

Fairer than words could paint 1
I did not see her gleaming golden head,

Is or hear her clear voice call ;
As up the beach I went with rapid tread.

Lonely and still was all.
But on the smooth sand printed, far and near,

I saw her footsteps small;
Here had she loitered, here she hastened, here

She climbed the low stone wall.
Such pathos in those little footprints spoke,

I paused and lingered long ;
Listening as far away the billows broke
With the old solemn song.
"The infinite hoary spray of the salt sea,"
In yet another tide,
Should wash away these traces utterly ;
And in my heart I cried, —
"0 thou Creator, when thy waves of Time,
The infinite hoary spray
That sweeps life from the earth at dawn and primes

Have swept her soul away,
How shall I know it is not even as these
Light footprints in the sand,


That vanish into naught ? For no man sees

Clearly what Thou hast planned."
And sadly musing, up the slope I pressed,

And sought her where she played,
By breeze and sunshine flattered and caressed,

A merry little maid.
And while I clasped her close and held her fast,

And looked into her face,
Half shy, half smiling, wholly glad at last

To rest in my embrace,
From the clear heaven of her innocent eyes

Leaped Love to answer me;
Divinely through the mortal shape that dies

Shone immortality !
What the winds hinted, what the awful sky

Held in its keeping, — all
The vast sea's prophesying suddenly

Grew clear as clarion call.
The secret nature strives to speak, yet hidea.

Flashed from those human eyes
To slay my doubt: I felt that all the tides

Of death and change might rise
And devastate the world, yet I could see

This steady shining spark
Should live eternally, could never be

Lost in the unfathomed dark !
And when beneath a threatening sunset sky

We trimmed our sails and turned


Seaward again, with many a sweet gooJ-by,

A quiet gladness burned
Within me, as I watched her tiny fonn

Go dancing up and down.
Light as a sandpiper before the storm,

Upon the beach-edge brown.
Waving her little kerchief to and fro

Till we were out of sight.
Sped by a wild wind that began to blow

Out of the troubled night;
And while we tossed upon an angry sea,

And round the lightning ran.
And muttering thunder rolled incessantly

As the black storm began,
I knew the fair and peaceful landscape lay

Safe hidden in the gloom.
Waiting the glad returning of the day

To smile again and bloom ;
And sure as that to-morrow's sun would rise,

And day again would be.
Shone the sweet promise of those childish eyes

WTierein God answered me.


O Lilt, dropped upon the gray sea-sand.

What time my fair love through the morning land

Led the rejoicing children, singing all


In happy chorus, to their festival,

Under green trees the flowery fields among ;

Now, when the noon sun Mazes o'er the sea,
And echo tells not of the song they sung,

And all thy silver splendor silently
Thou yieldest to the salt and bitter tide,

I find thee, and, remembering on whose breast
Thy day began in thy fresh beauty's pride,

Though of thy bloom and fragrance dispossessed,
Thou art to me than all June's flowers more sweet,
Fairer than Aphrodite's foam-kissed feet!


Warm, wild, rainy wind, blowing fitfully.

Stirring dreamy breakers on the slumberous May sea,

What shall fail to answer thee? What thing shall

The spell of thine enchantment, flowing over sea and


All along the swamp-edge in the rain I go ;
All about my head thou the loosened locks dost blow;
Like the German goose-girl in the fairy tale,
I watch across the shining pool my flock of ducks that


Kedly gleam the rose-haws, dripping with the wot,
Fruit of sober autumn, glowing crimson yet :
Slender swords of iris leaves cut the water clear,
And light green creeps the tender grass, tliick spread-
ing for and near.

Every last year's stalk is set with brown or golden

studs ;
All the boughs of bayberry are thick with scented

Islanded in turfy velvet, where the ferns uncurl,
Lol the large white duck's egg glimmers like a pearl 1

Softly sing the billows, rushing, whispering low ;
Freshly, ohl deliciously, the warm, wild wind doth

blow !
Plaintive bleat of new-washed lambs comes faint from

far away;
And clearly cry the little birds, alert and blithe and


happy, happy morning I dear, familiar place I
warm, sweet tears of Heaven, fast falling on my

well-remembered, rainy wind, blow all ray care

That I may be a child again this blissful morn of May.



What dost thou here, young wife, by the water-side,

Gathering crimson dulse?
Elnow'st thou not that the cloud in the west glooms

And the wind has a hurrying pulse ?

Peaceful the eastern waters before thee spread,

And the cliffs rise high behind,
While thou gatherest sea-weeds, green and brown and

To the coming trouble blind.

She lifts her eyes to the top of the granite crags.

And the color ebbs from her cheek.
Swift vapors skurry the black squall's tattered flags,

And she hears the gray gull shriek.

And like a blow is the thought of the little boat

By this on its homeward way,
A tiny skiff, like a cockle-shell afloat

In the tempest-threatened bay ;

With husband and brother who sailed away to the
When fair shone the morning sun,


To tany but till the tide in the stream turned down,
Then seaward again to run.

Homeward she flies; the land-breeze strikes her cold;

A terror is in the sky;
Her little babe with his tumbled hair of gold

In her mother's arms doth lie.

She catches him up with a breathless, questioning cry :

" mother, speak ! Are they near 1 "
" Dear, almost home. At the western window high

Thy father watches in fear."

She climbs the stair: "0 father, must they be lost?"

He answers never a word ;
Through the glass he watches the line the squall has

As if no sound he heard.

And the Day of Doom seems come in the angry sky,

And a low roar fills the air;
In an awful stillness the dead-black waters lie,

And the rocks gleam ghastly and bare.

Is it a snow-white gull's wing fluttering there,

In the midst of that hush of dread ?
Ah, no, 't is the narrow strip of canvas they dare

In the face of the storm to spread.


A moment more and all the furies are loose,

The coast lino is blotted out,
The skiff is gone, the rain-cloud pours its sluice,

And she hears her father shout,

"Down with your sail! as if through the tumult

And the distance, his voice might reach ;
And, stunned, she clasps still closer her rosy child,

Bereft of the power of speech.

But her heart cries low, as writhing it lies on the
" Sweet, art thou fatherless t "
And swift to her mother she carries the little one
Where she waits in her sore distress.

Then into the heart of the storm she rushes forth;

Like leaden bullets the rain
Beats hard in her face, and the hurricane from the

Would drive her back again.

It splits the shingles off the roof like a wedge,

It lashes her clothes and her hair.
But slowly she fights her way to the western ledge,

With the strength of her despair.


Through the flying spray, through the rain-cloud's
shattorcil stream,

Wliat shapes in the distance grope,
Like figures that haunt the shore of a dreadful dream J

She is wild with a desperate hope.

Have pity, merciful Heaven ! Can it ho ?

Is it no vision that mocks?
From hillow to billow the headlong plunging sea

Has tossed them high on the rocks;

And the hollow skiff like a child's toy lies on the
This side of the roaring foam.
And up from the valley of death, from the grave's
drear edge.
Like ghosts of men they come 1

Oh sweetly, sweetly shines the sinking sun,

And the storm is swept away ;
PUed high in the east are the cloud-heaps purple and

And peacefully dies the day.

But a sweeter peace falls soft on the grateful souls

In the lonely isle that dwell,
And the whisper and rush of every wave that rolls

Seem murmuring, "All is well."



"Oh what saw you, gathering flowers so early this

May morn ? "
" I saw a shining blackbird loud whistling on a thorn ;
I saw the mottled plover from the swamp-edge fly

I heard the blithe song-sparrows who welcomed the

bright day ;
I heard the curlew calling, oh, sweet, so sweet and far !
I saw the white gull twinkling in the blue sky like a

star. "

"And is the blackbird whistling yet, and docs the

curlew call.
And should I find your rapture if I saw and heard it

Life seems to me so hard to bear, perjilexed with

change and loss,
Heavy with pain, and weary still with care's perpetual

Why should the white gull's twinkling wings, half

lost amid the blue.
Bring any joy! Yet care and pain weigli just as

much on you,
Aiid you come back and look at me with such joy-
beaming eyes


An angel might have been your guide through fields

of Paradise!
Wiat is the secret Nature keeps to whisper in your ear
That sends the swift blood pulsiug warm with such

immortal cheer,
And makes your eyes shine like the mom, and rings

sweet in your voice,
Like some clear, distant trumpet sound that bids the

world rejoice? "
"Her secret! Nay, she speaks to me no word you

might not hear.
Her voice is ever ready and her meaning ever clear:
But I love her with such passion that her lightest ges-
ture seems
Divinely beautiful — she fills my life with golden

I tremble in her presence, to her every touch and tone ;
I answer to her whisper — love has to worship grown.
She turns her solemn face to me, and lays within my

The key that puts her endless wealth for aye at my

command ;
And 80, because I worship her, her benedictions rest
Upon me, and she folds me safe and warm upon her

And in her sweet and awful eyes I gaze till 1 forget
The troubles that perplex our days, the tumult and

the fret.


Oh, would you learn the word of power that lifts, all

care above,
The sad soul up to Nature's heart? I answer, It is



GeacefuI/, tossing plume of glowing gold,
Waving lonely on the rocky ledge;

Leaning seaward, lovely to behold.

Clinging to the high cliif's ragged edge;

Burning in the pure September sky.
Spike of gold against the stainless blue,

Do you watch the vessels drifting by 1
Does the quiet day seem long to you?

Up to you I climb, O perfect shape !

Poised so lightly 'twixt the sky and sea;
Looking out o'er headland, crag, and cape,

O'er the ocean's vague immensity.

Up to you my human thought I bring.
Sit me down your peaceful watch to share.

Do you hear the waves below us sing t
Feel you the soft fanning of the air 1


How mucL of life's rapture is your right?

In earth's joy what may your portion be?
Rocked by breezes, touched by tender light,

Fed by dews and sung to by the seal

Something of delight and of content

Must be yours, however vaguely known;

And your grace is mutely eloquent.

And your beauty makes the rock a throne.

Matters not to you, golden flower I

That such eyes of worship watch you sway;

But you make more sweet the dreamful hour
And you crown for me the tranquil day.


The keen north wind pipes loudj
Swift scuds the flying cloud;
Light lies the new fallen snow;
The ice-clad eaves drip slow,
For glad Spring has begun.
And to the ardent sun
The earth, long time so bleak.
Turns a frost-bitten cheek.
Through the clear sky of March,
Blue to the topmost arch,


Swept by the New Year's gales,
The crow, harsh-clamoring, sails.
By the swift river's flood
The willow's golden blood
Mounts to the highest spray,
More vivid day by day;
And fast the maples now
Crimson through every bough,
And from the alder's crown
Swing the long catkins brown.
Gone is the winter's pain;
Though sorrow still remain,
Though eyes with tears be wet,
The voice of our regret
We hush, to hear the sweet
Far fall of summer's feet.
The Heavenly Father wise
Looks in the saddened eyes
Of our unworthiness,
Yet doth He cheer and bless.
Doubt and Despair are dead;
Hope dares to raise her head,
And whispers of delight
Fill the earth day and night.
The snowdrops by the door
Lift upward, sweet and pure,
Their delicate bells; and soon.
In the calm blaze of noon,


By lowly window-sills
Will laugh the daflbdilsl


The clover blossonis kiss her feet,

She is so sweet,
While I, who may not kiss her hand.
Bless all the wild flowers in the land.

Soft sunshine falls across her breast,

She is so blest.
I 'm jealous of its arms of gold,
Oh that these arms her form might fold!

Gently the breezes kiss her hair.

She is so fair.
Let flowers and sun and breeze go by,
O dearest! Love me or I die.

Oscar Laighton


TiiET called the little schooner the White Rover,
When they lightly launched her on the brimming

Stanch and trim she was to sail the broad seas over.
And with cheers they spread her snowy canvas wide;


And a thing of beauty, forth she fared to wrestle
With the wild, uncertain ocean, far and near.

And no evil thing befell the graceful vessel,

And she sailed in storm and sunshine many a year.

But at last a rumor grew that she was haunted;

That up her slender masts her sails had flown
Unhelped by human hands, as if enchanted,

As she rocked upon her moorings all alone.

Howe'er that be, one day in winter weather,
When the bitter north was raging at its worst,

And wind and cold vexed the roused sea together,
Till Dante's frozen hell seemed less accurst,

Two fishermen, to draw their trawls essaying.
Seized by the hurricane that ploughed the bay,

Were swept across the waste ; and hardly weighing
Death's chance, the Eover reefed and bore away

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Online LibraryCelia ThaxterThe poems of Celia Thaxter → online text (page 4 of 11)