Celia Thaxter.

The poems of Celia Thaxter online

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To save them, — reached them, shuddering where they

Their quick destruction, tossing white and dumb.
And caught them from perdition; then, belated.

Strove to return the rough way she had come.

But there was no returning 1 Fierce as lightning
The eager cold grew keener, more intense.


Across her homeward track the billows, whitening,
In crested mountains rolling, drove her thence;

Till her bravo crew, benumbed, gave up the battle,
Clad in a mail of ico that weighed like lead;

They heard the crusted blocks and rigging rattle,
They saw the sails like sheets of iron spread.

And powerless before the gale they drifted,

Till swiftly dropped the black and hopeless night.

The wild tornado never lulled nor shifted.

But drove them toward the coast upon their right;

And flung the frozen schooner, all sail standing,

Stiff as an iceberg on the icy shore ;
And half alive, her torpid people, landing.

Crept to the lighthouse, and were safe once more.

Then what befell the vessel, standing solemn

Through that tremendous night of cold and stonT

Upon the frost-locked land, a frigid column,
Beneath the stars, a silent, glittering form 1

None ever saw her more ! The tide upbore her,
Released her fastened keel, and ere the day,

Without a guide, and all the world before her.
The sad, forsaken Kover sailed away.


But sometimes, when in summer twilight blending
Sunset and moonrise mingle their rich light,

Or when on noonday mists the sun is spending
His glory, till they glimmer thin and white,

Upon the dim horizon melting, gleaming,
Slender, ethereal, like a lovely ghost

Soft looming, in the hazy distance dreaming,
Or gliding like a film along the coast,

I seem to see her yet: and skippers hoary.
Sailors and fishermen, will still relate

Among their sea- worn mates the simple story
Of how the wandering Eover met her fate;

And shake their heads: "Perhaps the tempest wressed

But snug and trim and tidy, fore and aft,
I 've seen the vessel since, or else her spectre,

Sailing as never yet sailed earthly craft.

Straight in the wind's teeth; and with steady js»r>-

Cleaving a calm as if it blew a gale ! "
And they are sure her wraith still haunts the ocean,

Mocking the sight with semblance of a sail.



The day is bitter. Through the hollow sky
Kolls the clear sun, inexorably bright,

Glares on the shrinking earth, a lidless eye,

Shedding no warmth, but floods of blinding light.

The hurricane roars loud. The facile sea

With passionate resentment writhes and raves

Beneath its maddening whip, and furiously
Eesponds with all the thunder of its waves.

The iron rock, ice-locked, snow-sheathed, lies still.

The centre of this devastated world.
Beaten and lashed by wind and sea at will,

Buried in spray by the fierce breakers burled.

Cold, raging desolation I Out of it,

Swift-footed, eager, noiseless as the light,

Glides my adventurous thought, and lo, I sit
With Memnon and the desert in my sight.

Silence and breathless heat! A torrid land,
Unbroken to the vast horizon's verge.

Save once, where from the waste of level sand
All motionless the clustered i>alms emerge.


Hot the wide earth and hot the blazing sky,
And still as death, unchanged since time began.

Far in the shimmering distance sUently
Creeps like a snake the lessening caravan.

And on the great lips of the statue old
Broods silence, and no zephyr stirs the palm.

Nature forgets her tempests and her cold,

And breathes in peace. "There is no joy but


Mt little granddaughter, who fain would know
Why, folded close in scented satin fine,

I keep a relic faded long ago,

This pearl-gray, dainty, withered glove of mine,

Listen: I '11 tell you. It is fifty years
Since the fair day I laid my treasure here.

But yesterday to me the time appears;
Ages ago to you, I know, my dear.

Upon this palm, now withered as my cheek.
Love laid his first kiss, doubting and afraid:

Oh, swift and strong across me wliile I speak
Comes memory of Love's might, my little maid!


I yet was so unconscious I 'T was a night —
Some festal night; my sisters were above,

Not ready quite; but I, cloaked all in white,
Waited below, and, fastening my glove,

Looked up with smiling speech to him who stood

Observing me, so stUl and so intent,
I wondered somewhat at his quiet mood,

Till it flashed on me what the silence meant.

Wliat sudden fire of dawn my sky o'erspread!

What low melodious thunder broke my calml
(Jould I bo dreaming that this glorious head

Was bending low above my girlish palm J

His majesty of mien proclaimed him king;

His lowly gesture said, "I am your slave;"
Beneath my feet the firm earth seemed to swing.

Unstable as storm-driven wind and wave.

Ah, beautiful and terrible and sweet

The matchless moment! Was it life or death.

Or day or night 1 For my heart ceased to Ijeat,
And heaven and earth changed in a single breath.

And, like a harp some hand of power doth smite

To sudden harmony, my soul awoke.
And, answering, rose to match his spirit's height,

While not a word the mystic silence broke.


'T was but an instant. Down the echoing stair

Swept voices, laughter, wafts of melody, —
My sisters three, in draperies light as air;

But like a dream the whole world seemed to me, ^

As, steadying my whirling thoughts, I strove
To grasp a truth so wondrous, so divine,

I shut this hand, this little tinted glove,
To keep its secret mine, and only mine.

And like an empty show the brilliant hours

Passed by, with beauty, music, pleasure thronged,

Phantasmagoria of light and flowers;
But only one delight to me belonged.

One thought, one wish, one hope, one joy, one fear.
One dizzy rapture, one star in the sky, —

The solemn sky that bent to bring God near:
I would have been content that night to die.

Only a touch upon this little glove.

And, lo, the lofty marvel which it wrought 1

You wonder; for as yet you know not love.
Oh, sweet my child, my lily yet unsought !

The glove is faded, but immortal joy

Lives in the kiss ; its memory cannot fade ;
And when Death's clasp this pale hand shall destroy,
- The sacred glove shall in my grave be laid.



When the darkness drew away at the dawning of the

I heard the medricks screaming loud and shrill across
the bay;

And I wondered to behold all the sky in ruddy gold,

Flashing into fire and flame where the clouds like bil-
lows rolled.

Red the sea ran east and west, burning broke each

tumbling crest.
Where the waves, like shattered rubies, leaped and

fell and could not rest;
Every rock was carmine-flushed, every sail like roses

Flying swift before the wind from the south that

roared and rushed.

"Is it judgment day t " I said, gazing out o'er billows

Gazing up at crimson vapors, crowding, drifting over-

Listening to the great uproar of the waters on the

To the wild sad-crying sea-birds, buffeted and beaten


" Is the end of time at hand 1 is this pageant, strange

and grand,
A portent of destruction blazing fierce o'er sea and

Then the scarlet ebbed, and slow, sky above and earth

Drowned in melancholy purple, seemed with grief to


And while thus I gazed, the day, growing stronger,

turned to gray ;
All the transitory splendor and the beauty passed

away ;
And I recognized the sign of the color poured like

In this morn of late October as from clusters of the


'Twas the ripeness of the year; soon, I knew, must

All the warmth and light and happiness that made the

time so dear;
And again our souls must wait while the bare earth,

Bore in patience and in silence all the winter's wrath

and hato.

SONG 105


SiNO, little bird, oh sing!

How sweet thy voice and clear!
How fine the airy measures ring,

The sad old world to cheer I

Bloom, little flower, oh bloom!

Thou makest glad the day ;
A scented torch, thou dost illume

The darkness of the way.

Dance, little child, oh dance !

■\Ylnle sweet the small birds sing.
And flowers bloom fair, and every glanc6

Of sunshine tells of spring.

Oh ! bloom, and sing, and smile.
Child, bird, and flower, and make

The sad old world forget awhile
Its sorrow for your sakel



Like scattered flowers blown all about the bay,
The rosy sails, lit with the sunrise, shine;

The white stars in the brightness fade away;
In perfect silence dawns the day divine.

" Oh bring me neither gifts of good or ill,
Delicious day ! Let only peace be mine ! "

And the fair hours, advancing calm and still,

Passed by her mute, nor brought her word or sign.

But when the glory of the sunset flame

Held all the world in triumph brief and sweet,

The last bright hour, with faltering footsteps, came
And laid a gift august before her feet.

Yet she entreated, "Peace! Take back your gift,

O golden hour! I am content to be
Lonely as yonder fading sails that drift

'Neath saddened skies upon the silent sea."

Fate answered her, " The gods may not recall

Their gifts, once given. Be wise, therefore. Ac-

Their bounty gratefully ; for not to all

Such largess falls." She bowed her head and wept.


SONG 107

She turned her from the sunset's red and gold,
She faced the dim East's waning violet,

She saw the twilight stealing pale and cold,
And all her soul was wrung with her regret.

Pure, powerful, triumphant music shook
The listening air and floated up the sky ;

The dust and ashes of her life she took
And passed the gift of splendid beauty by.

"But oh, must storm and strife be mine," she cried,
" Forever 1 Shall I never find repose ?

Mocked by mirage of hope and still defied
And buffeted by every wind that blows! "

From farthest distance high a clear voice rang,
"Ashes and dust shall blossom like the roset

Climb thou above the tempests," sweet it sang;
" Patience ! ' On every height there lies repose. ' "


Oh the fragrance of the air

With the breathing of the flowers 1
Oh the isles of cloudlets fair.

Shining after balmy showers I


Oh the freshly rippling notes !

Oh the warbling, loud and long,
From a thousand golden throats!

Oh the south wind's tender songi

Oh the mellow dip of oars

Through the dreamy afternoon !

Oh the waves that clasp the shores,
Chanting one delicious tune !

Wears the warm, enchanted day
To the last of its rich hours,

While my heart, in the sweet May,
Buds and blossoms with the flowers.


Not so! You stand as long ago a king

Stood on the seashore, bidding back the tide
That onward rolled resistless still, to fling

Its awful volume landward, wild and wide.
And just as impotent is your command

To stem the tide that rises in my soul.
It ebbs not at the lifting of your hand,

It owns no curb, it yields to no control j
Mighty it is, and of the elements, —

Brother of winds and lightning, cold and fire.


Subtle as light, as stemlfast and intense;

Sweet as the music of Apollo's lyre.
You think to rule the ocean's ebb and flow
With that soft woman's hand 1 Nay, love, not so.

And like the lighthouse on the rock you stand,

And pierce the distance with your searching eyes;
Nor do you heed the waves that storm the land

And endlessly about you fall and rise.
But seek the ships that wander night and day

Within the dim horizon's shadowy ring;
And some with flashing glance you warn away,

And some you beckon with sweet welcoming.
So steadfast still you keep your lofty place,

Safe from the tumult of the restless tide,
Firm as the rock in your resisting grace.

And strong through humble duty, not through
Wliilc I — I cast my life before your feet,
And only live that I may love you, sweet I


Is the morning twilight, while the household yet
Slumbering securely day and night forget,
Lightly o'er the threshold I pass, and breathless stand
In the dream of beauty that rests on sea and land.


Fresh and calm and dewy, bathed in delicate air,
The happy earth awakens and grows of day aware.
Sweetly breaks the silence some bird's delicious trill,
And from the southern distance a breeae begins to

All the stars have faded, and the low large moon
O'er the western water will have vanished soon.
Crystal-clear and cloudless the awful arch is bright,
As up the conscious heaven streams the growing light.

On the far horizon softly sleeps the haze;
O'er the ocean spaces steal the rosy rays;
Winds and waves are quiet, only far away
'Gainst the rock a breaker tosses sudden spray.

Out behind the headland glides the coaster slow,
All her canvas blushing in the ruddy glow;
Where the steadfast lighthouse watches day and night
Beautiful and stately she passes out of sight.

Day that risest splendid, with promise so divine,
Mine is thy perfect gladness, thy loveliness is mine.
Thou touchest with thy blessmg God's creatures great

and small;
None shalt thou find more grateful than I among them


BONG 111

I turn my face in worship to the glory of the East.
I thank the lavish giver of my life's perpetual feast,
And fain would I he worthy to partake of Nature's

And share with her a moment so exquisite as this!


O Love, Love, Love !

Whether it rain or shine,
■Whether the clouds frown or the sky is cleai^
AVliether the thunder fill the air with fear,
^Vhether the winter rage or peace is here,

If only thou art near,

Then are all days divine.

Love, Love, Level

Where thou art not, the place
Is sad to me as death. It wovdd be cold
In heaven without thee, if I might not hold
Thy hand in mine, if I might not behold

The beauty manifold,

The wonder of thy faca.



The summer day was spoiled with fitful storm;

At night the wind died, and the soft rain dropped
With lulling murmur, and the air was warm.

And all the tumult and the trouble stopped.

We sat within the bright and quiet room.

Glowing with light and flowers and friendliness;

And faces in the radiance seemed to bloom,
Touched into beauty as by a caress.

And one struck music from the ivory keys, —
Beethoven's music; and the awful chords

Upbore us like the waves of mighty seas
That sing aloud, "All glory is the Lord's!"

And the great sound awoke beneath the eaves
The nestling swallows ; and their twittering cry,

With the light touch of raindrops on the leaves,
Broke into the grand surging melody.

Across its deep, tremendous questioning.
Its solemn acquiescence, low and clear,

The rippling notes ran sweet, with airy ring
Surprised, inquiring, but devoid of fear;


Lansing to silence at the music's close,

A dreamy clamor, a contented stir.
"It made no discord," smiling, as he rose,

Said the great master's great interpreter.

No discord, truly ! Ever Nature weaves

Her sunshine with her shadow, joy with pain:

Tlio asking thunder through high heaven that cleaves
Is lost in the low ripple of the rain.

About the edges of the dread abyss

The innocent blossoms laugh toward the sun ;

Questions of life and death, of bale or bliss,
A thousand tender touches overrun.

■Why should I chronicle so slight a thing 1

But such things light up life like wayside flowers,

And memory, like a bird with folded wing.

Broods with still joy o'er such delicious hours.

Dear unforgotten time ! Fair summer night !

Thy nestling swallows and thy dropping rain,
The golden music and the faces bright,

Will steal with constant sweetness back again.

A joy to keep when winter darkness comes;

A living sense of beauty to recall;
A warm, bright thought, when bitter cold bcmimbs.

To make mo glad and grateful. That is all.



Lies the sunset splendor far and wide,

On the golden tide!
Drifting slow toward yonder evening red.
With the faint stars sparkling overhead,
Peacefully we glide.

Sweet is rest: the summer day is done,
Gone the ardent sun.

AU is still: no wind of twilight blows;

Shuts the evening like a crimson rose;
Night comes like a nun.

Lift we loving voices, pure and clear,
To the Father's ear;
Fragrant as the flowers the thoughts we raise
Up to heaven, while o'er the ocean ways
Draws the darkness near.


The long black ledges are white with gulla.
As if the breakers had left their foam;

With the dying daylight the wild wind lulls,
And the scattered fishing-boats steer for home.


On the crag I sit, with the east before.

The sun behind me is low in the sky;
Warm is its touch on the rocky shore;

Sad the vast ocean spaces lie.

The cricket is hoarse in the faded grass;

The low bush rustles so thin and sere;
Swift overhead the small birds pass,

With cries that are lonely and sweet and clear>

The last chill asters their petals fold

And gone is the morning-glory's bell.
But close in a loving hand I hold I

Long sprays of the scarlet pimpernel.

And thick at my foot are blossom and leaf,

Blossoms rich red as the robes of kings;
Hardly they 're touched by the autumn's grief;

Do they surmise what the winter brings J

I turn my eyes from the sweet, sad sky, !

From the foam-white gulls and the sails that

gleam, i

To muse on the scattered flowers that lie j

Lost as yet in a summer dream. j


darlings, nursed by the salt sea-spray I
shapes of beauty so quaint and bright 1

116 WAIT

But for a little the frosts delay,

Soon will be ended your brief delight.

Could I but succor you, every one.

Spread wings of safety 'twixt harm and you;
Call from its southern travel the sun.

Banish the snow from the arching blue !

It may not be, and the frosts must fall,

The winter must reign in the summer's stead;

But, though you perish beyond recall,
Ever I love you, alive or dead.


Are the roses fallen, dear my child ?

Has the wintor left us only thorns,
Sharp and shuddering stalks in tangles wild,

Set with cruel teeth and iroa horns J

Wait a little, fret not, and at last
Beauty will tlie barren boughs again

Tenderly re-clothe, when snows are past.
And the earth grows glad in sun and rain.

Never vex your heart nor tear your hands,
Searching 'mid the thorns for vanished bliss;

KABEir 117

For the soul that patience understands
Needs no wisdom more divine than this:

TVait! The sweet flowers of the coming spring
Beautiful as those you mourn shall be.

Wait ! for happy birds are sure to sing,
While new roses bloom for you and me.


At her low quaint wheel she sits to spin,
Deftly drawing the long, light rolls

Of carded wool through her fingers thin,
By the fireside at the Isles of Shoals.

She is not pretty, she is not young,

Poor homesick Karen, who sits and spins,

Humming a song in her native tongue.
That falters and stops, and again begins,

While her wheel flies fast, with its drowsy hum.
And she makes a picture of pensive grace

As thoughts of her well-loved Norway come
And deepen the shadows across her face.

Her collar is white as the drifted snow.
And she spun and wove her blue gown fine


With those busy hands. See, a flitting glow

Makes her pale cheek burn and her dark eyes shine!

Left you a lover in that far land,

O Karen sad, that you pine so long?
Would I could unravel and understand

That sorrowful, sweet Norwegian songl

When the spring wind blew, the "America wind,"
Aa your people call it, that bears away

Their youths and maidens a home to find
In this distant country, could you not stay

And live in that dear Norway still.

And let the emigrant crowd sail West
Without you 1 Well, you have had your will.

Why would you fly from your sheltering nest t

homesick Karen, listen to me:

You are not young, and you are not fair,

But Waldemar no one else can see.
For he carries your image everywhere.

Is he too boyish a lover for you,

'With all his soul in his frank blue eyes?

Feign you unconsciousness 1 Is it true

You know not his heart in your calm hand lies ?


Handsome and gentle and good is he;

Loves you, Karen, better than life;
Do but consider liim, can't you see

What a happy woman would be his wifot

Tou won't be merry? You can't be gladt
Still must you mourn for that homo afart

Well, here is an end of a hope I had.
And I am sorry for Waldemarl


Why art thou colored like the evening sky
Sorrowing for sunset 1 Lovely dost thou lie,
Bared by the washing of the eager brine.
At the snow's motionless and wind-carved line.

Cold stretch the snows, cold throng the waves, the

Stings sharp, — an icy fire, a touch unkind, —
And sighs as if with passion of regret,
The while I mark thy tints of violet.

beauty strange ! shape of perfect grace.
Whereon the lovely waves of color trace
The history of the years that passed thee by,
And touched thee with the pathos of the sky I


The sea shall crush thee ; yea, the ponderous wave
Up the loose beach shall grind, and scoop thy grave.
Thou thought of God ! What more than thou am 1 1
Both transient as the sad wind's passing sigh.


See how the wind is hauling point by point to the
By the boats in the little harbor, that swing to its
lightest touch;
And the coasting craft emerge from the far-off river's
And on the rocks the breakers relax their impotent

At last is the tempest ended, the bitter northeast
And the world will soon be sparkling in clear white
fire and dew.
And the sullen clouds melt swiftly, by the might of
warm wind seized,
And the heavens shine in splendor, where broadens
the matchless blue.

Carol the birds in chorus; glitters the snow-white gull,
Screaming loud in mid-air, slow-soaring high with


And the rosebuds loosen their petals, the drenched
flowers, sodden and dull,
Break out into stars of purple and gold and crimson
and white.

Where wert thou, Spirit of Beauty, while earth lay
cold and dark,
And the chill wind struck to our hearts, and the
sky like an enemy scowled,
And we crept through the mists desponding, and never
a glimmering spark
Shot a ray tlirough the gloom while the storm like
a demon groveled and growled?

Where art thou, Heavenly Father, when thy world
seems spoiled with sin.
And darker far than thy tempest arises the smoke
of doubt.
That blackens the sky of the soul t — for faith is hard
to win :
To our finite sight wrong triumphs and noble things
die out,

While shapes of monstrous evil make fearful thy nights
and days.
And murder stalks unhindered, working its hideous


And innocence, gentleness, charity seem to forsake
earth's ways,
And in the hearts of thy creatures are madness and
nameless ill.

Behind the cloud Thou waitest, hidden, yet very near,

Infinite Spirit of Beauty, Infinite Power of Good I
At last Thou wilt scatter the vapors, and all things
shall be clear,
And evil shall vanish away like a mist by the wind


Deft hands called Chopin's music from the keys.

Silent she sat, her slender figure's poise
riower-like and fine and full of lofty ease ;

She heard her Poland's most consummate voice
From power to pathos falter, sink and change ;

The music of her land, the wondrous high,
Utmost expression of its genius strange, —

Incarnate sadness breathed in melody.
Silent and thrilled she sat, her lovely face

Flushing and paling like a delicate rose

Shaken by summer winds from its repose
Softly this way and that with tender grace.

Now touched by sun, now into shadow turned, —

While bright with kindred fire her deep eyes burned I

BONO 123


SWALLOW, sailing lightly
The crystal deeps of blue,

With flashing wings that brightly
Glitter the sunshine through,

What sayest thou, returning
From sunny lands and fair,

That summer roses burning
Shall light the fragrant airt

That merry days thou bringest.
And gone is winter's woe, —

Is this the song thou singesti
Gay prophet, is it so 1

1 know all beauties follow

Swift in thy shining track,
But to my heart, swallow.
Canst thou bring summer back ^

No shaft of sunshine glorious
Shall melt my winter snowa,

No kiss of June victorious
Awake for me the rose I

124 LASS


"Tell us a story of these isles," they said,

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