Celia Thaxter.

The poems of Celia Thaxter online

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The daughters of the West, whose eyes had seen

For the first time the circling sea, instead

Of the blown prairie's waves of grassy green:

"Tell us of wreck and peril, storm and cold,
Wild as the wildest." Under summer stars,

With the slow moonrise at our back, I told
The story of the young Norwegian, Lars.

That youth with the black eyebrows sharply drawn
In strong curves, like some sea-bird's wings out«

O'er his dark eyes, is Lars, and this fair dawn
Of womanhood, the maiden he will wed.

She loves him for the dangers he has past.

Her rosy beauty glowed before his stern
And vigilant regard, until at last

Her sweetness vanquished Lars the taciturn.

For he is ever quiet, strong, and wise;

Wastes nothing, not a gesture nor a breath;
Forgets not, gazing in the maiden's eyes,

A year ago it was not love, but death,

LARS 125

That clasped him, and can hardly learn as yet
How to be merry, haunted by that pain

And terror, and remembering with regret
The comrade he can never see again.

Out from the harbor on that winter day

Sailed tlio two men to set their trawl together.

Down swept the sudden snow-squall o'er the bay,
And hurled their slight boat onward like a feather.

They tossed they knew not whither, till at last
Under the lighthouse cliff they found a lee,

And out the road-lines of the trawl they cast
To moor her, if so happy they might be.

But quick the slender road-lines snnpt in twain
In the wild breakers, and once more they tossed

Adrift; and, watching from his misty pane,

The lighthouse keeper muttered, " They are lost 1 "

Lifted the snow: night fell; swift cleared the sky;

The air grew sharp as death with polar cold;
Raged the insensate gale, and flashing high

In starlight keen the hissing billows rolled.

Driven before the wind's incessant scourge

All night they fled, — one dead ere morning lay.

Lars saw his strange, drawn countenance emerge
In the fierce sunrise light of that drear day,

126 LABS

And thought, "A little space and I shall be

Even as he," and, gazing in despair
O'er the wide, weltering waste, no sign could see

Of hope, or help, or comfort, anywhere.

Two hundred miles before the hurricane
The dead and living drove across the sea.

The third day dawned. His dim eyes saw again
The vast green plain, breaking eternally

In ghastly waves. But in the early light,

On the horizon glittering like a star,
Fast growing, looming tall, with canvas white,

Sailed his salvation southward from afar I

Down she bore, rushing o'er the hills of brine,
Straight for his feeble signal. As she past,

Out from the schooner's deck they flung a line,
And o'er his head the open noose was cast.

Clutching with both his hands the bowline knot

Caught at his throat, swift drawn through fire he
Whelmed in the icy sea, and he forgot

Life, death, and all things, — yet he thought he

A dread voice cried, "We 've lost him! " and a sting
Of anguish pierced his clouded senses through;

SONG 127

A moment more, and like a lifeless thing
He lay among the eager, pitying crew.

Long time he swooned, while o'er the ocean vast
The dead man tossed alone, they knew not where;

But youth and health triumphant were at last.
And here is Lars, you see, and here the fair

Young snow-and-rose-bloom maiden he will wed.

His face is kindly, though it seems so stern.
Death passed him by, and life begins instead.

For Thora sweet and Lars the taciturn,


A KUSHiNO of wings in the dawn,

A flight of birds in the sky 1
The darkness of night witlidrawn,

In an outburst of melody !

O birds through the heaven that soar
With such tumult of jubilant song I

The shadows are flying before,
For the rapture of life is strong.

And my spirit leaps to the light
On the wings of its hope new-bom.

And I follow your radiant flight
Through the golden halls of morn!



Come under my cloak, my darling!

Thou little Norwegian maid!
Nor wind, nor rain, nor rolling sea

Shall chill or make thee afraid.

Come close, little blue-eyed maiden,

Nestle within my arm;
Though the lightning leaps and the thunder peals,

We shall be safe from harm.

Swift from the dim horizon

The dark sails scud for the land.
Look, how the rain-cloud drops its fringe

About us on either hand !

And high from our plunging bowsprit

Dashes the cold white spray,
And storm and tumult fill the air

And trouble the summer day.

But thou fearest nothing, darling.

Though the tempest mutter and brood.

Though the wild wind tosses thy bright brown locks.
And flutters thy grass-green snood.


I kiss thy wise white forehead,
While the thunder rolls so grand;

And I hold the curve of thy lovely cheek
In the hollow of my hand;

And I watch the sky and the ocean,

And study thy gentle face —
Its lines of sweetness and power,

The type of thy strong Norse race.

And I wonder what thy life will be,

Thou dear and charming chUd,
Who hast drifted so far across the world

To a home so lone and wild.

Kude and rough and sad, perhaps;

Anxious, and full of toil;
But I think no sorrow or hardship

Thine inner peace can spoQ.

For better than kingly fortunes

Is the wealth that thou dost hold —

A nature perfectly balanced,
A beauty of heart untold.

Thou wilt open the door of patience,
Wlieii sorrow shall come and knock;

But to every evil, unworthy tiling
Wilt thou the gates fast lock.


So shall thy days be blessed,

Whatever may be thy lot.
But what I am silently pondering

Thou understandest not,

And liftest to me thy steadfast eyes,
Calm as if Heaven looked through.

Do all the maidens in Norway
Have eyes so clear and blue?

See, darling, where, in the distance,
The cloud breaks up in the sky,

And lets a ray of sunshine fall
Where our far-off islands lie !

White they gleam, and the sea grows bright,

And silver shines the foam.
A little space, and our anchor drops

In the haven of Love and Home !


All about the gable tall swift the swallows flit.

Wheel and call and dart and, fluttering, chatter
sweet ;

All along the sloping, sunny eaves they perch and sit,
Bright as lapis-lazuli, glittering in the heat.


O spirits of the summer, so dainty, delicate.

Creatures born of sunshine and cheer and all de-
Pray you, but delay a moment, yet a little wait,

Ere for southern lands again you spread your winga
in flight!

Yet the August sun is hot, yet the days are long,
Though the grass is over-ripe and the aster blows;

Still the silence echoes to the sparrow's quiet song,
Still, though late, in thorny thickets lingers the
wild rose.

Tarry yet a little, for after you have flown

Lonely all the housetops and still the air will
Where your cheerful voices rang autumn winds will
Presently we shall be dull with winter's weight of

Oh! that we could follow you and cling to Summer's
Ye happy, happy birds, flying lightly through the
Iteach with you the rapture of some far, sunny land.
Leave to Winter's bitterness our glad and gay good-


Thought, weary grown and baffled, must again
Retrace its slow steps to the humble door

Of wistful patience, there to watch and wait
Devoutly, till at last Death's certain hand,

Imperious, opens wide the mystic gate

Between us and the future He has planned.

Yea, Death alone. But shall Death conquer all I
Love fights and pleads in anguish of despair.

Sooner shall great Capella wavering fall
Than any voice respond to his wild prayer.

And yet, what fire divine makes hope to glow
Through the pale ashes of our earthly fate?

Immortal hope, above all joy, below

All depths of pain wherein we strive and wait I

Dull is our sense ; hearing we do not hear.
And seeing see not; yet we vaguely feel

Somewhere is comfort in the darkness drear,

And, hushing doubts and fears, we learn to kneel

Starlight and silence! Dumb are sky and sea;

Silent as death the awful spaces lie ;
Speechless the bitter wind blows over me,

Sad as the breathing of a human sigh.

SONG 13*

H-VRK, how sweet the thrashes singl

Hark, how clear the robins call I
Choras of the happy spring,

Summer's madrigal!

Flooil the world with joy and cheer,

ye birds, and pour your song
Till the farthest distance hear

Notes so glad and strong !

Storm the earth with odors sweet,
O ye flowers, that blaze in light 1

Crowd about June's shining feet,
All ye blossoms bright.

Shout, ye waters, to the sun !

Back are winter's fetters Jiurled;
Summer's glory is begun;

Beauty holds the world I


"Come out and hear the birds sing! Oh, wherefore ait

you there
At the western window watching, dreamy-pale and

still and fair,


While the warm summer wind disparts your tresses'

clustering gold?
What is it on the dim sea line your eyes would fain

"I seek a sail that never looms from out the purple

At rosy dawn, or fading eve, or in the noontide's

blaze. "

" A sail 1 Lo, many a column of white canvas far and

All day they glide across the blue, appear and disap-

See, how they crowd the offing, flocking from the sul-
try South!

Why stirs a smile more sad than tears the patience of
your mouth ? "

•'They lean before the freshening breeze, they cross
the ocean floor,

But the ship that brings me tidings of my love comes
never more."

"Come out into the garden where the crimson phloxes

And every slender lily-stem upbears a lustrous urn ;
A thousand greetings float to you from bud and bell

and star,


Their sweetness freights the breathing wind; how

beautiful they are ! "
"Their brilliant color blinds me; I sicken at their

breath ;
The whisper of this mournful wind is sad to me as


"And must you sit so white and cold while all the

world is bright?
Ah, come with me and see how all is brimming with

On the beach the emerald breaker murmurs o'er the

tawny sand;
The white spray from the rock is tossed, by melting

rainbows spanned."
"Nay, mock me not! I have no heart for nature's

One sound alone my soul can fill, one shape my sight

can bless."

" And are your fetters forged so fast, though you were

free and strong,
By the old, mysterious madness, told in story and in

Since burdened with the human race the world began

to roll ?
Can you not thrust the weight away, so heavy on youi



"There is no power in earth or heaven such madness

to destroy,
And I would not part with sorrow that is sweeter far

than joy."

"Oh marvelous content, that from such still despair is

horn !
Nay, I would wrestle with my fate till love were slain

with scorn!
O mournful Mariana! I would never sit so pale.
Watching, with eyes grown dim with dreams, the

coming of a sail ! "
"Peace, peace! How can you measure a depth you

never knew 1
My chains to me are dearer than your freedom is to



We launch our boat upon the sparkling sea.

We dip our rhythmic oars with song and cheer;

Before our dancing prow the shadows flee,
Behind us fast the fair coasts disappear.

So fade our childhood's shores. Without regret
We leave the safe, green, happy fields, and try

The vague, uncertain ocean, storm-beset,
NoF see the tempests that before us lie.


Flushed with our hope the unknown future gleams,
Freighted with blissful dreams our barque floats on,

And life a shining path of victory seems,

Crowned with a golden peace when day is done.


If God speaks anywhere, in any voice,
To us, his creatures, surely here and now
We hear Him, while the great chords seem to bow

Our heads, and all the symphony's breathless noise
Breaks over us with challenge to our souls !

Beethoven's music! From the mountain peaks
The strong, divine, compelling thunder rolls,

And, " Come up higher, come ! " the words it speaks,
" Out of your darkened valleys of despair,

Behold, I lift you upon mighty wings
Into Hope's living, reconciling air!

Breathe, and forget your life's perpetual stings;
Dream, — folded on the breast of Patience sweet,
Some pulse of pitying love for you may beat! "


What good gift can I bring thee, thou dearest 1

All joys to thee belong;
Thy praise from loving lips all day thou heareat.

Sweeter than any song.


For thee tlie sun shines and the earth rejoices

In fragrance, music, light;
The spring-time woos thee with a thousand voices,

For thee her flowers are bright;
Youth crowns thee, and love waits upon thy splendor

Trembling beneath thine ej'es;
The morning sky is yet serene and tender,

Thy life before thee lies.
What shall I bring thee, thou dearest, fairest 1

Thou boldest La thy hand
My heart as lightly as the rose thou wearestj

Nor wilt thou understand
Thou art my sun, my rose, my day, my morrow,

My lady proud and sweet!
I bring the treasure of a priceless sorrow.

To lay before thy feet.


Swift o'er the water my light yacht dances,
Flying fast from the wind of the South ;

Bright from her bowsprit the white foam glances^
And straight we steer for the harbor's mouth.

The coast line dim from the haze emerges,
With tender tints of the spring-time toned;

On silver beaches roll sparkling surges,

And woods are green on the hiUs enthroned.


The sentinel lighthouses watch together,

As the stately river we reach at last;
The robins sing in the blithe May weather,

And the flood-tido bears us onward fast.

From bank to bank flows a chorus mellow

Of riiipling frogs and of singing birds;
The fields are starry with flowers of yellow,

And green slopes pasture the lowing herds.

A lovely perfume blows softly over

From apple-blossoms on either side,
From golden willow and budding clover,

And many a garden of lowly pride.

And a lazy echo of glad cocks crowing

From door-yards cosy rings far and near !
And the city's murmur is slowly growing

From out the distance distinct and clear.

Over the river, so broadly flowing.

Cottages look from the sheltering trees;
And out through the orchard, with blossoms snowing, I

Comes a brown-haired maiden from one of these.

She waves her hand as in friendly token, i

And watches my swift boat sailing on; ,

I answer her signal — no word is spoken, I

'T is but a moment, and she ia gouei {


And when, from the far-off town returning,
Dropping down with the ebbing tide,

Seaward we sail, with the sunset burning
O'er wastes of the ocean, lone and wide,

Again in the orchard her white hand lifted
Shows like a waft of a sea-bird's wing.

While the rosy blossoms are o'er her drifted,
And loud with rapture the robins sing.

I know her not and shall know her never,
But ever I watch for that friendly sign;

And up or down with the stately river
Her lovely greeting is always mine.

And her presence lends to the scene a glory,
More beauty to blossom and stream and tree;

And back o'er the wastes of the ocean hoary
Her gentle image I take with me.


Upon the sadness of the sea
The sunset broods regretfully;
From the far lonely spaces, slow
Withdraws the wistful afterglow.


So out of life the splendor dies;

So darken all the happy skies; j

So gathers twilight, cold and stem;

But overhead the planets burn ;

And up the east another day

Shall chase the bitter dark away ; |

AMiat though our eyes with tears be wett

The sunrise never failed us yet.

The blush of dawn may yet restore j

Our light and hope and joy once more.

Sad soul, take comfort, nor forget i

That sunrise never failed us yet!


Like huge waves, petrified, against the sky, I
The solemn hills are heaved; by shadow kissed.

Or softly touched by delicate light they lie I

Melting in sapphire and in amethyst. j

The thronging mountains, crowding all the scenes '

Are like the long swell of an angry sea, I

Tremendous surging tumult that has been I

Smitten to awful silence suddenly. \


The nearer slopes with autumn glory blazer
Garnet and ruby, topaz, amber, gold;


Up through the quiet air the thin smoke strays
Prom many a lonely homestead, brown and old.

The scattered cattle graze in pastures bare,
The brooks sing unconcerned beside the way,

Belated crickets chirp, while still and fair
Dies into sunset peace the golden day.

And toward the valley, where the little town

Beckons with twinkling lights, that gleam below

Like bright and friendly eyes, we loiter down
And find our shelter and our fireside glow.

But while the gay hours pass with laugh and jest.
And all is radiant warmth and joy once more,

My captured thought must wander out in quest
Of that vast mountain picture, o'er and o'er;

Where underneath the black and star-sown arch
Earth's ancient trouble speaks eternally;

And I must watch those mighty outlines march
In silence, motionless, with none to see;

While from the north the night- wind sighing sweeps,
And, sharp against the crystal sky relieved,

The tumult of forgotten ages sleeps

Where like huge waves the solemn hills are heaved.




Rolls the long breaker in splendor, and glances.

Leaping in ligtt!
Sparkling and singing the swift ripple dances,

Laughing and bright ;
Up through tlie heaven the curlew is flying,

Soaring so high 1
Sweetly his wild notes are ringing, and dying.

Lost in the sky.
Glitter the sails to the south-wind careening,

■\Yhite-winged and brave;
Bowing to breeze and to billow, and leaning

Low o'er the wave.
Beautiful wind, with the touch of a lover

Leading the hours,
Helping the winter-worn world to recover '

All its lost flowers.
Gladly I hear thy warm whisper of rapture,

Sorrow is o'erl
Earth all her music and bloom shall recapture

Happy once more.



A CLASH of human tongues within
Made the bright room a dreary jail;

Dull webs of talk the idle spin

Turned all its glow and color pale.

Outside, the peaceful sunset sky

Was burning, deepening with the night;
One great star, glittering still and high,

Sent o'er the sea its track of light.

And wearily I spoke, and heard

An empty echo of reply.
Fretting like some imprisoned bird

That longs to break its cage and fly;

When suddenly the din seemed stilled,
Rarer the air so dense before;

A mystic rapture warmed and thrilled
My heart, and I was dull no more.

Joy stole to me with sweet surmise,
With sense of some unmeasured good;

There was no need to lift my eyes
To know who on the threshold stood.


More splendid than the brilliant night
That looked in at the window-pane,

■Welcome as to parched fields the light,
Refreshing touch of summer rain !

She moved with recognition sweet,

She bowed with courtesy calm and kind.
As graceful as the waving wheat

That bends before the summer wind-
Swift sped the step of lagging time.

As if a breeze of morning blew ;
Clear as the ring of Chaucer's rhyme

The vapid, idle talking grew !

I heard her rich tones sounding through

The many voices like a strain
Of lofty music, strong and true,

And perfect joy was mine again.

I did not seek her radiant face,

Bright as spring light when winter dies.

But warm across the crowded space
I felt the gaze of noble eyes;

And in that glorious look, at last,
I seemed like one with sins forgiven,

With all life's pain and sorrow passed.
Entering the open gales of heaven!



Betwixt the bleak rock and the barren shore

Rolled miles of hoary waves that hissed with frost,

And from the bitter north with sullen roar

Swept the wild wind, and the wild water tossed.

In the cold sky, hard, pitiless, and drear,

The sun dropped down; but ere the woild grew

A sweet, reluctant rose-tint, sad and clear,

Stained icy crags and leagues of leaping spray,

Midway between the lone rock and the shore
A fountain fair sprang skyward suddenly,

And sudden fell, and yet again once more
The column rose, and sank into the sea.

Silent, ethereal, mystic, delicate,

Flushed with delicious glow of fading rose,

It grew and vanished, like some genie great.

Some wild, thin phantom, woven of winter snows.

'T was the foam-fountain of the mighty whale,
Eising each time more far and faint and dim.

All his huge strength against the thundering gale
He set; no hurricane could hinder himl


There came to me a gladness in the sight,
A pleasure in the tliought of life so strong,

Dai'ing the elements, and making light

Of winter's wrathful power of wreck and wrong.

I gloried in his triumph o'er the vast

Blind rage of Nature. All her awful force,

The terror of her tempest full she cast

Against him, yet he kept his ponderous course.

For her worst fury he nor stayed nor turned.

'T was jo}' to think in such tremendous play.
Through the sea's cruelty, all uuconcerned,

Leviathan pursued his placid way!

TO A \10Lm

What wondrous power from heaven upon thee

What prisoned Ariel within thee broods?
Marvel of human skill and human thought,

Light as a dry leaf in the winter woods 1

Then mystic thing, all beautif id I What mind
Conceived thee, what intelligence began

And out of chaos thy rare shape designed,
Thou delicate and perfect work of mont


Across my hands thou liest mute and still;

Thou wilt not breathe to me thy secret fine ;
Thy matchless tones the eager air sliall thrill

To no entreaty or command of mine;

But comes thy master, lo ! thou yieldest all :
Passion and pathos, rapture and despair;

To the soul's need thy searching voice doth call
In language exquisite beyond compare,

Till into speech articulate at last

Thou seem'st to break, and thy charmed listener
Thee waking echoes of the vanished past,

Touching the source of gladness and of tears;

And with bowed head he lets the sweet wave roll
Across him, swayed by tliat weird power of thine,

And reverence and wonder fill his soul
That man's creation should be so divine.


So soon the end must come,

Why waste in sighs our breath!

So soon our lips are dumb.
So swift comes death.

pniLosopin 151

So brief the time to smile,

Why darken we the air
With frowns and tears, the while

We nurse despair?

Hold firm the suflferiiig will

And bravely thrust it back;
Fight with the powers of ill,

The legions black.

Stand in the sunshine sweet

And treasure every ray,
Nor seek with stubborn feet •

The darksome way.

Have courage! Keep good cheer!

Our longest time is brief.
To those who hold you dear

Bring no more grief.

But cherish blisses small.

Grateful for least delight
That to your lot doth fall.

However slight.

And lo! all hearts will bring
Love, to make glad your days:

Blessings untold will spring
About your ways.


So shall life bloom and shine,
Lifted its pain above,
' Crowned with this gift divine.
The gift of Love.


Medeick, waving wide wings low over the breeze-
rippled bight;
Osprey, soaring superb overhead in the fathomless
Graceful and fearless and strong, do you thrill with.
the morning's delight
Even as 1 1 Brings the sunshine a message of beauty
for you 1

Oh the blithe breeze of the west, blowing sweet from
the far-away land,
Bowing the grass heavy-headed, thick crowding, so
slender and proud!
Oh the warm sea sparkling over with waves by the
swift wind fanned!
Oh the wide sky crystal clear, with bright islands of
delicate cloud!

Feel you the waking of life in the world locked long
time in the frost.
Beautiful birds, with the light flashing bright from
your banner-like wings?

aionh 153

Osproy, soaring on high, in tho depths of the sky half
Medrick, hovering low where the sandpiper's sweet
note rings!

Nothing am I to you, a blot, perhaps, on the day ;
Naught do I add to your joy, but precious you are
in my sight;
And you seem on your glad wings to lift me up into
the ether away,
And the morning divine is more radiant because of
your glorious tiight.


The lilies clustered fair and tall ;

I stood outside the garden wall ;

I saw her light robe glimmering tlirough

The fragrant evening's dusk and dew.

She stooped above the lilies pale ;
Up tho clear east the moon did sail ;
I saw her bend her lovely head
O'er her rich roses blushing red.

Her slender hand the flowers caressed,

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Online LibraryCelia ThaxterThe poems of Celia Thaxter → online text (page 6 of 11)