Celia Thaxter.

The poems of Celia Thaxter online

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Her touch the unconscious blossoms blessed;


The rose against her perfumed palm
Leaned its soft cheek in blissful calm.

I would have given my soul to be
That rose she touched so tenderly!
I stood alone, outside the gate,
And knew that life was desolate.


The white reflection of the sloop's great sail

Sleeps trembling on the tide;
In scarlet trim her crew lean o'er the rail,

Lounging on either side.

Pale blue and streaked with pearl the waters lie

And glitter in the heat;
The distance gathers purple bloom where sky

And glimmering coast-line meet.

From the cove's curving rim of sandy gray

The ebbing tide has drained,
Where, mournful, in the dusk of yesterday

The curlew's voice complained.

Half lost in hot mirage the sails afar
Lie dreaming, still and white;


No wave breaks, no wind breathes, the peace to mar;
Summer is at its height.

How many thousand summers thus have shone

Across the ocean waste,
Passing in swift succession, one by one.

By the fierce winter chased!

The gray rocks blushing soft at dawn and eve.

The green leaves at their feet,
The dreaming sails, the crying birds that grieve,

Ever themselves repeat.

And yet how dear and how forever fair

Is Nature's friendly face.
And how forever new and sweet and rare

Each old familiar grace I

What matters it that she will sing and smile

"NVhen we are dead and still 1
Let us be happy in her beauty while

Our hearts have power to thrill.

Let us rejoice in every moment bright,

Grateful that it is ours;
Bask in her smiles with ever fresh delight,

And gather all her flowers;

156 heaet's-ease

For presently we part: what will avail

Her rosy fires of dawn,
Her noontide pomps, to us, who fade and fail.

Our hands from hers withdrawn ?


Southward still the sun is slanting day by day,
Skies that brim with gold and azure slowly change;

Beauty waxes cold and dim and cannot stay,

Into tone and tint steals something ill and strange.

Threat of evil finds its way to every ear,

Lurks in light and shade and sounds in every
breath ;
From the pathless snow-fields comes a warning drear,
And the shuddering north-wind carries news of

Stealthy step of Winter near and nearer draws :
Locking earth beneath him, terrible with might.

Strides he from the icy zone without a pause,

Swift and sure and fierce, with ready hand to smite.

Dearest, when without the door he threatening stands,
Having rendered desolate the fair green earth,

And sent her happy birds to sunnier lands.

And choked with sullen snows her summer mirth,

heakt's-ease 157

We shall sit together, you and I, once more,

Warm and quiet, shut away from storm and cold;

We shall smile to hear him blustering at the door,
While the room glows with tho firelight's ruddy

How safe my heart keeps every memory sweet,
Holding still your picture, as you used to sit,

Ever lovely, full of grace from head to feet.

With that heap of snowy wool I watched you

With the lamplight falling on your cloudy hair —
On the rich, loose bands of brown, so soft to touch;

On the silken knot of rose you used to wear,
On the thoughtful little face I love so much.

You remember, when aloud I read to you,

Sometimes silence intervened. You would not

But in your radiant cheek the blushes grew.

For you knew I paused to gaze at you, my love I

Paused to realize my heaven, till with kind.

Clear and questioning gray eyes you sought my face.

What a look! Its kindling glory struck me blind;
'T was a splendor that illumined all the place.


What to us are Winter's blows and hate and wrath?

And what matter that the green earth's bloom is
There has been immortal summer in our path

All the happy, happy years since we were wed.


KouND and round the garden rushed a sudden blast,
Crying, " Autumn ! Autumn ! " shuddering as it
Dry poppy-head and larkspur-spike shrill whistled in
the wind.
Together whispering, "Autumn! and Winter is be'

Tossed the sumach pennons, green and gold and red;

Flapped the awning scallops loudly overhead;
Swung the empty hammocks lightly to and fro ;

While the crickets simmered, chirruping below.

Keen the star of evening hung glittering in the sky.
Red the west was burning, deepening silently;

Summer constellations slow wheeling out of sight.
Great Orion shining clear upon the face of night.

Sadly sang the ocean, sighing in the dark;
Far away the lighthouse lit a sudden spark;

SONG 159

Black against the sunset sails were gliding past;

Eartli and sea and sky wore saying, "Autumn 's here
at last I"

Soon will snow bo flying, soon will tempests roar,

Soon the freezing north will lash us bitter as before ;
I heard the waters whisper, I heard the winds com-
But sweet, reluctant Summer I knew would come

Love, art thou weary with the sultry day t
Fain would I be the cool and delicate air

About the whiteness of thy brow to play.
And softly, lightly stir thy cloudy hair.

Upon thy head doth the fierce winter smite,
And shudderest thou in darkness cold to bel

I would I were the coming of the light,

Shelter, and radiant warmth to comfort thee.

I would be fire and fragrance, light and air.

All gracious things that serve tliee at thy need;

Music, to lift thy heart above all care ;

The wise and charming book that tliou dost read.


There is no power that cheers and blesses thee
But I do envy it, beneath the sun !

Thy health, thy rest, thy refuge I would be;
Thy heaven on earth, thine every good in ona


The sparrow sits and sings, and singa;

Softly the sunset's lingering light
Lies rosy over rock and turf,
And reddens where the restless surf

Tosses on high its plumes of white.


Gently and clear the sparrow sings,
While twilight steals across the sea,
And still and bright the evening-star
Twinkles above the golden bar
That in the west lies quietly.

Oh, steadfastly the sparrow sings.

And sweet the sound; and sweet the touch
Of wooing winds; and sweet the sight
Of happy Nature's deep delight

In her fair spring, desired so much!

But while so clear the sparrow sings
A cry of death is in my ear;

suBxnssiON 161

The crashing of the riven wreck,
Breakers that sweep the shuddering deck.
And sounds of agony and fear.

How is it that the birds can sing 1
Life is so full of bitter pain ;

Hearts are so wrung with hopeless grief;

Woe is so long and joy so brief;
Nor shall the lost return again.

Though rapturously the sparrow sings,
No bliss of Nature can restore

The friends whose hands I clasped so warm,
Sweet souls that through the night and storm
Fled from the earth for evermore.

Yet still the sparrow sits and sings,

Till longing, mourning, sorrowing love,
Groping to find what hope may be
Within death's awful mystery,
Beaches its empty arms above;

And listening, while the sparrow sings.
And soft the evening shadows fall,

Sees, through the crowding tears that blind,
A little light, and seems to find
And clasp God's hand, who wrought it alL

162 SONO


I WOKE your roses yesterday :

About this light robe's folds of white,
Wherein their gathered sweetness lay,

Still clings their perfume of delight.

And all in vain the warm wind sweeps
These airy folds like vapor fine,

Among them still the odor sleeps.
And haunts me with a dream divine.

So to my heart your memory clings,
So sweet, so rich, so delicate:

Eternal summer-time it brings.
Defying all the storms of fate;

A power to turn the darkness bright.
Till life with matchless beauty glows;

Each moment touched with tender light,
And every thought of you a rose !


I STOOD on the height in the stillness
And the planet's outline scanned.

And half was drawn with the line of sea
And half with the far blue land.


With wings that caught tho sunshine

In the crystal deeps of tho sky,
Like shapes of dreams, the gleaming gulla

Went slowly floating by.

Below me the boats in the harbor

Lay still, with their white sails furled;

Sighing away into silence.
The breeze died otF the world.

On the weather-worn, ancient ledges

Peaceful the calm light slept;
And the chilly shadows, lengthening,

Slow to the eastward crept.

The snow still lay in the hollows,

And where the salt waves met
Tho iron rock, all ghastly white

The thick ice glimmered yet.

But the smile of the sun was kinder.

The touch of the air was sweet;
The pulse of the cruel ocean seemed

Like a human heart to beat.

Frost-locked, storm-beaten, and lonely,
In the midst of the wintry main.


Our bleak rock yet the tidings heaid:
" There shall be spring again ! "

Worth all the waiting and watching,
The woe that the winter wrought,

Was the passion of gratitude that shook
My soul at the blissful thought!

Soft rain and flowers and sunshine.
Sweet winds and brooding skies,

Quick-flitting birds to fill the air
With clear, delicious cries j

And the warm sea's mellow murmur
Resounding day and night;

A thousand shapes and tints and tones
Of manifold delight,

Nearer and ever nearer

Drawing with every day !
But a little longer to wait and watch

'Neath skies so cold and gray.

And hushed is the roar of the bitter north
Before the might of the Spring,

And up the frozen slope of the world
Climbs Summer, triumphing.



As happy dwellers by the seaside hear
In every pause the sea's mysterious sound,
The infinite murmur, solemn and profound,

Incessant, filling all the atmosphere,

Even so I hear you, for you do surround

My newly-waking life, and break for aye
About the viewless shores, till they resound

With echoes of God's greatness night and day.

Refreshed and glad I feel the full flood-tide
Fill every inlet of my waiting soul ;
Long-striving, eager hope, beyond control,

For help and strength at last is satisfied;
And you exalt me, like the sounding sea.
With ceaseless whispers of eternity.


Above in her chamber her voice I hear

Singing so clear;
Among her flowers I stand and wait,
Dreaming I lean on the garden gate.

In joy and fear.

Softly the light robes she doth wear
Sweep down the stair;


eager heart, less wildly beat, —

1 shall behold her, stately, sweet,

All good and fair!

Nearer, her voice ! In a moment more

Through the open door
Come grace and beauty and all delight
The round world holds to my dazzled sights

The threshold o'er!

She holds me mute with her beaming eyes

Full of bright surprise;
Still grow the pulses her coming shook,
In the gentle might of her golden look

My heaven lies!

Cricket, why wilt thou crush me with thy cry I
How can such light sound weigh so heavily I
Behold the grass is sere, the cold dews fall,
The world grows empty — yes, I know it all,
The knell of joy I hear.

Oh, long ago the swallows hence have flown,
And sadly sings the sea in undertone ;
The wild vine crimsons o'er the rough gray stone;
The stars of winter rise, the cool winds moan;
Fast wanes the golden year.


O cricket, cease thy sorrowful refrain .
This summer's glory comes not back again,
But others wait with flowers and sun and rain;
Why wakest thou this haunting sense of pain,
Of loss, regret, and fear?

Clear sounds thy note above the waves' low sigh,
Clear tlirough the breathing wind that wanders by,
Clear through the rustle of dry grasses tall;
Thou chantest, " Joy is dead ! " I know it all,
The winter's woe is near.


Nat, comrade, 't is a weary path wo tread

Through this world's desert spaces, dull and dry,

And long ago died out youth's morning-red.
And low the sunset fires before us lie:

And you are worn, though brave the face you wear.

Forbear the deprecating gesture, take
The honest admiration that I bear

Your genius, and be mute, for friendship's sake.

Up to your lips I lift a generous wine,

Pure, perfumed, potent, living, sparkling bright;
A deep cup, brimming with a draught divine ;

Drink, then, and be refreshed with my delight.


It gladdens you 1 You know the gift sincere t
You dreamed not life yet held a thing so sweet ?

Nay, noble friend, your thanks I will not hear,
But I shall cast my roses at your feet,

And go my way rejoicing that 't is I

Who recognize, acknowledge, judge you best,

Proud that a star so steadfast lights the sky,
And in the power of blessing you most blest.


There is no day so dark
But through the murk some ray of hope may steaL
Some blessed touch from Heaven that we might feel.

If we but chose to mark.

We shut the portals fast.
And turn the key and let no sunshine in ;
Yet to the worst despair that comes through sia

God's light shall reach at last.

We slight our daily joy.
Make much of our vexations, thickly set
Our path with thorns of discontent, and fret

At our fine gold's alloy,

Till bounteous Heaven might fro^vn
At such ingratitude, and, turning, lay


On our impatience burdens that would weigh
Our aching shoulders down.

"We shed too many tears,
And sigh too sore, and yield us up to woe.
As if God had not planned the way we go

And counted out our years.

Can we not bo content.
And lift our foreheads from the ignoble dust
Of these complaining lives, and wait with trust,

Fulfilling Heaven's intent?

Must we have wealth and power.
Fame, beauty, all things ordered to our mind
Kay, all these things leave happiness beliindl

Accept the sun and shower,

The humble joys that bless.
Appealing to indilTerent hearts and cold
With delicate touch, striving to reach and hold

Our hidden consciousness;

And see how everywhere
Love comforts, strengthens, helps, and saves us all;
"What opportunities of good befall

To make life sweet and fair I



Already the dandelions

Are changed into vanishing ghosts}
Already the tall ripe grasses

Are standing in serried hosts,

Bowing with stately gesture

Whenever the warm winds blow,

Like the spear-heads of an army
Charging against the foe.

Already the nestling sparrows
Are clothed in a mist of gray,

And under the breast of the swallow
The warm eggs stir to-day.

Already the cricket is busy
With hints of soberer days.

And the goldenrod lights slowly
Its torch for the autumn blaze.

brief, bright smile of summer 1

days divine and dear!
The voices of winter's sorrow

Already we can hear.


And wo know that the frosts will find us,

And the smiling skies grow rude,
While we look in the face of Beauty,

And worship her every mood.


Sunflower tall and hollyhock, that wave in the wind
Cornflower, poppy, and marigold, blossoming fair
and fine,
Delicate sweet- peas, glowing bright in the quiet autumn
While over the fence, on fire with bloom, climbs
the nasturtium vinel

Quaint little wilderness of flowers, straggling hither
and tliither —
Morning-glories tangled about the larkspur gone to
Scarlet nmnera that burst all bounds, and wander,
heaven knows whither,
And lilac spikes of bergamot, as thick as any weed.

And oh, the bees and the butterflies, the humming-
birds and sparrows,
That over the garden waver and chirp and flutter
the livelong day I


Humming-birds, tliat dart in the sun like green and
golden aiTows,
Butterflies like loosened flowers blown off by the
wind in play.

Look at the red nasturtium flower, drooping, bending,
and swaying;
Out the gold- banded humble-bee breaks and goes
booming anew!
Hark, what the sweet-voiced fledgeling sparrows low
to themselves are saying,
Pecking my golden oats where the cornflowers
gleam so blue I

Welcome, a thousand times welcome, ye dear and deli-
cate neighbors —
Bird and bee and butterfly, and humming-bird fairy
Proud am I to oifer you a field for your graceful
labors ;
All the honey and all the seeds are yours in this
garden of mine.

I sit on the doorstep and watch you. Beyond lies
the infinite ocean,
Sparkling, shimmering, whispering, rocking itself t«
rest J


And the world is full of perfume and color and beauti-
ful motion,
And each new hour of this sweet day the happiest
seems and best.


About your window's happy height
The roses wove their airy screen:

More radiant than the blossoms bright
Looked your fair face between.

The glowing summer sunshine laid

Its touch on field and flower and tree;

But 't was your golden smile that made
The warmth that gladdened me.

The summer withered from the land,
The vision from the window passed:

Blank Sorrow looked at me; her hand
Sought mine and clasped it fast.

The bitter wind blows keen and drear,
Stinging with winter's flouts and scorns,

And where the roses breathed I hear
The rattling of the thorns.



The crimson sunset faded into gray;

Upon the murmurous sea the twilight fell;
The last warm breath of the delicious day
Passed with a mute farewell.

Above my head, in the soft purple sky,

A wild note sounded like a shrill-voiced bell;
Three gulls met, wheeled, and parted with a cry
That seemed to say, "Farewell! "

I watched them: one sailed east, and one soared west,

And one went floating south ; while like a knell
That mournful cry the empty sky possessed,
"Farewell, farewell, farewell!"

"Farewell!" I thought, it is the earth's one speech;

All human voices the sad chorus swell;
Though mighty Love to heaven's high gate may reach,
Yet must he say, " Farewell ! "

The rolling world is girdled with the sound.

Perpetually breathed from all who dwell
Upon its bosom, for no place is found

Where is not heard, " Farewell ! "


"Farewell, farewell 1" — from wave to wave 'tis
From wind to wind: earth has one tale to tell;
Ail other sounds are dulled and drowned and lost
In this one cry, " Farewell 1"


The wild rose blooms for the sun of June,

The tide ebbs slowly out;
I hoar in the dreamy afternoon

The far-off fisher's shout.

The sand lies gray and the sea leaps blue,

The tide ebbs slowly out;
lover mine, who called to you.

That you left me here to doubt t

The white gull's wing sweeps the whiter foam,

The tide ebbs slowly out;
'T is not your white sail, yearning home

To put my fears to rout!

The rose may blush and the sun may shine,

The tide ebbs slowly out;
The world is good if you are mine,

Aahes and dust without!



Far off against the solemn sky

Black lie the city's towers;
Before me rustles, dim and dry,

My field of golden flowers.

How thin the wind's cool whisper draws
Through withered leaf and stalk !

Is this the breeze that once would pause
"With blossoms bright to talk 1

Dark lies the land in twilight sad,
No bird sings in its bowers;

Where is the glory once that clad
My field of golden flowers?

The distant city rings its bells,
Like memory's tender chime;

O sweet, sweet bells, ye speak farewells
To life's enchanted prime!

Dark lies the land in twilight cold.
Gone are the sumptuous hours ;

The city sleeps, and shadows fold
My field of golden flowers.


"lo\t: shall save us all"

O Pilgrim, comes the night so fast?

Let not the dark thy heart appall,
Though loom the shadows vague and vast,

For Love shall save us all.

There is no hope but this to see

Through tears that gather fast and fall;

Too great to perish Love must be,
And Love shall save us all.

Have patience with our loss and pain.
Our troubled space of days so small ;

We shall not reach our arms in vain,
For Love shall save us all.

Pilgrim, but a moment wait,

And we shall hear our darlings call

Beyond death's mute and awful gate,
And Love shall save us all!


TuE children wandered up and down,
Seeking for driftwood o'er the sand;

The elder tugged at granny's gown,
And pointed with his little hand.


"Look! look!" he cried, " at yonder ship
^ That sails so fast and looms so tall I "
She turned, and let her basket slip.
And all her gathered treasure fall.

"Nay, granny, why are you so pale?

Where is the ship we saw but now 1 "
"Oh, child, it was no mortal sail!

It came and went, I know not how.

" But ill winds fill that canvas white
That blow no good to you and me.
Oh, woe for us who saw the sight
That evil bodes to all who see ! "

They pressed about her, all afraid:

" Oh, tell us, granny, what was she ? "
f"A ship's unhappy ghost," she said,
^v^ "The awful ship, the Mystery."

" But tell us, tell us ! " " Quiet be ! "
She said. " Sit close and listen well.
For what befell the Mystery
It is a fearful thing to tell! "

She was a slave-ship long ago.
Year after year across the sea


She made a trade of human woe,
And carried freights of misery.

One voyage, when from the tropic coast
Laden with dusky forms she came, —

A wretched and despairing host, —

Beneath the tierce sun's breathless flame

Sprang, like a wild beast from its lair,

The fury of the Imrricane,
And sent the groat ship reeling bare

Across the roaring ocean plain.

Then terror seized the piteous crowd:
With many an oath and cruel blow

The captain drove them, shrieking loud,
Into the pitch-black hold below.

Shouting, "Make fast the hatchways tight I "
He cursed them: "Let them live or die,

They '11 trouble us no more to-night!"
The crew obeyed liim sullenly.

Has hell such torment as they knew f
Like herded cattle packed they lay.

Till morning showed a streak of blue
Breaking the sky's thick pall of gray.


" Off with the hatchways, men ! " No sound !
What sound should rise from out a grave?
The silence shook with dread profound
The heart of every seaman brave.

"Quick! Drag them up," the captain said,
" And pitch the dead into the sea ! "
The sea was peopled with the dead,
With wide eyes staring fearfully.

From weltering wave to wave they tossed.

Two hundred corpses, stiff and stark,
At last were in the distance lost,

A banquet for the wandering shark.

Oh, sweetly the relenting day

Changed, till the storm had left no trace,
And the whole awful ocean lay

As tranquil as an infant's face.

Abaft the wind hauled fair and fine,
Lightly the ship sped on her way;

Her sharp bows crushed the yielding brine
Into a diamond dust of spray.

But up and down the decks her crew

Shook their rough heads, and eyed askance.

With doubt and hate that ever grew,
The captain's brutal coimteuauce,


As slow ho paced with frown as black
As night. At last, with siulilon shout,

He turnoJ. " 'Bout ship! We will go back
And fetch another cargo out ! "

They put the ship about again;

His will was law, they could not choose.
They strove to change her course in vain:

Down fell the wind, the sails hung loose.

And from the far horizon dim

An oily calm crept silently
Over the sea from rim to rim;

Still as if anchored fast lay she.

The sun set red, the moon shone white,

On idle canvas drooping droar ;
Through the vast, solemn hush of night

"What is it that the sailors hear ]

Now do they sleep — and do they dreamt
Was that the wind's foreboding moani

From stem to stem her every beam
Quivered with one unearthly groan 1

Leaped to his feet then every man,
And shuddered, clinging to his mate;

And sunburned cheeks grew pale and wan.
Blanched with that thrill of terror great.


The captain waked, and angrily

Sprang to the deck, and cursing spoke.
"What devil's trick is this? " cried he.
No answer the scared silence broke.

But quietly the moonlight clear

Sent o'er the waves its pallid glow:

What stirred the water far and near,
With stealthy motion swimming slow ?

With measured strokes those swimmers dread
From every side came gathering fast;

The sea was peopled with the dead
That to its cruel deeps were cast !

And coiling, curling, crawling on,

The phantom troop pressed nigh and nigher,

And every dusky body shone
Outlined in phosphorescent fire.

They gained the ship, they climbed the shrouds,
They swarmed from keel to topmast high;

Now here, now there, like filmy clouds
Without a sound they flickered by.

And where the captain stood aghast.
With hollow, mocking eyes they came,


And bound him fast unto the mast

\Vitli ghostly ropes that hit like flame.

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Online LibraryCelia ThaxterThe poems of Celia Thaxter → online text (page 7 of 11)