Celia Thaxter.

The poems of Celia Thaxter online

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Like maniacs shrieked the startled crew!

They loosed the boats, they leaped within;
Before their oars the water flew ;

They pulled as if some race to win.

With spectral light all gleaming bright

The Mystery in the distance lay ;
Away from that accursed sight

They fled until the break of day.

And they were rescued, but the ship,

The awful ship, the Mystery,
Her captain in the dead men's grip, —

Never to any port came she;

But up and down the roaring seas

For ever and for aye she sails,
In calm or storm, against the breeze.

Unshaken by the wildest gales.

And wheresoe'er her form appears

Come trouble and disaster sore,
And she has sailed a hundred years,

And she will sail for evermore.


(mit leidenschaftlichem ausdbuck)

The quiet room, the flowers, the perfumed calm,
The slender crystal vase, where all aflame

The scarlet poppies stand erect and tall,
Color that burns as if no frost could tame,

The shaded lamplight glowing over all.

The summer night a dream of warmth and balm.

Outbreaks at once the golden melody,

" With passionate expression ! " Ah, from whence
Comes the enchantment of this potent spell.

This charm that takes us captive, soul and sense?
The sacred power of music, who shall tell,

Who find the secret of its mastery ?

Lo, in the keen vibration of the air
Pierced by the sweetness of the violin.

Shaken by thrilling chords and searching notes
That flood the ivory keys, the flowers begin

To tremble; 'tis as if some spirit floats
And breathes upon theu' beauty unaware.

The stately poppies, proud in stillness, stand
In silken splendor of superb attire:


Stricken with arrows of melodious sound,
Their loosened petals fall like flukes of fire;

"With waves of music overwhelmed and drowned,
Solemnly drop their flames on cither hand.

So the rich moment dies, and what is left?

Only a memory sweet, to shut hetween
Some poem's silent leaves, to find again.

Perhaps, when winter blasts are howling keen,
And summer's loveliness is spoiled and slain,

And all the world of light and bloom bereft.

But winter cannot rob the music so!

Nor time nor fate its subtle power destroy
To bring again the summer's dear caress,

To wake the heart to youth's unreasoning joy, —
Sound, color, perfume, love, to warm and bless,

And airs of balm from Paradise that blow.


My life has grown so dear to me

Because of thee!
My maiden with the eyes demure.
And quiet mouth, and forehead pure,
Joy makes a summer in my heart

Because thou art I


The very winds melodious be

Because of thee !
The rose is sweeter for thy sake,
The waves in softer music break,
On brighter wings the swallows dart.

Because thou art!

My sky is swept of shadows free

Because of thee!
Sorrow and care have lost their sting,
The blossoms glow, the linnets sing,
All things in my delight have part,

Because thou art!

(decoration day, 1883)

Here bring your purple and gold.
Glory of color and scent;

Scarlet of tulips bold,

Buds blue as the firmament.

Hushed is the sound of the fife
And the bugle piping clear.

The vivid and delicate life

In the soul of the youthful year


Wo hring to the quiet dead,

With a gentle and tempered grief:

O'er the mounds so mute we shed
The beauty of blossom and leaf.

The flashing swords that were drawn.
No rust shall their fame destroy !

Boughs rosy as rifts of dawn,

Like the blush on the cheek of joy,

Bich fires of the gardens and meads

We kindle, these hearts above !
What splendor can match their deeds?

What sweetness can match our love I


Teaks in those eyes of blue I
Sparks of fiery dew,
Scornful lightnings that flash
'Twixt dusky lash and lash!
Never from sorrow grew
That rain in my heaven of bluew

Full of disdain are you.
Scorn for these fetters new.
Sweet, you were free too longt


Love is a master strong,
Hard are the words but true,
None may his chain undo.

Nay ! Let your heart shine through
And soften those eyes of blue !
Glide from your chilly height,
Banish your anger bright;
Fairest, be gentlest, too,
Fate is too mighty for you I


Skeleton schooner, looming strange on the far hori-
zon's rim.

Wasted and blurred by the bitter cold, all ghastly and
pallid and dim.

Whither goest thou, stiff and stark? What harbor
locked in the frost

Steerest thou for, through the freezing spray by the
hissing breakers tossed 1

Wherefore strivest thou, fighting still to plough thy

perilous way
Against the might of the fierce northwest so woefully,

night and day ?


Turn thoe and spread thy wings so wliitc, and fly to

the tropic seas,
Till the clogging ice that loads thee now dissolves in a

torrid breeze;

Till the blazing sun shall molt the tar in every ropo
and seam;

Till thy frozen keel warm tides shall rock in a languid,
lovely dream;

Till thou liest lapped in perfumes sweet in some palm-
girdled bay,

Anchored in peace, to rest at last, for many a golden

What cheer can be in thy dreadful toil, what hope in

the raging deep 1
What joy from out their troubled voyage can thy worn

seamen reapl
Loosen thy close-reefed canvas, then, fling wide thy

pinions white.
Leap the long billows, swiftly sail into the south's ^

delight! }

Steadfast she steers to the bitter north along the hori-
zon's rim,

Wasted and blurred by the cruel cold, dull, ghostly,
and pallid, and dim;


For grand are the will and courage of man, and still

she must keep her course,
And though she perish still must fight against nature's

terrible force.

S. E.

She passes up and down life's various ways

With noiseless footfall and with serious air:
Within the circle of her quiet days

She takes of sorrow and of joy her share.
In her bright home, like some rare jewel set,

The lustre of her beauty lives and glows,
With all the fragrance of the violet.

And all the radiant splendor of the rose.
As simple and unconscious as a flower,

And crowned with womanhood's most subtle charm,
She blesses her sweet realm with gentle power.

And keeps her hearth-fires burning clear and warm.
To know her is to love her. Every year
Makes her more precious and more wise and dear.


Sadlt the quails in the cornland pipe,
Yellow the harvest is bending ripe,
Gayly the children each other greet,
Wandering down through the village street.


By her garden gate leans poor Lisette.
"Her lover," they whisper, "comes not yet."
She looks afar to the edge of the sky,
Where blue and misty the mountains lie.

What sudden echoes of fife and drum
Down the long, dim, winding valley cornel
Oh, bring they news for the poor Lisette,
Eapture at last, or a life's regret?

High ring the bugle notes so sweet,
Nearer the rhythmic tramp of feet, —
What tempest rushes to clasp Lisette,
With lips so warm and with eyes so wet I

She is safe in her lover's arms at last;
A dreary dream is the wretched past;
The music of joy in her glad heart plays.
And morning dawns in her radiant face:

Wliile clearly the quails in the cornland pipe^
And silent the harvest is bending ripe.
And the children shout to the fife and drum
That pain is over and peace is come.

192 TO J. G, W.

TO J. G. W.


What is there left, I wonder,
To give tliee on this glad day 9

Vainly I muse and ponder;
What is there left to say 1

There is winter abroad, and snow,
And winds that are chill and drear

Over the sad earth blow.

Like the sighs of the dying year.

But the land thou lovest is warm
At heart with the love of thee.

And breaks into bloom and charm
And fragrance, that thou mayest seek

Violet, laurel, and rose.

They are laid before thy feet,

And the red rose deeper glows
At a fate so proud and sweet.

Gifts and greeting and blessing,
Honor and praise, are thine;

There 's naught left worth expressing
By any word or sign!


So, like the rest, I offer

The gift all gifts above
That heaven or earth can proffer, —

Deep, gentle, grateful love.


Down San Miniato in the afternoon

Slowly we drove through still and golden air.

'Twas winter, but the day was soft as June;
Florence was spread beneath us, passing fair.

The matchless city ! Set about with Howers,
Peaceful aloug her Arno's banks she lay;

Her treasured splendors, roofs and domes and towers.
In tender light of the Italian day.

Sweet breathed the roses, glowing far and wide,
Pink, gold, and crimson; dark in stately gloom

Stood the thick cypresses ; on every side
The laurestinus, rich with creamy bloom.

And exquisite, pale, sharp-leaved olives grew
In moonlight colors, silver-green and gray,

Wliilc, lifting their proud heads high in Uic blue,
Sprang the superb stone-pines beside the way.


Oh, wonderful, I thought, beyond compare !

And hushed with pleasure silent sat and guzed,
"When lo! a child's voice, and I grew aware

Of loveliness that left me all amazed.

A little beggar girl, that leaping came

Forth from the roadside, reaching out her hand,

And dancing like a bright and buoj-ant flame,
Besought us in the music of her land.

Her eyes were like a midnight full of stars
Below the dazzling beauty of her brows.

Her dusky hair dark as the cloud that bars

The moon in troubled skies when tempests rouse;

A mouth where lightning-sweet the sudden smile
Game, went and came, and flashed into my face,

And caught my heart, as, holding fast the while
The carriage edge, she ran with rapid grace.

Who could withstand her pleading, who resist
The magic of those love-compelling eyes.

Those lips the red pomegranate flowers had kissed.
The voice that charmed like woven melodies!

Not we ! Surely, I thought, imperial blood.
Some priceless current from a kingly line,


Ran royal in her veins, — a sunny flood

That marked her with its fine, mysterious sign.

She was not born to ask, but to command;

She seemed to crown the wonder of the day,
The perfect blossom of that glorious land.

While her sweet "Grazie!" followed on our way,

As down 'mid olive, cypress, stately pine,
Among the roses in a dream we passed.

Through glamour of the time and place divine,
Till Arno's quiet banks were reached at last,

And pleasant rest. 'T is years since those fair hours.
But their rich memories live, their sun and shade.

Beautiful Florence set about with flowers,
And San Miniato's peerless beggar maid.



GoOD-BY, sweet day, good-by !
I have so loved thee, but I cannot hold thee.
Departing like a dream, the shadows fold thee;
Slowly thy perfect beauty fades away :
Good-by, sweet day !


Good-by, sweet day, good-by !
Dear were thy golden hours of tranquil splendor,
Sadly thou yieldest to the evening tender
Who wert so fair from thy first morning ray;
Good-by, sweet day!

Good-by, sweet day, good-by!

Thy glow and charm, thy smiles and tones and glances,

Vanish at last, and solemn night advances;

Ah, couldst thou yet a little longer stay I

Good-by, sweet day 1

Good-by, sweet day, good-by !
All thy rich gifts my grateful heart remembers,
The while I watch thy sunset's smouldering embers
Die in the west beneath the twilight gray.
Good-by, sweet day !


The aster by the brook is dead,

And quenched the goldenrod's brief fire;
The maple's last red leaf is shed.

And dumb the birds' sweet choir.

'T is life's November, too. How swift
The narrowing days speed, one by one!


How pale the waning sunbeams sift
Through clouds of gray and dun !

And as we lose our wistful hold

On warmth and loveliness and youth.

And shueUler at the dark and cold,
Our soula cry out for Truth.

No more mirage, Heavenly Powers,
To mock our sight with shows so fair!

"We question of the solemn hours
That lead us swiftly — " Where 1 '

Wo hunger for our lost — in vain !

We lift our close-clasped hands above,
And pray God's pity on our pain,

And trust the Eternal Love.


The barley bows from the west
Before the delicate breeze

That many a sail caressed
As it swept the sapphire seas.

It has found the garden sweet,
And the poppy's cup it sways',


Bends the golden ears of wheat;
And its dreamy touch it lays

On the heavy mignonette,
Stealing soft its odors line,

On the pansies dewy yet,
On the phloxes red as wine.

Where the honeysuckle sweet

Storms the sunny porch with flowery

Like a tempest of delight

Shaking fragrance down in showers,

It touches with airy grace

Each clustering, perfumed spray,

Clasps all in a light embrace.
And silently wanders away.

Come forth in the air divine.

Thou dearest, my crown of bliss!

Give that flower-sweet cheek of thine
To the morning breeze to kiss.

Add but thy perfect presence
To gladden my happy eyes.

And I would not change earth's morning
For the dawns of Paradise!



E. L.

Only to follow you, dearest, only to find you!

Only to feel for one instant the touch of your hand ;
Only to tell you once of the love you left behind
you, —
To say the world without you is like a desert of
sand ;

That the flowers have lost their perfume, the rose its
And the charm of nature is lost in a dull eclipse ;
That joy went out with the glance of your eyes so
And beauty passed with the lovely smile on your

I did not dream it was you who kindled the morning
And folded the evening purple in peace so sweet ;
But you took the whole world's rapture without a
And left me naught save the print of your patient

I count the days and the hours that hold us asunder:
I long for Death's friendly hand which shall rend in


With the glorious lightning flash and the golden thun-
These clouds of the earth, and give me my owq


By cottage walls the lilacs blow;

Eich spikes of perfume stand and sway
At open casements, where all day

The warm wind waves them to and fro.

Out of the shadow of the door.

Into the golden morning air,

Comes one who makes the day more fair
And summer sweeter than before.

The apple blossoms might have shed
Upon her cheek the bloom so rare;
The sun has kissed her bright brown hail

Braided about her graceful head.

Lightly betwixt the lilacs tall

She passes, through the garden gate,
Across the road, and stays to wait

A moment by the orchard wall;


And then in gracious liglit and shade,
Beneath the blossom-laden trees,
'Mid song of birds and hum of bees,

She strays, unconscious, unafraid.

Till swiftly o'er the grassy space

Comes one whose step she fain would stay.
Glad as the newly risen day

He stoops to read her drooping face.

Her face is like the morning skies,

Bright, timid, tender, blushing sweet;
She dares not trust her own to meet

The steady splendor of his eyes.

Ho holds her with resistless charm,

With truth, with power, with beauty crowned;

About her lovely shape is wound
The strong, safe girdle of his arm.

And up and down through shade and light
They wander through the flying hours,
And all the way is strewn with flowers,

And life looks like one long delight.

Ah, happy twain ! No frost shall harm,
No change shall reach your bliss, so long
As keeps its place the faithful, strong.

Safe girdle of that folding arm.


Could you this simple secret know
No death in life would he to fear,
When you may watch, in some sad yean

By cottage walls the lilacs blow !


MIRROR, whence her lovely face

Was wont to look with radiance sweet.

Hast thou not kept of her some trace,
Some memory that thou mayest repeat?

Could I but find in thee once more
Some token of her presence dear!

mirror, wilt thou not restore
Her shadow for an instant here?

Thou couldst not yield a boon so great.

I see my own dim face and eyes
With love and longing desolate,

All drowned in wistful memories.

Blindly for her dear hand I grope ;

There 's nothing life can have in store
Bo sweet to me as this sweet hope,

To feel her smile on me once more!



"TiiY own wish wish I thee in every place."

The Christmas joy, the song, the feast, the cheer,

Thine be the light of love in every face

That looks on thee, to bless thy coming year.

Thy own wish wish I thee. What dost thou crave 1
All thy dear hopes be thine, whate'er they be.

A wish fulfilled may make thee king or slave;
I wish thee "Wisdom's eyes wherewith to see.

Behold, she stands and waits, the youthful year I
A breeze of morning breathes about her brows;

She holds thy storm and sunsliine, bliss and fear.
Blossom and fruit upon the bending boughs.

She brings thee gifts, mat blessing wilt thou
choose ]
Lite's crown of good in earth or heaven above,
The one immortal joy thou canst not lose.

Is Love! Leave all the rest, and choose thou



The wind blows from the stormy quarter and the

moon is old.
Trouble has gathered in the sky so pallid, dim, and

Can this be morning? Is the world so blank and out

of tune?
Down yonder dim horizon something fades beside the


What is it? 'Tis the ghost of joy that made the

earth so sweet ;
Life's one supreme, bright happiness, that hastes with

flying feet.
The fading moon will brighten soon, in splendor shine

But joy that was the life of life is merged in bitter


Last night I passed her window: she dreamed not I

was near.
One ray slipped through the jealous curtain, rosy-warm

and clear;
I kissed the flowers on which it fell, all dewy cold

were they.
With patient anguish in my heart I turned and stole



She will not miss me, will not know if I am here or

there ;

If I am dead, or if I live, will neither know nor care.

De«th is not bitter as my grief, which craves one sin-
gle boon, —

Bfiiease me, God! let my life fade like yonder waning


It blossomed by the summer sea,
A tiny space of tangled bloom
\\'herein so many flowers found room,

A miracle it seemed to be !

Up from the ground, alert and bright,
Tlie pansies laughed in gold and jet,
Purple and pied, and mignonette

Breathed like a spirit of delight.

Flaming the rich nasturtiums ran
Along the fence, and marigolds
"Opened afresh their starry folds"

In beauty as the day began;

While ranks of scarlet poppies gay

Waved when the soft south-wind did blow,


Superb in sunshine, to and fro,
Like soldiers proud in brave array.

And tall blue larkspur waved its spikes
Against the sea's deep violet,
That every breeze makes deeper yet

With splendid azure where it strikes;

And rosy-pale sweet-peas climbed up,
And phloxes spread their colors fine,
Pink, white, and purple, red as wine,

And fire burned in the eschscholtzia's cup.

More dear to me than words can tell
Was every cup and spray and leaf;
Too perfect for a life so brief

Seemed every star and bud and bell.

And many a maiden, fairer yet.
Came smiling to my garden gay.
Whose graceful head I decked alway

With pansy and with mignonette.

Such slender shapes of girlhood young
Haunted that little blooming space,
Each with a more delightful face

Than any flower that ever sprung !


shadowy shapes of youthful bloom!
How fair the sweet procession glides
Down memory's swift and silent tides,

Till lost in doubtful mists of gloom!

Year after year new flowers unfold,
Year after year fresh maidens fair,
Scenting their perfume on the air,

Follow and find their red and gold.

And -while for them the poppies' blaze
I gather, brightening into mine
The eyes of vanished beauty shine,

That gladdened long-lost summer days.

Where are they all who wide have ranged?

Where are the flowers of other years ?

What ear the wistful question hears ?
Ah, some are dead and all are changed.

And still the constant earth renews
Her treasured splendor ; still unfold
Petals of purple and of gold

Beneath the sunshine and the dews.

But for her human children dear
Whom she has folded to her breast,
No beauty wakes them from their rest,

Nor change they with the changing year.



" Love, " he whispered low, " Eternal Love ! "
And softly twilight's shadows round them drew,

And one by one the stars grew bright above,
And warm airs from the gates of sunset blew.

Swift o'er the summer sea they lightly sailed;

The rushing winds, the rushing waves, sang sweet;
But sweeter than all sounds the voice that failed,

Shaken by the full heart that strongly beat.

Fast piled the clouds in darkness south and east,
Each other's starry eyes they only saw.

What was the world to them 1 The breeze increased,
And caught the glimmering sail with gusty flaw.

Low stooped the mast; the firm hand at the helm
Held bravely yet the light craft to its course.

Though hurrying breakers fain would overwhelm,
And the gale gathered with resistless force.

Black night, black storm, that rose in sudden wrath 1
All lost the cheerful stars forgot to burn,

And death was waiting silent in the path,
Along whose wavering way was no return.


Or lifo or death — what mattered it to thorn?

Locked mute and still within each other's arms,
They sought no more the tempest's rage to stem,

Deaf to the tumult of the night's alarms.

Beyond their fate uplifted, death was naught,
Nor could they know, borne safe all pain above,

Into immortal Ufe together caught,

That only thus should live Eternal Love 1



As when one wears a fragrant rose
Close to the heart, a rose most fair,

And while the day's life onward flows
Forgets that it is fastened there.

And wonders what delicious charm
Dwells in the air about, and whence

Come the rich wafts of perfume warm
Subtly saluting soul and sense;

And then, remembering what it is,
Bends smiling eyes the flower above,

Adores its beauty and its bliss

And looks on it with grateful love —


Even so I wear, friend of mine,

The sweet thought of your happiness;

'The knowledge of your joy divine
Is fragrant with a power to bless.

With the day's work preoccupied
Vaguely, half conscious of delight,

Upborne as on a buoyant tide,

I wonder why life seems so bright.

Then memory speaks; then winter gray
And age and cares that have no end

Touch me no more. I am to-day

Eich in the wealth that cheers my friend.


Leapixq from the boat, through the lazy, sparkling

Up the slope we press, o'er the rich, elastic turf.
Heavy waves the goldenrod in the morning breeze,
Swift spring the startled grasshoppers, thick about our


Look, how shines the distance! Leagues of water

Wind-swept, sunshine-flooded, with a flying sail or



Gleaming white as silver, and dreaming, here and

A snowy-breasted guU floats in the golden air.

How sweet to climb together the scented, flowery

dearest, hand in hand, like children following hope;
Laughing at the grasshoppers, singing with delight,
Only to be alive this September morning bright!

But where would be the beauty of this brUliant atmos-
Wert thou away, my darling? Would not the sky be

And gray the living azure of the changing, sparkling

And blossoms, birds, and sails, and clouds — what
would they be to me 1

Eest we here a little upon the breezy height.

And watch the play of color, the shadow, and the

And let the lovely moment overflow us with its bliss.
When shall we find another so beautiful as thisi

I turn from all the splendor to those clear eyes of

That watch the shimmering sails on the far horizon



While sun and wind salute thy cheek till roses blos-
som there,
Thou golden creature, than the morn a thousand times

more fair! -

Ah ! must it end ] Must winter hurl its snow across
the sea.

And roar with leagues of bitterness between thy face
and me?

Must chill December fill with murk and storm this
wooing air,

And the west-wind wail like the voice of some su-
preme despair?

Too surely ! But, friendly eyes, hold summer safe
for me ;

Only, gentle heart, keep warm and sweet my mem-

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Online LibraryCelia ThaxterThe poems of Celia Thaxter → online text (page 8 of 11)