Celia Thaxter.

The poems of Celia Thaxter online

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And no fury of the tempest my world can desolate —

This wingfed joy will lift my soul above the storms of


Pleasant above the city's din
My quiet room beneath the eaves;

The first to see the day begin.

The last the sunshine lingering leaves.


Pleasant upon the window pane

Uplifted high, so near the sky,
To hear the patter of the rain,

Or see the snow go swirling by;

To watch the gilded weathercocks

In every eddy turn and wheel ;
To hear the clear, melodious shocks

Of chiming bells that clang and peal.

Dove-haunted roofs and towers and spires,

The friendly faces of the clocks,
The network of electric wires.

The sparrows gossiping in flocks,

The smoke's dim, ragged phantoms soft
From myriad chiinncys lightly curled.

That mingle with the clouds aloft

Slow sailing with the sailing world —

Pleasant and peaceful all. Most sweet
When morning and when evening fires,

Silent above the busy street,

Touch the dove-haunted roofs and spirea

Neighbored by sparrow and by dove,
A comrade of the weathercocks,

My quiet, airy perch I love.

The chimney-stacks, the city clocks;


And thank the heavens that bend above
For leave to find such deep delight

In tower and spire and fluttering dove,
Color and cloud and sparrow's flight.


With clamor the wild southwester
Through the wide heaven is roaring,

Ploughing the ocean, and over
The earth its fury outpouring.

Lo, how the vast gray spaces

Wrestle and roll and thunder,
Billow piled upon billow,

Closing and tearing asunder.

As if the deep raged with the anger
Of hosts of the fabulous kraken !

And the firm house shudders and trembleB,
Beaten, buffeted, shaken.

Battles the gull with the tempest.

Struggling and wavering and faltering.

Soaring and striving and sinking,
Turning, its high course altering.


Down througli the cloudy heaven

Notes from the wild geese are falling;

Cries like harsh bell-tones are ringing,
Echoing, clanging, and calling.

Plunges the schooner landward.

Swiftly the long seas crossing,
Close-reefed, seeking the harbor,

Half lost in the spray she is tossing.

A rift in the roof of vapor !

And stormy sunshine is streaming
To color the gray, wild water

Like chrysoprase, green and gleaming.

Cold and tempestuous ocean.

Ragged rock, brine-swept and lonely,

Grasp of the long, bitter winter —
These things to gladden me only I

Love, dost thou wait for me in some rich land
Where the gold orange hangs in odorous calmt

Where the clear waters kiss the flowery strand,
Bordered with shining sand and groves of palmt

And while this bitter morning breaks for me.
Draws to its close thy warm, delicious day;


Lights, colors, perfumes, music, joy, for thee,
For me the cold, wild sea, the cloudy gray !

Eises the red moon in thy tranquil sky,
Plashes the fountain with its silver talk,

And as the evening wind begins to sigh,

Thy sweet girl's shape steals down the garden walk

And through the scented dusk a white robe gleams,
Lingering beneath the starry jasmine sprays,

Till where thy clustered roses breathe in dreams,
A sudden gush of song thy light step stays.

That was the nightingale! Love. of mine,
Hear'st thou my voice in that pathetic song,

Throbbing in passionate cadences divine.
Sinking to silence with its rapture strong?

I stretch my arms to thee through all the cold.
Through all the dark, across the weary space

Between us, and thy slender form I fold,
And gaze into the wonder of thy face.

Pure brow the moonbeam touches, tender eyes
Splciidid with feeling, delicate smiling mouth,

And heavy silken hair that darkly lies

Soft as the twilight clouds in thy sweet South, —

IN death's despite 217

licautifvil my Love ! In vain I seok

To hold the lieavenly dream that fades from me.

1 needs must wake with salt spray on my cheek,

Flung from the fury of this northern sea.


Whither departs the perfume of the rose t

Into what life dies music's golden sound?
Year after year life's long procession goes

To hide itself beneath the senseless ground.
Upon the grave's inexorable brink

Amazed with loss the human creature stands;
Vainly he strives to reason or to think,

Left with his aching heart and empty hands;
He calls his lost in vain. In sorrow drowned,
Darkness and silence all his sense confound.

Till in Death's roll-call stern he hears his name,

In turn he follows and is lost to sight;
Though comforted by love and crowned by fame,

He hears the summons dread no man may slight.
Sweetly and clear upon his quiet grave

The birds shall sing, unmindful of his dust;
Softly in turn the long green grass shall wave

Over his fallen head. In turn ho must
Submit to be forgotten, like the rest.
Though high the heart that beat within his breast.


The rose falls and the music's sound is gone;

Dear voices cease, and clasp of loving hands;
Alone we stand when the brief day is done,

Searching with saddened eyes earth's darkening
Worthless as is the lightest fallen leaf

We seem, yet constant as the night's first star
Kindles our deathless hope, and from our grief

Is born the trust no misery can mar.
That Love shall lift us all despair above.
Shall conquer death, — yea, Love, and only Love !


The morning breaks, the storm is past. Behold!

AJong the west the lift grows bright, — the sea
Leaps sparkling blue to catch the sunshine's gold,

And swift before the breeze the vapors flee.

Light cloud-flocks white that troop in joyful haste
Up and across the pure and tender sky;

Light laughing waves that dimple all the waste
And break upon the rocks and hurry by !

Flying of sails, of clouds, a tumult sweet.

Wet, tossing buoys, a warm wild wind that blows


The pennon out and rushes on to greet

Thy lovely cheek and heighten its soft rose I

Beloved, beloved ! Is there no morning breeze
To clear our sky and chase our mists away,

Like this great air that sweeps the freshening seas,
And wakes the old sad world to glad new day t

Sweeter than morning, stronger than the gale,
Deeper than ocean, warmer than the sun,

My love shall climb, shall claim thee, shall prevail
Against eternal darkness, dearest one!


Peace smiles over hamlet and city.

Peace broods over mountain and stream,
Our tears of anguish and pity

Are a half-forgotten dream.
The tempest of battle is ended,

And our dear, delivered land
Stands free in the sunshine splendid,

No stain upon her hand.

What shall we do to honor

Her dauntless sons to-day,
Who shed such glory upon her,

Striking her chains away ?

220 TWO

Fair floats the banner o'er her, —
What did not her children give 1

They cast their lives before her,
Dying that she might live.

Eemember them, praise them, love them,

The noble hearts and brave!
May earth lie lightly above them

In many a nameless grave.
Great was their high endeavor,

Great is their glorious meed;
Honor our heroes forever,

Praise them with word and deed!


She turned the letter's rustling page; her smile
Made bright the air about her while she read:

"I come to you to-morrow, love; meanwhile
Love me, my sweet," he said.

" Wliat other business has my life 1 " she thought.
And musing passed, as in some happy dream.

To tlio day's care and toils, and while she wrought
Time winged with light did seem.

To-morrow! When the summer morning broke
In rose and gold, and touched her slumbering eyes

TWO 221

Softly, with tempered splendor, and she woke
To the rich dawn's surprise,

Birds sang aloft and roses bloomed below ;

Flushed wide the tender fleecy mists above ;
Came ilemory, leading Hope, and whispered low,

" Love me 1 I come, my love. "

"So that thou comest," she thought, "skies may grow

The sun may fade, the sea with foam blanch white,
Tempest and thunder dread may spoil the day,
But not my deep delight,"

sweet and aivful Love! power supreme,

Mighty and sacred, terrible art thou !
Beside thee Life and Death are but a dream;

Before thee all must bow.

When in the west the sunset's crimson flame

Burned low and wasted, and the cool winds blew,

Watching the steadfast sky she heard her name
Breathed in the voice she knew.

Joy shook her heart, nor would its pulse bo stilled ;

Her fair cheek borrowed swift the sunset's bloom.
A presence beautiful and stately filled

The silence of the room.


" Hast thou no word of welcome 1 " for indeed
Like some mute marble goddess proud stood she;

She turned. "0 king of men!" she cried, "what
That I should welcome thee 1 "

Her eyes divine heneath her solemn hrows

Met his clear gaze and measured strength for

She drooped, as to the sun the lily hows,
Into his arms at length.

Wide swung heaven's gates for them; no more they

The silent stars looked in, they saw them not.
The slow winds wandered soft through dusk and dew,

But earth was all forgot.


In that new world toward which our feet are set.
Shall we find aught to make our hearts forget
Earth's homely joys and her bright hours of bliss?
Has heaven a spell divine enough for this 1
For who the pleasure of the spring shall tell,
When on the leafless stalk the brown buds swell.
When the grass brightens and the days grow long,
And little birds break out in rippling song?


Oh sweet the dropping eve, the bhish of morn,
The starlit sky, tlie rustling fiehls of corn,
The soft airs blowing from the freshening seas,
The sun-flecked shadow of the stately trees,
The mellow thunder and the lulling rain.
The warm, delicious, happy summer rain,
When the grass brightens and the days grow long,
And little birds break out in rippling song !

beauty manifold, from morn till night.

Dawn's flush, noon's blaze, and sunset's tender light!

fair, familiar features, changes sweet

Of her revolving seasons, storm and sleet

And golden calm, as slow she wheels through space

From snow to roses, — and how dear her face

When the grass brightens and the days grow long,

And little birds break out in rippling song !

happy Earth ! home so well beloved !
What recompense have we, from thee removed 1
One liope we have that overtops the whole, —
The hope of finding every vanished soul
We love and long for daily, and for this
Gladly we turn from thee and all thy bliss.
Even at thy loveliest, when the days are long.
And little birds break out in rippling song.

224 JOY


Back from life's coasts the ebhing tide had drawn,

The singing tide that brimmed with joy the shore;
The torch of sunset and the bhish of dawn

Seemed to have lost their glow forevermore,
There was such silence in the empty sky !

And Nature mocked me, grown so cold and dumb^
And Eaith, I thought, had perished utterly,

Nor knew I whence a ray of hope should come;
When, like a royal messenger of good

Sent to some sad and famine-stricken land.
Across my threshold dark you passed, and stood,

Bearing the keys of heaven in your hand;
And wide the bright, resounding gates you threw I
Tell me, friend, what I shall do for you I


Joy breathes in the sweet airs of spring,
And in the shy wild blossom hides.

And soars upon the swallow's wing,
And with the singing water glides.

Wliere lilies stand, a fragrant crowd,

Eocked by the warm south wind ho lies;


And dreams upon the balmy cloud
Soft tloating in the tender skies;


Shines clear from out the crescent sharp,

Glittering above the sunset's red,
Aiid of the west wind makes a harp,

And gleams in starlight overhead.

Joy mantles in the golden wine,

Joy to earth's humblest doth descend,

^jid looks at me with cheer divine
From out the dear eyes of my friend.


A STRONG sweet tide toward the lonely shore

Sets steadfastly, till every inlet sings.
And to the waiting silence, blank before,
Its fxdl refreshment brings.

Through the day's business passing to and fro,
Ever she grows more conscious of the charm
Upholding her wherever she may go,
Like some enfolding arm.

For this dear joy all days more fair do seem,
The night's repose more blissfvd and more deep,


Ab pillowed on the breast of this sweet dream
Softly she falls asleep.

Safe is she, lifted all earth's ills above;

No storm can broak her calm, no evil reach
Within the charmed circle drawn by Love,
Blest beyond thought or speech.

maiden, dream thy dream ! Life's crown of thorns,

Draws it not down, tmseen, about thy brows J
The glory of thy summer eves and morns
Stern winter shall espouse.

Within this Eden of thy sweet content

No mortal stays, — that, the great gods forbid;
But canst thou learn that in thy banishment
A higher good lies hid ]


The blossoms blush on the bough.
And the air is full of song.

Oh give me my answer now,

Dear Love, I have waited long!

The blossoms mantle and flush, —
I see but the rose in your cheek, •

SONO 227

And the birds thoir music hush,
For the fate your lips may speak.

I listen for life or death,

With hope's deep rapture stirred,

And faint as the blossoms' breath
Comes your low, delicious word.

And the earth reels under my feet, —
O blossoms that burn on the bough I ^

With the strength of a joy so sweet,
For I have my answer now I


Past the point and by the beach.
Oh but the waves ran merrily,

With laughter light and silver speech.
And red the sunset flushed the sea.

Two lovers wandered side by side,— ^
Oh but the waves ran merrily ;

They watched the rushing of the tide,
And fairer than a dream was she.

About her slender waist was cast —
Oh but the waves ran merrily —

228 AUGUST ^•

His strong right arm that held her fast^
A zone that clasped her royally.

He gazed in her bewildering face, —
Oh but the waves ran merrily :
" See how the waves each other chase !
So follow all my thoughts to thee."

"And seest thou yonder star? " she said,—
Oh but the waves ran merrily, —

" Superb in yonder evening- red ]

So dost thou light my life for me ! "

'Twas long ago that star did shine, —

Oh but the waves ran merrily ;
Love made for them the world divine

In that old time beside the sea.

The soft wind sighs, the great sea rolls, —

Oh but the waves run merrily;
What has Time done with those two souls ?

And Love, who charmed them, where is he 1


Buttercup nodded and said good-by,
Clover and daisy went off together,

But the fragrant water-lilies lie

Yet moored in the goldcu August weather.

SONG 229

The swallows chatter about their flight,
The cricket chirps like a rare good fellow,

The asters twinkle in clusters bright,

While the corn grows ripe and the apples mellow.


A BIRD upon a rosy bough

Sang low and long, sang late and loud.
Until the young moon's silver prow

Was lost behind a bar of cloud.

The south wind paused and held its breath —
Sing loud and late, sing low and long —

While sweet as Love and sad as Death
The matchless notes rose wild and strong.

They rang with rapture, loss and change, —
Sing low and late, sing long and loud —

A tumult passionate and strange,

A speechless grief, a patience proud;

Till with "farewell for evermore," —

Sing late and loud, sing low and long, —

Like waves that kiss a barren shore
In sobbing cadence died the song.



Oh tell me not of heavenly halls,
Of streets of pearl and gates of gold,

Where angel unto angel calls

'Mid splendors of the sky untold;

My homesick heart would backward turn
To find this dear, familiar earth,

To watch its sacred hearth-fires bum.
To catch its songs of joy or mirth.

I 'd lean from out the heavenly choir
To hear once more the red cock crow,

What time the morning's rosy fire
O'er hill and field began to glow.

To hear the ripple of the rain,

The summer waves at ocean's brim.

To hear the sparrow sing again
I 'd quit the wide-eyed cherubim!

I care not what heaven's glories are;

Content am I. More joy it brings
To watch the dandelion's star

Than mystic Saturn's golden rings.


And yet — and yet, dearest one I

My comfort from life's earliest breath —

To follow thee where thou art gone

Through those dim, awful gates of Death,

To find thee, feel thy smile again,

To have eternity's long day
To tell my grateful love, — why, then.

Both heaven and earth might pass away!


White as a blossom is the kerchief quaint
Over her sumptuous shoulders lightly laid;

Fairer than any picture men could paint,

In the cool orchard's fragrant light and shade

She stands and waits: some pensive dream enfolds
Her beauty sweet, and bows her radiant head;

The delicate pale roses that she holds

Seem to have borrowed of her cheek their red.

She waits like some superb but drooping flower
To feel the touch of morning and the sun.

And o'er her head the glowing petals shower,
And to her feet the shifting sunbeams run.


I follow to her feet their pathway fine,

And while my voice the charmed silence hreaks,

What startled splendors from her deep eyes shine 1
Into what glory my rich flower awakes!


O Sorrow, go thy way and leave me !

Weary am I of thee, thou Sorrow old.
Unclasp thy hand from mine and cease to grieve me,

Fade like the winter sunset dim and cold.

Depart, and trouble me no longer !

Die! Vanish with forgotten yesterdays.
Eastward the darkness melts, the light grows strongeii

And dawn breaks sweet across the shrouding haze.

Die and depart. Old Year, old Sorrow !

Welcome, morning air of health and strength!
glad Now Year, bring us new hope to-morrow.

With blossom, leaf, and fruitage bright at length.


Nanette !

Can you not teach me to forget 1

It is so hard to understand !

You would not lift your slender hand


To keep me yours, yet must I be

Yours only, yours etcrnallj',

Though 'neath the chain I strive and fret,

Nanette !

That golden hour when first we met,

Like the swift inundating sea

Love's tide swept in and conquered me.

Love uttered Love's supremest word,

A moment you were touched and stirred;

Ah, that 's the anguish of regret,

Nanette !

My every thought on you was set;

I poured for you Love's priceless wine.

You could no more its power divme

Than one small blossom's cup of gold

The boundless firmament could hold:

My eyes with scornful tears are wet,

Nanette !

This withered spray of mignonette

You gave me, from my heart I take,

This sick, sad heart you taught to ache,

And fling it in the restless sea —

I would my thought of you could be

So flung away from me; and yet,

Nanette !

I cannot break the cruel net,

Though I may curse my fate and swear

You are not kind, nor good, nor fair,


You '11 hold me by one silken tress,
Or eyelid's down-dropped loveliness,
A touch of hand, or tone of voice.
Or smile that all my will destroys:
Ah Heaven ! the only boon I crave
Is rest, the silence of the grave.
Release me I Teach me to forget,
Nanette !


Fain would I hold my lamp of life aloft

Like yonder tower built high above the reef;

Steadfast, though tempests rave or v/inds blow soft^
Clear, though the sky dissolve in tears of grief.

For darkness passes, storms shall not abide.

A little patience and the fog is past.
After the sorrow of the ebbing tide

The singing flood returns in joy at last.

The night is long and pain weighs heavily,
But God will hold his world above despair.

Look to the East, where up the lucid sky

The morning climbs 1 The day shall yet be fair I

AT DAWN 235 *


Early this morning waking,

I lieard the sandpipers call,
And the sea on the shore was breaking

With a dreamy rise and fall.

The dawn that was softly blushing
Touched cloud and wave with rose.

And the sails in the west were flushing,
No breeze stirred their repose.

What tone in the water's falling
Had reached me while I dreamed t

What sound in the wild birds' calling
Like a heavenly greeting seemed ?

What meant the delicate splendor
That brightened the conscious mom

With a radiance fresh and tender
Crowning the day newborn J

Ail nature's musical voices
Whispered, "Awake and seel

Awake, for the day rejoices! "
What news had the mom for met


Then I remembered the blessing
So sweet, friend, so near!

The joy beyond all expressing, —
To-day you would be here.


I WONDEEED what power possessed the place
As I took my seat in the motley crowd,

And glancing swiftly from face to face

Of the poor and mean, and the rich and proud.

And all the stages betwixt the two

That daily travel the iron track,
I stopped at a young face fresh as dew,

Framed in white with a hood of black.

'T was a little Sister of Charity ;

Oh young and slender, oh sweet and calml
Like a pensive moonbeam pale was she,

With her fair hands folded palm to palm.

And a delicate beauty of high repose,
A sacred peace, as if far withdrawn

From the hard world's din, like a cloistered rose^
She blossomed pure as the breath of dawn.


I marveled much how a girl like this

In her !Maytime splendor could turn away

rrom the brimming cup of her youth's bright bliss,
To succor the sorrowful day by day.

And yet when I looked at her once more,
With her lofty aspect of tempered cheer,

All the joys of the earth seemed vain and poor
To the lovely record written here.

And I felt how true it is, how sure

That every good deed adds a light
To the human face, not there before,

While every ill thing leaves its blight.

It does not follow that women and men
Must live in a cloister to work for God;

There 'a enough to do, to the dullest ken,

In the great world's paths spread wide abroad.

And the good or ill of tlie life wo lead
Is sculptured clear on the countenance;

Be it love and goodness, or sin and greed.
Who runs may read at a single glance.



What is the whole world worth, Dear,
Weighed against love and truth 1

Sweet is the spring to the earth, Dear,
Bright is the blossom of youth:

And the skies of summer are tender
In fullness of life and strength,

And rich is the autumn splendor,
But winter comes at length.

Tell me, what spell shall charm us
When the golden days expire?

What is there left to warm us
Save Love's most sacred fire?

While on the soul's high altar
Its clear light burns secure,

Though the step of joy may falter.
And the glad years are no more.

The frosts of age are naught, Dearl

I clasp thy hand in mine
Fondly as when youth sought, Deai^

To be thy Valentine.



The tide flows up, the tide flows down:
Tlie water brima the creek and falls;
A cottage weather-stained and brown
Lifts at the brink its time-worn walls.

Beneath the lowly window sill
Two little beds of blossoms gay
The wandering airs with fragrance fill.
Sweeten the night and charm the day.

The tide flows up, the tide flows down:
From the low window's humble square
A woman in a faded gown.
With care-dimmed eyes and tangled hair,

Looks out across the smiling space
Where golden suns and stars unfold:
Blue larkspur, the pied pansy's face,
Nasturtium bolls of scarlet bold, —

She sees them not, nor cares, nor knows.
A man's rough figure noon and night
And morning o'er the threshold goes, —
No sense has he for their delight.


The tide flows up, the tide flows down:
In that dull house a little maid
Lives lonely, under Fortune's frown,
A life unchildlike and afraid.

To her that tiny garden-plot

Means heaven. She comes at eve to stand

'Mid mallow and forget-me-not

And marigolds on either hand.

They look at her with brilliant eyes,
Their scent is greeting and caress;
Tliey spread their rich and glowing dyes
Her saddened soul to cheer and bless.

The tide flows up, the tide flows down:
Within, how base the life and poor!
Without, what wealth and beauty crown
The humble flowers beside the door!


Softly the flickering firelight comes and goes ;

The warm glow flashes, sinks, departs, returns,
And shows me whore the delicate red rose

In the tall, slender vase of crystal burns.


The tempest beats without. The husli within

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Online LibraryCelia ThaxterThe poems of Celia Thaxter → online text (page 9 of 11)