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The flute-player and other poems online

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Thou dost contain all essences, enfold
All secrets in the hollows of thy heart
Where bide unending love, preventing law.
Teach me but half the knowledge hid in thee,
But half the peace within thy silent cells,
And I shall know my godhead, as I know
Here for a little while my sad humanity.



46



AN ANSWER.

T QUESTIONED: Why is evil on the Earth?

A sage for answer struck a chord, and lo !
I found the harmony of little worth

To teach my soul the truth it longed to know.



He struck again ; a saddened music, rife
With wisdom, in my ear an answer poured :

Sin is the jarring semitone of life,
The needed minor in a perfect chord.



ARS LOQUITUR.

F AM the means ; they do degrade me most
Who make of me the end of life's desire ;
I do interpret Beauty, but am not
That Beauty's self ; I ever bend to hear
Divine Imagination's high commands,
Obeying that which is immutable.
They serve me best whose gaze transcends my law,
And know me least who wear me as a gyve.
I am the Living God of little men,
The tool of great men I.



48



WINTER RAIN.

T IKE driven smoke the rain among the trees

Slants silently to find the sodden grass,
There is a living shudder in the breeze

And every shrub an icy vesture has ;

No shape of loveliness but, ere it pass,
Doth turn and thrill me with immortal eyes ;

No voice but stills its song to sigh " Alas ! "
No cloud but blots the blue of naked skies,
While I stand mute and mourn a vanished Paradise

Summer, that once within thy scented lap
Pillowed my head, as on a daisied hill

We sat together, thou and I, mayhap

Too much enamoured of each other's will,
Why hast thou left me, desolate and chill,

To fashion ghosts upon the viewless air ?

Why should more favored suitors have their fill

Of joy and sunlight, while my bitter fare

Brings hunger to my soul and to my heart despair?

Is it that flesh grows gross in tasting joy,
That Pain's sword gives the accolade divine ?

Is it that sorrow mingles its alloy

To touch men's gilded lives to issues fine ?
Ah ! that the seeker for life's glorious wine
4 49



50 Winter Rain.

Must rend each pulsing heart from which it flows ;

Ah ! that the working out of love's design
Should crush the perfume from each velvet rose,
And rudely wake the soul from Summer's soft
repose.

Yet hark ! the liquid whisper of the rain

Is riven by a song that high and higher
Soars and fades faintly till the rare refrain

Seems of its own soft rapture to expire.

Is it pale Winter singing to the lyre
Of barren branches and ungarnered sheaves ?

Is it the hymning of a vernal choir,
The immortal spirits of the unborn leaves ?
I know not, yet my inner sense the song receives.



PH^DRA (Loquitur}.

T T NLOOSR the triple serpents at my throat

And let me bare my bosom to the night ;
Then leave me, ye whose blood is held in leash
To do a matron's bidding, ye unstained
Troezinian women, with white horror writ
Stark in your bended brows !

T may not tell

What question seeks an answer in my soul,
Seeing I am half human at the best,
And stung by loves that suck the breasts of Fear.
Look, where the sleeve falls open, how my arm
Borrows new pallor from the impassioned moon,-
Herself a borrower, bankrupt e'en as 1
When light and love must be repaid in kind.
May I not follow, with unsandaled feet,
The scented wood-ways leading to bowered joy,
And sate mine eyes, though all my body die
Of baulked desire, whereat the sad gods frown ?
I seek Hippolytus, and though he slay,
Still will I seek him, still from 'venging heaven
Braving the bolts ye prate of.

Back, I pray ;

Give me a little air upon my eyes,
Upon my throbbing brows the night's caress ;
Go ye, and win your lords to softer ways :
For me Delight is married to Despair,
And I woo both within the arms of Death.
51



AN IONIAN FRIEZE.

T_T ORSES rampant and curbed, compactly close,
With polished hooves that quiver from the

earth,
And mane-enfringed necks, whose rondure shows

In silhouette against the pale sky's girth.
Beneath chaste marble, jewelled of chrysolite,

A gracile girl, with fillet-girdled hair,
Stands half revealed through folds of shimmering
white,

Her carmine lips wed to a silver flute,

As though their budding beauty to transmute

To music dying off along the air.
In sage processional pass bearded priests,

And acolytes with pink and boyish limbs,

Chanting to all the gods strange bardic hymns,
Less tuned to sacrifice than fit for feasts.
And over all the antique light, the old

Divine perfection, the lost art which drapes

In fairest majesty heroic shapes
Enwrought upon a field of beaten gold.



A DREAMER.

T_J E loved the Morning with her lips a-cold,

He drank large wisdom at Noon's nippled

breast,
And, like a later Jason, sought his gold

Among the fleeces of the winnowed West.
Through days divinely blent of love and light,

By reedy runnels he was wont to sit,
Till broke upon his sense-enraptured sight

The Everlasting Poet's epic, writ
In stars upon the placid forehead of the Night.

He loved to feel the pulses of the Spring,

Thrilling with life that struggled to the sun,
To list the message that the blossoms bring

And count the roses as a guerdon won.
Within the Summer's deep blood-tinctured heart,

To squander days beneath the murmurous trees.
Till through his dreams the cunning hand of Art

Inwrought the splendor of such fantasies,
That Earth, which spake of God, became His
counterpart.

Fain were his feet to follow vagrant ways
When resinous odors filled the eager air,

He loved to wander through the amber haze,
Across the meadows, to the upland where

53



54 - '/ Dreamer.

Sat Autumn pensively amid her sheaves,
Marking the alchemy which all too soon

Transmutes to gold the treasure of her leaves,
In the long season's mello\v afternoon,

And touches naked boughs wherethrough the sad
wind grieves.

He was a dreamer, yet he loved his friends ;

He gained no gold, nor ever garnered care ;
He strove not to attain ambition's ends,

Content that other men should do and dare.
Perhaps he was not noble, yet no fears

Made up the aftermath of his emprise ;
For swift success he never bartered tears

Wrung from the fountains of another's eyes,
Nor marred the melody Love sings among the
Spheres.



COMPENSATION.

A BOAT went out with the ebbing tide,

A-throb with the pulse of the heart of the sea,
And curtsied low to the rushy shore,
And dimpled the waves where the stream grew

wide,

Then rounded the light on the lower lea ;
And the boat had never a sail nor oar,
Nor rudder to temper her destiny,
And Hope was the name that her gunnel bore,
But she came not back to me.

A ship sailed into the silent West,
The dearest pride of my heart was she,
And fair on the sunset's face of gold
Her tapering spars stood clear confest ;
And ah ! 't was as sad as sad could be,
For the days went by and I grew old,
And night spread over the slumbering sea,
But my ship was forgot as a tale that is told,
Nor ever sailed back to me.

I gave a song to the listening air,

It trembled aloft with a new delight,

And bore, in the voice of a strange, sweet bird,

A measure of joy that was half despair ;

55



56 Compensation.

And the song was a part of my soul, my might,
My innermost thought and tenderest word,
But it sank to a moan and was silenced quite,
Like memoried melodies long since heard,
Lost stars in a starless night.

A woman fair with the grace that clings

To moonlit eyes and sun-kissed head,

Leaned low and lightly spake to me,

Till my man's heart leaped with a sense of wings :

" Thy hope to an unknown land is sped,

Thy pride is wrecked in a soundless sea,

And the fragrant flower of song is dead,

Lost to the world and lost to thee,

But love is left," she said.



AVE AMERICA !

AN ODE.
I.

Land, my Mother ! To thy feet I bring
The amplest measure of a faltering song ;

Hope's starlike harbinger ! Wherever wrong
Hath wrought the work of her imagining,
Wherever men have felt the gall of chains
And through the dark have whispered Liberty,

Or women, widowed of divinest dowers,
Have smiled between their sobs to dream of thee,
There hast thou given the solace of thy plains,

The shelter of thy battlemented towers.
Thy hills are mine, O Land made doubly dear

By hallowed homes and yet more hallowed

graves ;
Thy coasts whose marge perennially doth hear

The husky murmurs of innumerous waves ;
Thy forests, too, with shades more soft than sleep,

And sanctities of solitude wherethrough
Strange beauty, which from alien eyes doth keep

Her fair perfection, steals in ever new
And ever growing wonder. Mine thy bowers,

And all the mellow comfort of thy fields
57



58 Arc America !

Nourished with sunlight and the breath of flowers
And aftermath perfumes whose parting yields

An incense fine as prayer. Could I but pass
Long days in silence on thy sloping meads,

Amid the populous rumors of the grass,

Unrest had grown to graciousness, whereof con-
tentment breeds.



II.



And yet, dear Land, a Nation's vows

Are graven on thy laurelled brows ;

For thou wast perfected of fire,

Fair fruitage of the World's desire,

Thy mother Justice, War thy sire.

War when a tyrant's mailed hand

Sent freedom thrilling through the land ;

War when again oppression sought

To dwarf the rights which blood had bought ;

And War, War, War when Treason's mouth

Spat poison through the amber South,

And thy own children struck the blow

Which, aimed aright, had laid thee low.

Hark to the bells !
The large alarm that onward speeds,
Forerunner of undying deeds,
Outrung from spire to spire,

To touch the mild
Peace-pipings with heroic ire !

How the call swells !

Strenuous, wild,



Ai'e America ! 59

Impatient ! And the guns, the guns !

From Sumter booms

The signal to thy thousand looms,
The summons to thy million sons,

Dear Country, to put off the ways

And works of honeyed quietude ;

To meet the rude
Awakening with unquickened breath ;

And with unflinching gaze
To look into the sodden eyes of death.
See the battalions splendidly sweeping

Down from the North !

With unwavering lines, coming forth

To bring sunlight of day

To the marshes where Treason is stealthily creeping,
Black in a habit of gray.



III.



But ah ! the sons who at their mother's feet
Kissed Death's pale lips and knew their joy com-
plete !

Ah ! thou supreme civilian, tender, wise,
With fair peace-offerings in thy rugged hands,

And such divine forgiveness in thy eyes
As knows no counterpart in all the storied lands !

The world's vast harmony by thy devotion
Is made complete ; and through its concords ring

The notes of thy fair life, in ordered motion,
Like melody from some earth-nurtured spring,

Or streams that in the throbbing heart of ocean



60 Are America !

Flow on forever and forever sing.

From thee humanity in every clime
A deeper love of human freedom gains,
While rings the echo of the falling chains

Struck off by thee and made by thee sublime.
And as o'er some imperishable bower

The gentle hand of brotherhood might crave
Love's benediction tenderly to shower,

So were I fain, strong leader of the brave,
To fling the fragrance of this fading flower,

Across the fadeless verdure of thy grave.



IV.



Rare is the recompense of mighty deeds,
And high the heritage of lofty souls;

And tho' the memory of the past recedes

Into the mist of unremembering years,
Tho' Time's wheel rolls

Swift on its axle, scorning human tears

And men's sad laughter, yet the spirit lives

Which makes immortal all great labor done,
All noble thought translated into act,

And ever gives,

Finer than fable, the undying fact

Which lies behind each radiant victory won.
And thou, my Mother, with eternal youth
Set like a pearl above thy unruffled brows,

Art grown more fair that thou awhile didst feel

The bite of steel,



A ve A merica ! 6 1

And in the darkest of thy days wore truth,
The chiefest jewel in thy diadem.

No further need thy fervor to arouse,
For thou art victress and the unpriced gem

Of liberty is thine,

And all the graces that in perfect-statured wo-
manhood combine.
I see thee now, resplendent, prodigal,

With royal opulence of field and mine
Poured in thy broad lap ; with thy granaries all

Bursting to hold the gifts of generous earth ;

I mark thy mellow fruitage, thy red wine,
Sun-tinctured in a million purple hearts ;

The song of comfort that doth mock at dearth ;
I hear the hum which from unnumbered marts
Bruits of thy commerce circling land and sea,
A nation's life-blood pulsing endlessly ;

I hear the clack of laboring looms, and long

Listen elated to the shuttle's song ;
Before the crescent sickles of the free

A continent's fair harvest bows, and shrill,
Unceasing invocations speed the flight
Of tireless messengers, to carry art
To regions that but late have seen the light,

Through nerves which thrill
To bear the deep pulsations of a heart

Which falters not, companioned with a never-
faltering will.

Behold ! great Land, thy majesty, and raise
In deep-voiced ecstasy a song of praise.



62 Avc America !

V.

What of the future, O Land of the World's

aspiration ?
Land of large symmetries wrought on the prairies'

broad faces,

Land ever lulled by the somnolent kiss of the ocean,
Ever enthralled with the azure-eyed lakes, con-
summation
And pride of a continent, deep in whose bosom

no traces
Of tyranny ever have marred a glad nation's

devotion,

What may anointed eyes see
Of the future for thee ?
Deep are the signs and portents, wide in the skies

are they glowing ;
Onward and upward eternally, fleet as thy rivers

are flowing,
Speeds thy divinely appointed destiny, ever and

ever
Seer and Prophet and Bard, glad in their calling,

bestowing
Prophecy, promise, and song, pledge that no

power shall sever
Thee from thy glory, dear Land ; us from thy love,

gentle Mother ;
Thee from the fervor of hearts welded as brother

to brother ;

Us from thy beauty and truth ; thee and thy sons
from each other.



Ave America ! 63

All hail to thee, Beautiful One ! deep reverenced,

love of a nation !
To thee be the hand horizontal uplifted, in grave

salutation ;
In thee are the potencies wrapped, new lights

springing forth of thy being
As the stars from the womb of the night. Press

on, in the vision all-seeing,
Through darkness and dread and despair, to the

dawn and the light and the glory,
Thy 'scutcheon the worth of mankind, thy annals

humanity's story.



SONNETS.



UNCROWNED.

T OVE looked upon me with immortal eyes,

And I became a god with heart of flame ;
Faith, with a woman's lips, pronounced my name

Full tenderly, entreating, loverwise.
Each spake unto me in the other's guise ;

Love said : Believe. Unfaith is true love's shame.
And like a benison Faith's whisper came :

Love is the deepest of my mysteries.

Then I who lacked fine fibre to perceive
Life's high beatitudes, trailed in the dust

The chaplet Heaven had placed upon my head ;
Alas ! in loving I could not believe ;

I dallied with the courtesan Distrust ;

I questioned ! Faith and Love together fled.



67



KARMA.

T3IRTH and desire and death and birth again.

The purgatory of a deathless soul,
Elusive bubbles which forever roll

Down restless rivers to the moaning main ;

The seasons open and the seasons wane,
Eternal bells for dead millenniums toll,
Karma endures, and lays its weight of dole

Upon the tablets of the aching brain.

The deeds of men are eddies in the wave,

Forever forming fainter, wider rings ;
Alas ! there is no potency to save,

Nor for the pain of life a healing balm.

Oh, for the Buddha's holy chastenings !

The blast Nirvana ! The unending calm !



68



EARTH AND NIGHT.
(PARAPHRASE OF WALT WHITMAN.)

f WALK beneath the tender, growing night,

Where darkness makes a mystery of the sea,
Chanting beatitudes, as one made free
And soaring skyward in ecstatic flight.
Upon my lips the south wind breathes delight,
And thro' the slumbering trees pours melody ;
Press close, bare-bosomed joy, for I am he
With eyes anointed to diviner sight.

Still, nodding Night ! that for my solace keepest
A beauty which no touch of tempest mars ;
Sad Earth ! that for departed sunset weepest,
I read a stern evangel in thy scars.
I am the lover in whose heart thou sleepest,
O Night ! that hast the largess of the stars.



SIC ITUR AD ASTRA.

"\ \ TYLO builds on Reason builds upon the sand
A fabric mortal as the human brain,

A fetich-temple crumbling 'neath the strain
Of Love's first touch, and razed at her demand.
Mind is a function, by Omniscience planned,

Dull as digestion, earthly-bred as pain ;

Thought's final triumph is to prove thought vain,
And logic's life is quenched by logic's hand.

The Spirit's intuition, strong and pure,
Alone soars fetterless to realms above,

Leaping in scorn past reason's bounds, secure
Where sentient knowledge dies, true life to prove ;

Emotion, feeling, these alone endure ;

Thank God ! God is not Intellect, but Love.



70



AN EARLY-APRIL MORNING.

A CROSS the sky the rifted clouds pursue

Rare shapes enwrought to wonders manifold,
And robins glance obliquely to behold
The cawing caravans that speck the blue ;
Thy jewels are half a frost and half a dew,
And o'er the earthy stretches of the wold
A warm caress, from fingers still a-cold,
Falls like an old song in a cadence new.

Dear Morning ! with thy maid's hair unconfined

By virgin fillets of a later spring,

Risen as from a rounded dream to find

The world a-riot for a bourgeoning,

Thy eyes spill sleep and sunlight, while the wind

Beats blood to blushes with his gusty wing.



FINIS CORONAT OPUS.

A MBITION'S finger beckoned and I ran

With bleeding feet o'er rugged paths and

drear,

Spurning the inward whispers, soft and clear,
Which said : " In vain ! Thy life is but a span ;
The grave shall cover all." Still, in the van
Of human action, I thought soon to rear
Some mighty monument to vanquished fear,
A shaft to mark the triumph of a Man.

Poor fool ! My gold was lost amid the dross ;
Hope died within me, and, as one who mourns,
I bowed before a bitter sense of loss,
Clinging despairing to the altar's horns,
And raised my eyes to where, upon the cross,
In sad reproval, hung a crown of thorns.



ELECTRA.

I\/TY Love too stately is to be but fair,

Too fair she is for naught but stateliness ;
She bids me Nay, and yet a silent Yes

Dwells in the dusk her shadowy eyelids wear.

My Love's step makes a music in the air,
Touching the sense with a divine caress,
And all the rapture of the dawn doth bless

The light that leaps to life across her hair.

Her mouth is just the love-couch for a song,
And 'mid the fragrance of its riven flowers

Low laughter breaks and trembles close to tears
Mingled of mirth and melody, as a throng
Of bird notes wakes to joy the drowsy hours
And weaves delight through all the grieving
years.



73



BEDTIME.

A S children, who, through all the sunburnt day,
Have tossed aside their playthings, one by

one,

Ceasing each frolic ere 't were well begun
To taste the joyance of some newer play,
When bedtime comes, turn from their games away,
With little feet too heavy now to run
And eyes too full of sleep to miss the sun
Whose beams still on the mother's forehead stay ;

So we, tired children of the garnered years,
Grown weary of our toys of gold and place,
Nor craving uncompanioned days to reap
The harvest of our half remembered tears,
Look in the universal mother's face,

And murmuring : " It is bedtime," fall asleep.



74



DECORATION DAY.

ET fall the roses gently. It may be

That in the sunlight of a fairer clime
They shall rebloom to beauty as sublime
As this departed flower of chivalry ;
And ever as the sobbing of the sea,

Breeze-rippled, breaks to chants of lordlier

rhyme,

Silence your dirges, and in martial time
Let loud-lipped trumpets blazon victory !

Yield not to grief the solace of a tear,

But 'neath the forefront of a spacious sky

Smile all exultant, as they smiled at fear
Who dared to do when doing meant to die.

So best may comrades prove remembrance dear,
So best be hallowed earth where soldiers lie.



75



A SONNET OF SILENCE.

PlPTOE, with finger at her lip, and rare
Red-rose mouth rounded to a song unsung,

A mute maid half a-dream her flowers among,-
Nature, whose love the loves of all men bear,
Whose eyes the eyes of all men have found fair,

Feels in the changes on her spirit rung

The melody of an unspoken tongue,
The eloquence of silence everywhere.

Hushed is the poesy of Summer flowers,
Silent the vast evangel of the stars,

And Time, whose noiseless fingers tell the hours

Like beads upon a vestal's rosary,

Hears voiceless music writ in golden bars,

The mirth of moonlight silent on the sea.



76



VICTOR HUGO.
(MAY 22, 1885.)

VANGELIST of truth, whose sovereign glance
Encompassed centuries, and from the fen
Of passion wrested beauty ; thou whose pen
Ennobled love and glorified romance ;
Great champion of liberty, whose lance
A beacon to the wavering hearts of men
Impaled the false, and ever and again
Bare death to tyranny and fame to France.

To thee immortal laurel wreaths belong,
To us a memory that the world reveres ;

'T was t"hine to know the good, to right the wrong
'T is ours to glean the fruitage of thy years ;

Thou gav'st to us a gift divine thy song,
We give to thee our human tribute tears.



77



WALT WHITMAN.
(MAY 31, 1886.)

T3OLD innovator in the realm of thought ;

Strong-sinewed Titan, righting for the right,
And wresting from the panoplies of night

The glories that the patient stars have caught

From an evanished sun ; brave teacher taught
By Nature's lips to see with Nature's sight,
And so to shed day's fair, unsullied light

Upon the work your rugged hands have wrought.

You stand serene upon your mountain crag,

Unmindful of the shallow hum which fills



The valleys with derision. You can wait,
And waiting, find your own, when prescient Fate
Shall grant slow justice, and unfurl the flag
Of Innocency on a thousand hills.



WALT WHITMAN.
(MARCH 26, 1892.)

ARKNESS and death ? Nay, Pioneer, for thee

The day of deeper vision has begun ;
There is no darkness for the central sun
Nor any death for immortality.
At last the song of all fair songs that be,
At last the guerdon of a race well run,
The upswelling joy to know the victory won,
The river's rapture when it finds the sea.

Ah, thou art wrought in an heroic mould,

The modern man upon whose brow yet stays
A gleam of glory from the age of gold,

A diadem which all the gods have kissed.
Hail and farewell ! flower of the antique days,
Democracy's divine protagonist.



79



TO JOHN KEATS.

r^\EEP in the whisp'ring pine whose profile bars
The moon's white face ; hush'd in the per-
fumed bowers,

Where, languid with the breath of sleeping flowers,
The summer night lies panoplied in stars ;
High on the mountain crags of brakes and scars,
A spirit sought to find in poesy's powers
Some beauty to bedeck time's conquering hours,
Like roses on the flaming front of Mars.

Yet still, tho' lovingly, he sought in vain,

Till nature's blossom bore the bloom of art,

Till ecstasy of joy had wedded pain

In bonds which never hand of man shall part ;

Then found within the chambers of thy brain
The sacred fire to light Endymion's heart.



80



TO HERBERT SPENCER.

HHINKER of ages! probing pregnant deeps
Of potent science, till your trained eye saw,

Amid the maze, a unity of law,
An ordered motion whose pulse ever keeps
Its time-beat while the silent cosmos sleeps,

Calm in its poise ! The glory yours to draw

From myths of special causes the hid flaw
That marks them false. Humanity so reaps

The fruitful harvest that your hands have sown,
And finds in Force, evolved, dispelled, the trace

Of that design which, knowing, yet unknown,
Thrills through a universe from crown to base.

The fact is ours, the honor yours alone
To fling this beacon into trackless space !



81



AN IDLE DAY:

A SEQUENCE OF SONNETS.



ONE O CLOCK.

SALVE.

C LEEP, soft begetter of our fantasies !

Inconsequent philosopher of dreams !
I give thee greeting as a friend who seems

To link my spirit to the slumbering trees ;

Yet farewell for a season ; hours like these

Bear golden freightage on their hurrying streams,
Brave argosies of thought enriched by gleams

Divinely dowered of deepest mysteries.

I am in love with Earth, and find it fair
To lie within the rondure of her arms


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Online LibraryFrancis Howard WilliamsThe flute-player and other poems → online text (page 3 of 5)