John Burroughs.

Songs of nature; online

. (page 11 of 14)
Online LibraryJohn BurroughsSongs of nature; → online text (page 11 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

an encloser of things to be.
My feet strike an apex of the apices of
the stairs ;

On every step bunches of ages, and larger bunches

between the steps ;
All below duly travell'd, and still I mount and


Rise after rise bow the phantoms behind me ;
Afar down I see the huge first Nothing I know

I was even there ;
I waited unseen and always, and slept through the

lethargic mist,
And took my time, and took no hurt from the fetid


Long I was hugg'd close long and long.

Immense have been the preparations for me,
Faithful and friendly the arms that have help'd me.

Cycles ferried my cradle, rowing and rowing like

cheerful boatmen ;

For room to me stars kept aside in their own rings;
They sent influences to look after what was to

hold me.

Before I was born out of my mother, generations

guided me.
My embryo has never been torpid nothing could

overlay it.

For it the nebula cohered to an orb,
The long slow strata piled to rest it on,
Vast vegetables gave it sustenance,
Monstrous sauroids transported it in their mouths,
and deposited it with care.


All forces have been steadily employ'd to complete

and delight me ;
Now on this spot I stand with my robust Soul.


(From "Walt Whitman")

By Walt Whitman

BELIEVE a leaf of grass is no
less than the journey-work
of the stars,

And the pismire is equally per-
fect, and a grain of sand,
and the egg of the wren,
And the tree-toad is a chef-
d'oeuvre for the highest,
And the running blackberry would adorn the parlors

of heaven,
And the narrowest hinge in my hand puts to scorn

all machinery,

And the cow crunching with depressed head sur-
passes any statue,
And a mouse is miracle enough to stagger sextil-

lions of infidels,

And I could come every afternoon of my life to
look at the farmer's girl boiling her iron tea-
kettle and baking short-cake.


I find I incorporate gneiss, coal, long-threaded moss,

fruits, grains, esculent roots,
And am stucco'd with quadrupeds and birds all

And have distanced what is behind me for good

And call anything close again, when I desire it.

In vain the speeding or shyness ;

In vain the plutonic rocks send their old heat
against my approach ;

In vain the mastodon retreats beneath its own
powder'd bones ;

In vain objects stand leagues off, and assume mani-
fold shapes j

In vain the ocean settling in hollows, and the great
monsters lying low ;

In vain the buzzard houses herself with the sky ;

In vain the snake slides through the creepers and

In vain the elk takes to the inner passes of the
woods ;

In vain the razor-bill'd auk sails far north to Lab-
rador ;

I follow quickly, I ascend to the nest in the fissure
of the cliff.



. (From "Walt Whitman")

By Walt Whitman

XEN that rattle the yoke and
chain, or halt in the leafy
shade !
What is that you express in

your eyes ?

It seems to me more than all the
print I have read in my

My tread scares the wood-drake and the wood-
duck, on my distant and day-long ramble ;
They rise together they slowly circle around.

I believe in those wing'd purposes,

And acknowledge red, yellow, white, playing with-
in me,

And consider green and violet, and the tufted
crown, intentional ;

And do not call the tortoise unworthy because she
is not something else ;

And the jay in the woods never studied the gamut,
yet trills pretty well to me ;

And the look of the bay mare shames silliness out
of me.

26 7


(From " Walt Whitman ")

By Walt Whitman

AM he that walks with the ten-
der and growing night ;

I call to the earth and sea, half-
held by the night.

Press close, bare-bosom'd night !

Press close, magnetic, nourishing

night !

Night of south winds ! night of the large few stars !
Still, nodding night ! mad, naked, summer night.

Smile, O voluptuous, cool-breath'd earth !
Earth of the slumbering and liquid trees ;
Earth of departed sunset ! earth of the mountains,
misty-topt !

Earth of the vitreous pour of the full moon, just

tinged with blue !

Earth of shine and dark, mottling the tide of the river!
Earth of the limpid gray of clouds, brighter and

clearer for my sake !
Far-swooping elbow'd earth ! rich, apple-blossom'd

earth !
Smile, for your lover comes !

Prodigal, you have given me love ! Therefore I to

you give love !
O unspeakable, passionate love !



(From " Walt Whitman ")

By Walt Whitman

OU sea ! I resign myself to you
also I guess what you
I behold from the beach your

crooked inviting fingers ;
I believe you refuse to go back

without feeling of me ;
We must have a turn together I undress

hurry me out of sight of the land ;
Cushion me soft, rock me in billowy drowse ;
Dash me with amorous wet I can repay you.

Sea of stretch'd ground-swells !

Sea breathing broad and convulsive breaths !

Sea of the brine of life ! sea of unshovell'd yet

always-ready graves !
Howler and scooper of storms ! capricious and

dainty sea !
I am integral with you I too am of one phase,

and of all phases.


(From " Leaves of Grass ")

By Walt Whitman

IOMETHING startles me where

I thought I was safest ;
I withdraw from the still woods

I loved ;

I will not go now on the past-
ures to walk ;

I will not strip the clothes from
my body to meet my lover
the sea;

I will not touch my flesh to the earth, as to other
flesh, to renew me.


O how can it be that the ground itself does not

sicken ?

How can you be alive, you growths of spring ?
How can you furnish health, you blood of herbs,

roots, orchards, grain ?
Are they not continually putting distempered

corpses within you ?
Is not every continent work'd over and over with

sour dead ?

Where have you disposed of their carcasses ?
Those drunkards and gluttons of so many genera-


Where have you drawn off all the foul liquid and
meat ?

I do not see any of it upon you to-day or per-
haps I am deceiv'd ;

I will run a furrow with my plough I will
press my spade through the sod, and turn it up
underneath ;

I am sure I shall expose some of the foul meat.


Behold this compost ! behold it well !
Perhaps every mite has once form'd part of a sick

person Yet behold !
The grass of spring covers the prairies,
The bean bursts noiselessly through the mould in

the garden,

The delicate spear of the onion pierces upward,
The apple-buds cluster together on the apple-
The resurrection of the wheat appears with pale

visage out of its graves,
The tinge awakes over the willow-tree and the

The he-birds carol mornings and evenings, while

the she-birds sit on their nests,
The young of poultry break through the hatched

The new-born of animals appear the calf is dropt

from the cow, the colt from the mare,
Out of its little hill faithfully rise the potato's dark

green leaves,

Out of its hill rises the yellow maize-stalk the

lilacs bloom in the door-yards ;
The summer growth is innocent and disdainful

above all those strata of sour dead.
What chemistry !

That the winds are really not infectious,
That this is no cheat, this transparent green-wash

of the sea, which is so amorous after me,
That it is safe to allow it to lick my naked body

all over with its tongues,
That it will not endanger me with the fevers that

have deposited themselves in it,
That all is clean forever and forever.
That the cool drink from the well tastes so good,
That blackberries are so flavorous and juicy,
That the fruits of the apple-orchard, and of the

orange-orchard that melons, grapes, peaches,

plums, will none of them poison me,
That when I recline on the grass I do not catch

any disease,
Though probably every spear of grass rises out of

what was once a catching disease.


Now I am terrified at the Earth ! it is that calm and


It grows such sweet things out of such corruptions,
It turns harmless and stainless on its axis, with

such endless successions of diseas'd corpses,
It distils such exquisite winds out of such infused



It renews with such unwitting looks, its prodigal,

annual, sumptuous crops,
It gives such divine materials to men, and accepts

such leavings from them at last.


(From " Leaves of Grass ")
By Walt Whitman

HERE was a child went forth
every day;

And the first object he look'd up-
on, that object he became ;

And that object became part of
him for the day, or a certain
part of the day, or for many
years, or stretching cycles of

The early lilacs became part of this child,

And grass, and white and red morning-glories, and
white and red clover, and the song of the phoebe-

And the Third-month lambs, and the sow's pink-
faint litter, and the mare's foal, and the cow's

And the noisy brood of the barn-yard, or by the
mire of the pond-side,


And the fish suspending themselves so curiously
below there and the beautiful curious

And the water-plants with their graceful flat heads
all became part of him.

The field-sprouts of Fourth-month and Fifth-
month became part of him ;

Winter-grain sprouts, and those of the light-yellow
corn, and the esculent roots of the garden,

And the apple-trees cover'd with blossoms, and
the fruit afterward, and wood-berries, and the
commonest weeds by the road ;

And the old drunkard staggering home from the
out-house of the tavern, whence he had lately

And the school-mistress that pass'd on her way to
the school,

And the friendly boys that pass'd and the quarrel-
some boys,

And the tidy and fresh-cheek'd girls and the
barefoot negro boy and girl,

And all the changes of city and country, wherever
he went.

His own parents,

He that had fathered him, and she that had con-

ceiv'd him in her womb, and birth'd him,
They gave this child more of themselves than

that ;
They gave him afterward every day they became

part of him.

2 74

The mother at home, quietly placing the dishes on

the supper-table ;
The mother with mild words clean her cap and

gown, a wholesome odor falling off her person

and clothes as she walks by ;
The father, strong, self-sufficient, manly, mean,

anger'd, unjust ;
The blow, the quick loud word, the tight bargain,

the crafty lure,

The family usages, the language, the company, the
furniture the yearning and swelling heart,

Affection that will not be gainsay'd the sense
of what is real the thought if, after all, it
should prove unreal,

The doubts of day-time and the doubts of night-
time the curious whether and how,

Whether that which appears so is so, or is it all
flashes and specks ?

Men and women crowding fast in the streets if
they are not flashes and specks, what are they ?

The streets themselves, and the facades of houses,
and goods in the windows,

Vehicles, teams, the heavy-plank'd wharves the
huge crossing at the ferries,

The village on the highland, seen from afar at sun-
set the river between,

Shadows, aureola and mist, the light falling on
roofs and gables of white or brown, two miles

The schooner near by, sleepily dropping down the
tide the little boat slack-tow'd astern,


The hurrying tumbling waves, quick-broken crests,

The strata of color'd clouds, the long bar of ma-
roon-tint, away solitary by itself the spread
of purity it lies motionless in,

The horizon's edge, the flying sea-crow, the fra-
grance of salt marsh and shore mud ;

These became part of that child who went forth
every day, and who now goes, and will always
go forth every day.


By Thomas Buchanan Read

ITHIN the sober realm of leaf-
less trees
The russet year inhaled the

dreamy air ;
Like some tanned reaper in his

hour of ease,

When all the fields are lying
brown and bare.

The gray barns, looking from their hazy hills,
O'er the dim waters, widening in the vales,

Sent down the air a greeting to the mills,
On the dull thunder of alternate flails.

All sights were mellowed, and all sounds subdued,
The hills seemed farther and the streams sang low;

As in a dream, the distant woodman hewed
His winter log with many a muffled blow.

The embattled forests, erewhile, armed in gold,
Their banners bright with every martial hue,

Now stood, like some sad beaten host of old
Withdrawn afar in Time's remotest blue.

On slumberous wings the vulture tried his flight ;

The dove scarce heard his sighing mate's com-
plaint ;
And like a star, slow drowning in the light,

The village church vane seemed to pale and faint.

The sentinel cock upon the hill-side crew
Crew thrice, and all was stiller than before

Silent till some replying warden blew

His alien horn, and then was heard no more.

Where, erst, the jay within the elm's tall crest,
Made garrulous trouble round her unfledged
young ;

And where the oriole hung her swaying nest,
By every light wind like a censer swung ;

Where sang the noisy masons of the eaves,
The busy swallows circling ever near,

Foreboding, as the rustic mind believes,
An early harvest, and a plenteous year ;

Where every bird that waked the vernal feast

Shook the sweet slumber from its wings at morn,

To warn the reaper of the rosy east ;
All now was songless, empty, and forlorn.


Alone, from out the stubble, piped the quail,

And croaked the crow through all the dreary
gloom ;

Alone the pheasant, drumming in the vale,
Made echo to the distant cottage-loom.

There was no bud, no bloom upon the bowers;

The spiders wove their thin shrouds night by

night ;
The thistle-down, the only ghost of flowers,

Sailed slowly by passed noiseless out of sight.

Amid all this in this most cheerless air,

And where the woodbine shed upon the porch

Its crimson leaves, as if the Year stood there,
Firing the floor with its inverted torch ;

Amid all this, the centre of the scene,

The white-haired matron, with monotonous

Plied the swift wheel, and with her joyless mien,

Sat like a fate, and watched the flying thread.

She had known sorrow. He had walked with her,
Oft supped, and broke with her the ashen crust,

And, in the dead leaves, still she heard the stir
Of his black mantle trailing in the dust.

While yet her cheek was bright with summer

Her country summoned, and she gave her all,
And twice, war bowed to her his sable plume

Re-gave the swords, to rust upon the wall.


Re-gave the swords but not the hand that drew,
And struck for liberty the dying blow ;

Nor him who, to his sire and country true,
Fell mid the ranks of the invading foe.

Long, but hot loud, the droning wheel went on,
Like the low murmur of a hive at noon ;

Long, but not loud, the memory of the gone,
Breathed through her lips a sad and tremulous tune.

At last the thread was snapped her head was

bowed ;

Life dropped the distaff through his hands serene;
And loving neighbors smoothed her careful shroud,
While Death and Winter closed the Autumn


By Richard Henry Dana

THOU little bird, thou dweller by the sea,
Why takest thou its melancholy voice ?
Why with that boding cry
O'er the waves dost thou fly?
O, rather, bird, with me

Through the fair land rejoice !

Thy flitting form comes ghostly dim and pale,
As driven by a beating storm at sea ;

Thy cry is weak and scared,
As if thy mates had shared

The doom of us. Thy wail
What does it bring to me ?


Thou call'st along the sand, and haunt'st the surge,
Restless and sad ; as if, in strange accord

With the motion, and the roar
Of waves that drive to shore,

One spirit did ye urge

The Mystery the Word.

Of thousands thou both sepulchre and pall,
Old ocean, art ! A requiem o'er the dead

From out thy gloomy cells
A tale of mourning tells

Tells of man's woe and fall,
His sinless glory fled.

Then turn thee, little bird, and take thy flight
Where the complaining sea shall sadness bring

Thy spirit never more.
Come, quit with me the shore

For gladness, and the light

Where birds of summer sing.


By Henry David ^horeau

LIGHT-WINGED Smoke! Icarianbird,
Melting thy pinions in thy upward flight ;
Lark without song, and messenger of dawn,
Circling above the hamlets as thy nest ;
Or else, departing dream, and shadowy form
Of midnight vision, gathering up thy skirts ;
By night star-veiling, and by day


Darkening the light and blotting out the sun ;
Go thou, my incense, upward from this hearth,
And ask the gods to pardon this clear flame.


By Henry David ^fhoreau

fewfoundland air,
"ountain-head and source of


Dew-cloth, dream-drapery,
And napkin spread by fays ;
Drifting meadow of the air,
Where bloom the daisied banks and violets,
And in whose fenny labyrinth
The bittern booms and heron wades ;
Spirit of lakes and seas and rivers,
Bear only perfumes and the scent
Of healing herbs to just men's fields.


By James Hogg

BIRD of the wilderness,
Blithesome and cumberless,
Sweet be thy matin o'er moorland and lea !
Emblem of happiness,
Blest is thy dwelling-place :
O to abide in the desert with thee !


Wild is thy lay, and loud,

Far in the downy cloud ;
Love gives it energy love gave it birth !

Where, on thy dewy wing

Where art thou journeying ?
Thy lay is in heaven, thy love is on earth.

O'er fell and fountain sheen,

O'er moor and mountain green,
O'er the red streamer that heralds the day ;

Over the cloudlet dim,

Over the rainbow's rim,
Musical cherub, soar, singing, away !

Then, when the gloaming comes,

Low in the heather blooms,
Sweet will thy welcome and bed of love be !

Emblem of happiness,

Blest is thy dwelling-place
O to abide in the desert with thee !


By John Milton

SWEET bird, that shunn'st the noise of folly,
Most musical, most melancholy!
Thee, chantress, oft, the woods among,
I woo, to hear thy even-song :
And, missing thee, I walk unseen
On the dry smooth-shaven green,
To behold the wandering moon,
Riding near her highest noon,


Like one that had been led astray
Through the heaven's wide pathless way;
And oft, as if her head she bowed,
Stooping through a fleecy cloud.


By John Milton

|O hear the lark begin his flight,

And singing startle the dull

From his watch-tower in the

Till the dappled dawn doth rise ;

Then to come in spite of sorrow,
And at my window bid good morrow,
Through the sweet-brier, or the vine,
Or the twisted eglantine ;
While the cock with lively din
Scatters the rear of Darkness thin,
And to the stack, or the barn-door,
Stoutly struts his dames before :
Oft listening how the hounds and horn
Cheerly rouse the slumbering Morn,
From the side of some hoar hill
Through the high wood echoing shrill :
Sometime walking, not unseen,
By hedge-row elms, on hillocks green,
Right against the eastern gate,
Where the great sun begins his state,

Robed in flames, and amber light,

The clouds in thousand liveries dight ;

While the ploughman near at hand

Whistles o'er the furrowed land,

And the milkmaid singeth blithe,

And the mower whets his scythe,

And every shepherd tells his tale

Under the hawthorn in the dale.

Straight mine eye hath caught new pleasures

Whilst the landscape round it measures j

Russet lawns, and fallows gray,

Where the nibbling flocks do stray,

Mountains, on whose barren breast

The laboring clouds do often rest,

Meadows trim with daisies pied,

Shallow brooks, and rivers wide ;

Towers and battlements it sees

Bosomed high in tufted trees,

Where perhaps some beauty lies,

The cynosure of neighboring eyes.


By William Cowper

LITTLE inmate, full of mirth,
Chirping on my kitchen hearth,
Whereso'er be thine abode
Always harbinger of good,


Pay me for thy warm retreat
With a song more soft and sweet j
In return thou shalt receive
Such a strain as I can give.

Thus thy praise shall be expressed,
Inoffensive, welcome guest !
While the rat is on the scout,
And the mouse with curious snout,
With what vermin else infest
Every dish, and spoil the best ;
Frisking thus before the fire,
Thou hast all thine heart's desire.

Though in voice and shape they be
Formed as if akin to thee,
Thou surpassest, happier far,
Happiest grasshoppers that are ;
Theirs is but a summer's song
Thine endures the winter long,
Unimpaired and shrill, and clear,
Melody throughout the year.

Neither night nor dawn of day
Puts a period to thy play :
Sing then and extend thy span
Far beyond the date of man j
Wretched man, whose years are spent
In repining discontent,
Lives not, aged though he be,
Half a span, compared with thee.


By James Gates Percival

thy fair bosom, silver lake,
The wild swan spreads his

snowy sail,
And round his breast the ripples

As down he bears before the


On thy fair bosom, waveless stream,

The dipping paddle echoes far,
And flashes in the moonlight gleam,

And bright reflects the polar star.

The waves along thy pebbly shore,

As blows the north-wind, heave their foam,

And curl around the dashing oar,
As late the boatman hies him home.

How sweet, at set of sun, to view

Thy golden mirror spreading wide,
And see the mist of mantling blue

p'loat round the distant mountain's side.

At midnight hour, as shines the moon,

A sheet of silver spreads below,
And swift she cuts, at highest noon,

Light clouds, like wreaths of purest snow.


On thy fair bosom, silver lake,
O ! I could ever sweep the oar, -

When early birds at morning wake,
And evening tells us toil is o'er I


By Joseph Blanco White

|YSTERIOUS Night ! when

our first parent knew
Thee, from report divine, and

heard thy name,
Did he not tremble for this lovely

This glorious canopy of Light

and Blue ?

Yet, 'neath a curtain of translucent dew,
Bathed in the rays of the great setting Flame,
Hesperus, with the Host of Heaven, came,
And lo ! Creation widened on Man's view.
Who could have thought such Darkness lay con-

Within thy beams, O Sun ! or who could find,
Whilst flower and leaf and insect stood revealed,
That to such countless Orbs thou mad'st us blind !
Why do we then shun Death with anxious strife
If Light can thus deceive, wherefore not Life ?


By James Montgomery

HERE is a flower, a little flower
With silver crest and golden eye,
That welcomes every changing

And weathers every sky.

The prouder beauties of the field
In gay but quick succession shine ;
Race after race their honors yield,
They flourish and decline.

But this small flower, to Nature dear,
While moons and stars their courses run,
Inwreathes the circle of the year
Companion of the sun.

It smiles upon the lap of May,
To sultry August spreads its charm,
Lights pale October on his way,
And twines December's arm.

The purple heath and golden broom,
On moory mountains catch the gale ;
O'er lawns the lily sheds perfume,
The violet in the vale.

But this bold floweret climbs the hill,
Hides in the forest, haunts the glen,
Plays on the margin of the rill,
Peeps round the fox's den.


Within the garden's cultured round
It shares the sweet carnation's bed ;
And blooms on consecrated ground
In honor of the dead.

The lambkin crops its crimson gem ;
The wild bee murmurs on its breast,
The blue-fly bends its pensile stem
Light o'er the skylark's nest.

'Tis Flora's page in every place,
In every season, fresh and fair ;
It opens with perennial grace,
And blossoms everywhere.

On waste and woodland, rock and plain,
Its humble buds unheeded rise ;
The rose has but a summer reign ;
The Daisy never dies !


By William Blake

IGER ! Tiger ! burning bright,
In the forests of the night ;
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symme-
try ?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burned the fire of thine eyes ?

On what wings dare he aspire ?

What the hand dare seize the fire ?


And what shoulder, and what art,
Could twist the sinews of thine heart ?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand ? and what dread feet ?

What the hammer, what the chain ?
In what furnace was thy brain ?
What the anvil ? what dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp ?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And watered heaven with their tears,
Did he smile his work to see ?
Did He, Who made the Lamb, make thee ?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 11 13 14

Online LibraryJohn BurroughsSongs of nature; → online text (page 11 of 14)