« PreviousContinue »
Cain's nature thou wast wont to praise,
Not tally with God's usual ways! !"
And I cowered deprecatingly
"Thou Love of God! Or let me die,
Or grant what shall seem heaven almost!
Let me not know that all is lost,
Though lost it be leave me not tied
To this despair, this corpse-like bride!
Let that old life seem mine- no more
With limitation as before,
With darkness, hunger, toil, distress:
Be all the earth a wilderness!
Only let me go on, go on,
Still hoping ever and anon
To reach one eve the Better Land!"
Then did the form expand, expand-
I knew him through the dread disguise
As the whole God within his eyes
I rose from, silvered thick with dew.
Was this a vision? False or true?
Since then, three varied years are spent,
And commonly my mind is bent
To think it was a dream - be sure
A mere dream and distemperature
The last day's watching: then the night,
The shock of that strange Northern Light
head swimming, bred in me
A dream. And so I live, you see,
Go through the world, try, prove, reject,
Prefer, still struggling to effect
My warfare; happy that I can
Be crossed and thwarted as a man,
Not left in God's contempt apart,
With ghastly smooth life, dead at heart,
Tame in earth's paddock as her prize.
Thank God, she still each method tries
To catch me, who may yet escape,
She knows, the fiend in angel's shape
Thank God, no paradise stands barred
To entry, and I find it hard
To be a Christian, as I said!
Still every now and then my head
Raised glad, sinks mournful—all grows drear
Spite of the sunshine, while I fear
And think, "How dreadful to be grudged
No ease henceforth, as one that's judged,
Condemned to earth forever, shut
But Easter-Day breaks! But
Christ rises! Mercy every way
- and who can say!
LONDON AND FLORENCE, 184- 185-.
"TRANSCENDENTALISM: A POEM IN TWELVE
STOP playing, poet! May a brother speak?
'Tis you speak, that's your error. Song's our art:
Whereas you please to speak these naked thoughts
Instead of draping them in sights and sounds.
-True thoughts, good thoughts, thoughts fit to treasure up!
But why such long prolusion and display,
Such turning and adjustment of the harp,
And taking it upon your breast, at length,
Only to speak dry words across its strings?
Stark-naked thought is in request enough:
Speak prose and hollo it till Europe hears!
The six-foot Swiss tube, braced about with bark,
Which helps the hunter's voice from Alp to Alp -
Exchange our harp for that, who hinders you?
But here's your fault; grown men want thought, you think; Thought 's what they mean by verse, and seek in verse: Boys seek for images and melody,
Quite otherwise! Objects throng our youth, 't is true;
We see and hear and do not wonder much:
you could tell us what they mean, indeed!
As German Boehme never cared for plants
Until it happed, a-walking in the fields,
He noticed all at once that plants could speak,
Nay, turned with loosened tongue to talk with him.
That day the daisy had an eye indeed –
Colloquized with the cowslip on such themes!
We find them extant yet in Jacob's prose.
But by the time youth slips a stage or two
While reading prose in that tough book he wrote,
(Collating and emendating the same
And settling on the sense most to our mind,)
We shut the clasps and find life's summer past.
Then, who helps more, pray, to repair our loss -
Another Boehme with a tougher book
And subtler meanings of what roses say,
Or some stout Mage like him of Halberstadt,
John, who made things Boehme wrote thoughts about?
He with a "look you!" vents a brace of rhymes,
And in there breaks the sudden rose herself,
Over us, under, round us every side,
Nay, in and out the tables and the chairs
And musty volumes, Boehme's book and all,
Buries us with a glory, young once more,
Pouring heaven into this shut house of life.
So come, the harp back to your heart again! You are a poem, though your poem 's nought. The best of all you showed before, believe, Was your own boy-face o'er the finer chords Bent, following the cherub at the top
That points to God with his paired half-moon wings.
HOW IT STRIKES A CONTEMPORARY.
I ONLY knew one poet in my
And this, or something like it, was his
You saw go up and down Valladolid,
A man of mark, to know next time you saw.
His very serviceable suit of black
Was courtly once and conscientious still,
And many might have worn it, though none did :
The cloak, that somewhat shone and showed the threads
Had purpose, and the ruff, significance.
He walked and tapped the pavement with his cane,
Scenting the world, looking it full in face,
An old dog, bald and blindish, at his heels.
They turned up, now, the alley by the church,
That leads no whither; now, they breathed themselves
On the main promenade just at the wrong time:
You'd come upon his scrutinizing hat,
Making a peaked shade blacker than itself
Against the single window spared some house
Intact yet with its mouldered Moorish work,
Or else surprise the ferrel of his stick
Trying the mortar's temper 'tween the chinks
Of some new shop a-building, French and fine.
He stood and watched the cobbler at his trade,
The man who slices lemons into drink,
The coffee-roaster's brazier, and the boys
That volunteer to help him turn its winch.
He glanced o'er books on stalls with half an eye,
And fly-leaf ballads on the vender's string,
And broad-edge bold-print posters by the wall.
He took such cognizance of men and things,
beat a horse, you felt he saw ;
If any cursed a woman, he took note;
Yet stared at nobody, you stared at him,
And found, less to your pleasure than surprise,
He seemed to know you and expect as much.
So, next time that a neighbor's tongue was loosed,
It marked the shameful and notorious fact,
We had among us, not so much a spy,
As a recording chief-inquisitor,
The town's true master if the town but knew!
We merely kept a governor for form,
While this man walked about and took account
Of all thought, said and acted, then went home,
And wrote it fully to our Lord the King
Who has an itch to know things, he knows why,
And reads them in his bed-room of a night.
Oh, you might smile! there wanted not a touch,
A tang of . . . well, it was not wholly ease
As back into your mind the man's look came
Stricken in years a little, such a brow
had to live under! - clear as flint On either side the formidable nose
Curved, cut and colored like an eagle's claw.
Had he to do with A's surprising fate?
When altogether old B disappeared,
And young C got his mistress, was 't our friend, His letter to the King, that did it all?
What paid the bloodless man for so much pains?
Our Lord the King has favorites manifold,
And shifts his ministry some once a month;
Our city gets new governors at whiles,
But never word or sign, that I could hear,
Notified to this man about the streets;
The King's approval of those letters conned
The last thing duly at the dead of night.
Did the man love his office?
Exhorting when none heard -
Frowned our Lord, "Beseech me not!