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Johnson, Thomas H., ed. Complete Poems. Boston: Llittle, Brown, 1960. PS1541 .A1



Between the form of Life and Life

The difference is as big

As Liquor at the Lip between

And Liquor in the Jug

The latter -- excellent to keep --

But for ecstatic need

The corkless is superior --

I know for I have tried




His Bill is clasped -- his Eye forsook --

His Feathers wilted low --

The Claws that clung, like lifeless Gloves

Indifferent hanging now --

The Joy that in his happy Throat

Was waiting to be poured

Gored through and through with Death, to be

Assassin of a Bird

Resembles to my outraged mind

The firing in Heaven,

On Angels -- squandering for you

Their Miracles of Tune --




The spry Arms of the Wind

If I could crawl between

I have an errand imminent

To an adjoining Zone --

I should not care to stop

My Process is not long

The Wind could wait without the Gate

Or stroll the Town among.

To ascertain the House

And is the soul at Home

And hold the Wick of mine to it

To light, and then return --




The Crickets sang

And set the Sun

And Workmen finished one by one

Their Seam the Day upon.

The low Grass loaded with the Dew

The Twilight stood, as Strangers do

With Hat in Hand, polite and new

To stay as if, or go.

A Vastness, as a Neighbor, came,

A Wisdom, without Face, or Name,

A Peace, as Hemispheres at Home

And so the Night became.




Like Men and Women Shadows walk

Upon the Hills Today --

With here and there a mighty Bow

Or trailing Courtesy

To Neighbors doubtless of their own

Not quickened to perceive

Minuter landscape as Ourselves

And Boroughs where we live --




We do not know the time we lose --

The awful moment is

And takes its fundamental place

Among the certainties --

A firm appearance still inflates

The card -- the chance -- the friend --

The spectre of solidities

Whose substances are sand --




The Bird did prance -- the Bee did play --

The Sun ran miles away

So blind with joy he could not choose

Between his Holiday

The morn was up -- the meadows out

The Fences all but ran,

Republic of Delight, I thought

Where each is Citizen --

From Heavy laden Lands to thee

Were seas to cross to come

A Caspian were crowded --

Too near thou art for Fame --




A Diamond on the Hand

To Custom Common grown

Subsides from its significance

The Gem were best unknown --

Within a Seller’s Shrine

How many sight and sigh

And cannot, but are mad for fear

That any other buy.




I fit for them --

I seek the Dark

Till I am thorough fit.

The labor is a sober one

With this sufficient sweet

That abstinence of mine produce

A purer food for them, if I succeed,

If not I had

The transport of the Aim --




None who saw it ever told it

‘Tis as hid as Death

Had for that specific treasure

A departing breath --

Surfaces may be invested

Did the Diamond grow

General as the Dandelion

Would you serve it so?




Some Wretched creature, savior take

Who would exult to die

And leave for thy sweet mercy’s sake

Another Hour to me




That this should feel the need of Death

The same as those that lived

Is such a Feat of Irony

As never was -- achieved --

Not satisfied to ape the Great

In his simplicity

The small must die, as well as He --

Oh the Audacity --




There is strength in proving that it can be borne

Although it tear --

What are the sinews of such cordage for

Except to bear

The ship might be of satin had it not to fight --

To walk on seas requires cedar Feet




The largest Fire ever known

Occurs each Afternoon --

Discovered is without surprise

Proceeds without concern --

Consumes and no report to men

An Occidental Town,

Rebuilt another morning

To be burned down again.




The murmuring of Bees, has ceased

But murmuring of some

Posterior, prophetic,

Has simultaneous come.

The lower metres of the Year

When Nature’s laugh is done

The Revelations of the Book

Whose Genesis was June.

Appropriate Creatures to her change

The Typic Mother sends

As Accent fades to interval

With separating Friends

Till what we speculate, has been

And thoughts we will not show

More intimate with us become

Than Persons, that we know.




There is another Loneliness

That many die without --

Not want of friend occasions it

Or circumstances of Lot

But nature, sometimes, sometimes thought

And whoso it befall

Is richer than could be revealed

By mortal numeral --




A Mine there is no Man would own

But must it be conferred,

Demeaning by exclusive wealth

A Universe beside --

Potosi never to be spent

But hoarded in the mind

What Misers wring their hands tonight

For Indies in the Ground!




Exhilaration is the Breeze

That lifts us from the Ground

And leaves us in another place

Whose statement is not found --

Returns us not, but after time

We soberly descend

A little newer for the term

Upon Enchanted Ground --




Paradise is that old mansion

Many owned before --

Occupied by each an instant

Then reversed the Door --

Bliss is frugal of her Leases

Adam taught her Thrift

Bankrupt once through his excesses --




This slow Day moved along --

I heard its axles go

As if they could not hoist themselves

They hated motion so --

I told my soul to come --

It was no use to wait --

We went and played and came again

And it was out of sight --




Time does go on --

I tell it gay to those who suffer now --

They shall survive --

There is a sun --

They don’t believe it now --




‘Tis my first night beneath the Sun

If I should spend it here --

Above him is too low a height

For his Barometer

Who Airs of expectation breathes

And takes the Wind at prime --

But Distance his Delights confides

To those who visit him --




A great Hope fell

You heard no noise

The Ruin was within

Oh cunning wreck that told no tale

And let no Witness in

The mind was built for mighty Freight

For dread occasion planned

How often foundering at Sea

Ostensibly, on Land

A not admitting of the wound

Until it grew so wide

That all my Life had entered it

And there were troughs beside

A closing of the simple lid

That opened to the sun

Until the tender Carpenter

Perpetual nail it down --




Had we known the Ton she bore

We had helped the terror

But she straighter walked for Freight

So be hers the error --




Oh Sumptuous moment

Slower go

That I may gloat on thee --

‘Twill never be the same to starve

Now I abundance see --

Which was to famish, then or now --

The difference of Day

Ask him unto the Gallows led --

With morning in the sky --




Shall I take thee, the Poet said

To the propounded word?

Be stationed with the Candidates

Till I have finer tried --

The Poet searched Philology

And when about to ring

For the suspended Candidate

There came unsummoned in --

That portion of the Vision

The Word applied to fill

Not unto nomination

The Cherubim reveal --




Soft as the massacre of Suns

By Evening’s Sabres slain




These are the Nights that Beetles love --

From Eminence remote

Drives ponderous perpendicular

His figure intimate

The terror of the Children

The merriment of men

Depositing his Thunder

He hoists abroad again --

A Bomb upon the Ceiling

Is an improving thing --

It keeps the nerves progressive

Conjecture flourishing --

Too dear the Summer evening

Without discreet alarm --

Supplied by Entomology

With its remaining charm --




Tell all the Truth but tell it slant --

Success in Circuit lies

Too bright for our infirm Delight

The Truth’s superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased

With explanation kind

The Truth must dazzle gradually

Or every man be blind --




That odd old man is dead a year --

We miss his stated Hat.

‘Twas such an evening bright and stiff

His faded lamp went out.

Who miss his antiquated Wick --

Are any hoar for him?

Waits any indurated mate

His wrinkled coming Home?

Oh Life, begun in fluent Blood

And consummated dull!

Achievement contemplating thee --

Feels transitive and cool.




The Merchant of the Picturesque

A Counter has and sales

But is within or negative

Precisely as the calls --

To Children he is small in price

And large in courtesy --

It suits him better than a check

Their artless currency --

Of Counterfeits he is so shy

Do one advance so near

As to behold his ample flight --




The smouldering embers blush --

Oh Hearts within the Coal

Hast thou survived so many years?

The smouldering embers smile --

Soft stirs the news of Light

The stolid seconds glow

One requisite has Fire that lasts

Prometheus never knew --




The Snow that never drifts --

The transient, fragrant snow

That comes a single time a Year

Is softly driving now --

So thorough in the Tree

At night beneath the star

That it was February’s Foot

Experience would swear --

Like Winter as a Face

We stern and former knew

Repaired of all but Loneliness

By Nature’s Alibit --

Were every storm so spice

The Value could not be --

We buy with contrast -- Pang is good

As near as memory --




The Wind took up the Northern Things

And piled them in the south --

Then gave the East unto the West

And opening his mouth

The four Divisions of the Earth

Did make as to devour

While everything to corners slunk

Behind the awful power --

The Wind -- unto his Chambers went

And nature ventured out --

Her subjects scattered into place

Her systems ranged about

Again the smoke from Dwellings rose

The Day abroad was heard --

How intimate, a Tempest past

The Transport of the Bird --




Too cold is this

To warm with Sun --

Too stiff to bended be,

To joint this Agate were a work --

Outstaring Masonry --

How went the Agile Kernel out

Contusion of the Husk

Nor Rip, nor wrinkle indicate

But just an Asterisk.




The Frost of Death was on the Pane --

"Secure your Flower" said he.

Like Sailors fighting with a Leak

We fought Mortality.

Our passive Flower we held to Sea --

To Mountain -- To the Sun --

Yet even on his Scarlet shelf

To crawl the Frost begun --

We pried him back

Ourselves we wedged

Himself and her between,

Yet easy as the narrow Snake

He forked his way along

Till all her helpless beauty bent

And then our wrath begun --

We hunted him to his Ravine

We chased him to his Den --

We hated Death and hated Life

And nowhere was to go --

Than Sea and continent there is

A larger -- it is Woe --




The duties of the Wind are few,

To cast the ships, at Sea,

Establish March, the Floods escort,

And usher Liberty.

The pleasures of the Wind are broad,

To dwell Extent among,

Remain, or wander,

Speculate, or Forests entertain.

The kinsmen of the Wind are Peaks

Azof -- the Equinox,

Also with Bird and Asteroid

A bowing intercourse.

The limitations of the Wind

Do he exist, or die,

Too wise he seems for Wakelessness,

However, know not i.




A Spider sewed at Night

Without a Light

Upon an Arc of White.

If Ruff it was of Dame

Or Shroud of Gnome

Himself himself inform.

Of Immortality

His Strategy

Was Physiognomy.




Her sovereign People

Nature knows as well

And is as fond of signifying

As if fallible --




The Day grew small, surrounded tight

By early, stooping Night --

The Afternoon in Evening deep

Its Yellow shortness dropt --

The Winds went out their martial ways

The Leaves obtained excuse --

November hung his Granite Hat

Upon a nail of Plush --




The Face we choose to miss --

Be it but for a Day

As absent as a Hundred Years,

When it has rode away.




The Props assist the House

Until the House is built

And then the Props withdraw

And adequate, erect,

The House support itself

And cease to recollect

The Auger and the Carpenter --

Just such a retrospect

Hath the perfected Life --

A past of Plank and Nail

And slowness -- then the Scaffolds drop

Affirming it a Soul.




The Work of Her that went,

The Toil of Fellows done --

In Ovens green our Mother bakes,

By Fires of the Sun.




Ourselves we do inter with sweet derision.

The channel of the dust who once achieves

Invalidates the balm of that religion

That doubts as fervently as it believes.




In thy long Paradise of Light

No moment will there be

When I shall long for Earthly Play

And mortal Company --




When Etna basks and purrs

Naples is more afraid

Than when she show her Garnet Tooth --

Security is loud --




After a hundred years

Nobody knows the Place

Agony that enacted there

Motionless as Peace

Weeds triumphant ranged

Strangers strolled and spelled

At the lone Orthography

Of the Elder Dead

Winds of Summer Fields

Recollect the way --

Instinct picking up the Key

Dropped by memory --




After the Sun comes out

How it alters the World --

Waggons like messengers hurry about

Yesterday is old --

All men meet as if

Each foreclosed a news --

Fresh as a Cargo from Batize

Nature’s qualities --




I noticed People disappeared

When but a little child --

Supposed they visited remote

Or settled Regions wild --

But did because they died

A Fact withheld the little child --




How many schemes may die

In one short Afternoon

Entirely unknown

To those they most concern --

The man that was not lost

Because by accident

He varied by a Ribbon’s width

From his accustomed route --

The Love that would not try

Because beside the Door

It must be competitions

Some unsuspecting Horse was tied

Surveying his Despair




Soul, take thy risk.

With Death to be

Were better than be not

With thee




Tell as a Marksman -- were forgotten

Tell -- this Day endures

Ruddy as that coeval Apple

The Tradition bears --

Fresh as Mankind that humble story

Though a statelier Tale

Grown in the Repetition hoary

Scarcely would prevail --

Tell had a son -- The ones that knew it

Need not linger here --

Those who did not to Human Nature

Will subscribe a Tear --

Tell would not bare his Head

In Presence

Of the Ducal Hat --

Threatened for that with Death -- by Gessler --

Tyranny bethought

Make of his only Boy a Target

That surpasses Death --

Stolid to Love’s supreme entreaty

Not forsook of Faith --

Mercy of the Almighty begging --

Tell his Arrow sent --

God it is said replies in Person

When the cry is meant --




Through what transports of Patience

I reached the stolid Bliss

To breathe my Blank without thee

Attest me this and this --

By that bleak exultation

I won as near as this

Thy privilege of dying

Abbreviate me this --




A full fed Rose on meals of Tint

A Dinner for a Bee

In process of the Noon became -

Each bright Mortality

The Forfeit is of Creature fair

Itself, adored before

Submitting for our unknown sake

To be esteemed no more --




Distance -- is not the Realm of Fox

Nor by Relay of Bird

Abated -- Distance is

Until thyself, Beloved.




Lest any doubt that we are glad that they were born


Whose having lived is held by us in noble Holiday

Without the date, like Consciousness or Immortality --




Some Days retired from the rest

In soft distinction lie

The Day that a Companion came

Or was obliged to die




Best Witchcraft is Geometry

To the magician’s mind --

His ordinary acts are feats

To thinking of mankind.




Great Streets of silence led away

To Neighborhoods of Pause --

Here was no Notice -- no Dissent

No Universe -- no laws --

By Clocks, ‘twas Morning, and for Night

The Bells at Distance called --

But Epoch had no basis here

For Period exhaled.




He is alive, this morning --

He is alive -- and awake --

Birds are resuming for Him --

Blossoms -- dress for His Sake.

Bees -- to their Loaves of Honey

Add an Amber Crumb

Him -- to regale -- Me -- Only --

Motion, and am dumb.




Trust adjust her "Peradventure" --

Phantoms entered "and not you."




The Life we have is very great.

The Life that we shall see

Surpasses it, we know, because

It is Infinity.

But when all Space has been beheld

And all Dominion shown

The smallest Human Heart’s extent

Reduces it to none.




God made no act without a cause,

Nor heart without an aim,

Our inference is premature,

Our premises to blame.




Were it to be the last

How infinite would be

What we did not suspect was marked --

Our final interview.




Contained in this short Life

Are magical extents

The soul returning soft at night

To steal securer thence

As Children strictest kept

Turn soonest to the sea

Whose nameless Fathoms slink away

Beside infinity




Of Paul and Silas it is said

There were in Prison laid

But when they went to take them out

They were not there instead.

Security the same insures

To our assaulted Minds --

The staple must be optional

That an Immortal binds.




Alone and in a Circumstance

Reluctant to be told

A spider on my reticence

Assiduously crawled

And so much more at Home than I

Immediately grew

I felt myself a visitor

And hurriedly withdrew

Revisiting my late abode

With articles of claim

I found it quietly assumed

As a Gymnasium

Where Tax asleep and Title off

The inmates of the Air

Perpetual presumption took

As each were special Heir --

If any strike me on the street

I can return the Blow --

If any take my property

According to the Law

The Statute is my Learned friend

But what redress can be

For an offense nor here nor there

So not in Equity --

That Larceny of time and mind

The marrow of the Day

By spider, or forbid it Lord

That I should specify.




As old as Woe --

How old is that?

Some eighteen thousand years --

As old as Bliss

How old is that

They are of equal years

Together chiefest they ard found

But seldom side by side

From neither of them tho’ he try

Can Human nature hide




Lest they should come -- is all my fear

When sweet incarcerated here




Nature affects to be sedate

Upon occasion, grand

But let our observation shut

Her practices extend

To Necromancy and the Trades

Remote to understand

Behold our spacious Citizen

Unto a Juggler turned --




On the World you colored

Morning painted rose --

Idle his Vermillion

Aimlessly crept the Glows

Over Realms of Orchards

I the Day before

Conquered with the Robin --

Misery, how fair

Till your wrinkled Finger

Shored the sun away

Midnight’s awful Pattern

In the Goods of Day --




The Clouds their Backs together laid

The North begun to push

The Forests galloped till they fell

The Lightning played like mice

The Thunder crumbled like a stuff

How good to be in Tombs

Where Nature’s Temper cannot reach

Nor missile ever comes




The Lightning is a yellow Fork

From Tables in the sky

By inadvertent fingers dropt

The awful Cutlery

Of mansions never quite disclosed

And never quite concealed

The Apparatus of the Dark

To ignorance revealed.




There’s the Battle of Burgoyne --

Over, every Day,

By the Time that Man and Beast

Put their work away

"Sunset" sounds majestic --

But that solemn War

Could you comprehend it

You would chastened stare --




We like a Hairbreadth ‘scape

It tingles in the Mind

Far after Act or Accident

Like paragraphs of Wind

If we had ventured less

The Breeze were not so fine

That reaches to our utmost Hair

Its Tentacles divine.




We never know how high we are

Till we are asked to rise

And then if we are true to plan

Our statures touch the skies --

The Heroism we recite

Would be a normal thing

Did not ourselves the Cubits warp

For fear to be a King --




A prompt -- executive Bird is the Jay --

Bold as a Bailiff’s Hymn --

Brittle and Brief in quality --

Warrant in every line --

Sitting a Bough like a Brigadier

Confident and straight --

Much is the mien of him in March

As a Magistrate --




My God -- He sees thee --

Shine thy best --

Fling up thy Balls of Gold

Till every Cubit play with thee

And every Crescent hold --

Elate the Acre at his feet --

Upon his Atom swim --

Oh Sun -- but just a Second’s right

In thy long Race with him!




Of so divine a Loss

We enter but the Gain,

Indemnity for Loneliness

That such a Bliss has been.




"Remember me" implored the Thief!

Oh Hospitality!

My Guest "Today in Paradise"

I give thee guaranty.

That Courtesy will fair remain

When the Delight is Dust

With which we cite this mightiest case

Of compensated Trust.

Of all we are allowed to hope

But Affidavit stands

That this was due where most we fear

Be unexpected Friends.




When I hoped I feared --

Since I hoped I dared

Everywhere alone

As a Church remain --

Spectre cannot harm --

Serpent cannot charm --

He deposes Doom

Who hath suffered him --




Remembrance has a Rear and Front --

‘Tis something like a House --

It has a Garret also

For Refuse and the Mouse.

Besides the deepest Cellar

That ever Mason laid --

Look to it by its Fathoms

Ourselves be not pursued --




Step lightly on this narrow spot --

The broadest Land that grows

Is not so ample as the Breast

These Emerald Seams enclose.

Step lofty, for this name be told

As far as Cannon dwell

Or Flag subsist or Fame export

Her deathless Syllable.




The Days that we can spare

Are those a Function die

Or Friend or Nature -- stranded then

In our Economy

Our Estimates a Scheme --

Our Ultimates a Sham --

We let go all of Time without

Arithmetic of him --




A little Dog that wags his tail

And knows no other joy

Of such a little Dog am I

Reminded by a Boy

Who gambols all the living Day

Without an earthly cause

Because he is a little Boy

I honestly suppose --

The Cat that in the Corner dwells

Her martial Day forgot

The Mouse but a Tradition now

Of her desireless Lot

Another class remind me

Who neither please nor play

But not to make a "bit of noise"

Beseech each little Boy --




Too few the mornings be,

Too scant the nights.

No lodging can be had

For the delights

That come to earth to stay,

But no apartment find

And ride away.




Oh Shadow on the Grass,

Art thou a Step or not?

Go make thee fair my Candidate

My nominated Heart --

Oh Shadow on the Grass

While I delay to guess

Some other thou wilt consecrate --

Oh Unelected Face --




‘Twas fighting for his Life he was --

That sort accomplish well --

The Ordnance of Vitality

Is frugal of its Ball.

It aims once -- kills once -- conquers once --

There is no second War

In that Campaign inscrutable

Of the Interior.




The Voice that stands for Floods to me

Is sterile borne to some --

The Face that makes the Morning mean

Glows impotent on them --

What difference in Substance lies

That what is Sum to me

By other Financiers be deemed

Exclusive Property!




The Sun and Fog contested

The Government of Day --

The Sun took down his Yellow Whip

And drove the Fog away --




The pungent atom in the Air

Admits of no debate --

All that is named of Summer Days

Relinquished our Estate --

For what Department of Delight

As positive are we

As Limit of Dominion

Or Dams -- of Ecstasy --




An honest Tear

Is durabler than Bronze --

This Cenotaph

May each that dies --

Reared by itself --

No Deputy suffice --

Gratitude bears

When Obelisk decays




All men for Honor hardest work

But are not known to earn --

Paid after they have ceased to work

In Infamy or Urn --




Somehow myself survived the Night

And entered with the Day --

That it be saved the Saved suffice

Without the Formula.

Henceforth I take my living place

As one commuted led --

A Candidate for Morning Chance

But dated with the Dead.




What we see we know somewhat

Be it but a little --

What we don’t surmise we do

Though it shows so fickle

I shall vote for Lands with Locks

Granted I can pick ‘em --

Transport’s doubtful Dividend

Patented by Adam.




To make Routine a Stimulus

Remember it can cease --

Capacity to Terminate

Is a Specific Grace --

Of Retrospect the Arrow

That power to repair

Departed with the Torment

Become, alas, more fair --




I should not dare to be so sad

So many Years again --

A Load is first impossible

When we have put it down --

The Superhuman then withdraws

And we who never saw

The Giant at the other side

Begin to perish now.




A soft Sea washed around the House

A Sea of Summer Air

And rose and fell the magic Planks

That sailed without a care --

For Captain was the Butterfly

For Helmsman was the Bee

And an entire universe

For the delighted crew.




Are Friends Delight or Pain?

Could Bounty but remain

Riches were good --

But if they only stay

Ampler to fly away

Riches are sad.




Because my Brook is fluent

I know ‘tis dry --

Because my Brook is silent

It is the Sea --

And startled at its rising

I try to flee

To where the Strong assure me

Is "no more Sea" --


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