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



Of God we ask one favor,

That we may be forgiven --

For what, he is presumed to know --

The Crime, from us, is hidden --

Immured the whole of Life

Within a magic Prison

We reprimand the Happiness

That too competes with Heaven.




Pursuing you in your transitions,

In other Motes --

Of other Myths

Your requisition be.

The Prism never held the Hues,

It only heard them play --




The going from a world we know

To one a wonder still

Is like the child’s adversity

Whose vista is a hill,

Behind the hill is sorcery

And everything unknown,

But will the secret compensate

For climbing it alone?




We send the Wave to find the Wave --

An Errand so divine,

The Messenger enamored too,

Forgetting to return,

We make the wise distinction still,

Soever made in vain,

The sagest time to dam the sea is when the sea is gone --




Each that we lose takes part of us;

A crescent still abides,

Which like the moon, some turbid night,

Is summoned by the tides.




Quite empty, quite at rest,

The Robin locks her Nest, and tries her Wings.

She does not know a Route

But puts her Craft about

For rumored Springs --

She does not ask for Noon --

She does not ask for Boon,

Crumbless and homeless, of but one request --

The Birds she lost --




Within that little Hive

Such Hints of Honey lay

As made Reality a Dream

And Dreams, Reality --




The ecstasy to guess

Were a receipted bliss

If grace could talk.




Sunset that screens, reveals --

Enhancing what we see

By menaces of Amethyst

And Moats of Mystery.




Morning that comes but once,

Considers coming twice --

Two Dawns upon a single Morn,

Make Life a sudden price.




Their dappled importunity

Disparage or dismiss --

The Obloquies of Etiquette

Are obsolete to Bliss --




The Auctioneer of Parting

His "Going, going, gone"

Shouts even from the Crucifix,

And brings his Hammer down --

He only sells the Wilderness,

The prices of Despair

Range from a single human Heart

To Two -- not any more --




Not Sickness stains the Brave,

Nor any Dart,

Nor Doubt of Scene to come,

But an adjourning Heart --




Parting with Thee reluctantly,

That we have never met,

A Heart sometimes a Foreigner,

Remembers it forgot --




Oh what a Grace is this,

What Majesties of Peace,

That having breathed

The fine -- ensuing Right

Without Diminuet Proceed!




Who abdicated Ambush

And went the way of Dusk,

And now against his subtle Name

There stands an Asterisk

As confident of him as we --

Impregnable we are --

The whole of Immortality

Secreted in a Star.




To try to speak, and miss the way

And ask it of the Tears,

Is Gratitude’s sweet poverty,

The Tatters that he wears --

A better Coat if he possessed

Would help him to conceal,

Not subjugate, the Mutineer

Whose title is "the Soul."




There are two Mays

And then a Must

And after that a Shall.

How infinite the compromise

That indicates I will!




Not knowing when the Dawn will come,

I open every Door,

Or has it Feathers, like a Bird,

Or Billows, like a Shore --




Circumference thou Bride of Awe

Possessing thou shalt be

Possessed by every hallowed Knight

That dares to covet thee




A Flower will not trouble her, it has so small a Foot,

And yet if you compare the Lasts,

Hers is the smallest Boot --




A Sloop of Amber slips away

Upon an Ether Sea,

And wrecks in Peace a Purple Tar,

The Son of Ecstasy --




A World made penniless by that departure

Of minor fabrics begs

But sustenance is of the spirit

The Gods but Dregs




Apparently with no surprise

To any happy Flower

The Frost beheads it at its play --

In accidental power --

The blonde Assassin passes on --

The Sun proceeds unmoved

To measure off another Day

For an Approving God.




Back from the cordial Grave I drag thee

He shall not take thy Hand

Nor put his spacious arm around thee

That none can understand




No Life can pompless pass away --

The lowliest career

To the same Pageant wends its way

As that exalted here --

How cordial is the mystery!

The hospitable Pall

A "this way" beckons spaciously --

A Miracle for all!




The pedigree of Honey

Does not concern the Bee,

Nor lineage of Ecstasy

Delay the Butterfly

On spangle journeys to the peak

Of some perceiveless thing --

The right of way to Tripoli

A more essential thing.


The Pedigree of Honey

Does not concern the Bee --

A Clover, any time, to him,

Is Aristocracy --




A Drunkard cannot meet a Cork

Without a Revery --

And so encountering a Fly

This January Day

Jamaicas of Remembrance stir

That send me reeling in --

The moderate drinker of Delight

Does not deserve the spring --

Of juleps, part are the Jug

And more are in the joy --

Your connoisseur in Liquours

Consults the Bumble Bee --




Arrows enamored of his Heart --

Forgot to rankle there

And Venoms he mistook for Balms

disdained to rankle there --




As from the earth the light Balloon

Asks nothing but release --

Ascension that for which it was,

Its soaring Residence.

The spirit looks upon the Dust

That fastened it so long

With indignation,

As a Bird

Defrauded of its song.




Oh Future! thou secreted peace

Or subterranean woe --

Is there no wandering route of grace

That leads away from thee --

No circuit sage of all the course

Descried by cunning Men

To balk thee of thy sacred Prey --

Advancing to thy Den --




So give me back to Death --

The Death I never feared

Except that it deprived of thee --

And now, by Life deprived,

In my own Grave I breathe

And estimate its size --

Its size is all that Hell can guess --

And all that Heaven was --




Still own thee -- still thou art

What surgeons call alive --

Though slipping -- slipping I perceive

To thy reportless Grave --

Which question shall I clutch --

What answer wrest from thee

Before thou dost exude away

In the recallless sea?




Talk not to me of Summer Trees

The foliage of the mind

A Tabernacle is for Birds

Of no corporeal kind

And winds do go that way at noon

To their Ethereal Homes

Whose Bugles call the least of us

To undepicted Realms




The Jay his Castanet has struck

Put on your muff for Winter

The Tippet that ignores his voice

Is impudent to nature

Of Swarthy Days he is the close

His Lotus is a chestnut

The Cricket drops a sable line

No more from yours at present




The Sun in reigning to the West

Makes not as much of sound

As Cart of man in road below

Adroitly turning round

That Whiffletree of Amethyst




Is it too late to touch you, Dear?

We this moment knew --

Love Marine and Love terrene --

Love celestial too --




Go thy great way!

The Stars thou meetst

Are even as Thyself --

For what are Stars but Asterisks

To point a human Life?




A Letter is a joy of Earth --

It is denied the Gods --




Take all away from me, but leave me Ecstasy,

And I am richer then than all my Fellow Men --

Ill it becometh me to dwell so wealthily

When at my very Door are those possessing more,

In abject poverty --




Betrothed to Righteousness might be

An Ecstasy discreet

But Nature relishes the Pinks

Which she was taught to eat --




"Red Sea," indeed! Talk not to me

Of purple Pharaoh --

I have a Navy in the West

Would pierce his Columns thro’ --

Guileless, yet of such Glory fine

That all along the Line

Is it, or is it not, divine --

The Eye inquires with a sigh

That Earth sh’d be so big --

What Exultation in the Woe --

What Wine in the fatigue!




Extol thee -- could I? Then I will

By saying nothing new --

But just the truest truth

That thou art heavenly.

Perceiving thee is evidence

That we are of the sky

Partaking thee a guaranty

Of immortality




Some one prepared this mighty show

To which without a Ticket go

The nations and the Days --

Displayed before the simplest Door

That all may witness it and more,

The pomp of summer Days.




The Ditch is dear to the Drunken man

For is it not his Bed --

His Advocate -- his Edifice?

How safe his fallen Head

In her disheveled Sanctity --

Above him is the sky --

Oblivion bending over him

And Honor leagues away.




Why should we hurry -- why indeed?

When every way we fly

We are molested equally

By immortality.

No respite from the inference

That this which is begun,

Though where its labors lie

A bland uncertainty

Besets the sight

This mighty night --




Of Glory not a Beam is left

But her Eternal House --

The Asterisk is for the Dead,

The Living, for the Stars --




The immortality she gave

We borrowed at her Grave --

For just one Plaudit famishing,

The Might of Human love --




A Cap of Lead across the sky

Was tight and surly drawn

We could not find the mighty Face

The Figure was withdrawn --

A Chill came up as from a shaft

Our noon became a well

A Thunder storm combines the charms

Of Winter and of Hell.




A lane of Yellow led the eye

Unto a Purple Wood

Whose soft inhabitants to be

Surpasses solitude

If Bird the silence contradict

Or flower presume to show

In that low summer of the West

Impossible to know --




A Word made Flesh is seldom

And tremblingly partook

Nor then perhaps reported

But have I not mistook

Each one of us has tasted

With ecstasies of stealth

The very food debated

To our specific strength --

A Word that breathes distinctly

Has not the power to die

Cohesive as the Spirit

It may expire if He --

"Made Flesh and dwelt among us"

Could condescension be

Like this consent of Language

This loved Philology.




Advance is Life’s condition

The Grave but a Relay

Supposed to be a terminus

That makes it hated so --

The Tunnel is not lighted

Existence with a wall

Is better we consider

Than not exist at all --




As we pass Houses musing slow

If they be occupied

So minds pass minds

If they be occupied




Beauty crowds me till I die

Beauty mercy have on me

But if I expire today

Let it be in sight of thee --




Conferring with myself

My stranger disappeared

Though first upon a berry fat

Miraculously fared

How paltry looked my cares

My practise how absurd

Superfluous my whole career

Beside this travelling Bird




Down Time’s quaint stream

Without an oar

We are enforced to sail

Our Port a secret

Our Perchance a Gale

What Skipper would

Incur the Risk

What Buccaneer would ride

Without a surety from the Wind

Or schedule of the Tide --




Eden is that old-fashioned House

We dwell in every day

Without suspecting our abode

Until we drive away.

How fair on looking back, the Day

We sauntered from the Door --

Unconscious our returning,

But discover it no more.




Endanger it, and the Demand

Of tickets for a sigh

Amazes the Humility

Of Credibility --

Recover it to Nature

And that dejected Fleet

Find Consternation’s Carnival

Divested of its Meat.




Fame is a fickle food

Upon a shifting plate

Whose table once a

Guest but not

The second time is set.

Whose crumbs the crows inspect

And with ironic caw

Flap past it to the

Farmer’s Corn --

Men eat of it and die.




Glory is that bright tragic thing

That for an instant

Means Dominion --

Warms some poor name

That never felt the Sun,

Gently replacing

In oblivion --




Guest am I to have

Light my northern room

Why to cordiality so averse to come

Other friends adjourn

Other bonds decay

Why avoid so narrowly

My fidelity --




He went by sleep that drowsy route

To the surmising Inn --

At day break to begin his race

Or ever to remain --




His mind of man, a secret makes

I meet him with a start

He carries a circumference

In which I have no part --

Or even if I deem I do

He otherwise may know

Impregnable to inquest

However neighborly --




I did not reach Thee

But my feet slip nearer every day

Three Rivers and a Hill to cross

One Desert and a Sea

I shall not count the journey one

When I am telling thee.

Two deserts, but the Year is cold

So that will help the sand

One desert crossed --

The second one

Will feel as cool as land

Sahara is too little price

To pay for thy Right hand.

The Sea comes last -- Step merry, feet,

So short we have to go --

To play together we are prone,

But we must labor now,

The last shall be the lightest load

That we have had to draw.

The Sun goes crooked --

That is Night

Before he makes the bend.

We must have passed the Middle Sea --

Almost we wish the End

Were further off --

Too great it seems

So near the Whole to stand.

We step like Plush,

We stand like snow,

The waters murmur new.

Three rivers and the Hill are passed --

Two deserts and the sea!

Now Death usurps my Premium

And gets the look at Thee.




I know of people in the Grave

Who would be very glad

To know the news I know tonight

If they the chance had had.

‘Tis this expands the least event

And swells the scantest deed --

My right to walk upon the Earth

If they this moment had.




I see thee clearer for the Grave

That took thy face between

No Mirror could illumine thee

Like that impassive stone --

I know thee better for the Act

That made thee first unknown

The stature of the empty nest

Attests the Bird that’s gone.




I watcher her face to see which way

She took the awful news --

Whether she died before she heard

Or in protracted bruise

Remained a few slow years with us --

Each heavier than the last --

A further afternoon to fail,

As Flower at fall of Frost.




If I could tell how glad I was

I should not be so glad --

But when I cannot make the Force,

Nor mould it into Word,

I know it is a sign

That new Dilemna be

From mathematics further off

Than for Eternity.




In snow thou comest --

Thou shalt go with the resuming ground,

The sweet derision of the crow,

And Glee’s advancing sound.

In fear thou comest --

Thou shalt go at such a gait of joy

That man anew embark to live

Upon the depth of thee.




In Winter in my Room

I came upon a Worm --

Pink, lank and warm --

But as he was a worm

And worms presume

Not quite with him at home --

Secured him by a string

To something neighboring

And went along.

A Trifle afterward

A thing occurred

I’d not believe it if I heard

But state with creeping blood --

A snake with mottles rare

Surveyed my chamber floor

In feature as the worm before

But ringed with power --

The very string with which

I tied him -- too

When he was mean and new

That string was there --

I shrank -- "How fair you are"!

Propitiation’s claw --

"Afraid," he hissed

"Of me"?

"No cordiality" --

He fathomed me --

Then to a Rhythm Slim

Secreted in his Form

As Patterns swim

Projected him.

That time I flew

Both eyes his way

Lest he pursue

Nor ever ceased to run

Till in a distant Town

Towns on from mine

I set me down

This was a dream.




Judgment is justest

When the Judged,

His action laid away,

Divested is of every Disk

But his sincerity.

Honor is then the safest hue

In a posthumous Sun --

Not any color will endure

That scrutiny can burn.




Lightly stepped a yellow star

To its lofty place --

Loosed the Moon her silver hat

From her lustral Face --

All of Evening softly lit

As an Astral Hall --

Father, I observed to Heaven,

You are punctual.




Nature can do no more

She has fulfilled her Dyes

Whatever Flower fail to come

Of other Summer days

Her crescent reimburse

If other Summers be

Nature’s imposing negative

Nulls opportunity --




Not any sunny tone

From any fervent zone

Find entrance there --

Better a grave of Balm

Toward human nature’s home --

And Robins near --

Than a stupendous Tomb

Proclaiming to the Gloom

How dead we are --




Of this is Day composed

A morning and a noon

A Revelry unspeakable

And then a gay unknown

Whose Pomps allure and spurn

And dower and deprive

And penury for Glory

Remedilessly leave.




Of Yellow was the outer Sky

In Yellower Yellow hewn

Till Saffron in Vermilion slid

Whose seam could not be shewn.




On my volcano grows the Grass

A meditative spot --

An acre for a Bird to choose

Would be the General thought --

How red the Fire rocks below --

How insecure the sod

Did I disclose

Would populate with awe my solitude.




Peril as a Possesssion

‘Tis Good to hear

Danger disintegrates Satiety

There’s Basis there --

Begets an awe

That searches Human Nature’s creases

As clean as Fire.




Rather arid delight

If Contentment accrue

Make an abstemious Ecstasy

Not so good as joy --

But Rapture’s Expense

Must not be incurred

With a tomorrow knocking

And the Rent unpaid --




Sometimes with the Heart

Seldom with the Soul

Scarcer once with the Might

Few -- love at all.




Speech is one symptom of Affection

And Silence one --

The perfectest communication

Is heard of none --

Exists and its indorsement

Is had within --

Behold, said the Apostle,

Yet had not seen!




Summer begins to have the look

Peruser of enchanting Book

Reluctantly but sure perceives

A gain upon the backward leaves --

Autumn begins to be inferred

By millinery of the cloud

Or deeper color in the shawl

That wraps the everlasting hill.

The eye begins its avarice

A meditation chastens speech

Some Dyer of a distant tree

Resumes his gaudy industry.

Conclusion is the course of All

At most to be perennial

And then elude stability

Recalls to immortality.




That she forgot me was the least

I felt it second pain

That I was worthy to forget

Was most I thought upon.

Faithful was all that I could boast

But Constancy became

To her, by her innominate,

A something like a shame.




The Blunder is in estimate.

Eternity is there

We say, as of a Station --

Meanwhile he is so near

He joins me in my Ramble --

Divides abode with me --

No Friend have I that so persists

As this Eternity.




The butterfly obtains

But little sympathy

Though favorably mentioned

In Entomology --

Because he travels freely

And wears a proper coat

The circumspect are certain

That he is dissolute --

Had he the homely scutcheon

Of modest Industry

‘Twere fitter certifying

For Immortality --




The event was directly behind Him

Yet He did not guess

Fitted itself to Himself like a Robe

Relished His ignorance.

Motioned itself to drill

Loaded and Levelled

And let His Flesh

Centuries from His soul.




The gleam of an heroic Act

Such strange illumination

The Possible’s slow fuse is lit

By the Imagination.




The Hills erect their Purple Heads

The Rivers lean to see

Yet Man has not of all the Throng

A Curiosity.




The look of thee, what is it like

Hast thou a hand or Foot

Or Mansion of Identity

And what is thy Pursuit?

Thy fellows are they realms or Themes

Hast thou Delight or Fear

Or Longing -- and is that for us

Or values more severe?

Let change transfuse all other Traits

Enact all other Blame

But deign this least certificate --

That thou shalt be the same.




The ones that disappeared are back

The Phoebe and the Crow

Precisely as in March is heard

The curtness of the Jay --

Be this an Autumn or a Spring

My wisdom loses way

One side of me the nuts are ripe

The other side is May.




The overtakelessness of those

Who have accomplished Death

Majestic is to me beyond

The majesties of Earth.

The soul her "Not at Home"

Inscribes upon the flesh --

And takes her fair aerial gait

Beyond the hope of touch.




The right to perish might be thought

An undisputed right --

Attempt it, and the Universe

Upon the opposite

Will concentrate its officers --

You cannot even die

But nature and mankind must pause

To pay you scrutiny.




The Sun retired to a cloud

A Woman’s shawl as big --

And then he sulked in mercury

Upon a scarlet log --

The drops on Nature’s forehead stood

Home flew the loaded bees --

The South unrolled a purple fan

And handed to the trees.




The wind drew off

Like hungry dogs

Defeated of a bone --

Through fissures in

Volcanic cloud

The yellow lightning shone --

The trees held up

Their mangled limbs

Like animals in pain --

When Nature falls upon herself

Beware an Austrian.




There is a solitude of space

A solitude of sea

A solitude of death, but these

Society shall be

Compared with that profounder site

That polar privacy

A soul admitted to itself --

Finite infinity.




These are the days that Reindeer love

And pranks the Northern star --

This is the Sun’s objective,

And Finland of the Year.




They talk as slow as Legends grow

No mushroom is their mind

But foliage of sterility

Too stolid for the wind --

They laugh as wise as Plots of Wit

Predestined to unfold

The point with bland prevision

Portentously untold.




‘Tis easier to pity those when dead

That which pity previous

Would have saved --

A Tragedy enacted

Secures Applause

That Tragedy enacting

Too seldom does.




To do a magnanimous thing

And take oneself by surprise

If oneself is not in the habit of him

Is precisely the finest of Joys --

Not to do a magnanimous thing

Notwithstanding it never be known

Notwithstanding it cost us existence once

Is Rapture herself spurn --




To tell the Beauty would decrease

To state the Spell demean --

There is a syllable-less Sea

Of which it is the sign --

My will endeavors for its word

And fails, but entertains

A Rapture as of Legacies --

Of introspective Mines --



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