PAL: Perspectives in American Literature - A Research and Reference Guide

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



To their apartment deep

No ribaldry may creep

Untumbled this abode

By any man but God --




Today or this noon

She dwelt so close

I almost touched her --

Tonight she lies

Past neighborhood

And bough and steeple,

Now past surmise.




‘Twas comfort in her Dying Room

To hear the living Clock --

A short relief to have the wind

Walk boldly up and knock --

Diversion from the Dying Theme

To hear the children play --

But wrong the more

That these could live

And this of ours must die.




Unto a broken heart

No other one may go

Without the high prerogative

Itself hath suffered too.




Volcanoes be in Sicily

And South America

I judge from my Geography --

Volcanos nearer here

A Lava step at any time

Am I inclined to climb --

A Crater I may contemplate

Vesuvius at Home.




When we have ceased to care

The Gift is given

For which we gave the Earth

And mortgaged Heaven

But so declined in worth

‘Tis ignominy now

To look upon --




Winter under cultivation

Is as arable as Spring.




Witchcraft has not a Pedigree

‘Tis early as our Breath

And mourners meet it going out

The moment of our death --




With sweetness unabated

Informed the hour had come

With no remiss of triumph

The autumn started home

Her home to be with Nature

As competition done

By influential kinsmen

Invited to return --

In supplements of Purple

An adequate repast

In heavenly reviewing

Her residue be past --




A curious Cloud surprised the Sky,

‘Twas like a sheet with Horns;

The sheet was Blue --

The Antlers Gray --

It almost touched the lawns.

So low it leaned -- then statelier drew --

And trailed like robes away,

A Queen adown a satin aisle

Had not the majesty.




A face devoid of love or grace,

A hateful, hard, successful face,

A face with which a stone

Would feel as thoroughly at ease

As were they old acquaintances --

First time together thrown.




A Pit -- but Heaven over it --

And Heaven beside, and Heaven abroad,

And yet a Pit --

With Heaven over it.

To stir would be to slip --

To look would be to drop --

To dream -- to sap the Prop

That holds my chances up.

Ah! Pit! With Heaven over it!

The depth is all my thought --

I dare not ask my feet --

‘Twould start us where we sit

So straight you’d scarce suspect

It was a Pit -- with fathoms under it --

Its Circuit just the same.

Seed -- summer -- tomb --

Whose Doom to whom?




As subtle as tomorrow

That never came,

A warrant, a conviction,

Yet but a name.




By a departing light

We see acuter, quite,

Than by a wick that stays.

There’s something in the flight

That clarifies the sight

And decks the rays.




Consulting summer’s clock,

But half the hours remain.

I ascertain it with a shock --

I shall not look again.

The second half of joy

Is shorter than the first.

The truth I do not dare to know

I muffle with a jest.




Death is like the insect

Menacing the tree,

Competent to kill it,

But decoyed may be.

Bait it with the balsam,

Seek it with the saw,

Baffle, if it cost you

Everything you are.

Then, if it have burrowed

Out of reach of skill --

Wring the tree and leave it,

‘Tis the vermin’s will.




Did life’s penurious length

Italicize its sweetness,

The men that daily live

Would stand so deep in joy

That it would clog the cogs

Of that revolving reason

Whose esoteric belt

Protects our sanity.




Drowning is not so pitiful

As the attempt to rise

Three times, ‘tis said, a sinking man

Comes up to face the skies,

And then declines forever

To that abhorred abode,

Where hope and he part company --

For he is grasped of God.

The Maker’s cordial visage,

However good to see,

Is shunned, we must admit it,

Like an adversity.




God is indeed a jealous God --

He cannot bear to see

That we had rather not with Him

But with each other play.




Had I known that the first was the last

I should have kept it longer.

Had I known that the last was the first

I should have drunk it stronger.

Cup, it was your fault,

Lip was not the liar.

No, lip, it was yours,

Bliss was most to blame.




He was my host -- he was my guest,

I never to this day

If I invited him could tell,

Or he invited me.

So infinite our intercourse

So intimate, indeed,

Analysis as capsule seemed

To keeper of the seed.




Her face was in a bed of hair,

Like flowers in a plot --

Her hand was whiter than the sperm

That feeds the sacred light.

Her tongue more tender than the tune

That totters in the leaves --

Who hears may be incredulous,

Who witnesses, believes.




High from the earth I heard a bird,

He trod upon the trees

As he esteemed them trifles,

And then he spied a breeze,

And situated softly

Upon a pile of wind

Which in a perturbation

Nature had left behind.

A joyous going fellow

I gathered from his talk

Which both of benediction

And badinage partook.

Without apparent burden

I subsequently learned

He was the faithful father

Of a dependent brood.

And this untoward transport

His remedy for care.

A contrast to our respites.

How different we are!




How dare the robins sing,

When men and women hear

Who since they went to their account

Have settled with the year! --

Paid all that life had earned

In one consummate bill,

And now, what life or death can do

Is immaterial.

Insulting is the sun

To him whose mortal light

Beguiled of immortality

Bequeaths him to the night.

Extinct be every hum

In deference to him

Whose garden wrestles with the dew,

At daybreak overcome!




I took one Draught of Life --

I’ll tell you what I paid --

Precisely an existence --

The market price, they said.

They weighed me, Dust by Dust --

They balanced Film with Film,

Then handed me my Being’s worth --

A single Dram of Heaven!




If all the griefs I am to have

Would only come today,

I am so happy I believe

They’d laugh and run away.

If all the joys I am to have

Would only come today,

They could not be so big as this

That happens to me now.




If ever the lid gets off my head

And lets the brain away

The fellow will go where he belonged --

Without a hint from me,

And the world -- if the world be looking on --

Will see how far from home

It is possible for sense to live

The soul there -- all the time.




Is Immortality a bane

That men are so oppressed?




I’ve got an arrow here.

Loving the hand that sent it

I the dart revere.

Fell, they will say, in "skirmish"!

Vanquished, my soul will know

By but a simple arrow

Sped by an archer’s bow.




"Lethe" in my flower,

Of which they who drink

In the fadeless orchards

Hear the bobolink!

Merely flake or petal

As the Eye beholds

Jupiter! my father!

I perceive the rose!




Love can do all but raise the Dead

I doubt if even that

From such a giant were withheld

Were flesh equivalent

But love is tired and must sleep,

And hungry and must graze

And so abets the shining Fleet

Till it is out of gaze.




My life closed twice before its close --

It yet remains to see

If Immortality unveil

A third event to me

So huge, so hopeless to conceive

As these that twice befell.

Parting is all we know of heaven,

And all we need of hell.




No man saw awe, nor to his house

Admitted he a man

Though by his awful residence

Has human nature been.

Not deeming of his dread abode

Till laboring to flee

A grasp on comprehension laid

Detained vitality.

Returning is a different route

The Spirit could not show

For breathing is the only work

To be enacted now.

"Am not consumed," old Moses wrote,

"Yet saw him face to face" --

That very physiognomy

I am convinced was this.




Oh, honey of an hour,

I never knew thy power,

Prohibit me

Till my minutest dower,

My unfrequented flower,

Deserving be.




One crown that no one seeks

And yet the highest head

Its isolation coveted

Its stigma deified

While Pontius Pilate lives

In whatsoever hell

That coronation pierces him

He recollects it well.




Proud of my broken heart, since thou didst break it,

Proud of the pain I did not feel till thee,

Proud of my night, since thou with moons dost slake it,

Not to partake thy passion, my humility.

Thou can’st not boast, like Jesus, drunken without


Was the strong cup of anguish brewed for the Nazarene

Thou can’st not pierce tradition with the peerless


See! I usurped thy crucifix to honor mine!




Rearrange a "Wife’s" affection!

When they dislocate my Brain!

Amputate my freckled Bosom!

Make me bearded like a man!

Blush, my spirit, in thy Fastness --

Blush, my unacknowledged clay --

Seven years of troth have taught thee

More than Wifehood every may!

Love that never leaped its socket --

Trust entrenched in narrow pain --

Constancy thro’ fire -- awarded --

Anguish -- bare of anodyne!

Burden -- borne so far triumphant --

None suspect me of the crown,

For I wear the "Thorns" till Sunset --

Then -- my Diadem put on.

Big my Secret but it’s bandaged --

It will never get away

Till the Day its Weary Keeper

Leads it through the Grave to thee.




Softened by Time’s consummate plush,

How sleek the woe appears

That threatened childhood’s citadel

And undermined the years.

Bisected now, by bleaker griefs,

We envy the despair

That devastated childhood’s realm,

So easy to repair.




Some say goodnight -- at night --

I say goodnight by day --

Good-bye -- the Going utter me --

Goodnight, I still reply --

For parting, that is night,

And presence, simply dawn --

Itself, the purple on the height

Denominated morn.




Sweet is the swamp with its secrets,

Until we meet a snake;

‘Tis then we sigh for houses,

And our departure take

At that enthralling gallop

That only childhood knows.

A snake is summer’s treason,

And guile is where it goes.




That it will never come again

Is what makes life so sweet.

Believing what we don’t believe

Does not exhilarate.

That if it be, it be at best

An ablative estate --

This instigates an appetite

Precisely opposite.




The distance that the dead have gone

Does not at first appear --

Their coming back seems possible

For many an ardent year.

And then, that we have followed them,

We more than half suspect,

So intimate have we become

With their dear retrospect.




The grave my little cottage is,

Where "Keeping house" for thee

I make my parlor orderly

And lay the marble tea.

For two divided, briefly,

A cycle, it may be,

Till everlasting life unite

In strong society.




The joy that has no stem no core,

Nor seed that we can sow,

Is edible to longing.

But ablative to show.

By fundamental palates

Those products are preferred

Impregnable to transit

And patented by pod.




The mob within the heart

Police cannot suppress

The riot given at the first

Is authorized as peace

Uncertified of scene

Or signified of sound

But growing like a hurricane

In a congenial ground.




The most important population

Unnoticed dwell,

They have a heaven each instant

Not any hell.

Their names, unless you know them,

‘Twere useless tell.

Of bumble-bees and other nations

The grass is full.




The parasol is the umbrella’s daughter,

And associates with a fan

While her father abuts the tempest

And abridges the rain.

The former assists a siren

In her serene display;

But her father is borne and honored,

And borrowed to this day.




The reticent volcano keeps

His never slumbering plan --

Confided are his projects pink

To no precarious man.

If nature will not tell the tale

Jehovah told to her

Can human nature not survive

Without a listener?

Admonished by her buckled lips

Let every babbler be

The only secret people keep

Is Immortality.




The waters chased him as he fled,

Not daring look behind --

A billow whispered in his Ear,

"Come home with me, my friend --

My parlor is of shriven glass,

My pantry has a fish

For every palate in the Year" --

To this revolting bliss

The object floating at his side

Made no distinct reply.




The words the happy say

Are paltry melody

But those the silent feel

Are beautiful --




There comes an hour when begging stops,

When the long interceding lips

Perceive their prayer is vain.

"Thou shalt not" is a kinder sword

Than from a disappointing God

"Disciple, call again."




This docile one inter

While we who dare to live

Arraign the sunny brevity

That sparkled to the Grave.

On her departing span

No wilderness remain

As dauntless in the House of Death

As if it were her own --




Through those old Grounds of memory,

The sauntering alone

Is a divine intemperance

A prudent man would shun.

Of liquors that are vended

‘Tis easy to beware

But statutes do not meddle

With the internal bar.

Pernicious as the sunset

Permitting to pursue

But impotent to gather,

The tranquil perfidy

Alloys our firmer moments

With that severest gold

Convenient to the longing

But otherwise withheld.




To lose thee -- sweeter than to gain

All other hearts I knew.

‘Tis true the drought is destitute,

But then, I had the dew!

The Caspian has its realms of sand,

Its other realm of sea.

Without the sterile perquisite,

No Caspian could be.




To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,

One clover, and a bee,

And revery.

The revery alone will do,

If bees are few.




‘Twas here my summer paused

What ripeness after then

To other scene or other soul

My sentence had begun.

To winter to remove

With winter to abide

Go manacle your icicle

Against your Tropic Bride.




Upon the gallows hung a wretch,

Too sullied for the hell

To which the law entitled him.

As nature’s curtain fell

The one who bore him tottered in , --

For this was woman’s son.

"‘Twere all I had," she stricken gasped --

Oh, what a livid boon!




Where every bird is bold to go

And bees abashless play,

The foreigner before he knocks

Must thrust the tears away.




Which misses most,

The hand that tends,

Or heart so gently borne,

‘Tis twice as heavy as it was

Because the hand is gone?

Which blesses most,

The lip that can,

Or that that went to sleep

With "if I could" endeavoring

Without the strength to shape?




Elysium is as far as to

The very nearest Room

If in that Room a Friend await

Felicity or Doom --

What fortitude the Soul contains,

That it can so endure

The accent of a coming Foot --

The opening of a Door --




A train went through a burial gate,

A bird broke forth and sang,

And trilled, and quivered, and shook his throat

Till all the churchyard rang;

And then adjusted his little notes,

And bowed and sang again.

Doubtless, he thought it meet of him

To say good-by to men.




Were natural mortal lady

Who had so little time

To pack her trunk and order

The great exchange of clime --

How rapid, how momentous --

What exigencies were --

But nature will be ready

And have an hour to spare.

To make some trifle fairer

That was too fair before --

Enchanting by remaining,

And by departure more.




Fame is a bee.

It has a song --

It has a sting --

Ah, too, it has a wing.




The saddest noise, the sweetest noise,

The maddest noise that grows, --

The birds, they make it in the spring,

At night’s delicious close.

Between the March and April line --

That magical frontier

Beyond which summer hesitates,

Almost too heavenly near.

It makes us think of all the dead

That sauntered with us here,

By separation’s sorcery

Made cruelly more dear.

It makes us think of what we had,

And what we now deplore.

We almost wish those siren throats

Would go and sing no more.

An ear can break a human heart

As quickly as a spear,

We wish the ear had not a heart

So dangerously near.




That Love is all there is,

Is all we know of Love;

It is enough, the freight should be

Proportioned to the groove.




Those final Creatures, -- who they are --

That, faithful to the close,

Administer her ecstasy,

But just the Summer knows.




Sweet hours have perished here;

This is a mighty room;

Within its precincts hopes have played, --

Now shadows in the tomb.




Lad of Athens, faithful be

To Thyself,

And Mystery --

All the rest is Perjury --




The longest day that God appoints

Will finish with the sun.

Anguish can travel to its stake,

And then it must return.




Experiment escorts us last --

His pungent company

Will not allow an Axiom

An Opportunity




How fleet -- how indiscreet an one --

How always wrong is Love --

The joyful little Deity

We are not scourged to serve --




Let me not thirst with this Hock at my Lip,

Nor beg, with Domains in my Pocket --




The Summer that we did not prize,

Her treasures were so easy

Instructs us by departing now

And recognition lazy --

Bestirs itself -- puts on its Coat,

And scans with fatal promptness

For Trains that moment out of sight,

Unconscious of his smartness.




Too happy Time dissolves itself

And leaves no remnant by --

‘Tis Anguish not a Feather hath

Or too much weight to fly --




The earth has many keys,

Where melody is not

Is the unknown peninsula.

Beauty is nature’s fact.

But witness for her land,

And witness for her sea,

The cricket is her utmost

Of elegy to me.


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