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

 

201

Two swimmers wrestled on the spar --

Until the morning sun --

When One -- turned smiling to the land --

Oh God! the Other One!

The stray ships -- passing --

Spied a face --

Upon the waters borne --

With eyes in death -- still begging raised --

And hands -- beseeching -- thrown!

 

 

202

My Eye is fuller than my vase --

Her Cargo -- is of Dew --

And still -- my Heart -- my Eye outweighs --

East India -- for you!

 

 

203

He forgot -- and I -- remembered --

‘Twas an everyday affair --

Long ago as Christ and Peter --

"Warmed them" at the "Temple fire."

"Thou wert with him" -- quoth "the Damsel"?

"No" -- said Peter, ‘twasn’t me --

Jesus merely "looked" at Peter --

Could I do aught else -- to Thee?

 

 

204

A slash of Blue --

A sweep of Gray --

Some scarlet patches on the way,

Compose an Evening Sky --

A little purple -- slipped between --

Some Ruby Trousers hurried on --

A Wave of Gold --

A Bank of Day --

This just makes out the Morning Sky.

 

 

205

I should not dare to leave my friend,

Because -- because if he should die

While I was gone -- and I -- too late --

Should reach the Heart that wanted me --

If I should disappoint the eyes

That hunted -- hunted so -- to see --

And could not bear to shut until

They "noticed" me -- they noticed me --

If I should stab the patient faith

So sure I’d come -- so sure I’d come --

It listening -- listening -- went to sleep --

Telling my tardy name --

My Heart would wish it broke before --

Since breaking then -- since breaking then --

Were useless as next morning’s sun --

Where midnight frosts -- had lain!

 

 

206

The Flower must not blame the Bee --

That seeketh his felicity

Too often at her door --

But teach the Footman from Vevay --

Mistress is "not at home" -- to say --

To people -- any more!

 

 

207

Tho’ I get home how late -- how late --

So I get home - ‘twill compensate --

Better will be the Ecstasy

That they have done expecting me --

When Night -- descending -- dumb -- and dark --

They hear my unexpected knock --

Transporting must the moment be --

Brewed from decades of Agony!

To think just how the fire will burn --

Just how long-cheated eyes will turn --

To wonder what myself will say,

And what itself, will say to me --

Beguiles the Centuries of way!

 

 

208

The Rose did caper on her cheek --

Her Bodice rose and fell --

Her pretty speech -- like drunken men --

Did stagger pitiful --

Her fingers fumbled at her work --

Her needle would not go --

What ailed so smart a little Maid --

It puzzled me to know --

Till opposite -- I spied a cheek

That bore another Rose --

Just opposite -- Another speech

That like the Drunkard goes --

A Vest that like her Bodice, danced --

To the immortal tune --

Till those two troubled -- little Clocks

Ticked softly into one.

 

 

209

With thee, in the Desert --

With thee in the thirst --

With thee in the Tamarind wood --

Leopard breathes -- at last!

 

 

210

The thought beneath so slight a film --

Is more distinctly seen --

As laces just reveal the surge --

Or mists -- the Apennine

 

 

211

Come slowly -- Eden!

Lips unused to Thee --

Bashful -- sip thy Jessamines --

As the fainting Bee --

Reaching late his flower,

Round her chamber hums --

Counts his nectars --

Enters -- and is lost in Balms.

 

 

212

Least Rivers -- docile to some sea.

My Caspian -- thee.

 

 

213

Did the Harebell loose her girdle

To the lover Bee

Would the Bee the Harebell hallow

Much as formerly?

Did the "Paradise" -- persuaded --

Yield her moat of pearl --

Would the Eden be an Eden,

Or the Earl -- an Earl?

 

 

214

I taste a liquor never brewed --

From Tankards scooped in Pearl --

Not all the Vats upon the Rhine

Yield such an Alcohol!

Inebriate of Air -- am I --

And Debauchee of Dew --

Reeling -- thro endless summer days --

From inns of Molten Blue --

When "Landlords" turn the drunken Bee

Out of the Foxglove’s door --

When Butterflies -- renounce their "drams" --

I shall but drink the more!

Till Seraphs swing their snowy Hats --

And Saints -- to windows run --

To see the little Tippler

Leaning against the -- Sun --

 

 

215

What is -- "Paradise" --

Who live there --

Are they "Farmers" --

Do they "hoe" --

Do they know that this is "Amherst" --

And that I -- am coming -- too --

Do they wear "new shoes" -- in "Eden" --

Is it always pleasant -- there --

Won’t they scold us -- when we’re homesick --

Or tell God -- how cross we are --

You are sure there’s such a person

As "a Father" -- in the sky --

So if I get lost -- there -- ever --

Or do what the Nurse calls "die" --

I shan’t walk the "Jasper" -- barefoot --

Ransomed folks -- won’t laugh at me --

Maybe -- "Eden" a’n’t so lonesome

As New England used to be!

 

 

216

Safe in their Alabaster Chambers --

Untouched my Morning

And untouched by Noon --

Sleep the meek members of the Resurrection --

Rafter of satin,

And Roof of stone.

Light laughs the breeze

In her Castle above them --

Babbles the Bee in a stolid Ear,

Pipe the Sweet Birds in ignorant cadence --

Ah, what sagacity perished here!

 

 

217

Savior! I’ve no one else to tell --

And so I trouble thee.

I am the one forgot thee so --

Dost thou remember me?

Nor, for myself, I came so far --

That were the little load --

I brought thee the imperial Heart

I had not strength to hold --

The Heart I carried in my own --

Till mine too heavy grew --

Yet -- strangest -- heavier since it went --

Is it too large for you?

 

 

218

Is it true, dear Sue?

Are there two?

I shouldn’t like to come

For fear of joggling Him!

If I could shut him up

In a Coffee Cup,

Or tie him to a pin

Till I got in --

Or make him fast

To "Toby’s" fist --

Hist! Whist! I’d come!

 

 

219

She sweeps with many-colored Brooms --

And leaves the Shreds behind --

Oh Housewife in the Evening West --

Come back, and dust the Pond!

You dropped a Purple Ravelling in --

You dropped an Amber thread --

And how you’ve littered all the East

With duds of Emerald!

And still, she plies her spotted Brooms,

And still the Aprons fly,

Till Brooms fade softly into stars --

And then I come away --

 

 

220

Could I -- then -- shut the door --

Lest my beseeching face -- at last --

Rejected -- be -- of Her?

 

 

221

It can’t be "Summer"!

That -- got through!

It’s early -- yet -- for "Spring"!

There’s that long town of White -- to cross --

Before the Blackbirds sing!

It can’t be "Dying"!

It’s too Rouge --

The Dead shall go in White --

So Sunset shuts my question down

With Cuffs of Chrysolite!

 

 

222

When Katie walks, this simple pair accompany her side,

When Katie runs unwearied they follow on the road,

When Katie kneels, their loving hands still clasp her

pious knee --

Ah! Katie! Smile at Fortune, with two so knit to thee!

 

 

223

I Came to buy a smile -- today --

But just a single smile --

The smallest one upon your face

Will suit me just as well --

The one that no one else would miss

It shone so very small --

I’m pleading at the "counter" -- sir --

Could you afford to sell --

I’ve Diamonds -- on my fingers --

You know what Diamonds are?

I’ve Rubies -- live the Evening Blood --

And Topaz -- like the star!

‘Twould be "a Bargain" for a Jew!

Say -- may I have it -- Sir?

 

 

224

I’ve nothing else -- to bring, You know --

So I keep bringing These --

Just as the Night keeps fetching Stars

To our familiar eyes --

Maybe, we shouldn’t mind them --

Unless they didn’t come --

Then -- maybe, it would puzzle us

To find our way Home --

 

 

225

Jesus! thy Crucifix

Enable thee to guess

The smaller size!

Jesus! thy second face

Mind thee in Paradise

Of ours!

 

 

226

Should you but fail at -- Sea --

In sight of me --

Or doomed lie --

Next Sun -- to die --

Or rap -- at Paradise -- unheard

I’d harass God

Until he let you in!

 

 

227

Teach Him -- When He makes the names --

Such an one -- to say --

On his babbling -- Berry -- lips --

As should sound -- to me --

Were my Ear -- as near his nest --

As my thought -- today --

As should sound --

"Forbid us not" --

Some like "Emily."

 

 

228

Blazing in Gold and quenching in Purple

Leaping like Leopards to the Sky

Then at the feet of the old Horizon

Laying her spotted Face to die

Stooping as low as the Otter’s Window

Touching the Roof and tinting the Barn

Kissing her Bonnet to the Meadow

And the Juggler of Day is gone

 

 

229

A Burdock -- clawed my Gown --

Not Burdock’s -- blame --

But mine --

Who went too near

The Burdock’s Den --

A Bog -- affronts my shoe --

What else have Bogs -- to do --

The only Trade they know --

The splashing Men!

Ah, pity -- then!

‘Tis Minnows can despise!

The Elephant’s -- calm eyes

Look further on!

 

 

230

We -- Bee and I -- live by the quaffing --

‘Tisn’t all Hock -- with us --

Life has its Ale --

But it’s many a lay of the Dim Burgundy --

We chant -- for cheer -- when the Wines -- fail --

Do we "get drunk"?

Ask the jolly Clovers!

Do we "beat" our "Wife"?

I -- never wed --

Bee -- pledges his -- in minute flagons --

Dainty -- as the trees -- on our deft Head --

While runs the Rhine --

He and I -- revel --

First -- at the vat -- and latest at the Vine --

Noon -- our last Cup --

"Found dead" -- "of Nectar" --

By a humming Coroner --

In a By-Thyme!

 

 

231

God permits industrious Angels --

Afternoons -- to play --

I met one -- forgot my Schoolmates --

All -- for Him -- straightway --

God calls home -- the Angels -- promptly --

At the Setting Sun --

I missed mine -- how dreary -- Marbles --

After playing Crown!

 

 

232

The Sun -- just touched the Morning --

The Morning -- Happy thing --

Supposed that He had come to dwell --

And Life would all be Spring!

She felt herself supremer --

A Raised -- Ethereal Thing!

Henceforth -- for Her -- What Holiday!

Meanwhile -- Her wheeling King --

Trailed -- slow -- along the Orchards --

His haughty -- spangled Hems --

Leaving a new necessity!

The want of Diadems!

The Morning -- fluttered -- staggered --

Felt feebly -- for Her Crown --

Her unanointed forehead --

Henceforth -- Her only One!

 

 

233

The Lamp burns sure -- within --

Tho’ Serfs -- supply the Oil --

It matters not the busy Wick --

At her phosphoric toil!

The Slave -- forgets -- to fill --

The Lamp -- burns golden -- on --

Unconscious that the oil is out --

As that the Slave -- is gone.

 

 

234

You’re right -- "the way is narrow" --

And "difficult the Gate" --

And "few there be" -- Correct again --

That "enter in -- thereat" --

‘Tis Costly -- So are purples!

‘Tis just the price of Breath --

With but the "Discount" of the Grave --

Termed by the Brokers -- "Death"!

And after that -- there’s Heaven --

The Good Man’s -- "Dividend" --

And Bad Men -- "go to Jail" --

I guess --

 

 

235

The Court is far away --

No Umpire -- have I --

My Sovereign is offended --

To gain his grace -- I’d die!

I’ll seek his royal feet --

I’ll say -- Remember -- King --

Thou shalt -- thyself -- one day -- a Child --

Implore a larger -- thing --

That Empire -- is of Czars --

As small -- they say -- as I --

Grant me -- that day -- the royalty --

To intercede -- for Thee --

 

 

236

If He dissolve -- then -- there is nothing -- more --

Eclipse -- at Midnight --

It was dark -- before --

Sunset -- at Easter --

Blindness -- on the Dawn --

Faint Star of Bethlehem --

Gone down!

Would but some God -- inform Him --

Or it be too late!

Say -- that the pulse just lisps --

The Chariots wait --

Say -- that a little life -- for His --

Is leaking -- red --

His little Spaniel -- tell Him!

Will He heed?

 

 

237

I think just how my shape will rise --

When I shall be "forgiven" --

Till Hair -- and Eyes -- and timid Head --

Are out of sight -- in Heaven --

I think just how my lips will weigh --

With shapeless -- quivering -- prayer --

That you -- so late -- "Consider" me --

The "Sparrow" of your Care --

I mind me that of Anguish -- sent --

Some drifts were moved away --

Before my simple bosom -- broke --

And why not this -- if they?

And so I con that thing -- "forgiven" --

Until -- delirious -- borne --

By my long bright -- and longer -- trust --

I drop my Heart -- unshriven!

 

 

238

Kill your Balm -- and its Odors bless you --

Bare your Jessamine -- to the storm --

And she will fling her maddest perfume --

Haply -- your Summer night to Charm --

Stab the Bird -- that built in your bosom --

Oh, could you catch her last Refrain --

Bubble! "forgive" -- "Some better" -- Bubble!

"Carol for Him -- when I am gone"!

 

 

239

"Heaven" -- is what I cannot reach!

The Apple on the Tree --

Provided it do hopeless -- hang --

That -- "Heaven" is -- to Me!

The Color, on the Cruising Cloud --

The interdicted Land --

Behind the Hill -- the House behind --

There -- Paradise -- is found!

Her teasing Purples -- Afternoons --

The credulous -- decoy --

Enamored -- of the Conjuror --

That spurned us -- Yesterday!

 

 

240

Ah, Moon -- and Star!

You are very far --

But were no one

Farther than you --

Do you think I’d stop

For a Firmament --

Or a Cubit -- or so?

I could borrow a Bonnet

Of the Lark --

And a Chamois’ Silver Boot --

And a stirrup of an Antelope --

And be with you -- Tonight!

But, Moon, and Star,

Though you’re very far --

There is one -- farther than you --

He -- is more than a firmament -- from Me --

So I can never go!

 

 

241

I like a look of Agony,

Because I know it’s true --

Men do not sham Convulsion,

Nor simulate, a Throe --

The Eyes glaze once -- and that is Death --

Impossible to feign

The Beads upon the Forehead

By homely Anguish strung.

 

 

242

When we stand on the tops of Things --

And like the Trees, look down --

The smoke all cleared away from it --

And Mirrors on the scene --

Just laying light -- no soul will wink

Except it have the flaw --

The Sound ones, like the Hills -- shall stand --

No Lighting, scares away --

The Perfect, nowhere be afraid --

They bear their dauntless Heads,

Where others, dare not go at Noon,

Protected by their deeds --

The Stars dare shine occasionally

Upon a spotted World --

And Suns, go surer, for their Proof,

As if an Axle, held --

 

 

243

I’ve known a Heaven, like a Tent --

To wrap its shining Yards --

Pluck up its stakes, and disappear --

Without the sound of Boards

Or Rip of Nail -- Or Carpenter --

But just the miles of Stare --

That signalize a Show’s Retreat --

In North America --

No Trace -- no Figment of the Thing

That dazzled, Yesterday,

No Ring -- no Marvel --

Men, and Feats --

Dissolved as utterly --

As Bird’s far Navigation

Discloses just a Hue --

A plash of Oars, a Gaiety --

Then swallowed up, of View.

 

 

244

It is easy to work when the soul is at play --

But when the soul is in pain --

The hearing him put his playthings up

Makes work difficult -- then --

It is simple, to ache in the Bone, or the Rind --

But Gimlets -- among the nerve --

Mangle daintier -- terribler --

Like a Panter in the Glove --

 

 

245

I held a Jewel in my fingers --

And went to sleep --

The day was warm, and winds were prosy --

I said "‘Twill keep" --

I woke -- and chid my honest fingers,

The Gem was gone --

And now, an Amethyst remembrance

Is all I own --

 

 

246

Forever at His side to walk --

The smaller of the two!

Brain of His Brain --

Blood of His Blood --

Two lives -- One Being -- now --

Forever of His fate to taste --

If grief -- the largest part --

If joy -- to put my piece away

For that beloved Heart --

All life -- to know each other --

Whom we can never learn --

And bye and bye -- a Change --

Called Heaven --

Rapt Neighborhoods of Men --

Just finding out -- what puzzled us --

Without the lexicon!

 

 

247

What would I give to see his face?

I’d give -- I’d give my life -- of course --

But that is not enough!

Stop just a minute -- let me think!

I’d give my biggest Bobolink!

That makes two -- Him -- and Life!

You know who "June" is --

I’d give her --

Roses a day from Zanzibar --

And Lily tubes -- like Wells --

Bees -- by the furlong --

Straits of Blue

Navies of Butterflies -- sailed thro’ --

And dappled Cowslip Dells --

Then I have "shares" in Primrose "Banks" --

Daffodil Dowries -- spicy "Stocks" --

Dominions -- broad as Dew --

Bags of Doublons -- adventurous Bees

Brought me -- from firmamental seas --

And Purple -- from Peru --

Now -- have I bought it --

"Shylock"? Say!

Sign me the Bond!

"I vow to pay

To Her -- who pledges this --

One hour -- of her Sovereign’s face"!

Ecstatic Contract!

Niggard Grace!

My Kingdom’s worth of Bliss!

 

 

248

Why -- do they shut Me out of Heaven?

Did I sing -- too loud?

But -- I can say a little "Minor"

Timid as a Bird!

Wouldn’t the Angels try me --

Just -- once -- more --

Just -- see -- if I troubled them --

But don’t -- shut the door!

Oh, if I -- were the Gentleman

In the "White Robe" --

And they -- were the little Hand -- that knocked --

Could -- I -- forbid?

 

 

249

Wild Nights -- Wild Nights!

Were I with thee

Wild Nights should be

Our luxury!

Futile -- the Winds --

To a Heart in port --

Done with the Compass --

Done with the Chart!

Rowing in Eden --

Ah, the Sea!

Might I but moor -- Tonight --

In Thee!

 

 

250

I shall keep singing!

Birds will pass me

On their way to Yellower Climes --

Each -- with a Robin’s expectation --

I -- with my Redbreast --

And my Rhymes --

Late -- when I take my place in summer --

But -- I shall bring a fuller tune --

Vespers -- are sweeter than Matins -- Signor --

Morning -- only the seed of Noon --

 

 

251

Over the fence --

Strawberries -- grow --

Over the fence --

I could climb -- if I tried, I know --

Berries are nice!

But -- if I stained my Apron --

God would certainly scold!

Oh, dear, -- I guess if He were a Boy --

He’d -- climb -- if He could!

 

 

252

I can wade Grief --

Whole Pools of it --

I’m used to that --

But the least push of Joy

Breaks up my feet --

And I tip -- drunken --

Let no Pebble -- smile --

‘Twas the New Liquor --

That was all!

Power is only Pain --

Stranded, thro’ Discipline,

Till Weights -- will hang --

Give Balm -- to Giants --

And they’ll wilt, like Men --

Give Himmaleh --

They’ll Carry -- Him!

 

 

253

You see I cannot see -- your lifetime --

I must guess --

How many times it ache for me -- today -- Confess --

How many times for my far sake

The brave eyes film --

But I guess guessing hurts --

Mine -- got so dim!

Too vague -- the face --

My own -- so patient -- covers --

Too far -- the strength --

My timidness enfolds --

Haunting the Heart --

Like her translated faces --

Teasing the want --

It -- only -- can suffice!

 

 

254

"Hope" is the thing with feathers --

That perches in the soul --

And sings the tune without the words --

And never stops -- at all --

And sweetest -- in the Gale -- is heard --

And sore must be the storm --

That could abash the little Bird

That kept so many warm --

I’ve heard it in the chillest land --

And on the strangest Sea --

Yet, never, in Extremity,

It asked a crumb -- of Me.

 

 

255

To die -- takes just a little while --

They say it doesn’t hurt --

It’s only fainter -- by degrees --

And then -- it’s out of sight --

A darker Ribbon -- for a Day --

A Crape upon the Hat --

And then the pretty sunshine comes --

And helps us to forget --

The absent -- mystic -- creature --

That but for love of us --

Had gone to sleep -- that soundest time --

Without the weariness --

 

 

256

If I’m lost -- now

That I was found --

Shall still my transport be --

That once -- on me -- those Jasper Gates

Blazed open -- suddenly --

That in my awkward -- gazing -- face --

The Angels -- softly peered --

And touched me with their fleeces,

Almost as if they cared --

I’m banished -- now -- you know it --

How foreign that can be --

You’ll know -- Sir -- when the Savior’s face

Turns so -- away from you --

 

 

257

Delight is as the flight --

Or in the Ratio of it,

As the Schools would say --

The Rainbow’s way --

A Skein

Flung colored, after Rain,

Would suit as bright,

Except that flight

Were Aliment --

"If it would last"

I asked the East,

When that Bent Stripe

Struck up my childish

Firmament --

And I, for glee,

Took Rainbows, as the common way,

And empty Skies

The Eccentricity --

And so with Lives --

And so with Butterflies --

Seen magic -- through the fright

That they will cheat the sight --

And Dower latitudes far on --

Some sudden morn --

Our portion -- in the fashion --

Done --

 

 

258

There’s a certain Slant of light,

Winter Afternoons --

That oppresses, like the Heft

Of Cathedral Tunes --

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us --

We can find no scar,

But internal difference,

Where the Meanings, are --

None may teach it -- Any --

‘Tis the Seal Despair --

An imperial affliction

Sent us of the Air --

When it comes, the Landscape listens --

Shadows -- hold their breath --

When it goes, ‘tis like the Distance

On the look of Death --

 

 

259

Good Night! Which put the Candle out?

A jealous Zephyr -- not a doubt --

Ah, friend, you little knew

How long at that celestial wick

The Angels -- labored diligent --

Extinguished -- now -- for you!

It might -- have been the Light House spark --

Some Sailor -- rowing in the Dark --

Had importuned to see!

It might -- have been the waning lamp

That lit the Drummer from the Camp

To purer Reveille!

 

 

260

Read -- Sweet -- how others -- strove --

Till we -- are stouter --

What they -- renounced --

Till we -- are less afraid --

How many times they -- bore the faithful witness --

Till we -- are helped --

As if a Kingdom -- cared!

Read then -- of faith --

That shone above the fagot --

Clear strains of Hymn

The River could not drown --

Brave names of Men --

And Celestial Women --

Passed out -- of Record

Into -- Renown!

 

 

261

Put up my lute!

What of -- my Music!

Since the sole ear I cared to charm --

Passive -- as Granite -- laps My Music --

Sobbing -- will suit -- as well as psalm!

Would but the "Memnon" of the Desert --

Teach me the strain

That vanquished Him --

When He -- surrendered to the Sunrise --

Maybe -- that -- would awaken -- them!

 

 

262

The lonesome for they know not What --

The Eastern Exiles -- be --

Who strayed beyond the Amber line

Some madder Holiday --

And ever since -- the purple Moat

They strive to climb -- in vain --

As Birds -- that tumble from the clouds

Do fumble at the strain --

The Blessed Ether -- taught them --

Some Transatlantic Morn --

When Heaven -- was too common -- to miss --

Too sure -- to dote upon!

 

 

263

A single Screw of Flesh

Is all that pins the Soul

That stands for Deity, to Mine,

Upon my side the Veil --

Once witnessed of the Gauze --

Its name is put away

As far from mine, as if no plight

Had printed yesterday,

In tender -- solemn Alphabet,

My eyes just turned to see,

When it was smuggled by my sight

Into Eternity --

More Hands -- to hold -- These are but Two --

One more new-mailed Nerve

Just granted, for the Peril’s sake --

Some striding -- Giant -- Love --

So greater than the Gods can show,

They slink before the Clay,

That not for all their Heaven can boast

Will let its Keepsake -- go

 

 

264

A Weight with Needles on the pounds --

To push, and pierce, besides --

That if the Flesh resist the Heft --

The puncture -- coolly tries --

That not a pore be overlooked

Of all this Compound Frame --

As manifold for Anguish --

As Species -- be -- for name --

 

 

265

Where Ships of Purple -- gently toss --

On Seas of Daffodil --

Fantastic Sailors -- mingle --

And then -- the Wharf is still!

 

 

266

This -- is the land -- the Sunset washes --

These -- are the Banks of the Yellow Sea --

Where it rose -- or whither it rushes --

These -- are the Western Mystery!

Night after Night

Her purple traffic

Strews the landing with Opal Bales --

Merchantmen -- poise upon Horizons --

Dip -- and vanish like Orioles!

 

 

267

Did we disobey Him?

Just one time!

Charged us to forget Him --

But we couldn’t learn!

Were Himself -- such a Dunce --

What would we -- do?

Love the dull lad -- best --

Oh, wouldn’t you?

 

 

268

Me, change! Me, alter!

Then I will, when on the Everlasting Hill

A Smaller Purple grows --

At sunset, or a lesser glow

Flickers upon Cordillera --

At Day’s superior close!

 

 

269

Bound -- a trouble --

And lives can bear it!

Limit -- how deep a bleeding go!

So -- many -- drops -- of vital scarlet --

Deal with the soul

As with Algebra!

Tell it the Ages -- to a cypher --

And it will ache -- contented -- on --

Sing -- at its pain -- as any Workman --

Notching the fall of the Even Sun!

 

 

270

One Life of so much Consequence!

Yet I -- for it -- would pay --

My Soul’s entire income --

In ceaseless -- salary --

One Pearl -- to me -- so signal --

That I would instant dive --

Although -- I knew -- to take it --

Would cost me -- just a life!

The Sea is full -- I know it!

That -- does not blur my Gem!

It burns -- distinct from all the row --

Intact -- in Diadem!

The life is thick -- I know it!

Yet -- not so dense a crowd --

But Monarchs -- are perceptible --

Far down the dustiest Road!

 

 

271

A solemn thing -- it was -- I said --

A woman -- white -- to be --

And wear -- if God should count me fit --

Her blameless mystery --

A hallowed thing -- to drop a life

Into the purple well --

Too plummetless -- that it return --

Eternity -- until --

I pondered how the bliss would look --

And would it feel as big --

When I could take it in my hand --

As hovering -- seen -- through fog --

And then -- the size of this "small" life --

The Sages -- call it small --

Swelled -- like Horizons -- in my vest --

And I sneered -- softly -- "small"!

 

 

272

I breathed enough to take the Trick --

And now, removed from Air --

I simulate the Breath, so well --

That One, to be quite sure --

The Lungs are stirless -- must descend

Among the Cunning Cells --

And touch the Pantomine -- Himself,

How numb, the Bellows feels!

 

 

273

He put the Belt around my life

I heard the Buckle snap --

And turned away, imperial,

My Lifetime folding up --

Deliberate, as a Duke would do

A Kingdom’s Title Deed --

Henceforth, a Dedicated sort --

A Member of the Cloud.

Yet not too far to come at call --

And do the little Toils

That make the Circuit of the Rest --

And deal occasional smiles

To lives that stoop to notice mine --

And kindly ask it in --

Whose invitation, know you not

For Whom I must decline?

 

 

274

The only Ghost I ever saw

Was dressed in Mechlin -- so --

He wore no sandal on his foot --

And stepped like flakes of snow --

His Gait -- was soundless, like the Bird --

But rapid -- like the Roe --

His fashions, quaint, Mosaic --

Or haply, Mistletoe --

His conversation -- seldom --

His laughter, like the Breeze --

That dies away in Dimples

Among the pensive Trees --

Our interview -- was transient --

Of me, himself was shy --

And God forbid I look behind --

Since that appalling Day!

 

 

275

Doubt Me! My Dim Companion!

Why, God, would be content

With but a fraction of the Life --

Poured thee, without a stint --

The whole of me -- forever --

What more the Woman can,

Say quick, that I may dower thee

With last Delight I own!

It cannot be my Spirit --

For that was thine, before --

I ceded all of Dust I knew --

What Opulence the more

Had I -- a freckled Maiden,

Whose farthest of Degree,

Was -- that she might --

Some distant Heaven,

Dwell timidly, with thee!

Sift her, from Brow to Barefoot!

Strain till your last Surmise --

Drop, like a Tapestry, away,

Before the Fire’s Eyes --

Winnow her finest fondness --

But hallow just the snow

Intact, in Everlasting flake --

Oh, Caviler, for you!

 

 

276

Many a phrase has the English language --

I have heard but one --

Low as the laughter of the Cricket,

Loud, as the Thunder’s Tongue --

Murmuring, like old Caspian Choirs,

When the Tide’s a’ lull --

Saying itself in new infection --

Like a Whippoorwill --

Breaking in bright Orthography

On my simple sleep --

Thundering its Prospective --

Till I stir, and weep --

Not for the Sorrow, done me --

But the push of Joy --

Say it again, Saxton!

Hush -- Only to me!

 

 

277

What if I say I shall not wait!

What if I burst the fleshly Gate --

And pass escaped -- to thee!

What if I file this Mortal -- off --

See where it hurt me -- That’s enough --

And wade in Liberty!

They cannot take me -- any more!

Dungeons can call -- and Guns implore

Unmeaning -- now -- to me --

As laughter -- was -- an hour ago --

Or Laces -- or a Travelling Show --

Or who died -- yesterday!

 

 

278

A shady friend -- for Torrid days --

Is easier to find --

Than one of higher temperature

For Frigid -- hour of Mind --

The Vane a little to the East --

Scares Muslin souls -- away --

If Broadcloth Hearts are firmer --

Than those of Organdy --

Who is to blame? The Weaver?

Ah, the bewildering thread!

The Tapestries of Paradise

So notelessly -- are made!

 

 

279

Tie the Strings to my Life, My Lord,

Then, I am ready to go!

Just a look at the Horses --

Rapid! That will do!

Put me in on the firmest side --

So I shall never fall --

For we must ride to the Judgment --

And it’s partly, down Hill --

But never I mind the steeper --

And never I mind the Sea --

Held fast in Everlasting Race --

By my own Choice, and Thee --

Goodbye to the Life I used to live --

And the World I used to know --

And kiss the Hills, for me, just once --

Then -- I am ready to go!

 

 

280

I felt a Funeral, in my Brain,

And Mourners to and fro

Kept treading -- treading -- till it seemed

That Sense was breaking through --

And when they all were seated,

A Service, like a Drum --

Kept beating -- beating -- till I thought

My Mind was going numb --

And then I heard them lift a Box

And creak across my Soul

With those same Boots of Lead, again,

Then Space -- began to toll,

As all the Heavens were a Bell,

And Being, but an Ear,

And I, and Silence, some strange Race

Wrecked, solitary, here --

And then a Plank in Reason, broke,

And I dropped down, and down --

And hit a World, at every plunge,

And Finished knowing -- then --

 

 

281

‘Tis so appalling -- it exhilarates --

So over Horror, it half Captivates --

The Soul stares after it, secure --

A Sepulchre, fears frost, no more --

To scan a Ghost, is faint --

But grappling, conquers it --

How easy, Torment, now --

Suspense kept sawing so --

The Truth, is Bald, and Cold --

But that will hold --

If any are not sure --

We show them -- prayer --

But we, who know,

Stop hoping, now --

Looking at Death, is Dying --

Just let go the Breath --

And not the pillow at your Cheek

So Slumbereth --

Others, Can wrestle --

Yours, is done --

And so of Woe, bleak dreaded -- come,

It sets the Fright at liberty --

And Terror’s free --

Gay, Ghastly, Holiday!

 

 

282

How noteless Men, and Pleiads, stand,

Until a sudden sky

Reveals the fact that One is rapt

Forever from the Eye --

Members of the Invisible,

Existing, while we stare,

In Leagueless Opportunity,

O’ertakenless, as the Air --

Why didn’t we detain Them?

The Heavens with a smile,

Sweep by our disappointed Heads

Without a syllable --

 

 

283

A Mien to move a Queen --

Half Child -- Half Heroine --

An Orleans in the Eye

That puts its manner by

For humbler Company

When none are near

Even a Tear --

Its frequent Visitor --

A Bonnet like a Duke --

And yet a Wren’s Peruke

Were not so shy

Of Goer by --

And Hands -- so slight --

They would elate a Sprite

With Merriment --

A Voice that Alters -- Low

And on the Ear can go

Like Let of Snow --

Or shift supreme --

As tone of Realm

On Subjects Diadem --

Too small -- to fear --

Too distant -- to endear --

And so Men Compromise

And just -- revere --

 

 

284

The Drop, that wrestles in the Sea --

Forgets her own locality --

As I -- toward Thee --

She knows herself an incense small --

Yet small -- she sighs -- if All -- is All --

How larger -- be?

The Ocean -- smiles -- at her Conceit --

But she, forgetting Amphitrite --

Pleads -- "Me"?

 

 

285

The Robin’s my Criterion for Tune --

Because I grow -- where Robins do --

But, were I Cuckoo born --

I’d swear by him --

The ode familiar -- rules the Noon --

The Buttercup’s, my Whim for Bloom --

Because, we’re Orchard sprung --

But, were I Britain born,

I’d Daisies spurn --

None but the Nut -- October fit --

Because, through dropping it,

The Seasons flit -- I’m taught --

Without the Snow’s Tableau

Winter, were lie -- to me --

Because I see -- New Englandly --

The Queen, discerns like me --

Provincially --

 

 

286

That after Horror -- that ‘twas us --

That passed the mouldering Pier --

Just as the Granite Crumb let go --

Our Savior, by a Hair --

A second more, had dropped too deep

For Fisherman to plumb --

The very profile of the Thought

Puts Recollection numb --

The possibility -- to pass

Without a Moment’s Bell --

Into Conjecture’s presence --

Is like a Face of Steel --

That suddenly looks into ours

With a metallic grin --

The Cordiality of Death --

Who drills his Welcome in --

 

 

287

A Clock stopped --

Not the Mantel’s --

Geneva’s farthest skill

Can’t put the puppet bowing --

That just now dangled still --

An awe came on the Trinket!

The Figures hunched, with pain --

Then quivered out of Decimals --

Into Degreeless Noon --

It will not stir for Doctors --

This Pendulum of snow --

This Shopman importunes it --

While cool -- concernless No --

Nods from the Gilded pointers --

Nods from the Seconds slim --

Decades of Arrogance between

The Dial life --

And Him --

 

 

288

I’m Nobody! Who are you?

Are you -- Nobody -- Too?

Then there’s a pair of us!

Don’t tell! they’d advertise -- you know!

How dreary -- to be -- Somebody!

How public -- like a Frog --

To tell one’s name -- the livelong June --

To an admiring Bog!

 

 

289

I know some lonely Houses off the Road

A Robber’d like the look of --

Wooden barred,

And Windows hanging low,

Inviting to --

A Portico,

Where two could creep --

One -- hand the Tools --

The other peep --

To make sure All’s Asleep --

Old fashioned eyes --

Not easy to surprise!

How orderly the Kitchen’d look, by night,

With just a Clock --

But they could gag the Tick --

And Mice won’t bark --

And so the Walls -- don’t tell --

None -- will --

A pair of Spectacles ajar just stir --

An Almanac’s aware --

Was it the Mat -- winked,

Or a Nervous Star?

The Moon -- slides down the stair,

To see who’s there!

There’s plunder -- where --

Tankard, or Spoon --

Earring -- or Stone --

A Watch -- Some Ancient Brooch

To match the Grandmama --

Staid sleeping -- there --

Day -- rattles -- too

Stealth’s -- slow --

The Sun has got as far

As the third Sycamore --

Screams Chanticleer

"Who’s there"?

And Echoes -- Trains away,

Sneer -- "Where"!

While the old Couple, just astir,

Fancy the Sunrise -- left the door ajar!

 

 

290

Of Bronze -- and Blaze --

The North -- Tonight --

So adequate -- it forms --

So preconcerted with itself --

So distant -- to alarms --

And Unconcern so sovereign

To Universe, or me --

Infects my simple spirit

With Taints of Majesty --

Till I take vaster attitudes --

And strut upon my stem --

Disdaining Men, and Oxygen,

For Arrogance of them --

My Splendors, are Menagerie --

But their Completeless Show

Will entertain the Centuries

When I, am long ago,

An Island in dishonored Grass --

Whom none but Beetles -- know.

 

 

291

How the old Mountains drip with Sunset

How the Hemlocks burn --

How the Dun Brake is draped in Cinder

By the Wizard Sun --

How the old Steeples hand the Scarlet

Till the Ball is full --

Have I the lip of the Flamingo

That I dare to tell?

Then, how the Fire ebbs like Billows --

Touching all the Grass

With a departing -- Sapphire -- feature --

As a Duchess passed --

How a small Dusk crawls on the Village

Till the Houses blot

And the odd Flambeau, no men carry

Glimmer on the Street --

How it is Night -- in Nest and Kennel --

And where was the Wood --

Just a Dome of Abyss is Bowing

Into Solitude --

These are the Visions flitted Guido --

Titian -- never told --

Domenichino dropped his pencil --

Paralyzed, with Gold --

 

 

292

If your Nerve, deny you --

Go above your Nerve --

He can lean against the Grave,

If he fear to swerve --

That’s a steady posture --

Never any bend

Held of those Brass arms --

Best Giant made --

If your Soul seesaw --

Lift the Flesh door --

The Poltroon wants Oxygen --

Nothing more --

 

 

293

I got so I could take his name --

Without -- Tremendous gain --

That Stop-sensation -- on my Soul --

And Thunder -- in the Room --

I got so I could walk across

That Angle in the floor,

Where he turned so, and I turned -- how --

And all our Sinew tore --

I got so I could stir the Box --

In which his letters grew

Without that forcing, in my breath --

As Staples -- driven through --

Could dimly recollect a Grace --

I think, they call it "God" --

Renowned to ease Extremity --

When Formula, had failed --

And shape my Hands --

Petition’s way,

Tho’ ignorant of a word

That Ordination -- utters --

My Business, with the Cloud,

If any Power behind it, be,

Not subject to Despair --

It care, in some remoter way,

For so minute affair

As Misery --

Itself, too vast, for interrupting -- more --

 

 

294

The Doomed -- regard the Sunrise

With different Delight --

Because -- when next it burns abroad

They doubt to witness it --

The Man -- to die -- tomorrow --

Harks for the Meadow Bird --

Because its Music stirs the Axe

That clamors for his head --

Joyful -- to whom the Sunrise

Precedes Enamored -- Day --

Joyful -- for whom the Meadow Bird

Has ought but Elegy!

 

 

295

Unto like Story -- Trouble has enticed me --

How Kinsmen fell --

Brothers and Sister -- who preferred the Glory --

And their young will

Bent to the Scaffold, or in Dungeons -- chanted --

Till God’s full time --

When they let go the ignominy -- smiling --

And Shame went still --

Unto guessed Crests, my moaning fancy, leads me,

Worn fair

By Heads rejected -- in the lower country --

Of honors there --

Such spirit makes her perpetual mention,

That I -- grown bold --

Step martial -- at my Crucifixion --

As Trumpets -- rolled --

Feet, small as mine -- have marched in Revolution

Firm to the Drum --

Hands -- not so stout -- hoisted them -- in witness --

When Speech went numb --

Let me not shame their sublime deportments --

Drilled bright --

Beckoning -- Etruscan invitation --

Toward Light --

 

 

296

One Year ago -- jots what?

God -- spell the word! I -- can’t --

Was’t Grace? Not that --

Was’t Glory? That -- will do --

Spell slower -- Glory --

Such Anniversary shall be --

 

 

297

It’s like the Light --

A fashionless Delight --

It’s like the Bee --

A dateless -- Melody --

It’s like the Woods --

Private -- Like the Breeze --

Phraseless -- yet it stirs

The proudest Trees --

It’s like the Morning --

Best -- when it’s done --

And the Everlasting Clocks --

Chime -- Noon!

 

 

298

Alone, I cannot be --

For Hosts -- do visit me --

Recordless Company --

Who baffle Key --

They have no Robes, nor Names --

No Almanacs -- nor Climes --

But general Homes

Like Gnomes --

Their Coming, may be known

By Couriers within --

Their going -- is not --

For they’ve never gone --

 

 

299

Your Riches -- taught me -- Poverty.

Myself -- a Millionaire

In little Wealths, as Girls could boast

Till broad as Buenos Ayre --

You drifted your Dominions --

A Different Peru --

And I esteemed All Poverty

For Life’s Estate with you --

Of Mines, I little know -- myself --

But just the names, of Gems --

The Colors of the Commonest --

And scarce of Diadems --

So much, that did I meet the Queen --

Her Glory I should know --

But this, must be a different Wealth --

To miss it -- beggars so --

I’m sure ‘tis India -- all Day --

To those who look on You --

Without a stint -- without a blame,

Might I -- but be the Jew --

I’m sure it is Golconda --

Beyond my power to deem --

To have a smile for Mine -- each Day,

How better, than a Gem!

At least, it solaces to know

That there exists -- a Gold --

Altho’ I prove it, just in time

Its distance -- to behold --

Its far -- far Treasure to surmise --

And estimate the Pearl --

That slipped my simple fingers through --

While just a Girl at School.

 

300

"Morning" -- means "Milking" -- to the Farmer --

Dawn -- to the Teneriffe --

Dice -- to the Maid --

Morning means just Risk -- to the Lover --

Just revelation -- to the Beloved --

Epicures -- date a Breakfast -- by it --

Brides -- an Apocalypse --

Worlds -- a Flood --

Faint-going Lives -- Their Lapse from Sighing --

Faith -- The Experiment of Our Lord

 

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