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



I play at Riches -- to appease

The Clamoring for Gold --

It dept me from a Thief, I think,

For often, overbold

With Want, and Opportunity --

I could have done a Sin

And been Myself that easy Thing

An independent Man --

But often as my lot displays

Too hungry to be borne

I deem Myself what I would be --

And novel Comforting

My Poverty and I derive --

We question if the Man --

Who own -- Esteem the Opulence --

As We -- Who never Can --

Should ever these exploring Hands

Chance Sovereign on a Mine --

Or in the long -- uneven term

To win, become their turn --

How fitter they will be -- for Want --

Enlightening so well --

I know not which, Desire, or Grant --

Be wholly beautiful --




Time feels so vast that were it not

For an Eternity --

I fear me this Circumference

Engross my Finity --

To His exclusion, who prepare

By Processes of Size

For the Stupendous Vision

Of his diameters --




Who Court obtain within Himself

Sees every Man a King --

And Poverty of Monarchy

Is an interior thing --

No Man depose

Whom Fate Ordain --

And Who can add a Crown

To Him who doth continual

Conspire against His Own




No Notice gave She, but a Change --

No Message, but a Sigh --

For Whom, the Time did not suffice

That She should specify.

She was not warm, though Summer shone

Nor scrupulous of cold

Though Rime by Rime, the steady Frost

Upon Her Bosom piled --

Of shrinking ways -- she did not fright

Though all the Village looked --

But held Her gravity aloft --

And met the gaze -- direct --

And when adjusted like a Seed

In careful fitted Ground

Unto the Everlasting Spring

And hindered but a Mound

Her Warm return, if so she chose --

And We -- imploring drew --

Removed our invitation by

As Some She never knew --




This Bauble was preferred of Bees --

By Butterflies admired

At Heavenly -- Hopeless Distances --

Was justified of Bird --

Did Noon -- enamel -- in Herself

Was Summer to a Score

Who only knew of Universe --

It had created Her.




A Planted Life -- diversified

With Gold and Silver Pain

To prove the presence of the Ore

In Particles -- ‘tis when

A Value struggle -- it exist --

A Power -- will proclaim

Although Annihilation pile

Whole Chaoses on Him --




Expectation -- is Contentment --

Gain -- Satiety --

But Satiety -- Conviction

Of Necessity

Of an Austere trait in Pleasure --

Good, without alarm

Is a too established Fortune --

Danger -- deepens Sum --




So set its Sun in Thee

What Day be dark to me --

What Distance -- far --

So I the Ships may see

That touch -- how seldomly --

Thy Shore?




Unable are the Loved to die

For Love is Immortality,

Nay, it is Deity --

Unable they that love -- to die

For Love reforms Vitality

Into Divinity.




Her Grace is all she has --

And that, so least displays --

One Art to recognize, must be,

Another Art, to praise.




The Veins of other Flowers

The Scarlet Flowers are

Till Nature leisure has for Terms

As "Branch," and "Jugular."

We pass, and she abides.

We conjugate Her Skill

While She creates and federates

Without a syllable.




A Light exists in Spring

Not present on the Year

At any other period --

When March is scarcely here

A Color stands abroad

On Solitary Fields

That Science cannot overtake

But Human Nature feels.

It waits upon the Lawn,

It shows the furthest Tree

Upon the furthest Slope you know

It almost speaks to you.

Then as Horizons step

Or Noons report away

Without the Formula of sound

It passes and we stay --

A quality of loss

Affecting our Content

As Trade had suddenly encroached

Upon a Sacrament.




This quiet Dust was Gentleman and Ladies

And Lads and Girls --

Was laughter and ability and Sighing

And Frocks and Curls.

This Passive Place a Summer’s nimble mansion

Where Bloom and Bees

Exists an Oriental Circuit

Then cease, like these --




One Day is there of the Series

Termed Thanksgiving Day.

Celebrated part at Table

Part in Memory.

Neither Patriarch nor Pussy

I dissect the Play

Seems it to my Hooded thinking

Reflex Holiday.

Had there been no sharp Subtraction

From the early Sum --

Not an Acre or a Caption

Where was once a Room --

Not a Mention, whose small Pebble

Wrinkled any Sea,

Unto Such, were such Assembly

‘Twere Thanksgiving Day.




The Luxury to apprehend

The Luxury ‘twould be

To look at Thee a single time

An Epicure of Me

In whatsoever Presence makes

Till for a further Food

I scarcely recollect to starve

So first am I supplied --

The Luxury to meditate

The Luxury it was

To banguet on thy Countenance

A Sumptuousness bestows

On plainer Days, whose Table far

As Certainty can see

Is laden with a single Crumb

The Consciousness of Thee.




A Death blow is a Life blow to Some

Who till they died, did not alive become --

Who had they lived, had died but when

They died, Vitality begun.




Given in Marriage unto Thee

Oh thou Celestial Host --

Bride of the Father and the Son

Bride of the Holy Ghost.

Other Betrothal shall dissolve --

Wedlock of Will, decay --

Only the Keeper of this Ring

Conquer Mortality --




I could not drink it, Sweet,

Till You had tasted first,

Though cooler than the Water was

The Thoughtfullness of Thirst.




All I may, if small,

Do it not display

Larger for the Totalness --

‘Tis Economy

To bestow a World

And withhold a Star --

Utmost, is Munificence --

Less, tho’ larger, poor.




All Circumstances are the Frame

In which His Face is set --

All Latitudes exist for His

Sufficient Continent --

The Light His Action, and the Dark

The Leisure of His Will --

In Him Existence serve or set

A Force illegible.




Away from Home are some and I --

An Emigrant to be

In a Metropolis of Homes

Is easy, possibly --

The Habit of a Foreign Sky

We -- difficult -- acquire

As Children, who remain in Face

The more their Feet retire.




This Consciousness that is aware

Of Neighbors and the Sun

Will be the one aware of Death

And that itself alone

Is traversing the interval

Experience between

And most profound experiment

Appointed unto Men --

How adequate unto itself

Its properties shall be

Itself unto itself and none

Shall make discovery.

Adventure most unto itself

The Soul condemned to be --

Attended by a single Hound

Its own identity.




Not that We did, shall be the test

When Act and Will are done

But what Our Lord infers We would

Had We diviner been --





[first version]

The Wind begun to knead the Grass --

As Women do a Dough --

He flung a Hand full at the Plain --

A Hand full at the Sky --

The Leaves unhooked themselves from Trees --

And started all abroad --

The Dust did scoop itself like Hands --

And throw away the Road --

The Wagons -- quickened on the Street --

The Thunders gossiped low --

The Lightning showed a Yellow Head --

And then a livid Toe --

The Birds put up the Bars to Nests --

The Cattle flung to Barns --

Then came one drop of Giant Rain --

And then, as if the Hands

That held the Dams -- had parted hold --

The Waters Wrecked the Sky --

But overlooked my Father’s House --

Just Quartering a Tree --

[second version]

The Wind begun to rock the Grass

With threatening Tunes and low --

He threw a Menace at the Earth --

A Menace at the Sky.

The Leaves unhooked themselves from Trees --

And started all abroad

The Dust did scoop itself like Hands

And threw away the Road.

The Wagons quickened on the Streets

The Thunder hurried slow --

The Lightning showed a Yellow Beak

And then a livid Claw.

The Birds put up the Bars to Nests --

The Cattle fled to Barns --

There came one drop of Giant Rain

And then as if the Hands

That held the Dams had parted hold

The Waters Wrecked the Sky,

But overlooked my Father’s House --

Just quartering a Tree --




An Hour is a Sea

Between a few, and me --

With them would Harbor be --




Love reckons by itself -- alone --

"As large as I" -- relate the Sun

To One who never felt it blaze --

Itself is all the like it has --




The Only News I know

Is Bulletins all Day

From Immortality.

The Only Shows I see --

Tomorrow and Today --

Perchance Eternity --

The Only One I meet

Is God -- The Only Street --

Existence -- This traversed

If Other News there be --

Or Admirable Show --

I’ll tell it You --




The Robin is the One

That interrupt the Morn

With hurried -- few -- express Reports

When March is scarcely on --

The Robin is the One

That overflow the Noon

With her cherubic quantity --

An April but begun --

The Robin is the One

That speechless from her Nest

Submit that Home -- and Certainty

And Sanctity, are best




Ample make this Bed --

Make this Bed with Awe --

In it wait till Judgment break

Excellent and Fair.

Be its Mattress straight --

Be its Pillow round --

Let no Sunrise’ yellow noise

Interrupt this Ground --




To this World she returned.

But with a tinge of that --

A Compound manner,

As a Sod

Espoused a Violet,

That chiefer to the Skies

Than to himself, allied,

Dwelt hesitating, half of Dust,

And half of Day, the Bride.




Dying! To be afraid of thee

One must to thine Artillery

Have left exposed a Friend --

Than thine old Arrow is a Shot

Delivered straighter to the Heart

The leaving Love behind.

Not for itself, the Dust is shy,

But, enemy, Beloved be

Thy Batteries divorce.

Fight sternly in a Dying eye

Two Armies, Love and Certainty

And Love and the Reverse.




Soto! Explore thyself!

Therein thyself shalt find

The "Undiscovered Continent" --

No Settler had the Mind.




Perhaps you think me stooping

I’m not ashamed of that

Christ -- stooped until He touched the Grave --

Do those at Sacrament

Commemorative Dishonor

Or love annealed of love

Until it bend as low as Death

Redignified, above?




Before He comes we weigh the Time!

‘Tis Heavy and ‘tis Light.

When He depart, an Emptiness

Is the prevailing Freight.




Nature and God -- I neither knew

Yet Both so well knew me

They startled, like Executors

Of My identity.

Yet Neither told -- that I could learn --

My Secret as secure

As Herschel’s private interest

Or Mercury’s affair --




Truth -- is as old as God --

His Twin identity

And will endure as long as He

A Co-Eternity --

And perish on the Day

Himself is borne away

From Mansion of the Universe

A lifeless Deity.




How well I knew Her not

Whom not to know has been

A Bounty in prospective, now

Next Door to mine the Pain.




Impossibility, like Wine

Exhilarates the Man

Who tastes it; Possibility

Is flavorless -- Combine

A Chance’s faintest Tincture

And in the former Dram

Enchantment makes ingredient

As certainly as Doom --




Always Mine!

No more Vacation!

Term of Light this Day begun!

Failless as the fair rotation

Of the Seasons and the Sun.

Old the Grace, but new the Subjects --

Old, indeed, the East,

Yet upon His Purple Programme

Every Dawn, is first.




I cannot buy it -- ‘tis not sold --

There is no other in the World --

Mine was the only one

I was so happy I forgot

To shut the Door And it went out

And I am all alone --

If I could find it Anywhere

I would not mind the journey there

Though it took all my store

But just to look it in the Eye --

"Did’st thou?" "Thou did’st not mean," to say,

Then, turn my Face away.




A Moth the hue of this

Haunts Candles in Brazil.

Nature’s Experience would make

Our Reddest Second pale.

Nature is fond, I sometimes think,

Of Trinkets, as a Girl.




Good to hide, and hear ‘em hunt!

Better, to be found,

If one care to, that is,

The Fox fits the Hound --

Good to know, and not tell,

Best, to know and tell,

Can one find the rare Ear

Not too dull --




I made slow Riches but my Gain

Was steady as the Sun

And every Night, it numbered more

Than the preceding One

All Days, I did not earn the same

But my perceiveless Gain

Inferred the less by Growing than

The Sum that it had grown.




Spring is the Period

Express from God.

Among the other seasons

Himself abide,

But during March and April

None stir abroad

Without a cordial interview

With God.




Be Mine the Doom --

Sufficient Fame --

To perish in Her Hand!




Twice had Summer her fair Verdure

Proffered to the Plain --

Twice a Winter’s silver Fracture

On the Rivers been --

Two full Autumns for the Squirrel

Bounteous prepared --

Nature, Had’st thou not a Berry

For thy wandering Bird?




Finite -- to fail, but infinite to Venture --

For the one ship that struts the shore

Many’s the gallant -- overwhelmed Creature

Nodding in Navies nevermore --




Just as He spoke it from his Hands

This Edifice remain --

A Turret more, a Turret less

Dishonor his Design --

According as his skill prefer

It perish, or endure --

Content, soe’er, it ornament

His absent character.




The good Will of a Flower

The Man who would possess

Must first present


Of minted Holiness.




I sing to use the Waiting

My Bonnet but to tie

And shut the Door unto my House

No more to do have I

Till His best step approaching

We journey to the Day

And tell each other how We sung

To Keep the Dark away.




When the Astronomer stops seeking

For his Pleiad’s Face --

When the lone British Lady

Forsakes the Arctic Race

When to his Covenant Needle

The Sailor doubting turns --

It will be amply early

To ask what treason means.




Apology for Her

Be rendered by the Bee --

Herself, without a Parliament

Apology for Me.




When One has given up One’s life

The parting with the rest

Feels easy, as when Day lets go

Entirely the West

The Peaks, that lingered last

Remain in Her regret

As scarcely as the Iodine

Upon the Cataract.




Banish Air from Air --

Divide Light if you dare --

They’ll meet

While Cubes in a Drop

Or Pellets of Shape


Films cannot annul

Odors return whole

Force Flame

And with a Blonde push

Over your impotence

Flits Steam.




To own the Art within the Soul

The Soul to entertain

With Silence as a Company

And Festival maintain

Is an unfurnished Circumstance

Possession is to One

As an Estate perpetual

Or a reduceless Mine.




There is a finished feeling

Experienced at Graves --

A leisure of the Future --

A Wilderness of Size.

By Death’s bold Exhibition

Preciser what we are

And the Eternal function

Enabled to infer.




Uncertain lease -- develops lustre

On Time

Uncertain Grasp, appreciation

Of Sum --

The shorter Fate -- is oftener the chiefest


Inheritors upon a tenure

Prize --




This Chasm, Sweet, upon my life

I mention it to you,

When Sunrise through a fissure drop

The Day must follow too.

If we demur, its gaping sides

Disclose as ‘twere a Tomb

Ourself am lying straight wherein

The Favorite of Doom.

When it has just contained a Life

Then, Darling, it will close

And yet so bolder every Day

So turbulent it grows

I’m tempted half to stitch it up

With a remaining Breath

I should not miss in yielding, though

To Him, it would be Death --

And so I bear it big about

My Burial -- before

A Life quite ready to depart

Can harass me no more --




A doubt if it be Us

Assists the staggering Mind

In an extremer Anguish

Until it footing find.

An Unreality is lent,

A merciful Mirage

That makes the living possible

While it suspends the lives.




Absence disembodies -- so does Death

Hiding individuals from the Earth

Superposition helps, as well as love --

Tenderness decreases as we prove --




Split the Lark -- and you’ll find the Music --

Bulb after Bulb, in Silver rolled --

Scantilly dealt to the Summer Morning

Saved for your Ear when Lutes be old.

Loose the Flood -- you shall find it patent --

Gush after Gush, reserved for you --

Scarlet Experiment! Sceptic Thomas!

Now, do you doubt that your Bird was true?




Light is sufficient to itself --

If Others want to see

It can be had on Window Panes

Some Hours in the Day.

But not for Compensation --

It holds as large a Glow

To Squirrel in the Himmaleh

Precisely, as to you.




That Distance was between Us

That is not of Mile or Main --

The Will it is that situates --

Equator -- never can --




The Robin for the Crumb

Returns no syllable

But long records the Lady’s name

In Silver Chronicle.




He outstripped Time with but a Bout,

He outstripped Stars and Sun

And then, unjaded, challenged God

In presence of the Throne.

And He and He in mighty List

Unto this present, run,

The larger Glory for the less

A just sufficient Ring.




Fame is the tine that Scholars leave

Upon their Setting Names --

The Iris not of Occident

That disappears as comes --




Escaping backward to perceive

The Sea upon our place --

Escaping forward, to confront

His glittering Embrace --

Retreating up, a Billow’s height

Retreating blinded down

Our undermining feet to meet

Instructs to the Divine.




They ask but our Delight --

The Darlings of the Soil

And grant us all their Countenance

For a penurious smile.




Because the Bee may blameless hum

For Thee a Bee do I become

List even unto Me.

Because the Flowers unafraid

May lift a look on thine, a Maid

Alway a Flower would be.

Nor Robins, Robins need not hide

When Thou upon their Crypts intrude

So Wings bestow on Me

Or Petals, or a Dower of Buzz

That Bee to ride, or Flower of Furze

I that way worship Thee.




Finding is the first Act

The second, loss,

Third, Expedition for

The "Golden Fleece"

Fourth, no Discovery --

Fifth, no Crew --

Finally, no Golden Fleece --

Jason -- sham -- too.




The Sun and Moon must make their haste --

The Stars express around

For in the Zones of Paradise

The Lord alone is burned --

His Eye, it is the East and West --

The North and South when He

Do concentrate His Countenance

Like Glow Worms, flee away --

Oh Poor and Far --

Oh Hindred Eye

That hunted for the Day --

The Lord a Candle entertains

Entirely for Thee --




As the Starved Maelstrom laps the Navies

As the Vulture teased

Forces the Broods in lonely Valleys

As the Tiger eased

By but a Crumb of Blood, fasts Scarlet

Till he meet a Man

Dainty adorned with Veins and Tissues

And partakes -- his Tongue

Cooled by the Morsel for a moment

Grows a fiercer thing

Till he esteem his Dates and Cocoa

A Nutrition mean

I, of a finer Famine

Deem my Supper dry

For but a Berry of Domingo

And a Torrid Eye.




Ribbons of the Year --

Multitude Brocade --

Worn to Nature’s Party once

Then, as flung aside

As a faded Bead

Or a Wrinkled Pearl

Who shall charge the Vanity

Of the Maker’s Girl?




They won’t frown always -- some sweet Day

When I forget to tease --

They’ll recollect how cold I looked

And how I just said "Please."

Then They will hasten to the Door

To call the little Girl

Who cannot thank Them for the Ice

That filled the lisping full.




I stepped from Plank to Plank

A slow and cautious way

The Stars about my Head I felt

About my Feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next

Would be my final inch --

This gave me that precarious Gait

Some call Experience.




It was a Grave, yet bore no Stone

Enclosed ‘twas not of Rail

A Consciousness its Acre, and

It held a Human Soul.

Entombed by whom, for what offence

If Home or Foreign born --

Had I the curiosity

‘Twere not appeased of men

Till Resurrection, I must guess

Denied the small desire

A Rose upon its Ridge to sow

Or take away a Briar.




Each Scar I’ll keep for Him

Instead I’ll say of Gem

In His long Absence worn

A Costlier one

But every Tear I bore

Were He to count them o’er

His own would fall so more

I’ll mis sum them.




The Sun is gay or stark

According to our Deed.

If Merry, He is merrier --

If eager for the Dead

Or an expended Day

He helped to make too bright

His mighty pleasure suits Us not

It magnifies our Freight




Each Second is the last

Perhaps, recalls the Man

Just measuring unconsciousness

The Sea and Spar between.

To fail within a Chance --

How terribler a thing

Than perish from the Chance’s list

Before the Perishing!




The Bird must sing to earn the Crumb

What merit have the Tune

No Breakfast if it guaranty

The Rose content may bloom

To gain renown of Lady’s Drawer

But if the Lady come

But once a Century, the Rose

Superfluous become --




I’ve none to tell me to but Thee

So when Thou failest, nobody.

It was a little tie --

It just held Two, nor those it held

Since Somewhere thy sweet Face has spilled

Beyond my Boundary --

If things were opposite -- and Me

And Me it were -- that ebbed from Thee

On some unanswering Shore --

Would’st Thou seek so -- just say

That I the Answer may pursue

Unto the lips it eddied through --

So -- overtaking Thee --




A Shade upon the mind there passes

As when on Noon

A Cloud the mighty Sun encloses


That some there be too numb to notice

Oh God

Why give if Thou must take away

The Loved?




The Poets light but Lamps --

Themselves -- go out --

The Wicks they stimulate --

If vital Light

Inhere as do the Suns --

Each Age a Lens

Disseminating their

Circumference --




As Everywhere of Silver

With Ropes of Sand

To keep it from effacing

The Track called Land.




Our little Kinsmen -- after Rain

In plenty may be seen,

A Pink and Pulpy multitude

The tepid Ground upon.

A needless life, it seemed to me

Until a little Bird

As to a Hospitality

Advanced and breakfasted.

As I of He, so God of Me

I pondered, may have judged,

And left the little Angle Worm

With Modesties enlarged.




These tested Our Horizon --

Then disappeared

As Birds before achieving

A Latitude.

Our Retrospection of Them

A fixed Delight,

But our Anticipation

A Dice -- a Doubt --




We outgrow love, like other things

And put it in the Drawer --

Till it an Antique fashion shows --

Like Costumes Grandsires wore.




When I have seen the Sun emerge

From His amazing House --

And leave a Day at every Door

A Deed, in every place --

Without the incident of Fame

Or accident of Noise --

The Earth has seemed to me a Drum,

Pursued of little Boys




Crisis is a Hair

Toward which the forces creep

Past which forces retrograde

If it come in sleep

To suspend the Breath

Is the most we can

Ignorant is it Life or Death

Nicely balancing.

Let an instant push

Or an Atom press

Or a Circle hesitate

In Circumference

It -- may jolt the Hand

That adjusts the Hair

That secures Eternity

From presenting -- Here --




From Us She wandered now a Year,

Her tarrying, unknown,

If Wilderness prevent her feet

Or that Ethereal Zone

No eye hath seen and lived

We ignorant must be --

We only know what time of Year

We took the Mystery.




To my quick ear the Leaves -- conferred --

The Bushes -- they were Bells --

I could not find a Privacy

From Nature’s sentinels --

In Cave if I presumed to hide

The Walls -- begun to tell --

Creation seemed a mighty Crack --

To make me visible --




Who occupies this House?

A Stranger I must judge

Since No one know His Circumstance --

‘Tis well the name and age

Are writ upon the Door

Or I should fear to pause

Where not so much as Honest Dog

Approach encourages.

It seems a curious Town --

Some Houses very old,

Some -- newly raised this Afternoon,

Were I compelled to build

It should not be among

Inhabitants so still

But where the Birds assemble

And Boys were possible.

Before Myself was born

‘Twas settled, so they say,

A Territory for the Ghosts --

And Squirrels, formerly.

Until a Pioneer, as

Settlers often do

Liking the quiet of the Place

Attracted more unto --

And from a Settlement

A Capital has grown

Distinguished for the gravity

Of every Citizen.

The Owner of this House

A Stranger He must be --

Eternity’s Acquaintances

Are mostly so -- to me.




Drab Habitation of Whom?

Tabernacle or Tomb --

Or Dome of Worm --

Or Porch of Gnome --

Or some Elf’s Catacomb?




Of Consciousness, her awful Mate

The Soul cannot be rid --

As easy the secreting her

Behind the Eyes of God.

The deepest hid is sighted first

And scant to Him the Crowd --

What triple Lenses burn upon

The Escapade from God --




A Cloud withdrew from the Sky

Superior Glory be

But that Cloud and its Auxiliaries

Are forever lost to me

Had I but further scanned

Had I secured the Glow

In an Hermetic Memory

It had availed me now.

Never to pass the Angel

With a glance and a Bow

Till I am firm in Heaven

Is my intention now.




Of Silken Speech and Specious Shoe

A Traitor is the Bee

His service to the newest Grace

Present continually

His Suit a chance

His Troth a Term

Protracted as the Breeze

Continual Ban propoundeth He

Continual Divorce.




How fortunate the Grave --

All Prizes to obtain --

Successful certain, if at last,

First Suitor not in vain.




How happy I was if I could forget

To remember how sad I am

Would be an easy adversity

But the recollecting of Bloom

Keeps making November difficult

Till I who was almost bold

Lose my way like a little Child

And perish of the cold.




Herein a Blossom lies --

A Sepulchre, between --

Cross it, and overcome the Bee --

Remain -- ‘tis but a Rind.




What did They do since I saw Them?

Were They industrious?

So many questions to put Them

Have I the eagerness

That could I snatch Their Faces

That could Their lips reply

Not till the last was answered

Should They start for the Sky.

Not if Their Party were waiting,

Not if to talk with Me

Were to Them now, Homesickness

After Eternity.

Not if the Just suspect me

And offer a Reward

Would I restore my Booty

To that Bold Person, God --

As Stars that drop anonymous

From an abundant sky.


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