Author:

Youth And Manhood

Another year! a short one, if it flow
Like that just past,
And I shall stand — if years can make me so —
A man at last.

Yet, while the hours permit me, I would pause
And contemplate
The lot whereto unalterable laws
Have bound my fate.

Yet, from the starry regions of my youth,
The empyreal height
Where dreams are happiness, and feeling truth,
And life delight —

From that ethereal and serene abode
My soul would gaze
Downward upon the wide and winding road,
Where manhood plays;

Plays with the baubles and the gauds of earth —
Wealth, power, and fame —
Nor knows that in the twelvemonth after birth
He did the same.

Where the descent begins, through long defiles
I see them wind;
And some are looking down with hopeful smiles,
And some are — blind.

And farther on a gay and glorious green
Dazzles the sight,
While noble forms are moving o’er the scene,
Like things of light.

Towers, temples, domes of perfect symmetry
Rise broad and high,
With pinnacles among the clouds; ah, me!
None touch the sky.

None pierce the pure and lofty atmosphere
Which I breathe now,
And the strong spirits that inhabit there,
Live — God sees how.

Sick of the very treasure which they heap;
Their tearless eyes
Sealed ever in a heaven-forgetting sleep,
Whose dreams are lies;

And so, a motley, unattractive throng,
They toil and plod,
Dead to the holy ecstasies of song,
To love, and God.

Dear God! if that I may not keep through life
My trust, my truth,
And that I must, in yonder endless strife,
Lose faith with youth;

If the same toil which indurates the hand
Must steel the heart,
Till, in the wonders of the ideal land,
It have no part;

Oh! take me hence! I would no longer stay
Beneath the sky;
Give me to chant one pure and deathless lay,
And let me die!

A Cry To Arms

Ho! woodsmen of the mountain side!
Ho! dwellers in the vales!
Ho! ye who by the chafing tide
Have roughened in the gales!
Leave barn and byre, leave kin and cot,
Lay by the bloodless spade;
Let desk, and case, and counter rot,
And burn your books of trade.

The despot roves your fairest lands;
And till he flies or fears,
Your fields must grow but arm|\ed bands,
Your sheaves be sheaves of spears!
Give up to mildew and to rust
The useless tools of gain;
And feed your country’s sacred dust
With floods of crimson rain!

Come, with the weapons at your call —
With musket, pike, or knife;
He wields the deadliest blade of all
Who lightest holds his life.
The arm that drives its unbought blows
With all a patriot’s scorn,
Might brain a tyrant with a rose,
Or stab him with a thorn.

Does any falter? let him turn
To some brave maiden’s eyes,
And catch the holy fires that burn
In those sublunar skies.
Oh! could you like your women feel,
And in their spirit march,
A day might see your lines of steel
Beneath the victor’s arch.

What hope, O God! would not grow warm
When thoughts like these give cheer?
The Lily calmly braves the storm,
And shall the Palm-tree fear?
No! rather let its branches court
The rack that sweeps the plain;
And from the Lily’s regal port
Learn how to breast the strain!

Ho! woodsmen of the mountain side!
Ho! dwellers in the vales!
Ho! ye who by the roaring tide
Have roughened in the gales!
Come! flocking gayly to the fight,
From forest, hill, and lake;
We battle for our Country’s right,
And for the Lily’s sake!

A Common Thought

Somewhere on this earthly planet
In the dust of flowers to be,
In the dewdrop, in the sunshine,
Sleeps a solemn day for me.

At this wakeful hour of midnight
I behold it dawn in mist,
And I hear a sound of sobbing
Through the darkness — hist! oh, hist!

In a dim and murky chamber,
I am breathing life away;
Some one draws a curtain softly,
And I watch the broadening day.

As it purples in the zenith,
As it brightens on the lawn,
There’s a hush of death about me,
And a whisper, "He is gone!"

Carolina

I

The despot treads thy sacred sands,
Thy pines give shelter to his bands,
Thy sons stand by with idle hands,
Carolina!
He breathes at ease thy airs of balm,
He scorns the lances of thy palm;
Oh! who shall break thy craven calm,
Carolina!
Thy ancient fame is growing dim,
A spot is on thy garment’s rim;
Give to the winds thy battle hymn,
Carolina!

II

Call on thy children of the hill,
Wake swamp and river, coast and rill,
Rouse all thy strength and all thy skill,
Carolina!
Cite wealth and science, trade and art,
Touch with thy fire the cautious mart,
And pour thee through the people’s heart,
Carolina!
Till even the coward spurns his fears,
And all thy fields and fens and meres
Shall bristle like thy palm with spears,
Carolina!

III

Hold up the glories of thy dead;
Say how thy elder children bled,
And point to Eutaw’s battle-bed,
Carolina!
Tell how the patriot’s soul was tried,
And what his dauntless breast defied;
How Rutledge ruled and Laurens died,
Carolina!
Cry! till thy summons, heard at last,
Shall fall like Marion’s bugle-blast
Re-echoed from the haunted Past,
Carolina!

IV

I hear a murmur as of waves
That grope their way through sunless caves,
Like bodies struggling in their graves,
Carolina!
And now it deepens; slow and grand
It swells, as, rolling to the land,
An ocean broke upon thy strand,
Carolina!
Shout! let it reach the startled Huns!
And roar with all thy festal guns!
It is the answer of thy sons,
Carolina!

V

They will not wait to hear thee call;
From Sachem’s Head to Sumter’s wall
Resounds the voice of hut and hall,
Carolina!
No! thou hast not a stain, they say,
Or none save what the battle-day
Shall wash in seas of blood away,
Carolina!
Thy skirts indeed the foe may part,
Thy robe be pierced with sword and dart,
They shall not touch thy noble heart,
Carolina!

VI

Ere thou shalt own the tyrant’s thrall
Ten times ten thousand men must fall;
Thy corpse may hearken to his call,
Carolina!
When, by thy bier, in mournful throngs
The women chant thy mortal wrongs,
‘T will be their own funereal songs,
Carolina!
From thy dead breast by ruffians trod
No helpless child shall look to God;
All shall be safe beneath thy sod,
Carolina!

VII

Girt with such wills to do and bear,
Assured in right, and mailed in prayer,
Thou wilt not bow thee to despair,
Carolina!
Throw thy bold banner to the breeze!
Front with thy ranks the threatening seas
Like thine own proud armorial trees,
Carolina!
Fling down thy gauntlet to the Huns,
And roar the challenge from thy guns;
Then leave the future to thy sons,
Carolina!

The Unknown Dead

The rain is plashing on my sill,
But all the winds of Heaven are still;
And so it falls with that dull sound
Which thrills us in the church-yard ground,
When the first spadeful drops like lead
Upon the coffin of the dead.
Beyond my streaming window-pane,
I cannot see the neighboring vane,
Yet from its old familiar tower
The bell comes, muffled, through the shower.
What strange and unsuspected link
Of feeling touched, has made me think —
While with a vacant soul and eye
I watch that gray and stony sky —
Of nameless graves on battle-plains
Washed by a single winter’s rains,
Where, some beneath Virginian hills,
And some by green Atlantic rills,
Some by the waters of the West,
A myriad unknown heroes rest.
Ah! not the chiefs, who, dying, see
Their flags in front of victory,
Or, at their life-blood’s noble cost
Pay for a battle nobly lost,
Claim from their monumental beds
The bitterest tears a nation sheds.

Beneath yon lonely mound — the spot
By all save some fond few forgot —
Lie the true martyrs of the fight
Which strikes for freedom and for right.
Of them, their patriot zeal and pride,
The lofty faith that with them died,
No grateful page shall farther tell
Than that so many bravely fell;
And we can only dimly guess
What worlds of all this world’s distress,
What utter woe, despair, and dearth,
Their fate has brought to many a hearth.
Just such a sky as this should weep
Above them, always, where they sleep;
Yet, haply, at this very hour,
Their graves are like a lover’s bower;
And Nature’s self, with eyes unwet,
Oblivious of the crimson debt
To which she owes her April grace,
Laughs gayly o’er their burial-place.

Our Willie

‘T was merry Christmas when he came,
Our little boy beneath the sod;
And brighter burned the Christmas flame,
And merrier sped the Christmas game,
Because within the house there lay
A shape as tiny as a fay —
The Christmas gift of God!
In wreaths and garlands on the walls
The holly hung its ruby balls,
The mistletoe its pearls;
And a Christmas tree’s fantastic fruits
Woke laughter like a choir of flutes
From happy boys and girls.
For the mirth, which else had swelled as shrill
As a school let loose to its errant will,
Was softened by the thought,
That in a dim hushed room above
A mother’s pains in a mother’s love
Were only just forgot.
The jest, the tale, the toast, the glee,
All took a sober tone;
We spoke of the babe upstairs, as we
Held festival for him alone.
When the bells rang in the Christmas morn,
It scarcely seemed a sin to say
That they rang because that babe was born,
Not less than for the sacred day.
Ah! Christ forgive us for the crime
Which drowned the memories of the time
In a merely mortal bliss!
We owned the error when the mirth
Of another Christmas lit the hearth
Of every home but this.
When, in that lonely burial-ground,
With every Christmas sight and sound
Removed or shunned, we kept
A mournful Christmas by the mound
Where little Willie slept!

Ah, hapless mother! darling wife!
I might say nothing more,
And the dull cold world would hold
The story of that precious life
As amply told!
Shall we, shall you and I, before
That world’s unsympathetic eyes
Lay other relics from our store
Of tender memories?
What could it know of the joy and love
That throbbed and smiled and wept above
An unresponsive thing?
And who could share the ecstatic thrill
With which we watched the upturned bill
Of our bird at its living spring?
Shall we tell how in the time gone by,
Beneath all changes of the sky,
And in an ordinary home
Amid the city’s din,
Life was to us a crystal dome,
Our babe the flame therein?
Ah! this were jargon on the mart;
And though some gentle friend,
And many and many a suffering heart,
Would weep and comprehend,
Yet even these might fail to see
What we saw daily in the child —
Not the mere creature undefiled,
But the winged cherub soon to be.
That wandering hand which seemed to reach
At angel finger-tips,
And that murmur like a mystic speech
Upon the rosy lips,
That something in the serious face
Holier than even its infant grace,
And that rapt gaze on empty space,
Which made us, half believing, say,
"Ah, little wide-eyed seer! who knows
But that for you this chamber glows
With stately shapes and solemn shows?"
Which touched us, too, with vague alarms,
Lest in the circle of our arms
We held a being less akin
To his parents in a world of sin
Than to beings not of clay:
How could we speak in human phrase,
Of such scarce earthly traits and ways,
What would not seem
A doting dream,
In the creed of these sordid days?
No! let us keep
Deep, deep,
In sorrowing heart and aching brain,
This story hidden with the pain,
Which since that blue October night
When Willie vanished from our sight,
Must haunt us even in our sleep.
In the gloom of the chamber where he died,
And by that grave which, through our care,
From Yule to Yule of every year,
Is made like Spring to bloom;
And where, at times, we catch the sigh
As of an angel floating nigh,
Who longs but has not power to tell
That in that violet-shrouded cell
Lies nothing better than the shell
Which he had cast aside —
By that sweet grave, in that dark room,
We may weave at will for each other’s ear,
Of that life, and that love, and that early doom,
The tale which is shadowed here:
To us alone it will always be
As fresh as our own misery;
But enough, alas! for the world is said,
In the brief "Here lieth" of the dead!

An Exotic

Not in a climate near the sun
Did the cloud with its trailing fringes float,
Whence, white as the down of an angel’s plume,
Fell the snow of her brow and throat.

And the ground had been rich for a thousand years
With the blood of heroes, and sages, and kings,
Where the rose that blooms in her exquisite cheek
Unfolded the flush of its wings.

On a land where the faces are fair, though pale
As a moonlit mist when the winds are still,
She breaks like a morning in Paradise
Through the palms of an orient hill.

Her beauty, perhaps, were all too bright,
But about her there broods some delicate spell,
Whence the wondrous charm of the girl grows soft
As the light in an English dell.

There is not a story of faith and truth
On the starry scroll of her country’s fame,
But has helped to shape her stately mien,
And to touch her soul with flame.

I sometimes forget, as she sweeps me a bow,
That I gaze on a simple English maid,
And I bend my head, as if to a queen
Who is courting my lance and blade.

Once, as we read, in a curtained niche,
A poet who sang of her sea-throned isle,
There was something of Albion’s mighty Bess
In the flash of her haughty smile.

She seemed to gather from every age
All the greatness of England about her there,
And my fancy wove a royal crown
Of the dusky gold of her hair.

But it was no queen to whom that day,
In the dim green shade of a trellised vine,
I whispered a hope that had somewhat to do
With a small white hand in mine.

The Tudor had vanished, and, as I spoke,
‘T was herself looked out of her frank brown eye,
And an answer was burning upon her face,
Ere I caught the low reply.

What was it! Nothing the world need know —
The stars saw our parting! Enough, that then
I walked from the porch with the tread of a king,
And she was a queen again!

Charleston

Calm as that second summer which precedes
The first fall of the snow,
In the broad sunlight of heroic deeds,
The City bides the foe.

As yet, behind their ramparts stern and proud,
Her bolted thunders sleep —
Dark Sumter, like a battlemented cloud,
Looms o’er the solemn deep.

No Calpe frowns from lofty cliff or scar
To guard the holy strand;
But Moultrie holds in leash her dogs of war
Above the level sand.

And down the dunes a thousand guns lie couched,
Unseen, beside the flood —
Like tigers in some Orient jungle crouched
That wait and watch for blood.

Meanwhile, through streets still echoing with trade,
Walk grave and thoughtful men,
Whose hands may one day wield the patriot’s blade
As lightly as the pen.

And maidens, with such eyes as would grow dim
Over a bleeding hound,
Seem each one to have caught the strength of him
Whose sword she sadly bound.

Thus girt without and garrisoned at home,
Day patient following day,
Old Charleston looks from roof, and spire, and dome,
Across her tranquil bay.

Ships, through a hundred foes, from Saxon lands
And spicy Indian ports,
Bring Saxon steel and iron to her hands,
And Summer to her courts.

But still, along yon dim Atlantic line,
The only hostile smoke
Creeps like a harmless mist above the brine,
From some frail, floating oak.

Shall the Spring dawn, and she still clad in smiles,
And with an unscathed brow,
Rest in the strong arms of her palm-crowned isles,
As fair and free as now?

We know not; in the temple of the Fates
God has inscribed her doom;
And, all untroubled in her faith, she waits
The triumph or the tomb.

A Mother Gazes Upon Her Daughter

Is she not lovely! Oh! when, long ago,
My own dead mother gazed upon my face,
As I stood blushing near in bridal snow,
I had not half her beauty and her grace.

Yet that fond mother praised, the world caressed,
And ONE adored me — how shall HE who soon
Shall wear my gentle flower upon his breast,
Prize to its utmost worth the priceless boon?

Shall he not gird her, guard her, make her rich,
(Not as the world is rich, in outward show,)
With all the love and watchful kindness which
A wise and tender manhood may bestow?

Oh! I shall part from her with many tears,
My earthly treasure, pure and undefiled!
And not without a weight of anxious fears
For the new future of my darling child.

And yet — for well I know that virgin heart —
No wifely duty will she leave undone;
Nor will her love neglect that woman’s art
Which courts and keeps a love already won.

In no light girlish levity she goes
Unto the altar where they wait her now,
But with a thoughtful, prayerful heart that knows
The solemn purport of a marriage vow.

And she will keep, with all her soul’s deep truth,
The lightest pledge which binds her love and life;
And she will be — no less in age than youth
My noble child will be — a noble wife.

And he, her lover! husband! what of him?
Yes, he will shield, I think, my bud from blight!
Yet griefs will come — enough! my eyes are dim
With tears I must not shed — at least, to-night.

Bless thee, my daughter! — Oh! she is so fair! —
Heaven bend above thee with its starriest skies!
And make thee truly all thou dost appear
Unto a lover’s and thy mother’s eyes!

A Year’s Courtship

I saw her, Harry, first, in March —
You know the street that leadeth down
By the old bridge’s crumbling arch? —
Just where it leaves the dusty town

A lonely house stands grim and dark —
You’ve seen it? then I need not say
How quaint the place is — did you mark
An ivied window? Well! one day,

I, chasing some forgotten dream,
And in a poet’s idlest mood,
Caught, as I passed, a white hand’s gleam —
A shutter opened — there she stood

Training the ivy to its prop.
Two dark eyes and a brow of snow
Flashed down upon me — did I stop? —
She says I did — I do not know.

But all that day did something glow
Just where the heart beats; frail and slight,
A germ had slipped its shell, and now
Was pushing softly for the light.

And April saw me at her feet,
Dear month of sunshine and of rain!
My very fears were sometimes sweet,
And hope was often touched with pain.

For she was frank, and she was coy,
A willful April in her ways;
And in a dream of doubtful joy
I passed some truly April days.

May came, and on that arch, sweet mouth,
The smile was graver in its play,
And, softening with the softening South,
My April melted into May.

She loved me, yet my heart would doubt,
And ere I spoke the month was June —
One warm still night we wandered out
To watch a slowly setting moon.

Something which I saw not — my eyes
Were not on heaven — a star, perchance,
Or some bright drapery of the skies,
Had caught her earnest, upper glance.

And as she paused — Hal! we have played
Upon the very spot — a fir
Just touched me with its dreamy shade,
But the full moonlight fell on her —

And as she paused — I know not why —
I longed to speak, yet could not speak;
The bashful are the boldest — I —
I stooped and gently kissed her cheek.

A murmur (else some fragrant air
Stirred softly) and the faintest start —
O Hal! we were the happiest pair!
O Hal! I clasped her heart to heart!

And kissed away some tears that gushed;
But how she trembled, timid dove,
When my soul broke its silence, flushed
With a whole burning June of love.

Since then a happy year hath sped
Through months that seemed all June and May,
And soon a March sun, overhead,
Will usher in the crowning day.

Twelve blessed moons that seemed to glow
All summer, Hal! — my peerless Kate!
She is the dearest — "Angel?" — no!
Thank God! — but you shall see her — wait.

So all is told! I count on thee
To see the Priest, Hal! Pass the wine!
Here’s to my darling wife to be!
And here’s to — when thou find’st her — thine!

A Rhapsody Of A Southern Winter Night

Oh! dost thou flatter falsely, Hope?
The day hath scarcely passed that saw thy birth,
Yet thy white wings are plumed to all their scope,
And hour by hour thine eyes have gathered light,
And grown so large and bright,
That my whole future life unfolds what seems,
Beneath their gentle beams,
A path that leads athwart some guiltless earth,
To which a star is dropping from the night!

Not many moons ago,
But when these leafless beds were all aglow
With summer’s dearest treasures, I
Was reading in this lonely garden-nook;
A July noon was cloudless in the sky,
And soon I put my shallow studies by;
Then, sick at heart, and angered by the book,
Which, in good sooth, was but the long-drawn sigh
Of some one who had quarreled with his kind,
Vexed at the very proofs which I had sought,
And all annoyed while all alert to find
A plausible likeness of my own dark thought,
I cast me down beneath yon oak’s wide boughs,
And, shielding with both hands my throbbing brows,
Watched lazily the shadows of my brain.
The feeble tide of peevishness went down,
And left a flat dull waste of dreary pain,
Which seemed to clog the blood in every vein;
The world, of course, put on its darkest frown —
In all its realms I saw no mortal crown
Which did not wound or crush some restless head;
And hope, and will, and motive, all were dead.
So, passive as a stone, I felt too low
To claim a kindred with the humblest flower;
Even that would bare its bosom to a shower,
While I henceforth would take no pains to live,
Nor place myself where I might feel or give
A single impulse whence a wish could grow.
There was a tulip scarce a gossamer’s throw
Beyond that platanus. A little child,
Most dear to me, looked through the fence and smiled
A hint that I should pluck it for her sake.
Ah, me! I trust I was not well awake —
The voice was very sweet,
Yet a faint languor kept me in my seat.
I saw a pouted lip, a toss, and heard
Some low expostulating tones, but stirred
Not even a leaf’s length, till the pretty fay,
Wondering, and half abashed at the wild feat,
Climbed the low pales, and laughed my gloom away.
And here again, but led by other powers,
A morning and a golden afternoon,
These happy stars, and yonder setting moon,
Have seen me speed, unreckoned and untasked,
A round of precious hours.
Oh! here, where in that summer noon I basked,
And strove, with logic frailer than the flowers,
To justify a life of sensuous rest,
A question dear as home or heaven was asked,
And without language answered. I was blest!
Blest with those nameless boons too sweet to trust
Unto the telltale confidence of song.
Love to his own glad self is sometimes coy,
And even thus much doth seem to do him wrong;
While in the fears which chasten mortal joy,
Is one that shuts the lips, lest speech too free,
With the cold touch of hard reality,
Should turn its priceless jewels into dust.
Since that long kiss which closed the morning’s talk,
I have not strayed beyond this garden walk.
As yet a vague delight is all I know,
A sense of joy so wild ‘t is almost pain,
And like a trouble drives me to and fro,
And will not pause to count its own sweet gain.
I am so happy! that is all my thought.
To-morrow I will turn it round and round,
And seek to know its limits and its ground.
To-morrow I will task my heart to learn
The duties which shall spring from such a seed,
And where it must be sown, and how be wrought.
But oh! this reckless bliss is bliss indeed!
And for one day I choose to seal the urn
Wherein is shrined Love’s missal and his creed.
Meantime I give my fancy all it craves;
Like him who found the West when first he caught
The light that glittered from the world he sought,
And furled his sails till Dawn should show the land;
While in glad dreams he saw the ambient waves
Go rippling brightly up a golden strand.

Hath there not been a softer breath at play
In the long woodland aisles than often sweeps
At this rough season through their solemn deeps —
A gentle Ariel sent by gentle May,
Who knew it was the morn
On which a hope was born,
To greet the flower e’er it was fully blown,
And nurse it as some lily of her own?
And wherefore, save to grace a happy day,
Did the whole West at blushing sunset glow
With clouds that, floating up in bridal snow,
Passed with the festal eve, rose-crowned, away?
And now, if I may trust my straining sight,
The heavens appear with added stars to-night,
And deeper depths, and more celestial height,
Than hath been reached except in dreams or death.
Hush, sweetest South! I love thy delicate breath;
But hush! methought I felt an angel’s kiss!
Oh! all that lives is happy in my bliss.
That lonely fir, which always seems
As though it locked dark secrets in itself,
Hideth a gentle elf,
Whose wand shall send me soon a frolic troop
Of rainbow visions, and of moonlit dreams.
Can joy be weary, that my eyelids droop?
To-night I shall not seek my curtained nest,
But even here find rest.
Who whispered then? And what are they that peep
Betwixt the foliage in the tree-top there?
Come, Fairy Shadows! for the morn is near,
When to your sombre pine ye all must creep;
Come, ye wild pilots of the darkness, ere
My spirit sinks into the gulf of Sleep;
Even now it circles round and round the deep —
Appear! Appear!