Not in the crisis of events
Of compass’d hopes, or fears fulfill’d,
Or acts of gravest consequence,
Are life’s delight and depth reveal’d.
The day of days was not the day;
That went before, or was postponed;
The night Death took our lamp away
Was not the night on which we groan’d.
I drew my bride, beneath the moon,
Across my threshold; happy hour!
But, ah, the walk that afternoon
We saw the water-flags in flower!
One by one they go
Into the unknown dark–
Star-lit brows of the brave,
Voices that drew men’s souls.
Rich is the land, O Death!
Can give you dead like our dead!–
Such as he from whose hand
The magic web of romance
Slipt, and the art was lost!
Such as he who erewhile–
The last of the Titan brood–
With his thunder the Senate shook;
Or he who, beside the Charles,
Untoucht of envy or hate,
Tranced the world with his song;
Or that other, that grey-eyed seer
Who in pastoral Concord ways
With Plato and Hâfiz walked.
Not of these was the man
Whose wraith, through the mists of night,
Through the shuddering wintry stars,
Has passed to eternal morn.
Fit were the moan of the sea
And the clashing of cloud on cloud
For the passing of that soul!
Ever he faced the storm!
No weaver of rare romance,
No patient framer of laws,
No maker of wondrous rhyme,
No bookman wrapt in his dream.
His was the voice that rang
In the fight like a bugle-call,
And yet could be tender and low
As when, on a night in June,
The hushed wind sobs in the pines.
His was the eye that flashed
With a sabre’s azure gleam,
Pointing to heights unwon!
Not for him were these days
Of clerky and sluggish calm–
To the petrel the swooping gale!
Austere he seemed, but the hearts
Of all men beat in his breast;
No fetter but galled his wrist,
No wrong that was not his own.
What if those eloquent lips
Curled with the old-time scorn?
What if in needless hours
His quick hand closed on the hilt?
‘T was the smoke from the well-won fields
That clouded the vetran’s eyes.
A fighter this to the end.
Ah, if in coming times
Some giant evil arise,
And Honor falter and pale,
His were a name to conjure with!
God send his like again!
The increasing moonlight drifts across my bed,
And on the churchyard by the road, I know
It falls as white and noiselessly as snow . . . .
‘Twas such a night two weary summers fled;
The stars, as now, were waning overhead.
Listen! Again the shrill-lipped bugles blow
Where the swift currents of the river flow
Past Fredericksburg; far off the heavens are red
With sudden conflagration; on yon height,
Linstock in hand, the gunners hold their breath;
A signal rocket pierces the dense night,
Flings its spent stars upon the town beneath;
Hark! — the artillery massing on the right,
Hark! — the black squadrons wheeling down to Death!
Forever am I conscious, moving here,
That should I step a little space aside
I pass the boundary of some glorified
Invisible domain — it lies so near!
Yet nothing know we of that dim frontier
Which each must cross, whatever fate betide,
To reach the heavenly cities where abide
(Thus Sorrow whispers) those that were most dear,
Now all transfigured in celestial light!
Shall we indeed behold them, thine and mine,
Whose going hence made black the noonday sun? —
Strange is it that across the narrow night
They fling us not some token, or make sign
That all beyond is not Oblivion.
Sick of myself and all that keeps the light
Of the wide heavens away from me and mine,
I climb this ledge, and by this wind-swept pine
Lingering, watch the coming of the night:
‘Tis ever a new wonder to my sight.
Men look to God for some mysterious sign,
For other stars than such as nightly shine,
For some unwonted symbol of His might.
Wouldst see a miracle not less than those
The Master wrought of old in Galilee?
Come watch with me the azure turn to rose
In yonder West, the changing pageantry,
The fading alps and archipelagoes,
And spectral cities of the sunset-sea.
Who is Lydia, pray, and who
Is Hypatia? Softly, dear,
Let me breathe it in your ear–
They are you, and only you.
And those other nameless two
Walking in Arcadian air–
She that was so very fair?
She that had the twilight hair?–
They were you, dear, only you.
If I speak of night or day,
Grace of fern or bloom of grape,
Hanging cloud or fountain spray,
Gem or star or glistening dew,
Or of mythologic shape,
Psyche, Pyrrha, Daphne, say–
I mean you, dear, you, just you.
Those forms we fancy shadows, those strange lights
That flash on lone morasses, the quick wind
That smites us by the roadside are the Night’s
Innumerable children. Unconfined
By shroud or coffin, disembodied souls,
Still on probation, steal into the air
From ancient battlefields and churchyard knolls
At the day’s ending. Pestilence and despair
Fly with the startled bats at set of sun;
And wheresoever murders have been done,
In crowded palaces or lonely woods,
Where’er a soul has sold itself and lost
Its high inheritance, there, hovering, broods
Some mute, invisible, accursèd ghost.
With all my will, but much against my heart,
We two now part.
My Very Dear,
Our solace is, the sad road lies so clear.
It needs no art,
With faint, averted feet
And many a tear,
In our opposèd paths to persevere.
Go thou to East, I West.
We will not say
There ‘s any hope, it is so far away.
But, O, my Best,
When the one darling of our widowhead,
The nursling Grief,
And no dews blur our eyes
To see the peach-bloom come in evening skies,
Perchance we may,
Where now this night is day,
And even through faith of still averted feet,
Making full circle of our banishment,
The bitter journey to the bourne so sweet
Seasoning the termless feast of our content
With tears of recognition never dry.
Listen my masters! I speak naught but truth.
From dawn to dawn they drifted on and on,
Not knowing wither nor to what dark end.
Now the North froze them, now the hot South scorched.
Some called to God, and found great comfort so;
Some gnashed their teeth with curses, some laughed
An empty laughter, seeing they yet lived,
So sweet was breath between their foolish lips.
Day after day the same relentless sun,
Night after night the same unpitying stars.
At intervals fierce lightning tore the clouds,
Showing vast hollow spaces, and the sleet
Hissed, and the torrents of the sky were loosed.
From time to time a hand relaxed its grip,
And some pale wretch slid down into the dark
With stifled moan, and transient horror seized
The rest who waited, knowing what must be.
At every turn strange shapes reached up and clutched
The whirling wreck, held on awhile, and then
Slipt back into that blackness whence they came.
Ah, hapless folk, to be so tost and torn,
So racked by hunger, fever, fire, and wave,
And swept at last into the nameless void–
Frail girls, strong men, and mothers with their babes!
And was none saved?
My masters, not a soul!
O shipman, woful, woful is thy tale!
Our hearts are heavy and our eyes are dimmed.
What ship is this that suffered such ill fate?
What ship, my masters? Know ye not?–The World!
I thought I heard Him calling. Did you hear
A sound, a little sound? My curious ear
Is dinned with flying noises, and the tree
Goes — whisper, whisper, whisper silently
Till all its whispers spread into the sound
Of a dull roar. Lie closer to the ground,
The shade is deep and He may pass us by.
We are so very small, and His great eye,
Customed to starry majesties, may gaze
Too wide to spy us hiding in the maze;
Ah, misery! the sun has not yet gone
And we are naked: He will look upon
Our crouching shame, may make us stand upright
Burning in terror — O that it were night!
He may not come . . . what! listen, list now —
He is here! lie closer . . . Adam, where art thou?
We severed in Autumn early,
Ere the earth was torn by the plough;
The wheat and the oats and the barley
Are ripe for the harvest now.
We sunder’d one misty morning
Ere the hills were dimm’d by the rain;
Through the flowers those hills adorning —
Thou comest not back again.
My heart is heavy and weary
With the weight of a weary soul;
The mid-day glare grows dreary,
And dreary the midnight scroll.
The corn-stalks sigh for the sickle,
‘Neath the load of their golden grain;
I sigh for a mate more fickle —
Thou comest not back again.
The warm sun riseth and setteth,
The night bringeth moistening dew,
But the soul that longeth forgetteth
The warmth and the moisture too.
In the hot sun rising and setting
There is naught save feverish pain;
There are tears in the night-dews wetting —
Thou comest not back again.
Thy voice in my ear still mingles
With the voices of whisp’ring trees,
Thy kiss on my cheek still tingles
At each kiss of the summer breeze.
While dreams of the past are thronging
For substance of shades in vain,
I am waiting, watching and longing —
Thou comest not back again.
Waiting and watching ever,
Longing and lingering yet;
Leaves rustle and corn-stalks quiver,
Winds murmur and waters fret.
No answer they bring, no greeting,
No speech, save that sad refrain,
Nor voice, save an echo repeating —
He cometh not back again.