Author:

The Toys

My little Son, who look’d from thoughtful eyes
And moved and spoke in quiet grown-up wise,
Having my law the seventh time disobey’d,
I struck him, and dismiss’d
With hard words and unkiss’d,
—His Mother, who was patient, being dead.
Then, fearing lest his grief should hinder sleep,
I visited his bed,
But found him slumbering deep,
With darken’d eyelids, and their lashes yet
From his late sobbing wet.
And I, with moan,
Kissing away his tears, left others of my own;
For, on a table drawn beside his head,
He had put, within his reach,
A box of counters and a red-vein’d stone,
A piece of glass abraded by the beach,
And six or seven shells,
A bottle with bluebells,
And two French copper coins, ranged there with careful art,
To comfort his sad heart.
So when that night I pray’d
To God, I wept, and said:
Ah, when at last we lie with trancèd breath,
Not vexing Thee in death,
And Thou rememberest of what toys
We made our joys,
How weakly understood
Thy great commanded good,
Then, fatherly not less
Than I whom Thou hast moulded from the clay,
Thou’lt leave Thy wrath, and say,
‘I will be sorry for their childishness.’

Thalia

"A MIDDLE-AGED LYRICAL POET IS SUPPOSED TO BE TAKING FINAL LEAVE OF THE MUSE OF COMEDY. SHE HAS BROUGHT HIM HIS HAT AND GLOVES, AND IS ABSTRACTEDLY PICKING A THREAD OF GOLD HAIR FROM HIS COAT SLEEVE AS HE BEGINS TO SPEAK:

I say it under the rose–
oh, thanks! –yes, under the laurel,
We part lovers, not foes;
we are not going to quarrel.

We have too long been friends
on foot and in guilded coaches,
Now that the whole thing ends,
to spoil our kiss with reproaches.

I leave you; my soul is wrung;
I pause, look back from the portal–
Ah, I no more am young,
and you, child, are immortal!

Mine is the glacier’s way,
yours is the blossom’s weather–
When were December and May
known to be happy together?

Before my kisses grow tame,
before my moodiness grieve you,
While yet my heart is flame,
and I all lover, I leave you.

So, in the coming time,
when you count the rich years over,
Think of me in my prime,
and not as a white-haired lover.

Fretful, pierced with regret,
the wraith of dead Desire
Thrumming a cracked spinnet
by a slowly dying fire.

When, at last, I am cold–
years hence, if the gods so will it–
Say, "He was true as gold,"
and wear a rose in your fillet!

Others, tender as I,
will come and sue for carresses,
Woo you, win you, and die–
mind you, a rose in your tresses!

Some Melpomene woo,
some hold Clio nearest;
You, sweet Comedy–you
were ever sweetest and dearest!

Nay, it is time to go–
when writing your tragic sister
Say to that child of woe
how sorry I was I missed her.

Really, I cannot stay,
though "parting is such sweet sorrow" . . .
Perhaps I will, on my way
down-town, look in to-morrow!

I Heard A Bird At Dawn

I heard a bird at dawn
Singing sweetly on a tree,
That the dew was on the lawn,
And the wind was on the lea;
But I didn’t listen to him,
For he didn’t sing to me.

I didn’t listen to him,
For he didn’t sing to me
That the dew was on the lawn
And the wind was on the lea;
I was singing at the time
Just as prettily as he.

I was singing all the time,
Just a prettily as he,
About the dew upon the lawn
And the wind upon the lea;
So I didn’t listen to him
As he sang upon a tree.

On Reading William Watson’s Sonnet Entitled The Purple East

Restless the Northern Bear amid his snows
Crouched by the Neva; menacing is France,
That sees the shadow of the Uhlan’s lance
On her clipped borders; struggling in the throes
Of wanton war lies Spain, and deathward goes.
And thou, O England, how the time’s mischance
Hath fettered thee, that with averted glance
Thou standest, marble to Armenia’s woes!
If ’twas thy haughty Dauther of the West
That stayed thy hand,, a word had driven away
Her sudden ire, and brought her to thy breast!
Thy blood makes quick her pulses, and some day,
Not now, yet some day, at thy soft behest
She by thy side shall hold the world at bay.

Enamored Architect Of Airy Rhyme

Enamored architect of airy rhyme,
Build as thou wilt, heed not what each man says:
Good souls, but innocent of dreamers’ ways,
Will come, and marvel why thou wastest time;
Others, beholding how thy turrets climb
‘Twixt theirs and heaven, will hate thee all thy days;
But most beware of those who come to praise.
O Wondersmith, O worker in sublime
And heaven-sent dreams, let art be all in all;
Build as thou wilt, unspoiled by praise or blame,
Build as thou wilt, and as thy light is given;
Then, if at last the airy structure fall,
Dissolve, and vanish — take thyself no shame.
They fail, and they alone, who have not striven.

Threnody

I

Upon your hearse this flower I lay
Brief be your sleep! You shall be known
When lesser men have had their day:
Fame blossoms where true seed is sown,
Or soon or late, let Time wound what it may.

II

Unvext by any dream of fame,
You smiled, and bade the world pass by:
But I–I turned, and saw a name
Shaping itself against the sky–
White star that rose amid the battle’s flame!

III

Brief be your sleep, for I would see
Your laurels–ah, how trivial now
To him must earthly laurel be
Who wears the amaranth on his brow!
How vain the voices of mortality!

Batuschka

[Author’s Note: The title means "little father" or "dear little father", a term of endearment applied to the Tsar in Russian folk-song. –T.B.A.]

From yonder gilded minaret
Beside the steel-blue Neva set,
I faintly catch, from time to time,
The sweet, aerial midnight chime–
"God save the Tsar!"

Above the ravelins and the moats
Of the white citadel it floats;
And men in dungeons far beneath
Listen, and pray, and gnash their teeth–
"God save the Tsar!"

The soft reiterations sweep
Across the horrer of their sleep,
As if some dæmon in his glee
Were mocking at their misery–
"God save the Tsar!"

In his Red Palace over there,
Wakeful, he needs must hear the prayer.
How can it drown the broken cries
Wrung from his children’s agonies?–
"God save the Tsar!"

Father they called him from of old–
Batuschka! . . . How his heart is cold!
Wait till a million scourgëd men
Rise in their awful might, and then
God save the Tsar!

The Letter

EDWARD ROWLAND SILL, DIED FEBRUARY 27, 1887

I held his letter in my hand,
And even while I read
The lightning flashed across the land
The word that he was dead.

How strange it seemed! His living voice
Was speaking from the page
Those courteous phrases, tersely choice,
Light-hearted, witty, sage.

I wondered what it was that died!
The man himself was here,
His modesty, his scholar’s pride,
His soul serene and clear.

These neither death nor time shall dim,
Still this sad thing must be–
Henceforth I may not speak to him,
Though he can speak to me!

The Menu

I beg you come to-night and dine.
A welcome waits you, and sound wine–
The Roederer chilly to a charm,
As Juno’s breath the claret warm,
The sherry of an ancient brand.
No Persian pomp, you understand–
A soup, a fish, two meats, and then
A salad fit for aldermen
(When alderman, alas, the days!
Were really worth their mayonnaise);
A dish of grapes whose clusters won
Their bronze in Carolinian sun;
Next, cheese–for you the Neufchâtel,
A bit of Cheshire likes me well;
Café au lait or coffee black,
With Kirsch or Kümmel or Cognac
(The German band in Irving Place
By this time purple in the face);
Cigars and pipes. These being through,
Friends shall drop in, a very few–
Shakespeare and Milton, and no more.
When these are guests I bolt the door,
With Not at Home to any one
Excepting Alfred Tennyson.

A Petition

To spring belongs the violet, and the blown
Spice of the roses let the summer own.
Grant me this favor, Muse–all else withhold–
That I may not write verse when I am old.

And yet I pray you, Muse, delay the time!
Be not too ready to deny me rhyme;
And when the hour strikes, as it must, dear Muse,
I beg you very gently break the news.