The Battle-Day & other poems (3)
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LIBERTY.

 

THY birthplace where, young Liberty?
    In graves, 'mid heroes' ashes.
Thy dwelling, where, sweet Liberty?
    In hearts, where free blood dashes.

Thy best hope where, dear Liberty?
    In fast upwinging time.
Thy first strength where, proud Liberty?
    In thine oppressor's crime.

Thy safety where, stray Liberty?
    In lands where discords cease.
Thy glory where, bright Liberty?
    In universal Peace.

 

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THE CRY OF THE RUSSIAN SERF
TO THE CZAR.

 

"LABOUR! Labour! Labour!—Toil! Toil! Toil!
    With the wearing of the bone and the drowning of
            the mind;
Sink, like shrivelled parchment, in the flesh-devouring
            soil!
    Pass away unheeded, like the waving of the wind!

"Be the living record of a tyrant's bloody fame;
    Form the trodden pathway for a conqueror's career;
Give your breath, ye millions! to elevate his name,
    And die!—when ye have shouted it till centuries shall
            hear.

"By right divine we rule ye.—God made ye but for us—"
    Thus cry the lords of nations to the slaves whom they
            subdue,
Unclasp God's book of nature: its writings read not thus.
    Hear! Tramplers on the many!—Hear! Benders to the
            few!

God gave us hearts of ardour,—God gave us noble
            forms,
    And God has poured around us his paradise of light;
Has he bade us sow the sunshine, and only reap the
            storms?
    Created us in glory, to pass away in night?

No! say the sunny heavens, that smile on all alike;
    The waves, that upbear navies, yet hold them in their
            thrall;
No! shouts the dreadful thunder, that teaches us to
            strike
    The proud, for one usurping what the Godhead meant
            for all.

No! no!—we cry, united by our sufferings' mighty length,—
    Ye—ye have ruled for ages—now we will rule as well;
No! No!—we cry, triumphant in our right's resistless
            strength,
    We—we will share your heaven—or ye shall share our
            hell!

 

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THE ITALIAN EXILE
TO HIS COUNTRYMEN.

 

MY countrymen! why languish
    Like outcasts of the earth,
And drown in tears of anguish
    The glory of your birth?
Ye were a freeborn people,
    And heroes were your race:
The dead—they are our freemen—
    The living—our disgrace.

You bend beneath your fetters,
    You fear your foes to spurn:
March! when you meet your betters
    'Tis time enough to turn.
Undam the tide of freedom!
    Your hearts its godlike source;
Faith, Honour, Right, and Glory
    The currents of its course.

And were it death awaits ye,
    On!   Death is liberty.
Then quails the power that hates ye,
    When freemen dare to die.
We call him not a Roman,
    Who brooks to be a slave:—
An alien to his country,
    And a mockery to the brave.

Down with the cup, untasted!
    Its draught is not for thee:
Its generous strength were wasted
    On all but on the free.—
Turn from the altar, bondsman!
    Nor touch a Roman bride.
What?   Wouldst thou bear her blushing
    For thee, at thine own side!

Back from the church-door, Craven;
    The great dead sleep beneath,
And liberty is graven
    On every sculptured wreath!
For whom shall lips of beauty,
    And history's tablets be?
For whom Heaven's crown of glory?
    For the Free! the Free! the Free!

 

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ONWARD AND UPWARD.

 

RIGHT onward the river is rolling,
    Its fountains are pulsing below,
And 'tis not in human controlling
    To turn but a wave of its flow!

Right onward the freeman may ride it,
    And speed in the light of its course;
For faction no more can divide it,
    Nor dam it by cunning or force.

Right upward the oak-tree is growing,
    Forth-waving its leaves in the sun,
And deep in the green earth is sowing
    The seed of a forest to come.

Right upward are striving the nations
    With high-throned corruption to cope,
Preparing for new generations
    This earth for the harvest of hope.

Right onward the breezes are blowing
    The rise of the forest and wave:
And onward the great thoughts are going,
    Upkindling the hearts of the brave.

 

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THE COMING DAY.

 

THE midnight hour is passing—the sunrise is at hand
The watchers on the mountain tops are looking o'er the land,
The world is all expectant for the first grey streak of light,
Where morning's gentlest breath shall break the mighty walls of night;
Then through that riven rampart's path what glorious rays shall pour,
When all its fiery lances rush in golden torrents o'er!
One little cloud of all that mass need but be forced away,
And night's old palsied hand no more can stem the march of day.
Thus despots over Europe brood, and thus shall freedom rise,
Down-scattering with her mighty hand old mouldering tyrannies.
Needs but one timeworn prejudice be given to the wind,
And soon successive truths will pass the gateway of the mind;
For fallacy is ever placed upon perdition's brink,
And sinks the ground beneath her feet, when men begin to think.
Oh! soon across the darkened earth that glorious morn will rise,
That takes the shadow from the heart, the dew-drop from the eyes;
Then man shall cease for aye to bend before each sceptred clod,
The knee that God made pliant but to bend unto a God;
Then, leading with a father's sway our mighty brotherhood,
By "right divine," co-equally, the wise shall guide the good,—
And prouder pomps be theirs than swell a vain imperial state,
More safe their open threshold prove, than tyrants' sentried gate.
Who dares assail their power must scale a wall that God has wrought,
A rampart-wall of honest hearts manned by one holy thought.
No need of gun or grenadier to guard them where they dwell,
For 'tis the people's self becomes their glorious citadel.
These are the throneless kings that lead the chainless nations on,
The mighty dynasts who have reigned like TELL and WASHINGTON.
Then force, and fraud its demon-twin, together fall and cease,
And tyranny's war-glory dies beneath the feet of Peace,—
While settling down through priestish graves, 'mid mosses grim and gray,
Dim Superstition buries these, and sighs and sinks away.
Then Fear shall aye be banished hence, and Love resume its place,
And Earth become one country vast, and man one household race,
And God, a household God, who dwells in every home and heart,
Not sought alone in piles of stone, encaged by monkish art!

____________


The watchers on the mountain tops are looking o'er the land,
The midnight hour is passing—the sunrise is at hand.

 

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THE BETTER HOPE.

 

A CHILD of the hard-hearted world was I,
    And a worldling callous of heart,
And eager to play with the thoughtless and gay,
    As the lightest and gayest, a part.

With a rich old name and a passionate thought,
    The brightest or darkest to span:
But a struggle to fight for my natural right,
    Of a place in the homes of man.

My father's house in the lordly square
    Was cold in its solemn state,
And the sculptures rare that the old walls bear,
    Looked down with a quiet hate.

My father's hall was a dark old spot,
    With a dark old wood around,
And large quiet streams, like watery dreams,
    On the verge of a haunted ground.

And the dwellers were filled in that solemn place,
    With the trance of a sullen pride;
For the scutcheoned grace of a titled race
    Is the armour the heart to hide!

Oh! the eye sees but half through a blazoned glass
    The smile of the sunshiny earth,
And a laugh cannot pass through a marbly mass,
    But it loses the pulse of its mirth.

And I thought: there beyond, in the broad, laughing
            world,
    Men are happy in life's holiday!
And I passed one and all, through each old-fashioned
            hall,
    And wandered away and away!

The trees, they shrunk back on my venturous track,
    Old trees that my childhood had seen;
And the mansion looked dun in the light of the sun,
    Like a grave its long grasses between.

But alas! for the change of what might have been fair,
    And the gloom of what should have been bright!
The wind weltered by like one great swelling sigh,
    And the noonday was darker than night.

For a giant had risen, all grisly and grim,
    With his huge limbs loud-clattering and vast!
And he breathed his steam-breath through long
            channels of death,
    Till the soul itself died on the blast.

And fibre and flesh he bound down on a rack,
    Flame-girt on a factory-floor;
And the ghastly steel-corse plied its horrible force,
    Still tearing the hearts of the poor.

Like a wine-press for mammon to form a gold-
            draught,
    It squeezed their best blood through its fangs;
And he quaffed at a breath the quick vintage of death,
    While it foamed with humanity's pangs.

Oh! then I looked back for my cold, quiet home,
    As the hell-bound looks back for the grave:
But I heard my soul cry, Who but cowards can fly,
    While a tyrant yet tramples a slave?

Then I bound on my armour to face the rough world,
    And I'm going to march with the rest,
Against tyrants to fight—for the sake of the right,
    And, if baffled, to fall with the best.

 

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THE POET.

THE POET'S MISSION.

 

WHO is it rivets broken bands
    And stranger-hearts together,
And builds with fast-decaying hands
    A home to last for ever?

From thunder-clouds compels the light,
    And casts the bolt away,
Upluring from the soulless night
    The soul's returning day?

Who is it calls up glories past
    From tombs of churches old?
And proudly bids the hero last,
    Tho' fades his grassy mould?

Who is it, with age-vanquished form,
    Treads death's ascending path;
Yet stronger than the fiery storm
    Of tyrants in their wrath?

Whose voice, so low to human ears,
    Has still the strength sublime
To ring thro' the advancing years—
    And history—and time?

Who is it, in love's servitude,
    Devotes his generous life,
And measures by his own heart's good
    A world with evil rife?

The Bard—who walks earth's lonely length
    Till all his gifts are given;
Makes others strong with his own strength,
    And then fleets back to Heaven.

 

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THE POET'S PARALLEL.

 

            DOWN the hillside tripping brightly,
            O'er the pebbles tinkling lightly,
'Mid the meadows rippling merrily, the mountain
                current goes;
            By the broken rocks careering,
            Thro' the desert persevering,
Flowing onward ever, ever singing as it flows.

            But oh! the darksome caves
            That swallow up the waves!
Oh! the shadow-haunted forest and the sandy
                shallows wide!
            Oh! the hollow-reeded fen,
            Like the stagnant minds of men,
A desert for the silver foot of mountain-cradled tide!

            And oh! the withered leaves
            From the fading forest-eaves,
Pressing on its forehead like the signet of decay;
            And the cold cloud's troubling tear
            On its crystal waters clear,
Like a haunting sorrow gliding down the future of its
                way.

            Oh! the quick, precipitous riot
            That breaks upon its quiet,
When lingering by some shady bank in dream-
                engendering rest!
            Oh! the stormy wind that mars
            The image of the stars,
When they nestle, heavenly lovers! on their earthly
                wooer's breast!

            But the wild flowers love thy side;
            And the birds sing o'er thy tide;
And the shy deer from the highlands confidingly
                descends;
            And to thee, the son of care,
            With a blessing and a prayer,
From life's great wildernesses in a thirsting spirit
                wends.

            And the fairies never seen,
            Come tripping o'er the green,
To gaze into thy mirror the live-long summer night;
            And the glory of the skies
            That the blind earth idly eyes,
Fills the pulses of thy being with the fulness of its
                light.

 

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THE POET'S PRAYER TO THE
EVENING WIND.

 

WILD rider of grey clouds, beneath whose breath
    The stars dissolve in mist, or rain, or sleet;
Who chariotest the scudding, years to death,
    Beneath thy driven tempests' clanging feet!

Thou child of mystery, terrible and strong,
    Whose cradle and whose grave unfathomed lies.
Thou first of poets!   Thou eternal song!
    That born each moment, yet each moment dies!

Keeper of life in ocean, earth, and air,
That else would stagnate in a dull despair!
Dispeller of the mists! whose airy hand
Winnows the dead leaves from the forest-band!
Teach me like thee to sing, untired and strong,
Flooding all earth with one great tide of song;
Heard through each clime, in every language known,
By kindred feeling set to one heart-tone!

Like thee, now breathing soft from flowery trees,
Now striking tempests through the torpid seas;
Wailing low music on some lonely strand,
Or hurling lightnings with unerring hand;
Scatt'ring the chaff from forth the goodly grain;
Dispelling fears, and cares and doubtings vain;
Till hearts of men upon my impulse sail,
And falsehood's wrecked in truth's victorious gale!

And while I live, oh! teach me still to be
A bard, as thou, brave, fetterless, and free.
Past cot and palace, to the weak and strong,
Singing the same great bold unfearing song!
And as thou bear'st sweet scents from strand to strand,
Culling the scattered treasures of the land,
So let me cull each isolated truth,
Where old bards left their thoughts' eternal youth—
Till man, while listening to the harp unseen,
Himself feels greater since the great has been.

And when the years bring labour's last reward,
Then sing my death-song, thou unequalled bard!
And tear my ashes from the clay-cold urn
To whirl them where the suns and planets burn,
And shout aloud, in brotherhood of glee:
"Like me to sing—and to be loved like me!"

 

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THE POET'S INVITATION.

 

                WHEN the sea is still as glass,
                And the whispering breezes pass
On messages from zone to zone, or waft from pole to pole
                A dewdrop of Savannah sweet,
                A particle of Arab heat—
Commingling Nature's essences in one harmonious whole;

                When the bright magnetic stars
                Seem leaning from their cars,
As drawn by some kind influence from clear familiar skies;
                And thoughts, as dreams misprized,
                Great truths unrecognised!
Strike sudden chords from forth the world's eternal harmonies;

                When the sun sets in the sea,
                Like Time in Eternity,
And space beyond horizon seems stretching without end:
                Then come to an arbour still,
                Half-way up a western hill,
That I destined for such an hour, and planted for such a friend.

                A cedar from Assyria,
                A willow from St. Helena,
A vine from classic Tusculum, their branches intertwine;
                A lily-rose from Mexico,
                The vegetable southern snow!
Stands side by side—exotic bride!—with Norway's Scaldic pine.

                The seat is formed of precious stone:
                A fragment from old Babylon,
From Theseus' wall—Carthago's fall—perchance the Roman's seat!
                From Theban Sphinx's heartless breast,
                From Aztec ruin of the west,
And a cornice from the Capitol is spread beneath our feet.

                And thence you may behold
                A map of earth unrolled,
With the steamers on the ocean and the railways on the land;
                And hear the city's hum
                Up the hillside deadened come—
Like the last ebb of the waters on a far-receding strand.

                Oh! there methinks 'twere sweet
                To sit in converse meet,
With palpable progression before our vision spread;
                And trace the mighty plan
                Of the destinies of man,
Measuring the living by the stature of the dead.

 

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THE POET'S BRIDE.

 

LIKE yon star that hangs lone in the desert of space,
    An oasis of light 'mid the dark of its blue,
With the clouds of the gloomy night near on its trace,
    And the ray of its brightness all dimmed by their hue:

Like yon dying star, my beloved one! I found thee,
    Standing alone on the desert of earth,
While the cold and the vain threw a dark cloud around thee,
    And dimmed with its shadow the light of thy birth.

But thou art all pureness, and goodness, and love;
    Whatever the lineage by which thou art known,
The sire of thy soul and thy heart is above,
    And from Him I receive thee, and make thee mine own.

 

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THE POET'S DEATH.

 

A BRAVE old warrior of poesy,
    Grown grey-haired in the service of his lyre;
A soul like an imprisoned Liberty—
    A mind like an imprisoned fire.

Vain tyranny would chain his eagle wings,
    Vain malice would his heavenly visions tame:
Still through the prison-bars the angel sings,
    Still breaks through dungeon-walls the flashing flame.

Forth, o'er the coldness of the outer world,
    Burst from his heart deep feeling's fiery flow;
Thus, from the volcano's rim unfurled,
    The lava-banner waves o'er ice and snow,

Hail to the bard, who ever sang the right!
    Hail to the river on a desert rolled!
Hail to the veteran from the Titan-fight!
    Hail to the heart that dies but grows not old!

Slow down the tide of the departing years,
    The venerable shadow flits along.
No tears for him, who ne'er gave rise to tears;
    His requiem be an echo of his song.

 

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NEW YEAR'S EVE.

 

        DARKNESS on the endless sea;
            A wild, wild wailing cry;
And the sun came down—like a fiery frown
            Cast from a god on high.

        A barque stood o'er the shadowy tide,
            All shattered, pale and dim,
With a countless crew—and such freightage too,
            That it sunk to its gunwale rim.

        A steersman gaunt sat at the helm,
            A weird, wild phantom form;
His hand like a shade on the rudder was laid,
            And he steered in the face of the storm.

        His changeless eye on the changeless sea;
            The crew around him herd;
But they stifled their breath—with the power of Death,
            For their terror could find not a word.

        And the sea-roar fell—with a sullen swell,
            On their hearts in a palpable fear,
        For the name of the sea—was Eternity,
            And the barque was the sinking Year.
The crowd seemed each moment to gather and grow,
And the foundering vessel to labour more low,
For the throngs on its deck were the millions of man,
The freightage it carried deed, prospect, and plan,
        And Time was the spirit to steer.

    Hark! to whirlwind-trumpet blast,
    The wave-hosts, singing as they passed,
        Their phalanx closed amain;
    From black cloud-batteries, thunder-riven,
    The forked artillery of heaven
        Poured downward like a rain.

        From the dark shroud dies the blast,
        Sinks the pennon from the mast,
        Leans the vessel o'er the wave,
        Like warrior gazing on his grave.
The moon stands over the desolate shore,
A wave-herd, counting her sea-flock o'er—
And at times she descends the cloud-ladder of night,
Walking the deep in a mist of light,
And striking its waters when wearied to rest,
With her ivory wand on their thousand-fold crest;
And the heavy march of the billows fell,
As they counted the seconds with roll and swell—
Till the vessel sank, like a dream o'erfraught,
With its mighty freightage of heart and thought,
        As the noon of night was knelling,
        From the waters heavily swelling,
            With a deep and sullen chime,
        And the stars the hours were telling,
        With silvery fingers dwelling
            On heaven, the dial of Time!

 

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THE LAST LIGHT.

 

AH! the sun—the sun is setting,
    And the rocks are rimmed with gold;
Darker yet the shades are getting
    In the whispering pine-wood old;

And the fairy-light is fleeting
    From the white sand on the shore;
And the weary ebb is beating
    Faint retreat with muffled roar.

Up the wreck the waves are leaping,—
    Tiny, mocking, impish crew!
Children base! their revel keeping
    O'er the foe their father slew;

And the foul things, darkly winging,
    Dart from forth the hidden cleft;
And, of all the day was bringing,
    But the morrow's hope is left.

Yet the spirit knows no fearing,
    Tho' its hour of joy hath been;
Light without is disappearing:
    Kindle up, thou light within!

 

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THE LANGUAGES.

 

GREEK'S a harp we love to hear;
Latin is a trumpet clear;
Spanish like an organ swells;
Italian rings its bridal bells;
France, with many a frolic mien,
Tunes her sprightly violin;
Loud the German rolls his drum,
When Russia's clashing cymbals come;
But Britain's sons may well rejoice,
For English is the human voice.
These, with Eastern basses far,
Form the world's great orchestra.

 

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THE HARPER WIND.*

 

THE wind's a bard—a bard so rude,
    And a many-toned harp he plays.
He's the harper wild to the field and flood,
    And sings them stirring lays.

He sings to the forest that slumbers in shade,
    And the green boughs dance for glee,
And the dead leaves wake from their grave in
            the glade,
    And whirl round the parent tree.

He sings to the mountain a shrill sharp tone,
    And scatters its frosty snow;
The avalanche starts from its icy throne,
    And bounds to the vale below.

He sings to the ocean a stormy song,
    And wakes its waves to dance—
As it hears his voice the surf rolls strong,
    And the white sea-breakers glance.

He sings to the tempest that sleeps on a cloud—
    And it wakes as it hears his call,
And its thunder-mirth grows deep and loud
    In the light of its flashing hall.

But his song is not ever so wild and rude—
    In his lay there is softer power;
His voice is dread in his stormy mood,
    But 'tis sweet in his calmer hour.

Hear him sing when the eve draws nigh:
    While the sun blushes deep o'er its fall,
And shadows like dreams on the pale earth lie—
    There is love in his vesper-call:

When youth is gone with all its brightness,
    And hope with its flowers is fading,
When the broken spirit hath lost its lightness,
    'Neath care's untimely shading:

Who sings us a song of early days
    Of the hours too dear to last?
'Tis the wailing wind in his evening-lays,
    That comes like a voice of the past.

When the mariner rests on the silent shore,
    Who sings him a song of the main?—
'Tis the wind who tunes to the breaker's roar
    His wild harp's boisterous strain!

When the mariner roameth afar from land,
    And the night shines down from above—
The soft wind stealing from distant strand,
    Sings to him of home and of love!

When fortune from our hand has passed,
    And gladness from our heart,
Hear then how well the fierce proud blast
    In our despair takes part.

When in the lighted and festal hall
    We scorn the frivolous scene,
Hear how the wind comes and whoops at the wall,
    As though mocking the triflers within.

When the lost one rests in the silent tomb,
    And none draw nigh to mourn,
And none to cheer in the cold grave's gloom
    Cast a floweret frail on his urn:

Who then will come with sigh and wail,
    When all else are passing away?
'Tis the low sweet voice of the evening gale,
    That mourns at the close of day.

*            *            *            *            *            *            *

The wind's a bard, a bard so rude,
    And a many-toned harp he plays;
And a key that sounds to each human mood
    He can strike in his endless lays.

* This song has been set to music by H. Glover,
and often sung with unanimous encores by Mr. Weiss.

 

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MOONRISE.

 

WHAT stands upon the Highland?
    What walks across the rise,
As tho' a starry island
    Were sinking down the skies?

What makes the trees so golden?
    What decks the mountain-side,
Like a veil of silver folden
    Round the white brow of a bride?

The magic moon is breaking
    Like a conqueror from the East,
The waiting world awaking
    To a golden fairy-feast.

She works with touch ethereal
    By changes strange to see,
The cypress so funereal
    To a lightsome fairy tree;

Black rocks to marble turning,
    Like palaces of kings;
On ruin-windows burning
    A festal glory flings;

The desert halls uplighting,
    While falling shadows glance,
Like courtly crowds uniting
    For the banquet or the dance;

With ivory wand she numbers
    The stars along the sky,
And breaks the billows' slumbers
    With a love-glance of her eye;

Along the cornfields dances,
    Brings bloom upon the sheaf;
From tree to tree she glances,
    And touches leaf by leaf;

Wakes birds that sleep in shadows,
    Thro' their half-closed eyelids gleams;
With her white torch thro' the meadows
    Lights the shy deer to the streams.

The magic moon is breaking
    Like a conqueror from the East,
And the joyous world partaking
    Of her golden fairy-feast.

 

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THE STEED AND THE RIDER.

 

IN the morning's light advancing
    Forward bounds a gallant steed,
Decked with Beauty's goodly housing,
    Shod with Youth, Health, Strength, and
            Speed.

Who will mount the fearless courser?
    Who can ride him to the goal,
With the spur of Emulation
    And the check of Self-control;

Perseverance' solid saddle,
    Prudence' trusty bridle-rein,
Enterprise' elastic stirrup,
    And Experience' curb of pain?

Who will mount the gallant courser?
    Who can ride him to the goal;
Thro' the paths of Life uneven
    To the temple of the Soul?

But be wary! oh, be wary!
    Long the road—the time unknown!
And at morn the rein is wanting,
    And at eve the spur has flown.

And, ere noon arise, the rider
    Oft so far has gone astray,
That when evening's twilight deepens,
    He has not recalled the way.

Who will mount the gallant courser,
    Who can ride him to the goal,
Thro' the paths of Life uneven
    To the temple of the Soul?

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THE LIFE OF A FLOWER.

 

AMID the bright'ning glories of the earth,
I watched a humble floweret from its birth;
'Twas a pale blossom and a simple one
As e'er held converse with the godlike sun—
Yet e'en on that descends the beam divine,
And drinks the offering from its perfumed shrine.
    Up sprung to life its small and tender form,
Amid a short pause of a vernal storm;
When spring once smiled between an azure rent,
Like hope thro' cares, 'mid winter's discontent.
Forth from its dark abode the young flower strove,
As though 'twere kindred to the light above,
And heaven's own beauty, like a magnet true,
Called that of earth into existence too.
Short time it raised in peace its tender head,
Smiling to God from forth its dewy bed;
Breathed the first sigh, whose perfume sweetly fell
As though an angel prayed within its cell;
And pilgrims passed, and passing paused to say,
"How fair a flower to cheer a wanderer's way!"
They lingered still, when came the chilly storm,
And drove the worldlings from that shrinking form;
Then, true to earthly law, approached to wreak
Its wildest wrath upon the fair and weak.
Then swept the frosty mist, then rose the blast,
And pitying snow entombed it as it passed,
While flying Winter placed in iron hour
An icicle where spring had raised a flower.

    The skies were cold—the fields all bare,
And bare the trees, though the buds lurked there;
The birds were silent, the waves were still,
Those voices of forest and river and hill;
And the snow o'er the fountains and flowers was spread,
Like a marble gravestone for the fairy-like dead;
But where was that gentle young child of the sun,
Its sweetest, its first, its most beautiful one?
For what is so dear, howe'er simple its bloom,
As the first bud that brightens the path of our doom?
    The hours came thronging, the hours they passed,
On their chariots of sleet, storm and sunshine, and blast;
They drove over rock, plain and forest, and wave,
And each furrowed deep o'er that desolate grave;
Or with footsteps all careless above it they trod,
Nor reck'd of the pale bloom that liv'd in the sod;
And mortals forgot it had ever been there,
Nor talked they, nor thought, of that visitor fair;
They were thinking too much of what summer would bring,
To cherish the delicate gifts of the spring.
The hours passed by, and the sun shone again,
Writing in letters of green on the plain,
With finger of fire in tracery slow,
Promise of Summer on pages of snow.
    The wanderer came with his wearisome lot,
And ever as sweet on the self-same spot,
The pale flower waving its beautiful head,
Like an angel returning to man from the dead,
With its bloom and its perfume still grew on his way,
And forced him to pause while it wooed him to stay.
    The skies grew deeper, more dark and more bright,
More dazzling by day and more dreamy by night;
The Sun, like a god to his throne, mounted higher,
Struck the green earth with a sceptre of fire,
And quaffed from the river, the lake and the main,
As tho' they were goblets for godheads to drain.
The hills were parched and rent all o'er,
Like thirst-parted lips on a sandy shore;
The streams and the rivers were tarried and dried—
The veins of the earth that had shrunk o'er their tide;
And a brown burning ball, through the desert of space
The earth still rolled on its endless race.
The leaves fell dead from the motionless trees,
Straight and lank, for there came no breeze
To bear them soft with hand unseen
And sighing song to their grass-graves green.
The verdure was dust and the water was air,
The sun stood throned on a desert bare,
And the pale flower drooped its meek, delicate head,
Like a dying child on a lonely bed.—
The wanderer shrunk from the sun's assault,
'Neath cave and cleft, and arch and vault,
And saw the hot death of the world around,
The burning sky and the burning ground.—
And mortals forgot 'mid their pain and their care,
That the beautiful stranger had ever been there.

    The hours they passed on their fiery flight,
Driving their chariots through furrows of light,
Till a trumpet-tone shattered the air of the south,
And a banner of black overshadowed the drought.
'Twas the Thunder, who called on the wind and the rain,
And led his loud armies from highland to plain,
Till leaping with joy at his fiery glance,
The round rain came down with a festal dance.
And the steaming earth quickened its inward life
To gaze on the sun and the thunder's strife.
Then the triumph-note of the victor swells,
His deep drums rolling through the dells,
And waveth his banner all shattered and dun,
Right in the face of the sinking sun,
While with flashes of lightning in solemn array,
On a rainbow-bridge he marches away.

    'Twas then the earth at still of night
Put forth its all of fair and bright:
Fountain and flower from stone and sod—
Myriads of altars to one great God.
But first of all, and still the same,
Like a buried dream that floweret came;
Like a poet's thought, that long had passed,
Returning from its heaven at last;
As pale, as fair, as sweet of hue,
With perfumed cup and crown of dew.
It came to men's hearts with a throb of pain,
Like a tale long forgotten remembered again—
A something familiar that once had been dear,
That we greet with a sigh, that we leave with a tear.

    But over the earth the rich autumn had rolled,
As a guerdon of wealth, its deep colours of gold.
With the fruit on the tree and the grain on the ground,
The vintage above and the harvest around,
The reaper with sickle, the vintner with shear,
To gather and garner the wealth of the year—
Man, who forgot his own heart in that hour,
Was too busy with fruit to remember the flower.
    And once again a change came there,
A shade on the earth and a chill on the air;
Dead from the mother-tree fell leaf by leaf,
While she stood o'er their graves with a statue-like grief;
And over the mountain the hoar frost spread,
Like snows of age on a furrowed head;
The streams crept slow with a hound-like moan;
The lakes were turning as fixed as stone;
All seemed dead but the cloud and the wind—
And where they had passed they left ruin behind.
Then, when all was gone and drear,
The harvest housed, the stubble sear,
With no more to hope in that desolate hour—
The wanderer thought of the young spring-flower:
And forth he went o'er the lonely plain,
Faltering on through a shroud of rain.
His cheek was hollow and wan of hue,
And his steps were many where they'd been few!
His brow was bent, his pace was slow,
His course was wavering to and fro—
While the arrowy sleet and the hail, as he passed,
Charged on the steeds of the hurricane-blast.
But the flower was gone where the best must go,
Showing us heaven and leaving us woe—
Gone for ever, that delicate thing,
That had outlived the summer, a child of the spring—
Modest and meek, through the rich autumn's pride
Neglected it blossomed, unheeded it died!
Type of the beautiful wrought in man's fate—
It was slighted too long, it was sought for too late!




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