To a Waterfowl
Whither, midst falling dew,
While glow the heavens with the last steps of day,
Far, through their rosy depths, dost thou pursue
Thy solitary way?
Vainly the fowler's eye
Might mark thy distant flight to do thee wrong,
As, darkly seen against the crimson sky,
Thy figure floats along.
Seek'st thou the plashy brink
Of weedy lake, or marge of river wide,
Or where the rocking billows rise and sink
On the chafed ocean-side?
There is a Power whose care
Teaches thy way along that pathless coast —
The desert and illimitable air —
Lone wandering, but not lost.
All day thy wings have fanned,
At that far height, the cold, thin atmosphere,
Yet stoop not, weary, to the welcome land,
Though the dark night is near.
And soon that toil shall end;
Soon shalt thou find a summer home, and rest,
And scream among thy fellows; reeds shall bend,
Soon, o'er thy sheltered nest.
Thou'rt gone, the abyss of heaven
Hath swallowed up thy form; yet, on my heart
Deeply has sunk the lesson thou hast given,
And shall not soon depart.
He who, from zone to zone,
Guides through the boundless sky thy certain flight,
In the long way that I must tread alone,
Will lead my steps aright.
The Death of the Flowers
The melancholy days are come, the saddest of the year,
Of wailing winds, and naked woods, and meadows brown and sere.
Heaped in the hollows of the grove, the autumn leaves lie dead;
They rustle to the eddying gust, and to the rabbit's tread;
The robin and the wren are flown, and from the shrubs the jay,
And from the wood-top calls the crow through all the gloomy day.
Where are the flowers, the fair young flowers, that lately sprang and stood
In brighter light and softer airs, a beauteous sisterhood?
Alas! they all are in their graves, the gentle race of flowers
Are lying in their lowly beds, with the fair and good of ours.
The rain is falling where they lie, but the cold November rain
Calls not from out the gloomy earth the lovely ones again.
The wind-flower and the violet, they perished long ago,
And the brier-rose and the orchis died amid the summer glow;
But on the hills the golden-rod, and the aster in the wood,
And the yellow sun-flower by the brook in autumn beauty stood,
Till fell the frost from the clear cold heaven, as falls the plague on men,
And the brightness of their smile was gone, from upland, glade, and glen.
And now, when comes the calm mild day, as still such days will come,
To call the squirrel and the bee from out their winter home;
When the sound of dropping nuts is heard, though all the trees are still,
And twinkle in the smokey light the waters of the rill,
The south wind searches for the flowers whose fragrance late he bore,
And sighs to find them in the wood and by the stream no more.
And then I think of one who in her youthful beauty died,
The fair meek blossom that grew up and faded by my side.
In the cold moist earth we laid her, when the forests cast the leaf,
And we wept that one so lovely should have a life so brief:
Yet not unmeet it was that one, like that young friend of ours,
So gentle and so beautiful, should perish with the flowers.
The Journey of Life
Beneath the waning moon I walk at night,
And muse on human life — for all around
Are dim uncertain shapes that cheat the sight,
And pitfalls lurk in shade along the ground,
And broken gleams of brightness, here and there,
Glance through, and leave unwarmed the death-like air.
The trampled earth returns a sound of fear —
A hollow sound, as if I walked on tombs;
And lights, that tell of cheerful homes, appear
Far off, and die like hope amid the glooms.
A mournful wind across the landscape flies,
And the wide atmosphere is full of sighs.
And I, with faltering footsteps, journey on,
Watching the stars that roll the hours away,
Till the faint light that guides me now is gone,
And, like another life, the glorious day
Shall open o'er me from the empyreal height,
With warmth, and certainty, and boundless light.
A day-dream by the dark-blue deep;
Was it a dream, or something more?
I sat where Posilippo's steep,
With its gray shelves, o'erhung the shore.
On ruined Roman walls around
The poppy flaunted, for 'twas May;
And at my feet, with gentle sound,
Broke the light billows of the bay.
I sat and watched the eternal flow
Of those smooth billows toward the shore,
While quivering lines of light below
Ran with them on the ocean-floor:
Till, from the deep, there seemed to rise
White arms upon the waves outspread,
Young faces, lit with soft blue eyes,
And smooth, round cheeks, just touched with red.
Their long, fair tresses, tinged with gold,
Lay floating on the ocean-streams,
And such their brows as bards behold —
Love-stricken bards — in morning dreams.
Then moved their coral lips; a strain
Low, sweet and sorrowful, I heard,
As if the murmurs of the main
Were shaped to syllable and word.
"The sight thou dimly dost behold,
Oh, stranger from a distant sky!
Was often, in the days of old,
Seen by the clear, believing eye.
"Then danced we on the wrinkled sand,
Sat in cool caverns by the sea,
Or wandered up the bloomy land,
To talk with shepherds on the lea.
"To us, in storms, the seaman prayed,
And where our rustic altars stood,
His little children came and laid
The fairest flowers of field and wood.
"Oh woe, a long, unending woe!
For who shall knit the ties again
That linked the sea-nymphs, long ago,
In kindly fellowship with men?
"Earth rears her flowers for us no more;
A half-remembered dream are we;
Unseen we haunt the sunny shore,
And swim, unmarked, the glassy sea.
"And we have none to love or aid,
But wander, heedless of mankind,
With shadows by the cloud-rack made,
With moaning wave and sighing wind.
"Yet sometimes, as in elder days,
We come before the painter's eye,
Or fix the sculptor's eager gaze,
With no profaner witness nigh.
"And then the words of men grow warm
With praise and wonder, asking where
The artist saw the perfect form
He copied forth in lines so fair."
As thus they spoke, with wavering sweep
Floated the graceful forms away;
Dimmer and dimmer, through the deep,
I saw the white arms gleam and play.
Fainter and fainter, on mine ear,
Fell the soft accents of their speech,
Till I, at last, could only hear
The waves run murmuring up the beach.
Think not that thou and I
Are here the only worshippers to day,
Beneath this glorious sky,
Mid the soft airs that o'er the meadows play;
These airs, whose breathing stirs
The fresh grass, are our fellow-worshippers.
See, as they pass, they swing
The censers of a thousand flowers that bend
O'er the young herbs of spring,
And the sweet odors like a prayer ascend,
While, passing thence, the breeze
Wakes the grave anthem of the forest-trees.
It is as when, of yore,
The Hebrew poet called the mountain-steeps,
The forests, and the shore
Of ocean, and the mighty mid-sea deeps,
And stormy wind, to raise
A universal symphony of praise.
For lo! the hills around,
Gay in their early green, give silent thanks;
And, with a joyous sound,
The streamlet's huddling waters kiss their banks,
And, from its sunny nooks,
To heaven, with grateful smiles, the valley looks.
The blossomed apple-tree,
Among its flowery tufts, on every spray,
Offers the wandering bee
A fragrant chapel for his matin-lay;
And a soft bass is heard
From the quick pinions of the humming-bird.
Haply — for who can tell? —
Aerial beings, from the world unseen,
Haunting the sunny dell,
Or slowly floating o'er the flowery green,
May join our worship here,
With harmonies too fine for mortal ear.