How did the tears to my glad eyes start, When the woman-flower Reached its blossoming hour, And I saw the warm deeps of thy golden heart!
And then, like minute-drops of rain Ringing in water silvery, They lingering dropped and dropped again, Till it was almost like a pain To listen when the next would be. A lily thou wast when I saw thee first, A lily-bud; but oh, how strange, How full of wonder was the change, When, ripe with all sweetness, thy full bloom burst!
Or in low murmurs they began, Rising and rising momently, As o’er a harp AEolian A fitful breeze, until they ran Up to a sudden ecstasy. A lily thou wast when I saw thee first, A lily-bud not opened quite, That hourly grew more pure and white, By morning, and noontide, and evening nursed: In all of nature thou hadst thy share; Thou wast waited on By the wind and sun; The rain and the dew for thee took care; It seemed thou never couldst be more fair.
A FRAGMENT Thick-rushing, like an ocean vast Of bisons the far prairie shaking, The notes crowd heavily and fast As surfs, one plunging while the last Draws seaward from its foamy breaking.
And thou, to lull thine infant rest, Wast cradled like an Indian child; All pleasant winds from south and west With lullabies thine ears beguiled, Rocking thee in thine oriole’s nest, Till Nature looked at thee and smiled.
On the wide marsh the purple-blossomed grasses Soak up the sunshine; sleeps the brimming tide, Save when the wedge-shaped wake in silence passes Of some slow water-rat, whose sinuous glide Wavers the sedge’s emerald shade from side to side; But up the west, like a rock-shivered surge, Climbs a great cloud edged with sun-whitened spray; Huge whirls of foam boil toppling o’er its verge, 20 And falling still it seems, and yet it climbs alway. And instantly follows the rattling thunder, As if some cloud-crag, split asunder, Fell, splintering with a ruinous crash, On the Earth, which crouches in silence under; And now a solid gray wall of rain Shuts off the landscape, mile by mile; 50 For a breath’s space I see the blue wood again, And ere the next heart-beat, the wind-hurled pile, That seemed but now a league aloof, Bursts crackling o’er the sun-parched roof; Against the windows the storm comes dashing, Through tattered foliage the hail tears crashing, The blue lightning flashes, The rapid hail clashes, The white waves are tumbling, And, in one baffled roar, 60 Like the toothless sea mumbling A rock-bristled shore, The thunder is rumbling And crashing and crumbling,— Will silence return nevermore? Still as death, The tempest holds his breath As from a sudden will; The rain stops short, but from the eaves You see it drop, and hear it from the leaves, 70 All is so bodingly still; Again, now, now, again Plashes the rain in heavy gouts, The crinkled lightning Seems ever brightening, And loud and long Again the thunder shouts His battle-song,— One quivering flash, One wildering crash, 80 Followed by silence dead and dull, As if the cloud, let go, Leapt bodily below To whelm the earth in one mad overthrow. True Love is but a humble, low-born thing, And hath its food served up in earthen ware; It is a thing to walk with, hand in hand, Through the everydayness of this workday world, Baring its tender feet to every flint, Yet letting not one heart-beat go astray From Beauty’s law of plainness and content; A simple, fireside thing, whose quiet smile Can warm earth’s poorest hovel to a home; Which, when our autumn cometh, as it must, And life in the chill wind shivers bare and leafless, Shall still be blest with Indian-summer youth In bleak November, and, with thankful heart, Smile on its ample stores of garnered fruit, As full of sunshine to our aged eyes As when it nursed the blossoms of our spring.
Untremulous in the river clear, Toward the sky’s image, hangs the imaged bridge; So still the air that I can hear The slender clarion of the unseen midge; Out of the stillness, with a gathering creep, Like rising wind in leaves, which now decreases, Now lulls, now swells, and all the while increases, The huddling trample of a drove of sheep Tilts the loose planks, and then as gradually ceases In dust on the other side; life’s emblem deep, 10 A confused noise between two silences, Finding at last in dust precarious peace. No more my half-dazed fancy there, Can shape a giant In the air, No more I see his streaming hair, The writhing portent of his form;— 90 The pale and quiet moon Makes her calm forehead bare, And the last fragments of the storm, Like shattered rigging from a fight at sea, Silent and few, are drifting over me.
Than all men he more fearless was and freer, And all his brethren cried with one accord,— ’Behold the holy man! He could interpret well the wondrous voices Which to the calm and silent spirit come; He knew that the One Soul no more rejoices In the star’s anthem than the insect’s hum. And yet with kingly pomp his numbers ran, As he foresaw how all things false should crumble Before the free, uplifted soul of man; 40 And, when he was made full to overflowing With all the loveliness of heaven and earth, Out rushed his song, like molten iron glowing, To show God sitting by the humblest hearth.
20 He gazed on all within him and without him, He watched the flowing of Time’s steady tide, And shapes of glory floated all about him And whispered to him, and he prophesied. ’ He to his heart with large embrace had taken The universal sorrow of mankind, 30 And, from that root, a shelter never shaken, The tree of wisdom grew with sturdy rind.