20+ Best Sidney Lanier Poems

Sidney Clopton Lanier was an American musician, poet and author. He served in the Confederate States Army as a private, worked on a blockade-running ship for which he was imprisoned, taught, worked at a hotel where he gave musical performances, was a church organist, and worked as a lawyer.

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Famous Sidney Lanier Poems

The Tournament

Joust First.

I.

Bright shone the lists, blue bent the skies,
And the knights still hurried amain
To the tournament under the ladies’ eyes,
Where the jousters were Heart and Brain.

II.

Flourished the trumpets: entered Heart,
A youth in crimson and gold.
Flourished again: Brain stood apart,
Steel-armored, dark and cold.

III.

Heart’s palfrey caracoled gayly round,
Heart tra-li-ra’d merrily;
But Brain sat still, with never a sound,
So cynical-calm was he.

IV.

Heart’s helmet-crest bore favors three
From his lady’s white hand caught;
While Brain wore a plumeless casque; not he
Or favor gave or sought.

V.

The herald blew; Heart shot a glance
To find his lady’s eye,
But Brain gazed straight ahead his lance
To aim more faithfully.

VI.

They charged, they struck; both fell, both bled.
Brain rose again, ungloved,
Heart, dying, smiled and faintly said,
“My love to my beloved!”


Camp French, Wilmington, N.C., May, 1862.

Joust Second.

I.

A-many sweet eyes wept and wept,
A-many bosoms heaved again;
A-many dainty dead hopes slept
With yonder Heart-knight prone o’ the plain.

II.

Yet stars will burn through any mists,
And the ladies’ eyes, through rains of fate,
Still beamed upon the bloody lists
And lit the joust of Love and Hate.

III.

O strange! or ere a trumpet blew,
Or ere a challenge-word was given,
A knight leapt down i’ the lists; none knew
Whether he sprang from earth or heaven.

IV.

His cheek was soft as a lily-bud,
His grey eyes calmed his youth’s alarm;
Nor helm nor hauberk nor even a hood
Had he to shield his life from harm.

V.

No falchion from his baldric swung,
He wore a white rose in its place.
No dagger at his girdle hung,
But only an olive-branch, for grace.

VI.

And “Come, thou poor mistaken knight,”
Cried Love, unarmed, yet dauntless there,
“Come on, God pity thee! — I fight
Sans sword, sans shield; yet, Hate, beware!”

VII.

Spurred furious Hate; he foamed at mouth,
His breath was hot upon the air,
His breath scorched souls, as a dry drought
Withers green trees and burns them bare.

VIII.

Straight drives he at his enemy,
His hairy hands grip lance in rest,
His lance it gleams full bitterly,
God! — gleams, true-point, on Love’s bare breast!

IX.

Love’s grey eyes glow with a heaven-heat,
Love lifts his hand in a saintly prayer;
Look! Hate hath fallen at his feet!
Look! Hate hath vanished in the air!

X.

Then all the throng looked kind on all;
Eyes yearned, lips kissed, dumb souls were freed;
Two magic maids’ hands lifted a pall
And the dead knight, Heart, sprang on his steed.

XI.

Then Love cried, “Break me his lance, each knight!
Ye shall fight for blood-athirst Fame no more!”
And the knights all doffed their mailed might
And dealt out dole on dole to the poor.

XII.

Then dove-flights sanctified the plain,
And hawk and sparrow shared a nest.
And the great sea opened and swallowed Pain,
And out of this water-grave floated Rest!

To Dr. Thomas Shearer

Presenting a portrait-bust of the author.

Since you, rare friend! have tied my living tongue
With thanks more large than man e’er said or sung,
So let the dumbness of this image be
My eloquence, and still interpret me.

The Centennial Cantata.

The Centennial Meditation of Columbia. 1776-1876. A Cantata.

[Musical Annotations, in angled brackets, precede each section.]

[Full chorus: sober, measured and yet majestic progressions of chords.]

From this hundred-terraced height,
Sight more large with nobler light
Ranges down yon towering years.
Humbler smiles and lordlier tears
Shine and fall, shine and fall,
While old voices rise and call
Yonder where the to-and-fro
Weltering of my Long-Ago
Moves about the moveless base
Far below my resting-place.

[Chorus: the sea and the winds mingling their voices with human sighs.]

Mayflower, Mayflower, slowly hither flying,
Trembling westward o’er yon balking sea,
Hearts within Farewell dear England’ sighing, Winds withoutBut dear in vain’ replying,
Gray-lipp’d waves about thee shouted, crying
‘No! It shall not be!’

[Quartette: a meagre and despairing minor.]

Jamestown, out of thee —
Plymouth, thee — thee, Albany —

Winter cries, Ye freeze:’ away! Fever cries,Ye burn:’ away!
Hunger cries, Ye starve:’ away! Vengeance cries,Your graves shall stay!’

[Full chorus: return of the `motive’ of the second movement,
but worked up with greater fury, to the climax of the shout
at the last line.]

Then old Shapes and Masks of Things,
Framed like Faiths or clothed like Kings
Ghosts of Goods once fleshed and fair,
Grown foul Bads in alien air —
War, and his most noisy lords,
Tongued with lithe and poisoned swords —
Error, Terror, Rage and Crime,
All in a windy night of time
Cried to me from land and sea,
`No! Thou shalt not be!’

[A rapid and intense whisper-chorus.]

Hark! Huguenots whispering yea’ in the dark, Puritans answeringyea’ in the dark!
`Yea’ like an arrow shot true to his mark,
Darts through the tyrannous heart of Denial.
Patience and Labor and solemn-souled Trial,
Foiled, still beginning,
Soiled, but not sinning,
Toil through the stertorous death of the Night,
Toil when wild brother-wars new-dark the Light,
Toil, and forgive, and kiss o’er, and replight.

[Chorus of jubilation, until the appeal of the last two lines
introduces a tone of doubt: it then sinks to `pianissimo’.]

Now Praise to God’s oft-granted grace,
Now Praise to Man’s undaunted face,
Despite the land, despite the sea,
I was: I am: and I shall be —
How long, Good Angel, O how long?
Sing me from Heaven a man’s own song!

[Basso solo: the good Angel replies:]

‘Long as thine Art shall love true love,
Long as thy Science truth shall know,
Long as thine Eagle harms no Dove,
Long as thy Law by law shall grow,
Long as thy God is God above,
Thy brother every man below,
So long, dear Land of all my love,
Thy name shall shine, thy fame shall glow!’

[Full chorus: jubilation and welcome.]

O Music, from this height of time my Word unfold:
In thy large signals all men’s hearts Man’s heart behold:
Mid-heaven unroll thy chords as friendly flags unfurled,
And wave the world’s best lover’s welcome to the world.

On Huntingdon’s “Miranda”

The storm hath blown thee a lover, sweet,
And laid him kneeling at thy feet.
But, — guerdon rich for favor rare!
The wind hath all thy holy hair
To kiss and to sing through and to flare
Like torch-flames in the passionate air,
About thee, O Miranda.

Eyes in a blaze, eyes in a daze,
Bold with love, cold with amaze,
Chaste-thrilling eyes, fast-filling eyes
With daintiest tears of love’s surprise,
Ye draw my soul unto your blue
As warm skies draw the exhaling dew,
Divine eyes of Miranda.

And if I were yon stolid stone,
Thy tender arm doth lean upon,
Thy touch would turn me to a heart,
And I would palpitate and start,
— Content, when thou wert gone, to be
A dumb rock by the lonesome sea
Forever, O Miranda.

Sunrise

In my sleep I was fain of their fellowship, fain
Of the live-oak, the marsh, and the main.
The little green leaves would not let me alone in my sleep;
Up-breathed from the marshes, a message of range and of sweep,
Interwoven with waftures of wild sea-liberties, drifting,
Came through the lapped leaves sifting, sifting,
Came to the gates of sleep.
Then my thoughts, in the dark of the dungeon-keep
Of the Castle of Captives hid in the City of Sleep,
Upstarted, by twos and by threes assembling:
The gates of sleep fell a-trembling
Like as the lips of a lady that forth falter `Yes,’
Shaken with happiness:
The gates of sleep stood wide.

I have waked, I have come, my beloved! I might not abide:
I have come ere the dawn, O beloved, my live-oaks, to hide
In your gospelling glooms, — to be
As a lover in heaven, the marsh my marsh and the sea my sea.

Tell me, sweet burly-bark’d, man-bodied Tree
That mine arms in the dark are embracing, dost know
From what fount are these tears at thy feet which flow?
They rise not from reason, but deeper inconsequent deeps.
Reason’s not one that weeps.
What logic of greeting lies
Betwixt dear over-beautiful trees and the rain of the eyes?

O cunning green leaves, little masters! like as ye gloss
All the dull-tissued dark with your luminous darks that emboss
The vague blackness of night into pattern and plan,
So,
(But would I could know, but would I could know,)
With your question embroid’ring the dark of the question of man, —
So, with your silences purfling this silence of man
While his cry to the dead for some knowledge is under the ban,
Under the ban, —
So, ye have wrought me
Designs on the night of our knowledge, — yea, ye have taught me,
So,
That haply we know somewhat more than we know.

Ye lispers, whisperers, singers in storms,
Ye consciences murmuring faiths under forms,
Ye ministers meet for each passion that grieves,
Friendly, sisterly, sweetheart leaves,
Oh, rain me down from your darks that contain me
Wisdoms ye winnow from winds that pain me, —
Sift down tremors of sweet-within-sweet
That advise me of more than they bring, — repeat
Me the woods-smell that swiftly but now brought breath
From the heaven-side bank of the river of death, —
Teach me the terms of silence, — preach me
The passion of patience, — sift me, — impeach me, —
And there, oh there
As ye hang with your myriad palms upturned in the air,
Pray me a myriad prayer.

My gossip, the owl, — is it thou
That out of the leaves of the low-hanging bough,
As I pass to the beach, art stirred?
Dumb woods, have ye uttered a bird?


Reverend Marsh, low-couched along the sea,
Old chemist, rapt in alchemy,
Distilling silence, — lo,
That which our father-age had died to know —
The menstruum that dissolves all matter — thou
Hast found it: for this silence, filling now
The globed clarity of receiving space,
This solves us all: man, matter, doubt, disgrace,
Death, love, sin, sanity,
Must in yon silence’ clear solution lie.
Too clear! That crystal nothing who’ll peruse?
The blackest night could bring us brighter news.
Yet precious qualities of silence haunt
Round these vast margins, ministrant.
Oh, if thy soul’s at latter gasp for space,
With trying to breathe no bigger than thy race
Just to be fellow’d, when that thou hast found
No man with room, or grace enough of bound
To entertain that New thou tell’st, thou art, —
‘Tis here, ’tis here thou canst unhand thy heart
And breathe it free, and breathe it free,
By rangy marsh, in lone sea-liberty.

The tide’s at full: the marsh with flooded streams
Glimmers, a limpid labyrinth of dreams.
Each winding creek in grave entrancement lies
A rhapsody of morning-stars. The skies
Shine scant with one forked galaxy, —
The marsh brags ten: looped on his breast they lie.

Oh, what if a sound should be made!
Oh, what if a bound should be laid
To this bow-and-string tension of beauty and silence a-spring, —
To the bend of beauty the bow, or the hold of silence the string!
I fear me, I fear me yon dome of diaphanous gleam
Will break as a bubble o’er-blown in a dream, —
Yon dome of too-tenuous tissues of space and of night,
Over-weighted with stars, over-freighted with light,
Over-sated with beauty and silence, will seem
But a bubble that broke in a dream,
If a bound of degree to this grace be laid,
Or a sound or a motion made.

But no: it is made: list! somewhere, — mystery, where?
In the leaves? in the air?
In my heart? is a motion made:
‘Tis a motion of dawn, like a flicker of shade on shade.
In the leaves ’tis palpable: low multitudinous stirring
Upwinds through the woods; the little ones, softly conferring,
Have settled my lord’s to be looked for; so; they are still;
But the air and my heart and the earth are a-thrill, —
And look where the wild duck sails round the bend of the river, —
And look where a passionate shiver
Expectant is bending the blades
Of the marsh-grass in serial shimmers and shades, —
And invisible wings, fast fleeting, fast fleeting,
Are beating
The dark overhead as my heart beats, — and steady and free
Is the ebb-tide flowing from marsh to sea —
(Run home, little streams,
With your lapfulls of stars and dreams), —
And a sailor unseen is hoisting a-peak,
For list, down the inshore curve of the creek
How merrily flutters the sail, —
And lo, in the East! Will the East unveil?
The East is unveiled, the East hath confessed
A flush: ’tis dead; ’tis alive: ’tis dead, ere the West
Was aware of it: nay, ’tis abiding, ’tis unwithdrawn:
Have a care, sweet Heaven! ‘Tis Dawn.

Now a dream of a flame through that dream of a flush is uprolled:
To the zenith ascending, a dome of undazzling gold
Is builded, in shape as a bee-hive, from out of the sea:
The hive is of gold undazzling, but oh, the Bee,
The star-fed Bee, the build-fire Bee,
Of dazzling gold is the great Sun-Bee
That shall flash from the hive-hole over the sea.

Yet now the dew-drop, now the morning gray,
Shall live their little lucid sober day
Ere with the sun their souls exhale away.
Now in each pettiest personal sphere of dew
The summ’d morn shines complete as in the blue
Big dew-drop of all heaven: with these lit shrines
O’er-silvered to the farthest sea-confines,
The sacramental marsh one pious plain
Of worship lies. Peace to the ante-reign
Of Mary Morning, blissful mother mild,
Minded of nought but peace, and of a child.

Not slower than Majesty moves, for a mean and a measure
Of motion, — not faster than dateless Olympian leisure
Might pace with unblown ample garments from pleasure to pleasure, —
The wave-serrate sea-rim sinks unjarring, unreeling,
Forever revealing, revealing, revealing,
Edgewise, bladewise, halfwise, wholewise, — ’tis done!
Good-morrow, lord Sun!
With several voice, with ascription one,
The woods and the marsh and the sea and my soul
Unto thee, whence the glittering stream of all morrows doth roll,
Cry good and past-good and most heavenly morrow, lord Sun.

O Artisan born in the purple, — Workman Heat, —
Parter of passionate atoms that travail to meet
And be mixed in the death-cold oneness, — innermost Guest
At the marriage of elements, — fellow of publicans, — blest
King in the blouse of flame, that loiterest o’er
The idle skies yet laborest fast evermore, —
Thou, in the fine forge-thunder, thou, in the beat
Of the heart of a man, thou Motive, — Laborer Heat:
Yea, Artist, thou, of whose art yon sea’s all news,
With his inshore greens and manifold mid-sea blues,
Pearl-glint, shell-tint, ancientest perfectest hues
Ever shaming the maidens, — lily and rose
Confess thee, and each mild flame that glows
In the clarified virginal bosoms of stones that shine,
It is thine, it is thine:

Thou chemist of storms, whether driving the winds a-swirl
Or a-flicker the subtiler essences polar that whirl
In the magnet earth, — yea, thou with a storm for a heart,
Rent with debate, many-spotted with question, part
From part oft sundered, yet ever a globed light,
Yet ever the artist, ever more large and bright
Than the eye of a man may avail of: — manifold One,
I must pass from thy face, I must pass from the face of the Sun:
Old Want is awake and agog, every wrinkle a-frown;
The worker must pass to his work in the terrible town:
But I fear not, nay, and I fear not the thing to be done;
I am strong with the strength of my lord the Sun:
How dark, how dark soever the race that must needs be run,
I am lit with the Sun.

Oh, never the mast-high run of the seas
Of traffic shall hide thee,
Never the hell-colored smoke of the factories
Hide thee,
Never the reek of the time’s fen-politics
Hide thee,
And ever my heart through the night shall with knowledge abide thee,
And ever by day shall my spirit, as one that hath tried thee,
Labor, at leisure, in art, — till yonder beside thee
My soul shall float, friend Sun,
The day being done.

Our Hills

Dear Mother-Earth
Of Titan birth,
Yon hills are your large breasts, and often I
Have climbed to their top-nipples, fain and dry
To drink my mother’s-milk so near the sky.

O ye hill-stains,
Red, for all rains!
The blood that made you has all bled for us,
The hearts that paid you are all dead for us,
The trees that shade you groan with lead, for us!

And O, hill-sides,
Like giants’ brides
Ye sleep in ravine-rumpled draperies,
And weep your springs in tearful memories
Of days that stained your robes with stains like these!

Sleep on, ye hills!
Weep on, ye rills!
The stainers have decreed the stains shall stay.
They chain the hands might wash the stains away.
They wait with cold hearts till we “rue the day”.

O Mother-Earth
Of Titan birth,
Thy mother’s-milk is curdled with aloe.
— Like hills, Men, lift calm heads through any woe,
And weep, but bow not an inch, for any foe!

Thou Sorrow-height
We climb by night,
Thou hast no hell-deep chasm save Disgrace.
To stoop, will fling us down its fouled space:
Stand proud! The Dawn will meet us, face to face,
For down steep hills the Dawn loves best to race!

Opposition

Of fret, of dark, of thorn, of chill,
Complain no more; for these, O heart,
Direct the random of the will
As rhymes direct the rage of art.

The lute’s fixt fret, that runs athwart
The strain and purpose of the string,
For governance and nice consort
Doth bar his wilful wavering.

The dark hath many dear avails;
The dark distils divinest dews;
The dark is rich with nightingales,
With dreams, and with the heavenly Muse.

Bleeding with thorns of petty strife,
I’ll ease (as lovers do) my smart
With sonnets to my lady Life
Writ red in issues from the heart.

What grace may lie within the chill
Of favor frozen fast in scorn!
When Good’s a-freeze, we call it Ill!
This rosy Time is glacier-born.

Of fret, of dark, of thorn, of chill,
Complain thou not, O heart; for these
Bank-in the current of the will
To uses, arts, and charities.

Under The Cedarcroft Chestnut

Trim set in ancient sward, his manful bole
Upbore his frontage largely toward the sky.
We could not dream but that he had a soul:
What virtue breathed from out his bravery!

We gazed o’erhead: far down our deepening eyes
Rained glamours from his green midsummer mass.
The worth and sum of all his centuries
Suffused his mighty shadow on the grass.

A Presence large, a grave and steadfast Form
Amid the leaves’ light play and fantasy,
A calmness conquered out of many a storm,
A Manhood mastered by a chestnut-tree!

Then, while his monarch fingers downward held
The rugged burrs wherewith his state was rife,
A voice of large authoritative Eld
Seemed uttering quickly parables of life:

`How Life in truth was sharply set with ills;
A kernel cased in quarrels; yea, a sphere
Of stings, and hedge-hog-round of mortal quills:
How most men itched to eat too soon i’ the year,

`And took but wounds and worries for their pains,
Whereas the wise withheld their patient hands,
Nor plucked green pleasures till the sun and rains
And seasonable ripenings burst all bands

`And opened wide the liberal burrs of life.’
There, O my Friend, beneath the chestnut bough,
Gazing on thee immerged in modern strife,
I framed a prayer of fervency — that thou,

In soul and stature larger than thy kind,
Still more to this strong Form might’st liken thee,
Till thy whole Self in every fibre find
The tranquil lordship of thy chestnut tree.

On A Palmetto

Through all that year-scarred agony of height,
Unblest of bough or bloom, to where expands
His wandy circlet with his bladed bands
Dividing every wind, or loud or light,
To termless hymns of love and old despite,
Yon tall palmetto in the twilight stands,
Bare Dante of these purgatorial sands
That glimmer marginal to the monstrous night.
Comes him a Southwind from the scented vine,
It breathes of Beatrice through all his blades,
North, East or West, Guelph-wind or Ghibelline,
‘Tis shredded into music down the shades;
All sea-breaths, land-breaths, systol, diastol,
Sway, minstrels of that grief-melodious Soul.

Individuality.

Sail on, sail on, fair cousin Cloud:
Oh loiter hither from the sea.
Still-eyed and shadow-brow’d,
Steal off from yon far-drifting crowd,
And come and brood upon the marsh with me.

Yon laboring low horizon-smoke,
Yon stringent sail, toil not for thee
Nor me; did heaven’s stroke
The whole deep with drown’d commerce choke,
No pitiless tease of risk or bottomry

Would to thy rainy office close
Thy will, or lock mine eyes from tears,
Part wept for traders’-woes,
Part for that ventures mean as those
In issue bind such sovereign hopes and fears.

— Lo, Cloud, thy downward countenance stares
Blank on the blank-faced marsh, and thou
Mindest of dark affairs;
Thy substance seems a warp of cares;
Like late wounds run the wrinkles on thy brow.

Well may’st thou pause, and gloom, and stare,
A visible conscience: I arraign
Thee, criminal Cloud, of rare
Contempts on Mercy, Right, and Prayer, —
Of murders, arsons, thefts, — of nameless stain.

(Yet though life’s logic grow as gray
As thou, my soul’s not in eclipse.)
Cold Cloud, but yesterday
Thy lightning slew a child at play,
And then a priest with prayers upon his lips

For his enemies, and then a bright
Lady that did but ope the door
Upon the storming night
To let a beggar in, — strange spite, —
And then thy sulky rain refused to pour

Till thy quick torch a barn had burned
Where twelve months’ store of victual lay,
A widow’s sons had earned;
Which done, thy floods with winds returned, —
The river raped their little herd away.

What myriad righteous errands high
Thy flames MIGHT run on! In that hour
Thou slewest the child, oh why
Not rather slay Calamity,
Breeder of Pain and Doubt, infernal Power?

Or why not plunge thy blades about
Some maggot politician throng
Swarming to parcel out
The body of a land, and rout
The maw-conventicle, and ungorge Wrong?

What the cloud doeth
The Lord knoweth,
The cloud knoweth not.
What the artist doeth,
The Lord knoweth;
Knoweth the artist not?

Well-answered! — O dear artists, ye
— Whether in forms of curve or hue
Or tone your gospels be —
Say wrong `This work is not of me,
But God:’ it is not true, it is not true.

Awful is Art because ’tis free.
The artist trembles o’er his plan
Where men his Self must see.
Who made a song or picture, he
Did it, and not another, God nor man.

My Lord is large, my Lord is strong:
Giving, He gave: my me is mine.
How poor, how strange, how wrong,
To dream He wrote the little song
I made to Him with love’s unforced design!

Oh, not as clouds dim laws have plann’d
To strike down Good and fight for Ill, —
Oh, not as harps that stand
In the wind and sound the wind’s command:
Each artist — gift of terror! — owns his will.

For thee, Cloud, — if thou spend thine all
Upon the South’s o’er-brimming sea
That needs thee not; or crawl
To the dry provinces, and fall
Till every convert clod shall give to thee

Green worship; if thou grow or fade,
Bring on delight or misery,
Fly east or west, be made
Snow, hail, rain, wind, grass, rose, light, shade;
What matters it to thee? There is no thee.

Pass, kinsman Cloud, now fair and mild:
Discharge the will that’s not thine own.
I work in freedom wild,
But work, as plays a little child,
Sure of the Father, Self, and Love, alone.

Laus Mariae

Across the brook of Time man leaping goes
On stepping-stones of epochs, that uprise
Fixed, memorable, midst broad shallow flows
Of neutrals, kill-times, sleeps, indifferencies.
So twixt each morn and night rise salient heaps:
Some cross with but a zigzag, jaded pace
From meal to meal: some with convulsive leaps
Shake the green tussocks of malign disgrace:
And some advance by system and deep art
O’er vantages of wealth, place, learning, tact.
But thou within thyself, dear manifold heart,
Dost bind all epochs in one dainty Fact.
Oh, sweet, my pretty sum of history,
I leapt the breadth of Time in loving thee!

On Violet’s Wafers, Sent Me When I Was Ill

Fine-tissued as her finger-tips, and white
As all her thoughts; in shape like shields of prize,
As if before young Violet’s dreaming eyes
Still blazed the two great Theban bucklers bright
That swayed the random of that furious fight
Where Palamon and Arcite made assize
For Emily; fresh, crisp as her replies,
That, not with sting, but pith, do oft invite
More trial of the tongue; simple, like her,
Well fitting lowlihood, yet fine as well,
— The queen’s no finer; rich (though gossamer)
In help to him they came to, which may tell
How rich that him SHE’LL come to; thus men see,
Like Violet’s self e’en Violet’s wafers be.

Marsh Song — At Sunset.

Over the monstrous shambling sea,
Over the Caliban sea,
Bright Ariel-cloud, thou lingerest:
Oh wait, oh wait, in the warm red West, —
Thy Prospero I’ll be.

Over the humped and fishy sea,
Over the Caliban sea
O cloud in the West, like a thought in the heart
Of pardon, loose thy wing, and start,
And do a grace for me.

Over the huge and huddling sea,
Over the Caliban sea,
Bring hither my brother Antonio, — Man, —
My injurer: night breaks the ban;
Brother, I pardon thee.

Life And Song.

If life were caught by a clarionet,
And a wild heart, throbbing in the reed,
Should thrill its joy and trill its fret,
And utter its heart in every deed,

‘Then would this breathing clarionet
Type what the poet fain would be;
For none o’ the singers ever yet
Has wholly lived his minstrelsy,

‘Or clearly sung his true, true thought,
Or utterly bodied forth his life,
Or out of life and song has wrought
The perfect one of man and wife;

‘Or lived and sung, that Life and Song
Might each express the other’s all,
Careless if life or art were long
Since both were one, to stand or fall:

‘So that the wonder struck the crowd,
Who shouted it about the land:
`His song was only living aloud,
His work, a singing with his hand!”

The Golden Wedding Of Sterling And Sarah Lanier, September 27, 1868.

By the Eldest Grandson.

A rainbow span of fifty years,
Painted upon a cloud of tears,
In blue for hopes and red for fears,
Finds end in a golden hour to-day.
Ah, YOU to our childhood the legend told,
‘At the end of the rainbow lies the gold,’
And now in our thrilling hearts we hold
The gold that never will pass away.

Gold crushed from the quartz of a crystal life,
Gold hammered with blows of human strife,
Gold burnt in the love of man and wife,
Till it is pure as the very flame:
Gold that the miser will not have,
Gold that is good beyond the grave,
Gold that the patient and the brave
Amass, neglecting praise and blame.

O golden hour that caps the time
Since, heart to heart like rhyme to rhyme,
You stood and listened to the chime
Of inner bells by spirits rung,
That tinkled many a secret sweet
Concerning how two souls should meet,
And whispered of Time’s flying feet
With a most piquant silver tongue.

O golden day, — a golden crown
For the kingly heads that bowed not down
To win a smile or ‘scape a frown,
Except the smile and frown of Heaven!
Dear heads, still dark with raven hair;
Dear hearts, still white in spite of care;
Dear eyes, still black and bright and fair
As any eyes to mortals given!

Old parents of a restless race,
You miss full many a bonny face
That would have smiled a filial grace
Around your Golden Wedding wine.
But God is good and God is great.
His will be done, if soon or late.
Your dead stand happy in yon Gate
And call you blessed while they shine.

So, drop the tear and dry the eyes.
Your rainbow glitters in the skies.
Here’s golden wine: young, old, arise:
With cups as full as our souls, we say:
‘Two Hearts, that wrought with smiles through tears
This rainbow span of fifty years,
Behold how true, true love appears
True gold for your Golden Wedding day!’

The Ship Of Earth.

‘Thou Ship of Earth, with Death, and Birth, and Life, and Sex aboard,
And fires of Desires burning hotly in the hold,
I fear thee, O! I fear thee, for I hear the tongue and sword
At battle on the deck, and the wild mutineers are bold!

‘The dewdrop morn may fall from off the petal of the sky,
But all the deck is wet with blood and stains the crystal red.
A pilot, GOD, a pilot! for the helm is left awry,
And the best sailors in the ship lie there among the dead!’

To: Frau Nannette Falk-Auerbach

Als du im Saal mit deiner himmlischen Kunst
Beethoven zeigst, und seinem Willen nach
Mit den zehn Fingern fuehrst der Leute Gunst,
Zehn Zungen sagen was der Meister sprach.
Schauend dich an, ich seh’, dass nicht allein
Du sitzest: jetzt herab die Toene ziehn
Beethovens Geist: er steht bei dir, ganz rein:
Fuer dich mit Vaters Stolz sein’ Augen gluehn:
Er sagt, “Ich hoerte dich aus Himmelsluft,
Die kommt ja naeher, wo ein Kuenstler spielt:
Mein Kind (ich sagte) mich zur Erde ruft:
Ja, weil mein Arm kein Kind im Leben hielt,
Gott hat mir dich nach meinem Tod gegeben,
Nannette, Tochter! dich, mein zweites Leben!”

Remonstrance.

‘Opinion, let me alone: I am not thine.
Prim Creed, with categoric point, forbear
To feature me my Lord by rule and line.
Thou canst not measure Mistress Nature’s hair,
Not one sweet inch: nay, if thy sight is sharp,
Would’st count the strings upon an angel’s harp?
Forbear, forbear.

‘Oh let me love my Lord more fathom deep
Than there is line to sound with: let me love
My fellow not as men that mandates keep:
Yea, all that’s lovable, below, above,
That let me love by heart, by heart, because
(Free from the penal pressure of the laws)
I find it fair.

‘The tears I weep by day and bitter night,
Opinion! for thy sole salt vintage fall.
— As morn by morn I rise with fresh delight,
Time through my casement cheerily doth call
`Nature is new, ’tis birthday every day,
Come feast with me, let no man say me nay,
Whate’er befall.’

‘So fare I forth to feast: I sit beside
Some brother bright: but, ere good-morrow’s passed,

Burly Opinion wedging in hath cried
Thou shalt not sit by us, to break thy fast, Save to our Rubric thou subscribe and swear — Religion hath blue eyes and yellow hair:’


She’s Saxon, all.’

‘Then, hard a-hungered for my brother’s grace
Till well-nigh fain to swear his folly’s true,
In sad dissent I turn my longing face
To him that sits on the left: Brother, — with you?’ –Nay, not with me, save thou subscribe and swear`Religion hath black eyes and raven hair:’
Nought else is true.’

‘Debarred of banquets that my heart could make
With every man on every day of life,

I homeward turn, my fires of pain to slake
In deep endearments of a worshipped wife.
I love thee well, dear Love,’ quoth she,and yetWould that thy creed with mine completely met,As one, not two.’

‘Assassin! Thief! Opinion, ’tis thy work.
By Church, by throne, by hearth, by every good
That’s in the Town of Time, I see thee lurk,
And e’er some shadow stays where thou hast stood.
Thou hand’st sweet Socrates his hemlock sour;
Thou sav’st Barabbas in that hideous hour,
And stabb’st the good

‘Deliverer Christ; thou rack’st the souls of men;
Thou tossest girls to lions and boys to flames;
Thou hew’st Crusader down by Saracen;
Thou buildest closets full of secret shames;
Indifferent cruel, thou dost blow the blaze
Round Ridley or Servetus; all thy days
Smell scorched; I would

‘– Thou base-born Accident of time and place —
Bigot Pretender unto Judgment’s throne —
Bastard, that claimest with a cunning face
Those rights the true, true Son of Man doth own
By Love’s authority — thou Rebel cold
At head of civil wars and quarrels old —
Thou Knife on a throne —

‘I would thou left’st me free, to live with love,
And faith, that through the love of love doth find
My Lord’s dear presence in the stars above,
The clods below, the flesh without, the mind
Within, the bread, the tear, the smile.
Opinion, damned Intriguer, gray with guile,
Let me alone.’

Tyranny.

Spring-germs, spring-germs,
I charge you by your life, go back to death.
This glebe is sick, this wind is foul of breath.
Stay: feed the worms.

‘Oh! every clod
Is faint, and falters from the war of growth
And crumbles in a dreary dust of sloth,
Unploughed, untrod.

‘What need, what need,
To hide with flowers the curse upon the hills,
Or sanctify the banks of sluggish rills
Where vapors breed?

‘And — if needs must —
Advance, O Summer-heats! upon the land,
And bake the bloody mould to shards and sand
And dust.

‘Before your birth,
Burn up, O Roses! with your dainty flame.
Good Violets, sweet Violets, hide shame
Below the earth.

‘Ye silent Mills,
Reject the bitter kindness of the moss.
O Farms! protest if any tree emboss
The barren hills.

‘Young Trade is dead,
And swart Work sullen sits in the hillside fern
And folds his arms that find no bread to earn,
And bows his head.

‘Spring-germs, spring-germs,
Albeit the towns have left you place to play,
I charge you, sport not. Winter owns to-day,
Stay: feed the worms.’

To Richard Wagner.

I saw a sky of stars that rolled in grime.
All glory twinkled through some sweat of fight,
From each tall chimney of the roaring time
That shot his fire far up the sooty night
Mixt fuels — Labor’s Right and Labor’s Crime —
Sent upward throb on throb of scarlet light
Till huge hot blushes in the heavens blent
With golden hues of Trade’s high firmament.

‘Fierce burned the furnaces; yet all seemed well,

Hope dreamed rich music in the rattling mills.
Ye foundries, ye shall cast my church a bell,’ Loud cried the Future from the farthest hills: Ye groaning forces, crack me every shell


Of customs, old constraints, and narrow ills;
Thou, lithe Invention, wake and pry and guess,
Till thy deft mind invents me Happiness.’

‘And I beheld high scaffoldings of creeds
Crumbling from round Religion’s perfect Fane:
And a vast noise of rights, wrongs, powers, needs,
— Cries of new Faiths that called `This Way is plain,’
— Grindings of upper against lower greeds —
— Fond sighs for old things, shouts for new, — did reign
Below that stream of golden fire that broke,
Mottled with red, above the seas of smoke.

‘Hark! Gay fanfares from halls of old Romance
Strike through the clouds of clamor: who be these
That, paired in rich processional, advance
From darkness o’er the murk mad factories
Into yon flaming road, and sink, strange Ministrants!
Sheer down to earth, with many minstrelsies
And motions fine, and mix about the scene
And fill the Time with forms of ancient mien?

‘Bright ladies and brave knights of Fatherland;
Sad mariners, no harbor e’er may hold,
A swan soft floating tow’rds a magic strand;
Dim ghosts, of earth, air, water, fire, steel, gold,
Wind, grief, and love; a lewd and lurking band
Of Powers — dark Conspiracy, Cunning cold,
Gray Sorcery; magic cloaks and rings and rods;
Valkyries, heroes, Rhinemaids, giants, gods!


‘O Wagner, westward bring thy heavenly art,
No trifler thou: Siegfried and Wotan be
Names for big ballads of the modern heart.
Thine ears hear deeper than thine eyes can see.
Voice of the monstrous mill, the shouting mart,
Not less of airy cloud and wave and tree,
Thou, thou, if even to thyself unknown,
Hast power to say the Time in terms of tone.’

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