Helen Hunt Jackson (1831-1885)

picture of helen jackson

"From Verses, 1887, and Sonnets and Lyrics. Long familiar to magazine-readers as "H. H." (Vide Preface.) (Sharp)

A brief biography and more poems at the University of Toronto.

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The Zone of Calms

As yearning currents from the trackless snows,
And silent Polar seas, unceasing sweep
To South, to North, and linger not where leap
Red fires from glistening cones,--nor where the rose
Has triumph on the snow-fed Paramos,
In upper air,--nor yet where lifts the deep
Its silver Atollis on whose bosoms sleep
The purple sponges; and, as in repose
Meeting at last, they sink upon the breast
Of that sweet tropic sea, whose spicy balms
And central heat have drawn them to its arms,--
So soul seeks soul, unsatisfied, represt,
Till in Love's tropic met, they sink to rest,
At peace forever in the "Zone of Calms."

Poppies on the Wheat

Along Ancona's hills the shimmering heat,
A tropic tide of air with ebb and flow
Bathes all the fields of wheat until they glow
Like flashing seas of green, which toss and beat
Around the vines. The poppies lithe and fleet
Seem running, fiery torchment, to and fro
To mark the shore.
The farmer does not know
That they are there. He walks with heavy feet,
Counting the bread and wine by autumn's gain,
But I,--I smile to think that days remain
Perhaps to me in which, though bread be sweet
No more, and red wine warm my blood in vain,
I shall be glad remembering how the fleet,
Lithe poppies ran like torchmen with the wheat.


That he is dead the sons of kings are glad;
And in their beds the tyrants sounder sleep.
Now he is dead his martyrdom will reap
Late harvest of the palms it should have had
In life. Too late the tardy lands are sad.
His unclaimed crown in secret they will keep
For ages, while in chains they vainly weep,
And vainly grope to find the roads he bade
Them take. O glorious soul! there is no dearth
Of worlds. There must be many better worth
Thy presence and thy leadership than this.
No doubt, on some great sun to-day, thy birth
Is for a race, the dawn of Freedom's bliss,
Which but for thee it might for ages miss.

Burnt Ships

O Love, sweet Love, who came with rosy sail
And foaming prow across the misty sea!
O Love, brave Love, whose faith was full and free
That lands of sun and gold, which could not fail,
Lay in the west, that bloom no wintry gale
Could blight, and eyes whose love thine own should be,
Called thee, with steadfast voice of prophecy,
To shores unknown!
O Love, poor Love, avail
Thee nothing now thy faiths, thy braveries;
There is no sun, no bloom; a cold wind strips
The bitter foam from off the wave where dips
No more thy prow; the eyes are hostile eyes;
The gold is hidden; vain thy tears and cries;
O Love, poor Love, why didst thou burn thy ships?
(See Burnt Ships by Owen Innsley.)


O patient shore, thou canst not go to meet
Thy love, the restless sea, how comfortest
Thou all thy loneliness? Art thou at rest,
When, loosing his strong arms from round thy feet,
He turns away? Know'st thou, however sweet
That other shore may be, that to thy breast
He must return? And when in sterner test
He folds thee to a heart which does not beat,
Wraps thee in ice, and gives no smile, no kiss,
To break long wintry days, still dost thou miss
Naught from thy trust? Still wait, unfaltering,
The higher, warmer waves which leap in spring?
O sweet, wise shore, to be so satisfied!
O heart, learn from the shore! Love has a tide!

Her Eyes

That they are brown, no man will dare to say
He knows. And yet I think that no man's look
Ever those depths of light and shade forsook,
Until their gentle pain warned him away.
Of all sweet things I know but one which may
Be likened to her eyes.
When, in deep nook
Of some green field, the water of a brook
Makes lingering whirling eddy in its way,
Round soft drowned leaves; and in a flash of sun
They turn to gold, until the ripples run
Now brown, now yellow, changing as by some
Swift spell.
I know not with what body come
The saints. But this I know, my Paradise
Will mean the resurrection of her eyes.


The thing I count and hold as fealty--
The only fealty to give or take--
Doth never reckoning keep, and coldly make
Bond to itself with this or that to be
Content as wage; the wage unpaid, to free
Its hand from service, and its love forsake,
Its faith cast off, as one from dreams might wake
At morn, and smiling watch the vision flee.
Such fealty is treason in disguise,
Who trusts it, his death-warrant sealed doth bear.
Love looks at it with angry, wondering eyes;
Love knows the face true fealty doth wear,
The pulse that beats unchanged by alien air,
Or hurts, or crimes, until the loved one dies.

(Text from American Sonnets)