SONNETS 51-100


return to sonnet central return to American 19th century


Leander swimming towards the Mysian shore,
Saw not the waves that curled above his head,
Nor the deep hollows, desolate and dread,
Betwixt the surges, nor the rocks that tore
The seas to spray; nor heard the far-off roar
Of breakers bursting on that shelly bed
Towards which his fixed but pathless purpose led:
He only saw the light which Hero bore.
If by the inward or the outward fear,
My daring constancy could be undone,
I should have turned and all my love foregone,
Ere danger's warning shape approached so near,
Or ere thy love-light shone so close and clear;
But, as thou seest, I boldly struggle on.

December 17, 1861


In truth, Love, but a single hope remains--
The hope to win thee at the bitter end
Of many trials. Countless dangers bend
Around my path. I plot with weary brains,
Using love's cunning to outwit love's pains;
And heavy with the boding thoughts that blend
With love itself, and love's deceptions rend,
Grows my poor heart. I tug against my chains
Of fear and conscience, like a wretch foredoomed
To waste in bonds the remnant of his ife,
Who knows the hopeless nature of the strife;
Yet still remembers how the hillsides bloomed
In his free world, how all the woods were rife
With flying songs, and all the air perfumed!

December 17, 1861


I am already entered on the way
Too far to live beyond thy presence now.
Once, like a bird upon a swinging bough,
I might have sung my carol, sad or gay,
Into thy heedless ear, and flown away;
Leaving small cause to cloud thy placid brow,
And one mere memory in my heart, to show
The lingering twilight of a brighter day.
But I am tamed to perch upon thy hand,
To nestle in thy bosom, taste my food
By thy lips sweetened, and to thy command
My cultured voice is artfully subdued.
I have forgot the wild ways of the wood;
And live or die but as thy bounties stand.

December 21, 1861


If I have served my God with faithful soul,
Using the talent which He gave in trust,
So that His truth shone clear from earthly rust,
And some faint whisper of the songs that roll
From heaven's fixed centre to its topmost pole,
Found a rude echo in my vocal dust;--
If this has been, I know that God is just,
To crown the brow that bore His human dole;
And in some state removed from what we see,
With all life's bars and hindrances undone,
Our meeting souls, like meeting streams shall run;
And my reward for duties past shall be
A heaven pervaded by a sense of thee,
This mortal love made an immortal one.

January 11, 1862


I strive to live my life in whitest truth,
Even in the face of this deceitful world;
And if in errors I am caught and whirled
From the fair courses of my candid youth,
I view my trespasses with thoughtful ruth;
And the poor mummer's scornful lip is curled,
And a low curse indignantly is hurled
At arts which others blindly take as sooth.
But when I enter thy pure presence, Sweet,
I come as one into a holy shrine.
I taste the mystic wafer and the wine,
And fraud and falsehood from my heart retreat.
Through thy divinity I grow divine,
And my world's mask lies empty at thy feet.

January 10, 1862


The lagging days crawl slowly to their end,
The weeks sum up in months, and glide away,
The jolly bells proclaim it New Year's Day,
As if they felt the wicked times would mend.
But I, alas! I see the old things wend
Under new names, with scarce a change, to say
How the fresh mortal differs from the clay
Over whose sins the pitying grasses bend.
So we, who boast our love of matchless height,
Might find like boasts were in their dusty bones;
And when beneath such dumb, sepulchral stones
Ourselves are laid forever out of sight,
Some pair may rob us of our sovereign right,
Some poet shame thy poet's tenerest tones.

February 4, 1862


Although the story of our love be lost
In the long vista of the coming years,--
All its fair smiles, its crosses and its tears,
And the hard trial and remorseless cost
At which we bought the priceless thing, be tossed
As dust amidst the world's new hopes and fears:
Yet we can fancy what a crowd of peers
Are ours amongst the long-departed host.
Like a forgotten king, we wore our crown
Of splendid passion through this span of life.
Yea, life was ours; the glory of the strife,
And the proud triumph, and the day's renown!
What matter if its memory be not rife,
After dark centuries have settled down!

February 6, 1862


Our hearts are like two night-bound, shipwrecked barks,
Lashed fast, through terror of the raging sea,
That, though they gride together till there be
Great strains inflicted, and a thousand marks
Of dangerous contact, though each vessel harks,
For fear its comrade shall part company,
Still cling together. Even thus are we
Drifting together in our mortal arks.
We dare not rend the bond that makes us groan,
Though wounded sorely by the straining ties;
For each upon the other's strength relies.
And if we needs must sink,--oh! not alone,
Companionless, and with despairing cries,
Dear God, but thus forever, knit in one!

February 6, 1862


If I am never merry when my brow
Aches with the pressure of this laurel crown;
And looks severe, and almost half a frown
Of sober awe my vestured figure bow;
'Tis but because the service will allow
No scanted worship; for the heart must own
What the mouth speaketh, or the words were sown
Upon the winds that idly ebb and flow.
I often enter at the temple door
As light of heart as any layman may;
But when I think of poets, gone before,
Who served this ancient shrine with harp and lay,
And what traditions sanctify their clay,
My solemn functions touch me to the core.

February 9, 1862


When, Love, I sing of thee, such little cares
As here oppress us on this narrow earth,
The things that draw from circumstance their birth,
The mean, vile nothings, which our own despairs
Paint, giant-like, against the murky airs,
Before my soul become mere toys of mirth,
That owe to life the secret of their worth
Which the high spirit neither owns nor shares.
Then I behold thee take thy lofty place
In thy pure essence--a transfigured maid,
On whom earth's finger lays no spot nor shade.
So rare thy form, that I can only trace
Thy mortal likeness by the lingering grace
That makes thee now divine, and cannot fade.

February 11, 1862


When I remember, Love, the happy hours
That came too rarely, and appeared too brief,
Rescued by us from our divided grief,
I say with joy, therein this lot of ours
Was gilt with sunshine and bedecked with flowers;
And, in so much, stands out in bright relief,
As that which partial fate has blessed in chief,
Above the lots o'er which her forehead lowers.
I trust that such remembrances abide
For the soul's gratitude and endless praise,
Even through the mystery of those untried ways
Where I shall walk forever at thy side;
And that these golden memories shall glide
Into our thoughts like heaven's fair yesterdays.

February 13, 1862


This love of mine is no light thing, no toy
To trifle with, and fill a vacant hour;
No fragrant incense of a passing flower
That I can pluck, and, when my senses cloy,
Fling in the dew, for others to enjoy;
Or swear the former sweet is present sour,
And with the ruthless haste of selfish power,
Neglect, betray, abandon, or destroy.
No, no! My love is master and not slave.
It grasps my nature in its firm control;
It is the blessing of the days, that roll
O'er my else hapless head; its pinions wave
Above the earth, beyond the dreary grave;
The faith, the hope, the comfort of my soul.

February 14, 1862


Dear Lord, this sense of supernatural power,
This stately mastery over earthly things,
This plastic art that modulates and brings
Out of the discord of the Babel-tower
Thoughts wrapped in music, while the jarring hour
Lulled with strange magic, droops its wounded wings,
And shuts its bloodshot lids, and brooding sings,
Like sun-struck Memnon from his throned tower;
Oh! surely this is cause for honest pride,
And long thanksgiving to the hand above;
That through coarse clay and coarser lusts can move
His chosen one to ends so pure and wide.
I place this wondrous bounty, side by side
On the same altar with our sacred love.

February 16, 1862


Roll the grand harmonies which finite mind
Can neither reason of nor understand,
Thou instrument, on which a higher hand
Plays the vast prelude that had strength to bind
The circling stars, the ocean and the wind,
When the creative spirit's first command
Moved on through heaven and over sea and land
As earth emerged from chaos blank and blind!
O humble creature, burn not to aspire,
But lowly to the hidden law incline;
And of thy duty neither stint nore tire.
Fulfill thy mission to thy Lord's design;
Make glad the common way and household fire:
A higher lot hereafter may be thine.

February 18, 1862


Is love a pleasure or a pain in mask,
The more to lure us on to final woe,
By that which only is a treacherous show?--
I often of my doubting reason ask.
For when beneath my Lady's smile I bask,
I am a very fool who only know
That life is sweeter than the tender glow
Which follows conscience at a holy task.
But when she frowns--Oh! strange, unfrequent ill,
That chastens so the frailty of my deeds!--
A thousand discords sow their angry seeds
In the fair garden of my life, until
I taunt my silly heart and feeble will,
That stray from home to gather thorns and weeds.

February 19, 1862


Tonight I walked with the grim Florentine
Through all the woes of his material hell;
And wondered greatly of the joy which fell
On his stern spirit o'er the foes who pine
Forever in those waves of fiery brine
Beneath the malediction of his spell.
Yet wondered more he nowhere chose to tell
Of such a dreary destiny as mine.
He paints no lover with a weary sense
That what he loves is just beyond his sight,
Towards which in vain he wings his wistful flight,
Drawn ever backward by omnipotence:
Perhaps his hatred was not so intense
As to curse any with such cruel despite.

February 20, 1862


To watch the night out is a dreary thing:
To muse and sorrow o'er my desperate lot,
Flitting in thought around the distant spot
Blessed by thy beauty; circling ring on ring,
Closer and closer, in vain flights that bring
My dreams but nearer to their end, and blot
The vision out with truths not well forgot,--
This is the very point of fancy's sting.
But I must watch while other mortals sleep,
That is the fortune of my restless art;
And how much worse were it to sit apart,
In cold seclusion, while my labors creep,
Than thus for thee to wake and muse and weep
With a full fancy and a fuller heart?

March 26, 1862


When last I saw my darling's wondrous eyes,
For my mere presence grow so gladly bright,
I felt ennobled in my own poor sight;
My monkish heart threw back the cowl, which lies
So thick upon it that God's sunbeam flies
That jealous gloom,--and ventured towards the light.
And I exclaimed, "Oh, never more shall night
Drown this celestial joy in gloomy sighs!"
But as I spoke the vesper-bell replied,
And the long shadows far around us lay,
And out of heaven the rosy sunset died.
Poor dreamers, we had dreamed our time away!
So with locked hands we turned apart and sighed;
For night has drowned the last faint trace of day.

April 22, 1862


I cannot tell what charms my lady finds
In this dull face, huge form and sullen soul;
Nor how my earthy nature keeps control
Over a creature whose mere breath unbinds
May's morning sweetness on the wintry winds.
But while I see the running roses roll
Their clustered wreaths around the rugged bole,
Let me not ask why love, in blessing, blinds.
And since some joy her cheated senses take
In this coarse mould, as far as in me lies
I'll grow more suited to her partial eyes,
Pure if not perfect, more to truth awake;
Less stained with masking sin's too motley dyes;
Be what she thinks me, for her sweet thought's sake.

April 24, 1862


My lady's senses are so pure and fine,
She takes small pleasure in the close embrace
That love and nature in me coarsely trace
As the great end to which all hearts incline.
Her tender pity shames this heat of mine,
That bows her soul unto a lowly place,
To meet the cravings of my abject race,
With yielding smiles and patience all divine.
So much she suffers for her dear love's sake,
So much forgives, so calmly puts aside
Her own distaste, her stately virgin pride;
And all for me, who like a satyr slake
My brutish thirst within a crystal tide,
And stain it with the dusty stir I make!

May 12, 1862


I am ashamed through this thick husk of clay,
The passion quivers to my secret soul,
Waking the latent virtues that control
The pure of heart upon their shining way.
I am ashamed that I thus, day by day,
Deface her virgin temple, foully roll
In orgies that pollute the sacred bowl,
Merely because she will not say me nay.
Oh! I abuse the pledges of my trust
To put her beauty to so base a use,
With no more right than that outworn excuse.
Think what heaven bears from our rebellious dust;
How sin is licensed, and how crime is loose,
While in God's patient hands his arrows rust!

May 12, 1862


Ah! Could I ever grow in some remote degree
Nearer the whiteness of my darling's love;
By likening her, my darker self reprove
Beneath the eyes of her calm purity;
Drop from my soul the earth that sullies me,
And struggling upward, if but slowly, move
A little nearer to those lights above,
Whose guiding rays I cannot choose but see!
Even as I muse, the vision of those eyes
Awakes the fiery current in my veins
With longings wild, mixed thrills of joys and pains;
Remembered kisses, burning with the dyes
That flushed her cheeks, the struggles, sobs and sighs,
Ere her chaste will lay vanquished in my chains.

May 13, 1862


The satyr nature riots in my blood.
"Of the earth, earthy!" I in vain exclaim.
The text falls on me with its weight of blame,
Yet moves my stubborn feet no step towards good.
What is this fiend that cannot be withstood
By reason, pity, or consuming shame,
That makes my strongest purpose limping lame,
And melts to nought my manly hardihood?
Surely some mother of my buried race
Was caught by Pan, fast sleeping, in his grove,
And filled the hairy round of his embrace;
That I, their far descendant, blindly move
With the fierce frenzy of that ancient love,
And burn with fire whose source I cannot trace.

May 13, 1862


I was love's toy and froward instrument--
If that be love which gives itself away
For the mere sweetness of its amorous play,
With its own pleasure filled and well content.--
I was this thing since first my footsteps went
Beyond the loiterings of my childish way,
Until my knotted curls were shot with grey
And creeping wrinkles round my eyes were bent.
I do not boast; I thank the hands that gave
So much to low desert, as fortunes roll;
But now I thank, with brow more fixed and grave,
My gracious God, who crowned the brimming whole,
As I grew less my senses' pliant slave,
With thee, fair spirit, mistress of my soul!

May 13, 1862


So dainty white my lady's fancies are
That mine but sully her most abject thought;
So pure and holy that my best are nought
But sullen shadows to a thing more fair.
Often I climb to reach that region rare,
Where soars her soul; and faithfully have wrought
To mould myself upon the look I caught,
But quit the task in self-confessed despair.
Surely some gleam of her celestial light
May pierce the crust of my too earthen mould,
And make my fiery nature virgin cold.
If not today, tomorrow or next night,
Or long years hence; or when my straining sight
Looks through the grave and sees heaven's way unfold.

May 14, 1862


I have a faith that love can do as much;
Love that works miracles against a time
When all the world corrupts with saucy crime,
And heaven withdraws from us its saving touch.
O Love, God's deputy--alone, sublime,
The last, sad, lingering angel--though as such,
Shamed and profaned by every losel's clutch--
To heaven, through thee, permit my prayers to climb!
Oh! make me purer, if not wholly pure!
Dry up these burning springs of blood that gush
Out of my flesh, and hold my soul secure!
So that when we, amidst heaven's solemn hush,
Stand hand in hand, God's sentence to endure,
She may not turn, and for my frailty blush!

May 14, 1862


Thus in her absence is my fancy cool:
And then my schemes of purity designed
Pass, in a vestal-train, across my mind,
And, for the hour, my equal pulses rule.
Alas! alas! I know I play the fool,
So self-deluded, though not wholly blind;
For should her robe now flutter on the wind,
My blood would bubble like an Iceland pool.
Her sight woiuld fire me, and her touch undo
A thousand oaths, whose vows I meant to heed,
And swore with honest heart and purpose true;
But when my lips upon her lips should feed,
I would possess her, though hell yawned in view,
Ablaze to punish the presumptuous deed!

May 15, 1862


So many changing phases have I known
Of my hot heart and of my colder brain,
So long and strange has been the varied train
Of feelings that from each to each has flown;
So oft has reason held the rein alone
So oft my heart endured the fret and strain
Of boundless gladness and as boundless pain,
That I begin to doubt myself my own.
The sage of yesterday, today is changed
Into the likeness of as wild a fawn
As ever through the Thracian vinyards ranged;
And I betwixt the two am tugged and drawn,
Hither and thither, from both sides estranged,
Seeking which way my former self is gone.

May 18, 1862


Oh! sigh no more, no longer paint the air
With the distempered pictures of thy brain!
The sighs are idle, and the shapes are vain
Before thy reason's cold, unwinking stare.
Why wound thy heart with arrows of despair,
By love's shrewd shaft already cleft in twain?
Why drag and drag a still unfolding chain,
If rest will make thy shackles less to bear?
Thus with myself I sometimes strive in thought,
To reason down the love that preys upon
Heart, mind, life, soul, and feeds on all as one.
As well might poor Prometheus, distraught
With the fierce eagle's hungry claws, be brought
To turn his face and smile against the sun.

September 19, 1862


From this wide outlook on art's lonely peak,
I should descry what fortune lies afar
Under the influence of her lucid star,
And, thus assured, no further knowledge seek.
Alas! my station is so high and bleak,
So far above the things that smooth or jar
The dizzy passage of life's flying car,
That the world's sounds are here confused and weak.
I am no dweller on a breezy hill,
But a stern crag, where piercing winds are loud.
Above my head the stars and planets crowd,
Around my feet the lightnings have their will.
Few creatures climb this summit dread and chill,
And all beneath me is dense mist and cloud.

September 29, 1862


Is this the best art offers to her slave--
A distant court, a solitary throne,
A far-felt power that makes itself alone
Whene'er the sceptre is upraised to wave?
What if the royal hermit's heart may crave
The human blessings that are daily strown
Around the peasant's glimmering chimney-stone?
Are these such things as kings may never have?
Alas! must even love's pinion never dare
O'erpass one dreaded limit; never come
Within the chambers which the heart calls home?
Is genius nothing but an awing glare;
Loved by the homage of a frightened stare,
Mourned by a column in a marble dome?

September 29, 1862


I sometimes feel so lonely! O my God,
I sometimes feel as though the race of man
Denies my birthright, places under ban
The tuneful path in which I humbly plod.
These proud possessors of the purse and clod,
Sneer at my calling. "Orpheus" and "Pan,"
Are taunts, not praises, from the common clan
Who scorn the roses in my garden-sod.
My way, 0 God, is hard and strange and dark;
Nor do I serve with the fidelity
That tunes the carol of the mounting lark.
But I am sore beset, as Thou canst see,
By banded curs that snarl and growl and bark,
And hate me only less than they hate Thee.

September 30, 1862


I, like thy shadow, am a part of thee.
In vain thou fliest: the level desert plain--
The ragged peak, in whose deep scars remain
The snows of primal winter--the waste sea--
The peopled city or the wooded lea
In whate'er clime, or under sun or rain--
Thou find'st no shelter from the fatal stain
My presence casts wherever thou may'st be.
If pitying fortune to thy sadness bring
Some outward light, some ray of hopeful cheer,
The brightness will but make my shade more clear
Lengthen and deepen the detested thing;
Yea, where all shadows meet, where all is drear,
O'er death itself, a gloomier darkness fling.



Sweet, when thy brow becomes the haunted spot
Of Death's grim heralds, care and wasting pain,
And all my bitter prayers return again,
Outcasts of heaven whose pity heeds them not;
In desperate haste, by love and fear begot,
I ask of nature why she formed in vain
This fairest fabric of her subtle brain--
In vain, if subject to the common lot.
The hungry earth is dumb, a sullen moan
Sighs from the hollows of the breaking wave,
And the great winds awaken but to groan;
While through the cypress glints the ghostly stone,
Whose pallid finger, from the silent grave,
Points to a mystery solved in heaven alone.



I know not if one beauty less or more
This year hath left upon my darling's face,
Or if today her step of youthful grace
Lags in the rear of those that went before.
Less friendly tongues may say the look she wore
On her last birthday shows time's ruthless trace,
Proving her merely of our mortal race,
And not the goddess I so fondly swore.
I shall not question her dear face for change:
My heart in pity only would despise
My simple senses for their adverse lies.
What change can come within the realm we range,
Where time is talked of as a shadow strange,
Beneath the light of love's eternal eyes?


In famed Sakoontala I read tonight
How King Dushyanta, in a moment, knew
His consort--draped in robes of sable hue
Dim-eyed, downcast, her lips a widowed white--
By the charmed ring, whose magic cleared his sight
From the false spell that long misled his view.
I know not what delusions may pursue
The souls that journey into Death's strange night;
So, Love, upon thy finger let me slide
The golden bondage of this sapphire ring.
Great ends may center in this trifling thing.
When hearts beat not, and souls to spirits glide,
Heaven's state may compass earth's foreshadowing,
And this small circle mark thee as my bride.

November 28, 1862


On my heart's altar when youth's fire burned low,
And the grey ashes of years cold and sage
Made the high flame abate its heavenward rage,
The coals to smoulder and less hotly glow,
Thou camest, fair vestal, in thy robes of snow--
Perhaps through ruth that time should so assuage
The humblest beacon of this dreary age-
And on the embers precious gifts did throw.
Since then, with loving hands, O Priestess pure,
Thy faith hath tended on the sacred fire,
That pays thy care by ever mounting higher:
Youth is rekindled; I again endure
The heat of love; and hope's long silent choir
Sings in my ears the old beguiling lure.

December 10, 1862


To be forever thus alone with thee,
Thus locked and fettered in thy tender arms,
Were to rob heaven of all its promised charms,
And antedate my immortality.
What future lot could Fate reserve for me,
So free from mortal buffets or alarms
That I'd not count among my grievous harms,
And scorn if so we should divided be?
Ah! no; Fate tears me from thy sweet embrace,
That struggles hard to hold thy lover fast,
And drives me forth to run the common race,
That I, when life and death are overpassed,
May be the object of a special grace,
And find my heaven within thy arms at last.

February 3, 1863


Today her Majesty was wroth and cold,
Because I trifled when her heart was sad:
How in her arms could I be else than glad
To play the lamb within that rapturous fold?
But what perverseness made me overbold
To show the manners of a rustic lad,
Boisterous and rude, with vulgar mirth run mad,
Within the solemn court she chose to hold?
So on the rug her little foot she beat,
Shook on her brow her crown of braided hair,
Lifted her sceptered finger high in air,
Flashed in my face her eyes' consuming heat,
Made her dread presence terrible to bear;
And I--ah! I slid whimpering to her feet!

February 3, 1863


I wonder if these sonnets which I sing
To thee alone--our secret love's poor cheer,
By any chance will reach the common ear,
And feel the puncture of the critic's sting?
I vow, if I supposed the whispering,
Tender and low, with which I draw so near
To thy soft smiles, might in some coming year
Be cried about like any public thing;--
Made the gross jest of street and market-place,
Profaned and wronged by every bitter clown,
Whose wit is pretext for a fool's grimace;--
If thus I feared, I'd set my angry face
Against the chance, hurl lyre and chaplet down,
And of our love leave no betraying trace.

February 5, 1863


When this warm hand is cold in death, and all
The wide world over thou may'st seek in vain
For any touch to wake the selfsame strain
As the stiff fingers, still beneath my pall;
Better and worse may answer to thy call,
But never upon earth shall sound again
Just the same cries of passion, joy, and pain
As these which now upon thy senses fall.
Ah! then I wonder if thine eyes will look
Hither and thither, seeking something fled,
In whose blank place no future gain can tread;
Some page erased from a famillar book,
Some change of feature in a secret nook,
Something departed, something with the dead?

February 18, 1863


The crocus opened slowly yesterday,
And in its sod the grass began to stir,
The softening air was humming to the whirr
of little wings, alive with amorous play.
I heard the ring-dove to his mistress say,
"I love, I love," and sidled closed to her;
The lowing cattle shook their rusty fur;
'Twas plain young Spring began her gentle sway.
But only I, of all created things,
Lie still and moody in my wintry trance,
And sulk in gloom while others join the dance.
Ah! what to me is bloom, or sound of wings,
Or coo of dove, or low of herd, that brings
Unto my dearth no promise of thy glance?

February 20, 1863


Death clutches at my darling now and then,
And leaves a scar, or plucks a tress of hair;
But all the angels make divine repair,
And close the wound, and train the tress again;
So that when she within the sight of men
Stands as before, no tongue can say just where
Death's finger fell, or that she looks less fair,
Or caught a shadow from his dusky ken.
Oh no, her laugh is merry and her eyes
Radiant with life; and that supernal grace
Is still her own--that queenly, swimming pace!
As well might Death in desperate wrath arise,
To slay a Seraph, earth-bound from the skies,
Or on his essence lay a mortal trace!

February 21, 1863


When on the splendor of thy shining head
Death lays his hand, I feel that thou art born,
Like my poor self, to destinies forlorn
Whose issues darken toward the silent dead.
Ah! then I rave against the hand that shed
This boding darkness on the fairest morn,
And made all beauty half deserve our scorn,
Because 'tis transient as the rose's red.
Perhaps I wrong thee. My imperfect eye
Sees not beyond the circle of my birth,
Confounding thee with things of lower worth.
Thou art a stranger here, whose longings fly
Towards Death to lead thee from our alien earth,
And guide thee homeward to thy native sky.

February 22, 1868


Death on his mission sought my lady's side;
She turned her eyes, and caught him in their glance:
Something he felt beneath his grey ribs dance,
Unknown before, that curbed his chilly pride.
But when she spoke, unmarked the sands did glide
Through his dark glass, while on her utterance
He hung supine, in a forgetful trance,
And the red drops upon his scythe-blade dried.
He stood unarmed; she smiled to see his plight;
But Death, poor Death, could only grin and groan,
Seeking for favor in my darling's sight.
Then with a laugh she struck the goblin prone,
And he crawled backward to his native night,
Pierced with a wound more fatal than his own.

March 1, 1868


I hear thy summons, grizzly messenger;
I feel thy touch upon my shrinking arm;
Yet not the unimaginable harm
That thou canst do me, or canst do to her,
Moves my strong will, nor makes my spirit stir.
Only thy presence gives a dearer charm
To this sweet state, this life so full and warm,
And shakes my faith in what thou may'st confer.
Resolve one doubt. Persuade me that we two
Shall still, as now, fare onward hand in hand,
Through the great mysteries open to thy view;
And thou shalt find us meek to thy command;
As quick to vanish as the morning dew
That gleams and passes from a sunny land.

March 19, 1863


Against the changes of obsequious time,
That shifts his seasons as his lord, the sun,
Dictates which way his supple feet shall run,
My art has stood perennial and sublime.
Beneath the glamor of this simple rhyme,
If morn awaken rosy-hued or dun,
On flowers or snows, I view it all as one
Within the circle of my fairy clime.
My art can plant December's ice with flowers,
Or dust June's roses with unmelting snows,
Or bury deep each thing that leafs and blows.
Scorning the tyranny of nature's powers,
No other law my regal fancy knows
Than his own will among the vassal hours.

April 1, 1863


Within this realm, sweet Lady, thou art queen--
Queen? Goddess, rather; for upon thy will
The whole great pageant changes or is still,
Ice-bound and dead, or decked in living green.
Thy smile gilds all things with a sunny sheen;
Thy frown can make the landscape quake and thrill,
And the wild lightnings leap from cloud to hill,
As though a tempest burst upon the scene.
O! gently sway this kingdom of my art,
And wisely temper thy supreme decree,
So that its stress may lightly fall on me!
For hap what may, I am a sentient part
Of every atom that is ruled by thee,
And the fixed center is my silent heart.

April 1, 1863


There shines a leaf on every slender spray,
The spring has found the violets in their nooks,
There hides no corner that her sunny looks
Have not enlivened in her green array.
And I am tempted by the golden day
To quit the circle of my dusty books,
And seek the wisdom which the trees and brooks
Give to the souls that question such as they.
The joy of life--the joy that makes the child
Leap, unprovoked, upon the nurse's arm
Holds the world's round within its subtle charm;
And I could laugh, with boyhood's spirits wild;
Recredit hope, and be again beguiled;
Did not my heart toll on its old alarm.

April 28, 1863


For life and death to me are so akin,
So aptly one suggests the other's being;
So quickly treads behind existence fleeing
The dark pursuer, sure at last to win;
That when life's frolics o'er the world begin,
In the stern presence of my darker seeing,
There moves a shadow, every way agreeing
With each gay motion that he revels in.
Even the sweet wonder of thy slender shape
A graceful shade is haunting hour by hour;
And in the future there begin to lower
The signs that make the stricken household drape
Their tearful faces o'er with sullen crape--
Why should I trust in life's unstable power?

April 28, 1863