SONNETS 101-150


return to sonnet central return to American 19th century


I love you with each fibre of this frame,
Sentient and moral. I have sought that spot
Throughout my nature, where my love is not,
To give the blemish up to instant shame.
Ah! fruitless search! An all-pervading flame
Cleanses my being, whitens every blot
Upon a past that threatened once to rot
The brightest laurel of your poet's fame.
Blessed redemption! When I kneeled to you,
In the first passion of my contrite days,
I only dared this humble thing to sue:
That you would make me fit to sing your praise,
Untainted by my worship. So! You raise
My heart with this: "Yea, fit to love me, too!"

May 1, 1863


My Darling's temper is beyond compare,
Tender and gentle in its will to me;
Yielding so nimbly and so gracefully,
I find no cause for quarrel anywhere.
I am as easily ruffled as the sea,
That swells with passion at the viewless air;
And rage in storms of pitiless despair
At the least breath of passing jealousy.
Yet she so softly broods above my soul,
That all my days of tranquil sweetness glide
In one long golden and unbroken tide.
Despite my nature, her serene control
Subdues, without offense, my touchy pride;
Bows, and yet conquers; yields, but rules the whole.

May 12, 1863


Parted again! Shall partings never cease?
After the rapture of a few short days,
Above whose brightest hour there glooms and weighs
A sense of something that destroys our peace--
A growing thought, whose sure and sad increase
No tear prevents, no loving prayer delays--
A point of time, on which we fix our gaze,
As the condemned who hope for no release;
After this clouded pleasure. must there come,
O God! at last the stern, unpitying knell
That says, as clearly as a tongue could tell,
Part, part! your love can have no common home;
No place is built where such as ye may dwell;
Part! and in parting, bow and kiss your doom!"

May 15, 1863


Sad is it that a love as pure as thine,
Which to itself is so devoid of sin,
Should find no touch of charity within
The rigid souls that trade in things divine!
They mix their muddy water with God's wine,
And cry, "Drink this! The holy crystalline
Is stained, we grant, and somewhat pale and thin;
But drink! what mortal taste can draw the line?"
O bright, sweet nature, who hast ever stood
Just as God dropped thee from His shaping hand,
Shall such defilement enter in thy blood?
Guiltless or guilty? Who shall take a stand
'Twixt God and thee, and cry to all the land,
"Lo, the great sin! and, lo! the little good?"

May 16, 1863


If thou art sinful, there are thousands then
Who howl from pulpits, and make dreary night
Of texts as barefaced as the morning light,
Who more deserve the Angel's damning pen--
That tribe of bitter and self-righteous men
Who, in God's name, fill earth with wild affright,
Afflict our very virtues with a blight,
Till heaven's great dome becomes a murky den.
No man can say he ever looked on thee,
And from thy presence went not happier far,
Thanking kind Heaven that such as thee there are.
The hidden goodness others boast, we see
Revealed in thee to common sight, as we
See God's own radiance in a tranquil star.

May 16, 1863


King Midas, walking through his realm of old,
Moved not more grandly than did we today
Across the buttercups that paved our way,
And made our path a stretch of shining gold.
The flocks of care slept soundly in their fold,
No mist of sadness on our spirits lay,
A thousand joys before us ran at play
And in the flowers with baby laughter rolled.
Strange heart of man! but yesterday I said,
"My lips on earth will never smile again;
Henceforth I wander in perpetual shade."
Today you led me down yon golden glade--
The common product of the sun and rain--
And see, Beloved, how love has been repaid!

May 17, 1863


Now I have won my lady's priceless heart--
Hold full possession with a sway as wide
As the moon's rule above the flowing tide--
Why, as she came, may she not so depart?
Surely the tinkling of my lute, this art,
Profaned by every fool whose love has sighed
In crippled rhymes, her love will not abide
If sober reason from its slumber start.
What more have I? Alas! I see no charm
In these dim eyes, bent brows and grizzled hair
Which brazen flattery could belie for fair.
In thy own truth my nakedness must arm,
As love's defense against beleaguering harm,
Trusting to that, which guards me everywhere.

May 26, 1863


Yes, everywhere some precious flower of God
Blooms in the lowest valley of our care.
There is no squalid hut, no prison lair
Nigh which it shines not from the mouldy sod:
Or when sleep makes the aching forehead nod,
It blows in dreams; and we, awakening, bear,
For the sweet vision of a thing so fair;
The cruellest wounds of the chastising rod.
Else life were hell. We soothe our present grief
With hopes that, like the fireflies, disappear
Ere we can whisper, "Lo! the light is here!"
But over all there bends, for our relief.
This heavenly flower: O call it "Love," in brief;
It bears no name, unless that name be clear.

June 11, 1868


More than mere instinct, straight against the scope
Of reason's counsel is the desperate hold
We lay on life, however dark and cold
Its cheerless prospect to the eye of hope.
One can but marvel at the slaves who grope
Their way through life, with miseries untold
Stinging them daily--wretches who might fold
Their griefs in death beneath some grassy slope.
Deep in the soul a latent trust must bide,
To keep us clinging to life's worthless prize,
While all its charms are shipwrecked at our side;
A faith in something hidden from the eyes
Of creeds and dogmas, as my love descries
Light in itself, and makes that light its guide.

June 12, 1863


For many days my heart has stood unchanged;
No passing act within love's chronicle
Has made my steady pulses ebb or swell,
Or any way my settled calm deranged.
What happy fortune has so far estranged
Care and pale fear, that one time seemed to dwell
As guests or neighbors of the narrow cell
Where I for husks my golden birthright changed?
What portent threatens in these halcyon skies,
Of cloudy tempest and impending gloom.
If common forecast of such days be wise?
The near tomorrow, as a hungry tomb,
May yawn to tell of that unbending doom
Which hides all beauty from our mortal eyes.

June 24, 1863


A vision of my lady came to me
In the last watches of departing night;
Rising with Phospher, she presaged the light
From which sleep's shadowing fancies turn and flee.
I strove to speak, for I could plainly see
She paused before me in the act of flight,
Measuring her visit by my rapid sight,
Fulfilling still our mournful destiny.
Even in my dreams must this sad fate pursue,
And night repeat the story of the day,
Hurrying the image of my Love away?
Lest I, o'er-raptured with the blissful view,
Should half forget what fate enslaves us two,
And in my folly whisper, "Stay, oh, stay!"

December 29, 1863


Gone, gone! The rayless window sheds no light
Upon my upturned eyes; the graceful girl
Whose distant presence made my senses whirl,
Is but a memory of the empty night.
Tears, bitter tears! O where, thou creature bright,
Life of my heart, my pure, transcendent pearl,
Has darkness caught thee in its giddy swirl,
And drowned thy beauties to thy lover's sight?
Gone, gone! And I so desolate! O bell,
Chiming for vespers, but in every tone
Echoing my anguish with thy airy groan;
Why mock my heart with thy accordant groan?
Why make Heaven's dismal hollow ache and swell
With that one doleful sentence--gone, gone, gone?

January 28, 1864


Whither, thou glory of thy gentle race,
My heart's content, within whose warmth I lie,
As lies the flower beneath day's golden eye,
Whither is fled the splendor of thy face?
In vain thy so familiar haunts I trace;
Unmarked the city's myriads pass me by;
I hear no echo of thy tender sigh,
I see no glimmer of thy saintly grace.
Dark as the vision of the cloudy throng
In Dante's whirl of Hell the passers seem,
Lost in the sorrows of their selfish dream.
Ah, nowhere shines that look, so fond and long,
Which made my day, and with its earliest beam,
Roused, like the lark's, my heart's exulting song.

January 29, 1864


Of all the dreams I dreamed in bygone years,
But one remains, imprinted on my age,
And even that record, that emblazoned page
Is dimmed with dust and stained with scorching tears.
If my rash youth that scorned foreboding fears
Had half divined the thoughts which make me sage,
Now that the latest action holds the stage,
And the sad mimes approach their last careers;
Would I have found the courage to begin
This chronicle of love, or wasted breath,
Tinting pure pages with bewildering sin?
Ah, no! I would have stamped Love's myrtle wreath
Beneath my feet; rent every leaf herein,
And closed the volume as a book of death.

February 6, 1864


Oh spring, that hides the wrinkled earth in green,
And decorates the cracked and rugged bark
Of trees with lichens pale and mosses dark;
That makes the canker of decay unseen
Beneath the shadow of thy leafy screen;
Till from the hillside and the rolling park
Are razed the traces of Time's fatal mark,
And all things glitter with creation's sheen;--
Restoring Spring, hast thou no mask to spread
Above the wrinkles of this drooping brow?
No skill to hide these limbs that crook and bow,
No purple tints of youth to grace this head
Ashen with years and sorrows? Why should'st thou
So trim the scene in the poor actor's stead?

May 3, 1864


I shall not flatter that gross mass of sin,
Wicked myself, with this delusive thought,
That my dear lady's spotless heart is caught
In my plain toils, as in a fowler's gin.
I am her mirror; and she sees therein
A full reflection of her person, wrought
Within my mind, and thus is simply brought
To prize a grace which from herself I win.
I have no merit, save what she bestows;
No claim upon her, save the right I take
From her bestowal, that, by giving, grows.
I cannot tell you why the snowdrops wake,
The violet opens, or the pansy blows,
If love exists not for its own sweet sake.

May 6, 1864


Within the circle of my darling's charms
I stand as grimly as some ruin old,
Which creeping roses tenderly enfold
Within the cincture of their fragrant arms.
All my defacements, my defects and harms
Are so concealed, so cunningly enrolled
And overflowered, that whoso may behold
My glorious robe, asks not what shape it warms.
But ah! If ever stripping storms arise,
And rend these vernal splendors, which I wear
So proudly forward in the world's wide stare,
How shall I hide me from its blank surprise,
To find my naked nature in the glare
And cold, cruel wonder of its myriad eyes?


My dearest, trust me! I may err and fail
In many ways, through mere humanity,
And draw a tide of precious tears from thee,
And make thy heart with apprehension quail.
These are thy voyager cares. Our ship must sail
A hundred ways, to windward and to lee,
Before the harbor where we fain would be
Flashes its light, and answers to our hail.
But I am faithful as the stars above
By which I steer; nor does my purpose bend,
Nor my fixed vision from their guidance rove.
Of if these lights in stormy clouds have end,
Towards the same point my constant course shall tend,
Led by the trembling magnet of my love.

May 10, 1864


If history, that feeds upon the past,
Reserve some corner of respect for me,
Where for a while the gaping years may see
A poet's fickle fortunes anchored fast;
No marble sculpture, or no brazen cast
Will tell me truly, unless there shall be
Hollowed within it, as a shrine for thee,
Some sacred niche. enduring while I last.
Thus let me have my monument designed:
A radiant form, almost sustained in air,
Whose face shall strive thy lineaments to wear;
Another form, mere man in shape and mind,
Turning his churlish back against mankind,
Forever kneeling to that lady fair.

May 15, 1864


The dreary shadows round my heart tonight
May be a gloom forecasting coming ill;
The shuddering tremors which my spirit thrill,
May be Death's footfall, just beyond my sight.
The lucid windows that admit the light
Upon my soul, are dimmed, as if the chill
Of outer winter wrought its frosty will
Against the vision of the inner sprite.
I see not clearly; but, O dusky shade,
Whether thy steps be near me or afar,
I have but little thou canst make or mar.
Spare but one thing amidst this life's parade,
To bless my eyes, as earthly glories fade--
Spare me the comfort of Love's guiding star.

June 7, 1864


Does not the round in which my numbers plod,
These same few changes, wrung from fewer strings,
This endless iteration of stale things,
Begin to make thy wearied forehead nod?
Sometimes I fancy that the grassy sod,
Which quivers with the nested skylark's wings,
A fresher music to the morning flings
Than all the ways my laboring muse has trod.
And yet from me the voice of nature cries,
Halting and stammering on from note to note,
As truly, plainly as from any throat.
Ah! feathered rival, if thy song could rise
From my deep passion, what a strain would float
Among the jealous singers of the skies!


If this be sorrow, I have never known
The faintest touch of human grief till now--
That utter woe, o'erbrooding heart and brow,
With which the lines of sad-eyed poets groan.
For once, when fortune's dismal trump was blown,
I had the strength to dare the coming blow;
In her wild lists her gauntlet I could throw,
And beard the proudest arms that ever shone.
But now the strokes that beat me down, descend
In softest touches of a love so kind
That I half wonder if 'tis ill designed;
And blessing her, I cry, "Achieve thy end!
The first blow is the deadliest from a friend!
Behold, I stand before thee, shorn and blind!"

September 16, 1864


I do not love her! So my Lady says.
I, ah! so humble with my many years,
And withered eyes, that cannot show the tears
Which grace the morning of her dewy days.
Have pity! If the long and dusty ways
Which I have plodded on, from hopes to fears,
Have worn me out, and left us hardly peers,
And dimmed my feelings in their poor displays.
I cannot storm or fondle as a boy;
Thought shakes his finger when my passions start
To play the antics of a hero's part.
I cannot make thee goddess now, now toy;
I can but touch thee with a solemn joy,
And fold thee gravely to my quiet heart.

September 20, 1864


I do not love thee! What vile act of mine
Has given my loyal heart that patent lie?
Or wilt thou boast the precious love, which I
Lay at thy feet, compares no way with thine?
Then trample on it, for the god's design
Will glow through dust; or Heaven will purify
The pearl with cleansing dewdrops by and by;
Or all obscured, within itself 'twill shine.
I grant myself no fitting mate for thee,
Thou radiant creature, gilding my dim clay
With morning sunlight, and I cannot say
What wrought thy miracle of love for me:
But loving thee is nothing but to see,
To touch, to taste, and bear the sense away.

September 22, 1864


The moon hath touched my lady's restless brain:
She babbles wildly; calls my love a thing
Base with the coiner's mark and hollow ring--
An ill-played masque whose falsehood is too plain.
Ah! fairest conscience, I shall not complain,
Hot I, whose every memory is a sting,
Whose only merit is the love you fling
Around a heart more fit for your disdain.
Scorn, if thou wilt, the homage I bestow,
The feeble twitter which my sonnets make,
The worship rising from a thing thus low;
Yet guard that truth thou'st sworn should never shake,
That purer love of which thou'st boasted so,
And love me only for thy own love's sake.

September 26, 1864


If in the liking of thine eye to live,
To shift my colors as thy fancies change,
To school my manners to the ordered range
Thy nicer taste may hold it best to give;
If to be merry, sorry, laugh or grieve,
And think the instant passion no way strange,
So I my coarser instincts may exchange
For thy refinements, by thy gracious leave;
If to dispose my future by thy will,
To be so wholly thine that every need
Which frets my nature follows on thy lead;
If only thus I judge 'twixt good and ill,
And scorn the lot which other men fulfill--
If this be love, why then I love indeed.

Octber 3, 1864


A sadder word I never uttered yet--
No, not in chambers when the light was low,
And the pale mourners groping to and fro,
Waited that end for which the time was set--
Than this last word, so full of all regret,
So crammed and burdened with extremest woe,
This topmost flood of sorrow's overflow,
This word "farewell," with which our lips have met.
O Dearest, Dearest, if any act of mine
Could give the pain that doleful word has cost
My broken spirit, as your eyes divine
Flashed on my heart the whole of what was lost,
I would have lain, feet pointed and palms crossed,
In my white shroud, before I made it thine.


Grieve not the heart that loves thee!" In a ring
I read this posy. Would thy gracious hand
Might hold against thy heart that wise command,
As far more precious than the golden thing.
All I can ever say or ever sing,
Lies in the compass of that graven band,
Twines love and duty in a single strand,
And on an altar lays the offering.
I can but say I love thee, and implore
The grace that lightly to such words is thrown
From upright Heaven to mortals who adore.
We, only we, make loving lips to moan,
And loving brows to bend, and eyes to pour:
"Grieve not the heart that loves thee," O my own!

October 9, 1864


The dreadful vision of my fears has burst
Upon our unprotected heads at last;
Gloom swallows gloom, blast rises over blast,
Fate's hidden hand hath done its very worst.
And yet I smile above this scene accursed,
Out of my memory of the joyous past,
And hug its faded state and grandeurs fast,
A crownless monarch, from my kingdom cast,
But still a king. No fortune can subdue
The regal brow on which the crown was placed,
Nor the right hand that once the scepter graced.
O queenly partner of my exile, who
Doubts thy regality? Within this waste
Found we a throne, at which but I shall sue.


Stand fast amidst the darkness! Ah! my dear,
'Tis easy loving where the sunshine falls,
And Nature's voice on idle passion calls
To add that joy to joys already here.
I almost do not grieve that night draws near
Our threatened prospect, and with shade appalls
Our wandering footsteps, as the shining walls
Of our lost Eden slowly disappear.
Behold those points of faith above thy head,
That starry chart by which the heart may move,
If to the test its instincts equal prove.
Now through these shades let us prepare to tread,
As hand in hand across the flowers we sped,
When dewy morning lit our early love!

October 15, 1864


Trial on trial we must meet and brave,
Temptation on temptation overcome.
The wearing process of long days, the hum
Of scornful tongues, the counsel meant to save;
The sneer of pity, the indignant wave
Of warning hands, the close and moody gloom
Of hearts divided almost by the tomb;
All this will scowl between us and the grave.
Faint not nor falter! While there runs a breath
Within the channels of this mortal frame,
My love shall burn with no abated flame.
Oh! flash thy light against the gates of death,
And put the slanderers of thy sex to shame!
I would not ask it, had I smaller faith.

October 16, 1864


Love has no triumph and no future crown
For feeble hearts, that cannot stand the test
Of adverse fortunes--trials wellnigh blest,
Since through his strength we tread opponents down.
The heart that shudders when a blast is blown,
And beats in wild despair its helpless breast,
The May-day reveller who pants for rest
At sunset, Love forever will disown.
We danced in riot through our golden dawn;
We worshiped Love with rites that seemed like play
In shady groves, throughout our middle day;
But see, our evening is already gone,
And darkness filters downward through the gray!
We must draw closer as our night comes on.

October 17, 1864


Closer and closer draw thou to my side!
Thou hast more need of love than ever yet
Since first thy feet upon this path were set;
A serious need, that will not be denied.
A drop of dew will wake the rose's pride,
But Heaven's great rains will hardly serve to wet
The arid desert which our footsteps fret
In that accursed dearth we now must bide.
And if between us doubt and danger roll,
And I all vainly seek thy outstretched hand
To guide thee safely to a better land,
Yield not with desperate haste thy fate's control.
Though in the body we divided stand,
We must draw closer, Darling, in the soul.

October 17, 1864


They cannot part us. With this power of song,
Through every circumstance, and time and place,
I hold communion with thee face to face,
And baffle thus the eyes that round thee throng.
In every verse of mine that shines among
The printed rubbish of this age, thou'It trace
Some hint to thee, some line that wears a grace
Which to thee only can by right belong.
Though they encase thee in a tower of steel,
My subtle spirit shall break through the bars,
And in thy presence its old form reveal.
This lute shall tinkle underneath the stars,
While others sleep; and thou shalt hear and feel
Love's voice in sounds that rattle with the wars.

October 17, 1864


I never wished for wings as yesternight,
When my imprisoned darling sadly came
Before her window, leaned against the frame,
And with her beauty starred the sullen night.
O envious air! O empty space! O might
Of nature's laws! O most apparent shame
To Love's endowment! That this eager flame
Wanted mere wings, with open heaven in sight!
Had I been blessed no more than yonder dove,
Watching his cooing mate upon the eave,
I would have prized my pinions far above
The gift with which this silly song I weave,
As of dull earth I took my scornful leave,
And in thy bosom nestled me, my Love.

October 19, 1864


Except these flights of song, I nothing have,
As consolation for thy absence, Dear;
Nothing to stop the wanderings of the tear
That still my troubled countenance will lave.
But what device, however strong and brave,
Strings up my soul against besieging fear,
Like thy light laugh, as welcome and as clear
As summer sunlight to the purblind slave?
What line as soft as thy bewildering hand
Touching and fleeing? What imagined good
Can fill the vacant place where thou hast stood?
What fancy reach, and for an instant, stand
Upon that summit where my dizzy blood
Rose to thy kiss, and answered its demand?

November 1, 1864


Ever a darkness somewhere in the sun,
Ever less lustre in the stars at night,
Ever the presence of some deadly blight
Betwixt my senses and the world will run.
Weary of woman, sick of man, I shun
Their harmless antics and their prattle light,
As though the silly things did me despite,
And mocked the misery of a wretch undone.
Is this a darkness of the heart alone?
A partial blindness towards the things I see
Not as they are, but through my fantasy?
Or was it, Darling, that thy brightness shone
The glory that enveloped earth and me,
Which now, with thee, is blotted out and gone?


About myself a shadow I have wrapped;
I shall no more with patience nor with ease
Hear feathered minstrels shake the sunny trees,
Or see the primrose by the runnel lapped.
God knows it joys me little what has happed;
It gives no pleasure to my heart to freeze,
Nor do I taste my fortune's bitter lees
Without wry faces that I thus am trapped.
O weary midnight, pressing fold on fold!
O dull, chill aspect of despairing day!
O outer vacancy and inner cold!
When shall your dreary empire pass away?
When shall her splendor flood vale, hill, and wold,
To chase these scowling vapors far away?

November 3, 1864


How can I say I ever am alone,
Since when I muse, thy countenance I see
Painted so clearly on my memory
That truth and counterfeit seem wellnigh one?
And when the visions of the day are done,
In dreams of night thou comest oft to me,
A graceful shape so like reality
That foolish slumber breaks, and thou art gone.
Would I myself could such a spirit make
As lives on feigning, with a heart content,
Playing with other shades at give and take!
But, ah! my grosser manhood scorns assent
To pleading phantoms as I start awake
And turn my face to sorrow and lament.


Welcome, thou added sum of all delights,
Thou glittering summit of completed joy,
Thou perfect bliss, whose sweets could never cloy
Heaven's endless day nor Hell's eternal night!
Lo, thou, my Angel, dost on earth alight;
Somewhat disdainfully, a little coy
Of mortal airs that sully and destroy
Her white apparel in her dainty sight!
Where hast thou been, my treasure, all these days?
What spot of land has been a paradise,
Blooming and fragrant, underneath thine eyes?
Ah! I have missed thee from my blighted ways!
The lily droops, the violet shrunken lies,
And silence settles on my tuneless lays.

November 25, 1864


What sorry mark of nature can there he,
That stamps me false before thy partial sight,
And clouds the highest peaks of love's delight
With moody doubt and gloomy fantasy?
I do not dare to question thy decree;
I must believe my truth to be as slight
As any cheat's; thy judgment is so right,
So sad, so filled with tender charity!
I own my falsehood, if thou'lt have it so;
How great, alas, to others it has been,
None so completely as thyself can know.
If for thy sake I acted out the scene;
Feigned, cozened, lied, to hide our love from show,
Art thou the one to call my soul unclean?


I have heen false for thy repose alone,
And the sweet cause half pardoned the offense,
Even in the judgment of omnipotence,
And made me smile where I might aptly groan.
Mark me again! The grave defect I own,
Or boast it rather; making no pretense
To mitigate my fault in any sense,
At least to thee, by whom my heart is known.
What other sin is waiting for my hand,
To make our love more secret and secure,
Against the time his threatened throne may stand?
Name it, Beloved! I tarry thy command.
What shall I do, or what shall I endure?
Where on my soul shall shame let fall its brand?

January 1,1865


I know the days are heavy on thy hands,
Thy lonely pillow wet with many a tear,
Thy sad reflections waited on by fear,
Thy desperate future arid as the sands.
I know one whisper in thy wretched ear
Of this familiar voice would burst the bands
Of wintry fate, and strew the dreary lands
With all the bloom that opens with the year.
Ah! dread temptation, let me put thee by!
Lest early spring be compassed in the plot
of lurking frosts that round her ambushed lie.
Better the sigh, the tear, the midnight cry
Of secret grief, than that eternal blot
Which would bedim thee, if I ventured nigh.

January 28, 1865


For thy dear safety, not for mine own ease,
I am thus kindly cruel, unhappy girl!
Securer far than thine, my lips may curl
Against a world I never sought to please.
I never moved to win that prosperous breeze
Blown by the tainted breath of jade and churl;
Back in their teeth my name's report I hurl;
I seek no patent from such things as these.
But thou--Ah! there some spirit pulls me back;
Sets the hard ashes of my cheeks aflame,
At the bare mention of thy sacred name.
I would not see its lucid crystal black,
Flawed or bedimmed with any mist of shame,
To save my body from the headsman's rack.

January 28, 1865


'Tis hard, 'tis hard, but it must be endured;
Nor through our suffering can I see the end
To which our drifting fortunes slowly tend
With nothing fixed, and no result assured.
Could I but say these trials have secured
A dawning hope; these shadowing lines shall bend
As a dark background round our lives, and lend
Love's beacon light, when we are safely moored!
But who shall find this future in the stars?
Or task my lyre to sound that prophet tone
Which fate with hasty scorn will not disown?
Alas, alas! my own foreboding mars
Our narrow prospect seen through woven bars,
Doubled in woe, because 'tis borne alone.

January 30, 1865


If it console thee, Sweet, to he aware
That not alone thy grievous load is borne,
That every golden eve and silver morn
Vexes my spirit with its several care;
That every sigh with which you scent the air
Wakes a clear echo in my heart forlorn;
That when you shrink, my aching breast is torn
By the same edge, and one the wound we bear;
If this console thee, to thy bosom take
The doleful joy, and make its little light
Flicker around thee to delude thy sight,
Like those weird fires that from the masthead shake
Above the sallor, ere the tropic night
In flame and thunder on his vessel break.

February 1, 1865


I but half uttered what I purposed, dear:
I should have said that if divided grief
Give to thy heart one symptom of relief,
Then dry thy lids, and be of better cheer!
My eyes are partners in thy smallest tear;
Thou'st never breathed a sigh so light or brief
That did not flutter every spray and leaf
Within the whispering laurels at my heart.
If what I bear by so much lightens thee,
I'll bless my grief, and patiently incline
My yoke-worn neck to all which thou'lt resign.
Alas! I speak in bitter levity;
Dividing sorrow will not lighten thine,
But only cast another weight on me.

February 1, 1865


They who have heard my song esteem the strain
As public music, rhymes of common worth,
Such as have every day an easy birth,
And scanty night in favor to remain.
I grant it may be I have sung in vain,
Scattered my seed about the barren earth,
Sowed for a harvest where I reaped but dearth,
And won for fee man's tolerant disdain.
As I declare it, so the thing has been:
Mild praise, dim glory, these have been my cheer
And best return through many a toilsome year.
Yet when unnoticed I forsake this scene,
Shall I die wholly? Shall no spray of green
Start from my dust beneath thy sacred tear?

February 6, 1865


If not the painter's nor the sculptor's skill
Can give thy beauty its entitled place;
Catch the revealings of that subtle grace
Whose charm eludes its imitation still;
How can I hope, who every moment fill
My heart with wonders from thy heavenly face,
Seeing a light no other eyes can trace--
How can I hope to do thee aught but ill?
The wretched mockery of this black and white
Slanders thy favor o'er and o'er again,
And stirs a discord betwixt heart and pen.
In truth I marvel at the things I write;
They seem so far from thy conceded right
Such plain impostures in the sight of men.

February 8, 1865


Let the world's people hiss at us! I meet
Their stormiest bickerings with an equal brow;
It is but natural gloom should shroud us now,
So long the sunshine bathed our happy feet.
Let the winds howl and let the waters beat.
The past is ours; for we can ponder how
High heaven was gracious to our faithful vow,
And flashed its joys into our calm retreat.
Nor even yet, Darling, are we quite forlorn
While you can listen and while I can sing,
For all this piercing blast of hate and scorn.
Nor shall it deal us its commissioned sting,
While the great Angel of our brighter morn
Spreads o'er his brood his warm and sheltering wing.

February 10, 1865