SONNETS 151-200


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I could not hope that one so rarely fair
As thou, could firmly brook this shameful brand,
This bare exposure on the martyr's stand,
Did not Love keep thee in his holy care.
The smoke rolls upward and the faggots flare;
But through the flame he reaches in his hand,
And thy white body, by his pinions fanned,
Suffers no stain nor blemish anywhere.
Thus men make angels from our mortal clay;
Love works his purpose through his craftsman, Hate,
And Love's design seems rounded as by Fate.
So thou, who passest through the fire away,
Meek, patient culprit of a savage date,
Shalt shine in sainthood at a later day.

February 10, 1865


Clamber again into thy midday place,
O sun of love, now so besmirched with cloud;
So crossed and railed against by tempests loud,
That beat poor nature on her tearful face!
Gather again thy potent beams, and chase
That gloom away, beneath whose weight are bowed
Our festive roses and our lilies proud,
And let them rally in their wonted grace!
Ah! surely, gentle Love, it is not night
Whose leaden eyelids watch the day's decline,
But passing vapors that o'erveil thy light.
For if 'twere night indeed, some star of thine
Would now be trembling in my anxious sight,
Hung forth from heaven as hope's unfailing sign.

February 11, 1865


You say my Love no marvel is to you.
As she sedately treads the dust and stir
Of earthly ways, a brightness follows her,
Like morning's track across the shaking dew.
How shall you judge, who see her beauty through
The haze of distance, how your sight may err?
Or what delights her presence may confer
Upon the privilege of a nearer view?
But keep your judgment; you may rail as well
Against the moon, and hope to dim her rays,
Which the great ocean follows and obeys.
Ring out your censure with the crier's bell;
For beauty lives not by your blame or praise;
But, as you rate it, thus your worth you tell.


I cannot say my lady is to you,
Who estimate her beauties from afar,
Of more renown than yonder little star
That struggles faintly in the dusty blue.
Doubt your own senses, blame your point of view,
Be with yourself, or aught but her, at war
For were you standing where the angels are,
Wonder would balk your judgment of her due.
Her orbit circles through a higher zone
Than mankind reckon in their highest flight;
And heaven, not earth, is glad that she is bright.
I, only I, approach her; I alone
Bask in her blaze, a grateful satellite,
And to her world my darkened side is shown.

February 12, 1865


Heavy and dark, with gusts of spiteful snow,
The moody moments of today lagged by;
And when the boding evening gathered nigh
The buzzing swarms of winter, thick and slow,
Whitened the earth and eddied to and fro,
In whirling currents of the breathing sky;
Until the ghastly land appeared to lie
Stiff as a corpse beneath its sheet of woe.
But why should I above wan nature's bier,
Mourning her sorrow with another grief,
Find in the act a selfish heart's relief?
I play the trickster: every sigh and tear
Is mere distraction, shallow, false, and brief,
And masks a woe I dare not venture near.

February 14, 1865


Out on the heart that has not faith enough
To recognize another's constancy;
That vaunts its arrogant fidelity,
And scorns another as of meaner stuff!
It is my fate to bear the spurn and cuff
of her, whose duty 'tis, confidingly,
To find her boasted honesty in me,
And spare my love unmerited rebuff.
O read my heart by what you see within
The purer cloister of that virgin shrine
On which I look as on a thing divine;
And charge my nature with no grosser sin,
Than striving humbly from thy heaven to win
An earthly likeness for this heart of mine.

February 15, 1865


A noble woman! One who can forgive,
Without descending from her native height,
Not a mere trespass, not a foible slight,
But some great wrong that made her spirit
Ah, such a one deserves her fame should live,
In something better than a sonnet's light,
Or bronze or marble, or the proudest sight
That man's constructive genius can conceive.
No earthly honor is a fitting meed
To crown an act so brave and heavenly fair,
Save the dread halo which the martyrs wear.
O Christ, I pray Thee, to my words give need,
And take my darling to Thy sovereign care--
The sweetest flower arisen from Thy seed!

February 16, 1865


I raise this mantling beaker to my lip,
Filled with the dews and perfumes of the Rhine;
The clustering bubbles proudly swell and shine,
As on the tiny waves they rise and dip.
Holding this precious crystal, ere I sip
With thirsty haste, its freight of lucid wine;
What name is worthy of this draught divine?
With that libation shall the goblet drip?
Breathing thy name, I hurl the glass, with all
Its fiery essence whirled in glittering rain,
Against the farthest corner of the wall.
O shattered vessel, nothing shall profane
Henceforth thy dedication, nor recall
To meaner use thy sacred wreck again.

February 18, 1865


Oh! what a hollow and a bootless thing
Is human life, to sum it all in all,
From restless cradle unto quiet pall,
Whether it be of beggar or of king!
We buzz and fret, we suffer and we sting;
We base our fortunes on another's fall,
Truckle to great ones, trample out the small,
Till vapid sameness tires the spirit's wing.
Heaven knows how calmly I would lay my head,
At rest from dreams of wealth and power and fame,
Beneath the broidery of a daisy bed,
Were I not lured by Love's unselfish aim,
That shines along the lowly way I tread,
Pure, bright and steady as an altar-flame.

February 23, 1865


The way I walk, an angel of God's throne,
The dearest, brightest, oft with drooping wings,
Bound on a mission amongst earthly things,
Treads, as the nearest path to angels known.
O mighty Seraph, do not thou disown
The mounting pilgrim, though the song he sings
Too much, perchance, with human passion rings,
And grates and falters in its purest tone!
'Tis true that I bedim thy holy way
With worldly dust, and my unhallowed feet
With uncouth marks thy even footprints beat.
I am unworthy, in this vile array,
To stand before thee; and I can but say,
I wandered hither and see no retreat.

February 23, 1865


I never courted miser, fool or knave;
Nor held my heart up as a thing to sell
In open market, with the crier's bell
To tell the world the cheapness of the slave.
Though I have ceased to imprecate and rave
Against the horrors of the sordid hell
In which my fellows roll--as knowing well
That God's own voice has lost the power to save--
Yet in that I have kept my conscience white,
Defying meanness wheresoe'er I met
Its brazen brows in darkened counsel set,
Thou may'st regard me with a glance less light
Than these ignoble things thou would'st forget,
And hold me higher in thy lofty sight.

March 7, 1865


If it has been the misery of my fate
To mix too closely with the knave and fool,
In these sad years which adverse planets rule)
And on whose hours degrading furies wait;
'Twas not my pleasure, but my luckless state,
That made me frowning fortune's luckless tool,
And taught me manners in so vile a school
That I have caught the scoundrel's slouching gait.
Mistake me not. The flicker of my eye,
The look of cunning, the distrustful smile,
But serve my turn when guile encounters guile.
Before thy candor, I would blush to try
The masker's antic, or the liar's wile,
Or aught at which you shake the head and sigh.

March 8, 1865


"O for my sake do you with fortune chide"--
I almost took sad Shakespeare's thought for mine,
So closely fits his sonnet line by line
The wretched case in which my life was tried.
Fraud, falsehood, avarice, the beastly pride
That swells the entrails of the gorging swine,
The selfish greed that guzzles filth as wine,
The grovelling spite that vaunts what it should hide;
All these foul things have compassed me around,
And with this hell of baseness I have striven,
Till God's ten laws in solemn jest seemed given.
Then do not wonder that I kissed the ground
Beneath thy feet; my joy was so profound,
To hail a soul that was designed in heaven.

March 8, 1865


I pity him, unhappy gentleman,
Whom chance or luckless fortune has conveyed
Into companionship with those who trade,
Who always cheat and pilfer when they can.
These vermin once my person overran,
And on my purse, my time, my patience preyed,
Esteeming virtue only as it paid,
Religion only as it hid a plan.
Ah! beasts, amongst your ignominious crew
I felt as one alone on Circe's isle,
Wandering amazed amidst her changelings vile;
Or e'er the loathsome goddess met his view,
And with the glamor of her hellish guile
Into a swine transformed his nature too.

March 10, 1866


As stands a statue on its pedestal,
Amidst the storms of civil mutiny,
With an unchanged and high serenity,
Though Caesar's self be toppled to his fall;
So stands my faith in thee amidst the brawl
Within my heart--the woeful tragedy
Of passions that conspire for mastery
Above the power that holds their rage in thrall.
Image of comfort! Lustrous as the star
That crests the morning, and as virgin pure,
All is not lost if thou wilt but endure!
If through the dust and turmoil of this war,
I may behold thee, stately and secure,
Brooding on things unearthly and afar.

March 17, 1865


Less in myself than thee do I believe.
I know the weakness of my wandering mind;
Its fickle fancies, mounting every wind,
Eager to light, but restless soon to leave.
The morning's joy, at evening makes me grieve;
Today's display, tomorrow finds me blind;
To this hour's grief, the next will be resigned;
Bitter and sweet I hold but as a sieve.
Upon thy constant nature I rely;
To thee all beauty is as sculptured stone,
And any love love-worthy while 'tis shown;
Or how could'st thou my frailties deify,
Descry a worth, and claim it as thy own,
In anything so mutable as I?

March 19, 1865


When at confession by thy knee I kneel,
I must reveal a thousand sins to hate,
With scarce a virtue as a counterweight,
To poise the groaning burden which I feel.
If thou shouldst turn thy heavenly face, and seal
Thy hopeful eyes against my hopeless state,
I would accept the justice of my fate,
And from thy purer presence meekly steal.
But to find mercy ever in thine eyes,
Forerunning pardon, as the dawn the day,
And smiling gently at my sin's array,
Is such a grace as the divine surprise
Of heaven descending upon one who lies
In awful wonder passing from the clay.

March 19, 1865


If I were able to disclose thy charms,
And truly paint, as they appear to me,
Those latent beauties I alone may see
In the confiding circle of thy arms;
I should incite the sluggish world, that warms
At the suggested thought of rivalry,
To spread its treacherous snares abroad for thee,
And vex my jealous bosom with alarms.
Therefore, discreetly, I am silent still,
When men pronounce thy features wondrous fair,
And hear their praises with a distant air;
Lest all mankind should gain the fatal skill
To know thee, and my babbling tongue should fill
The land with dogged rivals everywhere.

March 21, 1865


Should I portray thee merely as I can,
In my conceit belittling all thy worth
With the dry bareness of my wordy dearth,
What flames would kindle in the dullest man!
Dearest, I dare not, though my lips o'erran
With Petrarch's sweetness, give this selfish earth
A due display of what it owes thy birth,
Which so departs from nature's common plan.
Perhaps in art my mind is too sincere,
To aim where failure must be consequent;
Or man unworthy of the high intent.
Perhaps a jealous counsel wins my ear,
And makes me cautelous and reticent;
Perhaps--ah, me! I can but say, I fear.

March 22, 1865


Yes, I could trust, forever and a day,
Thy constant heart to any worldling's wiles,
Surround thy senses with the lies and guiles
That hiss and gender in the truth's decay.
I know the nature of thy taintless clay,
The mystic candor of thy vestal smiles
Thy soul of fire, consuming what defiles,
Yet, flame-pure, mounting on its heavenly way.
Why should thy breath of precious spice and myrrh,
Devour the sin and garbage of the land,
Serving the purpose of the hangman's brand?
No; let me find some nobler use for her,
Build her a temple, far from public stir,
And by her altar take my public stand.

March 23, 1865


I trust my love for thee may expiate
The many passions I have felt or feigned
For the deluded idols that have reigned
Over my fancy in precarious state.
Frail was their tenure, brief their kingdom's date,
The subject restless and the record stained
With woe and falsehood, till their glory waned,
And crown and scepter were an irksome weight.
'Tis vain to sigh for that extinguished line,
Which love's rebellion hastened to its close,
Or make a sorrow of departed woes.
They were as stars that for the darkness shine,
Waiting, foredoomed, upon their own decline,
As dawn grew daylight, and thy sun arose.

March 24, 1865


Within my mind I keep a holy plot,
Where such ideas as wear unsullied white
May move through scenes of ever-fresh delight,
Fringed to the pale with blue forget-me-not.
Within the boundaries of this virgin spot,
No thought o'ershadowed with the primal blight--
No worldly scheme, no falsehood, grave or light--
Can by indulgence or by force be got.
Here stands an image sacredly apart
From any contact, howsoever pure--
The cloister's goddess while the stars endure.
But why should I inform thee what thou art,
By any image, or by tropes assure
Thy right to rule this Eden of the heart?

March 25, 1865


The thoughts that snarl about my heels by day,
And track me homeward with persistent care,
Turn round and round, then settle on their lair,
In watchful sleep, and growl their dreams away.
O loathsome hounds, your savage howl and bay,
Your ruffian courage, and your fangs that tear,
At length are quiet, and the circling air,
Murmurs with peace above the ended fray.
A light surrounds me such as never fell
From star, or moon, or heaven's imperial sun--
Joy for the senses and the soul in one;
And yet no better than an outer shell
Around that splendor where my love doth dwell,
Throned in such state as man ne'er looked upon.

March 26, 1865


Some one within my hearing said tonight,
"I saw the robins building; Spring is here."
And I, who shudder with a silent fear
At time's advance, recoiled in vague affright.
The robins build! Ere long in fresh delight
Their crimson throats will carol to my ear;
Their eggs will open, and the brood they rear
Will hop and twitter in their anxious sight.
But what to us will golden springtide bring
Who dread mutation? What unfolding shell?
What fledgling hope unto our ears will sing?
Where shall we build against the storms that swell
Around the slippery spray on which we swing?
Perhaps, alas, these prophet tears foretell.

March 30, 1865


Nothing is stable. Though the deeds we do
May bind the nations in a servile chain,
And give to cowering slaves their joy and pain,
The far result still frowns in open view.
A little wound will let great Caesar through,
An asp make Egypt's dusky charmer plain;
And all the power and beauty that remain
Go shivering naked up the mystic blue.
Earth smiles at tyrants, when the crown is laid
Upon the coffin, and their history
To after times with laughter is displayed.
Death and oblivion are the proudest fee
Of men's endeavor; and the delver's spade
Rounds all our hillocks fair and evenly.

March 30, 1865


Since that which issues from the sovereign head
Springs from a source so weak and insecure,
And beauty's charm no longer may endure
Than the gross hunger of the sense is fed;
With what assurance, then, can it be said
The heart's affections, howsoever pure,
Escape through death, and bear a life more sure
Than other passions that forsake the dead?
Is love the soul's one attribute? And will
Thine eyes regard me in that future state
As the dove's, yearning towards her distant mate?
Or shall I see thee, passionless and chill,
Swim through the courts of heaven, and fill
My soul with grief at my immortal fate?

April 1, 1865


Idle I am, if it be idleness
To chirp and warble in this way to thee;
Flinging a thread of slenderest melody
Slight as the gossamer's far-floating tress.
Yet even that film the morning dews may dress,
And heaven transmute them by her alchemy
To silvered pearls, till empty fantasy
Seem real as aught the doubting senses guess.
Love, at the idlest, is a busy thing.
His dreams are histories with achievements rife;
His peace is heaven's; his war hell's frantic strife.
How that a heart, forever on the wing
'Twixt joys and griefs--the sum of human life--
Is taxed as idle, sets me marveling.

April 2, 1865


The fane I build on this foundation stone
Which seems to me the most immortal part
Of carnal nature, man's mysterious heart,
May pierce to heaven, and glitter there alone.
For what remains or follows hence the groan
Of power o'ertaken with its dying smart,
Or what to Cheops is his Titan art?
Or where has Helen's fatal beauty flown?
Shall love expire before the source of love,
Just as it flutters from degrading earth,
And fills its yearnings from the fount above?
Or shall it claim, from its celestial birth,
A grander heritage, and calmly move
To royal rights, coequal with its worth?

April 3, 1865


I do not falter in the sight of God;
This bare-browed standing in His awful view,
Strips the illusions off my soul, that grew
Like weeds, upspringing from the mortal clod.
Let what is earthy mingle with thy sod,
And feed the flowers that glimmer in the dew;
What reeks the spirit, if the change undo
The heavy fetters of its carnal load?
In that communion, in the very clay,
Before my soul was conscious of its wings,
I have had insight of celestial things;
Have learned that humble Love has power to lay
His hand upon the amaranthine rings,
As well as they who daily fast and pray.

April 4, 1865


There are more ways to heaven than mortals know;
One reaches it through solemn praise and prayer,
Another through the worth of actions fair,
Another through the martyr's fiery woe.
In some the tides of goodness ebb and flow,
And only God their future may declare;
Some storm salvation, with a martial air,
And burst its gates at one triumphant blow.
Love, Love, alone approaches with a smile,
Opens the fastenings with familiar grace,
And treads at ease across the jasper aisle;--
Treads slowly, gazing in God's greeting face,
Confidingly, unfearing, free from guile,
For Love is walking in his native place.

April 4, 1865


Spring blows her fruitful breath, and swiftly curls
Her vaporous blessing over hill and lea;
With naked arms the fair magnolia tree
Her silver cups in Bacchic frenzy whirls.
White violets glimmer in the grass like pearls,
Primroses nod; and on the roaring sea
Of the strong wind, the willow whips and twirls
Its leafing slivers to the robin's glee.
Prolific season, while thy changes bring
Fresh life and music to the mellow land,
Am I alone untouched by thy command?
When shall my winter soften into Spring?
What joy for me is lingering in thy hand?
When shall my barren prospect bloom and sing?

April 15, 1865


It seems to mock me: all this heat and bloom,
And the shrill paeans of the laureate bird;
As though the year God's waking mandate heard,
And came, like Lazarus, from the torpid tomb.
Strange as the first creation from the womb
Of eldest chaos was the life that stirred
Today through nature, as the primal Word
Moved o'er the void, with light supplanting gloom.
Only to me comes no creative light
Out of the orient, and my sullen tears
Flow through the starless darkness of my fears.
O God, develop something in my sight
Grant me at least the changes of the years,
To checker, here and there, this inner night

April 16, 1865


I know that every note and chord of woe
Sob in these lines; and you who have not borne
My woeful heart, may turn with natural scorn
From what you look on as a wordy show.
What is there, say you, in his fate to know,
That makes this mourner's history more forlorn
Than his who perished, gashed and bullet-torn
Just as the southern rose began to blow?
I do not ask you to divide my care;
Smile at the cross upon my mural stone;
Its dreadful record is for me alone.
But do not trespass. In God's name beware
Lest prying fingers lay my secrets bare;
For there is that which never should be known.

April 17, 1865


If sorry music on this lute were played,
And someone told you, Cleopatra's skull
Was fashioned to this chamber round and full,
And this long neck of Helen's thigh was made;
Each key was graven and each fret inlaid
From bones of beauties, whose caress could lull
The Grecian madman or the Tudor bull,
And all these strings were Rosamond's golden braid;
What were your profit, if the air I tried
Halted and stammered from the precious strings,
And in the ear of listless hearers died?
I sometimes tremble, as these numbers glide,
Lest I bemean my love, with paltry things,
To bear a censure wholly on my side.

April 18,1865


Hard is the fortune that has cast thy lot
Within the withering circle of my shade.
Alas! poor flower, whom baffled nature made
To add a brightness to her sunniest spot;
And hard for me, who draw thee in the plot,
It is to see thee daily pine and fade
Beneath the shadows of this dreary glade,
That reeks with damp and smells of earthy rot.
Thy fate is sealed. Ah! never more for thee
Shall Spring awaken, or the balmy heat
Of summer rise in flowers about thy feet;
Nor yet shall Autumn crown thy destiny
With goodly fruit; but storms shall ever beat
Around thee, sorrowing from a wintry sea.

May 30, 1865


Some man will one day tell a passing friend
That I am dead; and he who hears the word
Will smile, look sad, or twitter like a bird,
Of gold and lands, and how they all descend.
Well, be it so! I would not have my end
Sadden the empty faces of the herd;
Nor have their shallows more profoundly stirred
By me than others who before me wend.
Of all our griefs, the sorrow o'er the grave
Is shortest lived, and easiest to cheer;
For endless woe, a heart of hope must have.
But wilt not thou, in some far future year--
From thee alone this strangest boon I crave--
Give me a thought, and end it with a tear?

August 4, 1865


Climb glory's ladder to the topmost height,
Rifle the treasures of the jealous land,
In gold and purple take thy lonely stand,
As lord of those whose slavehood is delight;
What hast thou won but terrors in the night?--
The threatening specter of the bravo's hand?
A sense of something that eludes command,
And lurks with death beyond thy quailing sight?
Thou hast made merry, as poor actors do,
Over an empty cup and painted feast,
Seeming to taste the things thou knowst the least.
What are these mockeries to the scene I view--
Love's holy altar and his prophet priest,
Pointing to paths which gracious angels strew?

August 8, 1865


My darling's features, painted by the light;
As in the convex of a mirror, see
Her face diminished so fantastically
It scarcely hints her lovely self aright.
Away, poor mockery! My outraged sight
Turns from the fraud you perpetrate on me;
This is no transcript, but a forgery,
As far from semblance as is black from white.
Breathe, smile, blush, kiss me! Murmur in my ear
The things we know--we only! and give heed
To this deep sigh and this descending tear,
Ere from my senses you can win the meed
Of faith, to make your doubtful title clear,
And so convince me you are she indeed.

March 4, 1866


Another picture of my Love I have,
Painted in colors that will never fade-
The rosy glow, deep eyes and lustrous braid,
The scarlet lips, about whose sweets I rave-
All these are mirrored, as though fancy gave
My heart a rival for the living maid
Within my mind--a gracious, airy shade
That feigns to be the beauty whom I crave.
But this fair image has its proper life;
'Tis no mere specter of the limner's art;
It moves and speaks, and acts a vital part;
It bears the olive through my daily strife--
That paltry war, whose social lusts are rife--
It warbles nightly to my wounded heart.

March 5, 1866


If I die now, I have not lived in vain;
If this last breath, which quivers through my lip.
Into the vast and dismal mystery slip,
And ne'er return as living breath again.
Some underrate me, and some hold my strain
Above the worth of many men who dip
Their hallowed palms in Helicon, and sip
Its deathless waters, and begin their reign.
Howbeit, Dearest, I shall never know
What fate will follow me beyond the gloom,
To ban or bless my all unconscious tomb;
But this I know, a warm and tender glow--
More to my heart than rumor's praise or doom--
Falls from thy love, and therefore boast I so.

March 6, 1866


Absence from thee is something worse than death;
For to the heart that slumbers in the shroud,
What are the mourners' tears and clamors loud,
The open grave, the dismal cypress wreath?
The quiet body misses not its breath;
The pain that shivers through the weeping crowd
Is idle homage to the visage proud
That changeth not for all affliction saith.
But to be thus, from thee so far away,
Is as though I, in seeming death, might be
Conscious of all that passed about my clay;
As though I saw my doleful obsequy,
Mourned my own loss, rebelled against decay,
And felt thy tear-drops trickling over me.

April 7, 1866; Published 1867


To thee I oft have boasted, in my pride,
That come what may, Fate never can annul
Our glorious past--so rich, so warm, so full
Of bliss accomplished and of promise wide.
So step by step together, side by side,
Stooping this rose to smell or that to pull,
We two have fared, without a cloud to dull
Our morn, or noon, or this fair evening-tide.
What is to follow? Death? But let me take
These earthly memories from my dying bed,
Pass with these treasures the abyss of dread,
And I defy hell's enmity to shake
The lightest ringlet on this musing head,
Or grieve the soul thus dreaming for thy sake.

June 24, 1866


I wonder, Darling, if there does not wear
Something from love with love's so daily use;
If in the sweetness of his vigorous juice
Time's bitter finger dips not here or there!
What thing of earthly growth itself can hear
Above its nature, overrule abuse,
And, like the marvel of the widow's cruse,
Freshen its taint, and all its loss repair?
I can but wonder at the faithful heart
That makes thy face so joyous in my sight,
And fills each moment with its own delight.
I can but wonder at the shades that start
Across thy features, as we stand tonight,
With lips thus clinging, in the act to part.

July 1, 1866; Published 1867


Three seasons only in his calendar
My love has counted. First came opening spring,
When love put forth, a weak and timid thing,
Shy of the cowslip's nod, or violet's stir.
Then summer caught him with the rush and whir
Of many wings; and proudly caroling,
He brushed the lilies, made the roses swing,
And trod the land a smiling conqueror.
With autumn's fruitage ripened at his feet,
He pauses now. Is this the end of all--
The consummation, boundless and complete?
Or shall the starving raven sound his call
Through days to come, when every leaf shall fall,
And dismal winter's snows and tempest beat?

August 29, 1866


Against mischances I have shut my ear;
I will not hear the far-off coming doom
Trouble the distance with the sullen boom
Of breakers, crested with their plumes of fear.
On hidden harms, or dangers that appear,
I smile alike. The funeral torch, the tomb,
The vast, impenetrable, central gloom
Of Death itself, unawed, I ventured near.
For I have faith that Love hath such a law,
Within himself, that whoso trusts to him,
Shall find a clew throughout that labyrinth dim;
A silken thread, without a break or flaw,
Like his who in the happy gardens saw,
At last, the golden apples dance and swim.

August 31, 1866


My stain of earth hath mingled with the stream
Of love that kisses thus thy ivory feet--
Perennial fountain, ever bland and sweet.
Unvexed, and clearer than yon heavenly beam.
Rages of passion, haply, sometimes seem
To tear the dwelling where my heart doth beat;
Or oftener still, its strait and dark retreat
Groans with the nightmare of some hideous dream.
Yet o'er this wrath, and this complaining moan,
For many a day, my wizard love has stood,
Ruling the issues of the heady flood;
So that before thee it hath ever flown
A crystal tide, with music in its tone,
Albeit, within, distilled from very blood.

September 1, 1866


Go count the violets on April's breast,
And all the rosy censers swung by June;
Yea, every flower that opens, late or soon,
Till autumn lays the gentle tribe to rest;
Reckon the inmates of each downy nest;
Allot to each its separate dulcet tune;
Mark all the stars that circle with the moon
From the far orient to the farthest west;
Gather together the most glittering toys
That fancy offers to the dreaming mind--
Hope's clearest visions, rapt and glory-blind;
And thou wilt scantly sum or taste the joys
My love can daily, without seeking, find,
When merest dreams his listless mood employs.

September 8, 1866


When mateless Adam loitered in the shade,
Glad as a child, and felt the pulse of life
Make its own joy through veins and arteries rife,
By mere excess of vital forces swayed;
What more than childhood's frolics urged or stayed
His aimless feet, until the fatal wife
Lay by his side, and love's bewildering strife
A boding part within his bosom played?
Father of Knowledge, thou hast made our ways
Thorny and dark; but thou hast doubled all
The cheer that followed man beyond the fall;
Hast dulled the grief, the wrath, the toilsome days;
Hast rocked the cradle and hast spread the pall,
Through love, whose grace our every loss o'erpays.

September 9, 1866


What spirit worthy of its noble birth
Regrets for Eden and the harmless state
Of him who gamboled with his guileless mate,
But little wiser than the beasts of earth?
Rather for me the pangs of cold and dearth,
The shameful knowledge that foreran our fate,
The bitter tears beyond the fiery gate,
And life before with all its love and mirth.
Who would forego the glories of our past--
The war with sin, the mystic sacrifice,
The temporal fall and the eternal rise?
Or match that garden with the vision vast,
Seen by the heart through love's supernal eyes,
That brightens earth, and dawns in heaven at last.

September 10, 1866


If we were fashioned to be ignorant,
And frisk and frolic with the kid and fawn,
Rest with the sun and waken with the dawn,
Without a care to gall the hands of want;
What means this spacious intellectual grant
Of tangled reason, that hath slowly gone
Through Nature's secrets, till her mysteries yawn,
And new-born Titans in our service pant?
Why is the heart so capable to feel?
Why ebb and flow the rivers of the eye?
Was man aught else before he learned to die?
Or if he was, then let me not conceal
My grander fate, but boast a destiny
Like Paul's, that smote me only to reveal.

September 10, 1866