SONNETS 201-250


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Within our lips is stored the bitterness
Of the dread tree that made the meadow's bleat
A cry of terror, and the beast's caress
A war of rage and sanguinary heat.
How groans and sweats the weary world to bless
Its pinched existence with the iron beat
Of clanking wheels, to make its task complete!
How individual joy grows less and less!
Yet not the more would I contented stand,
The pigmy creature of our paradise,
For all the questioned legends of the wise.
Give me the endless struggles, hand to hand,
The pathway conquered with the fiery brand,
Beneath the cross of promise in the skies!

September 12, 1866


Love stirs the pulses of my deeper thought,
Muses on things that were and things to be,
Weaves for himself the threads of destiny,
Till from their mesh a splendid web is wrought.
So from oppressive mysteries is brought
Assurance of his immortality--
Far-reaching faith, that watches patiently
For what, erewhile, love's yearnings only sought.
But having made this hopeful scheme to bless
The ways of earth and founded him a heaven,
And time and death, as shackles, from him riven,
He turns with passion for one more caress,
One other kiss, thus taken and thus given,
And finds in it his only happiness.

September 12, 1866


Night takes the scepter from the hand of day,
And sets her drowsy stars about the world;
The winds are hushed; the voyaging clouds have furled
Their fleecy sails within the empty grey.
Toil drops his tools; the gush of fiery spray
Dies in the forge's throat, no more are twirled
The buzzing spindles, and the flocks are curled
In soft, white sleep, along the vacant way.
Rest, perfect rest, within the smoky mart,
Upon the hillside, in the darkling wood--
Rest to all things except this anxious mood--
Love's endless craving and eternal smart,
Which sting to life my over-wearied heart,
That fain, O God, would slumber if it could!


If Grecian Helen pleaded with the tongue
The Chian lent her--sweetest tongue of earth!
If Agamemnon's child forgot her birth,
And at my knee in panting beauty clung;
If fiery Cleopatra sued and hung
Fast to my restless hand in prurient mirth;
If chaste Lucretia wrecked her ancient worth;
And Rosamond's hair about my face were flung;
If all the fairest creatures that have worn
The poets' wreaths, the crowns of chivalry,
Were singly or in concourse offered me;
I would reject, in haste and simple scorn
The night-born stars, whose rise foreran thy morn,
Yea, from their homage turn to worship thee.

September 14, 1866


For what to me were Helen's honeyed word,
Or guiltless Iphigenia's sacred charms;
Or Cleopatra's lustrous breast and arms,
By every gust of reckless passion stirred?
Or what to me the tempting face that spurred
The royal felon to contrive his harms;
Or the bright tresses, bristling with alarms
When the dark queen's foreboding step was heard?
What Laura, Leonor, or Beatrice;
Or Guenever, who saw with steady eye
The lists engored to glut her vanity?
What were all these, if any sense might miss
Yon airy vision as she draws more nigh,
And wraps my being in ethereal bliss?

September 14, 1866


When men distrust me, not because they find
Baseness in me, but basely they mistake
The native sins, which in their natures wake,
For true reflections of the candid mind;
I shall be wholly patient and resigned
To wait time's judgment on the charge they make,
Nor in my conscious purpose turn or shake,
For all the tribes of fools and rogues combined;
If only thou wilt bear the howl unmoved,
Nor join thy music to the harsher cry,
That louder grows as greater grows the lie.
If I lie only clear and unreproved
Under the pity of thy tender eye,
Clothed in thy grace, and therefore not unloved.

September 15, 1866


This fellow calls me sordid, that one poor--
Poorer in spirit than in purse, perchance;
Another's humid eyeballs shine and dance
To tell some slip of which his lust is sure.
One has a conscience that can scarce endure
My private dealings, but will not advance
When what he scorned becomes his circumstance,
And soils his fingers with a gain less pure.
I laugh at these. I cannot tell thee, Sweet,
In what contempt I hold the chaffering crew
Who rob the market and defile the stew;
Whose only virtue is to scold and beat
The public jades whom they in private meet,
To kiss and hug in God's insulted view.

September 15, 1855


Speed on thy solemn pilgrimage, O Earth;
And count thy rosary of golden days
Before thy Maker's feet in prayerful praise
For all the issues gained by death and birth!
To me the present is of little worth;
I pine with evil men in narrow ways;
The dust of human meanness scants my gaze,
And chokes my breath with its accursed dearth.
Better for me were any change than this,
This stupor of the spirit, heart and mind,
In which I languish, helplessly confined;
Ah, any future that may bring the bliss
Inhaled by action as I breast the wind,
Or Death's serene and everlasting kiss.

September 29, 1866


When first I met thee, as thou know 'st, I stood
Dumb and abashed beneath thy splendid eyes;
Lost in the mazes of a blank surprise,
That made thee smile at my unwonted mood.
Since then so much of manly hardihood
I have attained to, as by looks and sighs
May hint a meaning that still secret lies,
As under the dove's wing her callow brood.
Yea, I have spoken; now and then a word--
Whose echo seemed to silence and appall
The tougue that uttered it--my lips let fall;
And doubtless in the phrases thou hast heard,
A feeble sense of my intention stirred;
Yes, I have told thee something, but not all.

October 2, 1866


Amidst the lottery of days I draw
More blanks than prizes; though the hand of hope
Still in the luckless wheel will blindly grope,
Placing in chance the trust we owe to law.
'Tis many a weary morning since I saw
Thy presence rising o'er yon dewy slope;
And many an eve has fired the azure cope
Since we were sheltered in our leafy shaw.
These days were vacant, worthless, and should be
Not marked against me in the count we give
Of earth's subtraction from eternity.
Yet were it so, alas! my soul might grieve
Some day in tunes no man alive shall see,
And I the ancient patriarchs outlive.

October 4, 1866


I cannot liken thee to any flower,
As they of old, the master poets, chose
From fancy's bed, to meetly emblem those
On whom they laid their laurels as a dower.
With what sweet product of the sun and shower
Peer thee, whose beauty by observance grows?
Too shy the violet and too bold the rose,
Too pale the lily of thy garden bower.
Nor in the humbler sisterhood is she
That dares to look thee in thy perfect face,
As earthly rival of thy airy grace.
if violet, rose and lily all could be
Combined in one, unfriendly eyes might trace
In that, perhaps, some sorry hint of thee.

October 7, 1866


Cast on the lily's cheek the rose's glow,
And while the world with morning dew is wet,
Inhale the fragrance of the violet,
And breathe it in the lily's throat of snow;
Around her feet let all the flowers that blow,
Weeded of every blemish they may get
From careless nature, in array be set,
As foils to make her beauties clearer show;
Add golden sunshine and a blessed air,
That makes the dullest pulse of being start,
And life a fervent triumph everywhere;
And this supremest lily may impart,
To sluggish minds, what fairer flower I bear
Within the happy garden of my heart.

October 8, 1866


White as this paper was my lady's mind
Ere with my bold and desecrating hand
I scrawled its face with characters that stand
In pity's sight till weeping makes her blind.
I wrote--what wrote I?--things that you may find
Hissed at in whispers, humbled with a brand,
Skulking from daylight and the law's command,
Death-doomed by warrant sealed and countersigned.
Ah! Wretch, what found I in a work like this,
To drug my ghastly memories of sin,
By counterbalance to the pain within?
Only this solace, this most wretched bliss,
That mercy's lips thy golden head shall kiss,
And thy atonement my salvation win.

October 8, 1866


Like to an aged poet who reviews
An early volume, once his secret pride,
With a distaste that scarcely can abide
The olden lines which read like shameful news;
A thousand faults and weaknesses he rues,
That in their making, he remembers, cried
Impatiently for that which man denied,
The fame which seasoned judgment should refuse;
So I, when blushing memory returns
Unto mine eyes the record of our days,
Reread the volume to my own dispraise.
Ah! let me close the cover that inurns
The desperate past, and all its legends raze,
As something base, for which oblivion yearns.

October 10, 1866


Even as the level sunlight glorifies
A musky vapor, born of dust and mist,
Turning its motes to lucent amethyst,
Shot with the milky opal's trembling dyes;
Such was the change the dawning of your eyes
Wrought on a nature earthy, sluggish, trist,
When with divinest charity you kissed
To radiant life a thing you might despise.
And men who wonder at the novel view--
The glow, the color and the vital stir--
Give to effect the cause's proper due;
But I, who justly part the false and true--
Ah, I have grown a mere idolater,
And seeking light to worship, worship you!

October 11, 1866


"I write too coldly and I write too much!"
The more, the colder seems whate'er I write,
That I confess; though still I strain for flight,
Who scarce can walk, a cripple, on my crutch.
Through all these leaves, which perish in the clutch
Of my presumption, what poetic height
Of airy song might charm the thoughtful night,
Winged by another's more melodious touch!
Bear with my sonnets, though they do thee wrong;
Mine is a failure only in degree,
Showing how great a greater bard's might be.
For what if Petrarch blushed above his song,
Or Dante frowned, or Tasso's sighs grew long,
To own a shame that humbles only me?

October 12, 1866


These gusts of passion blown in many a mood
Through heart and spirit and conceiving brain,
May to my ear be wafted back again
From him who pauses where I one time stood.
I cannot hope each motion of my blood
Will fit all hours with its peculiar pain,
Or stranger gladness--motives for disdain
To him who balances both ill and good.
I can but say this work is honest stuff,
Wrung from my nature, and no mean display
Of fancy's ware, to catch the gaping day.
Rare greeting, then, shall be content enough
For things not fashioned in the modern way,
And little wonder when they meet rebuff.

October 16, 1866


The present only do we hold in thrall;
The past is gone, and all its glories hushed;
The kiss we parted and the blush you blushed
As rosy summons to our rapturous fall.
Nor, were I able, would I now recall
Our earliest love; such fiery wine has gushed
Beneath his feet, triumphant, passion-flushed,
Since to each other we were all in all.
Ah God! and shall the future, vague and dread,
Fit to those limbs a robe of moveless snow,
And place a garland on that wondrous head?
Shall every atom, as the ages go,
Sever, to mingle with the dusty dead,
And be the wonder of the gods below?

December 26, 1866


If beauty is not an immortal thing,
And that fair casket, thy transcendent form,
Never again to throbbing life shall warm,
After thy spirit takes reluctant wing;
Then to the winds the creeds of men I fling,
And like an atheist, I shall turn and storm
At what confounds thee with the baser swarm;
For I have felt irreverent Death's worst sting.
I ask no future, no dull length of days,
Dragged out in sorrow for the world I left,
Filled with repinings or with thankless praise.
O Mother Church, to thee my eyes I raise,
By scornful Nature humbled and bereft!
What is it Paul, thy mightiest teacher, saith?

December 26, 1866


Shall I not know thee in the life to be
By something proper unto thee alone--
Thy look, thy gait, thy voice's liquid tone,
That there, as here, shall note thy rare degree?
From all the saints shall I not single thee,
Claim and receive thee wholly as my own;
Kneel for one judgment at the awful throne,
And hear our common sentence patiently?
Else were the higher order men foretell
As heaven's estate, more lawless than the fate
We cast behind us in this troubled state;
And primal chaos music to the spell
That severs heart and spirit, lightless hell
Of sin's remorse, and heaven of virtue's rate.

December 28, 1866


If sin be punished, or be purged away,
Then sin's remembrance must survive this earth;
Or be a judgment vague, of little worth,
And show no just probation of the clay.
If virtue's dues stand not in clear array
Beside the cradle of our heavenly birth,
Then were the scheme a mark for scornful mirth,
And life terrene a useless holiday.
Trust me, that every passion, thought, and deed
Follows the spirit to its last abode,
And bears a wholesome or a noxious weed.
So shall my memory keep the gracious meed
Of all our history; and what here we sowed
Shall bloom in heaven, a flower for every seed.

December 29, 1866


Saint Paul has said this mortal shall arise
Freed from its grossness, palpable in form,
Vital, organic, pulsing with a warm
Ethereal life--no phantom of teh skies.
O dear belief! for then these quenchless eyes--
Though wrecked myself amidst a fiery storm--
Upon some headland where the purest swarm,
May mark thee glimmering over Paradise.
For little change thy faultless shape will need,
To fit thy beauty to its heavenly lot,
And wake a marvel in that sacred spot.
But little change--or none, if 'tis decreed
That God would have his glories unforgot
And keep a type of every perfect seed.

January 1, 1867


I cannot think thou would'st forget me even
Amidst the mystic jubilee above,
My heart's great joy, my closely nestling dove,
Though God's command our yearning souls had riven!
Forget our love! Forget the seven times seven
Knitted and interwoven links of love,
That every stress and adverse current prove
Stronger than any law which fate has given!
No, no! My faith beholds thee once again,
Waiting 'twixt bale and bliss, on neutral ground,
In pallid hope for some far sight or sound;
Braving the murky fumes and flaming rain,
A league advanced beyond the guardian train,
Dim-browed, and gazing into hell's profound.

January 2, 1867


I heard today that one, who sometime reigned
The hauty mistress of my captive will,
Had of that mortal cup which none may spill,
The last and bitterest dregs of torpor drained.
Of all her beauty in my mind remained
A spectral memory--a shudder chill
For her who shared a history of ill,
But nothing more of what was lost or gained.
Now Death makes merry with her crimson lips;
Alas! my lady, have you e'er a smile,
As round your waist his bony arm he slips?
Where is your falsehood now, your art, your guile,
That gave my feet so many grievous trips--
Your acted love, so shallow, sad, and vile?

January 9, 1867


She who gives all, and yet withholds her heart,
Gives nothing worthy for a man to take--
Gives as the wanton, who for lucre's sake,
Or passion's solace, plays the selfsame part.
What are the thrills of ecstasy that dart
Out of the senses, if the creature wake
To no more purpose than a lust to slake,
Disguised, howbeit, with decorous art?
But love is sinless; I can never feel
A pang of conscience in thy circling arms,
Howe'er severely with myself I deal.
Perhaps I err, and love may still conceal
His trespass, while his guileful anger warms
Against the mockery serving at his heel.

January 10, 1867


Why should I fret the passion of this string,
Singing to ears that fain would have me mute--
I who have never found the trick to suit
The age's craving for a novel thing?
Fame passes by me, and in vain I ring
The Delphic lyre or sound the Attic flute,
Or tinkle shyly this Italian lute;
Men have no patience with the songs I sing.
Scorned of all others, Sweet, to thee I turn,
With shameful waters mantling in my eyes,
With lips that tremble and with cheeks that burn.
Thou art too gentle wholly to despise
My heart-felt homage, or with spleen to spurn
That which, alas, I know thou canst not prize.

January 24, 1867


O World, I owe thee nothing; I have had
Not even my wages from thy niggard hand,
For all I gave thee, at my God's command,
Through travail hard, inglorious and sad.
If I did nothing that could make thee glad,
I also never took a forward stand,
Vaunting my right to wear the laurel band;
But sang, uncrowned, as humble nature bade.
I have received such notice as might curl
A poet's lips with measureless disdain--
The praise of fools, a worthless boon of pain,
Or friendly hint, or censure from the churl,
Who deigned to scorn the rubbish of my brain;
Or vapid wonder from an amorous girl!

February 18, 1867


Yet not because the world turns coldly by,
And makes its idols out of meaner clay,
Decking their shrines with wreaths of noble bay,
Shall I renounce the cheerless art I ply.
Under the desert's hot and flickering sky,
I heard one morn a bird's melodious lay;
And marvelled greatly at his vain display,
Alone himself, nor knowing aught was nigh.
Surely, I said, that minstrel's liquid tone
Needs not the flattery of listening ears,
To make a temple of yon arid stone.
He sings to heaven his little hopes and fears,
In phrases suited to his heart alone,
And God, to hearken, hushes all the spheres.

February 20, 1867


This is a sorry ending to a thing
We once called love, in our fatuity,
Boasting that nothing worthier could be,
Beyond the limit of its charmed ring!
Was it for this I set myself to sing,
Not as a poet, as a devotee;
Making a marvel of what others see
As common stuff, through my imagining?
Today I saw thee, blushing at thy name,
Stealing from shadow unto shadow, spread,
Like mercy's pall, around thy lustrous head;
And all thy praise was blurred with one great blame,
And all thy beauty was a snare to dread,
And all of love that lasted was its shame.

March 21, 1867


When I review the long procession gone
Out of this being through the gates of death--
The parents, friends, the hearts that drew their breath
In more than semblance, for my sake alone;
When I contemplate each memorial stone,
Placed like fate's finger on the dust beneath,
And hang on each my sorrow's votive wreath,
I feel, alas, how far my days have flown!
Aged I feel, for all my body's might,
For all the days that yet may be in store--
Aged and woebegone, and bankrupt quite;
As some poor straggler, wounded and footsore,
Left by the wayside, sees how more and more
His passing comrades vanish from his sight.

April 30, 1867


Never, dear season, shall I tire to sing
Of thee whose presence makes my torpid lyre
Glitter and sparkle through its rusted wire
With new-born life, O recreative Spring!
It is not only that the bluebird's wing
Winnows the air, nor that the feathered choir
Pipes in the lustre of the golden fire,
Nor that the violets form their virgin ring.
Ah, no! this season in my calendar,
Is marked with white because, upon a day,
Warm with the balmy glow of closing May,
My lady's heart with love began to stir,
And feel for light with every tender spray,
As though alike Spring touched the flowers and her.

May 10, 1867


Now infant nature, just awaking, lies
Warm in the hollow of thy matron lap,
O dove-eyed Spring, and doubt might stand agape,
To see life quicken in a thing that dies.
No greater miracle foretell the wise
About the resurrection, that, mayhap,
Will startle us, when icy Death shall snap
His iron fetters, and our souls arise.
Ah! but you cry, this nature leaves behind
The linked being of its former life-
A root, a seed, a something ever rife.
How know we then what seed may sow the wind,
And float through ages, when the mortal strife
Has set our viewless atoms unconfined?

May 11, 1867


Half that we learn is wisdom of the heart,
Which owes but little to the probing brain--
A broad foundation, laid in joy and pain,
On which we build for Heaven our better part.
Hence faith's mysterious influences start,
Against whose guidance reason strives in vain,
That credit hope when fortune's triple chain
Binds us as slaves before the gaping mart.
What comfort, life, hast thou in all thy store,
From sage experience, thought, or creed, or act,
To stand as offset to that solemn pact?
Canst thou on God's hereafter shut the door?
Or bury faith beneath a hopeless fact,
Or close the heart from visions evermore?

May 31, 1867


A torpid season once in every year
Falls on my nature, when in vain I wring
A sullen discord from this golden string,
Or strive with song to fill my vacant ear.
Yon linnet moulting now his feathery gear
In drooping silence, without heart to sing
The lays he twittered to the early Spring,
Emblems my state, and seems to feel my cheer.
God, wouldst thou make me grateful for my lot,
By thus confounding me with common men,
Lest, in my pride, thy bounties be forgot?
Give me, O Lord, my power to sing again,
Leaning my breast against a thorny spot,
So lost in music that I smile at pain!

July 15, 1867


O gentle frenzy, too supreme delight!
O acrid sweet, most blessed sum of ills!
O cold that scorches, flaming fire that chills!
O woeful pleasure, ever in my sight!
O source of all, fair girl, whose utmost might
Yon butterfly's faint struggles scarcely stills,
Art thou a power so far above my will's
That I, despairing, yield the thought of flight?
Why are thy tresses so complete a chain,
That breathing o'er and o'er my own sad sighs,
I slave-like lie, a prey to selfdisdain?
Or why before me gleam those fiery eyes,
Like swords seraphic, that forbid again
All entrance to my former paradise?

September 5, 1867


When I consider what a time has flown,
Shaping this planet to the thing we see,
And what unnumbered ages yet shall be
Graved in the annaled strata of the stone;
When I consider what a point I own
Within the ocean of eternity,
And how its billows, overwhelming me,
Shall hide me wholly, and remain alone;
I ask what folly has beguiled the mind,
That looks on nature with the dream of fame
Which shall outlive one shudder of her frame?
What refuge, think you, will our memories find
In cyclic changes, wrought through flood and flame,
Before the fragments shall be recombined?

January 16, 1868


To hold a station on the trembling earth,
To weary time with looking at our names--
This is the lust that every day inflames
Our pigmy heroes to distend their girth
Is this a spectacle for heavenly mirth,
Or placid sorrow, that our sins and shames
O'erlay the records due to purer fames,
And with unnworthy clamors silence worth?
Never, I answer, have the truly great
Before this worshiped weakness of the crowd
Abased the spirit which their God made proud.
Serenely Shakespeare held his regal state,
As far above the thought of earthly fate
As is the star above the stooping cloud.

January 17, 1868


Well, after all the prattle buzzed around
The soldier's victory, the miser's gold,
The statesman's eloquence, the manifold
And subtle cadence which the poet wound;
What are they all, but vain and empty sound
To ears that listen with the reason cold?
What idler homage to a creature, rolled
In cerements, crested with a little mound?
Ask him, the laureled Lord who reigned above
Man's common fortune as a demi-god,
What jewel found he in this earthy clod,
And he will answer--for dead lips may move
To shape that word, as clearly as the nod
Of dumb and blushing Phyllis--only love!

January 18, 1868


Love is our all in all! I solemnly--
After long struggles with my luckless star,
Seeking for joys around me and afar--
Do utter this; for so it seems to me.
Life has no present worth nor worth to be,
No tone to soften the discordant jar
'Twixt self and fate, that wage a truceless war,
Save in the soothing of love's harmony.
Nay, not the love in Aphrodite's kiss,
That stings the senses, and foreruns the fall
Both of the goddess and her silly thrall;
But that sublimer love which finds a bliss
In every giving, to the serpent hiss
Of hate itself, like Christ 's, embracing all.

January 18, 1868


So long have paused the strings across my lute,
So many streams of bitterness have run
Athwart my way, so pitiless the sun
Has scourged my shoulders in his cruel pursuit;
So dry and sour has been the fairest fruit
Grown for my shrinking lips to feed upon,
Since the mysterious destinies begun
The work that left me spiritless and mute;
That I, ah! harmless shell of wood and wire,
Dread, as I touch thee, lest thy hollows groan
A dismal concord to the furies' ire;
Or worse, more dreaded, that in thee alone
The glad days linger and the ancient fire,
And I shall hear thy old, familiar tone!

April 28, 1868


There is no greater sorrow, Dante said,
Than to remember happy days in grief.
But to remember? Is this sorrow chief?
Can no more weight upon the heart be laid?
Yea, if from out those pleasures, which upbraid
Our present ills, return a withered leaf,
A tress, a song--to sense however brief--
That thing is worse than memory's whole parade.
It is as though a sailor, from the wave
On which he struggles, sees his wreck go by,
An arm's length only from his yielding grave;
And hails his loss with a despairing cry,
Knowing the bark can neither live nor save,
Then tastes his briny death without a sigh.

April 28, 1868


Sweet sorceress, dear foe to every gift
God stored for action in my languid frame--
Gifts that, employed, might win a smile from fame,
And from much dross my golden little sift;
Why is my heavy heart so hard to lift?
My manly will so prostrate grown and tame,
That I would rather flutter round thy flame
Than reach the stars on wings resolved and swift?
Here, at thy feet, I squander all my days,
And lusty youth escapes unused the while,
And age is creeping on my weedy ways;
Is all this waste of life a demon's guile,
To lure God's servant towards an end that pays
No better wages than that mocking smile?

October 5, 1868


O let me break my slavehood! Link by link
I rend my gyves; not calmly, but with cries
Of anguish, bloody hands and streaming eyes--
In haste, in rage, without a pause to think.
Lo, I am free! and I again may drink
The air of freedom--as yon bird that flies
Straight from the valley to his mountain skies--
And hear no more my shameful fetters clink.
The passion passes; with my own poor hands,
Before the iron has leisure to grow cold,
I trembling gather all the scattered bands;
Refix and rivet each one as of old,
Lest she should wonder where she smiling stands,
Then clank my chains, and proudly cry, "Behold!"

October 21, 1868


I do not merit it that thou shouldst stir
A step beyond the coldness of the shrine
My heart has built thee, nor one look incline
Of careless grace upon thy worshiper.
Ah, faultless goddess, if thou'lt not deter
My useless homage, and in scorn divine,
Turn from the tinkle of my irksome line,
My prayers, my rites of smoking spice and myrrh;
That graciousness were boundless, far above
The meed of one whose nature, to the view
Of his own eyes, is spotted through and through.
Sit still, calm queen! but O, lest pity prove
Thy sole accuser, deem my service true,
As at thy feet I kneel, my only love.

May 26, 1870


I cannot tell thee, Sweet, what tenderness
Flows from my heart, through chequered hopes and fears--
What mournful gladness and what sunny tears
Burden my joy, or lighten my distress--
At the mere thought that these, my lips, may press,
Ah! once again thy own; or fill thy ears
With those trite vows that freshen with the years,
And gather youth from each renewed caress.
Dreams, dreams! the hollow bosom of the night
Swallows my fancies, as in utter scorn
Of my poor effort to feel less forlorn;
And far away before my shrinking sight
Stretches the desert that divides us quite,
Under a gloom that knows no coming morn.

February 7, 1871


This comfort only have I in my woes,--
To feed my heart upon thy pictured face,
To draw thy shadow from its secret place,
And feign the essence is indeed the rose.
Vain trick of fancy! Can those lips unclose
To wing through fragrant breath a word of grace?
Those fixed eyes soften, or the blushes chase
Each other fleetly o'er the cheek's repose?
Poor, paper semblance, out of pity, this,
This tender hand upon thy brow I lay,
Chiding with blessings, moaning as I pray;
And so, sad counterfeit of all my bliss,
Stolen conception of a sunny ray,
I greet thee, quit thee, with a barren kiss.

February 8, 1871


Love is the source of all my griefs, 'tis true,
But 'tis the source of all my joys as well;
I would not break the glamor of its spell,
To reign the master of this mortal crew.
My joyous seasons have been brief and few;
Nor can I reckon up the days that tell
My many sorrows, nor the cares that dwell
Here at a heart long banished from thy view.
This is my comfort: every grief or joy
That rules today, and every hope I see
Smile through the gloom of boding destiny--
Each thought, sense, memory--aye, the flimsy toy
My fancy plays with, childlike, to destroy--
All we call life, I owe alone to thee.

February 11, 1871


Sometimes I see, in dreams astray from sleep,
The blessed vision of a better lot
Than such as we, poor souls, by God forgot,
Can hope to find on land or stormy deep.
Our chains are broken; what we loathe is not;
And what we cherish is our own to keep,
Not felon-like, as skulking thieves who creep
With pilfered treasures round a dangerous spot;
But boldly in the sight of smiling earth,
And of the calm, approving powers above,
We bear the fee of tried and granted worth.
And somehow, Sweet--but here the shadows move,
Confuse my dream, recall my care and dearth--
Somehow the whole is guerdon for our love.

February 11, 1871


I cannot tell thee when my heart began
To love thee, Dearest; for I cannot say
That any record of my earliest day
Hands down my childhood to the ripened man.
But this I know; when wakened memory ran
A clew through action, at her sources lay
A germ of thee, at which stood hope for aye,
And in prophetic whispers shaped a plan.
So that in manhood, when I first beheld
Hope's nursling, grown to perfect womanhood,
In thee my fair ideal made flesh and blood,
It seemed not strange that by the joy impelled
Of self-evolved creation, I should brood
Above the form for which my breast had swelled.

February 14, 1871


As here I sit and dally with the pen
That daily sins against thy loveliness,
Weaving a rhyme that only can express
My want, and not thy worth, to coming men;
I ask myself again, and yet again,
What gentle error urges thee to bless
With praise a song which others prize as less
Than that which ripples from yon twittering wren?
Ah, 'tis but pity of my love; no cheer
Your taste can gather from a draught like mine--
These bitter lees of that which once was wine;
So, sweet deluder, with a patient ear,
You mark me stumble on from line to line,
And hide in wistful smiles a secret tear.

February 17, 1871