Let those who will of friendship sing,
And to its guerdon grateful be,
But I a lyric garland bring
To crown thee, O, mine enemy!
Thanks, endless thanks, to thee I owe
For that my lifelong journey through
Thine honest hate has done for me
What love perchance had failed to do.
I had not scaled such weary heights
But that I held thy scorn in fear,
And never keenest lure might match
The subtle goading of thy sneer.
Thine anger struck from me a fire
That purged all dull content away,
Our mortal strife to me has been
Unflagging spur from day to day.
And thus, while all the world may laud
The gifts of love and loyalty,
I lay my meed of gratitude
Before thy feet, mine enemy!
From vales of dawn hath Day pursued the Night
Who mocking fled, swift-sandalled, to the west,
Nor ever lingered in her wayward flight
With dusk-eyed glance to recompense his quest,
But over crocus hills and meadows gray
Sped fleetly on her way.
Now when the Day, shorn of his failing strength,
Hath fallen spent before the sunset bars,
The fair, wild Night, with pity touched at length,
Crowned with her chaplet of out-blossoming stars,
Creeps back repentantly upon her way
To kiss the dying Day.
When the dark comes down, oh, the wind is on the sea
With lisping laugh and whimper to the red reef's threnody,
The boats are sailing homeward now across the harbor bar
With many a jest and many a shout from fishing grounds afar.
So furl your sails and take your rest, ye fisher folk so brown,
For task and quest are ended when the dark comes down.
When the dark comes down, oh, the landward valleys fill
Like brimming cups of purple, and on every landward hill
There shines a star of twilight that is watching evermore
The low, dim lighted meadows by the long, dim-lighted shore,
For there, where vagrant daisies weave the grass a silver crown,
The lads and lassies wander when the dark comes down.
When the dark comes down, oh, the children fall asleep,
And mothers in the fisher huts their happy vigils keep;
There's music in the song they sing and music on the sea,
The loving, lingering echoes of the twilight's litany,
For toil has folded hands to dream, and care has ceased to frown,
And every wave's a lyric when the dark comes down.
I sought for my happiness over the world,
Oh, eager and far was my quest;
I sought it on mountain and desert and sea,
I asked it of east and of west.
I sought it in beautiful cities of men,
On shores that were sunny and blue,
And laughter and lyric and pleasure were mine
In palaces wondrous to view;
Oh, the world gave me much to my plea and my prayer
But never I found aught of happiness there!
Then I took my way back to a valley of old
And a little brown house by a rill,
Where the winds piped all day in the sentinel firs
That guarded the crest of the hill;
I went by the path that my childhood had known
Through the bracken and up by the glen,
And I paused at the gate of the garden to drink
The scent of sweet-briar again;
The homelight shone out through the dusk as of yore
And happiness waited for me at the door!
Here is a voice that soundeth low and far
And lyricvoice of wind among the pines,
Where the untroubled, glimmering waters are,
And sunlight seldom shines.
Elusive shadows linger shyly here,
And wood-flowers blow, like pale, sweet spirit-bloom,
And white, slim birches whisper, mirrored clear
In the pool's lucent gloom.
Here Pan might pipe, or wandering dryad kneel
To view her loveliness beside the brim,
Or laughing wood-nymphs from the byways steal
To dance around its rim.
'Tis such a witching spot as might beseem
A seeker for young friendship's trysting place,
Or lover yielding to the immortal dream
Of one beloved face.
As my letter must be brief,
I'll at once state my belief,
And this it is -- that, since the world began,
And Adam first did say,
"'Twas Eve led me astray,"
A woman hath more patience than a man.
If a man's obliged to wait
For some one who's rather late,
And if something can't be found
That he's sure should be around,
The listening air sometimes grows fairly blue.
Just watch a man who tries
To soothe a baby's cries;
Or put a stove pipe up in weather cold,
Into what a state he'll get;
How he'll fuss and fume and fret
And stamp and bluster round and storm and scold!
Some point to Job with pride,
As an argument for their side!
Why, it was so rare a patient man to see,
That when one was really found,
His discoverers were bound
To preserve for him a place in history!
And while I admit it's true
That man has some patience too,
And that woman isn't always sweetly calm,
Still I think all must agree
On this central fact -- that she
For central all-round patience bears the palm.
My Claudia, it is long since we have met,
So kissed, so held each other heart to heart!
I thought to greet thee as a conqueror comes,
Bearing the trophies of his prowess home,
But Jove hath willed it should be otherwise
Jove, say I? Nay, some mightier stranger-god
Who thus hath laid his heavy hand on me,
No victor, Claudia, but a broken man
Who seeks to hide his weakness in thy love.
How beautiful thou art! The years have brought
An added splendor to thy loveliness,
With passion of dark eye and lip rose-red
Struggling between its dimple and its pride.
And yet there is somewhat that glooms between
Thy love and mine; come, girdle me about
With thy true arms, and pillow on thy breast
This aching and bewildered head of mine;
Here, where the fountain glitters in the sun
Among the saffron lilies, I will tell
If so that words will answer my desire
The shameful fate that hath befallen me.
Down in Jerusalem they slew a man,
Or godit may be that he was a god
Those mad, wild Jews whom Pontius Pilate rules.
Thou knowest Pilate, Claudia -- a vain man,
Too weak to govern such a howling horde
As those same Jews. This man they crucified.
I knew nought of himhad not heard his name
Until the day they dragged him to his death;
Then all tongues wagged about him and his deeds;
Some said that he had claimed to be their King,
Some that he had blasphemed their deity
'Twas certain he was poor and meanly born,
No warrior he, nor hero; and he taught
Doctrines that surely would upset the world;
And so they killed him to be rid of him
Wise, very wise, if he were only man,
Not quite so wise if he were half a god!
I know that strange things happened when he died
There was a darkness and an agony,
And some were vastly frightenednot so I!
What cared I if that mob of reeking Jews
Had brought a nameless curse upon their heads ?
I had no part in that blood-guiltiness.
At least he died; and some few friends of his
I think he had not very many friends
Took him and laid him in a garden tomb.
A watch was set about the sepulchre,
Lest these, his friends, should hide him and proclaim
That he had risen as he had fore-told.
Laugh not, my Claudia. I laughed when I heard
The prophecy. I would I had not laughed!
I, Maximus, was chosen for the guard
With all my trusty fellows. Pilate knew
I was a man who had no foolish heart
Of softness all unworthy of a man!
My eyes had looked upon a tortured slave
As on a beetle crushed beneath my tread;
I gloried in the splendid strife of war,
Lusting for conquest; I had won the praise
Of our stern general on a scarlet field;
Red in my veins the warrior passion ran,
For I had sprung from heroes, Roman born!
That second night we watched before the tomb;
My men were merry; on the velvet turf,
Bestarred with early blossoms of the Spring,
They diced with jest and laughter; all around
The moonlight washed us like a silver lake,
Save where that silent, sealed sepulchre
Was hung with shadow as a purple pall.
A faint wind stirred among the olive boughs
Methinks I hear the sighing of that wind
In all sounds since, it was so dumbly sad;
But as the night wore on it died away
And all was deadly stillness; Claudia,
That stillness was most awful, as if some
Great heart had broken and so ceased to beat!
I thought of many things, but found no joy
In any thought, even the thought of thee;
The moon waned in the west and sickly grew
Her light sucked from her in the breaking dawn
Never was dawn so welcome as that pale,
Faint glimmer in the cloudless, brooding sky!
Claudia, how may I tell what came to pass?
I have been mocked at when I told the tale
For a crazed dreamer punished by the gods
Because he slept on guard; but mock not thou!
I could not bear it if thy lips should mock
The vision dread of that Judean morn.
Sudden the pallid east was all aflame
With radiance that beat upon our eyes
As from noonday sun; and then we saw
Two shapes that were as the immortal gods
Standing before the tomb; around me fell
My men as dead; but I, though through my veins
Ran a cold tremor never known before,
Withstood the shock and saw one shining shape
Roll back the stone; the whole world seemed ablaze,
And through the garden came a rushing wind
Thundering a paeon as of victory.
Then that dead man came forth! Oh, Claudia,
If thou coulds't but have seen the face of him!
Never was such a conqueror! Yet no pride
Was in itnought but love and tenderness,
Such as we Romans scoff at; and his eyes
Bespake him royal. Oh, my Claudia,
Surely he was no Jew but very god!
Then he looked full upon me. I had borne
Much staunchly, but that look I could not bear!
What man may front a god and live? I fell
Prone, as if stricken by a thunderbolt;
And, though I died not, somewhat of me died
That made me man. When my long stupor passed
I was no longer MaximusI was
A weakling with a piteous woman-soul,
All strength and pride, joy and ambition gone
My Claudia, dare I tell thee what foul curse
Is mine because I looked upon a god?
I care no more for glory; all desire
For conquest and for strife is gone from me,
All eagerness for war; I only care
To help and heal bruised beings, and to give
Some comfort to the weak and suffering.
I cannot even hate those Jews; my lips
Speak harshly of them, but within my heart
I feel a strange compassion; and I love
All creatures, to the vilest of the slaves
Who seem to me as brothers! Claudia,
Scorn me not for this weakness; it will pass
Surely 'twill pass in time and I shall be
Maximus strong and valiant once again,
Forgetting that slain god! and yetand yet
He looked as one who could not be forgot!
Lo, it is dark,
Save for the crystal spark
Of a virgin star o'er the purpling lea,
Or the fine, keen, silvery grace of a young
Moon that is hung
O'er the priest-like firs by the sea;
Lo, it is still,
Save for the wind of the hill,
And the luring, primeval sounds that fill
The moist and scented air
'Tis the truce o' night, away with unrest and care!
Now we may forget
Love's fever and hate's fret,
Forget to-morrow and yesterday;
And the hopes we buried in musky gloom
Will come out of their tomb,
Warm and poignant and gay;
We may wander wide,
With only a wish for a guide,
By heath and pool where the Little Folk bide,
We may share in fairy mirth,
And partake once more in the happy thoughts of earth.
Lo, we may rest
Here on her cradling breast
In the wonderful time of the truce o' night,
And sweet things that happened long ago,
Softly and slow,
Will creep back to us in delight;
And our dreams may be
Compact of young melody,
Just such as under the Eden Tree,
'Mid the seraphim's lullabies,
Eve's might have been ere banished from Paradise.
We shall launch our shallop on waters blue from some dim primrose shore,
We shall sail with the magic of dusk behind and enchanted coasts before,
Over oceans that stretch to the sunset land where lost Atlantis lies,
And our pilot shall be the vesper star that shines in the amber skies.
The sirens will call to us again, all sweet and demon-fair,
And a pale mermaiden will beckon us, with mist on her night-black hair;
We shall see the flash of her ivory arms, her mocking and luring face,
And her guiling laughter will echo through the great, wind-winnowed space.
But we shall not linger for woven spell, or sea-nymph's sorceries,
It is ours to seek for the fount of youth, and the gold of Hesperides,
Till the harp of the waves in its rhythmic beat keeps time to our pulses' swing,
And the orient welkin is smit to flame with auroral crimsoning.
And at last, on some white and wondrous dawn, we shall reach the fairy isle
Where our hope and our dream are waiting us, and the to-morrows smile;
With song on our lips and faith in our hearts we sail on our ancient quest,
And each man shall find, at the end of the voyage, the thing he loves the best.
Come, let us to the sunways of the west,
Hasten, while crystal dews the rose-cups fill,
Let us dream dreams again in our blithe quest
O'er whispering wold and hill.
Castles of air yon wimpling valleys keep
Where milk-white mist steals from the purpling sea,
They shall be ours in the moon's wizardry,
While the fates, wearied, sleep.
The viewless spirit of the wind will sing
In the soft starshine by the reedy mere,
The elfin harps of hemlock boughs will ring
Fitfully far and near;
The fields will yield their trove of spice and musk,
And balsam from the glens of pine will fall,
Till twilight weaves its tangled shadows all
In one dim web of dusk.
Let us put tears and memories away,
While the fates sleep time stops for revelry;
Let us look, speak, and kiss as if no day
Has been or yet will be;
Let us make friends with laughter 'neath the moon,
With music on the immemorial shore,
Yea, let us dance as lovers danced of yore
The fates will waken soon!
Had it been when I came to the valley where the paths parted asunder,
Chance had led my feet to the way of love, not hate,
I might have cherished you well, have been to you fond and faithful,
Great as my hatred is, so might my love have been great.
Each cold word of mine might have been a kiss impassioned,
Warm with the throb of my heart, thrilled with my pulse's leap,
And every glance of scorn, lashing, pursuing, and stinging,
As a look of tenderness would have been wondrous and deep.
Bitter our hatred is, old and strong and unchanging,
Twined with the fibres of life, blent with body and soul,
But as its bitterness, so might have been our love's sweetness
Had it not missed the waystrange missing and sad!to its goal.
When the lucent skies of morning flush with dawning rose once more,
And waves of golden glory break adown the sunrise shore,
And o'er the arch of heaven pied films of vapor float.
There's joyance and there's freedom when the fishing boats go out.
The wind is blowing freshly up from far, uncharted caves,
And sending sparkling kisses o'er the brows of virgin waves,
While routed dawn-mists shiveroh, far and fast they flee,
Pierced by the shafts of sunrise athwart the merry sea!
Behind us, fair, light-smitten hills in dappled splendor lie,
Before us the wide ocean runs to meet the limpid sky
Our hearts are full of poignant life, and care has fled afar
As sweeps the white-winged fishing fleet across the harbor bar.
The sea is calling to us in a blithesome voice and free,
There's keenest rapture on its breast and boundless liberty!
Each man is master of his craft, its gleaming sails out-blown,
And far behind him on the shore a home he calls his own.
Salt is the breath of ocean slopes and fresher blows the breeze,
And swifter still each bounding keel cuts through the combing seas,
Athwart our masts the shadows of the dipping sea-gulls float,
And all the water-world's alive when the fishing boats go out.
O, wind! what saw you in the South,
In lilied meadows fair and far?
I saw a lover kiss his lass
New-won beneath the evening star.
O, wind! what saw you in the West
Of passing sweet that wooed your stay?
I saw a mother kneeling by
The cradle where her first-born lay.
O, wind! what saw you in the North
That you shall dream of evermore?
I saw a maiden keeping tryst
Upon a gray and haunted shore.
O, wind! what saw you in the East
That still of ancient dole you croon?
I saw a wan wreck on the waves
And a dead face beneath the moon.
The poet sang of a battle-field
Where doughty deeds were done,
Where stout blows rang on helm and shield
And a kingdom's fate was spun
With the scarlet thread of victory,
And honor from death's grim revelry
Like a flame-red flower was won!
So bravely he sang that all who heard
With the sting of the fight and the triumph were stirred,
And they cried, "Let us blazon his name on high,
He has sung a song that will never die!"
Again, full throated, he sang of fame
And ambition's honeyed lure,
Of the chaplet that garlands a mighty name,
Till his listeners fired with the god-like flame
To do, to dare, to endure!
The thirsty lips of the world were fain
The cup of glamor he vaunted to drain,
And the people murmured as he went by,
"He has sung a song that will never die !"
And once more he sang, all low and apart,
A song of the love that was born in his heart:
Thinking to voice in unfettered strain
Its sweet delight and its sweeter pain;
Nothing he cared what the throngs might say
Who passed him unheeding from day to day,
For he only longed with his melodies
The soul of the one beloved to please.
The song of war that he sang is as naught,
For the field and its heroes are long forgot,
And the song he sang of fame and power
Was never remembered beyond its hour!
Only to-day his name is known
By the song he sang apart and alone,
And the great world pauses with joy to hear
The notes that were strung for a lover's ear.
With tears they buried you to-day,
But well I knew no turf could hold
Your gladness long beneath the mould,
Or cramp your laughter in the clay;
I smiled while others wept for you
Because I knew.
And now you sit with me to-night
Here in our old, accustomed place;
Tender and mirthful is your face,
Your eyes with starry joy are bright
Oh, you are merry as a song
For love is strong!
They think of you as lying there
Down in the churchyard grim and old;
They think of you as mute and cold,
A wan, white thing that once was fair,
With dim, sealed eyes that never may
Look on the day.
But love cannot be coffined so
In clod and darkness; it must rise
And seek its own in radiant guise,
With immortality aglow,
Making of death's triumphant sting
A little thing.
Ay, we shall laugh at those who deem
Our hearts are sundered! Listen, sweet,
The tripping of the wind's swift feet
Along the by-ways of our dream,
And hark the whisper of the rose
Wilding that blows.
Oh, still you love those simple things,
And still you love them more with me;
The grave has won no victory;
It could not clasp your shining wings,
It could not keep you from my side,
Dear and my bride!
Lo, I have loved thee long, long have I yearned and entreated!
Tell me how I may win thee, tell me how I must woo.
Shall I creep to thy white feet, in guise of a humble lover ?
Shall I croon in mild petition, murmuring vows anew ?
Shall I stretch my arms unto thee, biding thy maiden coyness,
Under the silver of morning, under the purple of night ?
Taming my ancient rudeness, checking my heady clamor
Thus, is it thus I must woo thee, oh, my delight?
Nay, 'tis no way of the sea thus to be meekly suitor
I shall storm thee away with laughter wrapped in my beard of snow,
With the wildest of billows for chords I shall harp thee a song for thy bridal,
A mighty lyric of love that feared not nor would forego!
With a red-gold wedding ring, mined from the caves of sunset,
Fast shall I bind thy faith to my faith evermore,
And the stars will wait on our pleasure, the great north wind will trumpet
A thunderous marriage march for the nuptials of sea and shore.
One said; "Lo, I would walk hand-clasped with thee
Adown the ways of joy and sunlit slopes
Of earthly song in happiest vagrancy
To pluck the blossom of a thousand hopes.
Let us together drain the wide world's cup
With gladness brimmed up!"
And one said, "I would pray to go with thee
When sorrow claims thee; I would fence thy heart
With mine against all anguish; I would be
The comforter and healer of thy smart;
And I would count it all the wide world's gain
To spare or share thy pain!"
Only a long, low-lying lane
That follows to the misty sea,
Across a bare and russet plain
Where wild winds whistle vagrantly;
I know that many a fairer path
With lure of song and bloom may woo,
But oh ! I love this lonely strath
Because it is so full of you.
Here we have walked in elder years,
And here your truest memories wait,
This spot is sacred to your tears,
That to your laughter dedicate;
Here, by this turn, you gave to me
A gem of thought that glitters yet,
This tawny slope is graciously
By a remembered smile beset.
Here once you lingered on an hour
When stars were shining in the west,
To gather one pale, scented flower
And place it smiling on your breast;
And since that eve its fragrance blows
For me across the grasses sere,
Far sweeter than the latest rose,
That faded bloom of yesteryear.
For me the sky, the sea, the wold,
Have beckoning visions wild and fair,
The mystery of a tale untold,
The grace of an unuttered prayer.
Let others choose the fairer path
That winds the dimpling valley through,
I gladly seek this lonely strath
Companioned by my dreams of you.