Domestic Sonnets and Canzonets.

From: Sonnets and Canzonets (1882)
Author: A. Bronson Alcott
Published: Roberts Brothers 1882 Boston

AUSPICIOUS morn, com’st opportune, unbought?
Bring’st thou glad furtherance in thy rosy train?
Speed then, my chariot, following fast my thought,
And distance on thy track the lumbering wain,
O’er plain and hillock nearing her abode,
The goal of expectation, fortune’s road,—
The maiden waits to greet with courtesy
Her bashful guest, while stranger yet is he:
From friendly circle at the city’s Court
She’s come to cull the flowers, to toy and play
With prattling childhood, love’s delightful sport;
Its smile call forth, to scent the new-mown hay,
Enjoy the wholesome laughter, simple mien,
Of country people in this rural scene.

So sweetly she bade me adieu,
I thought that she bade me return

AH! why so brief the visit, short his stay?
The acquaintance so surprising, and so sweet,
Stolen is my heart, ‘tis journeying far away,
With that shy stranger whom my voice did greet.
That hour so fertile of entrancing thought,
So rapt the conversation, and so free,—
My heart lost soundings, tenderly upcaught,
Driven by soft sails of love and ecstasy!
Was I then? was I? clasped in Love’s embrace,
And touched with ardors of divinity?
Spake with my chosen lover face to face,
Espoused then truly? such my destiny?
I cannot tell; but own the pleasing theft,
That when the stranger went, I was of Love bereft.

Though the bias of her nature was not to thought but
to sympathy, yet was she so perfect in her own nature,
as to meet intellectual persons by the fulness of her heart,
warming them by her sentiments; believing, as she did,
that, by dealing nobly with all, all would show themselves noble

NOT all the brilliant beauties I have seen,
Mid the gay splendors of some Southern hall,
In jewelled grandeur, or in plainest mien,
Did so my fancy and my heart enthral,
As doth this noble woman, Nature’s queen!
Such hearty greeting from her lips did fall,
And I ennobled was through her esteem;
At once made sharer of her confidence,
As by enchantment of some rapturous dream;
With subtler vision gifted, finer sense,
She loosed my tongue’s refraining diffidence,
And softer accents lent our varying theme:
So much my Lady others doth surpass,
I read them all through her transparent glass.

They love indeed who quake to say they love.

THE April rains are past, the frosts austere,—
The flowers are hungering for the genial sun,
The snow’s dissolved, the merry birds are here,
And rural labors now are well begun.
Hither, from the disturbing, noisy Court
I’ve flown to this sequestered, quiet scene,
To meditate on Love and Love’s disport
Mid these smooth pastures and the meadows green.
Sure ‘twere no fault of.mine, no whispering sin,
If these coy leaves he sends me seem to speak
All that my heart, caressing, folds within;
Nor if I sought to smother, my flushed cheek
Would tell too plainly what I cannot hide,
Fond fancy disenchant nor set aside.

Love is the life of friendship, letters are
The life of love, the loadstones that by rare
Attraction make souls meet, and melt, and mix,
As when by fire exalted gold we fix.


MOST precious leaves the mail delights to bring,
All loving parcels, neatly squared and sealed;
Her buoyant fancy trims its glossy wing,
And flits courageous o’er Love’s flowery field.
Sure ‘tis a tender and a sparkling flame
That letters kindle and do sweetly feed;
Wilt fly, schoolmaster, for such noble game?
Maiden that doth all other maids exceed!
She writes with passion, and a nimble wit,
Void of all pedantry and vain pretence,
With native genius forcible and fit,
A flowing humor and surpassing sense:
Who gains her heart will win a precious prize,
And fortunate be in every lover’s eyes.

This place may seem for lovers’ leisure made,
So close those elms inweave their lofty shade.
The twining woodbine, how it climbs to breathe
Refreshing sweets around us; all beneath,
The ground with grass of cheerful green bespread,
Through which the springing flower uprears its head.
Lo, here are kingcups of a golden hue,
Medleyed with daisies white and endive blue,
And honeysuckles of a purple dye:
Confusion gay I bright waving to the eye.


‘TIS but a half-hour’s walk the Mill-Dam o’er,
Past Punch Bowl Inn, where, by the turnpike’s side,
The shaded pathway winding to the door,
The mansion rises in ancestral pride:—
Its shaven lawn, and blossoming orchard hoar,
And trellised vines, and hedges trim and neat,
Show plenty and refinement here abide,—
The generous gentleman’s fair country-seat.
Now, whilst the full moon glances soft and bright
O’er Mall and Mill-Dam and suburban street,
Turn hitherward thine unaccustomed feet,
At afternoon, or evening, or late night;
A change of scene oft rare attraction lends
To new acquaintance, as to older friends.

If I may trust the flattering truth of sleep,
My dreams presage some joyful news at hand:
My bosom’s lord sits lightly in his throne,
And all this day an unaccustomed spirit
Lifts me above the ground with cheerful thoughts.


THE morning’s clear, the sky without a frown,
The dew-bespangled pastures wet the shoe;
Sauntering full early toward the sleeping town,
We’ll take the dry, well-trodden avenue;
On these crisp pathways, and familiar grounds
(Unless my flattering heart be over-bold),
While lingering purposely amid our rounds,
Some shady lane may love to hear all told.
One name has captured his too partial ear,—
(These kind, concealing bushes love invite
No tell-tales are, nor neighbors impolite;)
I’ll hear his suit devoid of blame or fear.
Impatiently the moment I await;
Who nothing ventures, stays disconsolate.

Who knows thy destiny? when thou hast done,
Perchance her cabinet may harbor thee,
Whither all noble ambitious wits do run,
A nest almost as full of good as she.
Mark if lo get thee she o’erskip the rest,
Mark if she read thee thrice, and kiss the name,
Mark if she do the same that they protest,
Mark if she mark whither her woman came.


MEAN are all titles of nobility,
And kings poor spendthrifts, while I do compare
The wealth she daily lavishes on me
Of love, the noble kingdom that I share:
Is it the jealous year, for emphasis,
Sheds beauteous sunshine and refreshing dews?
My maiden’s month doth softlier court and kiss,
Tint springtime’s virgin cheek with rosier hues
Fly faster o’er my page, impassioned quill,
Signing this note of mine with tenderer touch!
Say I no measure find to mete my will,
Say that I love, but cannot tell how much;
Let time and trouble the full story tell:
I cannot love thee more, I know I love thee well.

Let raptured fancy on that moment dwell
When thy dear vows in trembling accents fell,
When love acknowledged waked the tender sigh,
Swelled thy full breast, and filled the melting eye.


Now I no longer wait my love to tell,
As ‘twere a weakness love should not commit;
E’en did avowal my fond hope dispel,
My passion would of weakness me acquit.
Enamoured thus and holden by its spell,
Evasive words disloyal were, unfit
To emphasize the exquisite happiness
My boldest accents falteringly express;
Here, take my hand, and, life-long wedded, lead
Me by thy side; and, with my hand, my heart
Given thee long since in thought, given now in deed;
My life, my love, shall play no faithless part.
Blest be that hour, when, meeting face to face,
Our vows are plighted, ours the dear embrace!

Venus, thy eternal sway
All the race of men obey.


UNCONQUERABLE and inviolate
Is Love; servant and sov’reign of man’s wit:
Though the light-winged fancy changeful flit,
She rules unswervingly her fair estate,
O’erbears mischance and error, envy and hate;
High intellect, ambition, passion, pride,
Endowments that capricious Fortune brings,
By her disfranchisements are set aside;
The mistress she alike of slaves and kings,
Empress of Earth’s dominions, far and wide,
Eldest of potentates, and latest born.
Of all in Heaven above or Earth below,
No being so illustrious or forlorn,
That to Love’s sceptre doth not gladly bow.

Ye tradeful merchants I that with weary toil
Do seek most precious things to make your gain,
And both the Indies of their treasure spoil,
What needeth you to seek so far in vain?
For, lo! my love doth in herself contain
All this world’s riches that may far be found;
.    .   .    .    .    .    .    .
But that which fairest is, but few behold,
Her mind adorned with virtues manifold.


ANCESTRAL tendencies far down descend;
They bless or blame for generations long;
They prick us forward toward our destined end,
Alike the weak, the sluggish, and the strong.
When her grave ancestor, of Winthrop’s date,
Did with the rich mint-master’s daughter join
In wedlock, he, sagacious magistrate,
Gained more in sterling worth than silver coin:
So, when King’s Chapel saw, in gladsome May,
The mild schoolmaster lead his willing bride,
And the courtly warden give her hand away,
Mintage of like worth had no land beside.
True love alone nobility doth outvie,
And character’s the sterling currency.

How still the sea! behold, how calm the sky!
And how, in sportive chase, the swallows fly!
Sweet breathe the fields, and now a gentle breeze
Moves every leaf and trembles through the trees.


HITHER, the gray and shapely church beside,
At sandy Hingham, by the sounding sea,
From the disturbing town escaped thus wide,
I ‘m come, from all encumbering care set free,
To raise the choral song, with friends discourse,
Roam the wide fields for flowers, or seaward sail,
Or to Cohasset’s strand repair, where hoarse
Tumultuous surges chant their ceaseless tale;
Or poesy entertain, grave Wordsworth’s lays,
Melodious musing childhood’s glorious prime,
Shakespeare’s warm sonnets or Venetian plays,
Or that sad wizard Mariner’s marvellous Rime.
Here in these haunts, this lovers’ company,
Sweet Love’s symposium hold we happily.

  “Books have always a secret influence on the understanding: we cannot at
pleasure obliterate ideas; he that reads books of science, though without any desire for improvement, will grow more knowing; he that entertains himself with moral or religious treatises will imperceptibly advance to goodness; the ideas which are often offered to the mind will at last find a lucky moment when it is disposed to receive them.


MY Lady reads, with judgment and good taste,
Books not too many, but the wisest, best,
Pregnant with sentiment sincere and chaste,
Rightly conceived were they and aptly dressed:
These wells of learning tastes she at the source,—
Johnson’s poised periods, Fénelon’s deep sense,
Taylor’s mellifluous and sage discourse,
Majestic Milton’s epic eloquence,—
Nor these alone her thoughts do all engage,
But classic authors of the modern time,
And the great masters of the ancient age,
In prose alike and of the lofty rhyme:
Montaigne and Cowper, Plutarch’s gallery,
Blind Homer’s Iliad and his Odyssey.

Ye blessed creatures, I have heard the call
Ye to each other make: I see
The heavens laugh with you in your jubilee;
My heart is at your festival,
My head hath its coronal,
The fulness of your bliss I feel—I feel it all.


NOT Wordsworth’s genius, Pestalozzi’s love,
The stream have sounded of clear infancy.
Baptismal waters from the Head above
These babes I foster daily are to me;
I dip my pitcher in these living springs
And draw, from depths below, sincerity;
Unsealed, mine eyes behold all outward things
Arrayed in splendors of divinity.
What mount of vision can with mine compare?
Not Roman Jove nor yet Olympian Zeus
Darted from loftier ether through bright air
One spark of holier fire for human use.
Glad tidings thence these angels downward bring,
As at their birth the heavenly choirs do sing.

Fresh as the morning, earnest as the hour
That calls the noisy world to grateful sleep,
Our silent thought reveres the nameless power
That high seclusion round thy life doth keep.


DAUGHTER, beloved of all, thy tender eye,
Sweet disposition, and thy gentle voice,
Make every heart, full soon thy close ally,
Respect thy wishes, thine unspoken choice,—
Hastening, unbidden, therewith to comply;
They in thy cheerful countenance rejoice,
Kindness unfailing, and quick sympathy.
Peacemaker thou, with equanimity
And aspirations far above thy care,
Leavest no duty slighted or undone,
Living for thy dear kindred, always there,
Faithful as rising and as setting sun.
Can I of lovelier mansion be possest,
Than in thy heart to dwell a welcome guest?

Stern daughter of the voice of God!
O Duty, if that name thou love,
Who art a light to guide, a rod
To check the erring, and reprove;
Thou who art victory and law,
When empty terrors overawe;
And calm’st the weary strife of frail humanity!


WHEN I remember with what buoyant heart,
Midst war’s alarms and woes of civil strife,
In youthful eagerness, thou didst depart,
At peril of thy safety, peace, and life,
To nurse the wounded soldier, swathe the dead—
How pierced soon by fever’s poisoned dart,
And brought unconscious home, with wildered head—
Thou, ever since, mid languor and dull pain,
To conquer fortune, cherish kindred dear,
Hast with grave studies vexed a sprightly brain,
In myriad households kindled love and cheer;
Ne’er from thyself by Fame’s loud trump beguiled,
Sounding in this and the farther hemisphere:—
I press thee to my heart, as Duty’s faithful child.

In deepest passions of my grief-swoll’n breast,
Sweet soul, this only comfort seizeth me,
That so few years should make thee so much blest,
And give such wings to reach eternity.


‘TWAS not permitted thee the Fates to please,
And with survivors share our happier day;
For smitten early wast thou by disease,
Whilst with thy sisters thou didst smile and play.
Wasted by pains and lingering decay,
Life’s glowing currents at the source did freeze;
Yet, ere the angel summoned thee away,
Above thy cheerful couch affection’s ray
Did brightly shine, and all thy sufferings ease.
Dear child of grace! so patient and so strong,
Bound to thy duty by quick sympathy,
They did our hearts irreparable wrong
To break the promise of thy infancy;
Ah me! life is not life, deprived of thee.

Will’t ne’er be morning! will that promised light
Ne’er break, and clear these clouds of night?
Sweet Phosphor, bring the day,
Whose conquering ray
May chase these fogs: sweet Phosphor, bring the day.




IT was but yesterday
That all was bright and fair:
Came ever the sea,
So merrily,
News from my darling there.
Now over the sea
Comes hither to me
Knell of despair,—
“No more, no longer there!”

Ah! gentle May,
Couldst thou not stay?
Why hurriedst thou so swift away?
No-not the same—
Nor can it be—
That lovely name—
Ever again what once it was to me.
It cannot, cannot be
That lovely name to me.

I cannot think her dead,
So lately, sweetly wed;
She who had tasted bliss,
A mother’s virgin kiss,
Rich gifts conferred to bless
With costliest happiness,
Nobility and grace
To ornament her place.

Broken the golden band,
Severed the silken strand,
Ye sisters four!
Still to me two remain,
And two have gone before:
Our loss, her gain,—
And He who gave can all restore.
And yet—Oh! why,
My heart doth cry,
Why take her thus away?

I wake in tears and sorrow:
Wearily I say,
“Come, come, fair morrow,
And chase my grief away!”
Night-long I say,
“Haste, haste, fair morrow,
And bear my grief away!”
All night long,
My sad, sad song.

“Comes not the welcome morrow,”
My boding heart doth say;
Still grief from grief doth borrow;
“My child is far away.”
Still as I pray
The deeper swells my sorrow.
Break, break! The risen day
Takes not my grief away.

Full well I know,
Joy’s spring is fathomless,—
Its fountains overflow
To cheer and bless,
And underneath our grief
Well forth and give relief.
Transported May!
Thou couldst not stay;
Who gave, took thee away.
Come, child, and whisper peace to me,
Say, must I wait, or come to thee?
I list to hear
Thy message clear.

“Cease, cease, new grief to borrow!”
Last night I heard her say;
“For sorrow hath no morrow,
‘T is born of yesterday.
Translated thou shalt be,
My cloudless daylight see,
And bathe, as I, in fairest morrows endlessly.”

Shall not from these remains,
From this low mound, dear ashes of the dead,
The violet spring!



O DEATH! thou utterest deeper speech,
A tenderer, truer tone,
Than all our languages can reach,
Though all were voiced in one.
Thy glance is deep, and, far beyond
All that our eyes do see,
Assures to fairest hopes and fond
Their immortality.

Sing, sing, the Immortals,
The Ancients of days,
Ever crowding the portals
Of Time’s peopled ways;
These Babes ever stealing
Into Eden’s glad feeling,
The fore-world revealing,
God’s face ne’er concealing.

VOYAGER across the seas,
In my arms thy form I press;
Come, my Baby, me to please,
Blue-eyed nurseling, motherless!

All is strange and beautiful,
Every sense finds glad surprise,
Life is lovely, wonderful,
Faces fair, and beaming eyes.

Safe, ye angels, keep this child,
Life-long guard her innocence,
Winsome ways, and temper mild;
Heaven, our home, be her defence!

O, how thy worth with manners may I sing,
When thou art all the better part of me?
What can mine own praise to mine own self bring?
And what is’t but mine own when I praise thee?


DEAR Heart! if aught to human love I’ve owed
For noble furtherance of the good and fair;
Climbed I, by bold emprise, the dizzying stair
To excellence, and was by thee approved,
In memory cherished and the more beloved;
If fortune smiled, and late-won liberty,—
‘T was thy kind favor all, thy generous legacy.
Nor didst thou spare thy large munificence
Me here to pleasure amply and maintain,
But conjured from suspicion and mischance,
Exile, misapprehension, cold disdain,
For my loved cloud-rapt dream, supremacy;
To bright reality transformed romance,
Crowning with smiles the hard-earned victory.

The hills were reared, the valleys scooped in vain,
If Learning’s altars vanish from the plain

CALM vale of comfort, peace, and industry,
Well doth thy name thy homebred traits express!—
Considerate people, neighborly and free,
Proud of their monuments, their ancestry,
Their circling river’s quiet loveliness,
Their noble townsmen’s fame and history.
Nor less I glory in each goodly trait,
Child of another creed, a stricter State;
I chose thee for my haunt in troublous time,
My home in days of late prosperity,
And laud thee now in this familiar rhyme;
Here on thy bosom the last summons wait
To scenes, if lovelier, still reflecting thee,
Resplendent both in hope and memory.

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