Poems from Excursions and Poems (1906)


O NATURE! I do not aspire

To be the highest in thy quire, –

To be a meteor in the sky,

Or comet that may range on high ;

Only a zephyr that may blow

Among the reeds by the river low ;

Give me thy most privy place

Where to run my airy race.

In some withdrawn, unpublic mead

Let me sigh upon a reed,

Or in the woods, with leafy din,

Whisper the still evening in:

Some still work give me to do, –

Only – be it near to you!

For I’d rather be thy child

And pupil, in the forest wild,

Than be the eking of men elsewhere,

And most sovereign slave of care

To have one moment of thy dawn,

Than share the city’s year forlorn.


WHATE’ ER we leave to God, God does,

And blesses us ; T

he work we choose should be our own, God leaves alone.

IF with light head erect I sing,

Though all the Muses lend their force,

From my poor love of anything,

The verse is weak and shallow as its source.

But if with bended neck I grope,

Listening behind me for my twit,

With faith superior to hope,

More anxious to keep back than forward it,

Making my soul accomplice there

Unto the flame my heart bath lit,

Then will the verse forever wear, –

Time cannot bend the line which God hath writ.

Always the general show of things

Floats in review before my mind,

And such true love and reverence brings,

That Sometimes I forget that I am blind.

But now there comes unsought, unseen,

Some clear divine electuary,

And I, who had but sensual been,

Grow sensible, and as God is, am wary.

I hearing get, who had but ears,

And sight, who had but eyes before ;

I moments live, who lived but years,

And truth discern, who knew but learning’s lore.

I hear beyond the range of sound,

I see beyond the range of sight,

New earths and skies and seas around,

And in my day the sun doth pale his light.

A clear and ancient harmony

Pierces my soul through all its din,

As through its utmost melody, –

Farther behind than they, farther within.

More swift its bolt than lightning is,

Its voice than thunder is more loud, it doth expand my privacies

To all, and leave me single in the crowd.

It speaks with such authority,

With so serene and lofty tone,

That idle Time runs gadding by,

And leaves me with Eternity alone.

Then chiefly is my natal hour,

And only then my prime of life ;

Of manhood’s strength it is the flower,

‘T is peace’s end, and war’s beginning strife.

‘T hath come in summer’s broadest noon,

By a gray wall or some chance place,

Unseasoned time, insulted June,

And vexed the day with its presuming face.

Such fragrance round my couch it makes,

More rich than are Arabian drugs,

That my soul scents its life and wakes

The body up beneath its perfumed rugs.

Such is the Muse, the heavenly maid,

The star that guides our mortal course,

Which shows where life’s true kernel’s laid,

Its wheat’s fine flour, and its undying force.

She with one breath attunes the spheres,

And also my poor human heart,

With one impulse propels the years

Around, and gives my throbbing pulse its start.

I will not doubt for evermore,

Nor falter from a steadfast faith,

For though the system be turned o’er,

God takes not back the word which once he saith.

I will, then, trust the love untold

Which not my worth nor want has bought,

Which wooed me young, and wooes me old.

And to this evening bath me brought.

My memory I’ll educate

To know the one historic truth,

Remembering to the latest date

The only true and sole immortal youth.

Be but thy inspiration given,

No matter through what danger sought,

I’ll fathom hell or climb to heaven,

And yet esteem that cheap which love has bought.

Fame cannot tempt the bard

Who’s famous with his God,

Nor laurel him reward

Who hath his Maker’s nod.


A Fragment

THE god of day his car rolls up the slopes,

Reining his prancing steeds with steady hand ;

The lingering moon through western shadows gropes,

While morning sheds its light o’er sea and land.

Castles and cities by the sounding main Resound with all the busy din of life ;

The fisherman unfurls his sails again ;

And the recruited warrior bides the strife.

The early breeze ruffles the poplar leaves ;

The curling waves reflect the unseen light ;

The slumbering sea with the day’s impulse heaves,

While o’er the western hill retires the drowsy night.

The seabirds dip their bills in Ocean’s foam,

Far circling out over the frothy waves, –


Low in the eastern sky Is set thy glancing eye ;

And though its gracious light

Ne’er riseth to my sight,

Yet every star that climbs

Above the gnarled limbs

Of yonder hill,

Conveys thy gentle will.

Believe I knew thy thought,

And that the zephyrs brought

Thy kindest wishes through,

As mine they bear to you ;

That some attentive cloud

Did pause amid the crowd

Over my head,

While gentle things were said.

Believe the thrushes sung,

And that the flower-bells rung,

“That herbs exhaled their scent,

And beasts knew what was meant,

The trees a welcome waved,

And lakes their margins laved,

When thy free mind

To my retreat did wind.

It was a summer eve,

The air did gently heave

While yet a low-hung cloud

Thy eastern skies did shroud ;

The lightning’s silent gleam,

Startling my drowsy dream,

Seemed like the flash

Under thy dark eyelash.

From yonder comes the sun,

But soon his course is run,

Rising to trivial day

Along his dusty way;

But thy noontide completes

Only auroral heats,

Nor ever sets,

To hasten vain regrets.

Direct thy pensive eye

Into the western sky ;

And when the evening star

Does glimmer from afar

Upon the mountain line,

Accept it for a sign

That I am near,

And thinking of thee here.

I’ll be thy Mercury,

Thou Cytherea to me,

Distinguished by thy face

The earth shall learn my place;

As near beneath thy light

Will I outwear the night,

With mingled ray

Leading the westward way.

Still will I strive to be

As if thou wert with me ;

Whatever path I take,

It shall be for thy sake,

Of gentle slope and wide,

As thou wert by my side,

Without a root

To trip thy gentle foot.

I’ll walk with gentle pace,

And choose the smoothest place,

And careful dip the oar,

And shun the winding shore,

And gently steer my boat

Where water-lilies float,

And cardinal-flowers

Stand in their sylvan bowers.


BROTHER, where dost thou dwell?

What sun shines for thee now?

Dost thou indeed fare well,

As we wished thee here below?

What season didst thou find?

‘T was winter here.

Are not the Fates more kind

Than they appear?

Is thy brow clear again

As in thy youthful years?

And was that ugly pain

The summit of thy fears?

Yet thou wast cheery still ;

They could not quench thy fire ;

Thou didst abide their will,

And then retire.

Where chiefly shall I look To feel thy presence near?

Along the neighboring brook

May I thy voice still hear?

Dost thou still haunt the brink

Of yonder river’s tide?

And may I ever think

That thou art by my side?

What bird wilt thou employ

To bring me word of thee?

For it would give them joy –

‘Twould give them liberty –

To serve their former lord

With wing and minstrelsy.

A sadder strain mixed with their song,

They’ve slowlier built their nests ;

Since thou art gone

Their lively labor rests.

Where is the finch, the thrush,

I used to hear?

Ah, they could well abide

The dying year.

Now they no more return,

I hear them not ;

They have remained to mourn,

Or else forgot.


 WHEN life contracts into a vulgar span,

And human nature tires to be a man,

I thank the gods for Greece,

That permanent realm of peace.

For as the rising moon far in the night

Checkers the shade with her forerunning light,

So in my darkest hour my senses seem

To catch from her Acropolis a gleam.

Greece, who am I that should remember thee,

Thy Marathon and thy Thermopylae?

Is my life vulgar, my fate mean,

Which on such golden memories can lean?


ONE more is gone

Out of the busy throng

That tread these paths ;

The church-bell tolls,

Its sad knell rolls To many hearths.

Flower-bells toll not,

Their echoes roll not

Upon my ear ;

There still, perchance,

That gentle spirit haunts

A fragrant bier.

Low lies the pall,

Lowly the mourners all

Their passage grope ;

No sable hue

Mars the serene blue

Of heaven’s cope.

In distant dell

Faint sounds the funeral bell ;

A heavenly chime ;

Some poet there

Weaves the light-burthened air

Into sweet rhyme.


Time wears her not ; she doth his chariot guide ;

Mortality below her orb is placed.


THE full-orbed moon with unchanged ray

Mounts up the eastern sky,

Not doomed to these short nights for aye,

But shining steadily.

She does not wane, but my fortune,

Which her rays do not bless ;

My wayward path declineth soon,

But she shines not the less.

And if she faintly glimmers here,

And paled is her light,

Yet alway in her proper sphere

She’s mistress of the night.


THANK God who seasons thus the year,

And sometimes kindly slants his rays ;

For in his winter he’s most near

And plainest seen upon the shortest days.

Who gently tempers now his heats,

And then his harsher cold, lest we

Should surfeit on the summer’s sweets,

Or pine upon the winter’s crudity.

A sober mind will walk alone,

Apart from nature, if need be,

And only its own seasons own ;

For nature leaving its humanity.

Sometimes a late autumnal thought

Has crossed my mind in green July,

And to its early freshness brought

Late ripened fruits, and an autumnal sky.

The evening of the year draws on,

The fields a later aspect wear ;

Since Summer’s garishness is gone,

Some grains of night tincture the noontide air.

Behold! the shadows of the trees

Now circle wider ’bout their stem,

Like sentries that by slow degrees

Perform their rounds, gently protecting them.

And as the year doth decline,

The sun allows a scantier light ;

Behind each needle of the pine

There lurks a small auxiliar to the night.

I hear the cricket’s slumbrous lay

Around, beneath me, and on high ;

It rocks the night, it soothes the day,

And everywhere is Nature’s lullaby.

But most he chirps beneath the sod,

When he has made his winter bed ;

His creak grown fainter but more broad,

A film of autumn o’er the summer spread.

Small birds, in fleets migrating by,

Now beat across some meadow’s bay,

And as they tack and veer on high,

With faint and hurried click beguile the way.

Far in the woods, these golden days,

Some leaf obeys it Maker’s call ;

And through their hollow aisles it plays

With delicate touch the prelude of the Fall.

Gently withdrawing from its stem,

It lightly lays itself along

Where the same hand hath pillowed them,

Resigned to sleep upon the old year’s throng.

The loneliest birch is brown and sere,

The farthest pool is strewn with leaves,

Which float upon their water bier,

Where is no eye that sees, no heart that grieves.

The jay screams through the chestnut wood ;

The crisped and yellow leaves around

Are hue and texture of my mood,

And these rough burs my heirlooms on the ground.

The threadbare trees, so poor and thin,

They are no wealthier than I ;

But with as brave a core within

They rear their boughs to the October sky.

Poor knights they are which bravely wait

The charge of Winter’s calvary,

Keeping a simple Roman state,

Discumbered of their Persian luxury.


I SAW the civil sun drying earth’s tears,

Her tears of joy that only faster flowed.

Fain would I stretch me by the highway-side

To thaw and trickle with the melting snow ;

That mingled, soul and body, with the tide,

I too may through the pores of nature flow.


Tim rabbit leaps,

The mouse out-creeps,

The flag out-peeps

Beside the brook ;

The ferret weeps,

The marmot sleeps,

The owlet keeps

In his snug nook.

The apples thaw,

The ravens caw,

The squirrels gnaw

The frozen fruit.

To their retreat

I track the feet

Of mice that eat

The apple’s root.

The snow-dust falls,

The otter crawls,

The partridge calls,

Far in the wood.

The traveler dreams,

The tree-ice gleams,

The blue jay screams

In angry mood.

The willows droop,

The alders stoop,

The pheasants group

Beneath the snow.

The catkins green

Cast o’er the scene

A summer’s sheen,

A genial glow.


POOR bird! destined to lead thy life

Far in the adventurous west,

And here to be debarred to-night

From thy accustomed nest;

Must thou fall back upon old instinct now,

Well-nigh extinct under man’s fickle care?

Did heaven bestow its quenchless inner light,

So long ago, for thy small want to-night?

Why stand’st upon thy toes to crow so late?

The moon is deaf to thy low feathered fate;

Or dost thou think so to possess the night,

And people the drear dark with thy brave sprite?

And now with anxious eye thou look’st about,

While the relentless shade draws on its veil,

For some sure shelter from approaching dews,

And the insidious steps of nightly foes.

I fear imprisonment has dulled thy wit,

Or ingrained servitude extinguished it.

But no ; dim memory of the days of yore,

By Brahmapootra and the Jumna’s shore,

Where thy proud race flew swiftly o’er the heath,

And sought its food the jungle’s shade beneath,

Has taught thy wings to seek you friendly trees,

As erst by Indus’ banks and far Ganges.


A Fragment

If I am poor,

It is that I am proud ;

If God has made me naked and a boor,

He did not think it fit his work to shroud.

The poor man comes direct from heaven to earth,

As stars drop down the sky, and tropic beams ;

The rich receives in our gross air his birth,

As from low suns are slanted golden gleams.

Yon sun is naked, bare of satellite,

Unless our earth and moon that office hold ;

Though his perpetual day feareth no night,

And his perennial summer dreads no cold.

Mankin may delve, but cannot my wealth spend ;

If I no partial wealth appropriate,

No armed ships unto the Indies send,

None robs me of my Orient estate.


“HAVE you not seen,

In ancient times,

Pilgrims pass by

Toward other climes,

With shining faces,

Youthful and strong,

Mounting this hill

With speech and with song?”

“Ah, my good sir,

I know not those ways ;

Little my knowledge,

Tho’ many my days.

When I have slumbered,

I have heard sounds

As of travelers passing

These my grounds.

” ‘Twas a sweet music

Wafted them by,

I could not tell

If afar off or nigh.

Unless I dreamed it,

This was of yore :

I never told it

To mortal before,

Never remembered

But in my dreams

What to me waking

A miracle seems.”


IN this roadstead I have ridden,

In this covert I have hidden ;

Friendly thoughts were cliffs to me,

And I hid beneath their lee.

This true people took the stranger,

And warm-hearted housed the ranger;

They received their roving guest,

And have fed him with the best ;

Whatsoe’er the land afforded

To the stranger’s wish accorded ;

Shook the olive, stripped the vine,

And expressed the strengthening wine.

And by night they did spread o’er him

What by day they spread before him ; –

That good-will which was repast

Was his covering at last.

The stranger moored him to their pier

Without anxiety or fear ;

By day he walked the sloping land,

By night the gentle heavens he scanned.

When first his bark stood inland

To the coast of that far Finland,

Sweet-watered brooks came tumbling to the shore

The weary mariner to restore.

And still he stayed from day to day

If he their kindness might repay ;

But more and more

The sullen waves came rolling toward the shore.

And still the more the stranger waited,

The less his argosy was freighted,

And still the more he stayed,

The less his debt was paid.

So he unfurled his shrouded mast

To receive the fragrant blast;

And that sane refreshing gale

Which had wooed him to remain

Again and again,

It was that filled his sail

And drove him to the main.

All day the low-hung clouds

Dropt tears into the sea ;

And the wind amid the shrouds

Sighed plaintively.


MY life more civil is and free

Than any civil polity.

Ye princes, keep your realms

And circumscribed power,

Not wide as are my dreams,

Nor rich as is this hour.

What can ye give which I have not?

What can ye take which I have got?

Can ye defend the dangerless

Can ye inherit nakedness?

To all true wants Time’s ear is deaf,

Penurious states lend no relief

Out of their pelf :

But a free soul – thank God –

Can help itself.

Be sure your fate

Doth keep apart its state,

Not linked with any band,

Even the noblest of the land ;

In tented fields with cloth of gold

No place doth hold,

But is more chivalrous than they are,

And sigheth for a nobler war ;

A finer strain its trumpet sings,

A brighter gleam its armor flings.

The life that I aspire to live

No man proposeth me ;

No trade upon the street

Wears its emblazonry.


WHEN the world grows old by the chimney-side

Then forth to the youngling nooks I glide,

Where over the water and over the land

The bells are booming on either hand.

Now up they go ding, then down again dong,

And awhile they ring to the same old song,

For the metal goes round at a single bound,

A-cutting the fields with its measured sound,

While the tired tongue falls with a lengthened boom

As solemn and loud as the crack of doom.

Then changed is their measure to tone upon tone,

And seldom it is that one sound comes alone,

For they ring out their peals in a mingled throng,

And the breezes waft the loud ding-dong along.

When the echo hath reached me in this lone vale,

I am straightway a hero in coat of mail,

I tug at my belt and I march on my post,

And feel myself more than a match for a host.


Who equaleth the coward’s haste,

And still inspires the faintest heart ;

Whose lofty fame is not disgraced,

Though it assume the lowest part.


IF thou wilt but stand by my ear,

When through the field thy anthem’s

When that is done I will not fear

But the same power will abet my tongue.


I’VE searched my faculties around,

To learn why life to me was lent :

I will attend the faintest sound,

And then declare to man what God hath meant.


No generous action can delay

Or thwart our higher, steadier aims ;

But if sincere and true are they,

It will arouse our sight, and nerve our frames.


GREAT God! I ask thee for no meaner pelf

Than that I may not disappoint myself;

That in my action I may soar as high

As I can now discern with this clear eye ;

And next in value, which thy kindness lends,

That I may greatly disappoint my friends,

Howe’er they think or hope it that may be,

They may not dream how thou ‘st distinguished me ;

That my weak hand may equal my firm faith,

And my life practice more than my tongue saith ;

That my low conduct may not show,

Nor my relenting lines,

That I thy purpose did not know,

Or overrated thy designs.