« PreviousContinue »
They catch a burning thought from lips divine,
And mold it into shape for human ken; In picture, song, sculptured stone to shine,
A holy thing blest unto sentient men.
WHAT HAVE I DONE? I LAY my finger on Time's wrist to score
The forward-surging moments as they roll; Each pulse seems quicker than the one before,
And lo! my days pile up against my soul As clouds pile up against the golden sun: Alas! what have I done? what have I done?
'Tis sympathy of heart to heart inclined,
The cord that twixt two spirits may abide, O'er which thought flashes thought from mind to
mind, That robes the earth in beauty like a bride, Sweet sympathy, that soothes earth's saddest wail,
Wakes deeper rapture when the linnet trills, Sings in the soul's dark like a nightingale,
Runs through life's web of care in magic thrills; Makes stars burn deeper through night's shadowy
flow, Imparts a richer bloom to flowers and fruits, And, failing, makes the bright sun smoulder low,
And stars seem withered to their golden roots.
I never steep the rosy hours in sleep,
Or hide my soul as in a gloomy crypt; No idle hands into my bosom creep;
And yet, as water-drops from house-eaves drip, So, viewless, melt my days, and from me run: Alas! what have I done? what have I done?
Love lights Earth down the ages to her goal,
And sympathy is love's most glorious part,O human sympathy, balm of the soul,
And precious ointment to the bruised heart!
I have not missed the fragrance of the flowers,
Or scorned the music of the flowing rills Whose numerous liquid tongues sing to the hours;
Yet rise my days behind me like the hills, l'nstarred by light of mighty triumphs won: Alas! what have I done? what have I done?
Be still, my soul; restrain thy lips from woe;
Cease thy lament! for life is but the flower; The fruit comes after death: how canst thou know
The roundness of its form, its grace and power? Death is Life's morning: when thy work's begun, *Then ask thyself, what yet is to be done?
SYMPATHY. The white-toothed sea gnaws at the grizzly rocks,
And moans along the shore like one in pain; High on the glistening sands its hoary locks
In strands of foam fall o'er and o'er again.
UNREST. I ENVY those sweet souls that walk serenely On the still heights of being whence they span The pleasant, fruitful valleys lying greenly; In peace,-that moonlight happiness of man, Calm as the wise stars over-watching keenly, They walk content to know the things they can. They heed no rush of storm-clouds rolling under, Nor lightning tongues, outleaping lips of thunder, Nor pause astonished by a sunset wonder. Below those heights, above the warm,green valleys, I grapple with each storm that crashes by; Each flying wind-cloud with my nature dallies, And sways it like an oak tree towering high; Nor heaven nor earth with my wild spirit tallies, And nothing in them seems to satisfy. From Microcosm to Macrocosm still turning. I look beyond, beyond with mighty yearning, A restless heart within my bosom burning. All beauty seems to fade within my clasping; All strength seems weakness after it is gained; All spirit fineness, touched, seemsgross and rasping, All love, insipid, with self-loving stained; Nothing seems grand but lies beyond my grasping, Naught noble, but the blessed unattained. The large, warm tears beneath my lids come creep
ing: Child-like I weep, nor know for what I'm weeping, Something, dear God, beyond my human keeping Like a frail spider by a thread suspended, My soul swings through infinitudes unguessed; Strange innuendoes dimly comprehended Disturb my being with sublime unrest;
The purple-footed eve across the wave
Comes like a maiden to her lover's tomb; Her hands are full of stars to deck the grave
Of the dead day, deep-sepulchred in gloom.
The moon is cold and white as some dead face;
About the stars a gray mist seems to cling; The sea-gull circles low with weary grace;
The wind grieves shoreward like a hunted thing.
But yester-eve, the sky and sea were bright:
In carth's one round the universe has changed; The moon and stars have parted from their light
Because one friend to me has been estranged.
O little bird with quivering throat distended,
WILLIAM DEAN HOWELLS. I
WHO COMFORTETH THE COMFORTER.
Behold him! How his great heart glows Into his eyes, and overflows
His eyelids with their fringes brown; Just as the sun's heart over-slips The lids of night, and freely drips
In lachrymals of glory down.
You touched his hand: how warm and strong, As if his great heart lay along
The ample palm! He spoke to you: His words were like the viewless fall Of God's dews scattered over all,
They were so fresh and pure and true.
He smiles or weeps with all who weep
His face comes, as God's morning were
Who comforteth the comforter?
Dean Howells, the writer will meet his greatest difficulty in the finding and bringing out of some new and interesting points concerning this already well-known writer that have not been given to the public. Foremost among the literary men of the day, he has achieved a reputation both gratifying and enviable; nor has this greatness been “thrust upon him;" it has cost many a weary day's toil. Whatever laurels he has gleaned, have been fairly earned.
William Dean Howells was born at Martin's Ferry, Ohio, March 1, 1837, and at the early age of nine years we find our embryo poet at the compositor's case in his father's office at Hamilton, O., the family having moved there when William was three years old. In 1849 Mr. Howells pere sold his journal and moved the family to Dayton, O., purchasing the Transcript, a semi-weekly paper, and changing it into a daily. Young Howells frequently worked until eleven o'clock at night, then rose at four in the morning to deliver the papers to the subscribers. It was said at the time that he was the swiftest compositor in Dayton.
In 1851 the Transcript failed and the family moved to Green county. The father accepted a position as Clerk of the House at Columbus, the capital, and the boy became a compositor on the Ohio State Journal, receiving four dollars a week, which was contributed to the general family fund.
His first poem appeared in the State Journal, and the second in the Cleveland Herald, the editor of which, S. D. Harris, was very kind and encouraging to the lad struggling so manfully to make his way in the world. When Howells was fifteen the family moved to Ashtabula, the father purchasing the Sentinel. At nineteen he became the Columbus correspondent of the Cincinnati Gazette, and at twenty-two the news editor of the State Journal, on which he had formerly been compositor. Notwithstanding the difficulties under which he had labored, Howells managed to learn Latin, something of Greek, as well as some of the modern languages. His favorite was Spanish, in which he was very proficient, as also in German, translating many poems into English, the most notable among them being his translations of Heine's poems from the German. Meanwhile an original poem had been offered to the Atlantic Monthly, which to his surprise and delight was accepted. In one year five original poems were published in that magazine.
In 1861 Mr. Howells was appointed by President Lincoln, consul to Venice, and a year later was married in Paris to Eleanor G., sister of Larkin G. Mead, the sculptor. Three children were given to them who at an early age gave unmistakable
At night he wrestles with his pain
Of tears to see if through the dim
His reeking forehead, soothing him.
Oh, he whose lips breathe constant grace, Who ever bears upon his face
The silent grand apocalypse Of God's sweet mercy, must receive Small part of what he gives, and grieve
Uncomforted in Hope's eclipse.
Uncomforted? Nay, think not so!
And list the soul where it may boast
He knows Christ best who helps men most.
Pure deeds are fruit of love divine,
To make its holiest pulses stir
God comforteth the comforter.
And eastward athwart the pasture-lot
And over the milk-white buckwheat field I could see the stately elm, where I shot
The first black squirrel I ever killed.
And southward over the bottom-land
I could see the mellow breadths of farm From the river-shores to the hills expand,
Clasped in the curving river's arm.
evidence of the refined and literary home in which they were reared. The eldest of these children, Winifred, a beautiful girl, died early last spring. This has been a sad blow to the parents.
At the expiration of Mr. Howells' term at Venice, he returned to America, becoming assistant editor of the Atlantic Monthly, and six years later Editor-inChief. In 1886 he accepted a position on Harper's Magazine, delighting his readers each month with the bright, racy droppings from his pen, in the Editor's Study. In 1860 he published in connection with John James Piatt, a collection of poems under the title of “ Poems of Two Friends." In 1886 he published his collected poems. Much could be said of Mr. Howells as a prose writer, but it is as a poet that we speak of him to-day. Latterly he has paid little attention to metrical composition, which is to be regretted. Personally Mr. Howells is of a kindly sympathetic nature, prone to be very charitable with the shortcomings of young writers, and never fails to give a kind, encouraging word.
N. L. M.
In the fields we set our guileless snares
For rabbits and pigeons and wary quails, Content with the vaguest feathers and hairs
From doubtful wings and vanished tails.
And in the blue summer afternoon
We used to sit in the mulberry-tree:
Shook the leaves and glittering berries free;
And while we watched the wagons go
Across the river, along the road, To the mill above, or the mill below,
With horses that stooped to the heavy load,
The street ebbs under and makes no sound; But, with bargains shrieked on every hand,
The noisy market rings around.
We told old stories and made new plans,
And felt our hearts gladden within us again, For we did not dream that this life of a man's
Could ever be what we know as men.