Page images
PDF
EPUB

Like a pomegranate in halves,
"Drink me," said that mouth of hers,
And I drank who now am here
Where my dust with dust confers.

Bliss Carman (1861–

THE PETRIFIED FERN In a valley, centuries ago,

Grew a little fern-leaf, green and slender,

Veining delicate and fibers tender;
Waving when the wind crept down so low.

Rushes tall, and moss, and grass grew round it,
Playful sunbeams darted in and found it,
Drops of dew stole in by night, and crowned it,
But no foot of man e'er trod that way;

Earth was young, and keeping holiday.
Monster fishes swam the silent main,

Stately forests waved their giant branches,

Mountains hurled their snowy avalanches,
Mammoth creatures stalked across the plain;

Nature reveled in grand mysteries,
But the little fern was not of these,
Did not number with the hills and trees;
Only grew and waved its wild sweet way, -

No one came to note it day by day.
Earth, one time, put on a frolic mood,

Heaved the rocks and changed the mighty motion

Of the deep, strong currents of the ocean;
Moved the plain and shook the haughty wood,

Crushed the little fern in soft moist clay,
Covered it, and hid it safe away.
Oh, the long, long centuries since that day!
Oh, the changes! Oh, life's bitter cost,

Since that useless little fern was lost!
Useless? Lost? There came a thoughtful man

Searching Nature's secrets, far and deep;

From a fissure in a rocky steep
He withdrew a stone, o'er which there ran

Fairy pencilings, a quaint design,
Veinings, leafage, fibers clear and fine.
And the fern's life lay in every line!
So, I think, God hides some souls away,
Sweetly to surprise us, the last day.

Mary Bolles Branch (1840–

THE QUESTION WHITHER
WHEN we have thrown off this old suit,

So much in need of mending,
To sink among the naked mute,

Is that, think you, our ending?
We follow many, more we lead,

And you who sadly turf us,
Believe not that all living seed

Must flower above the surface.

Sensation is a gracious gift,

But were it cramped to station,
The prayer to have it cast adrift,

Would spout from all sensation.
Enough if we have winked to sun,

Have sped the plow a season;
There is a soul for labor done,

Endureth fixed as reason.

Then let our trust be firm in Good,

Though we be of the fasting;
Our questions are a mortal brood,

Our work is everlasting.
We children of Beneficence

Are in its being sharers;
And Whither vainer sounds than Whence,
For word with such wayfarers.

George Meredith (1828-1909]

THE GOOD GREAT MAN

How seldom, friend, a good great man inherits

Honor or wealth, with all his worth and pains!

It seems a story from the land of spirits
When any man obtains that which he merits,

Or any merit that which he obtains.

[ocr errors]

REPLY TO THE ABOVE

For shame, dear friend! renounce this canting strain!
What wouldst thou have a good great man obtain?
Wealth, title, dignity, a gilded chain,
Or throne of corses which his sword hath slain?
Greatness and goodness are not means, but ends.
Hath he not always treasures, always friends,-
The good great man? Three treasures,-love, and light,

And calm thoughts, equable as infant's breath;
And three firm friends, more sure than day and night, -
Himself, his Maker, and the Angel Death.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)

HUMAN FRAILTY

WEAK and irresolute is man;

The purpose of to-day,
Woven with pains into his plan,

To-morrow rends away.

The bow well bent, and smart the spring,

Vice seems already slain;
But Passion rudely snaps the string,

And it revives again.

Some foe to his upright intent

Finds out his weaker part;
Virtue engages his assent,

But Pleasure wins his heart.

'Tis here the folly of the wise

Through all his art we view:
And while his tongue the charge denies,

His conscience owns it true.

Bound on a voyage of awful length

And dangers little known,
A stranger to superior strength,

Man vainly trusts his own.

But oars alone can ne'er prevail

To reach the distant coast;
The breath of Heaven must swell the sail,
Or all the toil is lost.

William Cowper (1731-1800]

STANZAS

WHERE forlorn sunsets flare and fade

On desolate sea and lonely sand, Out of the silence and the shade

What is the voice of strange command Calling you still, as friend calls friend

With love that cannot brook delay, To rise and follow the ways that wend

Over the hills and far away?

Hark to the city, street on street

A roaring reach of death and life, Of vortices that clash and fleet

And ruin in appointed strife;
Hark to it calling, calling clear,

Calling until you cannot stay,
From dearer things than your own most dear

Over the hills and far away.

Out of the sound of the ebb-and-flow,

Out of the sight of lamp and star,
It calls you where the good winds blow,

And the unchanging meadows are;
From faded hopes and hopes agleam,

It calls you, calls you night and day
Beyond the dark, into the dream
Over the hills and far away.

William Ernest Henley (1849-1903]

THE SEEKERS

FRIENDS and loves we have none, nor wealth, nor blest

abode, But the hope, the burning hope, and the road, the lonely

road.

Not for us are content, and quiet, and peace of mind,
For we go seeking cities that we shall never find.

There is no solace on earth for us—for such as we-
Who search for the hidden beauty that eyes may never see.

Only the road and the dawn, the sun, the wind, the rain, And the watch-fire under stars, and sleep, and the road

again.

We seek the city of God, and the haunt where beauty

dwells, And we find the noisy mart and the sound of burial bells.

Never the golden city, where radiant people meet,
But the dolorous town where mourners are going about the

street.

We travel the dusty road till the light of the day is dim
And sunset shows us spires away on the world's rim.

We travel from dawn till dusk, till the day is past and by, Seeking the Holy City beyond the rim of the sky,

Friends and loves we have none, nor wealth, nor blest

abode, But the hope, the burning hope, and the road, the lonely road.

John Masefield (18

THE BELEAGUERED CITY

I HAVE read, in some old, marvelous tale,

Some legend strange and vague,
That a midnight host of specters pale

Beleaguered the walls of Prague.

« PreviousContinue »