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THE SERMON OF ST. FRANCIS.-BELISARIUS.
In the middle of the town,
From its fountains in the hills,
Tumbling through the narrow gorge,
The Canneto rushes down,
Turns the great wheels of the mills,
Lifts the hammers of the forge.
'T is a stairway, not a street, That ascends the deep ravine, Where the torrent leaps between Rocky walls that almost meet. Toiling up from stair to stair Peasant girls their burdens bear; Sunburnt daughters of the soil, Stately figures tall and straight, What inexorable fate
Dooms them to this life of toil?
Lord of vineyards and of lands,
Far above the convent stands.
On its terraced walk aloof
Leans a monk with folded hands,
Placid, satisfied, serene,
Looking down upon the scene
Over wall and red-tiled roof;
Wondering unto what good end
All this toil and traffic tend,
And why all men cannot be
Free from care and free from pain,
And the sordid love of gain
And as indolent as he.
Where are now the freighted barks
From the marts of east and west?
Where the knights in iron sarks
Journeying to the Holy Land,
Glove of steel upon the hand,
Cross of crimson on the breast?
Where the pomp of camp and court?
Where the pilgrims with their prayers?
Where the merchants with their wares,
And their gallant brigantines
Sailing safely into port
Chased by corsair Algerines?
Vanished like a fleet of cloud,
Like a passing trumpet-blast,
Are those splendors of the past,
And the commerce and the crowd!
Fathoms deep beneath the seas
Lie the ancient wharves and quays,
Swallowed by the engulfing waves;
Silent streets and vacant halls,
Ruined roofs and towers and walls;
Hidden from all mortal eyes
Deep the sunken city lies:
Even cities have their graves!
This is an enchanted land!
Round the headlands far away
Sweeps the blue Salernian bay
With its sickle of white sand:
Further still and furthermost
On the dim discovered coast
Pæstum with its ruins lies,
And its roses all in bloom
Seem to tinge the fatal skies
Of that lonely land of doom.
On his terrace, high in air,
Nothing doth the good monk care
For such worldly themes as these.
From the garden just below
Little puffs of perfume blow,
And a sound is in his ears
Of the murmur of the bees
In the shining chestnut-trees;
Nothing else he heeds or hears.
All the landscape seems to swoon
In the happy afternoon;
Slowly o'er his senses creep
The encroaching waves of sleep, And he sinks as sank the town, Unresisting, fathoms down, Into caverns cool and deep!
Walled about with drifts of snow,
Hearing the fierce north-wind blow,
Seeing all the landscape white,
And the river cased in ice,
Comes this memory of delight,
Comes this vision unto me
Of a long-lost Paradise
In the land beyond the sea.
THE SERMON OF ST. FRANCIS.
UP soared the lark into the air,
A shaft of song, a winged prayer,
As if a soul, released from pain,
Were flying back to heaven again.
St. Francis heard; it was to him
An emblem of the Seraphim;
The upward motion of the fire,
The light, the heat, the heart's desire.
Around Assisi's convent gate
The birds, God's poor who cannot wait, From moor and mere and darksome wood Came flocking for their dole of food.
"O brother birds," St. Francis said, "Ye come to me and ask for bread, But not with bread alone to-day Shall ye be fed and sent away.
"Ye shall be fed, ye happy birds,
With manna of celestial words;
Not mine, though mine they seem to be,
Not mine, though they be spoken through me.
"O, doubly are ye bound to praise
The great Creator in your lays;
He giveth you your plumes of down,
Your crimson hoods, your cloaks of brown.
"He giveth you your wings to fly And breathe a purer air on high, And careth for you everywhere, Who for yourselves so little care!"
With flutter of swift wings and songs Together rose the feathered throngs, And singing scattered far apart; Deep peace was in St. Francis' heart.
He knew not if the brotherhood
His homily had understood;
He only knew that to one ear
The meaning of his words was clear.
I AM poor and old and blind;
The sun burns me, and the wind
Blows through the city gate
And covers me with dust
From the wheels of the august
Justinian the Great.
It was for him I chased
The Persians o'er wild and waste,
THREE FRIENDS OF MINE.
WHEN I remember them, those friends of mine,
Who are no longer here, the noble three,
Who half my life were more than friends to me,
And whose discourse was like a generous wine,
I most of all remember the divine
Something, that shone in them, and made us see The archetypal man, and what might be The amplitude of Nature's first design. In vain I stretch my hands to clasp their hands; I cannot find them. Nothing now is left But a majestic memory. They meanwhile Wander together in Elysian lands,
NOWHERE such a devious stream,
Save in fancy or in dream,
Winding slow through bush and brake
Links together lake and lake.
Perchance remembering me, who am bereft
Of their dear presence, and, remembering, smile.
Walled with woods or sandy shelf,
Ever doubling or itself
Flows the stream, so still and slow
That it hardly seems to flow.
Never errant knight of old, Lost in woodland or on wold, Such a winding path pursued Through the sylvan solitude.
Never school-boy in his quest After hazel-nut or nest, Through the forest in and out Wandered loitering thus about.
In the mirror of its tide Tangled thickets on each side Hang inverted, and between Floating cloud or sky screne.
Swift or swallow on the wing
Seems the only living thing,
Or the loon, that laughs and flies
Down to those reflected skies.
Silent stream! thy Indian name
Unfamiliar is to fame;
For thou hidest here alone,
Well content to be unknown.
But thy tranquil waters teach Wisdom deep as human speech, Moving without haste or noise In unbroken equipoise.
Though thou turnest no busy mill,
And art ever calm and still,
Even thy silence seems to say
To the traveller on his way :-
"Traveller, hurrying from the heat
Of the city, stay thy feet!
Rest awhile, nor longer waste
Life with inconsiderate haste!
"Be not like a stream that brawls
Loud with shallow waterfalls,
But quiet self-control
Link together soul and soul."
IN Attica thy birthplace should have been,
Or the Ionian Isles, or where the seas
Encircle in their arms the Cyclades,
So wholly Greek wast thou in thy serene
And childlike joy of life, O Philhelene!
Around thee would have swarmed the Attic bees;
Homer had been thy friend, or Socrates, And Plato welcomed thee to his demesne. For thee old legends breathed historic breath, Thou sawest Poseidon in the purple sea, And in the sunset Jason's fleece of gold! O, what hadst thou to do with cruel Death, Who wast so full of life, or Death with thee, That thou shouldst die before thou hadst grown
I STAND again on the familiar shore,
And hear the waves of the distracted sea Piteously calling and lamenting thee, And waiting restless at thy cottage door. The rocks, the sea-weed on the ocean floor, The willows in the meadow, and the free Wild winds of the Atlantic welcome me; Then why shouldst thou be dead, and come no more? Ah, why shouldst thou be dead, when common
Are busy with their trivial affairs,
Having and holding? Why, when thou hadst read
Nature's mysterious manuscript, and then
Wast ready to reveal the truth it bears,
Why art thou silent? Why shouldst thou be
RIVER, that stealest with such silent pace
Around the City of the Dead, where lies
A friend who bore thy name, and whom these
Shall see no more in his accustomed place, Linger and fold him in thy soft embrace
And say good night, for now the western skies Are red with sunset, and gray mists arise Like damps that gather on a dead man's face. Good night! good night! as we so oft have said Beneath this roof at midnight, in the days That are no more, and shall no more return. Thou hast but taken thy lamp and gone to bed; I stay a little longer, as one stays To cover up the embers that still burn.
THE doors are all wide open; at the gate
The blossomed lilacs counterfeit a blaze, And seem to warm the air; a dreamy haze Hangs o'er the Brighton meadows like a fate, And on their margin, with sea-tides elate,
The flooded Charles, as in the happier days, Writes the last letter of his name, and stays His restless steps, as if compelled to wait. I also wait! but they will come no more,
Those friends of mine, whose presence satisfied The thirst and hunger of my heart. Ah me! They have forgotten the pathway to my door!. Something is gone from nature since they died, And summer is not summer, nor can be.
THE young Endymion sleeps Endymion's sleep;
The shepherd-boy whose tale was left half told!
The solemn grove uplifts its shield of gold
To the red rising moon, and loud and deep
The nightingale is singing from the steep;
It is midsummer, but the air is cold;
Can it be death? Alas, beside the fold
A shepherd's pipe lies shattered near his sheep.
Lo! in the moonlight gleams a marble white,
On which I read: "Here lieth one whose name
Was writ in water." And was this the meed
Of his sweet singing? Rather let me write :
"The smoking flax before it burst to flame
Was quenched by death, and broken the
TORRENT of light and river of the air,
Along whose bed the glimmering stars are seen Like gold and silver sands in some ravine Where mountain streams have left their channels bare!
The Spaniard sees in thee the pathway, where
His patron saint descended in the sheen
Of his celestial armor, on serene
And quiet nights, when all the heavens were fair.
Not this I see, nor yet the ancient fable
Of Phaeton's wild course, that scorched the skies
THE SOUND OF THE SEA.-IL PONTE VECCHIO DI FIRENZE.
A SUMMER DAY BY THE SEA.
THE sun is set; and in his latest beams
Yon little cloud of ashen gray and gold,
Slowly upon the amber air unrolled,
The falling mantle of the Prophet seems.
From the dim headlands many a lighthouse gleams,
The street-lamps of the ocean; and behold, O'erhead the banners of the night unfold; The day hath passed into the land of dreams. O summer day beside the joyous sea!
O summer day so wonderful and white, So full of gladness and so full of pain! Forever and forever shalt thou be
To some the gravestone of a dead delight, To some the landmark of a new domain.
I SAW the long line of the vacant shore,
The sea-weed and the shells upon the sand,
And the brown rocks left bare on every hand,
As if the ebbing tide would flow no more.
Then heard I, more distinctly than before,
The ocean breathe and its great breast expand, And hurrying came on the defenceless land The insurgent waters with tumultuous roar. All thought and feeling and desire, I said,
Love, laughter, and the exultant joy of song Have ebbed from me forever! Suddenly o'er
The world belongs to those who come the last, They will find hope and strength as we have done.
A NAMELESS GRAVE
"A SOLDIER of the Union mustered out,"
Is the inscription on an unknown grave
At Newport News, beside the salt-sea wave,
Nameless and dateless; sentinel or scout
Shot down in skirmish, or disastrous rout
Of battle, when the loud artillery drave
Its iron wedges through the ranks of brave
And doomed battalions, storming the redoubt.
Thou unknown hero sleeping by the sea
In thy forgotten grave? with secret shame I feel my pulses beat, my forehead burn, When I remember thou hast given for me All that thou hadst, thy life, thy very name, And I can give thee nothing in return.
LULL me to sleep, ye winds, whose fitful sound Seems from some faint Eolia harpstring caught;
Seal up the hundred wakeful eyes of thought As Hermes with his lyre in sleep profound The hundred wakeful eyes of Argus bound; For I am weary, and am overwrought With too much toil, with too much care distraught,
And with the iron crown of anguish crowned. Lay thy soft hand upon my brow and cheek, Ŏ peaceful sleep! until from pain released I breathe again uninterrupted breath! Ah, with what subtle meaning did the Greek Call thee the lesser mystery at the feast Whereof the greater mystery is death!
THE OLD BRIDGE AT FLORENCE
TADDEO GADDI built me. I am old,
Five centuries old. I plant my foot of stone Upon the Arno, as St. Michael's own Was planted on the dragon. Fold by fold Beneath me as it struggles, I behold
Its glistening scales. Twice hath it overthrown My kindred and companions. Me alone It moveth not, but is by me controlled. I can remember when the Medici
Were driven from Florence; longer still ago The final wars of Ghibelline and Guelf. Florence adorns me with her jewelry;
And when I think that Michael Angelo
Hath leaned on me, I glory in myself.
IL PONTE VECCHIO DI FIRENZE.
GADDI mi fece; il Ponte Vecchio sono;
Cinquecent' anni già sull' Arno pianto
Il piede, come il suo Michele Santo
Piantò sul draco. Mentre ch' io ragiono
Lo vedo torcere con flebil suono
Le rilucenti scaglie. Ha questi affranto
Due volte i miei maggior. Me solo intanto
Neppure muove, ed io non l' abbandono.
Io mi rammento quando fur cacciati
I Medici; pur quando Ghibellino
E Guelfo fecer pace mi rammento.
Fiorenza i suoi giojelli m' ha prestati;
E quando penso ch' Agnolo il divino
Su me posava, insuperbir mi sento.
Thus sang the Potter at his task
Beneath the blossoming hawthorn-tree,
While o'er his features, like a mask,
The quilted sunshine and leaf-shade'
Moved, as the boughs above him swayed,
And clothed him, till he seemed to be
A figure woven in tapestry,
So sumptuously was he arrayed
In that magnificent attire
Of sable tissue flaked with fire.
Like a magician he appeared,
A conjurer without book or beard;
And while he plied his magic art—
For it was magical to me -
I stood in silence and apart,
And wondered more and more to see
That shapeless, lifeless mass of clay
Rise up to meet the master's hand,
And now contract and now expand,
And even his slightest touch obey;
While ever in a thoughtful mood
He sang his ditty, and at times
Whistled a tune between the rhymes,
As a melodious interlude.
TURN, turn, my wheel! Turn round and round
Without a pause, without a sound:
So spins the flying world away!
This clay, well mixed with marl and sand,
Follows the motion of my hand:
For some must follow, and some command,
Though all are made of clay!
Thus still the Potter sang, and still,
By some unconscious act of will,
The melody and even the words
Were intermingled with my thought,
As bits of colored thread are caught
And woven into nests of birds.
And thus to regions far remote,
Beyond the ocean's vast expanse,
This wizard in the motley coat
Transported me on wings of song,
And by the northern shores of France
Bore me with restless speed along.
Turn, turn, my wheel! All things must change
To something new, to something strange;
Nothing that is can pause or stay;
The moon will wax, the moon will wane,
The mist and cloud will turn to rain,
The rain to mist and cloud again,
To-morrow be to-day.
What land is this that seems to be
A mingling of the land and sea?
This land of sluices, dikes, and dunes?
This water-net, that tessellates
The landscape? this unending maze
Of gardens, through whose latticed gates
The imprisoned pinks and tulips gaze;
Where in long summer afternoons
The sunshine, softened by the haze,
Comes streaming down as through a screen;
Where over fields and pastures green
The painted ships float high in air,
And over all and everywhere
The sails of windmills sink and soar
Like wings of sea-gulls on the shore?
What land is this? Yon pretty town Is Delft, with all its wares displayed;
The pride, the market-place, the crown
And centre of the Potter's trade.
See! every house and room is bright
With glimmers of reflected light
From plates that on the dresser shine:
Flagons to foam with Flemish beer,
Or sparkle with the Rhenish wine,
And pilgrim flasks with fleurs-de-lis,
And ships upon a rolling sea,
And tankards pewter topped, and queer
With comic mask and musketeer!
Each hospitable chimney smiles
A welcome from its painted tiles;
The parlor walls, the chamber floors,
The stairways and the corridors,
The borders of the garden walks,
Are beautiful with fadeless flowers,
That never droop in winds or showers,
And never wither on their stalks.
Who is it in the suburbs here,
This Potter, working with such cheer,
In this mean house, this mean attire,
His manly features bronzed with fire,
Whose figulines and rustic wares
Scarce find him bread from day to day?
This madman, as the people say,
Who breaks his tables and his chairs
To feed his furnace fires, nor cares
Who goes unfed if they are fed,
Nor who may live if they are dead?
This alchemist with hollow cheeks
And sunken, searching eyes, who seeks,
By mingled earths and ores combined
With potency of fire, to find
Some new enamel, hard and bright,
His dream, his passion, his delight?
O Palissy! within thy breast
Burned the hot fever of unrest;
Thine was the prophet's vision, thine
The exultation, the divine
Insanity of noble minds,
That never falters nor abates,
But labors and endures and waits,
Till all that it foresees it finds,
Or what it cannot find creates!
Turn, turn, my wheel! This earthen jar
A touch can make, a touch can mar;
And shall it to the Potter say,
What makest thou? Thou hast no hand?
As men who think to understand
A world by their Creator planned,
Who wiser is than they.