A Vision of Poesy - Part 02

Henry Timrod was an American poet, often called the poet laureate of the Confederacy.






I

It is not winter yet, but that sweet time
In autumn when the first cool days are past;
A week ago, the leaves were hoar with rime,
And some have dropped before the North wind's blast;
But the mild hours are back, and at mid-noon,
The day hath all the genial warmth of June.

  II

What slender form lies stretched along the mound?
Can it be his, the Wanderer's, with that brow
Gray in its prime, those eyes that wander round
Listlessly, with a jaded glance that now
Seems to see nothing where it rests, and then
Pores on each trivial object in its ken?

  III

See how a gentle maid's wan fingers clasp
The last fond love-notes of some faithless hand;
Thus, with a transient interest, his weak grasp
Holds a few leaves as when of old he scanned
The meaning in their gold and crimson streaks;
But the sweet dream has vanished! hush! he speaks!

  IV

"Once more, once more, after long pain and toil,
And yet not long, if I should count by years,
I breathe my native air, and tread the soil
I trod in childhood; if I shed no tears,
No happy tears, 't is that their fount is dry,
And joy that cannot weep must sigh, must sigh.

  V

"These leaves, my boyish books in days of yore,
When, as the weeks sped by, I seemed to stand
Ever upon the brink of some wild lore --
These leaves shall make my bed, and -- for the hand
Of God is on me, chilling brain and breath --
I shall not ask a softer couch in death.

  VI

"Here was it that I saw, or dreamed I saw,
I know not which, that shape of love and light.
Spirit of Song! have I not owned thy law?
Have I not taught, or striven to teach the right,
And kept my heart as clean, my life as sweet,
As mortals may, when mortals mortals meet?

  VII

"Thou know'st how I went forth, my youthful breast
On fire with thee, amid the paths of men;
Once in my wanderings, my lone footsteps pressed
A mountain forest; in a sombre glen,
Down which its thundrous boom a cataract flung,
A little bird, unheeded, built and sung.

  VIII

"So fell my voice amid the whirl and rush
Of human passions; if unto my art
Sorrow hath sometimes owed a gentler gush,
I know it not; if any Poet-heart
Hath kindled at my songs its light divine,
I know it not; no ray came back to mine.

  IX

"Alone in crowds, once more I sought to make
Of senseless things my friends; the clouds that burn
Above the sunset, and the flowers that shake
Their odors in the wind -- these would not turn
Their faces from me; far from cities, I
Forgot the scornful world that passed me by.

  X

"Yet even the world's cold slights I might have borne,
Nor fled, though sorrowing; but I shrank at last
When one sweet face, too sweet, I thought, for scorn,
Looked scornfully upon me; then I passed
From all that youth had dreamed or manhood planned,
Into the self that none would understand.

  XI

"She was -- I never wronged her womanhood
By crowning it with praises not her own --
She was all earth's, and earth's, too, in that mood
When she brings forth her fairest; I atone
Now, in this fading brow and failing frame,
That such a soul such soul as mine could tame.

  XII

"Clay to its kindred clay! I loved, in sooth,
Too deeply and too purely to be blest;
With something more of lust and less of truth
She would have sunk all blushes on my breast;
And -- but I must not blame her -- in my ear
Death whispers! and the end, thank God! draws near!"

  XIII

Hist! on the perfect silence of the place
Comes and dies off a sound like far-off rain
With voices mingled; on the Poet's face
A shadow, where no shadow should have lain,
Falls the next moment: nothing meets his sight,
Yet something moves betwixt him and the light.

  XIV

And a voice murmurs, "Wonder not, but hear!
ME to behold again thou need'st not seek;
Yet by the dim-felt influence on the air,
And by the mystic shadow on thy cheek,
Know, though thou mayst not touch with fleshly hands,
The genius of thy life beside thee stands!

  XV

"Unto no fault, O weary-hearted one!
Unto no fault of man's thou ow'st thy fate;
All human hearts that beat this earth upon,
All human thoughts and human passions wait
Upon the genuine bard, to him belong,
And help in their own way the Poet's song.

  XVI

"How blame the world? for the world hast thou wrought?
Or wast thou

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