Katharine Lee Bates (1859-1929)

Wikipedia entry.

"She is attached to Wellesley College; and having printed many fugitive poems, they were collected into a volume by the alumnae.  She recently won a prize for a quatrain on the subject of poetry  Felices appeared in the Independent.."  (Crandall)

From America the Beautiful and Other Poems (1911).

return to sonnet central return to 19th century Americans

"Let me be blesséd for the peace I make."

"Let me be blesséd for the peace I make."
God grant that old Shakespearean praise may glow,
Columbia, on thy brows most royal so,
Girt with a crown no mortal chances break.
The eagle that from ruined Rome we take
Hath but a pagan heart. His kingdoms go,
That the dove's kingdom still may come, and flow
O'er all the world. Ere the New Century wake,
Make straight her paths, her sweet Triumphal Way,
For not by might and power earth's sorrows cease;
Nor shall the stars in our young banner dim
While in its stripes is set the sign of Him
Who won by sufferance an eternal sway,
The King of Glory and the Prince of Peace.

Above the Battle

Honor and pity for the smitten field,
The valorous ranks mown down like precious corn,
Whose want must famish love morn after morn,
Till Death, the good physician, shall have healed
The craving and the tearspent eyelids sealed.
Proud be the homes that for each cannon-torn,
Encrimsoned rampart have been left forlorn;
Holy the knells o'er fallen patriots pealed.

But they, above the battle, throng a space
Of starry silences and silver rest.
Commingled ghosts, they press like brothers through
White, dove-winged portals, where one Father's face
Atones their passion, as the ethereal blue
Serenes the fiery glows of east and west.

America to England


Who would trust England, let him lift his eyes
To Nelson, columned o'er Trafalgar Square,
Her hieroglyph of duty, written where
The roar of traffic hushes to the skies;
Or mark, while Paul's vast shadow softly lies
On Gordon's statued sleep, how praise and prayer
Flush through the frank young faces clustering there
To con that kindred rune of sacrifice.
O England, no bland cloud-ship in the blue,
But rough oak plunging on o'er perilous jars
Of reef and ice, our faith will follow you
The more for tempest roar that strains your spars
And splits your canvas, be your helm but true,
Your courses shapen by the eternal stars.


The nightmare melts at last, and London wakes
To her old habit of victorious ease.
More men, and more, and more for over-seas,
More guns until the giant hammer breaks
That patriot folk whom even God forsakes.
Shall not Great England work her will on these,
The foolish little nations, and appease
An angry shame that in her memory aches?
But far beyond the fierce-contested flood,
The cannon-planted pass, the shell-torn town,
The last wild carnival of fire and blood,
Beware, beware that dim and awful Shade,
Armored with Milton's sword and Cromwell's frown,
Affronted Freedom, of her own betrayed.


A lonely burial-ground is on Cape Cod.
Claiming the privilege of age, each stone
Leans as it will, its scarred front overflown
With winged cherubic head. By grace of God,
Fulfilled in nature's gentle period,
All ghastly blazonry of skull and bone,
Muffled in moss and lichen-overgrown
Hath made its peace with beauty. Seldom trod
These grasses are, where, ghosts of old regret,
Once-tended vines run wild, but should a guest
Stoop there, this weathered epitaph to trace,
'Twill whisper him of all the human race.
Here lies, beneath a heartsease coverlet,
"Patience, wife of Experience," at rest.

The Tree of Song

An idle tree, whose timber builds no ships,
Whose wilding growth is all unfit to trace
Trim parallels in park and market-place,
Yet precious for the fragrant dew that drips
From blowing sprays to comfort fevered lips,
For lilt of hidden birds, for changeful grace
Of leafy shade that sunbeams interlace,
For heaven's dear blue about the spiring tips.
The world's great highway takes no heed of it,
Though paths wind thither through the April green.
The earth's blind forces feel no need of it;
Yet was there shaped, before the shaping hours,
A subtle league and sympathy between
This rhythmic tree and all effectual powers.

Musarum Sacerdos

Who called himself your priest, Immortal Choir?
Not Dante, though in ruddiest altar-flame
He plunged his torch, and bore it through the shame
Of deepening hell to domes of starry fire,
In steadfast temple-service. Not that sire
Of glorious chant, our Milton, he who came
With solemn tread and vestments purged from blame
To swing the censer of divine desire.
But Horace, sipping at your crystal spring
As lightly as he quaffed his Sabine wine,
Caught up that lute, about whose golden string
The rose and myrtle he was deft to twine,
And sweetly sang, in pauses of the feast:
"The poet is the gods' anointed priest."

To Shelley


Hearing the autumnal wind, I muse on thee,
O Shelley, bird of most aerial note,
Whose songs came pulsing from a kindred throat,
As passionate, impetuous and free,
As sudden-shrill with visionary glee,
And hoarse with human agonies which smote
Thy gentlest heart till it would fain devote
Its music unto man's captivity,
Singing the day when wrath and pride and fear,
With the spectral troop of their unholy kind,
Shall melt in love, as shadows disappear
Before the sun; to evil unresigned,
Urging the nobler discontent I hear
In all these restless voices of the wind.


The summer comes again, by vale and hill
With blossoms fashioning her fragrant way;
But thou, the child of summer, to the day
Art long unknown, and all thy steps are still.
In summer thou wert born, and didst fulfill
Thy scanty urn of years while summer spray
Whitened the shores where thy mute image lay
Robbed of its poet. Hence the summers will
Seek thee in vain. The eye that watched the cloud
Hath locked its sight beneath the fallen lid;
The ear that heard the skylark's note is vowed
To a perpetual quiet. Thou art hid
Beyond the summers, and thy name belongs
But to a ceaseless melody of songs.

"Come unto Me"

We labor, and are heavy-laden. Where
Shall we find rest unto our souls? We bleed
On thorn and flint, and rove in pilgrim weed
From shrine to shrine, but comfort is not there.
What went we out into thy desert bare,
O Human Life, to see? Thy greenest reed
Is Love, unmighty for our utmost need,
And shaken with the wind of our despair.
A voice from heaven like dew on Hermon falleth,
That voice whose passion paled the olive leaf
In thy dusk aisles, Gethsemane, thou blest
Of gardens. 'Tis the Man of Sorrows calleth,
The Man of Sorrows and acquaint with grief:
"Come unto Me, and I will give you rest."


We count them happy who have richly known
The sweets of life, the sunshine on the hills,
The mosses in the valley, love that fills
The heart with tears as fragrant as thine own,
O tender moonlight lily, over-blown,
When the inevitable season wills,
By gentle winds beside thy native rills--
We count them happy, yet not these alone.
There is a Crown of Thorns, Way of the Cross,
Consuming Fire that burns the spirit pure.
By luster of the gold set free from dross,
By light of heaven seen best through earth's obscure,
By the exceeding gain that waits on loss--
Behold, we count them happy who endure.

Thou Knowest

Thou knowest, Thou Who art the soul of all
Selfless endeavor, how I longed to make
This deed of mine, adventured for love's sake,
Thy deed,--sweet grapes upon a sunny wall,
A rose whose petals into fragrance fall,
A glint of heaven glassed in some lonely lake
Amidst the heather and the fringing brake,
Our secret,--ah, Thou knowest.
                                                 Though it call
Only for pardon, still to Thee I bring
My poor, shamed deed that craved the Beautiful,
--To Thee, the Master-Artist, Who alone
Wilt of Thy grace see in this graceless thing
The pattern marred by the imperfect tool,
And know that dim, wronged pattern for Thine Own.

To a Crow

Come hither, taunted bird, and I will stroke
Thy ruffled plumage with a verse, O triste
And sombre minstrel at our Twelfth Night feast,
A music masquerading in thy croak.
How often, when the wild March mornings broke,
Have I descried thee, like a demon priest,
Heaping hoarse curses on the riotous East
From the bare branches of some tossing oak!
Yet ever welcome is thy wizard flight,
--Most welcome now, when Earth lies imaging
The sleep of death beneath a winding-sheet
Of frozen snow intolerably white,
A pallid waste crossed by the sudden, fleet,
Beautiful shadow of thy sable wing.


A naked tree against the sunset sky,
A tall, black tree whose leaves of emerald sheen,
That blissful birds were wont to peep between,
Long since have fallen. Through her summit high
The winter winds have swept with bitter cry
And left her desolate, a crownless queen,
Yet beautiful for amber lights serene
That all the ebon outlines glorify.
The Light! The Light! 'Mid her abandoned, bare,
Stript branches like a tracery of jet,
Streams heavenly splendor. Fairer to behold
Than all those summer graces they forget,
Her boughs are as a shadow on the air,
A foil, a fretwork in the flood of gold.

Into the Night

Arise, come forth into the night! Arise,
Belovéd, for her dusky lips will teach
A nobler tale than any mortal speech,
And the pure lights of her eternal eyes,
Beyond all anger, sorrow and surprise,
Look with the same large loveliness on each,
Not human-fashion, scorning who beseech
To cherish those who scorn. The gleaming skies
Are royal with old goddesses and queens
Whose faces lit the earth till, banished thence,
They watch from heaven the fair, familiar scenes
That nevermore shall do them reverence,
Though humbled Cassiopaea earthward leans,
And Cynthia sheds her old beneficence.

When It Befortunes Us

When it befortunes us, who love so dearly,
To hurt each other, let us haste to wring
This joy from our remorseful passioning,--
The wound is witness that we love sincerely.
So slight a weapon, word or silence merely,
Would scarce effect surprisal of a sting,
Were't not my word, thy silence, for we cling
One soul together. Life allots austerely
Unto the rose of love the thorny power
To tear the heart, but ah, love's anodyne!
The prick but proves the presence of the flower,
Our one white rose from gardens all divine.
Then, only then, could grief outlast her hour
Were I ungrieved by least rebuff of thine.

"The Rest Is Silence"


The shadow of Death's wing had fallen grey
Upon her face, the mother-face, our star
Of home since life first read its calendar
Within our smiles; we felt her slip away,
Our vain hold clinging to an empty clay,
Down that hushed valley where the white mists are,
On to its utmost verge, so far, so far
That her return was but as spirits may
Briefly revisit earth. For oh, she shone
Transfigured, yet so winsome, that our awe
Was blended with her own beatitude.
The burden of her fourscore years was gone;
Escaped from Time, she mocked his mighty law;
Her children looked upon her maidenhood.


Eager and shy, as when among her peers
A girl will pour her confidence, she told
In voice where laughter ran a thread of gold
A history all novel to our ears.
Her blissful eyes oblivious of tears,
With lingering touch she one by one unrolled
Her bridal memories from fold on fold
Of fragrant silence. Dead thse fifty years
Was he with whom, young hand in hand, she went
To their first home, which simple neighbor-folk
Had filled with garden-bloom and forest scent;
Yet still of him, and that June path they fared,
Those welcoming flowers, her failing accents spoke;
--Of how Love led her to a place prepared.


When the bruised heart, bewildered first and numb,
Quickened to pain, how passing strange it seemed
To miss her comfort! She, who still esteemed
Old lore above the schools, would she not come
With potency of hoarded balsamum,
To heal the hurt? Thus craving her, I dreamed.
Before me, sundering east from west, there gleamed
A marble wall, illimitable, dumb,
A blank of white! when lo, her own sweet face,
With no more halo than the crispy lace
I knew so well, from sudden casement smiled,
--Her blithe, audacious self, infringing so
With stolen peep Death's new punctiliom,
Breaking his code to reassure her child.

"Short Day and Long Remembrance"


Our Wellesley knew thee but a few swift years,
A maiden spirit, fresh as morning skies,
Pale beauty of the face and frank young eyes
With privacies of tenderness and tears.
Half shy, half proud amid thy clustering peers
Thou borest thee in queenly lily wise,
Yet swaying toward them in a sweet surprise
Of love and faith--prophetic atmospheres.
For summer shone, and goldenly thine heart
Bloomed into bliss, but now--oh, strange, new ache
That makes itself familiar--now thou art
A broken lily, all untimely dimmed,
A broken lily, for whose vanished sake
Our speech is faint, our eyes are overbrimmed.


There is a life outwearing even grief.
Our shining lily, of the sunbeams fain,
Smit by a sudden vehemence of rain
Is dashed to earth with ruined cup and leaf;
But Death, her troubler, holds his mortal fief
Of Love the overlord, whose meads retain
A perfume sweeter for the bruise and stain,
Abiding fragrance of a blossom brief.
Transplanted, be it so, to gardens bright,
Where drooping lilies, sprent with honey-dew,
By angel touches wax more dazzling white
Than eye conceives beneath this baffling blue,
At least remains to us of shadowed sight
Thy folding effluence of fair and true.


God pity all whose hearts are anguish-torn
For loss of her, but softest mercies flow
On these, her little ones, who cannot know
What cause their baby voices have to mourn.
In vain their fitful cries pursue her borne
From rooms belovéd, yet content to go,
Sealed in that ivory trance from joy and woe,
Her bridal raiment now serenely worn.
Too young for memory, too young to miss
Her cherishments, and yet it may not be
As they had never felt the mother-kiss,
Nor reached their wandering hands to catch her smile;
But, haply, dreamland keeps some charméd isle
Where love shall brood them safe from storm and sea.

Only a Year

Only a year, but how art thou exalted
In that remoteness of unanswering death!
Not words could utter what thy silence saith,
For oft in fellowship thy words we faulted,
Pointing how here and there the logic halted;
But now that God hath hushed the laboring breath,
Thy silence all thy words interpreteth,
Serene, majestic silence o'er us vaulted
As the blue arch of sky. Only a year,
And thou, who wast familiar, art become
A name of awe. What ranked as commonplace,
Mere daily running of the daily race,
Is waxen to heroic. Life is dumb
And waits on Death to make her meanings clear.

The Funeral of Phillips Brooks


White lies the winter on the weary land,
Winter of many a loss and many a grief;
Yet must this burial day be counted chief
Of sorrows and most sore to understand;
For God hath laid the lightning of His hand
On His own signal tower, for all too brief
A date outsoaring mists of unbelief
To drink the living blue, a beacon grand.
But whilst the desolate throng without the portal
Of solemn Trinity in silence waits,
As listening for the beat of passing wing,
To view that clay which harbored an immortal,
Down the bleak air a tender breath of spring
Steals like a waft from Heaven's glad-opening gates.


Within the beauteous walls again too strait
For the wistful flocks who mourn their shepherd gone,--
Since here all creeds one shining garment don,
One seamless robe,--our heavy spirits wait
On the old Hebraic anthem passionate
And fall of hallowed words that bear upon
Their cadences strange consolation won
From centuries of faith reverberate.
But oh, the empty pulpit eloquent
Of death, the sable pulpit over all!
Yet even here is soul with flesh at strife;
For wise and tender was the hand that lent
A glowing wreath to that funereal pall,--
Against the gloom the exultant flush of life.


"For all the saints who from their labors rest"--
White gleam the lilies on the lifted bier,
As reverently the youthful bearers rear
Their sad, belovéd burden, pacing west,
Whilst all that host, as from a single breast,
One voice of praise outringing sweet and clear,
Peals the triumphal chant he loved to hear:
"Thy name, O Jesu, be forever blest."
Ah, turn and watch the pageantry of woe
Out through the darkened door. The glory-hymn
Wavers a space, but swells again, for lo!
The dismal pomp of death, the mourners slow,
The shrouded casket on the vision dim,
That gleam of Easter lilies dazzles so.


The train wends outward, where new thousands wait
Beneath an ampler temple-arch of sky,
To speed with murmurous prayer and paean high
The royal progress of that sombre state;
On through the streets to sorrow consecrate;
On where thy sons, hushed Harvard, gather nigh,
To glean a blessing from the passing by;
And so to Auburn's unrestoring gate.
Is this thy victory, Death? Not thine, not thine,
Howe'er to grief we grant her natural throes.
He prophesied of life;we asked a sign,
So little mortals know for what they pray,
And by his open grave amid the snows
A chastened city keeps her Easter day.

First View of Mount Blanc

From dim aerial depths, a silver light
Stole forth, and formed, and soared against the sky,
A domelike summit, gloriously bright,

The adoration of the gazing eye,
Mont Blanc. O beautiful beyond all dream,
That thou for our great longing shouldst put by

Thy curtains woven soft with mist, and gleam
In such a splendor! Queen of Air, are those
Lustres miraculously white, supreme

In sparkling radiance on the blue repose
Of heaven, thy diamond-crusted veils, thy frore,
Virginal vesture of eternal snows?

We have beheld the vision. Evermore
Must our poor life be nobler than before.

Abu Simbel


"Here will I build a temple, I the Lord,
Ramses the Great, crowned with the Double Crown,
Son of the Sun, whose chariot wheels swept down
The hosts of Kadesh, and whose thirsty sword
Hath revelled in this Ethiopian horde,
Smiting their necks. To teach them my renown,
Pyloned and obelisked in many a town,
I build a shrine wherein to be adored.
Take me this mountain of the living rock;
Hew it and hollow; carve its river-face
As mountain never yet was carved, to bear
My likenesses repeated like a prayer;
Then probe it to its inmost secret place,
And sculpture godhood from the savage block."


The temple-cliff against the soft, deep blue
Of Nubia's star-sown sky stands ashen-grey,
Save where like sifted snow or frosted spray
The moonlight blanches it. Supreme in view
Sit throned the four colossi, emblems true
Of thine illimitable pride, thou clay,
Dust of the desert, Ramses, strewn to-day
In shattered images thine Egypt through.
Yet the stupendous Four are meek to Him
Graved at the hewn rock's heart, eternal, dim,
A God with Gods. With that dread Trinity,
Burning Harmachis, and the death-white Ptah
And, Lord of Thrones, the high-plumed Ammon-Ra,
The Pharaoh mates his mock divinity.


The dawn-light steals across the solemn Nile,
Warms the huge knees and stony, silent lips
Of those ranged giants, through the portal slips
And up the great Osiris columns, while
Chamber on chamber brightens, aisle on aisle.
The walls wax wonderful with mystic ships
And pageantry of war. Blue lotus dips
In sacrifice, and sudden faces smile.
Yet poignant, penetrant, the level beam
Strikes down those dusky courts to that last gloom
Of Zenith Splendor, and the Sun in Tomb
Of Night, with Ramses, their beloved one,
And fires their altar with a fleeting gleam.

Furness Abbey

The treasure of the valley, red and tall
They rise, those sandstone fragments, overgrown
With fern and ivy and sweet blossom sown
By pitying winds. From broken arch and wall
The harebell glistens; nightshade thickets pall
Bruised effigy and sunken altar-stone.
What man rejected, Nature makes her own;
Her comfort creeps where cross and pillar fall.
Still sacred, though in lieu of white procession
Of chanting monks, the mossy shafts look down
On children's blithe-voiced play; though robins nest
In sculptured angel-wing and carven crown;
Perchance more sacred, for the heart's confession
Lies bare to Him, the heart's eternal Quest.

On the Malvern Hills

These are the hills our poet Langland trod,
"Weary forwandered," from the sunrise flush
To amber evening thrilled by merle and thrush,
Long Will, whose sombre soul went pilgrim-shod
Seeking Saint Truth. Men called him churl and clod;
He heard them not, rapt in his dream's deep hush;
Hardly he heard the merry waters gush;
Still wandering with no company but God.
These hills are holy ground because of thee,
O earthborn who wouldst make no peace with earth,
Craving that visionary clime where all
Thy troubled field of folk at last shall be
One brotherhood in labor and in mirth,
And not a blessing undivided fall.

At Wells



They chime, they chime, the sweet cathedral bells,
Cleaving my cloudy thought, if murkiest cloud
E'er hung so heavy as, on spirit bowed,
This drear confusion weighs. Where is it dwells
My truth of soul? What veil of shifting spells,
Duties unduteous, glamours disallowed,
Myself doth from myself forever shroud?
Once more that silver-throated peal outwells.
Amid the chanting throng I kneel alone,
Mute, dull of heart, yet fain to screen the brow.
Interpret me to Heaven, deep organ tone!



Clamor of rooks from pinnacle and spire
Hails an encrimsoned east; but chill and gray
Below the pillared vistas arch away
Through shadowy nave to glory-smitten choir,
Where Orient sunbeams thrill with jeweled fire
The dreaming glass that blossoms unto day
In roseate plumes and golden halo-ray
And seraph faces rapt with God-desire.
Ah, yet these walls, though hoary with the woe
And shrift of centuries, are all too strait
For such a splendor. From the elm-roofed lawn,
Where thostles chant and streams responsive flow,
I'll worship Him on Whom my longings wait,
Before the great east window of the dawn.