Hjalmar Hjorth Boyesen (1848-1895)

"Prof. Boyesen is a Norwegian by birth, but is now an American citizen. His verse, if I am not mistaken, has not been collected in a volume. As a romancist he is almost as well known on the eastern as on the western side of the Atlantic." (Sharp)

"A native of Norway, born in 1848, he is well-known as a college professor, first at Cornell University and now at Columbia College, as well as a lecturer and writer on literary and social subjects.  He is especially well-schooled in German and Scandinavian literature.  Poems, Idylls of Norway.  (Charles Scribner's Sons.)"  (Crandall )

return to sonnet central return to 19th century Americans

If the Rose Could Speak

Within the rose I found a trembling tear,
Close curtained in a gloom of crimson night
By tender petals from the outer light,
I plucked the flower and held it to my ear,
And thought within its fervid breast to hear
A smothered heart-beat throbbing soft and low.
I heard its busy life-blood gently flow,
Now far away and now so strangely near.
Ah, thought I, if these silent lips of flame
Could be unsealed and fling into the air
Their woe, their passion, and in speech proclaim
Their warm intoxication of despair;--
Then would I give the rose into thy hand;
Thou couldst its voice, beloved, not withstand.

Thy Wondrous Name

How can I lightly speak thy wondrous name,
Which breathes the airy fragrance of thyself,
As might, far straying from his flower, the elf
Hold yet a breath within his fragile frame
Of the flower's soul, betraying whence he came?
I too, beloved, though we stray apart,
Since in the vestal temple of thy heart
I dwell secure, glow with a sacred flame.
A breath of thy sweet self unto me clings--
A wondrous voice, as of large unborn deeds,
With deep resoundings, through my being rings,
And unto wider realms of vision leads.
And dead to me are sorrow, doubt, and pain;
The slumbering god within me wakes again.

(Above texts from American Sonnets)


I am the child of earth and air and sea,
My lullaby by hoarse Silurian storms
Was chanted; and through endless changing forms
Of plant and bird and beast unceasingly
The toiling ages wrought to fashion me.
Lo, these large ancestors have left a breath
Of their strong souls in mine, defying death
And doom.  I grow and blossom as the tree,
And ever feel deep-delving, earthy roots
Binding me daily to the common clay;
But with its airy impulse upward shoots
My life into the realms of light and day.
And though, O Sea, stern mother of my soul,
Thy tempests sing in me, thy billows roll!

The Lily

I saw the lily pale and perfect grow
Amid  its silent sisters in the mead.
Methought within its chilly depth to read
A maidenly severity, as though
A cool young life lay slumbering in the snow
Of its frail substance.  In that chalice white,
Whose fairy texture shone against the light,
An unwakened pulse beat faint and slow.
And I remembered, love, thy coy disdain,
When thou my love for thee hadst first divined;
Thy proud, shy tenderness,—too proud to feign
That willful blindness which is yet not blind.
Then toward the sun thy lily-life I turned,—
With sudden splendor flushed its chalice burned.

Prescience of Death

 I wonder oft why God, who is so good,
Has barred so close, so close the gates of death.
I stand and listen with suspended breath
While night and silence round about me brood,
If then, perchance, some spirit-whisper would
Grow audible and pierce my torpid sense.
And oft I feel a presence, veiled intense,
That pulses softly through the solitude;
But as my soul leaps quivering to my ear
To grasp the potent message, all takes flight,
And from the fields and woods I only hear
The murmurous chorus of the summer night.
I am as on that's dead,—yet in his gloom
Feels faintly song of birds above his tomb.
(Above three texts from Representative Sonnets by American Poets)