Paul Hamilton Hayne (1831-1887)
"From Poetical Works. The most prolific and the sweetest singer of the south. If Hayne had written less profusely, and with greater artistic control, his place would have been a high and perhaps permanent one." (Sharp)
The Coming of the Wind
An hour agone, and prostrate Nature lay
Like some sore-smitten creature nigh to death,
With feverish parched lips, with labouring breath,
And languid eyeballs darkening to the day.
A burning noontide ruled with merciless sway
Earth, wave, and air; the ghastly-stretching heath,
The sullen trees, the fainting flowers beneath,
Drooped hopeless, shrivelling in the torrid ray;--
When, like a sudden, cheerful trumpet blown
Far off by rescuing spirits, rose the wind
Urging great hosts of clouds; the thunder's tone
Breaks into wrath; the rainy cataracts fall.
But, pausing, lo, behold Creation shrined
In a new birth,--God's covenant clasping all!
The passionate summer's dead! the sky's aglow
With roseate flushes of matured desire,
The winds at eve are musical and low,
As sweeping chords of a lamenting lyre,
Far up among the pillared clouds of fire,
Whose pomp of strange procession upward rolls,
With gorgeous blazonry of pictured scrolls,
To celebrate the summer's past renown;
Ah, me! how regally the heavens look down
O'ershadowing beautiful autumnal woods
And harvest fields with hoarded increase brown
And deep-toned majesty of golden floods
That raise their solemn dirges to the sky,
To swell the purple pomp that floateth by.
"Too oft the poet in elaborate verse"
Too oft the poet in elaborate verse,
Flushed with quaint images and gorgeous tropes,
Casteth a doubtful light, which is not hope's,
On the dark spot where Death hath sealed his curse
In monumental silence. Nature starts
Indignant from the sacrilege of words
That ring so hollow, and forlornly girds
Her great woe round her; there's no trick of Art's
But shows most ghastly by a new-made tomb.
I see no balm in Gilead; he is lost,
The beautiful soul that loved thee, thy life's bloom
Is withered by the sudden blighting frost;
O Grief! how mighty; Creeds! how vain ye are:
Earth presses closely,--Heaven is cold and far.
The Phantom Bells
Upveiled in yonder dim ethereal sea,
Its airy towers the work of phantom spells,
A viewless belfry tolls its wizard bells.
Pealed o'er this populous earth perpetually.
Some hear, some hear them not; but aye they be
Laden with one strange note that sinks or swells,
Now dread as doom, now gentle as farewells,
Time's dirge borne ever toward eternity.
Each hour in measured breath sobs out and dies,
While the bell tolls its requiem,--"Passing, past,"--
The sole sad burden of their long refrain.
Still, with those hours each pang, each pleasure flies,
Brief sweet, brief bitter,--all our days are vain,
Knolled into dread forgetfulness at last.
Life and Death
I fear thee not, O Death! nay, oft I pine
To clasp thy passionless bosom to mine own,
And on thy heart sob out my latest moan,
Ere lapped and lost in thy strange sleep divine;
But much I fear lest that chill breath of thine
Should freeze all tender memories into stone,--
Lest ruthless and malign Oblivion
Quench the last spark that lingers on love's shrine:
O God! to moulder through dark, dateless years,
The while all loving ministries shall cease,
And time assuage the fondest mourner's tears!
Here lies the sting!--this, this it is to die!
And yet great Nature rounds all strife with peace,
And Life or Death, each rests in mystery!
Earth Odours--After Rain
Life-yielding fragrance of our Mother Earth!
Benignant breath exhaled from summer showers!--
All Nature dimples into smiles of flowers,
From unclosed woodland to trim garden girth:--
These perfumes softening the harsh soul of dearth
Are older than old Shinar's arrogant towers,--
And touched with visions of rain-freshened hours,
On Syrian hill-slopes ere the Patriarch's birth!
Nay! the charmed fancy plays a subtler part!--
Lo! banished Adam, his large, wondering eyes
Fixed on the trouble of the first dark cloud!
Lo! tremulous Eve,--a pace behind, how bowed,--
Not dreaming, 'midst her painful pants of heart,
What balm shall fall from yonder ominous cloud!
In youth, when blood was warm and fancy high,
I mocked at death. How many a quaint conceit
I wove about his veiled head and feet,
Vaunting aloud, Why need we dread to die?
But now, enthralled by deep solemnity,
Death's pale phantasmal shade I darkly greet:
Ghostlike it haunts the hearth, it haunts the street,
Or drearier makes drear midnight's mystery.
Ah, soul-perplexing vision! oft I deem
That antique myth is true which pictured death
A masked and hideous form all shrank to see;
But at the last slow ebb of mortal breath,
Death, his mask melting like a nightmare dream,
Smiled,--heaven's high-priest of Immortality!
(Text from American Sonnets)