Richard Hovey (1864-1900)

From Dartmouth Lyrics (published 1924). Texts from the Making of America collection.

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When We Are Dead

WHEN we are dead I firmly do believe
We shall slip back into the primal sea
Of the universal life, that there shall be
No such false joys as on this earth deceive
--Nay, nor no truer ones--nor cause to grieve
Nor terror nor despite nor mockery
Nor love, life's strongest bitterest mystery
And while we still are struggling in the strife
Surely it is a gracious boon though small
That one brief sweet real joy at least there is,
To be about to die and know that all
The anguish and the agony of life
Will not last longer than a lover's kiss.

John Keats

IF thou canst not from some superior sphere
Look down upon this world that gave thee birth
Or from some glad abode of stingless mirth
Bend hitherward thy godbright head to hear
Some rainbow-winged etherial messenger
Tell thee men worship now thy wondrous worth,
If thou art not, having passed away from earth,
If thou whose name all sons of song revere
Art nothing but the shadow of a name,
If through the whole allotted period
Of thy brief life thou were allowed to dwell
In endless bitter ignorance of thy fame,
Then must we yield it that there is no God
Or else that he is crueller than hell.

To a Friend

ALL too grotesque our thoughts are sometimes. Odd,
That there will come a day when you and I
Shall not be you and I! that we shall lie--
We two--i' the damp earth-mould--above each clod
A drunken headstone in the neglected sod--
Thereon the phrase, "Hic Jacet," carved awry,
And then our virtues, Bah! and piety--
Perhaps some cheeky reference to God!
And haply after many a century
Some spectacled old man shall drive the birds
A moment from their song i' the lonely spot
And make a copy of the quaint old words--
They will then be quaint and old--and all for what?
To fill a gap in a genealogy.


I SOMETIMES long to throw my books away
And to forget the thoughts that make me sad--
The mighty musings that have ever clad
The minds of men in chill and sombre grey.
I sometimes long to laugh out and be gay
As some blithe, thoughtless, merry-hearted lad
Or wander in the forest and be glad
Without a memory of a heavier day;
Yet when I try to turn myself apart
From all the deeper mysteries of Life
In nature-love and hate of human strife,
Still the same thoughts throng through my throbbing brain
And I arise in heaviness of heart
And turn me to my studying again.

The Old Pine

IT stood upon the hill like some old chief,
And held communion with the cryptic wind,
Keeping like some dim unforgotten grief
The memory of the tribesmen autumn-skinned,
Silent and slow as clouds, whose footing passed
Down the remote trails of oblivion
Long since into the caverns of the past.
Alone, aloof, strong fellow of the sun,
We chose it for our standard in its prime,
Nor--though no longer grimly from its hill
It fronts the world, like Webster--wind nor time
Has felled its austere ghost, we see it still,
In alien lands, resurgent and undying
Flag of our hearts, from sudden ramparts flying.

In Memoriam (A. H. Quint)

MOURN we who honored him but knew him not;
Grieve ye who loved him, looking on his face;
Be mindful, Dartmouth, of each strenuous trace
That keeps his loyal record unforgot.
There is no faithlessness in grief, God wot;
However high the hope or clear the gaze,
There must be tears at every burial-place,
Though through the tears the very sky be shot.
For death is like the passing of a star
That melts into the splendor of the dawn.
Were we beyond the air that blurs our sight
In the clear ether where the angels are,
We should behold it still; but now, withdrawn
In sunrise, lose it, looking on the light.

Squab Flights

"LOVE is eternal," sang I long ago
Of some light love that lasted for a day;
But when the fleeting fancy passed away,
And other loves, that following made as though
They were the very deathless, lost the glow
Youth mimics the divine with, and grew gray,
I said, "It is a dream: no love will stay."
Angels have taught me wisdom. Now I know,
Though lesser loves and greater loves may cease,
Love still endures, knocking at myriad gates
That lead to God--stars, winds and waters, birds,
Beasts, flowers and men--speaking its sweetest words
At woman's portal, till it finds its peace
In the abyss where Godhead loves and waits.


As one of those huge monsters of the sky,
Fierce with the flame of fiery floating hair,
Falls from the zenith through the upper air,
Hurling the planets from their paths on high,
Jarring creation from its harmony,
Spreading on earth destruction and despair,
Terrifying men to the temples and vain prayer,
So from the summit of his majesty
He fails, and heaven is shaken as flame; Zeus reigns
Usurping; and no matter what is left--
How smooth or tangled grows his god-life's weft--
With how swift footing or how slow the years,
Speed on, for him forever there remains
A thunder and a chaos in the spheres.

Sonnets--To Swinburne

POET! thou art to me a faery king
Dwelling in some weird place of witchery,
Some garden where unnumbered roses vie
In color with the hollyhocks that spring
On every side in scarlet wantoning
And lilies'neath the gaudier herbage lie
And violets unclose their leaves near by
While stately sunflowers guard each opening.
And in that garden-realm magnificent
I often see thee walking-stopping now
To list to hollow murmurs, now to scent
Some flower's subtle perfume, wherein, pent,
A rich, rare pleasance lies that none but thou
And thy strange fellow-bard, the wind, can know.

Oft, too, I see thee on the rocky shore,
Worshipping all the infinitely strong
Grand godhead that to ocean doth belong,
Or prostrate with uncovered head before
The sun, whom even Ocean doth adore,
Who giveth speech to every poet's tongue,
Who is the only king and god of song,
From whom all bards receive their secret lore.
For thou art brother of the elements;
There is a spirit of kinship that compels
Your feet to stray in paths, where nothing dwells
Save the triune power that knows not death nor birth
But sways all nature in omnipotence--
Sea, wind and sun, the gods who rule the earth.

I, also standing where the white caps seem,
In inextinguishable laughter on the shore,
Forever tumbling and where, glancing o'er
The sandy beach, the sun-god's arrows gleam,
Bright as the swords of Eden's cherubim,

Here, on this coast mind-seen of bards of your
Atlantis, the lost world now found once more,
This land whereof the Hellene did dream--
I cast this sea-shell into the great sea
And all the old Greek spirit in me prays
To great Poseidon, whom we both adore,
To cast it up upon the other shore,
Where it may meet thine Apollonian gaze
And murmur sweetlier, being seen of thee.

College Days

For the Fly-Leaf of an Autograph Album

THESE college days of jollity and mirth How pleasurable are they and how serene,
Just tinged with sorrow enough to welcome in
With heartier joy all wassail that gives birth
To bliss that lifts the spirit from the earth!
Shall not this book and the signatures herein
Of men whose friendship I am glad to win,
Years hence recall this time that knows no dearth
Of ready jests and sunshine of sweet lays
And vintages of Xeres and the Rhine?
Ah! the remembrance of these happy days,
The music and the laughter and the wit,
The cups that smile with glimmering of sweet wine
Age shall grow mellow with the thought of it.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

GONE art thou, then, O mystical musician!
Pure-thoughted singer of these sinful years!
No more shall dreams and doubts and hopes and fears
Pass and repass before thy stricken vision;
No more from thine high sorrowing position
Shall fall thy song-irradiated tears;
Alas! no more against our listening years
Shall new lays ring from thy lone lute elysian.
For unto thee at last has rest been given,
Whether in sleep eternal by the shore
Of Time's wide ocean or in song without
Or break or flaw, by the gold bar of that heaven
From which the Blessed Damozel leaned out,
Sighing for thee in the sad days of yore.

The South

AH! where the hot wind, with sweet odors laden,
Against the roses faintly beats his wings,
Uttering mild melodious murmurings
To the faint flowers and the fluttering gladen,
Whispering of some far, sunset-bowered Aidenn,
And in an orange tree an oriole sings,
Whereunder lies, dreaming of unknown things,
With orange blossoms wreathed, a radiant maiden--
There is the poet's land; there would I lie
Beneath the shadows of magnolia trees
And let my eyes grow languid and my mouth
Glow with the kisses of the amorous breeze
And breathe with every breath the luxury
Of the hot-cheeked, sweet, heavy-lidded South.