Sophie Jewett (Ellen Burroughs)
From The Pilgrim and Other Poems (1896)
"Non vi si pensa quanto sangue costa." --Paradiso xxix, 91.
The soldier fought his battle silently.
Not his the strife that stays for set of sun;
It seemed this warefare never might be done;
Through glaring day and blinding night fought he.
There came no hand to help, no eye to see;
No herald's voice proclaimed the fight begun;
No trumpet, when the bitter field was won,
Sounded abroad the soldier's victory.
As if the struggle had been light, he went,
Gladly, life's common road a little space;
Nor any knew how his heart's blood was spent;
Yet there were some who after testified
They saw a glory grow upon his face;
And all men praised the soldier when he died.
Small fellowship of daily commonplace
We hold together, dear, constrained to go
Diverging ways. Yet day by day I know
My life is sweeter for thy life's sweet grace;
And if we meet but for a moment's space,
Thy touch, thy word, sets all the world aglow.
Faith soars serener, haunting doubts shrink low,
Abashed before the sunshine of thy face.
Nor press of crowd, nor waste of distance serves
To part us. Every hush of evening brings
Some hint of thee, true-hearted friend of mine;
And as the farther planet thrills and swerves
When towards it through the darkness Saturn swings,
Even so my spirit feels the spell of thine.
Along the Eastern shore the low waves creep,
Making a ceaseless music on the sand,
A song that gulls and curlews understand,
The lullaby that sings the day to sleep.
A thousand miles afar, the grim pines keep
Unending watch upon a shoreless land,
Yet through their tops, swept by some wizard hand,
The sound of surf comes singing up the steep.
Sweet, thou canst hear the tidal litany;
I, mid the pines land-wearied, may but dream
Of the far shore; but though the distance seem
Between us fixed, impassable, to me
Cometh thy soul’s voice, chanting love’s old theme,
And mine doth answer, as the pines the sea.
My friend, I need thee in good days or ill,
I need the counsel of thy larger thought;
And I would question all the year has brought--
What spoil of books, what victories of will;
But most I long for the old wordless thrill,
When on the shore, like children picture-taught,
We watched each miracle the sweet day wrought,
While the tide ebbed, and every wind was still.
Dear, let it be again as if we mused,
We two, with never need of spoken word
(While the sea’s fingers twined among the dulse,
And gulls dipped near), our spirits seeming fused
In the great Life that quickens wave and bird,
Our hearts in happy rhythm with the world-pulse.
Because my life has lain so close to thine,
Because our hearts have kept a common beat,
Because thine eyes turned towards me frank and sweet,
Reveal sometimes thine untold thoughts to mine,
Think not that I, by curious design,
Or over-step of too impetuous feet,
Could desecrate thy soul’s supreme retreat,
Could disregard its quivering barrier-line.
Only a simple Levite, I, who stand
On the world’s side of the most holy place,
Till, as the new day glorifies the east,
One come to lift the veil with reverent hand,
And enter with thy soul’s soul face to face,--
He whom thy God shall call to be high priest.
The morning brought a stranger to my door,
I know not whence such feet as his may stray,
From what still heights, along what star-set way,
A child he seemed, yet my eyes fell before
His eyes Olympian. I did implore
Him enter, linger but one golden day
To bless my house. He passed, he might not stay,
And though I call with tears, he comes no more.
At noon there stole a beggar to my gate,
Of subtle tongue, the porter he beguiled.
His creeping, evil steps my house defiled.
I flung him scornful alms, I bade him straight
To leave me. Swift he clutched my fee and smiled,
Yet went not forth, nor goes, despite my hate.
The Christmas bells ring discord overhead;
The angel-song fell silent long ago;
Nor seer, nor silly shepherd comes, star-led,
To kneel to-night beside a baby’s bed.
Peace is not yet, and wrong and want and woe
Cry in the streets, and love is slow,
And sin is sleek and swift and housed and fed.
Dear Lord, our faith is faint, our hearts are sore;
Our prayers are as complaints, our songs as cries;
Fain would we hear the angel-voice once more,
And see the Star still lead along the skies;
Fain would, like sage and simple folk of yore,
Watch where the Christ-child smiles in Mary’s eyes.
Died September 7, 1881
The Southwind brought a voice; was it of bird?
Or faint-blown reed? or string that quivered long?
A haunting voice that woke into a song
Sweet as a child’s low laugh, or lover’s word.
We listened idly till it grew and stirred
With throbbing chords of joy, of love, of wrong;
A mighty music, resonant and strong;
Our hearts beat higher for that voice far-heard.
The Southwind brought a shadow, purple-dim,
It swept across the warm smile of the sun;
A sudden shiver passed on field and wave;
The grasses grieved along the river’s brim.
We knew the voice was silent, the song done;
We knew the shadow smote across a grave.