James Russell Lowell (1819-1891)
"From Heartsease and Rue, one of the most delightful volumes by this delightful writer." (Sharp)
Our love is not a fading earthly flower:
Its wingèd seed dropped down from Paradise,
And, nursed by day and night, by sun and shower,
Doth momently to fresher beauty rise.
To us the leafless autumn is not bare,
Nor winter's rattling boughs lack lusty green:
Our summer hearts make summer's fulness where
No leaf or bud or blossom may be seen:
For nature's life in love's deep life doth lie,
Love,--whose forgetfulness is beauty's death,
Whose mystic key these cells of Thou and I
Into the infinite freedom openeth,
And makes the body's dark and narrow grate
The wide-flung leaves of Heaven's palace-gate.
Love and Sorrow
I thought our love at full, but I did err;
Joy's wreath drooped o'er mine eyes; I could not see
That sorrow in our happy world must be
Love's deepest spokesman and interpreter.
But, as a mother feels her child first stir
Under her heart, so felt I instantly
Deep in my soul another bond to thee
Thrill with that life we saw depart from her.
O mother of our angel-child! twice dear!
Death knits as well as parts, and still, I wis,
Her tender radiance shall enfold us here;
Even as the light borne up by inward bliss
Threads the void glooms of space without a fear,
To print on farthest stars her pitying kiss.
They pass me by like shadows, crowds on crowds,
Dim ghosts of men that hover to and fro,
Hugging their bodies round them, like thin shrouds
Wherein their souls were buried long ago:
They trampled on their youth, and faith, and love,
They cast their hope of human-kind away,
With Heaven's clear messages they madly strove,
And conquered,--and their spirits turned to clay.
Lo! how they wander round the world, their grave,
Whose ever-gaping maw by such is fed,
Gibbering at living men, and idly rave,
"We, only, truly live, but ye are dead."
Alas! poor fools, the anointed eye may trace
A dead soul's epitaph in every face!
Died September 4, 1874.
The wisest man could ask no more of Fate
Than to be simple, modest, manly, true,
Safe from the Many, honoured by the Few;
To count as naught in World, or Church, or State,
But inwardly in secret to be great;
To feel mysterious Nature ever new;
To touch, if not to grasp, her endless clue,
And learn by each discovery how to wait.
He widened knowledge and escaped the praise;
He wisely taught, because more wise to learn;
He toiled for science, not to draw men's gaze,
But for her lore of self-denial stern.
That such a man could spring from our decay
Fans the soul's nobler faith until it burn.
To a Friend
Who gave me a group of weeds and grasses, after a drawing of Dürer.
True as the sun's own work, but more refined,
It tells of love behind the artist's eye,
Of sweet companionships with earth and sky,
And summers stored, the sunshine of the mind.
What peace! Sure, ere you breathe, the fickle wind
Will break its truce and bend that grass-plume high,
Scarcely yet quiet from the gilded fly
That flits a more luxurious perch to find.
Thanks for a pleasure that can never pall,
A serene moment, deftly caught and kept
To make immortal summer on my wall.
Had he who drew such gladness ever wept?
Ask rather could he else have seen at all,
Or grown in Nature's mysteries an adept?
To Miss D. T.
On her giving me a drawing of little street arabs.
As, cleansed of Tiber's and Oblivion's slime,
Glow Farnesina's vaults with shapes again
That dreamed some exiled artist from his pain
Back to his Athens and the Muse's clime,
So these world-orphaned waifs of Want and Crime,
Purged by Art's absolution from the stain
Of the polluting city-flood, regain
Ideal grace secure from taint of time.
An Attic frieze you give, a pictured song;
For as with words the poet paints, for you
The happy pencil at its labour sings,
Stealing his privilege, nor does him wrong,
Beneath the false discovering the true,
And Beauty's best in unregarded things.
(Text from American Sonnets)