Lloyd Mifflin (1846-1922)

Once called "America's greatest sonneteer," Lloyd Mifflin was a poet and painter from Columbia, Pennsylvania. He published 516 sonnets.

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The Black Portals

Spirit of mine that soon must venturous spread
Through voids unknown thy feeble, fluttering plumes,
Hast thou no fear to wing those endless glooms?
No apprehension nor misgivings dread?
Those realms unfathomed of the speechless dead,
Which never gleam of eldest star illumes--
Lethean canyons that the Soul entombs--
Art thou not awed such sombre vasts to tread?
My Soul replied: "Wisdom hath made all things--
Life and the end of life, He gives to thee.
Down Death's worn path the mightiest still have trod.
Where laurelled poets and anointed Kings
Have gone for ages, it is good to be--
Rest thou contented with the will of God."

(Above text from The Book of Sorrow)

The Flight

Upon a cloud among the stars we stood:
The angel raised his hand, and looked, and said,
"Which world of all yon starry myriad
Shall we make wing to?" The still solitude
Became a harp whereon his voice and mood
Made spheral music round his haloed head.
I spoke--for then I had not long been dead--
"Let me look round upon the wastes, and brood
A moment on these orbs ere I decide. . .
What is yon lower star that beauteous shines,
And with soft splendor now incarnadines
Our wings?--There would I go, and there abide."
Then he, as one who some child's thought divines:
"That is that world where yesternight you died."


Sole Lord of Lords and very King of Kings,
He sits within the desert, carved in stone;
Inscrutable, colossal, and alone,
And ancienter than memory of things.
Graved on his front the sacred beetle clings;
Disdain sits on his lips; and in a frown
Scorn lives upon his forehead for a crown.
The affrighted ostrich dares not dust her wings
Anear this Presence. The long caravan's
Dazed camels pause, and mute the Bedouins stare.
This symbol of past power more than man's
Presages doom. Kings look--and Kings despair:
The sceptres tremble in their jeweled hands
And dark thrones totter in the baleful air!

On the Twilight Headland--Theseus and Ariadne

Dear Love, lean nearer--let your finger-tips
Reach till they touch the rose within my palm.
Through the hushed dusk I feel the fragrant balm
Of your faint breathing as the tired breast dips
And rises, drowsful as a bee that sips
Honey too avid from the numbing flowers. . .
Close the sad eyes, and for one little hour
Let slumber soothe the dear, leave-taking lips.
Ah, sweet! were it not better for each heart
Before the cruel years achieve their will--
For us, who must irrevocably part,
To pass the lintel of the door of Death
Lip touching lip, I breathing faintly still
The poignant sweetness of your fading breath?

The Evening Comes

The evening comes: the boatman lifts the net,
Poles his canoe and leaves it on the shore;
So low the stream he does not use the oar;
The umber rocks rise like a parapet
Up through the purple and the violet,
And the faint-heard and never-ending roar
Of moving waters lessens more and more,
While each vague object looms a silhouette.
The light is going; but low overhead
Poises the glory of the evening star;
The fisher, silent on the rocky bar,
Drops a still line in pools of fading red;
And in the sky, where all the day lies dead,
Slowly the golden crescent sinks afar.

(Above four sonnets from The Sonnet in American Literature)