James Herbert Morse

"From Poems. Mr. Morse has distinct originality, though his poetic vision is sometimes stronger than his faculty of adequate expression." (Sharp)

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An Aspiration

And will the spirit falter and its fire
Burn low and slow, and die, when we grow old?
The brain be silent, and the heart be cold,
And love be old and cold, and all desire

Be quenched, that now higher and higher,
Immortal fire, through dungeon keep and hold,
Turret and spire of this proud life, is rolled--
Shall this grow cold and cold and then expire?

Oh let the dream live on, the mortal die,--
The vision thrive, the costly form decay,--
The beauty old and cold all pass away,
The spirit higher and higher, in fire uprolled,
Wrap tower and spire and battlement on high
And earth and sky, so that it ne'er grow old!

The Soul

Whence are these motions of the human soul?
Itself outside itself wanders and soars,
Alighting now from old Diluvian shores,
Or where the many-moonéd planets roll,

Or the fixed stars gaze round the icy pole,--
A moment on the threshold of itself
To stand, then hide, an unsubstantial elf,
Or, eyeless, burrow downward like a mole.

But all the while, as a still sentinel
Upon a lonely hill, it marks the track
Itself hath made, and hath the potent spell
Its absent self at will to summon back:--

So several it is, and yet so one,
Such diverse moods that move in unison!

The Death of Love

Love doth not stir my heart; sweet love is dead,
Its cheek is pale, its lovely eyelids closed;
No, not a quiver shakes the lowly bed
Where the dear ashen image lies reposed.

I can go nigh and lift the mournful veil,
I can look down and touch the chiselled lips,--
Remember that they were not always pale,
But red--ah, rosy-red--with smiles and quips.

I can do this, then pass with but a tear,
That tear soon taught to decorate a smile,
Mayhap adorn a verse to please an ear
That love's sweet music yet will help beguile.

Ah God! so dead to Love, and yet not dead!
Would I were with her on her lowly bed!

An August Noon

High summer Noon! Yon crow of all his kind
Stands indefatigably impudent--
A vigilant scout upon a battlement
Of his vast fortress. Underneath him wind

The water-courses--open, unconfined
To his down-peering eye. Improvident
The bare fields lie in swart abandonment;
The hills their tresses thoughtlessly unbind

Of fluent silver, carelessly displayed;
And all the pastures in their morn attire
Of flowery robes most gorgeously arrayed
Shrink now too late beore the noonday's fire.

Thus unthrift Earth her dainty bosom bares,
And on her nakedness heaven's bold eye stares.

Beauty Evanescent

Beside her I could be a thousand years
And talk with her, and muse, and think I caught
Her very spirit, and yet catch it not;
So subtle is it: Two translucent spheres

Should flash it forth; it flames, then disappears.
A mouth all music should translate it well;
It flows like music--whither none can tell;
It wraps all senses round, soothes, charms, and cheers.

And when we feel, peer, listen, would confine
And grasp its very self, it slips away,
Like the elusive beauty of a day
In autumn, leaving of its track no sign.

And yet the search we every day renew,
Pleased to be foiled, yet foiled, still to pursue.

(Text from American Sonnets)