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Poem by Sidney Lanier
Hymns of the Marshes. 1. Sunrise
IN my sleep I was fain of their fellowship, fain Of the live-oak, the marsh, and the main. The little green leaves would not let me alone in my sleep; Up-breathed from the marshes, a message of range and of sweep, Interwoven with waftures of wild sea-liberties, drifting, Came through the lapped leaves sifting, sifting, Came to the gates of sleep. Then my thoughts, in the dark of the dungeon-keep Of the Castle of Captives hid in the City of Sleep, Upstarted, by twos and by threes assembling: The gates of sleep fell a-trembling Like as the lips of a lady that forth falter `Yes,' Shaken with happiness: The gates of sleep stood wide. I have waked, I have come, my beloved! I might not abide: I have come ere the dawn, O beloved, my live-oaks, to hide In your gospelling glooms,--to be As a lover in heaven, the marsh my marsh and the sea my sea. Tell me, sweet burly-bark'd, man-bodied Tree That mine arms in the dark are embracing, dost know From what fount are these tears at thy feet which flow? They rise not from reason, but deeper inconsequent deeps. Reason's not one that weeps. What logic of greeting lies Betwixt dear over-beautiful trees and the rain of the eyes? O cunning green leaves, little masters! like as ye gloss All the dull-tissued dark with your luminous darks that emboss The vague blackness of night into pattern and plan, So, (But would I could know, but would I could know,) With your question embroid'ring the dark of the question of man,-- So, with your silences purfling this silence of man While his cry to the dead for some knowledge is under the ban, Under the ban,-- So, ye have wrought me Designs on the night of our knowledge,--yea, ye have taught me, So, That haply we know somewhat more than we know. Ye lispers, whisperers, singers in storms, Ye consciences murmuring faiths under forms, Ye ministers meet for each passion that grieves, Friendly, sisterly, sweetheart leaves, Oh, rain me down from your darks that contain me Wisdoms ye winnow from winds that pain me,-- Sift down tremors of sweet-within-sweet That advise me of more than they bring,--repeat Me the woods-smell that swiftly but now brought breath From the heaven-side bank of the river of death,-- Teach me the terms of silence,--preach me The passion of patience,--sift me,--impeach me,-- And there, oh there As ye hang with your myriad palms upturned in the air, Pray me a myriad prayer. My gossip, the owl,--is it thou That out of the leaves of the low-hanging bough, As I pass to the beach, art stirred? Dumb woods, have ye uttered a bird? Reverend Marsh, low-couched along the sea, Old chemist, rapt in alchemy, Distilling silence,--lo, That which our father-age had died to know-- The menstruum that dissolves all matter--thou Hast found it: for this silence, filling now The globed clarity of receiving space, This solves us all: man, matter, doubt, disgrace, Death, love, sin, sanity, Must in yon silence' clear solution lie. Too clear! That crystal nothing who'll peruse? The blackest night could bring us brighter news. Yet precious qualities of silence haunt Round these vast margins, ministrant. Oh, if thy soul's at latter gasp for space, With trying to breathe no bigger than thy race Just to be fellow'd, when that thou hast found No man with room, or grace enough of bound To entertain that New thou tell'st, thou art,-- 'Tis here, 'tis here thou canst unhand thy heart And breathe it free, and breathe it free, By rangy marsh, in lone sea-liberty. The tide's at full: the marsh with flooded streams Glimmers, a limpid labyrinth of dreams. Each winding creek in grave entrancement lies A rhapsody of morning-stars. The skies Shine scant with one forked galaxy,-- The marsh brags ten: looped on his breast they lie. Oh, what if a sound should be made! Oh, what if a bound should be laid To this bow-and-string tension of beauty and silence a-spring,-- To the bend of beauty the bow, or the hold of silence the string! I fear me, I fear me yon dome of diaphanous gleam Will break as a bubble o'er-blown in a dream,-- Yon dome of too-tenuous tissues of space and of night, Over-weighted with stars, over-freighted with light, Over-sated with beauty and silence, will seem But a bubble that broke in a dream, If a bound of degree to this grace be laid, Or a sound or a motion made. But no: it is made: list! somewhere,--mystery, where? In the leaves? in the air? In my heart? is a motion made: 'Tis a motion of dawn, like a flicker of shade on shade. In the leaves 'tis palpable: low multitudinous stirring Upwinds through the woods; the little ones, softly conferring, Have settled my lord's to be looked for; so; they are still; But the air and my heart and the earth are a-thrill,-- And look where the wild duck sails round the bend of the river,-- And look where a passionate shiver Expectant is bending the blades Of the marsh-grass in serial shimmers and shades,-- And invisible wings, fast fleeting, fast fleeting, Are beating The dark overhead as my heart beats,--and steady and free Is the ebb-tide flowing from marsh to sea-- (Run home, little streams, With your lapfulls of stars and dreams),-- And a sailor unseen is hoisting a-peak, For list, down the inshore curve of the creek How merrily flutters the sail,-- And lo, in the East! Will the East unveil? The East is unveiled, the East hath confessed A flush: 'tis dead; 'tis alive: 'tis dead, ere the West Was aware of it: nay, 'tis abiding, 'tis unwithdrawn: Have a care, sweet Heaven! 'Tis Dawn. Now a dream of a flame through that dream of a flush is uprolled: To the zenith ascending, a dome of undazzling gold Is builded, in shape as a bee-hive, from out of the sea: The hive is of gold undazzling, but oh, the Bee, The star-fed Bee, the build-fire Bee, Of dazzling gold is the great Sun-Bee That shall flash from the hive-hole over the sea. Yet now the dew-drop, now the morning gray, Shall live their little lucid sober day Ere with the sun their souls exhale away. Now in each pettiest personal sphere of dew The summ'd morn shines complete as in the blue Big dew-drop of all heaven: with these lit shrines O'er-silvered to the farthest sea-confines, The sacramental marsh one pious plain Of worship lies. Peace to the ante-reign Of Mary Morning, blissful mother mild, Minded of nought but peace, and of a child. Not slower than Majesty moves, for a mean and a measure Of motion,--not faster than dateless Olympian leisure Might pace with unblown ample garments from pleasure to pleasure,-- The wave-serrate sea-rim sinks unjarring, unreeling, Forever revealing, revealing, revealing, Edgewise, bladewise, halfwise, wholewise,--'tis done! Good-morrow, lord Sun! With several voice, with ascription one, The woods and the marsh and the sea and my soul Unto thee, whence the glittering stream of all morrows doth roll, Cry good and past-good and most heavenly morrow, lord Sun. O Artisan born in the purple,--Workman Heat,-- Parter of passionate atoms that travail to meet And be mixed in the death-cold oneness,--innermost Guest At the marriage of elements,--fellow of publicans,--blest King in the blouse of flame, that loiterest o'er The idle skies yet laborest fast evermore,-- Thou, in the fine forge-thunder, thou, in the beat Of the heart of a man, thou Motive,--Laborer Heat: Yea, Artist, thou, of whose art yon sea's all news, With his inshore greens and manifold mid-sea blues, Pearl-glint, shell-tint, ancientest perfectest hues Ever shaming the maidens,--lily and rose Confess thee, and each mild flame that glows In the clarified virginal bosoms of stones that shine, It is thine, it is thine: Thou chemist of storms, whether driving the winds a-swirl Or a-flicker the subtiler essences polar that whirl In the magnet earth,--yea, thou with a storm for a heart, Rent with debate, many-spotted with question, part From part oft sundered, yet ever a globed light, Yet ever the artist, ever more large and bright Than the eye of a man may avail of:--manifold One, I must pass from thy face, I must pass from the face of the Sun: Old Want is awake and agog, every wrinkle a-frown; The worker must pass to his work in the terrible town: But I fear not, nay, and I fear not the thing to be done; I am strong with the strength of my lord the Sun: How dark, how dark soever the race that must needs be run, I am lit with the Sun. Oh, never the mast-high run of the seas Of traffic shall hide thee, Never the hell-colored smoke of the factories Hide thee, Never the reek of the time's fen-politics Hide thee, And ever my heart through the night shall with knowledge abide thee, And ever by day shall my spirit, as one that hath tried thee, Labor, at leisure, in art,--till yonder beside thee My soul shall float, friend Sun, The day being done.
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