xt7p5h7bsf7n https://nyx.uky.edu/dips/xt7p5h7bsf7n/data/mets.xml Wilson, Robert Burns, 1850-1916. 1894  books b96-9-34459029 English G.P. Putnam's Sons, : New York : Contact the Special Collections Research Center for information regarding rights and use of this collection. Chant of a woodland spirit  / Robert Burns Wilson. text Chant of a woodland spirit  / Robert Burns Wilson. 1894 2002 true xt7p5h7bsf7n section xt7p5h7bsf7n 



         CHANT OF

A WOODLAND SPIRIT







                BY

     ROBERT BURNS WILSON



        G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS
   NEW YORK              LONDON
n West Twenty-thid Street        rU Bedford Street, Strand
         Ube tnickerbocker lprco
                I894

 


























   Electrotyped, Printed and Bound by
Z-be Iknickrbockcr prCss, Pew -Vork
        G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS

 























            TO

     JOHN FOX, JR.

THIS POEM IS AFFECTIONATELY

         INSCRIBED

 This page in the original text is blank.

 



















   Acknowledgment is hereby made to the publishers of
Harper's Monthly, and to the publishers of The Centary
Magazine, in which portions of this poem originally
appeared.

 This page in the original text is blank.

 

   CHANT OF A WOODLAND SPIRIT.


IT was the morning of a golden day,
   A mild, sweet morning, early in November
      One, in that time, it was
When, through the long, still night, the white frost falls,
Which soon the genial sun doth turn to dew.

I walked alone, amidst the falling leaves,
Along the dry bed of a woodland stream-
Alone, save Sorrow walked beside me ever,
And Memory, dear, with gentle clasp and sad,
Her hand still twined in mine.

I, all unworthy, walked betwixt these twain-
These twain, that have more richer made the heart,
More fed the mind, more curbed the wayward spirit,
More counselled heedless and unwary feet,
Back to the path of hope, than others, all,
That ever on the great round of this world
Have sought the poor companionship of men.

 
2       CHAN T OF A WOODLAND SPIRIT.



Grave ministers are they, from that strange land
Whose pathless fields the soul doth haunt betimes,
But with such blundering steps that soon we fall,
And straight that world hath vanished like a cloud.

Ah! happy he who makes a friend of Sorrow,
And rests in hope on Memory's thoughtful breast
But I, unworthy, walked with these, and grieved
As one whom God hath made companionless.

To dream of dreams, to find the soul a dwelling,
Amidst the realm of unsubstantial things;
To pass life's dangerous limit, yet to keep
The sense and semblance of mortality;
To cross the threshold with the heart still warm,
Touch hands with Wonder and, unharmed, return-
For this I sought, and this, in part, I found.

In part, therewith our hearts must be content,
Or here, or elsewhere, be it heaven or hell,
But part of all we dream of we shall find,
Joy or despair,-we never shall find more.

Vain is the art of rang6d words, and vain
The willing numbers,-nothing can enclose

 

CHANT OF A WOODLAND SPIRIT.



The visions which the startled soul herself
But dimly sees, nor fix upon the page
A record of enchantments, in whose thrall
The heart its fancies, and the world, forgets.

There was the quiet vale, the towering trees,
The endless maze of branches, and the gray
Trend of uneven slopes, sparse-dappled, still,
With pale remembrances of autumn's glory.
The spice-wood bended by the brook, long dry,
And on the air, trance-like, enfolding all,
The spider's long and filmy threads were floating.

The stream sang not, but from the voiceless bed
There rose soft music as of waters flowing:
For there, half-seen, amidst the lacing twigs,
A woodland spirit, leaning on his harp,
Made song in praise of Nature, while his hands
Swept answering measures from the thrilling strings.

Half-faint with joy, I listened, while the fear
Of worlds untried made all the landscape seem
A scene dim-pictured on a swaying veil.
But close I leaned on Memory's tranquil breast
And Sorrow nearer to my heart I drew,
Fain to be mortal still-Earth of the Earth.



3

 

CHANT OF A WOODLAND SPIRIT.



Yet, so, scarce knowing if I lived, I watched
That woodland minstrel strike the chords and heard-
Sore straitened of my spirit-while he sang,
In clear, swift-following tones, which rose and fell,
Like jewels tossed by handfuls in the air,
The praise of things myself had sought to sing.

Forgive, Oh Spirit, that I envy thee;
Forgive the hope which bids me seek thee still.
For oft o' starlit nights my quest me leads
Across the dewy upland of the wold,
Or, at the blurred close of some winter's day,
Breasting a snowstorm on the Benson Hills,
I wend in breathless haste and fondly dream
I see thee dimly through the falling flakes.

Forgive the rendering which, I, here, essay
Of this, a song of thine at autumn-time.

                   THE SONVG.

      These be the days !
And like them there be others none on earth,
Nor in the fancy, neither in the dreams,
Nor pictured visions of the sons of men;
Nor do the glimpses of that after-world,



4

 

CHANT OF A WOODLAND SPIRIT.



Which longing souls have imaged to their eyes,
Hold, in their gifts of beauty, promised hope
      Of days that are more fair.

            These be the days !
When, pale and wan, among the unseen stars,
The waning moon sinks through the sun-lit haze,
That spreads upon the western morning sky,
Like some celestial urn, divinely wrought,
Which angels' hands let slowly down to earth
To lift the soul of Summer back to heaven.

            These be the days !
In which the Wind, that wailing troubadour,
Whose soul is in his song, comes by the fields
Of tawny gray, which flank the golden hills,
And by the streams, where stand the wistful willows,
And through the forest, singing as he comes.

            Now sinking low
The long-drawn cadence dips beside the marge
            Of some dim plain.
            Now wild and sweet
The music wakes, and lifts the trailing chords,
All idly dallying with the whispering reeds,
And sweeps the fretwork of the rising ground
In long harmonious swells of melody.



5

 
6     CHANT OF A WOODLAND SPIRIT.



Still higher mounts the theme, and up the steep,
Swift speeds the strident wail among the trees,
Till all the forest shouts exultantly
And all the moaning aisles are filled with mirth.


Then on the level of the painted wold,
That shakes like some wild courser's brindled mane,
The puffing Blast wheels on his whistling course,-
Far through rocking cedars-dragging forth
The heavy tones with strong, resistless hands,
Awaking all the thousand voices up,
Which lurk unheard within that wilderness,
To join his mighty avalanche of song.


Loud, long, and clear, the piercing, utmost note
Cleaves through the thunder of that song of songs,
And scales the crumbling arches of the air.
    With deep and trundling echoes, now, it rolls
Against the hollow curving of the hills,
And whirling round the breathless knolls, it sinks,
Down, down, the wonder of the gaping vales,
To sob, subdued, beside the stream once more;
To stir the dead dream of the summer gone,
With gentle rustlings in the russet maise,
And whisper softly, like a lost refrain,

 

CHANT OF A WOODLAND SPIRIT.



Recalling, sometime, sweet remembrances,
Among the woven willows, dusk and brown;
While, far and faint, a lingering after-tone
Hums through the needled branches of the pines
And from the upland distance, rippling, fall
Soft, undulating murmurs of applause.

            Oh ! glorious is the Wind,
When he doth rouse his spirit in the clouds,
And wakes the northland trumpet with a blast
That drives the flying snows across the world
And piles the white-maned seas in crystal peaks,
Which echo back the terrors of his voice!

            But sweet unspeakably,
When in the spring-time, on the April hills-
What time the white-armed Dawn begins to part
Night's languid curtains from the morning sky-
He dips his shepherd's pipe within the brook,
And wooes the tender leaves to life once more,
And steals the perfume from the bursting buds.

            And in the year's full noon,
When that the earth is flooded with the sun;
All laden with the weight of summer spoils,
He wanders slowly down the cloven hills



7

 

8     CHANT OF A WOODLAND SPIRIT.



And by the whispering fields of ripening grain,
With lingering steps amidst the fragrant yarrow,
And rests, at last, beneath the spreading trees.

Upon the cool bed of the dappled clover,
Wrapped in the shadowy stillness of repose,
Lulled by the low voice of the flowing water,
Which laves the meadow's marge, he sleeps anon,
But in his dreams, his aimless fingers move
With listless touches on his chorded lute,
Too faint to fret the slumbering soul of sound,
Whose breathings make the silence musical.

             But oh, divine despair!
Heart-breaking rapture, extasy, and tears;-
Sweet bitterness of death, and love's dear sorrow,
Sad thoughts of loved ones lost soft dreams of hope-
The fading light-the far-off dream of rest;-
            All, all are there,
When, in the autumn-time, at eventide,
He draws his harp against his yearning breast,
And stretcheth out his hands, full tenderly,
Upon the million-toned aeolian strings.

Then bend the grasses where his feet go by,
Full fain to follow whither he shall lead;

 
CIHANT OF A WOODLAND SPIRIT.



Then from their nests the thistle's downy flocks,
In happy, shining troops, speed by his side;
The nodding throngs, flame-tipped and purple-plumed,
Which haunt the borders of the changing fields,
Strew in his pathway all their treasured wealth;
The golden leaves forsake their stems and fly,
Far-floating, in the charmed, forgetful dream
Which wraps the woodland, and a blissful trance
Fills all the vales with strange, unearthly peace.

Amidst the rapture of the listening trees
There came the stirring of a sudden wind,
Fanning the bright leaves from the rustling branches
So that the spirit, leaning on his harp,
Stood like a picture veiled by falling gold.

      Thereat he ceased the song
  Therewith, close-following, from the fretted strings,
  A few swift cadences made graceful ending
               But for a space
  The sweet concordance lingered and the tones
  Made replication, soft and tremulous,
  Faint-echoing, answering, till the wavering voice
  Was slow-enfolded in regretful silence.

As when from sleep's too-well deceiving vision
One wakes, bereft of some great happiness,



9

 

IO    CH1AXT OF A WOODLAXD SPIRIT.



And seeks to grasp, once more, the pleasing phantom,
Which fades being touched by life's dispelling hand,
So sought my soul to stay the failing chords.

Beside me, still, my two companions stood.
Dear Memory, whose deep, thought-enkindled eyes
Turned on my own a quick and questioning glance
And Sorrow, pale, and, like Athen6, tall,
Strong, with a strength beyond the strength of men;
Pressed nearer, speaking as by right divine.

" I am acquainted with the soul of music,
In Man's behalf, whose vexed, aspiring life,
From hope's first dawn, even to this present hour,
From childhood to the grave, I have attended.
I ask, a little space, that harp of thine,
That here, one of that doomed, unhappy race
May make for me a song. As for the rest
My right, or questions of mortality;
I am immortal as the gods themselves."

Slight need there seemed for speech ; all noble minds
Hold something fine, which makes true courtesy
And he that held the harp, as he had guessed
Her thought, unsaid, made sign with eye and hand,
How all she wished was hers to take, not ask.

 

CHANT OF A WOODLAND SPIRIT.



For, evermore, these spirits of the forest
  Have been the friendly comforters of men.

Then Memory slowly went, with steps demure,
Her soft robe training on the yellow leaves,
And in her white arms bore the instrument,
Which glimmered golden, like celestial fire;
And even with the jarring of her steps
The sacred strings gave forth sweet ringing sounds.

Against my breast she placed the wondrous harp
Which murmured, still, like music in a dream,
I stretched my hands upon the mystic strings,
My fancies mingled with the sounds they gave,
A light from some far shore close-wrapped me round
             And in my heart arose
A tempest of emotions; all the hopes
And longings of my life rushed back to me,
As from some former half-forgotten self,
So that my spirit was borne down, beneath
A settling shadow of profound regret.

Not knowing if my own, or Sorrow's hand
Awaked the chords which, tremblingly, I followed,
I did but voice the madness in my heart
And thus unskilled, the song I lifted up



I I

 
12    CHANT OF A WOODLAND SPIRIT.



      O that the glory of the sun
        Would never darken on our eyes!
      That God's love and man's wish were one;
        And earth were nightless as the skies
      Which once in changeless beauty shone
        On field and stream, where life began,
      Before unhappy, banished man
        Went weeping, forth from Paradise

Make haste! Oh dear white wings of Peace, make haste!
        Time, on his course, outfly.
Make haste ! Oh spirit of Christ's love, make haste!
        Speed on the boundless sky.

Speed on the boundless sky. Not yet; not yet
  Have we found refuge. Through the waves of space
The laboring earth, grown weary, will forget
To beat her course. The ebbing tide bath set
  From future seas, against our dwelling-place.

Haste on the strength of the winds ! With the measure-
      less sweep- of thy pinions,
  Cleave through the limitless ether, the far-flashing
        comet outstripping;
Haste ! for the phantoms of darkness still war on Love's
      gentle dominions;

 

CHANT OF A WOODLAND SPIRIT.



Haste! For the sun of our hope in the crimson-dyed
      billow is dipping.

      Pain, for the breast that is sighing;
        Tears, for the heart which dieth
      Dust, for the lips that are crying
        Fear, for the soul which flieth.

      Be these dear gifts-then life is dear,
        And Nature is more wise that we.
      Be these gifts dear-how shall we fear
        What life's hereafter gifts may be.

      O that the glory of the sun
        Would never darken on our eyes
      That God's love and man's wish were one.
        And earth were nightless as the skies
      Which once in changeless beauty shone
        On field and stream, where life began,
        Before unhappy, banished man
      Went weeping forth from Paradise

Not yet !-O Beauty, on thy shining wings,-not yet,
  From earth take thou thy flight !
Not yet-dear dream of happy days,-not yet
  Fade from our straining sight !



1 3

 

14    CHANT OF A WOODLAND SPIRIT.



  Stay ! fair companion of our loneliness,
    Sweet friend and solace of our thoughts, remain
  To comfort us in hours of wretchedness.
  Spread thou thy realm, for evermore, to bless;
    If thou shalt vanish, life, indeed, were vain.

Stay ! bless6d soul of the morning, whose robes are the
      mists of the mountains
  Fair are the prints of thy feet in the vales that remem-
      ber thy waking;
Spread thy green tents on our hills and be stayed by the
      songs of our fountains;
  Dead are the spirits and dead are the lands that dread
      not thy forsaking.

        Light of the day that is dreary,
          Balm, for the mind which aileth;
        Rest for the soul that is weary,
          Hope of the heart which faileth

        Be these not fair-then death is fair,
          And darkness better than the light;
        Be these not fair-how should we 'share
          The joy of realms that know not night 

        O that the glory of the sun
          Would never darken on our eyes!

 

CHANT OF A WOODLAND SPIRIT.



      That God's will and man's hope were one,
        And earth were nightless as the skies
      Which once in changeless beauty shone
        On field and stream, where life began,
        Before unhappy, banished man
        Went, weeping, forth from Paradise!

No more could I find voice, for round me, now,
A circling host had gathered one by one.
Even as the striking of that instrument,
By mortal hands, had brought them, questioning, there.

Gods, so they seemed, shapes from the unseen world,
Recalling vague impossibilities.
Half-dreamed, wild fancies, moulded from the air,
Whims of the mind in moments of distraction.
Wide-varying as the elements of Nature,
Yet bearing, all, a strange, unearthly likeness,
They stood, and fixed their piercing eyes on me.

What then !-Perhaps the dream was passed, and Life
Had shut the door upon my soul's returning.
I could not tell ; so crushing was the sense
Of loneliness, so far-off seemed the world.

What thoughts were hid behind those brows immortal 
What feelings visited these changeless hearts 



I 5

 

16 Cf[HANT OF A WOODLAND SPIRIT.



'T were vain to guess-conjecture and confusion
Filled with fantastic thoughts my troubled heart,
And with my mind's distress blurred out conception.

Sweet faces, some were,-beautiful-some pale;
Some dark and scowling-some were wonderful,
With curious clear, great, speculative eyes
Which peered out lustrous through soft-shadowing locks.

But from beneath some broad, unruffled brows
Came star-like glancings, pitilessly keen,
Imparting subtle pain; as when one sees
Sweet lips -slow-parting in contemptuous smiles.

One mighty figure, wrapped in pallid gray,
Ghostlike and cheerless as a midnight mist;
Had that in his dim features which proclaimed
His far-off, unstarred, nebulous abode:
So cold the desolating looks he had.

And one, of many, whose fine heads were girt
With scintillating rays, which made one think
They should be spirits from the unnamed stars,
Stood forth a step's-length from his glittering throng,
Majestically robed in silvered azure.
And with clear-ringing, half-disdainful speech
Of startling accent, filled the waiting silence.

 

CHANT OF A WOODLAND SPIRIT.



" So thus it comes at last;
The races touch with friendly finger-tips,
And, with soft interchange of compliment,
Draw mutual music from the self-same string.
Vain are these false delights !
Soon comes the end of all such vanity."


" Who is this Sorrow  This earth-nurtured creature,
Invading realms that are for us alone 
Despising Time's unalterable custom
She sets no bound to her ambitious steps
In quest of deathless, heavenly things, wherewith
To feed the frenzy of this little planet,
Whose atoms dream of immortality."


" Turn-Ye unperishing, eternal beings!
These mortals are a dull, ignoble race,
Gross, and unworthy of our contemplation;
Mere creeping things, contented in their state,
As we, in ours ; they have their dreams, belike,
Rare thoughts of better things, but soon they lapse
Back to the level whence they will not rise;
And, like themselves, so will their visions end,
Vain fancies, planted in dissolving dust,
Unfruitful seeds that spring and flower and wither."



17

 

i8    CHANT OF A WOODLAND SPIRIT.



" Thie primal order will remain forever
This Sorrow, and this Memory, wearing here
A fleeting semblance of divinity,
With this weak race, will vanish utterly.
They are not known among the gods immortal;
Their songs are futile. We alone endure.
Their only refuge is forgetfulness.

" Turn hence ! Ye spirits of diviner flame!
The great unswerving law, whose course we aid,
Bids us put on the garments of rejoicing.
Our fadeless beauty, nothing can destroy.
For endless quest, our strength we gird with glory."

Like dagger-strokes, which either kill outright
Or arm with frenzy the unspeeded soul,
Which fears no further wound, so fell these words.

Such words to hear and, hearing, not to die,
Is to outlive despairing, and to dare
The despicable vengeance of the stars.

Gone was the fear, the overpowering awe.
Quick anger overcame the sense of wonder.
From heart to brain surged the resentful blood,
For thought's swift miracle unrolled before me

 

CHANT OF A WOODLAND SPIRIT.



A flame-wrought picture of the battling world:
Time's limitless dim fields, and stretched thereon,
Life's highway dotted with the perished years,
The wretched pathway of man's baffled soul,
The tragic semblance of once-hopeful days,


The mirth, the music, the proud-beating hearts.
The clasping hands, the forward-looking eyes,
The pressing steps, the never-ceasing toil,
The mingling tears, the undismayed devotion.
The fruitless griefs, the madness, and distress,
The cries, the outstretched arms, the sad farewells,
The closing silence of the wayside graves.


With that consuming vision, as I gazed,
Immortal anguish rose within my heart:
And passionate remembrance of my race.
The wrongs and the unspeakable misfortune,
Bore up my spirit past the reach of fear.
So much can grief uplift the mind-I stood
And watched the threatening magnificence
And circling glory, of the thronging spirits.
As one transported by sublime disaster
Might stand upon a sinking ship, and view
Entranced, the dangerous splendors of the storm.



I9

 

20     CHANT OF A WOODLAND SPIRIT.



The cries of all my brothers in distress
Rang in my hearing. Memory, with strong arms,
Held up the harp against my aching breast,
And Sorrow, bending in imperious strength,
Stretched hands with mine upon the quivering strings.
An instant purpose filled me. All my thoughts
Grew into words, and from my burning soul,
In level rage, the numbers rose against,
The undisturbed assurance of the gods,
And thus I voiced aloud the soul's response.

Hear! Ye quick-visioned gods !
Ye fair, immortal shapes, that painless dwell,
Unseen, unvexed, safe in a careless realm!
For fears unshaken; recking not of griefs
To whom the name of death is meaningless.


Ye shall not have to say in after-time,
Ye knew not of the ills which men must bear,
And therefore helped not; for if hope be true,
If life shall hold beyond this mocking dream,
In which I find me, somewhere I shall live,
With words enough, picked from that unknown speech
Wherewith the dead make answer, being adjudged,
To fix the falsehood; should ye, there, deny.

 
CIANVT OF A WOODLAND SPIRIT.



Not for myself make I complaint: I scorn
To joy in good that comes but with base pleading.
Some nobler fate the life within demands;
Some kindlier front the powers of heaven should wear.

Here, not of my own will, I bide, and share
Each ill of man and beast, glad if through pain
Which racks my spirit, I may win the space
Wherein to hurl one thundering message forth
From this death-darkened bourne where helpless hearts,
Too long accursed,-too long shut from elysium
In silence, and with patient tears, bear up
Against the burthen Fate hath put upon them,

This for their sakes, I dare. Thus I shake off
Fears born of clay-Thus I forbear to think
How I shall fare, in that gloom-shadowed land.
A million souls join cry in my song's voice,
And ye shall hear, though heaven be lost to me.

            Hear ye !-ye happy !
Ye, that fulfil the changeless will of Nature.
Ye chaos-wakers ! Ye, that made merry revel
About the birth-flame of the eldest star!
Ye singers of first-songs, whose voices rang
Amidst the scenes, dim-pictured, now, in fable.



2 1

 

22    CHANT OF A WOODLAND SPIRI7T.



Ye moonlight mariners, on mist-made seas
Whose head-lands were the clouds which first shed rain
Upon the fields of this fair-fashioned earth.
Ye that saw Eden bud, and, here, this hour,
Helped spread the sunlight on this morning hill.


Ye that can lay the flowers to rest-and smile,
No less at ease, than when ye brought them forth.
Or tinge the leaves with life-destroying beauty,
Blithe, as when first, with tender, dewy touches,
Ye ope'd them to the bless6d April sun.


Ye, that run, tireless, with the breeze, all day,
And find not sadness in the still, dark night;
Nor in the haunted silence of the forest,
Pause, stayed for anguish which ye cannot name,


Ye free,-unchecked-mates of the summer streams,
Companions of the birds-unsorrowing,-
lThat fling Day's gates apart, in happiness,
When Dawn, her signal scarf waves at the portal,
And, happy, close them when the sun goeth down;
O know ye not, it haps not so to us 
No part have we in all this.that is done.

 

CHANT OF A WOODLAND SPIRIT.



          Oh, not in bitterness,
Nor envy, nor mere discontent, nor rage,
Believe it not ; from these springs not our cry
Nay, Beauty builds her wonders not in vain.

      Well, we do love the earth-
The strange, forgetful earth whereon we bide,-
With all love's tenderness.
The strange forgetful earth that loves us not
Whereon, in fear, we stay,
Live, through our little day, and build our dreams,
      Sad, and in loneliness.

Alas! We love-love, and with breaking hearts
The morning thrills us, and our souls drink in
Regretful rapture from the far-off sky.
WVe are not all in grossness lulled, nor blind
Not all unheedful, drowsed by sluggish blood,
          Nor dulled by selfish cares.
Like faint remembrance of some fairer world
          Love's imprint lingers yet
And strange divinity stays with us still.

The dew-drop on the leaf charms us from sorrow,
The sun wakes inspiration in our souls,



23

 

CHANT OF A WOODLAND SPIRIT.



The falling rain delights us, and the snow.
The biting cold we bear, and search for cheer
Amidst the chilly pictures of the frost.

It is not that we love not :-fain, 0 fain,
Would we be friends with Nature,
            We would toil
Through twice ten times the years
            Unmurmuring;
Content to reap but thorns, if we might know
That, somewhere, at the last life would be kind.
Could we but gain some land
Where nature's heart would not call back, as now
Each seeming gift her wayward will bestows.

  We ask but love for love
        Which, finding not,
  Like children seeking shelter in misfortune,
  We wrap our spirits in the fading wisps
  Of transient, tearful joys ;-well-knowing all,
  We play at happiness; so fond are we,
  So fond-so fain to think the dream is true.

It is not true-the dream-it is not true !
Against the great unkindness of our fate,
Against this unswayed, unregarding force,



24

 

CHANT OF A WOODLAND SPIRIT.



Against this dread and unrevealing silence,
Against this Nature's mocking majesty
In fine and glittering panoply arrayed,
            I lauuch my cry.

I too have dreamed my dreams-
I too have loved, none more. In her wild paths
I have gone forth alone, and on my knees
In her great gloomy temples have I wept
Unanswered and uncomforted by any.

I have forsworn content-and cast aside
The pleasing joys wherewith men patch life up,
And court delusion in the silken lap
Of smooth convention's vain security;
Nor shall my soul repine that I have lost
The painted fruit, the husks with which the world
Would stay the aching hunger of the heart.

Nay, Nature hath been kindlier, though her hand
Gives but the frosty manna ; for the taste
Hath in it something of celestial spice,
Sharp, but untainted, like the wintry heavens.
Therefore is Nature kindlier, but not kind.
Life, and life's best as offering she demands,
And few her favors granted in return.



25

 

26    CHANT OF A WOODLAND SPIRIT.



Yet as her ways are strict, and life is dear,
So do I prize her strange, half-dangerous gifts,
Devotion's meagre and hard-won reward.
But with the blade, wherewith she arms my strength,
I will cut out the truth, even though the stroke
Should cleave my own heart, and make vain the hopes
Which please my spirit with sweet dreams of heaven.
Somewhere the truth must lead.-Peace, or despair,
The soul must find, and where truth leads, I follow.

Beneath the flowering, seeming tenderness
Of her loved beauty, which enchants our souls,
And lulls our senses in forgetful ease,
Bides her great steadfast and determined heart:
Thereto we cannot reach. Untouched she keeps
Her fixed, eternal purposes unshaken.
Unfriendly and far-off is her intent.
In her decrees there is no care for us.

Nay, some sad variance makes us strangers here.
Sets midnight shadows in the noon-tide sun;
Plants winter's chill amidst the warmth of summer,
And turns the leaf sere in our spring-time's bud.

          Might we but know,
    The land, whereto we journey would be fair,
    Well-blessed were we in this brief pilgrimage.

 
CHANT OF A WOODLAND SPR117.



          Deep grieving fills our hearts
    And Sorrow goeth with us where we go.
    Because we know not and may never know.

The air we breath is full of whispering fears
To which we dare not listen. All our life
Is shrouded in a cloud. The unaffected earth
Puts forth no sign, in answer, when our hearts
Make soft entreaty, with well-chosen words.
Dark shadows stand about us. Threatening shapes
Arise before us in the way we tread;
And when the wounded spirit, mad with wrongs,
Confronts them, questioning, their lips are dumb.

Do ye not guess what blighting pangs we bear.
How insecure our purest joys, and how
Dread silence weighs our spirits down like death 
The hills with longings fill us, and the trees
Bud in our visions of lost days. Our hopes
Blend with the evening clouds. The waving grain
Can wake regret. The scent of mountain pines
May fill our breasts with anguish. Tears will spring
Because the orchard blooms. And if some brook
Makes music in remembrance, dreams of home
Wake in our lonely hearts, and, far away,
We cannot sleep for thinking of the fields.



27

 

28     CHANT OF A WOODLAND SPIRIT.



            Mount-mount, my song!
Stand close, dear Memory. Sorrow, lend thy hand.
            Be steadfast, now, 0 Muse!
Droop not thy wings. Not yet have I made ending.
From earth and sky and from the clamoring seas
Pluck thou new rage and, here, out-voice them all.

  'T is Nature's way-the mountains have their times
  To speak, with fire and death, the burning woe
  Which slumbereth long, hid in the earth's deep bosom.

  The crashing skies make mock at peace, and rend
  The arching firmament with deafening storms,
  Unsilenced, whilst their glorious argument
  Rolls over us, in dark embattled clouds.

    And where hath quiet flown 
    When from the unimaginable deeps
    Whereto the sun's light cannot reach, awakes
    The wild unshackled grieving of the seas 
    What fetters make restraint-
    Or shall with silence bind the angered billows
    When grief's world-shaking voice is lifted up,
    What time some secret, long,
    Unfathomable, mighty discontent
    Hath vexed the loud unanswerable ocean 

 

CHANT OF A WOODLAND SPIRIT.



Take thee quick heed, 0 Muse!
By Nature's fierce protestings be thou lessoned.
These be her songs, framed in the giant speech,
Which giveth voice to her unrestful moods.
Let passion's surge bear down all lesser thoughts,
And with tumultuous song make thou reply.
From sorrow's universal heart, break thou
The long-enduring silence of humanity.
Yet farther hear !
Ye deities to Nature ministrant.
No more,-no more
Shall ye strike harp in praise of Nature's glory,
And no remembrance of her banished children
Be mingled with your strains.
Henceforth, forever, the triumphant winds
Shall wake no echo from the answering hills,
Untinged, unburthened, by the soul's lament.

Henceforth, till songs be done,
Ye shall not sing the beauty of the stars,
Nor with the streams make music, nor lift up
Long hymns of mirth amidst the voiceful forest,
Nor praise the undying sun;
But man's deep sorrow, like a slow refrain,
Shall whisper in the spaces of your chanting.



29

 

30    CHANT OF A WOODLAND SPIRIT.



  Man ! banished man! whose soul is made for sorrow,
    Even as the flower is formed to hold the dew;
  Child of the passing hour, with no to-morrow-
    No yesterday-and no sure haven in view.

  Man, marvellous !-the monster-god and beast;
    Sprung from the earth, and dower'd from the sky;
  Life's guest, invited to a poisoned feast-
  A prisoner who dreads to be released,
    Regretting life, yet unresigned to die.

  With feet implanted on the treacherous sands,
    Wrapped in the clouds of vague and vain beliefs
  Vexed with the fruitless labor of his hands,
  Alone, among created things, he stands-
    A throneless monarch crowned with kingly griefs.

Make way in the silence, make room in the silence of
    heaven.
Through stars, that afar swing their lamps in the lum-
    inous ether.
Build paths on the echoless void, for the flight of our
    sorrow
Far off in the land of forgetfulness, build us a dwelling,
For sighs and for tears, and for mirth, that is sadder than
    weeping,
For here, ye attend not, nor stay for humanity's crying.

 

         CHANT OF A WOODLAND SPIRIT.               31

Make way for the tide of our grief-for the flood that is
    sweeping
The fanciful structures of ages away on its bosom.
Make way for the soul and the soul's irresistible anguish.
Despair, like omnipotent death, is forever prevailing;
The barriers break, and our woe, like the sea is ascending.