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Posts Tagged ‘James Russell Lowell’

A stranger came one night to Yussouf’s tent,
Saying, “Behold one outcast and in dread,
Against whose life the bow of power is bent,
Who flies, and hath not where to lay his head;
I come to thee for shelter and for food,
To Yussouf, called through all our tribes “The Good.'”

“This tent is mine,” said Yussouf, “but no more
Than it is God’s ; come in, and be at peace;
Freely shalt thou partake of all my store
As I of His who buildeth over these
Our tents his glorious roof of night and day,
And at whose door none ever yet heard Nay.”

So Yussouf entertained his guest that night,
And, waking him ere day, said: “Here is gold;
My swiftest horse is saddled for thy flight;
Depart before the prying day grow bold.”
As one lamp lights another, nor grows less,
So nobleness enkindleth nobleness.

That inward light the stranger’s face made grand,
Which shines from all self-conquest; kneeling low,
He bowed his forehead upon Yussouf’s hand,
Sobbing: “O Sheik, I cannot leave thee so;
I will repay thee; all this thou hast done
Unto that Ibrahim who slew thy son!”

“Take thrice the gold,” said Yussouf, “for with thee
Into the desert, never to return,
My one black thought shall ride away from me;
First-born, for whom by day and night I yearn,
Balanced and just are all of God’s decrees;
Thee art avenged my first-born, sleep in peace!”

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…………To J.R. Lowell
………February 22, 1859

We will not speak of years to-night, –
For what have years to bring
But larger floods of love and light,
And sweeter songs to sing?

We will not drown in wordy praise
The kindly thoughts that rise;
If Friendship own one tender phrase,
He reads it in our eyes.

We need not waste our school-boy art
To gild this notch of Time; –
Forgive me if my wayward heart
Has throbbed in artless rhyme.

Enough for him the silent grasp
That knits us hand in hand,
And he the bracelet’s radiant clasp
That locks our circling band.

Strength to his hours of manly toil!
Peace to his starlit dreams!
Who loves alike the furrowed soil,
The music-haunted streams!

Sweet smiles to keep forever bright
The sunshine on his lips,
And faith that sees the ring of light
Round nature’s last eclipse!

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…………..a fragment

Thick-rushing, like an ocean vast
Of bisons the far prairie shaking,
The notes crowd heavily and fast
As surfs, one plunging while the last
Draws seaward from its foamy breaking.

Or in low murmurs they began,
Rising and rising momently,
As o’er a harp Æolian
A fitful breeze, until they ran
Up to a sudden ecstasy.

And then, like minute-drops of rain
Ringing in water silverly,
They lingering dropped and dropped again,
Till it was almost like a pain
To listen when the next would be.

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God is not dumb, that He should speak no more!
If thou has wanderings in the wilderness
And findest not Sinai – ‘tis thy soul is poor!
There towers the mountain of the Voice no less,
Which whoso seeks shall find – but he who bends
Intent on manna still and mortal ends,
Sees it not – neither hears its thundered lore.

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….Stanzas On Freedom

Men! whose boast it is that ye
Come of fathers brave and free,
If there breathe on earth a slave,
Are ye truly free and brave?
If ye do not feel the chain,
When it works a brother’s pain,
Are ye not base slaves indeed,
Slaves unworthy to be freed? 

Women! who shall one day bear
Sons to breathe New England air,
If ye hear, without a blush,
Deeds to make the roused blood rush
Like red lava through your veins,
For your sisters now in chains –
Answer! Are ye fit to be
Mothers of the brave and free? 

Is true Freedom but to break
Fetters for our own dear sake,
And, with leathern hearts, forget
That we owe mankind a debt?
No! true freedom is to share
All the chains our brothers wear,
And, with heart and hand, to be
Earnest to make others free! 

They are slaves who fear to speak
For the fallen and the weak;
They are slaves who will not choose
Hatred, scoffing, and abuse,
Rather than in silence shrink
From the truth they needs must think;
They are slaves who dare not be
In the right with two or three.

 

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              Sub Pondere Crescit

The hope of Truth grows stronger, day by day;
I hear the soul of Man around me waking,
Like a great sea, its frozen fetters breaking,
And flinging up to heaven its sunlit spray,
Tossing huge continents in scornful play,
And crushing them, with din of grinding thunder,
That makes old emptinesses stare in wonder;
The memory of a glory passed away
Lingers in every heart, as, in the shell,
Resounds the bygone freedom of the sea,
And, every hour new signs of promise tell
That the great soul shall once again be free,
For high, and yet more high, the murmurs swell
Of inward strife for truth and liberty.

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