By William Ellery Channing
(1780 - 1842)
 
 
Edith
 
 
EDITH, the silent stars are coldly gleaming,
  The night wind moans, the leafless trees are still.
Edith, there is a life beyond this seeming,
  So sleeps the ice-clad lake beneath thy hill.
 
So silent beats the pulse of thy pure heart,
  So shines the thought of thy unquestioned eyes.
O life! why wert thou helpless in thy art?
  O loveliness! why seem’st thou but surprise?
 
Edith, the streamlets laugh to leap again;
  There is a spring to which life’s pulses fly;
And hopes that are not all the sport of pain,
  Like lustres in the veil of that gray eye.
 
They say the thankless stars have answering vision,
  That courage sings from out the frost-bound ways;
Edith, I grant that olden time’s decision,—
  Thy beauty paints with gold the icy rays.
 
As in the summer’s heat her promise lies,
  As in the autumn’s seed his vintage hides,
Thus might I shape my moral from those eyes,
  Glass of thy soul, where innocence abides.
 
Edith, thy nature breathes of answered praying;
  If thou dost live, then not my grief is vain;
Beyond the nerves of woe, beyond delaying,
  Thy sweetness stills to rest the winter’s pain.
 
 
From “A Poet’s Hope”
 
 
LADY, there is a hope that all men have,—
Some mercy for their faults, a grassy place
To rest in, and a flower-strown, gentle grave;
Another hope which purifies our race,
That, when that fearful bourne forever past,
They may find rest,—and rest so long to last.
 
I seek it not, I ask no rest for ever,
My path is onward to the farthest shores,—
Upbear me in your arms, unceasing river,
That from the soul’s clear fountain swiftly pours,
Motionless not, until the end is won,
Which now I feel hath scarcely felt the sun.
 
To feel, to know, to soar unlimited
Mid throngs of light-winged angels sweeping far,
And pore upon the realms unvisited
That tessellate the unseen, unthought star,—
To be the thing that now I feebly dream,
Flashing within my faintest, deepest gleam.
 
Ah! caverns of my soul! how thick your shade,
Where flows that life by which I faintly see:—
Wave your bright torches, for I need your aid,
Golden-eyed demons of my ancestry!
Your son though blinded hath a light within,
A heavenly fire which ye from suns did win.
 
And, lady, in thy hope my life will rise
Like the air-voyager, till I upbear
These heavy curtains of my filmy eyes
Into a lighter, more celestial air:
A mortal’s hope shall bear me safely on,
Till I the higher region shall have won.
 
O Time! O Death! I clasp you in my arms,
For I can soothe an infinite cold sorrow,
And gaze contented on your icy charms
And that wild snow-pile which we call to-morrow;
Sweep on, O soft and azure-lidded sky,
Earth’s waters to your gentle gaze reply.
 
I am not earth-born, though I here delay;
Hope’s child, I summon infiniter powers,
And laugh to see the mild and sunny day
Smile on the shrunk and thin autumnal hours;
I laugh, for hope hath happy place with me,—
If my bark sinks, ’t is to another sea.
 
 
Hymn of the Earth
 
 
MY highway is unfeatured air,
My consorts are the sleepless Stars,
And men my giant arms upbear,—
My arms unstained and free from scars.
 
I rest forever on my way,
Rolling around the happy Sun;
My children love the sunny day,
But noon and night to me are one.
 
My heart has pulses like their own,
I am their Mother, and my veins,
Though built of the enduring stone,
Thrill as do theirs with godlike pains.
 
The forests and the mountains high,
The foaming ocean and the springs,
The plains,—O pleasant Company,
My voice through all your anthem rings!
 
Ye are so cheerful in your minds,
Content to smile, content to share:
My being in your chorus finds
The echo of the spheral air.
 
No leaf may fall, no pebble roll,
No drop of water lose the road;
The issues of the general Soul
Are mirrored in its round abode.
 
 
Tears in Spring
 
(Lament for Thoreau)
 
 
THE SWALLOW is flying over,
But he will not come to me;
He flits, my daring rover,
From land to land, from sea to sea;
Where hot Bermuda’s reef
Its barrier lifts to fortify the shore,
Above the surf’s wild roar
He darts as swiftly o’er,—
But he who heard his cry of spring
Hears that no more, heeds not his wing.
 
How bright the skies that dally
Along day’s cheerful arch,
And paint the sunset valley!
How redly buds the larch!
Blackbirds are singing,
Clear hylas ringing,
Over the meadow the frogs proclaim
The coming of Spring to boy and dame,
But not to me,—
Nor thee!
 
And golden crowfoot’s shining near,
Spring everywhere that shoots ’t is clear,
A wail in the wind is all I hear;
A voice of woe for a lover’s loss,
A motto for a travelling cross,—
And yet it is mean to mourn for thee,
In the form of bird or blossom or bee.
 
Cold are the sods of the valley to-day
Where thou art sleeping,
That took thee back to thy native clay;
Cold,—if above thee the grass is peeping
And the patient sunlight creeping,
While the bluebird sits on the locust-bough
Whose shadow is painted across thy brow,
And carols his welcome so sad and sweet
To the Spring that comes and Kisses his feet.
 
 
The Barren Moors
 
 
ON your bare rocks, O barren moors,
On your bare rocks I love to lie!—
They stand like crags upon the shores,
Or clouds upon a placid sky.
 
Across those spaces desolate
The fox pursues his lonely way,
Those solitudes can fairly sate
The passage of my loneliest day.
 
Like desert islands far at sea
Where not a ship can ever land,
Those dim uncertainties to me
For something veritable stand.
 
A serious place distinct from all
Which busy Life delights to feel,—
I stand in this deserted hall,
And thus the wounds of time conceal.
 
No friend’s cold eye, or sad delay,
Shall vex me now where not a sound
Falls on the ear, and every day
Is soft as silence most profound.
 
No more upon these distant worlds
The agitating world can come,
A single Pensive thought upholds
The arches of this dreamy home.
 
Within the sky above, one thought
Replies to you, O barren moors!
Between, I stand, a creature taught
To stand between two silent floors.
 
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