Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > An American Anthology, 1787–1900
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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  An American Anthology, 1787–1900.  1900.
 
1212. From “Wild Eden”
 
By George Edward Woodberry
 
 
WHEN FIRST I SAW HER

WHEN first I saw her, at the stroke
The heart of nature in me spoke;
The very landscape smiled more sweet,
Lit by her eyes, pressed by her feet;
She made the stars of heaven more bright        5
By sleeping under them at night;
And fairer made the flowers of May
By being lovelier than they.
 
Softly down where the sunshine spread,
Dark in the grass I laid my head;        10
And let the lights of earth depart
To find her image in my heart;
While through my being came and went
Tones of some heavenly instrument,
As if where its blind motions roll        15
This world should wake and be a soul.
 
THE SECRET

NIGHTINGALES warble about it
  All night under blossom and star;
The wild swan is dying without it,
  And the eagle crieth afar;        20
The sun, he doth mount but to find it,
  Searching the green earth o’er;
But more doth a man’s heart mind it—
  O more, more, more!
 
Over the gray leagues of ocean        25
  The infinite yearneth alone;
The forests with wandering emotion
  The thing they know not intone;
Creation arose but to see it,
  A million lamps in the blue;        30
But a lover, he shall be it,
  If one sweet maid is true.
 
O, INEXPRESSIBLE AS SWEET

O, INEXPRESSIBLE as sweet,
  Love takes my voice away;
I cannot tell thee when we meet        35
  What most I long to say.
 
But hadst thou hearing in thy heart
  To know what beats in mine,
Then shouldst thou walk, where’er thou art,
  In melodies divine.        40
 
So warbling birds lift higher notes
  Than to our ears belong;
The music fills their throbbing throats,
  But silence steals the song.
 
THE ROSE OF STARS

WHEN Love, our great Immortal,
        45
  Put on mortality,
And down from Eden’s portal
  Brought this sweet life to be,
At the sublime archangel
  He laughed with veilëd eyes,        50
For he bore within his bosom
  The seed of Paradise.
 
He did it in his bosom,
  And there such warmth it found,
It brake in bud and blossom,        55
  And the rose fell on the ground;
As the green light on the prairie,
  As the red light on the sea,
Through fragrant belts of summer
  Came this sweet life to be.        60
 
And the grave archangel seeing
  Spread his mighty wings for flight,
But the glow hung round him fleeing
  Like the rose of an Arctic night;
And sadly moving heavenward        65
  By Venus and by Mars,
He heard the joyful planets
  Hail Earth, the Rose of Stars.
 
DIVINE AWE

TO tremble, when I touch her hands,
With awe that no man understands;        70
To feel soft reverence arise
When, lover-sweet, I meet her eyes;
To see her beauty grow and shine
When most I feel this awe divine,—
Whate’er befall me, this is mine;        75
And where about the room she moves,
My spirit follows her, and loves.
 
HOMEWARD BOUND
I

INTO the west of the waters on the living ocean’s foam,
Into the west of the sunset where the young adventurers roam,
Into the west of the shining star, I am sailing, sailing home;        80
Home from the lonely cities, time’s wreck, and the naked woe,
Home through the clean great waters where freemen’s pennants blow,
Home to the land men dream of, where all the nations go;
’T is home but to be on the waters, ’t is home already here,
Through the weird red-billowing sunset into the west to steer,        85
To fall asleep in the rocking dark with home a day more near.
 
II

By morning light the ship holds on, alive with happy freight,
A thousand hearts with one still joy, and with one hope elate,
To reach the land that mothered them and sweetly guides their fate;
Whether the purple furrow heaps the bows with dazzling spray,        90
Or buried in green-based masses they dip the storm-swept day,
Or the white fog ribbons o’er them, the strong ship holds her way;
And when another day is done, by the star of love we steer
To the land of all that we love best and all that we hold dear;
We are sailing westward, homeward; our western home is near.        95
 
THE CHILD

IT was only the clinging touch
Of a child’s hand in the street,
But it made the whole day sweet;
Caught, as he ran full-speed,
In my own stretched out to his need,        100
Caught, and saved from the fall,
As I held, for the moment’s poise,
In my circling arms the whole boy’s
Delicate slightness, warmëd mould;
Mine, for an instant mine,        105
The sweetest thing the heart can divine,
More precious than fame or gold,
The crown of many joys,
Lay in my breast, all mine.
 
I was nothing to him;        110
He neither looked up nor spoke;
I never saw his eyes;
He was gone ere my mind awoke
From the action’s quick surprise
With vision blurred and dim.        115
 
You say I ask too much:
It was only the clinging touch
Of a child in a city street;
It hath made the whole day sweet.
 
O, STRUCK BENEATH THE LAUREL

O, STRUCK beneath the laurel, where the singing fountains are,
        120
I saw from heaven falling the star of love afar;
O, slain in Eden’s bower nigh the bourn where lovers rest,
I fell upon the arrow that was buried in my breast;
Farewell the noble labor, farewell the silent pain,
Farewell the perfect honor of the long years lived in vain;        125
I lie upon the moorland where the wood and pasture meet,
And the cords that no man breaketh are bound about my feet.
 
SO SLOW TO DIE

THE RAINBOW on the ocean
  A moment bright,
The nightingale’s devotion        130
  That dies on night,
 
Eve’s rosy star a-tremble
  Its hour of light,—
All things that love resemble
  Too soon take flight.        135
 
The violets we cherish
  Died in the spring;
Roses and lilies perish
  In what they bring;
And joy and beauty wholly        140
  With life depart;
But love leaves slow, how slowly!
  Life’s empty heart.
 
O, strange to me, and wondrous,
  The storm passed by,        145
With sound of voices thund’rous
  Swept from the sky;
But stranger, love, thy fashion,—
  O, tell me why
Art thou, dark storm of passion,        150
  So slow to die?
 
As roll the billowy ridges
  When the great gale has blown o’er;
As the long winter-dirges
  From frozen branches pour;        155
As the whole sea’s harsh December
  Pounds on the pine-hung shore;
So will love’s deep remember,
  So will deep love deplore.
 
SEAWARD

I WILL rise, I will go from the places that are dark with passion and pain,
        160
From the sorrow-changëd woodlands and a thousand memories slain.
O light gone out in darkness on the cliff I seek no more
Where she I worshipped met me in her girlhood at the door!
O, bright though years how many! fare-well, sweet guiding star—
The wild wind blows me seaward over the harbor-bar!        165
Better thy waste, gray Ocean, the homeless, heaving plain,
Than to choke the fount of life and the flower of honor stain!
I will seek thy blessed shelter, deep bosom of sun and storm,
From the fever and fret of the earth and the things that debase and deform;
For I am thine; from of old thou didst lay me, a child, at rest        170
In thy cradle of many waters, and gav’st to my hunger thy breast;
Remember the dreamful boy whom thy beauty preserved from wrong,—
Thou taughtest me music, O Singer of the never-silent song!
Man-grown, I will seek thy healing; though from worse than death I fly,
Not mine the heart of the craven, not here I mean to die!        175
Let me taste on my lips thy salt, let me live with the sun and the rain,
Let me lean to the rolling wave and feel me man again!
O, make thee a sheaf of arrows as when thy winters rage forth,—
Whiten me as thy deep-sea waves with the blanching breath of the North!
O, take thee a bundle of spears from thine azure of burning drouth,        180
Smite into my pulses the tremors, the fervors, the blaze of the South!
So might my breath be snow-cold, and my blood be pure like fire,
The heavenly souls that have left me will come back to sustain and inspire.
Take me—I come—O, save me in the paths my fathers trod!
Then fling me back to the battle where men labor the peace of God!        185
 

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