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.
 
1273. At the Mermaid Inn
 
After the First Performance of “Hamlet”
 
By Charles Lotin Hildreth
 
 
AT table yonder sits the man we seek,
  Beside the ingle, where the crimson flare
Reveals him through the eddying tavern reek,
  Reclining easeful in his leathern chair;
In russet doublet, bearded and benign,        5
He looks a worthy burgher at his wine.
 
Even so; but when thy veins ran fire tonight,
  Thy hand crept knotted to thy sword-hilt there,
And through all moods of madness and delight
  Thy soul was hurried headlong, unaware,        10
It seemed the genius or the scene should be
Some radiant shape, brow-bound with majesty.
 
And lo! a man unsingled from the crowd
  By quick recognizance of reverent eyes,
A dim, inobvious presence, kindly-browed,        15
  That sits apart, observant, thoughtfulwise,
Weaving—who knows?—what wondrous woof of song,
What other Hamlet, from the shifting throng.
 
A pale, plain-favored face, the smile whereof
  Is beautiful; the eyes gray, changeful, bright,        20
Low-lidded now, and luminous as love;
  Anon soul-searching, ominous as night,
Seer-like, inscrutable, revealing deeps
Wherein a mighty spirit wakes or sleeps.
 
Here, where my outstretched hand might touch his arm,        25
  I gaze upon that mild and lofty mien,
With that deep awe and unexpressive charm
  I feel in wide sea-solitudes serene;
Or on some immemorial mountain’s crest—
Eternity unveiled and manifest.        30
 
For he hath wrought with nature and made known
  The marvel and the majesty of life;
Translating from the pages of his own
  The mighty heart of man, the stress and strife,
The pain, the passion, and the bitter leaven,        35
The cares that quell, the dreams that soar to heaven.
 
So, whatsoever time shall make or mar,
  Or fate decree of benison or blame,
This poet-player, like a wondrous star,
  Shall shed the solemn splendor of his fame,        40
Wide as the world, while beauty has a shrine,
While youth has hope, and love is yet divine.
 

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