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.
 
723. From “The Brook”
 
By William Bull Wright
 
 
THROUGH his million veins are poured
The splendors of the heaven whence he fell.
Wise above his thought is he:
Deep things he has to tell
To such as with a swift dexterity        5
Can aptly gloss his tangled word.
To an eternal song he frames his dance,
And urges his advance
Through numbers, motions intricately woven.
No pedant’s eye avails to scan        10
The tumult of his foaming line,
Whose music owns a rule divine
To ears that once have caught the plan.
His notes so delicate and fine
My rudely fingered stop would crumble;        15
Only some easier tones I twine
To wreathe my homely line.
But, ah, the strength, the scope, the vision,
… the cadence sweet!
What bard could in his rhyme imprison,        20
Or bind with a melodious fetter,
The prance of these fine feet!
 
“Whence I come or whither I go,
I little question, for well I know
What I am, ’t is joy to be;        25
Laughter is my vesture,
And a god of revelry
Beckons in my gesture.
I love my proper daemon well;
Summons he, I haste to follow        30
Through balmy grove or grassy dell,
Or mountain’s tempest-haunted hollow.
 
“Only to the sober eye
The gods withdraw the curtains of the sky
Pressed from an immortal vine,        35
Temperance is eternal wine.
Who drinks my liquors chaste and cool
May slight the Heliconian pool:
He has no need to steal a sip
From Hafiz’ bowl, or bathe his lip        40
In honey pressed from Pindar’s comb,
Or taste of Bacchus’ philtered foam,
Or filch from Chaucer’s bounteous grace
Some liquid, limpid, purling phrase.
He shall take with heavenly sleight        45
In springe of couchant rhyme
The holy syllables, that in their flight
Skim the meads of Time,
And sometimes tarry for a night.
Lark-like they warble sweet and clear        50
Up and down the bustling sphere:
Happy he that skills to hear
Their feathery oarage light.
 
“Wide waves the harvest of sweet song,
Long since the gods have sown the seed:        55
Thither a thousand reapers throng,
But since the flinty stalks grow strong
Their sickles clip the easier weed.
Strives one with sweat and sober heed,
And limbs that ache and hands that bleed,        60
To sheave some score of stems:
The dear wise world, that loves the weed,
His heavenly task condemns.
 
“I know ye, folk of birth and death,
And of what troublous stuff is spun        65
The feeble tissue of your breath:
I know your fashions every one,—
Your gait and features smooth or grim,
From him that wakes a raw papoose
To him whose tongue his parents loose        70
With babbling of a Christian hymn.
Well I know the woman’s wail,
Who comes, like bird from forage-quest,
With loaded bill unto her nest,
And finds her tender chitlings dead:        75
What beak hath brought ye death instead?
Sorrowful numbers flock around,
Earth-born ditties full of tears,
The loss, the cross, the myriad fears
That sting and madden and confound.        80
Ye call the law of your own fate
Rough to the feet, unfriendly, cold;
But if the heart be free and bold,
It turns to beautiful and great.
Come forth and love it, and ’t is thine,        85
Works like a strong man by thy side;
But dodge or weep or fall supine,
Or take a lesser thought for guide,
The pebble of the rill
Has power to kill.        90
 
“For my frolic lyre refuses
Fellowship of moping muses:
Touched by a single note of pain,
His simple chords would crack atwain.
He to heaven is strongly sworn        95
To sound the hymns of utmost joy
And things of joyance born;
Pledged to a large, exulting song,
To which no sombre tones belong,
That, riding high above man’s narrow state,        100
Perfect and full, and beyond sweetness sweet,
Teaches the maiden stars their heavenly gait,
And those soft flashings of their silver feet.”
 

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