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.
 
825. Sunrise
 
By Sidney Lanier
 
 
IN my sleep I was fain of their fellowship, fain
  Of the live-oak, the marsh, and the main.
The little green leaves would not let me alone in my sleep;
Up-breathed from the marshes, a message of range and of sweep,
Interwoven with waftures of wild sea-liberties, drifting,        5
    Came through the lapped leaves sifting, sifting,
        Came to the gates of sleep.
Then my thoughts, in the dark of the dungeon-keep
Of the Castle of Captives hid in the City of Sleep,
Upstarted, by twos and by threes assembling;        10
    The gates of sleep fell a-trembling
Like as the lips of a lady that forth falter yes,
        Shaken with happiness:
      The gates of sleep stood wide.
 
I have waked, I have come, my beloved! I might not abide:        15
I have come ere the dawn, O beloved, my live-oaks, to hide
    In your gospelling glooms,—to be
As a lover in heaven, the marsh my marsh and the sea my sea.
 
Tell me, sweet burly-barked, man-embodied Tree
That mine arms in the dark are embracing, dost know        20
From what fount are these tears at thy feet which flow?
They rise not from reason, but deeper inconsequent deeps.
        Reason’s not one that weeps.
      What logic of greeting lies
Betwixt dear over-beautiful trees and the rain of the eyes?        25
 
O cunning green leaves, little masters! like as ye gloss
All the dull-tissued dark with your luminous darks that emboss
The vague blackness of night into pattern and plan,
              So,
  (But would I could know, but would I could know,)        30
With your question embroidering the dark of the question of man,—
So, with your silences purfling this silence of man
While his cry to the dead for some knowledge is under the ban,
              Under the ban,—
        So, ye have wrought me        35
Designs on the night of our knowledge,—yea, ye have taught me,
              So,
That haply we know somewhat more than we know.
 
    Ye lispers, whisperers, singers in storms,
    Ye consciences murmuring faiths under forms,        40
    Ye ministers meet for each passion that grieves,
    Friendly, sisterly, sweetheart leaves,
Oh, rain me down from your darks that contain me
Wisdoms ye winnow from winds that pain me,—
Sift down tremors of sweet-within-sweet        45
That advise me of more than they bring,—repeat
Me the woods-smell that swiftly but now brought breath
From the heaven-side bank of the river of death,—
    Teach me the terms of silence,—preach me
    The passion of patience,—sift me,—impeach me,—        50
              And there, oh there
As ye hang with your myriad palms upturned in the air,
              Pray me a myriad prayer.
 
    My gossip, the owl,—is it thou
That out of the leaves of the low-hanging bough,        55
    As I pass to the beach, art stirred?
    Dumb woods, have ye uttered a bird?
 
Reverend Marsh, low-couched along the sea,
  Old chemist, rapt in alchemy,
    Distilling silence,—lo,        60
That which our father-age had died to know—
    The menstruum that dissolves all matter—thou
Hast found it; for this silence, filling now
The globëd charity of receiving space,
This solves us all: man, matter, doubt, disgrace,        65
Death, love, sin, sanity,
Must in yon silence, clear solution lie,—
Too clear! That crystal nothing who ’ll peruse?
The blackest night could bring us brighter news.
Yet precious qualities of silence haunt        70
Round these vast margins, ministrant.
Oh, if thy soul’s at latter gasp for space,
With trying to breathe no bigger than thy race
Just to be fellowed, when that thou hast found
No man with room, or grace enough of bound,        75
To entertain that New thou tellst, thou art,—
’T is here, ’t is here, thou canst unhand thy heart
And breathe it free, and breathe it free,
By rangy marsh, in lone sea-liberty.
 
The tide ’s at full; the marsh with flooded streams        80
Glimmers, a limpid labyrinth of dreams.
Each winding creek in grave entrancement lies
A rhapsody of morning-stars. The skies
Shine scant with one forked galaxy,—
The marsh brags ten: looped on his breast they lie.        85
 
Oh, what if a sound should be made!
Oh, what if a bound should be laid
To this bow-and-string tension of beauty and silence a-spring,—
To the bend of beauty the bow, or the hold of silence the string!
I fear me, I fear me you dome of diaphanous gleam        90
Will break as a bubble o’er-blown in a dream,—
You dome of too-tenuous tissues of space and of night,
Over-weighted with stars, over-freighted with light,
Over-sated with beauty and silence, will seem
  But a bubble that broke in a dream,        95
If a bound of degree to this grace be laid,
  Or a sound or a motion made.
 
But no: it is made: list! somewhere,—mystery, where?
  In the leaves? in the air?
In my heart? is a motion made:        100
’T is a motion of dawn, like a flicker of shade on shade.
In the leaves ’t is palpable: low multitudinous stirring
Upwinds through the woods; the little ones, softly conferring,
Have settled my lord’s to be looked for; so, they are still;
But the air and my heart and the earth are a-thrill,—        105
And look where the wild duck sails round the bend of the river,—
    And look where a passionate shiver
    Expectant is bending the blades
Of the marsh-grass in serial shimmers and shades,—
And invisible wings, fast fleeting, fast fleeting,        110
              Are beating
The dark overhead as my heart beats,—and steady and free
Is the ebb-tide flowing from marsh to sea—(Run home, little streams,
    With your lapfuls of stars and dreams),—
And a sailor unseen is hoisting a-peak,        115
For list, down the inshore curve of the creek
    How merrily flutters the sail,—
And lo, in the East! Will the East unveil?
The East is unveiled, the East hath confessed
A flush: ’t is dead; ’t is alive: ’t is dead, ere the West        120
Was aware of it: nay, ’t is abiding, ’t is unwithdrawn:
  Have a care, sweet Heaven! ’T is Dawn.
 
Now a dream of a flame through that dream of a flush is uprolled:
    To the zenith ascending, a dome of undazzling gold
Is builded, in shape as a bee-hive, from out of the sea:        125
The hive is of gold undazzling, but oh, the Bee,
    The star-fed Bee, the build-fire Bee,
    Of dazzling gold is the great Sun-Bee
That shall flash from the hive-hole over the sea.
 
    Yet now the dewdrop, now the morning gray,        130
    Shall live their little lucid sober day
    Ere with the sun their souls exhale away.
Now in each pettiest personal sphere of dew
The summed moon shines complete as in the blue
Big dewdrop of all heaven: with these lit shrines        135
O’ersilvered to the farthest sea-confines,
The sacramental marsh one pious plain
Of worship lies. Peace to the ante-reign
Of Mary Morning, blissful mother mild,
Minded of nought but peace, and of a child,        140
 
Not slower than Majesty moves, for a mean and measure
Of motion,—not faster than dateless Olympian leisure
Might pace with unblown ample garments from pleasure to pleasure,—
The wave-serrate sea-rim sinks unjarring, unreeling,
    Forever revealing, revealing, revealing,        145
Edgewise, bladewise, halfwise, wholewise,—’t is done!
            Good-morrow, Lord Sun!
With several voice, with ascription one,
The woods and the marsh and the sea and my soul
Unto thee, whence the glittering stream of all morrows doth roll,        150
Cry good and past good and most heavenly morrow, Lord Sun.
 
O Artisan born in the purple,—Workman Heat,—
Parter of passionate atoms that travail to meet
And be mixed in the death-cold oneness,—innermost Guest
At the marriage of elements,—fellow of publicans,—blest        155
King in the blouse of flame, that loiterest o’er
The idle skies yet laborest past evermore,—
Thou, in the fine forge-thunder, thou, in the beat
Of the heart of a man, thou Motive,—Laborer Heat:
Yea, Artist, thou, of whose art you sea’s all news,        160
With his inshore greens and manifold mid-sea blues,
Pearl-glint, shell-tint, ancientest, perfectest hues
Ever shaming the maidens,—lily and rose
Confess thee, and each mild flame that glows
In the clarified virginal bosoms of stones that shine,        165
            It is thine, it is thine:
 
Thou chemist of storms, whether driving the winds a-swirl
Or a-flicker the subtiler essences polar that whirl
In the magnet earth,—yea, thou with a storm for a heart,
Rent with debate, many-spotted with question, part        170
From part oft sundered, yet ever a globëd light,
Yet ever the artist, ever more large and bright
Than the eye of a man may avail of:—manifold One,
I must pass from the face, I must pass from the face of the Sun:
Old Want is awake and agog, every wrinkle a-frown;        175
The worker must pass to his work in the terrible town:
But I fear not, nay, and I fear not the thing to be done;
    I am strong with the strength of my lord the Sun:
How dark, how dark soever the race that must needs be run,
            I am lit with the Sun.        180
 
Oh, never the mast-high run of the seas
    Of traffic shall hide thee,
Never the hell-colored smoke of the factories
            Hide thee,
Never the reek of the time’s fen-politics        185
            Hide thee,
And ever my heart through the night shall with knowledge abide thee,
And ever by day shall my spirit, as one that bath tried thee,
Labor, at leisure, in art,—till yonder beside thee
    My soul shall float, friend Sun,        190
        The day being done.
 

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