Verse > Anthologies > Samuel Kettell, ed. > Specimens of American Poetry
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Samuel Kettell, ed.  Specimens of American Poetry.  1829.
 
A Poet’s Reverie
By James W. Miller
 
TTHE CALM, 1 reposing shades of evening hours,
Thrown from the forest-tops on fields of flowers;
The gentle hill-side sloping to the plain;
The faint blue islet on the distant main;
And, over all, the reaching bend of sky,        5
Where floating clouds pass on, and others lie
In heavenly watch, that the gone sun hath shaded
With hues like rainbow arches broke and braided;
With idle oar uplift, the gliding barge,
O’er winding waters, with close-shaven marge;        10
And then, the wavy voices of the tide,
Lapsing along the narrowing river’s side;
The low winds, passing mute across the plain,
Then murmuring their forest tones again,
And freshening to a cool and plaintive breeze,        15
Catching a dirge-like measure from the trees;
Such scenes before mine eye, such sounds that glide
Along the woody path and water’s side,
Fling on my mind a deep poetic feeling,
From every hue and tone a beauty stealing:        20
Like a rich mantle it comes folding o’er me,
Woven of all the harmonies before me;
And then I close my eyes, and seem to see,
Within, the feeling thus enthralling me.
  In such a musing mood a vision pass’d        25
Sudden before me, and was still—then cast
Off from mine eye the dream’s obscurity,
And was unveil’d, in its fine mystery.
Such reveries the sages of old days
Were wont to have, and call them visiting rays        30
From caring Deities, that they might then
Bless, with good thoughts and truth, the souls of men;
And on their eyes holy revealings broke,
And in their ears great teaching voices spoke.
  The vision. It came forth, and there it stood,        35
And I beheld it; the tall, solemn wood
Smiled greenly in the slant sunbeams, that linger’d
Yet on the hovering cloud shapes, rosy finger’d,
Pointing Day’s hidden place; along its edges
Wander’d a brooklet, loosing, ’neath the sedges        40
Frequent its silver course, and only telling
Its secret roaming by its musical welling;
And thence went down the long smooth slope; below
Spread out the meadow, with its exquisite show
Of tall grass waving verdantly, and flowers,        45
Lifting their grateful eyes for morning showers;
And clumps of bunchy hazel; farther still
Went by the river, as if with grave will
Going down straight, or curving with strong grace,
Passing, for ever, to his destined place.        50
  Yet the sweet vision. From the dusky verging
Of the gray wood’s recess it came emerging,
A dreamy shape, as of the sea-born daughter,
Light as a mist wreath o’er a moonlit water;
Yet with calm eye distinct, and lip and brow        55
Like the low sun-tints on a hill of snow.
She spake to me; her voice, the utterless tone
That comes down by us when we muse alone,
Calling our names familiarly, and when
We lift our pleased eyes, straight is still again.        60
 
    Poet, with bent ear, to thee
    Call I, the spirit of poesy.
    Music’s elder sister I,
    That dwell i’ the earth, and sea, and sky,
    Chosen from my birth to be        65
    Attendant on the Deity.
    And through air, and earth, and sea,
    By his power, I speak to thee.
      My voice is in the “thunder’s mouth,”
    And in the breath of the sweet south;        70
    In the hollow sounding sea
    Of storms; and in its quiet glee,
    When the winds of summer run
    Along the pathways of the sun.
    I am in the torrent’s going,        75
    And the brooklet’s silver flowing;
    In the great, heart-chilling cranch
    Of the coming avalanche,
    When the groaning forests cower,
    Like slaves beneath his steps of power,        80
    And beast, and bird, and peasant cry
    Once, in death’s strong agony—
    All noises of destruction blending;
    And in the flaky snow’s descending,
    On whose feathery, printless bed,        85
    Silence lies embodied.
      When the pleasant spring-time comes
    To palaces and cotter’s homes,
    My voice is in the low heard laughings
    That stir in the air, like fairy quaffings;        90
    ’T is I who tune the summer trees
    To their soft breezy cadences,
    And in their autumn wails draw near
    To sing a moral in man’s ear
    I, who in the pattering rain        95
    Soothe the dying harvest’s pain,
    So my liquid talkings then
    Are happy sounds to husbandmen.
    When the lighten’d clouds go by,
    Unveiling the sun’s great eye,        100
    I soar up in its warm blaze,
    And divide the coming rays;
    Contriving, with poetic knowing,
    What bending tints to wreathe his bow in;
    Then, when my gamut is complete,        105
    I tread it with my silver feet,
    Till the depths of ether ring
    To the soft tints mingling;
    It was my stealing voice that came,
    On the glance of morning’s flame,        110
    To old Memnon’s shrine, to make
    Tones divine, for mystery’s sake.
    Through the dark earth’s cavy halls,
    Ore to ore in music calls;
    And gem to glancing gem, by me        115
    Is stirr’d with answering melody.
      Mine is all the harmony
    Of sounds to hear, and sights to see;
    All the joy of the glad earth,
    And the blue sky’s holier mirth.        120
    I, with calm consistency,
    Unroll the mazes of the sky;
    That the sage’s soul may scan
    The Deity’s harmonious plan,
    So his thought to men may tell        125
    The orderings that in heaven do dwell,
    That worn age, and prime, and youth,
    Alike may know of God’s good truth.
    Then, poet, bend thine ear to me,
    Attendant on the Deity.        130
 
Thus as she spake, all things appear’d to see
And feel the presence of divinity.
The brooks went downward with a gladlier cheer;
The trees bow’d gently, with rejoicing fear;
Beneath her feet the gay earth shone new-vested,        135
And o’er her head a skyey glory rested;
Her beck was to me, and my thought once more
Heard her calm voice, more serious than before.
 
    Mortal, dost thou seek to find
    The rich joy of deathless mind?        140
    Would’st thou have thine heart to be
    Full of fine humanity?
    Would’st familiarly converse
    With this beautiful universe,
    And have all its excellence        145
    Pour’d upon thy spirit’s sense;
    All loveliness pause in thine eye,
    And its dark things pass thee by,
    Feeling all that God hath given
    Of happiness below his heaven?        150
    Bow to me: and I will come,
    Bringing peace to thy calm home;
    Touching all its eyes to shine
    With a lustre caught from thine;
    Lightening, with happy ease,        155
    All thy social companies;
    Giving all their songs and smiles
    Merriment and witful wiles;
    And in all their gentle doing
    Hearty friendliness imbuing.        160
      Yet should sorrow come to steal
    Aught from thee of cheer or weal,
    Ill fortune of thy store bereave thee,
    All thy friends of sunshine leave thee,
    And, like hurrying clouds that flee        165
    O’er the noon’s tranquillity,
    Cares, and strong anxieties
    Darkly o’er thy couch arise;
    Then thee by the hand I ’ll take,
    And lead thee by the quiet lake,        170
    So look upon its skyey plain,
    Till thy heart grow calm again;
    Or, beneath the springing joy
    Of the blue day’s canopy,
    By the hill-side, where have birth        175
    Fountain streams that bless the earth,
    Till thy spirit shall rejoice
    Freshly in their gushing voice,
      I would give the recompense
    Of my generous influence,        180
    That thou should’st not sigh for aught
    By wasting care and toiling bought.
    Brazen Fame’s peace-scaring noise,
    And Ambition’s lightning toys,
    Should be discord to thine ear,        185
    And darkness to thine eye appear;
    Thou shouldst gladly flee away
    From the rude world’s busy fray,
    In my bowers to build thine home,
    And in my pleasant ways to roam.        190
      I would bring, for thy content,
    Good things of each element;
    And all beautiful should be
    Subservient to thy gaiety.
    Thou shouldst climb the mountain top,        195
    And hear its piny tones come up;
    Watching, with a glad surprise,
    To see the glorious sun uprise;
    Then go down beside the brook,
    Whiffling from a leafy nook,        200
    And, resting there beneath the tree,
    I would whisper dreams to thee.
      When the spring-day sun was bright,
    Thou shouldst walk with fancies light;
    And the opening forest’s sheen,        205
    Cool thine eye with its soft green.
    What time mournful autumn grieves
    Through the sere wood’s falling leaves,
    Thou shouldst cull their skeletons,
    Where the shrouded streamlet runs,        210
    And musing on their swift decay,
    Know that thou art frail as they;
    Then go home, with step sedate
    And sober eye, to contemplate:
    So I o’er thy heart would pour        215
    The treasurings of Wisdom’s store.
      If thou wouldst thy soul should live
    In all of heaven that earth can give,
    Mortal, bow thyself to me,
    Favor’d of the Deity.        220
 
And silently I bow’d to her; and then
Wander’d above me one accepting strain,
And I rose up; of that sweet vision there
Was not one tint upon the dewy air.
Yet, o’er the pale hills of the distant west,        225
Went calmly down one golden star to rest;
And as on me its lingering glance was cast,
I knew her smile; thus had her spirit pass’d:
And in that moment, I became to her,
And yet am now, a happy worshipper.        230
 
Note 1. Miller, of Boston, is joint editor with Mr Neal, of the Yankee and Boston Literary Gazette. His poetry possesses high merit. He has a rich and delicate fancy, and a happy facility of numbers. [back]
 
 
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