In memory of Eric Ericson, I add a chapter of sonnets gathered from
his papers, almost desiring that those only should read them who
turn to the book a second time. How his papers came into my
possession, will be explained afterwards.
Tumultuous rushing o'er the outstretched plains;
A wildered maze of comets and of suns;
The blood of changeless God that ever runs
With quick diastole up the immortal veins;
A phantom host that moves and works in chains;
A monstrous fiction which, collapsing, stuns
The mind to stupor and amaze at once;
A tragedy which that man best explains
Who rushes blindly on his wild career
With trampling hoofs and sound of mailed war,
Who will not nurse a life to win a tear,
But is extinguished like a falling star:--
Such will at times this life appear to me,
Until I learn to read more perfectly.
If thou art tempted by a thought of ill,
Crave not too soon for victory, nor deem
Thou art a coward if thy safety seem
To spring too little from a righteous will:
For there is nightmare on thee, nor until
Thy soul hath caught the morning's early gleam
Seek thou to analyze the monstrous dream
By painful introversion; rather fill
Thine eye with forms thou knowest to be truth:
But see thou cherish higher hope than this;
A hope hereafter that thou shalt be fit
Calm-eyed to face distortion, and to sit
Transparent among other forms of youth
Who own no impulse save to God and bliss.
And must I ever wake, gray dawn, to know
Thee standing sadly by me like a ghost?
I am perplexed with thee, that thou shouldst cost
This Earth another turning: all aglow
Thou shouldst have reached me, with a purple show
Along far-mountain tops: and I would post
Over the breadth of seas though I were lost
In the hot phantom-chase for life, if so
Thou camest ever with this numbing sense
Of chilly distance and unlovely light;
Waking this gnawing soul anew to fight
With its perpetual load: I drive thee hence--
I have another mountain-range from whence
Bursteh a sun unutterably bright.
'And yet it moves!' Ah, Truth, where wert thou then,
When all for thee they racked each piteous limb?
Wert though in Heaven, and busy with thy hymn,
When those poor hands convulsed that held thy pen?
Art thou a phantom that deceivest men
To their undoing? or dost thou watch him
Pale, cold, and silent in his dungeon dim?
And wilt thou ever speak to him again?
'It moves, it moves! Alas, my flesh was weak;
That was a hideous dream! I'll cry aloud
How the green bulk wheels sunward day by day!
Ah me! ah me! perchance my heart was proud
That I alone should know that word to speak;
And now, sweet Truth, shine upon these, I pray.'
If thou wouldst live the Truth in very deed,
Thou hast thy joy, but thou hast more of pain.
Others will live in peace, and thou be fain
To bargain with despair, and in thy need
To make thy meal upon the scantiest weed.
These palaces, for thee they stand in vain;
Thine is a ruinous hut; and oft the rain
Shall drench thee in the midnight; yea the speed
Of earth outstrip thee pilgrim, while thy feet
Move slowly up the heights. Yet will there come
Through the time-rents about thy moving cell,
An arrow for despair, and oft the hum
Of far-off populous realms where spirits dwell.
Speak, Prophet of the Lord! We may not start
To find thee with us in thine ancient dress,
Haggard and pale from some bleak wilderness,
Empty of all save God and thy loud heart:
Nor with like rugged message quick to dart
Into the hideous fiction mean and base:
But yet, O prophet man, we need not less,
But more of earnest; though it is thy part
To deal in other words, if thou wouldst smite
The living Mammon, seated, not as then
In bestial quiescence grimly dight,
But thrice as much an idol-god as when
He stared at his own feet from morn to night.
From out a windy cleft there comes a gaze
Of eyes unearthly which go to and fro
Upon the people's tumult, for below
The nations smite each other: no amaze
Troubles their liquid rolling, or affrays
Their deep-set contemplation: steadily glow
Those ever holier eye-balls, for they grow
Liker unto the eyes of one that prays.
And if those clasped hands tremble, comes a power
As of the might of worlds, and they are holden
Blessing above us in the sunrise golden;
And they will be uplifted till that hour
Of terrible rolling which shall rise and shake
This conscious nightmare from us and we wake.
One do I see and twelve; but second there
Methinks I know thee, thou beloved one;
Not from thy nobler port, for there are none
More quiet-featured; some there are who bear
Their message on their brows, while others wear
A look of large commission, nor will shun
The fiery trial, so their work is done:
But thou hast parted with thine eyes in prayer--
Unearthly are they both; and so thy lips
Seem like the porches of the spirit land;
For thou hast laid a mighty treasure by,
Unlocked by Him in Nature, and thine eye
Burns with a vision and apocalypse
Thy own sweet soul can hardly understand.
A Boanerges too! Upon my heart
It lay a heavy hour: features like thine
Should glow with other message than the shine
Of the earth-burrowing levin, and the start
That cleaveth horrid gulfs. Awful and swart
A moment stoodest thou, but less divine--
Brawny and clad in ruin!--till with mine
Thy heart made answering signals, and apart
Beamed forth thy two rapt eye-balls doubly clear,
And twice as strong because thou didst thy duty,
And though affianced to immortal Beauty,
Hiddest not weakly underneath her veil
The pest of Sin and Death which maketh pale:
Henceforward be thy spirit doubly dear.
There is not any weed but hath its shower,
There is not any pool but hath its star;
And black and muddy though the waters are,
We may not miss the glory of a flower,
And winter moons will give them magic power
To spin in cylinders of diamond spar;
And everything hath beauty near and far,
And keepeth close and waiteth on its hour.
And I when I encounter on my road
A human soul that looketh black and grim,
Shall I more ceremonious be than God?
Shall I refuse to watch one hour with him
Who once beside our deepest woe did bud
A patient watching flower about the brim.
'Tis not the violent hands alone that bring
The curse, the ravage, and the downward doom
Although to these full oft the yawning tomb
Owes deadly surfeit; but a keener sting,
A more immortal agony, will cling
To the half-fashioned sin which would assume
Fair Virtue's garb. The eye that sows the gloom
With quiet seeds of Death henceforth to spring
What time the sun of passion burning fierce
Breaks through the kindly cloud of circumstance;
The bitter word, and the unkindly glance,
The crust and canker coming with the years,
Are liker Death than arrows, and the lance
Which through the living heart at once doth pierce.
I pray you, all ye men, who put your trust
In moulds and systems and well-tackled gear,
Holding that Nature lives from year to year
In one continual round because she must--
Set me not down, I pray you, in the dust
Of all these centuries, like a pot of beer,
A pewter-pot disconsolately clear,
Which holds a potful, as is right and just.
I will grow clamorous--by the rood, I will,
If thus ye use me like a pewter pot.
Good friend, thou art a toper and a sot--
I will not be the lead to hold thy swill,
Nor any lead: I will arise and spill
Thy silly beverage, spill it piping hot.
Nature, to him no message dost thou bear,
Who in thy beauty findeth not the power
To gird himself more strongly for the hour
Of night and darkness. Oh, what colours rare
The woods, the valleys, and the mountains wear
To him who knows thy secret, and in shower
And fog, and ice-cloud, hath a secret bower
Where he may rest until the heavens are fair!
Not with the rest of slumber, but the trance
Of onward movement steady and serene,
Where oft in struggle and in contest keen
His eyes will opened be, and all the dance
Of life break on him, and a wide expanse
Roll upward through the void, sunny and green.
Ah, truant, thou art here again, I see!
For in a season of such wretched weather
I thought that thou hadst left us altogether,
Although I could not choose but fancy thee
Skulking about the hill-tops, whence the glee
Of thy blue laughter peeped at times, or rather
Thy bashful awkwardness, as doubtful whether
Thou shouldst be seen in such a company
Of ugly runaways, unshapely heaps
Of ruffian vapour, broken from restraint
Of their slim prison in the ocean deeps.
But yet I may not, chide: fall to thy books,
Fall to immediately without complaint--
There they are lying, hills and vales and brooks.
Summer, sweet Summer, many-fingered Summer!
We hold thee very dear, as well we may:
It is the kernel of the year to-day--
All hail to thee! Thou art a welcome corner!
If every insect were a fairy drummer,
And I a fifer that could deftly play,
We'd give the old Earth such a roundelay
That she would cast all thought of labour from her
Ah! what is this upon my window-pane?
Some sulky drooping cloud comes pouting up,
Stamping its glittering feet along the plain!
Well, I will let that idle fancy drop.
Oh, how the spouts are bubbling with the rain!
And all the earth shines like a silver cup!
Whence do ye come, ye creature? Each of you
Is perfect as an angel; wings and eyes
Stupendous in their beauty--gorgeous dyes
In feathery fields of purple and of blue!
Would God I saw a moment as ye do!
I would become a molecule in size,
Rest with you, hum with you, or slanting rise
Along your one dear sunbeam, could I view
The pearly secret which each tiny fly,
Each tiny fly that hums and bobs and stirs,
Hides in its little breast eternally
From you, ye prickly grim philosophers,
With all your theories that sound so high:
Hark to the buzz a moment, my good sirs!
Here stands a giant stone from whose far top
Comes down the sounding water. Let me gaze
Till every sense of man and human ways
Is wrecked and quenched for ever, and I drop
Into the whirl of time, and without stop
Pass downward thus! Again my eyes I raise
To thee, dark rock; and through the mist and haze
My strength returns when I behold thy prop
Gleam stern and steady through the wavering wrack
Surely thy strength is human, and like me
Thou bearest loads of thunder on thy back!
And, lo, a smile upon thy visage black--
A breezy tuft of grass which I can see
Waving serenely from a sunlit crack!
Above my head the great pine-branches tower
Backwards and forwards each to the other bends,
Beckoning the tempest-cloud which hither wends
Like a slow-laboured thought, heavy with power;
Hark to the patter of the coming shower!
Let me be silent while the Almighty sends
His thunder-word along; but when it ends
I will arise and fashion from the hour
Words of stupendous import, fit to guard
High thoughts and purposes, which I may wave,
When the temptation cometh close and hard,
Like fiery brands betwixt me and the grave
Of meaner things--to which I am a slave
If evermore I keep not watch and ward.
I do remember how when very young,
I saw the great sea first, and heard its swell
As I drew nearer, caught within the spell
Of its vast size and its mysterious tongue.
How the floor trembled, and the dark boat swung
With a man in it, and a great wave fell
Within a stone's cast! Words may never tell
The passion of the moment, when I flung
All childish records by, and felt arise
A thing that died no more! An awful power
I claimed with trembling hands and eager eyes,
Mine, mine for ever, an immortal dower.--
The noise of waters soundeth to this hour,
When I look seaward through the quiet skies.
Hear'st thou the dash of water loud and hoarse
With its perpetual tidings upward climb,
Struggling against the wind? Oh, how sublime!
For not in vain from its portentous source,
Thy heart, wild stream, hath yearned for its full force,
But from thine ice-toothed caverns dark as time
At last thou issuest, dancing to the rhyme
Of thy outvolleying freedom! Lo, thy course
Lies straight before thee as the arrow flies,
Right to the ocean-plains. Away, away!
Thy parent waits thee, and her sunset dyes
Are ruffled for thy coming, and the gray
Of all her glittering borders flashes high
Against the glittering rocks: oh, haste, and fly!