Sidney Lanier ( )

To Baynard Taylor

To range, deep-wrapt, along a heavenly height,
Oerseeing all that man but undersees;
To loiter down lone alleys of delight,
And hear the beating of the hearts of trees,
And think the thoughts that lilies speak in white
By greenwood pools and pleasant passages;

With healthy dreams a-dream in flesh and soul,
To pace, in mighty meditations drawn,
From out the forest to the open knoll
Where much thyme is, whence blissful leagues of lawn
Betwixt the fringing woods to southward roll
By tender inclinations; mad with dawn,

Ablaze with fires that flame in silver dew
When each small globe doth glass the morning-star,
Long ere the sun, sweet-smitten through and through
With dappled revelations read afar,
Suffused with saintly ecstasies of blue
As all the holy eastern heavens are, --

To fare thus fervid to what daily toil
Employs thy spirit in that larger Land
Where thou art gone; to strive, but not to moil
In nothings that do mar the artists hand,
Not drudge unriched, as grain rots back to soil, --
No profit out of death, -- going, yet still at stand, --

Giving what life is here in hand to-day
For that thats in to-morrows bush, perchance, --
Of this years harvest none in the barn to lay,
All sowed for next years crop, -- a dull advance
In curves that come but by another way
Back to the start, -- a thriftless thrift of ants

Whose winter wastes their summer; O my Friend,
Freely to range, to muse, to toil, is thine:
Thine, now, to watch with Homer sails that bend
Unstained by Helens beauty oer the brine
Towrds some clean Troy no Hector need defend
Nor flame devour; or, in some mild moons shine,

Where amiabler winds the whistle heed,
To sail with Shelley oer a bluer sea,
And mark Prometheus, from his fetters freed,
Pass with Deucalion over Italy,
While bursts the flame from out his eager reed
Wild-stretching towards the West of destiny;

Or, prone with Plato, Shakespeare and a throng
Of bards beneath some plane-trees cool eclipse
To gaze on glowing meads where, lingering long,
Psyches large Butterfly her honey sips;
Or, mingling free in choirs of German song,
To learn of Goethes life from Goethes lips;

These, these are thine, and we, who still are dead,
Do yearn -- nay, not to kill thee back again
Into this charnel life, this lowlihead,
Not to the dark of sense, the blinking brain,
The hugged delusion drear, the hunger fed
On husks of guess, the monarchy of pain,

The cross of love, the wrench of faith, the shame
Of science that cannot prove proof is, the twist
Of blame for praise and bitter praise for blame,
The silly stake and tether round the wrist
By fashion fixed, the virtue that doth claim
The gains of vice, the lofty mark thats missed

By all the mortal space twixt heaven and hell,
The souls sad growth oer stationary friends
Who hear us from our height not well, not well,
The slant of accident, the sudden bends
Of purpose tempered strong, the gamblers spell,
The sons disgrace, the plan that eer depends

On others plots, the tricks that passion plays
(I loving you, you him, he none at all),
The artists pain -- to walk his blood-stained ways,
A special soul, yet judged as general --
The endless grief of art, the sneer that slays,
The war, the wound, the groan, the funeral pall --

Not into these, bright spirit, do we yearn
To bring thee back, but oh, to be, to be
Unbound of all these gyves, to stretch, to spurn
The dark from off our dolorous lids, to see
Our spark, Conjecture, blaze and sunwise burn,
And suddenly to stand again by thee!

Ah, not for us, not yet, by thee to stand:
For us, the fret, the dark, the thorn, the chill;
For us, to call across unto thy Land,
Friend, get thee to the minstrels holy hill,
And kiss those brethren for us, mouth and hand,
And make our duty to our master Will.

Sidney Lanier's other poems:
  1. On Huntingdons "Miranda"
  2. Laus Mariae
  3. Resurrection
  4. My Springs
  5. A Birthday Song

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