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John James Piatt.
READING THE MILESTONE.
I Stopped to read the milestone here, A laggard school-boy, long ago;
I came not far — my home was near—
Behold a number and a name,
The vision of a city came,
Around me lay the farms asleep
In hazes of autumnal air, And sounds that quiet loves to keep
Were heard, and heard not, everywhere.
I read the milestone, day by day:
To know the golden Far-away,
"what shall I sing?" I sighed, and said. "That men shall know me when my name Is lost with kindred lips, and dead Are laurels of familiar fame?"
Below, a violet in the dew Breathed through the dark its vague perfume; Above, a star in quiet blue Touched with a gracious ray the gloom.
"Sing, friend, of me," the violet sighed,
"That I may haunt your grave with love;" "Sing, friend, of me," the star replied,
"That I may light the dark above."
THE SIGHT OF ANGELS.
The angels come, the angels go, Through open doors of purer air; [
Their moving presence oftentimes we know, It thrills us everywhere.
Sometimes we see them; lolat night. Our eyes were shut, but opened seem:
The darkness breathed a breath of wondrous light, And then it was a dream!
I Greet thee, loving letter —
And dream her lips within thee
The fragrant little rose-leaf,
Ah, in her heart was blooming
THE GOLDEN HAND.
Lo, from the city's heat and dust
I see it when the morning brings
I see it when the noontide beats
I see it when the twilight clings
Flashing with the last fluttering ray.
The midnight comes — the holy hour:
Below, in many a noisy street
Below, in courts to guard the land, Gold buys the tongue and binds the hand;
Stealing in God's great scales the gold;
That awful hand, above, behold!
Below, the Sabbaths walk serene With the great dust of days between; Bleachers within their pulpits stand: See, over all, that heavenly hand!
Am real thing of bloom and breath, I cannot love you while you stay;
But on the dim, still charm of death, Fade to a phantom, float away, And let me call you Yesterday!
Let empty flower-dust at my feet Remind me of the buds you wear;
Let the bird's quiet show how sweet
In mourning you I shall rejoice.
A music — in the vanished voice;
Then in the haunted grass I'll sit, Half-tearful in your withered place,
And watch your lovely shadow flit Across To-morrow's sunny face, And vex her with your perfect grace.
So, real thing of bloom and breath, I weary of you while you stay.
Put on the dim, still charm of death, Fade to a phantom, float away, And let me call you Yesterday I
But the hot dust, in crowded air
A SONG OF CONTENT.
The eagle nestles near the sun;
The dove's low nest for me! — The eagle's on the crag: sweet one,
The dove's in our green tree. For hearts that beat like thine and mine,
Heaven blesses humble earth; The angels of our Heaven shall shine The angels of our hearth!
Good-night, pretty sleepers of mine —
I never shall see you again: Ah, never in shadow or shine;
Ah, never in dew nor in rain!
In your small dreaming-dresses of white,
With the wild-bloom you gathered to-day
In your quiet shut hands, from the light
And the dark, you will wander away.
Though no graves in the bee-haunted grass.
And no love in the beautiful sky. Shall take you as yet, you will pass,
With this kiss through these teardrops. Good-by!
With less gold and more gloom in their hair, When the buds near have faded to flowers,
Three faces may wake here as fair — But older than yours are, by hours!
Good-nij*ht, then, lost darlings of mme —
I never shall see you again: Ah, never in shadow nor shine;
Ah, never in dew nor in rain!
A DREAM'S AWAKENING.
Shut in a close and dreary sleep, Lonely and frightened and oppressed
I felt a dreadful serpent creep, Writhing and crushing o'er my breast.
I woke and knew my child's sweet arm,
As soft and pure as flakes of snow, Beneath my dream's dark, hateful charm,
Had been the thing that tortured so.
And in the morning's dew and light
I seemed to hear an angel say, "The Pain that stings in Time's low night
May prove God's Love in higher day."
THAT NEW WORLD.
How gracious we are to grant to the dead
Those wide, vague lands in the
foreign sky, Reserving this world for ourselves
instead — For we must live, though others
And what is this world that we keep, I pray?
True, it has glimpses of dews and flowers;
Then Youth and Love are here and away, I ours.
Like mated birds — but nothing is
Ah, nothing indeed, but we cling to it all."
It is nothing to hear one's own heart beat,
It is nothing to see one's own tears fall;
Yet surely the breath of our life is sweet.
Yes, the breath of our life is so sweet, I fear We were loath to give it for all we know
Of that charmed country we hold so dear.
Far into whose beauty the breathless go.
Yet certain we are, when we see them fade Out of the pleasant light of the sun,
Of the sands of gold in the palmleaf's shade, And the strange high jewels all these have won.
You dare not doubt it, O soul of mine!
And yet if these empty eyes could see
One, only one, from that voyage divine,
With something, anything sure for me!
Ah, blow me the scent of one lily, to tell
That it grew outside of this world at most;
Ah, show me a plume to touch, or a shell
That whispers of some unearthly coast!
After this feud of yours and mine
The sun will shine: After we both forget, forget,
The sun will set.
I pray you think how warm and sweet
The heart can beat; I pray you think how soon the rose
From grave-dust grows.
CALLING THE DEAD.
My little child, so sweet a voice
might wake So sweet a sleeper for so sweet a
sake. [you, .Calling your buried brother back to You laugh and listen — till I listen
Why does he listen? It may be to hear
Sounds too divine to reach my
troubled ear. Why does he laugh? It may be he
The face that only tears can hide from me.
Poor baby faith — so foolish or so wise:
The name I shape out of forlornest cries
He speaks as with a bird's or blossom's breath.
How fair the knowledge is that knows not Death!
Ah, fools and blind — through all the
piteous years Searchers of stars and graves — how
many seers, Calling the dead, and seeking for a
Have laughed and listened, like this child of mine?
THE FLOWERS IN THE GROUND.
Under the coffin-lid there are roses: They bud like dreams in the sleep of the dead; And the long, vague dark that around them closes t flushed and sweet with their glory of red.
From the buried seeds of love they blossom,
All crimson-stained from its blood they start; And each sleeper wears them on his bosom,
Clasped over the pallid dust of his heart.
When the Angel of Morning shall shake the slumber Away from the graves with his lighted wings, He will gather those roses, an infinite number, And bear them to Heaven, the beautiful things!
ASKING FOR TEARS.
Oh, let me come to Thee in this wild way,
Fierce with a grief that will not
sleep, to pray Of all thy treasures, Father, only
After which I may say — Thy will be done.
Nay, fear not thou to make my time
too sweet; I nurse a Sorrow,— kiss its hands
Call it all piteous, precious names, and try,
Awake at night, to hush its helpless cry.
The sand is at my moaning lip, the glare
Of the uplifted desert fills the air; My eyes are blind and burning, and the years
Stretch on before me. Therefore, give me tears!
THE PILGRIM FATHERS.
The Pilgrim Fathers — where are they?
The waves that brought them o'er Still roll in the bay, and throw their spray,
As they break along the shore; Still roll in the bay, as they rolled that day,
When I he Mayflower moored below, When the sea around was black with storms.
And white the shore with snow.
The mists, that wrapped the Pilgrim's
Still brood upon the tide; And the rocks yet keep their watch by the deep, To stay its waves of pride. But the snow-white sail, that he gave to the gale, When the heavens looked dark, is gone; —
As an angel's wing, through an opening cloud, Is seen and then withdrawn.
The Pilgrim exile — sainted name! —
The hill, whose icy brow Rejoiced, when he came, in the morning's flame. In the morning's flame burns now. And the moon's cold light, as it lay that night On the hill-side and the sea, SI ill lies where he laid his houseless head;— But the Pilgrim — where is he?
The Pilgrim Fathers are at rest:
When summer is throned on high, And the world's warm breast is in verdure dressed, Go, stand on the hill where they lie. The earliest ray of the golden day,
On that hallowed spot is cast; And the evening sun, as he leaves the world,
Looks kindly on that spot last.
The Pilgrim spirit has not filed:
Till the waves of the bay, where the
I Cannot make him dead! His fair sunshiny head is ever bounding round my study chair;
Yet, when my eyes, now dim With tears, I turn to him, The vision vanishes — he is not there.
I walk my parlor floor,
And, through the open door, I hear a footfall on the chamber stair,
I'm stepping toward the hall,
To give the boy a call; And then bethink me that — he is not there:
I thread the crowded street, A satehelled lad I meet. With the same beaming eyes and colored hair: And, as he's running by, Follow him with my eye, scarcely believing that — he is not there!
I know his face is hid Under the coffin lid: Closed are his eyes: cold is his forehead fair; My hand that marble felt: O'er it in prayer I knelt Yet my heart whispers that — he is not there.