Autumn

- 1820-1871

Shorter and shorter now the twilight clips
   The days, as though the sunset gates they crowd,
And Summer from her golden collar slips
   And strays through stubble-fields, and moans aloud,

Save when by fits the warmer air deceives,
   And, stealing hopeful to some sheltered bower,
She lies on pillows of the yellow leaves,
   And tries the old tunes over for an hour.

The wind, whose tender whisper in the May
   Set all the young blooms listening through th’ grove,
Sits rustling in the faded boughs to-day
   And makes his cold and unsuccessful love.

The rose has taken off her tire of red—
   The mullein-stalk its yellow stars have lost,
And the proud meadow-pink hangs down her head
   Against earth’s chilly bosom, witched with frost.

The robin, that was busy all the June,
   Before the sun had kissed the topmost bough,
Catching our hearts up in his golden tune,
   Has given place to the brown cricket now.

The very cock crows lonesomely at morn—
   Each flag and fern the shrinking stream divides—
Uneasy cattle low, and lambs forlorn
   Creep to their strawy sheds with nettled sides.

Shut up the door: who loves me must not look
   Upon the withered world, but haste to bring
His lighted candle, and his story-book,
   And live with me the poetry of Spring.

Music

There is music, deep and solemn 
   Floating through the vaulted arch 
When, in many an angry column, 
   Clouds take up their stormy march: 
O’er the ocean billows, heaping 
    Mountains on the sloping sands, 
There are ever wildly sweeping 
    Shapeless and invisible hands. 

Echoes full of truth and feeling 
   From the olden bards sublime, 
Are, like spirits, brightly stealing
   Through the broken walls of time. 
The universe, that glorious palace, 

    Thrills and trembles as they float, 
Like the little blossom’s chalice
     With the humming of the mote. 

On the air, as birds in meadows—
   Sweet embodiments of song—
Leave their bright fantastic shadows 
    Trailing goldenly along. 
Till, aside our armor laying, 
    We like prisoners depart, 
In the soul is music playing 
    To the beating of the heart.

The Sea-Side Cave

“A bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.”

At the dead of night by the side of the Sea
I met my gray-haired enemy,—
The glittering light of his serpent eye
Was all I had to see him by.

At the dead of the night, and stormy weather
We went into a cave together, –
Into a cave by the side of the Sea,
And—he never came out with me!

The flower that up through the April mould
Comes like a miser dragging his gold,
Never made spot of earth so bright
As was the ground in the cave that night.

Dead of night, and stormy weather!
Who should see us going together
Under the black and dripping stone
Of the cave from when I came alone!

Next day as my boy sat on my knee
He picked the gray hairs off from me,
And told with eyes brimful of fear
How a bird in the meadow near

Over her clay-built nest had spread
Sticks and leaves all bloody red,
Brought from a cave by the side of the Sea
Where some murdered man must be.

The West Country

Have you been in our wild west country? then
   You have often had to pass
Its cabins lying like birds’ nests in
   The wild green prairie grass.

Have you seen the women forget their wheels
   As they sat at the door to spin—
Have you seen the darning fall away
   From their fingers worn and thin,

As they asked you news of the villages
   Where they were used to be,
Gay girls at work in the factories
   With their lovers gone to sea!

Ah, have you thought of the bravery
   That no loud praise provokes—
Of the tragedies acted in the lives
   Of poor, hard-working folks!

Of the little more, and the little more
   Of hardship which they press
Upon their own tired hands to make
   The toil for the children less:

And not in vain; for many a lad
   Born to rough work and ways,
Strips off his ragged coat, and makes
   Men clothe him with their praise.