I see it as it looked one afternoon In August,—by a fresh soft breeze o'erblown. The swiftness of the tide, the light thereon, A far-off sail, white as a crescent moon. The shining waters with pale currents strewn, The quiet fishing-smacks, the Eastern cove, The semi-circle of its dark, green grove. The luminous grasses, and the merry sun In the grave sky; the sparkle far and wide, Laughter of unseen children, cheerful chirp Of crickets, and low lisp of rippling tide, Light summer clouds fantastical as sleep Changing unnoted while I gazed thereon. All these fair sounds and sights I made my own.
As the blind Milton’s memory of light,
The deaf Beethoven’s phantasy of tone,
Wrought joys for them surpassing all things known
In our restricted sphere of sound and sight,—
So while the glaring streets of brick and stone
Vex with heat, noise, and dust from morn till night,
I will give rein to Fancy, taking flight
From dismal now and here, and dwell alone
With new-enfranchised senses. All day long,
Think ye ’t is I, who sit ’twixt darkened walls,
While ye chase beauty over land and sea?
Uplift on wings of some rare poet’s song,
Where the wide billow laughs and leaps and falls,
I soar cloud-high, free as the winds are free.
Who grasps the substance? who ’mid shadows strays?
He who within some dark-bright wood reclines,
’Twixt sleep and waking, where the needled pines
Have cushioned all his couch with soft brown sprays?
He notes not how the living water shines,
Trembling along the cliff, a flickering haze,
Brimming a wine-bright pool, nor lifts his gaze
To read the ancient wonders and the signs.
Does he possess the actual, or do I,
Who paint on air more than his sense receives,
The glittering pine-tufts with closed eyes behold,
Breathe the strong resinous perfume, see the sky
Quiver like azure flame between the leaves,
And open unseen gates with key of gold?