I Where the wings of a sunny Dome expand I saw a Banner in gladsome air— Starry, like Berenice's Hair— Afloat in broadened bravery there; With undulating long-drawn flow, As rolled Brazilian billows go Voluminously o'er the Line. The Land reposed in peace below; The children in their glee Were folded to the exulting heart Of young Maternity. II Later, and it streamed in fight When tempest mingled with the fray, And over the spear-point of the shaft I saw the ambiguous lightning play. Valor with Valor strove, and died: Fierce was Despair, and cruel was Pride; And the lorn Mother speechless stood, Pale at the fury of her brood. III Yet later, and the silk did wind Her fair cold for; Little availed the shining shroud, Though ruddy in hue, to cheer or warm A watcher looked upon her low, and said— She sleeps, but sleeps, she is not dead. But in that sleep contortion showed The terror of the vision there— A silent vision unavowed, Revealing earth's foundation bare, And Gorgon in her hidden place. It was a thing of fear to see So foul a dream upon so fair a face, And the dreamer lying in that starry shroud. IV But from the trance she sudden broke— The trance, or death into promoted life; At her feet a shivered yoke, And in her aspect turned to heaven No trace of passion or of strife— A clear calm look. It spake of pain, But such as purifies from stain— Sharp pangs that never come again— And triumph repressed by knowledge meet, Power delicate, and hope grown wise, And youth matured for age's seat— Law on her brow and empire in her eyes. So she, with graver air and lifted flag; While the shadow, chased by light, Fled along the far-brawn height, And left her on the crag.
Herman Melville - 1819-1891
A Night Piece
No sleep. The sultriness pervades the air And binds the brain—a dense oppression, such As tawny tigers feel in matted shades, Vexing their blood and making apt for ravage. Beneath the stars the roofy desert spreads Vacant as Libya. All is hushed near by. Yet fitfully from far breaks a mixed surf Of muffled sound, the Atheist roar of riot. Yonder, where parching Sirius set in drought, Balefully glares red Arson—there—and there. The Town is taken by its rats—ship-rats. And rats of the wharves. All civil charms And priestly spells which late held hearts in awe— Fear-bound, subjected to a better sway Than sway of self; these like a dream dissolve, And man rebounds whole æons back in nature. Hail to the low dull rumble, dull and dead, And ponderous drag that shakes the wall. Wise Draco comes, deep in the midnight roll Of black artillery; he comes, though late; In code corroborating Calvin's creed And cynic tyrannies of honest kings; He comes, nor parlies; and the Town redeemed, Give thanks devout; nor, being thankful, heeds The grimy slur on the Republic's faith implied, Which holds that Man is naturally good, And—more—is Nature's Roman, never to be scourged.