A thin wet sky, that yellows at the rim,
And meets with sun-lost lip the marsh’s brim.

The pools low lying, dank with moss and mould,
Glint through their mildews like large cups of gold

Among the wild rice in the still lagoon,
In monotone the lizard shrills his tune.

The wild goose, homing, seeks a sheltering,
Where rushes grow, and oozing lichens cling.

Late cranes with heavy wing, and lazy flight,
Sail up the silence with the nearing night.

And like a spirit, swathed in some soft veil,
Steals twilight and its shadows o’er the swale.

Hushed lie the sedges, and the vapours creep,
Thick, grey and humid, while the marshes sleep.

Through Time and Bitter Distance

Unknown to you, I walk the cheerless shore. 
   The cutting blast, the hurl of biting brine, 
May freeze, and still, and bind the waves at war, 
   Ere you will ever know, O! Heart of mine, 
That I have sought, reflected in the blue 
    Of these sea depths, some shadow of your eyes; 
Have hoped the laughing waves would sing of you, 
   But this is all my starving sight descries—

I.
Far out at sea a sail 
    Bends to the freshening breeze, 
Yields to the rising gale, 
    That sweeps the seas; 

II. 
Yields, as a bird wind-tossed, 
    To saltish waves that fling 
Their spray, whose rime and frost
    Like crystals cling

III. 
To canvas, mast and spar, 
   Till, gleaming like a gem, 
She sinks beyond the far
   Horizon’s hem. 

IV. 
Lost to my longing sight, 
    And nothing left to me
Save an oncoming night,—
    An empty sea.

Fire-Flowers

And only where the forest fires have sped, 
  Scorching relentlessly the cool north lands,
A sweet wild flower lifts its purple head, 
And, like some gentle spirit sorrow-fed,
  It hides the scars with almost human hands.

And only to the heart that knows of grief,
  Of desolating fire, of human pain,
There comes some purifying sweet belief, 
Some fellow-feeling beautiful, if brief.
  And life revives, and blossoms once again.

Related Poems

Morning on Shinnecock

The rising sun had crowned the hills,
            And added beauty to the plain;
O grand and wondrous spectacle!
            That only nature could explain.

I stood within a leafy grove,
            And gazed around in blissful awe;
The sky appeared one mass of blue,
            That seemed to spread from sea to shore.

Far as the human eye could see,
            Were stretched the fields of waving corn.
Soft on my ear the warbling birds
            Were heralding the birth of morn.

While here and there a cottage quaint
            Seemed to repose in quiet ease
Amid the trees, whose leaflets waved
            And fluttered in the passing breeze.

O morning hour! so dear thy joy,
            And how I longed for thee to last;
But e’en thy fading into day
            Brought me an echo of the past.

 ‘Twas this,—how fair my life began;
            How pleasant was its hour of dawn;
But, merging into sorrow’s day,
            Then beauty faded with the morn.

Mount Shasta

     Behold the dread Mt. Shasta, where it stands
Imperial midst the lesser heights, and, like
Some mighty unimpassioned mind, companionless
And cold. The storms of Heaven may beat in wrath
Against it, but it stands in unpolluted
Grandeur still; and from the rolling mists upheaves
Its tower of pride e’en purer than before.
The wintry showers and white-winged tempests leave
Their frozen tributes on its brow, and it
Doth make of them an everlasting crown.
Thus doth it, day by day and age by age,
Defy each stroke of time: still rising highest
Into Heaven!

     Aspiring to the eagle’s cloudless height,
No human foot has stained its snowy side;
No human breath has dimmed the icy mirror which
It holds unto the moon and stars and sov’reign sun.
We may not grow familiar with the secrets
Of its hoary top, whereon the Genius
Of that mountain builds his glorious throne!
Far lifted in the boundless blue, he doth
Encircle, with his gaze supreme, the broad
Dominions of the West, which lie beneath
His feet, in pictures of sublime repose
No artist ever drew. He sees the tall
Gigantic hills arise in silentness
And peace, and in the long review of distance
Range themselves in order grand. He sees the sunlight
Play upon the golden streams which through the valleys
Glide. He hears the music of the great and solemn sea,
And overlooks the huge old western wall
To view the birth-place of undying Melody!

     Itself all light, save when some loftiest cloud
Doth for a while embrace its cold forbidding
Form, that monarch mountain casts its mighty
Shadow down upon the crownless peaks below,
That, like inferior minds to some great
Spirit, stand in strong contrasted littleness!
All through the long and Summery months of our
Most tranquil year, it points its icy shaft
On high, to catch the dazzling beams that fall
In showers of splendor round that crystal cone,
And roll in floods of far magnificence
Away from that lone, vast Reflector in
The dome of Heaven.
Still watchful of the fertile
Vale and undulating plains below, the grass
Grows greener in its shade, and sweeter bloom
The flowers. Strong purifier! From its snowy
Side the breezes cool are wafted to the “peaceful
Homes of men,” who shelter at its feet, and love
To gaze upon its honored form, aye standing
There the guarantee of health and happiness.
Well might it win communities so blest
To loftier feelings and to nobler thoughts—
The great material symbol of eternal
Things! And well I ween, in after years, how
In the middle of his furrowed track the plowman
In some sultry hour will pause, and wiping
From his brow the dusty sweat, with reverence
Gaze upon that hoary peak. The herdsman
Oft will rein his charger in the plain, and drink
Into his inmost soul the calm sublimity;
And little children, playing on the green, shall
Cease their sport, and, turning to that mountain
Old, shall of their mother ask: “Who made it?”
And she shall answer,—“GOD!”

     And well this Golden State shall thrive, if like
Its own Mt. Shasta, Sovereign Law shall lift
Itself in purer atmosphere—so high
That human feeling, human passion at its base
Shall lie subdued; e’en pity’s tears shall on
Its summit freeze; to warm it e’en the sunlight
Of deep sympathy shall fail:
Its pure administration shall be like
The snow immaculate upon that mountain’s brow!

Raindrops

Have you heard the raindrops 
     On a field of corn, 
Pattering ov’r the green leaves
      Dusty and forlorn?
Did you ever fancy 
      They were little feet 
Hurrying out with water 
      Thirsty ones to meet? 

Have you seen the raindrops 
       Falling on the lake?
How they flash and sparkle 
      Tiny splashes make. 
Did you ever fancy 
     They were diamonds rare 
Scattered by an aeroplane
      Sailing through the air?