Random Thoughts of Her

- 1827-1867

I gaze into her eyes—their tender light,
And strong, illumes my spirit's darkest night,
And pours rich glory on me as a star
Which brings its silver luster from afar.

Sweet thoughts and beautiful within me burn,
And heaven I see what way soe’er I turn;
In borrowed radiance of her soulful glance
All things grow tenfold lovely and entrance.

I touch her willing hand—as gentle dove
It rests within my own, in trusting love;
And yet it moves me with a power so deep,
My heart is flame, and all my pulses leap.

I breathe her name unto the flowers: they bloom
With rarer hues, and shed more rich perfume!
The skylark hears it, as he floats along,
And adds new sweetness to his morning song.

Oh magic name! deep graven on my heart,
And, as its owner, of myself a part!
It hath in all my daily thoughts a share,
And forms the burden of my nightly prayer!

More by John Rollin Ridge

The Atlantic Cable

Let Earth be glad! for that great work is done,
Which makes, at last, the Old and New World one!
Let all mankind rejoice! for time nor space
Shall check the progress of the human race!
Though Nature heaved the Continents apart,
She cast in one great mould the human heart;
She framed on one great plan the human mind
And gave man speech to link him to his kind;
So that, though plains and mountains intervene,
Or oceans, broad and stormy, roll between,
If there but be a courier for the thought—
Swift-winged or slow—the land and seas are nought,
And man is nearer to his brother brought.

First, ere the dawn of letters was, or burst
The light of science on the world, men, nurs’t
In distant solitudes apart, did send,
Their skin-clad heralds forth to thread the woods,
Scale mountain-peaks, or swim the sudden floods,
And bear their messages of peace or war.

Next, beasts were tamed to drag the rolling car,
Or speed the mounted rider on his track;
And then came, too, the vessels, oar-propelled,
Which fled the ocean, as the clouds grew black,
And safe near shore their prudent courses held.
Next came the winged ships, which, brave and free,
Did skim the bosom of the bounding sea,
And dared the storms and darkness in their flight,
Yet drifted far before the winds and night,
Or lay within the dead calm’s grasp of might.
Then, sea-divided nations nearer came,
Stood face to face, spake each the other’s name,
In friendship grew, and learned the truth sublime,
That Man is Man in every age and clime!
They nearer were by months and years—but space
Must still be shortened in Improvement’s race,
And steam came next to wake the world from sleep,
And launch her black-plumed warriors of the deep;
The which, in calm or storm, rode onward still,
And braved the raging elements at will.
Then distance, which from calms’ and storms’ delays
Grew into months, was shortened into days,
And Science’ self declared her wildest dream
Reached not beyond this miracle of steam!
But steam hath not the lightning’s wondrous power,
Though, Titan-like, mid Science’ sons it tower
And wrestle with the ocean in his wrath,
And sweep the wild waves foaming from its path.
A mightier monarch is that subtler thing,
Which gives to human thought a thought-swift wing;
Which speaks in thunder like a God,
Or humbly stoops to kiss the lifted rod;
Ascends to Night’s dim, solitary throne,
And clothes it with a splendor not its own—
A ghastly grandeur and a ghostly sheen,
Through which the pale stars tremble as they’re seen;
Descends to fire the far horizon’s rim,
And paints Mount Etnas in the cloudland grim;
Or, proud to own fair Science’ rightful sway,
Low bends along th’ electric wire to play,
And, helping out the ever-wondrous plan,
Becomes, in sooth, an errand-boy for man!

This Power it was, which, not content with aught
As yet achieved by human will or thought,
Disdained the slow account of months or days,
In navigation of the ocean ways,
And days would shorten into hours, and these
To minutes, in the face of sounding seas.
If Thought might not be borne upon the foam
Of furrowing keel, with speed that Thought should roam,
It then should walk, like light, the ocean’s bed,
And laugh to scorn the winds and waves o’er head!
Beneath the reach of storm or wreck, down where
The skeletons of men and navies are,
Its silent steps should be; while o’er its path
The monsters of the deep, in sport or wrath,
The waters lashed, till like a pot should boil
The sea, and fierce Arion seize the upcast spoil.

America! to thee belongs the praise
Of this great crowning deed of modern days.
’T was Franklin called the wonder from on high;
’T was Morse who bade it on man’s errands fly—
’T was he foretold its pathway ’neath the sea:
A daring Field fulfilled the prophecy!
’T was fitting that a great, free land like this,
Should give the lightning’s voice to Liberty;
Should wing the heralds of Earth’s happiness,
And sing, beneath the ever-sounding sea,
The fair, the bright millennial days to be.

Now may, ere long, the sword be sheathed to rust,
The helmet laid in undistinguished dust;
The thund’rous chariot pause in mid career,
Its crimsoned wheels no more through blood to steer;
The red-hoofed steed from fields of death be led,
Or turned to pasture where the armies bled;
For Nation unto Nation soon shall be
Together brought in knitted unity,
And man be bound to man by that strong chain,
Which, linking land to land, and main to main,
Shall vibrate to the voice of Peace, and be
A throbbing heartstring of Humanity!


October Hills

I look upon the purple hills
     That rise in steps to yonder peaks,
And all my soul their silence thrills
     And to my heart their beauty speaks.

What now to me the jars of life,
     Its petty cares, its harder throes?
The hills are free from toil and strife,
     And clasp me in their deep repose.

They soothe the pain within my breast
     No power but theirs could ever reach,
They emblem that eternal rest
      We cannot compass in our speech.

From far I feel their secret charm—
     From far they shed their healing balm,
And lost to sense of grief or harm
     I plunge within their pulseless calm.

How full of peace and strength they stand,
     Self-poised and conscious of their weight!
We rise with them, that silent band,
     Above the wrecks of Time or Fate;

For, mounting from their depths unseen,
     Their spirit pierces upward, far,
A soaring pyramid serene,
     And lifts us where the angels are.

I would not lose this scene of rest,
     Nor shall its dreamy joy depart;
Upon my soul it is imprest,
     And pictured in my inmost heart.

My Harp

Oh must I fling my harp aside,
     Nor longer let it soothe my heart?
No! sooner might the tender bride
     From th’ first night’s nuptial chamber part!
No! sooner might the warrior cast
     His martial plume of glory down,
Or worshipt monarch fling in dust
     His royal sceptre and his crown!

Must all that ever smoothed my way
     Along the tedious path of time,
Or kept me for some glimpse of day,
     Or held my desperate hand from crime;
Must all, that I have loved so dear,
     When every other source of joy
Had fled, be careless thrown away
     As if it were some idle toy?

Oh no—that harp may all be rough
     And grating to another’s ear—
So let it be—it is enough
     That unto me it still is dear!
If, in the silent midnight, I
     Have oft my weeping heart beguiled,—
If oft when gloom surrounded me,
     My spirit o’er its strains have smiled.

It were a folly strange indeed
     To cast that solace from my breast!
It were but wishing yet to bleed
     Without one certain place of rest;
It were to drink the bitterest gall,
     To add but poison to a wound,
And find new pangs of sorrowing
     Where hitherto they were not found.

It were to plunge within the deep
     Of wilderness and night—where grope
Worse ills than e’er disturbed the sleep
     Of minds forsook of peace and hope!
Oh, tell me not to spurn this harp,
     Although it may not be divine,
For thou hast felt no pangs, as I,
     And my sad soul’s unlike to thine.

’Tis sweet, when mournfulness enshrouds
     The spirit sorrowing and pale,
And gather round the angry clouds,
     To take the harp and tune its wail.
’Tis sweet, when calmly broods the night,
     To wander forth where waters roll,
And, mingling with the waves its voice,
     To rouse the passions of the soul!

Then, off with ye! who coldly tell
     Me my loved harp to fling away—
I’d rather bid all friends farewell,
     Than have the folly to obey!
For friends are but a fleeting trust,
     As transient as the evening’s blush;
But, true to me in all my moods,
     My harp shall ne’er its soothings hush!

Related Poems

To My Wife

I’ve seen the beauty of the rose,
I’ve heard the music of the bird,
And given voice to my delight;
I’ve sought the shapes that come in dreams,
I’ve reached my hands in eager quest,
To fold them empty to my breast;
While you, the whole of all I’ve sought—
The love, the beauty, and the dreams—
Have stood, thro’ weal and woe, true at
My side, silent at my neglect.

An Indian Love Song

Light o’ the lodge, how I love thee,
Light o’ the lodge, how I love thee,
         Mianza, my wild-wood fawn!
To wait and to watch for thy passing.
          On hill-top I linger at dawn.

Glimmer of morn, how I love thee, 
Glimmer of morn, how I love thee! 
      My flute to the ground now I fling,
      As you tread the steep trail to the spring,
For thy coming has silenced my song.

Shimmer of moon on the river,
Sheen of soft star on the lake!
     Moonlight and starlight are naught;
     Their gleam and their glow is ne’er fraught
With such love-light as falls from thine eyes.

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.