Other Poems in the collection
by Thomas Bailey Aldrich
THE SISTERS' TRAGEDY|
WITH OTHER POEMS, LYR-
ICAL AND DRAMATIC. BY
THOMAS BAILEY ALDRICH
[Author's Note: The title means "little father" or "dear little father", a term of endearment applied to the Tsar in Russian folk-song. --T.B.A.]
- FROM yonder gilded minaret
- Beside the steel-blue Neva set,
- I faintly catch, from time to time,
- The sweet, aerial midnight chime--
- "God save the Tsar!"
- Above the ravelins and the moats
- Of the white citadel it floats;
- And men in dungeons far beneath
- Listen, and pray, and gnash their teeth--
- "God save the Tsar!"
- The soft reiterations sweep
- Across the horrer of their sleep,
- As if some dæmon in his glee
- Were mocking at their misery--
- "God save the Tsar!"
- In his Red Palace over there,
- Wakeful, he needs must hear the prayer.
- How can it drown the broken cries
- Wrung from his children's agonies?--
- "God save the Tsar!"
- Father they called him from of old--
- Batuschka! . . . How his heart is cold!
- Wait till a million scourgëd men
- Rise in their awful might, and then
- God save the Tsar!
- FIRST, two white arms that held him very close,
- And ever closer as he drew him back
- Reluctantly, the loose gold-colored hair
- A thousand delicate fibers reaching out
- Still to detain him; then some twenty steps
- Of iron staircse winding round and down,
- And ending in a narrow gallery hung
- With Gobelin tapestries--Andromeda
- Rescued by Perseus, and the sleek Diana
- With her nymphs bathing; at the farther end
- A door that gave upon a starlit grove
- Of citron and clipt palm-trees; then a path
- As bleached as moonlight, with the shadow of leaves
- Stamped black upon it; next a vine-clad length
- Of solid masonry; and last of all
- A Gothic archway packed with night, and then--
- A sudden gleaming dagger through his heart.
- SHAKESPEARE and Milton--what third blazoned name
- Shall lips of after-ages link to these?
- His who, beside the wide encircling seas,
- Was England's voice, her voice with one acclaim,
- For threescore years; whose word of praise was fame,
- Whose scorn gave pause to man's iniquities.
- What strain was his in that Crimean war?
- A bugle call in battle; a low breath,
- Plaintive and sweet, above the fields of death!
- So year by year the music rolled afar,
- From Euxine wastes to flowery Kandahar,
- Bearing the laurel or the cypress wreath.
- Others shall have their little space of time,
- Their proper niche and bust, then fade away
- Into the darkness, poets of a day;
- But thou, O builder of enduring rhyme,
- Thou shalt not pass! Thy fame in every clime
- On earth shall live where saxon speech has sway.
- Waft me this verse across the winter sea,
- Through light and dark, through mist and blinding sleet,
- O winter winds, and lay it at his feet;
- Though the poor gift betray my poverty,
- At his feet lay it: it may chance that he
- Will find no gift, where reverence is, unmeet.
THE SHIPMAN'S TALE
- LISTEN my masters! I speak naught but truth.
- From dawn to dawn they drifted on and on,
- Not knowing wither nor to what dark end.
- Now the North froze them, now the hot South scorched.
- Some called to God, and found great comfort so;
- Some gnashed their teeth with curses, some laughed
- An empty laughter, seeing they yet lived,
- So sweet was breath between their foolish lips.
- Day after day the same relentless sun,
- Night after night the same unpitying stars.
- At intervals fierce lightning tore the clouds,
- Showing vast hollow spaces, and the sleet
- Hissed, and the torrents of the sky were loosed.
- From time to time a hand relaxed its grip,
- And some pale wretch slid down into the dark
- With stifled moan, and transient horror seized
- The rest who waited, knowing what must be.
- At every turn strange shapes reached up and clutched
- The whirling wreck, held on awhile, and then
- Slipt back into that blackness whence they came.
- Ah, hapless folk, to be so tost and torn,
- So racked by hunger, fever, fire, and wave,
- And swept at last into the nameless void--
- Frail girls, strong men, and mothers with their babes!
- And was none saved?
- My masters, not a soul!
- O shipman, woful, woful is thy tale!
- Our hearts are heavy and our eyes are dimmed.
- What ship is this that suffered such ill fate?
- What ship, my masters? Know ye not?--The World!
"I VEX ME NOT WITH BROODING ON THE YEARS"
- I VEX me not with brooding on the years
- That were ere I drew breath; why should I then
- Distrust the darkness that may fall again
- When life is done? Perchance in other spheres--
- Dead planets--I once tasted mortal tears,
- And walked as now among a throng of men,
- Pondering things that lay beyond my ken,
- Questioning death, and solacing my fears.
- Offtimes indeed strange sense I have of this,
- Vague memories that hold me with a spell,
- Touches of unseen lips upon my brow,
- Breathing some incommunicable bliss!
- In years foregone, O soul, was all not well?
- Still lovelier life awaits thee. Fear not thou!
MONODY ON THE DEATH OF WENDELL PHILLIPS
- ONE by one they go
- Into the unknown dark--
- Star-lit brows of the brave,
- Voices that drew men's souls.
- Rich is the land, O Death!
- Can give you dead like our dead!--
- Such as he from whose hand
- The magic web of romance
- Slipt, and the art was lost!
- Such as he who erewhile--
- The last of the Titan brood--
- With his thunder the Senate shook;
- Or he who, beside the Charles,
- Untoucht of envy or hate,
- Tranced the world with his song;
- Or that other, that grey-eyed seer
- Who in pastoral Concord ways
- With Plato and Hâfiz walked.
- Not of these was the man
- Whose wraith, through the mists of night,
- Through the shuddering wintry stars,
- Has passed to eternal morn.
- Fit were the moan of the sea
- And the clashing of cloud on cloud
- For the passing of that soul!
- Ever he faced the storm!
- No weaver of rare romance,
- No patient framer of laws,
- No maker of wondrous rhyme,
- No bookman wrapt in his dream.
- His was the voice that rang
- In the fight like a bugle-call,
- And yet could be tender and low
- As when, on a night in June,
- The hushed wind sobs in the pines.
- His was the eye that flashed
- With a sabre's azure gleam,
- Pointing to heights unwon!
- Not for him were these days
- Of clerky and sluggish calm--
- To the petrel the swooping gale!
- Austere he seemed, but the hearts
- Of all men beat in his breast;
- No fetter but galled his wrist,
- No wrong that was not his own.
- What if those eloquent lips
- Curled with the old-time scorn?
- What if in needless hours
- His quick hand closed on the hilt?
- 'T was the smoke from the well-won fields
- That clouded the vetran's eyes.
- A fighter this to the end.
- Ah, if in coming times
- Some giant evil arise,
- And Honor falter and pale,
- His were a name to conjure with!
- God send his like again!
On to the next poem.