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HYMN TO THE NIGHT

81

Hymn to the Night

I heard the trailing garments of the Night

Sweep through her marble halls !
I saw her sable skirts all fringed with light

From the celestial walls !

5

I felt her presence, by its spell of might,

Stoop o'er me from above;
The calm, majestic presence of the Night,

As of the one I love.

10

I heard the sounds of sorrow and delight,

The manifold, soft chimes,
That fill the haunted chambers of the Night,

Like some old poet's rhymes.

From the cool cisterns of the midnight air

My spirit drank repose;
The fountain of perpetual peace flows there,

From those deep cisterns flows.

15

O holy Night! from thee I learn to bear

What man has borne before !
Thou layest thy finger on the lips of Care,

And they complain no more.

20

Peace! Peace! Orestes-like I breathe this prayer!

Descend with broad-winged flight,
The welcome, the thrice-prayed for, the most fair,

The best-beloved Night!

JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL

AMERICA, 1819–1891

Longing

5

Of all the myriad moods of mind

That through the soul come thronging,
Which one was e'er so dear, so kind,

So beautiful as Longing ?
The thing we long for, that we are

For one transcendent moment,
Before the Present poor and bare

Can make its sneering comment.

10

15

Still, through our paltry stir and strife,

Glows down the wished Ideal,
And Longing molds in clay what Life

Carves in the marble Real;
To let the new life in, we know,

Desire must ope the portal;
Perhaps the longing to be so

Helps make the soul immortal.

20

THE FINDING OF THE LYRE

83

5

Longing is God's fresh heavenward will

With our poor earthward striving;
We quench it that we may be still

Content with merely living:
But, would we learn that heart's full scope

Which we are hourly wronging,
Our lives must climb from hope to hope

And realize our longing.
Ah ! let us hope that to our praise

Good God not only reckons
The moments when we tread His ways,

But when the spirit beckons, –
That some slight good is also wrought

Beyond self-satisfaction,
When we are simply good in thought,

Howe'er we fail in action.

10

15

The Finding of the Lyre

20

There lay upon the ocean's shore
What once a tortoise served to cover.
A year and more, with rush and roar,
The surf had rolled it over,
Had played with it, and flung it by,
As wind and weather might decide it,
Then tossed it high where sand-drifts dry
Cheap burial might provide it.

It rested there to bleach or tan,
The rains had soaked, the suns had burned it;
With many a ban the fisherman
Had stumbled o'er and spurned it;
And there the fisher-girl would stay,
Conjecturing with her brother
How in their play the poor estray
Might serve some use or other.

10

So there it lay, through wet and dry,
As empty as the last new sonnet,
Till by and by came Mercury,
And, having mused upon it,
“Why, here,” cried he, “the thing of things
In shape, material, and dimensions !
Give it but strings, and lo, it sings,
A wonderful invention !"

ܙܙ

15

20

So said, so done; the chords he strained,
And, as his fingers o'er them hovered,
The shell disdained, a soul had gained,
The lyre had been discovered.
O empty world that round us lies,
Dead shell, of soul and thought forsaken,
Brought we but eyes like Mercury's,
In thee what songs should waken!

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Serene, I fold my hands and wait,

Nor care for wind, or tide, or sea;
I rave no more 'gainst time or fate,

For lo! my own shall come to me.

5

I stay my hạste, I make delays,

For what avails this eager pace ?
I stand amid the eternal ways,

And what is mine shall know my face.

10

Asleep, awake, by night or day,

The friends I seek are seeking me;
No wind can drive my bark astray,

Or change the tide of destiny.

What matter if I stand alone ?

I wait with joy the coming years;
My heart shall reap where it has sown,

And garner up its fruit of tears.

15

· Used by courteous permission of the publishers, Messrs. Houghton, Mifflin, & Co., Boston.

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