By the Aurelian Wall and Other Elegies

by Bliss Carman


 

ANDREW STRATON


 

ANDREW STRATON was my friend,
With his Saxon eyes and hair,
And his loyal viking spirit,
Like an islesman of the North
With his earldom on the sea.
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At his birth the mighty Mother
Made of him a fondling one,
Hushed from pain within her arms,
With her seal upon his lips;

And from that day he was numbered

10

With the sons of consolation,
Peace and cheer were in his hands,
And her secret in his will.

Now the night has Andrew Straton
Housed from wind and storm forever

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In a chamber of the gloom
Where no window fronts the morning,
Lulled to rest at last from roving
To the music of the rain.

And his sleep is in the far-off

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Alien villages of the dusk,
Where there is no voice of welcome
To the country of the strangers,
Save the murmur of the pines.

And the fitful winds all day

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Through the grass with restless footfalls
Haunt about his narrow door,
Muttering their vast unknown
Border balladry of time,
To the hoarse rote of the sea.
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There he reassumes repose,
He who never learned unrest
Here amid our fury of toil,
Undisturbed though all about him
To the cohorts of the night
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Sound the bugles of the spring;
And his slumber is not broken
When along the granite hills
Flare the torches of the dawn.

More to me than kith or kin

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Was the silence of his speech;
And the quiet of his eyes,
Gathered from the lonely sweep
Of the hyacinthine hills,
Better to the failing spirit
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Than a river land in June:
And to look for him at evening
Was more joy than many friends.

As the woodland brooks at noon
Were his brown and gentle hands,

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And his face as the hill country
Touched with the red autumn sun
Frank and patient and untroubled
Save by the old trace of doom
In the story of the world.
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So the years went brightening by.

Now a lyric wind and weather
Breaks the leaguer of the frost,
And the shining rough month March
Crumbles into sun and rain;

60

But the glad and murmurous year
Wheels above his rest and wakens
Not a dream for Andrew Straton.

Now the uplands hold an echo
From the meadow lands at morn;

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And the marshes hear the rivers
Rouse their giant heart once more,—

Hear the crunching floe start seaward
From a thousand valley floors;
While far on amid the hills

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Under stars in the clear night,
The replying, the replying,
Of the ice-cold rivulets
Plashing down the solemn gorges
In their arrowy blue speed,
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Fills and frets the crisp blue twilight
With innumerable sound,
With the whisper of the spring.

But the melting fields are empty,
Something ails the bursting year.

80

Ah, now helpless, O my rivers,
Are your lifted voices now!
Where is all the sweet compassion
Once your murmur held for me?
Cradled in your dells, I listened
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To your crooning, learned your language,
Born your brother and your kin.

When I had the morn for revel,
You made music at my door;
Now the days go darkling on,

90

And I cannot guess your words.
Shall young joy have troops of neighbors,
While this grief must house alone?

O my brothers of the hills,
Who abide through stress and change,

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On the borders of our sorrow,
With no part in human tears,
Lift me up your voice again
And put by this grievous thing!

Ah, my rivers, Andrew Straton

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Leaves me here a vacant world!

I must hear the roar of cities
And the jargon of the schools,
With no word of that one spirit
Who was steadfast as the sun

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And kept silence with the stars.
I must sit and hear the babble
Of the worldling and the fool,
Prating know-alls and reformers
Busy to improve on man,
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With their chatter about God;
Nowhere, nowhere the blue eyes,
With their swift and grave regard,
Falling on me with God's look.

I have seen and known and loved

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One who was too sure for sorrow,
Too serenely wise for haste,
Too compassionate for scorn,
Fearless man and faultless comrade,
One great heart whose beat was love.
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In a thousand thousand hollows
Of the hills to-day there twinkle
Icy-blue handbreadths of April,
Where the sinking snows decay
In the everlasting sun;
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And a thousand tiny creatures
Stretch their heart to fill the world.

Now along the wondrous trail
Andrew Straton loved to follow
Day by day and year on year,

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The awaited sure return
Of all sleeping forest things
Is reheralded abroad,
Till the places of their journey,—

Wells the frost no longer hushes,

135

Ways no drift can bury now,
Wood and stream and road and hillside,—
Hail their coming as of old.

But my beautiful lost comrade
Of the golden heart, whose life

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Rang through April like a voice
Through some Norland saga, crying
Skoal to death, comes not again;
Time shall not revive that presence
More desired than all the flowers,
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Longer wished for than the birds.

April comes, but April's lover
Is departed and not here.

Sojourning beyond the frost,
He delays; and now no more,—

150
Though the goldenwings are come
With their resonant tattoo,
And along the barrier pines
Morning reddens on the hills
Where the thrushes wake before it,—
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No more to the summoning flutes
Of the forest Andrew Straton
Gets him forth afoot, light-hearted,
On the unfrequented ways
With companionable Spring.
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Only the old dreams return.

So I shape me here this fancy,
Foolish me! of Andrew Straton;
How the lands of that new kindred
Have detained him with allegiance,

165

And some far day I shall find him,
There as here my only captain,
Master of the utmost isles
In the ampler straits of sea.

Out of the blue melting distance

170
Of the dreamy southward range
Journey back the vagrant winds,
Sure and indolent as time;
And the trembling wakened wood-flowers
Lift their gentle tiny faces
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To the sunlight; and the rainbirds
From the lonely cedar barrens
Utter their far pleading cry.

Up across the swales and burnt lands
Where the soft gray tinges purple,

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Mouldering into scarlet mist,
Comes the sound as of a marching,
The low murmur of the April
In the many-rivered hills.

Then there stirs the old vague rapture,

185
Like a wanderer come back,
Still desiring, scathed but deathless,
From beyond the bourne of tears,
Wayworn to his vacant cabin,
To this foolish fearless heart.
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Soon the large mild stars of springtime
Will resume the ancient twilight
And restore the heart of earth
To unvexed eternal poise;
For the great Will, calm and lonely,

195
Can no mortal grief derange,
No lost memories perturb;
And the sluices of the morning
Will be opened, and the daybreak
Well with bird-calls and with brook-notes,
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Till there be no more despair
In the gold dream of the world.