Echoes from Vagabondia

by Bliss Carman


 

BY STILL WATERS

"HE LEADETH ME BESIDE THE STILL WATERS; HE RESTORETH MY SOUL."


 

MY tent stands in a garden
Of aster and goldenrod,
Tilled by the rain and the sunshine,
And sown by the hand of God, —
An old New England pasture
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Abandoned to peace and time,
And by the magic of beauty
Reclaimed to the sublime.

About it are golden woodlands
Of tulip and hickory;

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On the open ridge behind it
You may mount to a glimpse of sea, —
The far-off, blue, Homeric
Rim of the world’s great shield,
A border of boundless glamour
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For the soul’s familiar field.

In purple and gray-wrought lichen
The boulders lie in the sun;
Along its grassy footpath
The white-tailed rabbits run.

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The crickets work and chirrup
Through the still afternoon;
And the owl calls from the hillside
Under the frosty moon.

The odorous wild grape clambers

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Over the tumbling wall,
And through the autumnal quiet
The chestnuts open and fall.
Sharing time’s freshness and fragrance,
Part of the earth’s great soul,
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Here man’s spirit may ripen
To wisdom serene and whole.

Shall we not grow with the asters—
Never reluctant nor sad,
Not counting the cost of being,

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Living to dare and be glad?
Shall we not lift with the crickets
A chorus of ready cheer,
Braving the frost of oblivion,
Quick to be happy here?
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Is my will as sweet as the wild grape,
Spreading delight on the air
For the passer-by’s enchantment,
Subtle and unaware?
Have I as brave a spirit,
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Sprung from the self-same mould,
As this weed from its own contentment
Lifting its shaft of gold?

The deep red cones of the sumach
And the woodbine’s crimson’s sprays

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Have bannered the common roadside
For the pageant of passing days.
These are the oracles Nature
Fills with her holy breath,
Giving them glory of color,
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Transcending the shadow of death.

Here in the sifted sunlight
A spirit seems to brood
On the beauty and worth of being,
In tranquil, instinctive mood;

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And the heart, filled full of gladness
Such as the wise earth knows,
Wells with a full thanksgiving
For the gifts that life bestows:

For the ancient and virile nurture

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Of the teeming primordial ground,
For the splendid gospel of color,
The rapt revelations of sound;
For the morning-blue above us
And the rusted gold of the fern,
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For the chickadee’s call to valor
Bidding the faint-heart turn;

For fire and running water,
Snowfall and summer rain;
For sunsets and quiet meadows,

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The fruit and the standing grain;
For the solemn hour of moonrise
Over the crest of trees,
When the mellow lights are kindled
In the lamps of the centuries;
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For those who wrought aforetime,
Led by the mystic strain
To strive for the larger freedom,
And live for the greater gain;
For plenty and peace and playtime,
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The homely goods of earth,
And for rare immaterial treasures
Accounted of little worth;

For art and learning and friendship,
Where beneficent truth is supreme,—

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Those everlasting cities
Built on the hills of dream;
For all things growing and goodly
That foster this life, and breed
The immortal flower of wisdom
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Out of the mortal seed.

But most of all for the spirit
That cannot rest nor bide
In stale and sterile convenience,
Nor safely proven and tried,

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But still inspired and driven,
Must seek what better may be,
And up from the loveliest garden
Must climb for a glimpse of sea.