From the Green Book of the Bards

by Bliss Carman


 

COMPENSATION


 

Not a word from the poplar-tree here on the hill?
Not a word from the stream in the bight of the clove?
Not a word from trail, clearing, or forest, to tell
Their brother returned, how all winter they throve?

The old mountain ledges lay purple in June;

5

The green mountain walls arose hazy and dark;
I saw, heard, and loved all their beauty anew,
But the soul in my body lay deaf, blind, and stark.

"O, Mother Natura, whom most with full heart,
Boy, stripling, and man, I have loved, dost thou leave

10

Unanswered thy suppliant, troubled thy son,—
To longing no respite, to doom no reprieve?"

Days, weeks, and months passed. Not a whisper outbroke,
Not a word to be caught, not a hint to be had,
By the soul from the world there, all leisure and sun

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In perfection of summer, warm, waiting, and glad!

The rosebreasted grosbeak his triumph proclaimed;
The veery his wildest enchantment renewed;
And yet the old ardours not once were relit,
Nor the heart as of old with wild magic imbued.

20


Until on an evening unlooked for, "O Son,"—
Said the stream in the clove, spoke the wind on the hill?
Did a bird in his sleep find the lost ancient tongue,
Universal and clear, with the shadowy thrill

Mere language has never yet uttered?—"O Son,

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Was thy heart cold with doubt, hesitation, dismay,
Or hot with resentment, because, as it seemed,
For awhile it must journey alone and away?

"All winter the torrent must sleep under snow;
All winter ash, poplar, and beech must endure;

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All winter thy rapturous brothers, the birds,
Must be silent. Are they, then, downcast or unsure?

"Nay, I but give them their seasons and times,
Their moments of joy and their measure of rest;
They keep the great rhythm of life's come and go,

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The unwearied repose, the unhurrying zest.

"With April I lifted them, bade longings be;
With June I have plenished their heart to the brim.
Will they question when over the world I have spread
The scarlet of autumn with frost at the rim?

40


"Behold, while vexation was filling thy days,
Thy deeper self, resting unmindful of harms,
(With who knows what dreams of the splendid and true
To be compassed at length!) lay asleep in my arms."

The moonlight, mysterious, stately, and blue,

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Lay out on the great mountain wall, deep and still;
Far below the stream talked to itself in the clove;
The poplar-tree talked to itself on the hill.