From the Green Book of the Bards

by Bliss Carman


 

SURSUM CORDA


 

I

 

The wind on the sea,
The breath of God over the face of the deep,
Whispers a word
The tribes of his watery dominion rejoice having heard.

To-day through the vaultless chambers

5

Of the sea, below the range
Of light's great beam to fathom,
Soundless, unsearched of change,

There passed more vague than a shadow
Which is, then is no more,

10

The aura and draft of being,
Like a breath through an open door.

The myriad fins are moving,
The marvellous flanges play;
Herring and shad and menhaden;

15

They stir and awake and away.

Ungava, Penobscot, Potomac,
Key Largo and Fundy side,
The droves of the frail sea people
Are arun in the vernal tide.

20


The old sea hunger to herd them,
The old spring fever to drive,
Within them the thrust of an impulse
To wander and joy and thrive;

Below them the lift of the sea-kale,

25
Before them the fate that shall be;
As it was when the first white summer
Drew the fog from the face of the sea.

 

II

 

The wind on the hills,
The breath of God over the tops of the trees,
30

Whispers a word
The tribes of his airy dominion rejoice having heard.

Last night we saw the curtain
Of the red aurora wave,
Through the ungirdered heaven

35

Built without joist or trave,

Fleeting from silence to silence,
As a mirror is stained by a breath,—
The only sign from the Titan
Sleeping in frosty death.

40


Yet over the world this morning
The old wise trick has been done;
Our legions of rovers and singers,
Arrived and saluting the sun.

The myriad wings atremble,

45

The marvellous throats astrain,
Come the airy migrant people
In the wake of the purple rain.

One joy that needs no bidding,
One will that does not quail;

50
The whitethroat up from the barren,
The starling down in the swale;

The honk and clamour of wild geese,
The call of the goldenwing;
From valley to lonely valley,

55
The long exultation of spring.  

 

III

 

The wind on the fields,
The breath of God over the face of the ground,
Whispers a word
The tribes of his leafy dominion rejoice having heard.
60


Crimson of Indian willow,
Orange of maple plume,
As a web of endless pattern
Falls from a soundless loom,

The wide green marvel of summer

65

Breaks from catkin and sheath,
So silently only a spirit
Could guess at the spirit beneath.

For these are the moveless people,
Who only abide and endure,

70

Yet no less feel their heart beat
To the lift of the wild spring lure.

These are the keepers of silence,
Who only adore and are dumb,
With faith's own look of expecting

75

The bidding they know will come.

The revel of leaves is beginning,
The riot of sap is astir;
Dogwood and peach and magnolia
Have errands they will not defer.

80

In the long sweet breath of the rainwind,
In the warm, sweet hours of sun,
They arise at the Sursum corda,
A thousand uplifted as one.

 

IV

 

The wind in the street,
85

The breath of God over the roofs of the town,
Whispers a word
The tribes of the Wandering Shadow rejoice having heard.

The tribes of the Wandering Shadow!
Ah, gypsying spirit of man,

90

What tent hast thou, what solace,
Since the nomad life began?

Forever, wherever the springtime
Halts by the open door,
The heart-sick are healed in the sunshine,

95

The sorry are sad no more.

Something brighter than morning
Washes the windowpane;
Something wiser than knowledge
Sits by the hearth again.

100


Within him the sweet disquiet,
Before him the old dismay,
When the hand of Beauty beckons
The wayfarer must away.

"A brother to him who needs me,

105

A son to her who needs;
Modest and free and gentle;"
This is his creed of creeds.

To-night when the belt of Orion
Hangs in the linden bough,

110

The girl will meet her lover
Where the quince is crimson now.

For the sun of a thousand winters
Will stop his pendulous swing,
Ere man be a misbeliever

115
In the scarlet legend of spring.