From the Green Book of the Bards

by Bliss Carman


 

THE BREATH OF THE REED


 

I heard the rushes in the twilight,
I overheard them at the dusk of day.

Make me thy priest, O Mother,
And prophet of thy mood,
With all the forest wonder

5

Enraptured and imbued.

Be mine but to interpret,
Follow nor misemploy,
The doubtful books of silence,
The alphabet of joy.

10


A pipe beneath thy fingers,
Blown by thy lips in spring
With the old madness, urging
Shy foot and furtive wing,

A reed wherein the life-note

15

Is fluted clear and high,
Immortal and unmeasured,—
No more than this am I.

Delirious and plangent,
I quiver to thy breath;

20

Thy fingers keep the notches
From discord and from death.

Unfaltering, unflagging,
Comes the long, wild refrain,
With ardours of the April

25

In woodnotes of the rain.

Be mine the merest inkling
Of what the shore larks mean,
And what the gulls are crying
The wind whereon they lean.

30


Teach me to close the cadence
Of one brown forest bird,
Who opens so supremely,
Then falters for thy word.

One hermit thrush entrancing

35

The solitude with sound,—
Give me the golden gladness
Of music so profound.

So leisurely and orbic,
Serene and undismayed,

40

He runs the measure over,
Perfection still delayed.

No hurry nor annoyance;
Enough for him, to try
The large few notes of prelude

45

Which put completion by.

In ages long hereafter
His heritor may learn
What meant those pregnant pauses,
And that unfinished turn.

50


So one shall read thy world-runes
To find them all one day
Parts of a single motive,
Scored in an ancient way.

Till then, be mine to master

55

One phrase in all that strain,—
The dominance of beauty,
The transiency of pain,

As swayed by tides of dreaming,
Or bowed by gusts of thought,

60
A reed within the river,
I waver and am naught.