From the Green Book of the Bards

by Bliss Carman


 

THE WORLD IN THE BEGINNING

In principio erat verbum.


 

PRELUDE

 

This is the sound of the Word 
From the waters of sleep,
The rain-soft voice that was heard
On the face of the deep,
When the fog was drawn back like a veil, and the sentinel tides 

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Were given their thresholds to keep.

The South Wind said, "Come forth,"
And the West Wind said, "Go far!"
And the silvery sea-folk heard,
Where their weed tents are,

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From the long slow lift of the blue through the Carib keys,
To the thresh on Sable bar.

This is the Word that went by,
Over sun-land and swale,
The long Aprilian cry,

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Clear, joyous, and hale,
When the summons went forth to the wild shy broods of the air, 
To bid them once more to the trail.

The South Wind said, "Come forth,"
And the West Wind said, "Be swift!"

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The fluttering sky-folk heard,
And the warm dark thrift
Of the nomad blood revived, and they gathered for flight,
By column and pair and drift.

This is the sound of the Word

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From bud-sheath and blade,
When the reeds and the grasses conferred,
And a gold beam was laid
At the taciturn doors of the forest, where tarried the sun,
For a sign they should not be dismayed.

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The South Wind said, "Come forth,"
And the West Wind said, "Be glad!"
The abiding wood-folk heard,
In their new green clad,
Sanguine, mist-silver, and rose, while the sap in their veins

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Welled up as of old all unsad.

This is the Word that flew
Over snow-marsh and glen,
When the frost-bound slumberers knew,
In tree-trunk and den,

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Their bidding had come, they questioned not whence nor why,—
They reckoned not whither nor when.

The South Wind said, "Come forth,"
And the West Wind said, "Be wise!"
The wintering ground-folk heard,

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Put the dark from their eyes,
Put the sloth from sinew and thew, to wander and dare,—
For ever the old surmise!

This is the Word that came
To the spirit of Man,

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And shook his soul like a flame
In the breath of a fan,
Till it burned as a light in his eyes, as a colour that grew
And prospered under the tan.

The South Wind said, "Come forth,"

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And the West Wind said, "Be free!"
Then he rose and put on the new garb,
And knew he should be
The master of knowledge and joy, though sprung from the tribes
Of the earth and the air and the sea.
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I

THE WORD TO THE WATER PEOPLE

 

Who hath uttered the formless whisper,
The rumour afloat on the tide,
The need that speaks in the heart,
The craving that will not bide?

For the word without shape is abroad,

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The vernal portent of change;
And from winter grounds, empty to-morrow,
The fin-folk will gather and range.

It runs in the purple currents,
Swaying the idle weed;

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It creeps by the walls of coral,
Where the keels of the ebb recede;

It calls in the surf above us,
In thunder of reef and key,
And where the green day filters

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Through soundless furlongs of sea.

It moves where the moving sea-fans
Shadow the white sea-floor;
It stirs where the dredging sand-runs
Furrow and trench and score.

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In channel and cave it finds us,
In the curve of the Windward Isles,
In the sway of the heaving currents,
In the run of the long sea-miles,

In the green Floridian shallows,

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By marshes hot and rank,
And below the reach of soundings
Off the Great Bahaman Bank.

The tribes of the water people,
Scarlet and yellow and blue,

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Are awake, for the old sea-magic
Is on them to rove anew.

They will ride in the great sea-rivers,
And feed in the warm land streams,
By cliffs where the gulls are nesting,

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By capes where the blue berg gleams.

The fleet and shining thousands
Will follow the trackless lead
Of the bidding that rises in them,
The old ancestral need.

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Will they mistrust or falter,
Question or turn or veer?
Will they put off their harness of colour,
Or their gaudy hues ungear?

Eager, unwasted, undaunted,

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They go and they go. They have heard
The lift of the faint strong summons,
The lure of the watery word.

 

II

THE WORD TO THE PEOPLE OF THE AIR

 

Who hath uttered the wondrous hearsay,
The rumour abroad on the air,
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The tribal journey summons,
The signal to flock and fare?

Who hath talked to the shy bird-people,
And counselled the feathered breast
To follow the sagging rain-wind

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Over the purple crest?

O tribes of the silver whistle,
And folk of the azure wing,
Who hath revived in a night
The magic tradition of spring?

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By shores of the low Gulf Islands,
Where the steaming lands emerge,
By reefs of the Dry Tortugas,
Drenched by the crumbling surge,

From the hot and drowsy shallows

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Of the silent Everglades,
From creamy coral beaches
In the breath of the Northeast Trades,

We have heard, without note or warble,
Quaver or chirp or trill,

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The far and soft-blown tidings
Summon from hill to hill.

Up from the blue horizon,
By canyon and ridge and plain,
Where ride in misty columns

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The spearmen of the rain,

The broods of the light air-people
Will bevy and team and throng,
To fill the April valleys
With gurgle and lisp and song.

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They know where the new green leafage
Spreads like the sweep of day,
Over the low Laurentians
And up through the Kootenay.

They know where the nests are waiting,

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And the icy ponds are thawed,
For the stir and the sight are on them,
Moving the legions abroad.

The oriole under Monadnoc
Will cast his golden spells;

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In deep Ontarian meadows
The reed-bird will loose his bells;

The thrushes will flute over Grand Pré,
The quail by the Manomet shore,
The wild drake feed in the bogan,

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The swallow come back to the door.

Tanager, robin, and sparrow,
Grosbeak, warbler and wren,
The children of gladness gather
In clearing and grove and fen

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For the bright primeval summer,
In their slumbering heart having heard
A strain of the great Resurgam,
A call of the airy word.

 

III

THE WORD TO THE PEOPLE OF THE WOOD

 

Who hath uttered the leafy whisper,
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The rumour that stirs the bough,
That mounts with the sap, and flushes
The buds with beauty now?

None hath report of the message,
No single authentic word;

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Yet the tribes of the wood are stirring
At the tidings they have heard.

To-day will the pear-trees blossom
And the yellow jasmine vines,
Where the soft Gulf winds are surfing

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In the dreamy Georgian pines.

To-morrow the peach and the redbud
Will join in the woodland pomp,
Floating their crimson banners
By smoky ridge and swamp;

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And the gleaming white magnolias,
In many a city square,
Will unfold in the heavenly leisure
Of the kindly Southern air.

Next day over grey New England

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The magic of spring will go,
Touching her marshes with yellow,
Her hills with a purple glow.

Then the maple buds will break
In an orange mist once more,

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Through lone Canadian valleys,
From Baranov to Bras d'Or.

And where the snowdrifts vanish
From the floor of their piney home,
Hepatica and arbutus,

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The shy wood-children, will come.

The elms on the meadow islands
Will shadow the rustling sedge,
The orchards reveal the glory
Of earth by dike and ledge;

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The birch will unsheathe her tassels,
The willow her silver plume,
When the green hosts encamp
By lake and river and flume.

For the tides of joy are running

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North with the sap and the sun,
And the tribes of the wood are arrayed
In their splendour one by one.

Not one unprepared nor reluctant,
With ardour unspent they have heard

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A note of the woodland music,
A breath of the wilding word.

 

IV

THE WORD TO THE PEOPLE OF THE GROUND

 

Who hath uttered the faint earth-whisper,
The rumour that spreads over ground,
The sign that is hardly a signal,
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The sense that is scarcely sound?

Yet listen, the earth is awake,
The magic of April is here;
The all but unobserved signal
Is answered from far and near.

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Go forth in the morning and listen,
For the coming of life is good;
The lapsing of ice in the rivers,
The lisping of snow in the wood,

The murmur of streams in the mountains,

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The babble of brooks in the hills,
And the sap of gladness running
To waste from a thousand stills.

Go forth in the noonday and listen;
A soft multitudinous stir

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Betrays the new life that is moving
In the houses of oak and fir.

A red squirrel chirps in the balsam;
A fox barks down in the clove;
The bear comes out of his tree-bole

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To sun himself, rummage and rove.

In the depth of his wilderness fastness
The beaver comes forth from his mound,
And the tiny creatures awake
From their long winter sleep under ground.

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Go forth in the twilight and listen
To that music fine and thin,
When the myriad marshy pipers
Of the April night begin.

Through reed-bed and swamp and shallow

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The heart of the earth grows bold,
And the spheres in their golden singing
Are answered on flutes of gold.

One by one, down in the meadow,
Or up by the river shore,

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The frail green throats are unstopped,
And inflated with joy once more.

O heart, canst thou hear and hearken,
Yet never an answer bring,
When thy brothers, the frogs in the valley,

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Go mad with the burden of spring?

So the old ardours of April
Revive in her creatures to-day—
The knowledge that does not falter,
The longing that will not stay,

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And the love that abides. Undoubting,
In the deeps of their ken they have heard
The ancient unwritten decretal,
The lift of the buoyant word.