Last Songs from Vagabondia

by Bliss Carman and Richard Hovey




Once in the fairy tale sweet Rose Brier
Climbed to the bent of her heart’s desire.
Poor Rose Brier, as I’ve heard tell,
Never came back with her folk to dwell.

This is the legend of sweet Brier Rose
Out of a country that nobody knows.
Dear Brier Rose could never aspire,
Yet came at length to her heart’s desire.


SINGLE-HEART Brier Rose, gipsy desire
Eyes of the Hush-hound and crispy dark hair,
Lyric of summer dawn, dew-drench and fire,
Wilding and gentle and shy Berris Yare!

Bide with me, Brier Rose, here for an hour.

See the red sun, like a great royal rose,
Flung down the gray for the winter’s king flower,
While Marden sleeps in his mantle of snows.

Far-wandered Brier Rose, how came we here,
Alien, ease-loving, alone in this North?

White winter, laid at the heart of the year,
Heeds us not, needs us not, leads us not forth.

Long ago, Brier Rose, loved we not thus?
Was it when Alaric marched against Rome?
Others might win the world; leave love for us!

Dost thou remember the Visigoth home?

Think again, Summer-heart. Canst not recall
When thou wert Brier Rose gladsome and fair?
How I remember thee, shapely and tall,—
Far away, long ago thee, Berris Yare!


Sword-play for Brier Rose, war song and march;
Throstle for joy bade the waking world sing;
Morning waved banners out bold from the larch;
When we went down on the legions in spring.

Bracelets for Brier Rose, wrought Roman gold;

Tribute and trophy poured plenty as sand;
Frost on the flower-garth, rime on the wold;
When we came triumphing back through the land.

How thy cheek, Brier Rose, signalled aflame;
How the song rang of the foemen downborne;

How brown eyes kindled up as we came
Through the bowed ranks of the gleaming red corn!

Then the long days when the harvest was done;
Hand in hand, hill and dale, thou and I there,
Dreaming of far-off new isles of the sun,—

Never a dream of this day, Berris Yare!

Fairy-tale, home-royal red of the rose,
Wilding and well-a-day sweet of the brier!
Here in the gray world engirdled with snows,
Watch the slow sun set the hill tops afire!


What if, my Brier Rose, love were just this:
One gracious core of the whirled starry dust,
Round which the swinging motes, never amiss,
Traverse the infinite dark as they must.

All the earth else a mere seed-plot of clay,

Fruitless and flowerless, mixed garden mould,
Awaiting the gardener, inert, to obey
When the first sunbeam bids, "Blossoms, unfold!"

Then the whole host of them, gold daffodils;
Poppies so well of red dreamland aware;

Michaelmas daisies smoke blue on the hills;
None like my Brier Rose, my Berris Yare.

Acres of apple-bloom, maids at the door;
Wind-hands of summer with heart-strings to pull;
Fruit to the harvesting, men to the war;

Come winter speedily, love’s year is full.

Cherry-mouth Brier Rose, washed in the dew,
Kiss me again before daylight be done,—
Once for the old love and twice for the new,
Thrice for the dearest love under the sun!


Gold heart of sundowns and summers forgot!
Treasure of solitude, simple and wild!
God in our poem missed rhyme by a jot;
Life never yet with poor love reconciled.

Wert thou not Brier Rose once on a time?

Attar of memory, chivalry’s dare!
Love’s the lost echo of flute-notes at prime,
Wondrous, far wandering. Hark, Berris Yare!

Only the leaves of the oaks brown and sere,
Garrulous wiseacre, doting old leaves,

Go whisper others your cumber-world fear,—
Kill-joy foreboding that croaks and deceives!

Heed them not, Brier Rose. Hearken again!
Nothing? No breath of the music to be?
Ah! but I hear the low footfall of rain,—

April’s clan Joy making in from the sea.

April. Think, Brier Rose! how the earth’s heart,
Brook rapture, bird rapture, riot of rills,
Stirs with old dreams that rend slumber apart!
Then the long twilight dim-blue on the hills.


Hills that will talk to me when thou art gone,—
That old solicitude, calming despair,
Sweet as the sundown, austere as the dawn,—
"Love that lost Brier Rose, found Berris Yare."

April. Then, Brier Rose, some silent eve,

While the dusk hears the hill-rivers give tongue,
In the first swamp-robin I shall perceive
One golden strain that, when being was young,

Kin to the world-cry and kith to the stars,
Pierced human sorrows such ages ago.

Leisurely fluting in gold, broken bars
Comes the rehearsal, serenely and slow,

Prelude, re-prelude; and then the full throat,
Mellowly, mellowly —stops mid-stream—
Wearily, wearily.—What may denote

Such incompleteness? Can love be the theme?

Brother of Brier Rose, flute-master mine
(Then will this heart-ache out cry to him there),
Thou with the secret in that flute of thine,
Where is my dream-fellow, lost Berris Yare?