Later Poems

by Bliss Carman


 

A Painter's Holiday


 

WE painters sometimes strangely keep
These holidays. When life runs deep
And broad and strong, it comes to make
Its own bright-colored almanack.
Impulse and incident divine
5
Must find their way through tone and line;
The throb of color and the dream
Of beauty, giving art its theme
From dear life’s daily miracle,
Illume the artist’s life as well.
10

A bird-note, or a turning leaf,
The first white fall of snow, a brief
Wild song from the Anthology,
A smile, or a girl’s kindling eye,—
And there is worth enough for him
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To make the page of history dim.
Who knows upon what day may come
The touch of that delirium
Which lifts plain life to the divine,
And teaches hand the magic line
20
No cunning rule could ever reach,
Where Soul’s necessities find speech?
None knows how rapture may arrive
To be our helper, and survive
Through our essay to help in turn
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All starving eager souls who yearn
Lightward discouraged and distraught.
Ah, once art’s gleam of glory caught
And treasured in the heart, how then
We walk enchanted among men,
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And with the elder gods confer!
So art is hope’s interpreter,
And with devotion must conspire
To fan the eternal altar fire.
Wherefore you find me here to-day,
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Not idling the good hours away,
But picturing a magic hour
With its replenishment of power.

Conceive a bleak December day,
The streets all mire, the sky all gray,

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And a poor painter trudging home
Disconsolate, when what should come
Across his vision, but a line
On a bold-lettered play-house sign,
A Persian Sun Dance.
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                                             In he turns.
A step, and there the desert burns
Purple and splendid; molten gold
The streamers of the dawn unfold,
Amber and amethyst uphurled
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Above the far rim of the world;
The long-held sound of temple bells
Over the hot sand steals and swells;
A lazy tom-tom throbs and dones
In barbarous maddening monotones;
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While sandal incense blue and keen
Hangs in the air. And then the scene
Wakes, and out steps, by rhythm released,
The sorcery of all the East,
In rose and saffron gossamer,—
60
A young light-hearted worshipper
Who dances up the sun. She moves
Like waking woodland flower that loves
To greet the day. Her lithe, brown curve
Is like a sapling’s sway and swerve
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Before the spring wind. Her dark hair
Framing a face vivid and rare,
Curled to her throat and then flew wild,
Like shadows round a radiant child.
The sunlight from her cymbals played
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About her dancing knees, and made
A world of rose-lit ecstasy,
Prophetic of the day to be.

Such mystic beauty might have shone
In Sardis or in Babylon,

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To bring a Satrap to his doom
Or touch some lad with glory’s bloom.
And now it wrought for me, with sheer
Enchantment of the dying year,
Its irresistible reprieve
80
From joylessness on New Year’s Eve.