Songs from a Northern Garden

by Bliss Carman


 

CHRISTMAS AT ST. KAVIN'S


 

To the assembled folk 
At great St. Kavin's spoke
Young Brother Amiel on Christmas eve; 
I give you joy, my friends, 
That as the round year ends,
5

We meet once more for gladness by God's leave.

On other festal days 
For penitence or praise 
Or prayer we meet, or fulness of thanksgiving; 
To-night we calendar 

10

The rising of that star 
Which lit the old world with new joy of living.

Ah, we disparage still 
The Tidings of Good Will,
Discrediting Love's gospel now as then! 

15
And with the verbal creed 
That God is love indeed,
Who dares make Love his god before all men?

Shall we not, therefore, friends,
Resolve to make amends

20
To that glad inspiration of the heart;
To grudge not, to cast out
Selfishness, malice, doubt,
Anger and fear; and for the better part,

To love so much, so well, 

25
The spirit cannot tell 
The range and sweep of her own boundary! 
There is no period 
Between the soul and God; 
Love is the tide, God the eternal sea.
30

Of old, men walked by fear; 
And if their God seemed near, 
It was the Avenger unto whom they bowed,— 
A wraith of their own woes,Vain, cruel, and morose, 
35

With anger and vindictiveness endowed.

Of old, men walked by hate;
The ruthless were the great;
Their crumbling kingdoms stayed by might alone.
Men saw vast empires die,

40

Nor guessed the reason why,—
The simple law of life as yet unknown

As love. Then came our Lord,
Proclaiming the accord
Of soul and nature in love's rule and sway,

45
The lantern that he set
To light us, shining yet
Along the Perfect Path wherein we stray.

To-day we walk by love; 
To strive is not enough, 

50

Save against greed and ignorance and might. 
We apprehend peace comes 
Not with the roll of drums, 
But in the still processions of the night.

And we perceive, not awe 

55
But love is the great law 
That binds the world together safe and whole. 
The splendid planets run 
Their courses in the sun; 
Love is the gravitation of the soul.
60

In the profound unknown, 
Illumined, fair, and lone, 
Each star is set to shimmer in its place. 
In the profound divine 
Each soul is set to shine, 
65

And its unique appointed orbit trace.

There is no near nor far, 
Where glorious Algebar
Swings round his mighty circuit through the night, 
Yet where without a sound 

70

The winged seed comes to ground,
And the red leaf seems hardly to alight.

One force, one lore, one need 
For satellite and seed, 
In the serene benignity for all. 

75
Letting her time-glass run 
With star-dust, sun by sun, 
In Nature's thought there is no great nor small.

There is no far nor near 
Within the spirit's sphere. 

80

The summer sunset's scarlet-yellow wings 
Are tinged with the same dye 
That paints the tulip's ply.
And what is colour but the soul of things?

(The earth was without form; 

85
God moulded it with storm, 
Ice, flood, and tempest, gleaming tint and hue; 
Lest it should come to ill 
For lack of spirit still, 
He gave it colour,—let the love shine through.)
90

My joy of yesterday 
Is just as far away 
As the first rapture of my man's estate. 
A lifetime or an hour 
Has all there is of power. 
95

In Nature's love there is no small nor great.

Of old, men said, "Sin not; 
By every line and jot
Ye shall abide; man's heart is false and vile."
Christ said, "By Love alone 

100

In man's heart is God known; 
Obey the word no falsehood can defile."

The wise physician there
Of our distress had care,
And laid his finger on the pulse of time.

105
And there to eyes unsealed
Earth's secret lay revealed,
The truth that knows not any age nor clime.

The heart of the ancient wood
Was a grim solitude,

110
The sanction of a worship no less grim;
Man's ignorance and fear
Peopled the natural year
With forces evil and malign to him.

He saw the wild, rough way

115
Of cosmic powers at play;
He did not see the love that lay below.
Jehovah, Mars, and Thor,
These were the gods of war
He made in his own likeness long ago.
120

Then came the Word, and said,
"See how the world is made,—
With how much loving kindness, ceaseless care.
Not Wrath, but Love, call then
The Lord of beasts and men,
125
Whose hand sustains the sparrows in the air."

And since that day we prove
Only how great is love,
Nor to this hour its greatness half believe.
For to what other power

130
Will life give equal dower,
Or chaos grant one moment of reprieve!

Look down the ages' line,
Where slowly the divine
Evinces energy, puts forth control;

135
See mighty love alone
Transmuting stock and stone,
Infusing being, helping sense and soul.

And what is energy, 
In-working, which bids be 

140

The starry pageant and the life of earth? 
What is the genesis 
Of every joy and bliss, 
Each action dared, each beauty brought to birth?

What hangs the sun on high? 

145
What swells the growing rye? 
What bids the loons cry on the Northern lake? 
What stirs in swamp and swale,
When April winds prevail, 
And all the dwellers of the ground awake?
150

What lurks in the dry seed, 
But waiting to be freed, 
Asleep and patient for a hundred years?
Till of earth, rain, and sun, 
A miracle is done,
155

Some magic calls the sleeper and he hears,— 

Arouses, puts forth blade 
And leaf and bud, arrayed 
Some morning in that garb of rosy snow, 
The same fair matchless flower 

160

As shed its petal-shower 
Through old Iberean gardens long ago.

What is it that endures, 
Survives, persists, immures 
Life's very self, preserving type and plan?— 

165

Yet learns the scope of change, 
As the long cycles range,— 
Looks through the eyes of bluebird, wolf, and man?

What lurks in the deep gaze 
Of the old wolf? Amaze,

170

Hope, recognition, gladness, anger, fear. 
But deeper than all these 
Love muses, yearns, and sees, 
And is the self that does not change nor veer.

Not love of self alone,

175
Struggle for lair and bone,
But self-denying love of mate and young,
Love that is kind and wise,
Knows trust and sacrifice,
And croons the old dark universal tongue.
180

In Nature you behold
But strivings manifold,
Battle and conflict, tribe warring against tribe?
Look deeper, and see all
That death cannot appal,
185
Failure intimidate, nor fortune bribe.

Our brothers of the air 
Who come with June must dare, 
Be bold and strong, have knowledge, lust, and choice; 
Yet think, when glad hosts throng 

190

The summer woods with song,
Love gave them beauty and love lends them voice.

Love surely in some form 
Bade them brave night and storm,— 
Was the dark binnacle that held them true, 

195

Those tiny mariners 
No unknown voyage deters, 
When the old migrant longing stirs anew.

And who has understood 
Our brothers of the wood,

200

Save he who put off guile and every guise 
Of violence,—made truce 
With panther, bear, and moose, 
As beings like ourselves whom love makes wise?

For they, too, do love's will,

205
Our lesser clansmen still;
The House of Many Mansions holds us all;
Courageous, glad, and hale,
They go forth on the trail,
Hearing the message, hearkening to the call.
210

Oh, not fortuitous chance 
Alone, nor circumstance, 
Begot the creatures after their own kind; 
But always loving will 
Was present to fulfil 
215

The primal purpose groping up to mind.

Adversity but bade 
New puissance spring to aid,
New powers develop, new aptness come in play;
Yet never function wrought 

220

Capacity from nought,— 
Gave skill and mastery to the shapes of clay;

For always while new need 
Evoked new thought through deed, 
Old self was there to ponder, choose, and strive. 

225

Fortune might mould, evolve,
But impulse must resolve, 
Equipped at length to know, rejoice, and thrive.

And evermore must Love 
Hearten, foresee, approve, 

230

And look upon the work and find it good; 
Else would all effort fail,— The very stars avail 
Less than a swarm of fireflies in a wood.

Take love out of the world 

235

One day, and we are hurled 
Back into night, to perish in the void. 
Love is the very girth 
And cincture of this earth, 
No stitch to be unloosed, no link destroyed.

240

However wild and long
The battle of the strong,
Stronger and longer are the hours of peace,
When gladness has its way
Under the fair blue day,
245
And life aspires, takes thought, bids good increase.

So dawns the awaited hour
When the great cosmic power
Of love was first declared by Christ; so too
To-day we keep in mind

250

His name who taught mankind
That open secret old, yet ever new,— 

Commemorate his birth 
Who loved the kindly earth, 
Was gentle, strong, compassionate, humane, 

255

And tolerant and wise 
And glad,—the very guise 
And height of manhood not to lose again.

Shall we not then forego
Lavish perfunctory show,

260
The burdensome display, the empty gift,
That we may have to give
To every soul alive
Of love's illumination, cheer, and lift?

See rich and poor be fed! 

265
Break up thy soul for bread, 
Be loaves and fishes to the hungry heart, 
That a great multitude, 
Receiving of thy good, 
May bless the God within thee and depart!
270

You workman, love your work 
Or leave it. Let no irk 
Unsteady the laborious hand, that still
Must give the spirit play 
To follow her own way
275
To beauty, through devotion, care, and skill.

How otherwise find vent 
For soul's imperious bent, 
Than thro' these hands for wonder-working made, 
When Love the sure and bold 

280

Guides to the unforetold? 
Blessed the craftsman who is unafraid!

Give Beauty her sweet will, 
Make love your mistress still, 
You lovers, nor delay! God's time be yours. 

285

Make low-born jealousy 
And doubt ashamed to be, 
And cast old envious gossip out-of-doors.

Believe the truth of love, 
Enact the beauty of love, 

290

Praise and adore the goodliness of love.
For we are wise by love, 
And strong and fair through love, 
No less than sainted and inspired with love.

Remember the new word

295
The Syrian twilight heard,
That marvellous discourse which John records,
The one last great command
The Master left his band,
"Love one another!" And our time affords
300

What greater scope than just 
To execute that trust?
Love greatly; love; love is life's best employ.
Neighbour, sweetheart, or friend, 
Love wholly, to love's end;
305

So is the round world richer for your joy.

Love only, one or all! 
Measure no great and small! 
Love is a seed, life-bearing, undecayed; 
And that immortal germ 

310

Past bounds of zone and term 
Will grow and cover the whole world with shade.

Sow love, it cannot fail; 
Adversity's sharp hail
May cut all else to ground; fair love survives. 

315

The black frost of despair 
And slander's bitter air,—
Love will outlast them by a thousand lives.

Be body, mind and soul, 
Subject to love's control,

320

Each loving to the limit of love's power; 
And all as one, not three, 
So is man's trinity 
Enhanced and freed and gladdened hour by hour.

Beauty from youth to age,

325
The body's heritage,
Love will not forfeit by neglect nor shame;
And knowledge, dearly bought, 
Love will account as nought, 
Unless it serve soul's need and body's claim.
330

Let soul desire, mind ask, 
And body crave; our task 
Be to fulfil each want in love's own way. 
So shall the good and true 
Partake of beauty too,
335
And life be helped and greatened day by day.

Spend love, and save it not; 
In act, in wish, in thought, 
Spend love upon this lifetime without stint. 
Let not the heart grow dry,

340

As the good hours go by; 
Love now, see earth take on the glory tint.

Open the door to-night 
Within your heart, and light
The lantern of love there to shine afar.

345
On a tumultuous sea 
Some straining craft, maybe, 
With bearings lost, shall sight love's silver star.