The Rough Rider and Other Poems

by Bliss Carman




IF I should tell you I saw Pan lately down by the shallows of
Blowing an air on his pipe of willow, just as the moon began to
Or say that, coming from town on Wednesday, I met Christ  
  walking in Ponus Street;  
You might remark, "Our friend is flighty! Visions, for want of  
  enough red meat!"  

Then let me ask you. Last December, when there was skating
  on Wampanaw,
Among the weeds and sticks and grasses under the hard black  
  ice I saw  
An old mud-turtle poking about, as if he were putting his house  
  to rights,  
Stiff with the cold perhaps, yet knowing enough to prepare for  
  the winter nights.  

And here he is on a log this morning, sunning himself as calm as
  you please.  
But I want to know, when the lock of winter was sprung of a  
  sudden, who kept the keys?
Who told old nibbler to go to sleep safe and sound with the lily  
And then in the first warm days of April—out to the sun with the  
  greening shoots?  

By night a flock of geese went over, honking north on the trails of
The spring express—but who despatched it, equipped with  
  speed and cunning care?  
Hark to our bluebird down in the orchard trolling his chant of the  
  happy heart,
As full of light as a theme of Mozart’s—but where did he learn  
  that more than art?  

Where the river winds through grassy meadows, as sure as the
  south wind brings the rain,  
Sounding his reedy note in the alders, the starling comes back  
  to his nest again.  
Are these not miracles? Prompt you answer: "Merely the prose  
  of natural fact;  
Nothing but instinct plain and patent, born in the creatures, that  
  bids them act."

Well, I have an instinct as fine and valid, surely, as that of the
  beasts and birds,  
Concerning death and the life immortal, too deep for logic, too  
  vague for words.  
No trace of beauty can pass or perish, but other beauty is  
  somewhere born;  
No seed of truth or good be planted, but the yield must grow as  

the growing corn.  

Therefore this ardent mind and spirit I give to the glowing days
  of earth,
To be wrought by the Lord of life to something of lasting import  
  and lovely worth.  
If the toil I give be without self-seeking, bestowed to the limit of  
  will and power,  
To fashion after some form ideal the instant task and the waiting  

It matters not though defeat undo me, though faults betray me
  and sorrows scar,  
Already I share the life eternal with the April buds and the  
  evening star.
Our minister here, entrenched in doctrine, may know no doubt  
  upon Easter Eve.  
And when it comes to the crucial question, Doctor, you skeptic,
  you too believe!