The Rough Rider and Other Poems

by Bliss Carman




IT is the bitter time of year
When iron is the ground,
With hasp and sheathing of black ice
The forest lakes are bound,
The world lies snugly under snow,
Asleep without a sound.

All the night long in trooping squares
The sentry stars go by,
The silent and unwearying hosts
That bear man company,

And with their pure enkindling fires
Keep vigils lone and high.

Through the dead hours before the dawn,
When the frost snaps the sill,
From chestnut-wooded ridge to sea

The earth lies dark and still,
Till one great silver planet shines
Above the eastern hill.

It is the star of Gabriel,
The herald of the Word

In days when messengers of God
With sons of men conferred,
Who brought the tidings of great joy
The watching shepherds heard;

The mystic light that moved to lead

The wise of long ago,
Out of the great East where they dreamed
Of truths they could not know,
To seek some good that should assuage
The world’s most ancient woe.

O well, believe, they loved their dream,
Those children of the star,
Who saw the light and followed it,
Prophetical, afar,—
Brave Gaspar, clear-eyed Melchior,
And eager Balthasar.

Another year slips to the void,
And still with omen bright
Above the sleeping doubting worlds
The day-star is alight,—

The waking signal flashed of old
In the blue Syrian night.

But who are now as wise as they
Whose faith could read the sign
Of the three gifts that shall suffice

To honor the divine,
And show the trend of common life
Ineffably benign?

Whoever wakens on a day
Happy to know and be,

To enjoy the air, to live his kind,
To labor, to be free,—
Already his enraptured soul
Lives in eternity.

For him with every rising sun

The year beings anew;
The fertile earth receives her lord,
And prophecy comes true,
Wondrously as a fall of snow,
Dear as a drench of dew.

Who gives his life for beauty’s need,
King Gaspar could no more;
Who serves the truth with single mind
Shall stand with Melchior;
And love is all that Balthasar
In crested censer bore.