Orion, and Other Poems

by Charles G.D. Roberts


 

EPISTLE TO W. BLISS CARMAN

September, 1878


AN azure splendor floats upon the world.
Around my feet the blades of grass, impearled
And diamonded, are changing radiantly.
At every step new wonders do I see
Of fleeting sapphire, gold, and amethyst,—                                      
5
Enchanting magic of the dew sun-kissed.
The felon jay mid golden-russet beeches
Ruffles his crest, and flies with startled screeches.
Ever before me the shy cricket whistles
From underneath the dry, brown, path-side thistles.                        
10
His gay note leads me, and I quickly follow
Where dips the path down through a little hollow
Of young fir-seedlings. Then I cross the brook
On two gray logs, whose well-worn barkless look
Tells of the many black-gown-shadowed feet                                 
15
Which tread them daily, save when high June’s heat
Scatters us wide, to roll in cool salt billows
Of Fundy’s make, or under hanging willows
Slide the light birch, and dream, and watch the grasses
Wave on the interval as the light wind passes,                                 
20
Puffing a gentle cloud of smoke to scare
The sand-flies, which are ravening everywhere.
    Such our enjoyment, Bliss, few weeks ago;
And the remembrance warms me with a glow
Of pleasure, as I cross the track and climb                                     
25
The rocky lane I’ve clambered many a time.
On either side, where birch and maples grow,
The young firs stand with eager hands below,
And catch the yellow dropping leaves, and hold
Them fast, as if they thought them dropping gold;                           
30
But fairy gold they’ll find them on the morrow,
When their possessing joy shall turn to sorrow.
    Now thro’ the mottled trunks, beneath the boughs,
I see the terrace, and the lower rows
Of windows drinking in the waking air;                                           
35


While future Freshmen stand around and stare.

•      •      •

Last week the bell cut short my happy strain.
Now half in pleasure, half in a vague pain,
For you I undertake my rhyme again.
Last week in its first youth saw you begin                                       
40
Your happy three-years’ course with us, and win
The highest honors, half of which are due
To your own strength of brain, and half accrue
To that wise master from whose hands you came
Equipped to win, and win yourself a name.                                     
45
But I,—I have but one quick-slipping year
To spend amid these rooms and faces dear,
And then must quit this fostering roof, these walls,
Where from each door some bright-faced memory calls,
And halt outside in sore uncertainty,                                               
50
Not knowing which way lies the path for me
Through the unlighted, difficult, misty world.
Ah, whither must I go? Thick smoke is curled
Close round my feet, but lifts a little space
Further ahead, and shews to me the face—                                    
55
Distorted, dim, and glamourous—of Life;
With many ways, all cheerless ways, and rife
With bristling toils crowned with no fitting fruit,—
All songless ways, whose goals are bare and mute.
But one path leads out from my very feet,—                                  
60
The only one which lures me, which is sweet.
Ah! might I follow it, methinketh then
My childhood’s brightest dreams would come again.
Indeed, I know they dwell there, and I’d find
Them meeting me, or hastening up behind.                                     
65
See where it windeth, alway bright and clear,
Though over stony places here and there;
Up steep ascents, thro’ bitter obstacles,
But interspersed with glorious secret dells;
And vocal with rich promise of delight,                                           
70
And ever brightening with an inward light
That soothes and blesses all the ways that lie
In reach of its soft light and harmony.
And were this path made for my following,
Then would I work and sing, and work and sing;                            
75
And though the songs were cryings now and then
Of me thus singing in the midst of men,—
Where some are weary, some are weeping, some
Are hungering for joys that never come;
And some drive on before a bitter fate                                           
80
That bends not to their prayers importunate;
Where some say God is deaf and hears not now,
And speaks not now, some that He is not now,
Nor ever was, and these in fancied power
See not the mighty workings of each hour,                                     
85
Or, seeing, read them wrong. Though now and then
My songs were wailings from the midst of men,
Yet would I deem that it were ever best
To sing them out of weariness to rest;
Yet would I cheer them, sharing in their ills,                                   
90
Weaving them dreams of waves, and skies, and hills;
Yet would I sing of Peace, and Hope, and Truth,
Till softly o’er my song should beam the youth,—
The morning of the world. Ah, yes, there hath
The goal been planted all along that path;                                       
95
And as the swallow were my heart as free.
Might I but hope that path belonged to me.

    I’ve prated so, I scarce know what I’ve said;
But you’ll not think me to have lost the thread,
Seeing I had none. Do not say I’ve kept                                     
100
My promises too amply, and o’erleapt
A better’s bounds; nor harshly criticise;
But miss the spots and blots with lenient eyes.
Scan not its outer, but its inner part;
’Twas not the head composed it, but the heart.                            
105