Three from Matthiessen III
Poems from The Oxford Book of American Verse.
I am a parcel of vain strivings tied
By a chance bond together,
Dangling this way and that, their links
Were made so loose and wide,
For milder weather.
A bunch of violets without their roots,
And sorrel intermixed,
Encircled by a wisp of straw
Once coiled about their shoots,
By which I'm fixed.
A nosegay which Time clutched from out
Those fair Elysian fields,
With weeds and broken stems, in haste,
Doth make the rabble rout
The day he yields.
And here I bloom for a short hour unseen,
Drinking my juices up,
With no root in the land
To keep my branches green,
In a bare cup.
Some tender buds were left upon my stem
In mimicry of life,
But ah! the children will not know,
Till time has withered them,
With which they're rife.
But now I see I was not plucked for naught,
And after in life's vase
Of glass set while I might survive,
But by a kind hand brought
To a strange place.
That stock thus thinned will soon redeem its hours,
And by another year,
Such as God knows, with freer air,
More fruits and fairer flowers
While I droop here.
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer
When I heard the learn'd astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures,
were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams,
to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured
with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out, I wander'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.
Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
In the Past
There lies a somnolent lake
Under a noiseless sky,
Where never the mornings break
Nor the evenings die.
Mad flakes of colour
Whirl on its even face
Iridescent and streaked with pallor;
And, warding the silent place,
The rocks rise sheer and gray
From the sedgeless brink to the sky
Dull-lit with the light of pale half-day
Thro' a void space and dry.
And the hours lag dead in the air
With a sense of coming eternity
To the heart of the lonely boatman there:
That boatman am I,
I, in my lonely boat,
A waif on the somnolent lake,
Watching the colours creep and float
With the sinuous track of a snake.
Now I lean o'er the side
And lazy shades in the water see,
Lapped in the sweep of a sluggish tide
Crawled in from the living sea;
And next I fix mine eyes,
So long that the heart declines,
On the changeless face of the open skies
Where no star shines;
And now to the rocks I turn,
To the rocks, around
That lie like walls of a circling urn
Wherein lie bound
The waters that feel my powerless strength
And meet my homeless oar
Labouring over their ashen length
Never to find a shore.
But the gleam still skims
At times on the somnolent lake,
And a light there is that swims
With the whirl of a snake;
And tho' dead be the hour i' the air,
And dayless the sky,
The heart is alive of the boatman there:
That boatman am I.
Trumbull Stickney (1874-1904)
The Oxford Book of American Verse (1950), ed. F.O. Matthiessen, ## 104, 129, 248; pp. 241f, 371f, 523f.
See also Three from Matthiessen II: Poems from The Oxford Book of American Verse.
Lane Core Jr. CIW P Sun. 07/18/04 07:23:39 AM
Categorized as Literary & Sunday Poetry Series.