Juvenilia, An Ode to Natural Beauty by Alan Seeger
There is a power whose inspiration fills Nature's fair fabric, sun- and star-inwrought, Like airy dew ere any drop distils, Like perfume in the laden flower, like aught Unseen which interfused throughout the whole Becomes its quickening pulse and principle and soul. Now when, the drift of old desire renewing, Warm tides flow northward over valley and field, When half-forgotten sound and scent are wooing From their deep-chambered recesses long sealed Such memories as breathe once more Of childhood and the happy hues it wore, Now, with a fervor that has never been In years gone by, it stirs me to respond, -- Not as a force whose fountains are within The faculties of the percipient mind, Subject with them to darkness and decay, But something absolute, something beyond, Oft met like tender orbs that seem to peer From pale horizons, luminous behind Some fringe of tinted cloud at close of day; And in this flood of the reviving year, When to the loiterer by sylvan streams, Deep in those cares that make Youth loveliest, Nature in every common aspect seems To comment on the burden in his breast -- The joys he covets and the dreams he dreams -- One then with all beneath the radiant skies That laughs with him or sighs, It courses through the lilac-scented air, A blessing on the fields, a wonder everywhere.
Spirit of Beauty, whose sweet impulses, Flung like the rose of dawn across the sea, Alone can flush the exalted consciousness With shafts of sensible divinity -- Light of the World, essential loveliness: Him whom the Muse hath made thy votary Not from her paths and gentle precepture Shall vulgar ends engage, nor break the spell That taught him first to feel thy secret charms And o'er the earth, obedient to their lure, Their sweet surprise and endless miracle, To follow ever with insatiate arms. On summer afternoons, When from the blue horizon to the shore, Casting faint silver pathways like the moon's Across the Ocean's glassy, mottled floor, Far clouds uprear their gleaming battlements Drawn to the crest of some bleak eminence, When autumn twilight fades on the sere hill And autumn winds are still; To watch the East for some emerging sign, Wintry Capella or the Pleiades Or that great huntsman with the golden gear; Ravished in hours like these Before thy universal shrine To feel the invoked presence hovering near, He stands enthusiastic. Star-lit hours Spent on the roads of wandering solitude Have set their sober impress on his brow, And he, with harmonies of wind and wood And torrent and the tread of mountain showers, Has mingled many a dedicative vow That holds him, till thy last delight be known, Bound in thy service and in thine alone.
I, too, among the visionary throng Who choose to follow where thy pathway leads, Have sold my patrimony for a song, And donned the simple, lowly pilgrim's weeds. From that first image of beloved walls, Deep-bowered in umbrage of ancestral trees, Where earliest thy sweet enchantment falls, Tingeing a child's fantastic reveries With radiance so fair it seems to be Of heavens just lost the lingering evidence From that first dawn of roseate infancy, So long beneath thy tender influence My breast has thrilled. As oft for one brief second The veil through which those infinite offers beckoned Has seemed to tremble, letting through Some swift intolerable view Of vistas past the sense of mortal seeing, So oft, as one whose stricken eyes might see In ferny dells the rustic deity, I stood, like him, possessed, and all my being, Flooded an instant with unwonted light, Quivered with cosmic passion; whether then On woody pass or glistening mountain-height I walked in fellowship with winds and clouds, Whether in cities and the throngs of men, A curious saunterer through friendly crowds, Enamored of the glance in passing eyes, Unuttered salutations, mute replies, -- In every character where light of thine Has shed on earthly things the hue of things divine I sought eternal Loveliness, and seeking, If ever transport crossed my brow bespeaking Such fire as a prophetic heart might feel Where simple worship blends in fervent zeal, It was the faith that only love of thee Needed in human hearts for Earth to see Surpassed the vision poets have held dear Of joy diffused in most communion here; That whomsoe'er thy visitations warmed, Lover of thee in all thy rays informed, Needed no difficulter discipline To seek his right to happiness within Than, sensible of Nature's loveliness, To yield him to the generous impulses By such a sentiment evoked. The thought, Bright Spirit, whose illuminings I sought, That thou unto thy worshipper might be An all-sufficient law, abode with me, Importing something more than unsubstantial dreams To vigils by lone shores and walks by murmuring streams.
Youth's flowers like childhood's fade and are forgot. Fame twines a tardy crown of yellowing leaves. How swift were disillusion, were it not That thou art steadfast where all else deceives! Solace and Inspiration, Power divine That by some mystic sympathy of thine, When least it waits and most hath need of thee, Can startle the dull spirit suddenly With grandeur welled from unsuspected springs, -- Long as the light of fulgent evenings, When from warm showers the pearly shades disband And sunset opens o'er the humid land, Shows thy veiled immanence in orient skies, -- Long as pale mist and opalescent dyes Hung on far isle or vanishing mountain-crest, Fields of remote enchantment can suggest So sweet to wander in it matters nought, They hold no place but in impassioned thought, Long as one draught from a clear sky may be A scented luxury; Be thou my worship, thou my sole desire, Thy paths my pilgrimage, my sense a lyre Aeolian for thine every breath to stir; Oft when her full-blown periods recur, To see the birth of day's transparent moon Far from cramped walls may fading afternoon Find me expectant on some rising lawn; Often depressed in dewy grass at dawn, Me, from sweet slumber underneath green boughs, Ere the stars flee may forest matins rouse, Afoot when the great sun in amber floods Pours horizontal through the steaming woods And windless fumes from early chimneys start And many a cock-crow cheers the traveller's heart Eager for aught the coming day afford In hills untopped and valleys unexplored. Give me the white road into the world's ends, Lover of roadside hazard, roadside friends, Loiterer oft by upland farms to gaze On ample prospects, lost in glimmering haze At noon, or where down odorous dales twilit, Filled with low thundering of the mountain stream, Over the plain where blue seas border it The torrid coast-towns gleam.
I have fared too far to turn back now; my breast Burns with the lust for splendors unrevealed, Stars of midsummer, clouds out of the west, Pallid horizons, winds that valley and field Laden with joy, be ye my refuge still! What though distress and poverty assail! Though other voices chide, yours never will. The grace of a blue sky can never fail. Powers that my childhood with a spell so sweet, My youth with visions of such glory nursed, Ye have beheld, nor ever seen my feet On any venture set, but 'twas the thirst For Beauty willed them, yea, whatever be The faults I wanted wings to rise above; I am cheered yet to think how steadfastly I have been loyal to the love of Love!