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LONGFELLOW, Henry Wadsworth


Hymn to the Night

I heard the trailing garments of the Night

      Sweep through her marble halls!

I saw her sable skirts all fringed with light

      From the celestial walls!

I felt her presence, by its spell of might,

      Stoop o'er me from above;

The calm, majestic presence of the Night,

      As of the one I love.

I heard the sounds of sorrow and delight,

      The manifold, soft chimes,

That fill the haunted chambers of the Night,

      Like some old poet's rhymes.

From the cool cisterns of the midnight air

      My spirit drank repose;

The fountain of perpetual peace flows there, —

      From those deep cisterns flows.

O holy Night! from thee I learn to bear

      What man has borne before!

Thou layest thy finger on the lips of Care,

      And they complain no more.

Peace! Peace! Orestes-like I breathe this prayer!

      Descend with broad-winged flight,

The welcome, the thrice-prayed for, the most fair,

      The best-beloved Night!



Excelsior

The shades of night were falling fast,

As through an Alpine village passed

A youth, who bore, 'mid snow and ice,

A banner with the strange device,

Excelsior!

His brow was sad; his eye beneath,

Flashed like a falchion from its sheath,

And like a silver clarion rung

The accents of that unknown tongue,

Excelsior!

In happy homes he saw the light

Of household fires gleam warm and bright;

Above, the spectral glaciers shone,

And from his lips escaped a groan,

Excelsior!

"Try not the Pass!" the old man said:

"Dark lowers the tempest overhead,

The roaring torrent is deep and wide!

And loud that clarion voice replied,

Excelsior!

"Oh stay," the maiden said, "and rest

Thy weary head upon this breast!"

A tear stood in his bright blue eye,

But still he answered, with a sigh,

Excelsior!

"Beware the pine-tree's withered branch!

Beware the awful avalanche!"

This was the peasant's last Good-night,

A voice replied, far up the height,

Excelsior!

At break of day, as heavenward

The pious monks of Saint Bernard

Uttered the oft-repeated prayer,

A voice cried through the startled air,

Excelsior!

A traveller, by the faithful hound,

Half-buried in the snow was found,

Still grasping in his hand of ice

That banner with the strange device,

Excelsior!

There in the twilight cold and gray,

Lifeless, but beautiful, he lay,

And from the sky, serene and far,

A voice fell, like a falling star,

Excelsior!


The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls

The tide rises, the tide falls,...

The twilight darkens, the curlew calls;

Along the sea-sands damp and brown

The traveler hastens toward the town,

And the tide rises, the tide falls.

Darkness settles on roofs and walls,

But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls;

The little waves, with their soft, white hands,

Efface the footprints in the sands,

And the tide rises, the tide falls.

The morning breaks; the steeds in their stalls

Stamp and neigh, as the hostler calls;

The day returns, but nevermore

Returns the traveler to the shore,

And the tide rises, the tide falls.


A Psalm of Life

What the heart of the young man said to the Psalmist

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,—act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;—

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.


The Song of Hiawatha

The Death of Minnehaha

…..

All day long roved Hiawatha

In that melancholy forest,

Through the shadow of whose thickets,

In the pleasant days of Summer,

Of that ne’er forgotten Summer,

He had brought his young wife homeward

From the land of the Dacotahs;

When the birds sang in the thickets,

And the streamlets laughed and glistened,

And the air was full of fragrance,

And the lovely Laughing Water

Said with voice that did not tremble,

“I will follow you, my husband!”

In the wigwam with Nokomis,

With those gloomy guests that watched her,

With the Famine and the Fever,

She was lying, the Beloved,

She, the dying Minnehaha.

“Hark!” she said; “I hear a rushing,

Hear a roaring and a rushing,

Hear the Falls of Minnehaha

Calling to me from a distance!”

“No, my child!” said old Nokomis,

"’T is the night-wind in the pine-trees!”

“Look!” she said; “I see my father

Standing lonely at his doorway,

Beckoning to me from his wigwam

In the land of the Dacotahs!”

“No, my child!” said old Nokomis,

"’T is the smoke, that waves and beckons!”

“Ah!” said she, “the eyes of Pauguk

Glare upon me in the darkness,

I can feel his icy fingers

Clasping mine amid the darkness!

Hiawatha! Hiawatha!”

And the desolate Hiawatha,

Far away amid the forest,

Miles away among the mountains,

Heard that sudden cry of anguish,

Heard the voice of Minnehaha

Calling to him in the darkness,

“Hiawatha! Hiawatha!”

Over snow-fields waste and pathless,

Under snow-encumbered branches,

Homeward hurried Hiawatha,

Empty-handed, heavy-hearted,

Heard Nokomis moaning, wailing:

“Wahonowin! Wahonowin!

Would that I had perished for you,

Would that I were dead as you are!

Wahonowin! Wahonowin!”

And he rushed into the wigwam,

Saw the old Nokomis slowly

Rocking to and fro and moaning,

Saw his lovely Minnehaha

Lying dead and cold before him,

And his bursting heart within him

Uttered such a cry of anguish,

That the forest moaned and shuddered,

That the very stars in heaven

Shook and trembled with his anguish

Then he sat down, still and speechless,

On the bed of Minnehaha,

At the feet of Laughing Water,

At those willing feet, that never

More would lightly run to meet him,

Never more would lightly follow.

With both hands his face he covered,

Seven long days and nights he sat there,

As if in a swoon he sat there,

Speechless, motionless, unconscious

Of the daylight or the darkness.

Then they buried Minnehaha;

In the snow a grave they made her,

In the forest deep and darksome,

Underneath the moaning hemlocks;

Clothed her in her richest garments,

Wrapped her in her robes of ermine,

Covered her with snow, like ermine;

Thus they buried Minnehaha.

And at night a fire was lighted,

On her grave four times was kindled,

For her soul upon its journey

To the Islands of the Blessed.

From his doorway Hiawatha

Saw it burning in the forest,

Lighting up the gloomy hemlocks;

From his sleepless bed uprising,

From the bed of Minnehaha,

Stood and watched it at the doorway,

That it might not be extinguished,

Might not leave her in the darkness.

“Farewell!” said he, “Minnehaha!

Farewell, O my Laughing Water!

All my heart is buried with you,

All my thoughts go onward with you!

Come not back again to labor,

Come not back again to suffer,

Where the Famine and the Fever

Wear the heart and waste the body.

Soon my task will be completed,

Soon your footsteps I shall follow

To the Islands of the Blessed,

To the Kingdom of Ponemah,

To the Land of the Hereafter!”

And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares that infest the day
Shall fold their tents like Arabs,
And silently steal away.

…..


Afternoon in February

The day is ending,
The night is descending;
The marsh is frozen,
The river dead.

Through clouds like ashes
The red sun flashes
On village windows
That glimmer red.

The snow recommences;
The buried fences
Mark no longer
The road o'er the plain;

While through the meadows,
Like fearful shadows,
Slowly passes
A funeral train.

The bell is pealing,
And every feeling
Within me responds
To the dismal knell;

Shadows are trailing,
My heart is bewailing
And tolling within
Like a funeral bell.


The open window

The old house by the lindens
  Stood silent in the shade,
And on the gravelled pathway
  The light and shadow played. 

I saw the nursery windows
  Wide open to the air;
But the faces of the children,
  They were no longer there. 

The large Newfoundland house-dog
  Was standing by the door;
He looked for his little playmates,
  Who would return no more. 

They walked not under the lindens,
  They played not in the hall;
But shadow, and silence, and sadness
  Were hanging over all. 

The birds sang in the branches,
  With sweet, familiar tone;
But the voices of the children
  Will be heard in dreams alone! 

And the boy that walked beside me,
  He could not understand
Why closer in mine, ah! closer,
  I pressed his warm, soft hand!


The Rainy Day

THE DAY is cold, and dark, and dreary;

It rains, and the wind is never weary;

The vine still clings to the mouldering wall,

But at every gust the dead leaves fall,

And the day is dark and dreary.


My life is cold, and dark, and dreary;

It rains, and the wind is never weary;

My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past,

But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast,

And the days are dark and dreary.

Be still, sad heart! and cease repining;

Behind the clouds is the sun still shining;

Thy fate is the common fate of all,

Into each life some rain must fall,

Some days must be dark and dreary.


The Day Is Done

The day is done, and the darkness

Falls from the wings of Night,

As a feather is wafted downward

From an eagle in his flight.

I see the lights of the village

Gleam through the rain and the mist,

And a feeling of sadness comes o’er me,

That my soul cannot resist:

A feeling of sadness and longing,

That is not akin to pain,

And resembles sorrow only

As the mist resembles the rain.

Come, read to me some poem,

Some simple and heartfelt lay,

That shall soothe this restless feeling,

And banish the thoughts of day.

Not from the grand old masters,

Not from the bards sublime,

Whose distant footsteps echo

Through the corridors of Time.

For, like strains of martial music,

Their mighty thoughts suggest

Life’s endless toil and endeavor;

And to-night I long for rest.

Read from some humbler poet,

Whose songs gushed from his heart,

As showers from the clouds of summer,

Or tears from the eyelids start;

Who, through long days of labor,

And nights devoid of ease,

Still heard in his soul the music

Of wonderful melodies.

Such songs have power to quiet

The restless pulse of care,

And come like the benediction

That follows after prayer.

Then read from the treasured volume

The poem of thy choice,

And lend to the rhyme of the poet

The beauty of thy voice.