Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE LANDSCAPE, by EDGAR LEE MASTERS

Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE LANDSCAPE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: You and your landscape! There it lies
Last Line: Our landscape just a thing of shade.
Subject(s): Landscape

You and your landscape! There it lies
Stripped, resuming its disguise,
Clothed in dreams, made bare again,
Symbol infinite of pain,
Rapture, magic, mystery
Of vanished days and days to be.
There's its sea of tidal grass
Over which the south winds pass,
And the sun-set's Tuscan gold
Which the distant windows hold
For an instant like a sphere
Bursting ere it disappear.
There's the dark green woods which throve
In the spell of Leese's Grove.
And the winding of the road;
And the hill o'er which the sky
Stretched its pallied vacancy
Ere the dawn or evening glowed.
And the wonder of the town
Somewhere from the hill-top down
Nestling under hills and woods
And the meadow's solitudes.

And your paper knight of old
Secrets of the landscape told.
And the hedge-rows where the pond
Took the blue of heavens beyond
The hastening clouds of gusty March.
There you saw their wrinkled arch
Where the East wind cracks his whips
Round the little pond and clips
Main-sails from your toppled ships....

Landscape that in youth you knew
Past and present, earth and you!
All the legends and the tales
Of the uplands, of the vales;
Sounds of cattle and the cries
Of ploughmen and of travelers
Were its soul's interpreters.
And here the lame were always lame.
Always gray the gray of head.
And the dead were always dead
Ere the landscape had become
Your cradle, as it was their tomb.

And when the thunder storms would waken
Of the dream your soul was not forsaken:
In the room where the dormer windows look --
There were your knight and the tattered book.
With colors of the forest green
Gabled roofs and the demesne
Of faery kingdoms and faery time
Storied in pre-natal rhyme....
Past the orchards, in the plain
The cattle fed on in the rain.
And the storm-beaten horseman sped
Rain blinded and with bended head.
And John the ploughman comes and goes
In labor wet, with steaming clothes.
This is your landscape, but you see
Not terror and not destiny
Behind its loved, maternal face,
Its power to change, or fade, replace
Its wonder with a deeper dream,
Unfolding to a vaster theme.
From time eternal was this earth?
No less this landscape with your birth
Arose, nor leaves you, nor decay
Finds till the twilight of your day.
It bore you, moulds you to its plan.
It ends with you as it began,
But bears the seed of future years
Of higher raptures, dumber tears.

For soon you lose the landscape through
Absence, sorrow, eyes grown true
To the naked limbs which show
Buds that never more may blow.
Now you know the lame were straight
Ere you knew them, and the fate
Of the old is yet to die.
Now you know the dead who lie
In the graves you saw where first
The landscape on your vision burst,
Were not always dead, and now
Shadows rest upon the brow
Of the souls as young as you.
Some are gone, though years are few
Since you roamed with them the hills.
So the landscape changes, wills
All the changes, did it try
Its promises to justify?...

For you return and find it bare:
There is no heaven of golden air.
Your eyes around the horizon rove,
A clump of trees is Leese's Grove.
And what's the hedgerow, what's the pond?
A wallow where the vagabond
Beast will not drink, and where the arch
Of heaven in the days of March
Refrains to look. A blinding rain
Beats the once gilded window pane.
John, the poor wretch, is gone, but bread
Tempts other feet that path to tread
Between the barn and house, and brave
The March rain and the winds that rave....
O, landscape I am one who stands
Returned with pale and broken hands
Glad for the day that I have known,
And finds the deserted doorway strown
With shoulder blade and spinal bone.
And you who nourished me and bred
I find the spirit from you fled.
You gave me dreams, 'twas at your breast
My soul's beginning rose and pressed
My steps afar at last and shaped
A world elusive, which escaped
Whatever love or thought could find
Beyond the tireless wings of mind.
Yet grown by you, and feeding on
Your strength as mother, you are gone
When I return from living, trace
My steps to see how I began,
And deeply search your mother face
To know your inner self, the place
For which you bore me, sent me forth
To wander, south or east or north....
Now the familiar landscape lies
With breathless breast and hollow eyes.
It knows me not, as I know not
Its secret, spirit, all forgot
Its kindred look is, as I stand
A stranger in an unknown land.

Are we not earth-born, formed of dust
Which seeks again its love and trust
In an old landscape, after change
In hearts grown weary, wrecked and strange?
What though we struggled to emerge
Dividual, footed for the urge
Of further self-discoveries, though
In the mid-years we cease to know,
Through disenchanted eyes, the spell
That clothed it like a miracle --
Yet at the last our steps return
Its deeper mysteries to learn.
It has been always us, it must
Clasp to itself our kindred dust.
We cannot free ourselves from it.
Near or afar we must submit
To what is in us, what was grown
Out of the landscape's soil, the known
And unknown powers of soil and soul.
As bodies yield to the control
Of the earth's center, and so bend
In age, so hearts toward the end
Bend down with lips so long athirst
To waters which were known at first --
The little spring at Leese's Grove
Was your first love, is your last love!

When those we knew in youth have crept
Under the landscape, which has kept
Nothing we saw with youthful eyes;
Ere God is formed in the empty skies,
I wonder not our steps are pressed
Toward the mystery of their rest.
That is the hope at bud which kneels
Where ancestors the tomb conceals.
Age no less than youth would lean
Upon some love. For what is seen
No more of father, mother, friend,
For hands of flesh lost, eyes grown blind
In death, a something which assures,
Comforts, allays our fears, endures.
Just as the landscape and our home
In childhood made of heaven's dome,
And all the farthest ways of earth
A place as sheltered as the hearth.

Is it not written at the last day
Heaven and earth shall roll away?
Yes, as my landscape passed through death,
Lay like a corpse, and with new breath
Became instinct with fire and light --
So shall it roll up in my sight,
Pass from the realm of finite sense,
Become a thing of spirit, whence
I shall pass too, its child in faith
Of dreams it gave me, which nor death
Nor change can wreck, but still reveal
In change a Something vast, more real
Than sunsets, meadows, green-wood trees,
Or even faery presences.
A Something which the earth and air
Transmutes but keeps them what they were;
Clear films of beauty grown more thin
As we approach and enter in.
Until we reach the scene that made
Our landscape just a thing of shade.

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