Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE HERITAGE FOREGONE, by WILLIAM ROSE BENET



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THE HERITAGE FOREGONE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: As a child's small height doth see
Last Line: "cry, ""he is changed indeed. Why, he has grown a man!"
Subject(s): Conduct Of Life


As a child's small height doth see
Towering presence in the tree
That a man's earth-dragging eyes
To no symbol may surprise,
Nature that radiant word of hers
Vouchsafes but to her worshippers.

They have become as little children. They
Have put away
The toils of life-defeaturing towns;
Perchance in one wild moment sought the downs,
The mountains, or the sea's assuaging rage
In sudden instinct for their heritage.

For it is instinct! As the wounded creature
Tracks down the root or herb that medicines,
So turns the wounded spirit unto Nature,
Draws doubtful, then reviving breath, and wins,
In that first instant, certainty and presence,
From sea and sky the pure, unanalyzed essence
Of infinite calm,
And healing balm
From a vast area of grateful hues,
Till the soul bursts its bonds, and flutters loose,
An unjessed falcon, for the higher tides
Of space, where peace, with vision, wing to wing abides.

Then do the strident streets of Man's devising
Fade, with their pestilent vapors, from the mind.
The winds of heaven, from heavenly coverts rising,
Cry of the golden quarry their flight shall find.
The immemorial sunset's bright unveiling
Blazons on burning clouds the benefice
Of ancient faith, of splendid dream, that is
To To-day's clashing creeds
Brave as the sun, pure as the moon, who leads
Her vestal stars with silvery vestures trailing.

Alone you shall hold converse, you shall be
Not for one instant without intelligence
Of grace and the dominion of a God.
What are the morning birds
But constant words?
Speech tremors through the trees and thrills the sod.
Dumb and supine, the very fields adjure
That here is purging, here the final cure.
The flowers have glorious secrets in their eyes.
Here walls immure us not. We knead the world
Between our palms, and look beyond our fate
With courage grown great,
With newly anointed sight and judgment wise.
In leaves' altercation,
In birds' jubilation,
In the pursuit of fluctuous streams that run
From shadow into sun,
The voice that murmured undecipherate things,
And yet of what a splendid rumor,
To our child ears, now looses luctual springs
Of hope, now stays us in a steadfast humor
Of happiness. We are in family
With all our speechless mates; find Wind a fabler
Of romance all more wondrous, being true.
The slightest breeze is abler
Unrealized adjacencies to endue
With brave complexions. From the cloud we catch
Olympian raiment. Each swirled leaf of chance
Trails its Atlantean significance.
Mornings and evenings match
In dressing heaven in fairer, sweeter guises;
And, as the unturned, ponderous rock hides its minute surprises,
We pry the hills up for their secrets, find
A scurrying population of new divinings;
And, in the brook's equivocate twists and twinings,
Startle a law -- like prophecy from Man's laborious mind.

And some, in whom their fathers' daring blood
Runs like a tide at flood,
Shall choose the sea,
One of her elemental host to be,
To know her swoons of pleasance and her dolors,
Her calms, her storms, and all her changing colors,
Her griefs, that fling wraith-arms to the fitful stars,
The black, wet nights, all clamorous with her wars,
Her love-luxuriance and the sweep of her might,
All stress and all delight.

And some shall isle them on some mountain-top
Whence all the world doth drop
Below into strange-traced maps of little likelihood,
Like the designs worms gnaw in rotting wood;
And all between and all below, cloud masses
Are at great wrestlings, and the deep crevasses
Resound with winds as do the coves with waves.
They too will be silent as the men of the sea,
Content to be,
Not querulous, not garrulous, like life's slaves.
For both the tremendous suctions of Eternity
Silence the grief that whines -- the greed that raves.

And some shall choose the forest. Its ephors,
The trees, will usher them through giant doors,
Cathedral vistas; and from the glare of day
To high noon of solemnity, their tread
Shall pass across the plant-world's earliest dead
That waxed in primal ooze, and feed this hour,
AEon 'neath aeon. They shall go their way
Through venerable aisles
Blue with the first morn's stillness for miles on unglimpsed miles,
Still with that utter calm succeeds a shock of power.
And some shall find their tillage lowland tracts among,
Complete of shine and song,
And live a day-dream, bound by intimate ties
To quietudes more stalwart hearts despise,
Minstreled by sweet concords of bird and breeze and flower
Hour by golden hour.

So, when one morning at our toil we say,
"He has been long away.
He comes from his high haunt to mix with us to-day,
To walk again
The busy, tyrannizing streets of men."
We shall indeed clasp hand
With an inaliened stranger to our land,
And little understand
The large and simple things about him. Nay,
His heart shall hold a secret we can never know.
Only, when once again he turns to go,
And we to life's so brief and baffled span,
A sudden light our dullard eyes may fan.
We may look back to where he smiled and trod,
And -- inasmuch as he has grown a god --
Cry, "He is changed indeed. Why, he has grown a man!"





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