Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE QUEST OF SUMMER, by RICHARD EUGENE BURTON



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THE QUEST OF SUMMER, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: I had been waiting long
Last Line: Is the summer here again.
Subject(s): Birds; Life; May (Month); Nature; Spring; Summer


I

I HAD been waiting long
For its coming,
For the time of bird-song
And the humming
Of the bees and the smell of May grass,
Till it seemed that the winter sleep never would pass
To the buoyant bright waking of summer,
Blithe comer,
With the mood of a love-plighted lass.

But it came,
In a garment of sensitive flame
In the west, and a royal blue sky overhead,
With exuberant breath and the bloom of all things
Having wonders and wings,
Being risen elate from the dead.
Yea, it came with a flush
Of pied flowers, and a turbulent rush
Of spring-loosened waters, and an odorous hush
At nightfall, -- and then I was glad
With the gladness of one who for militant months has been sad.

Then for days,
In the warm noon haze,
In the freshness of morning or spirit-still mood of the night,
My delight
Was wordless and deep, was a benison straight from my God;
For the sky and the sod
Were marvels, and living a joy, and dun winter a myth;
But therewith
Crept a change, -- no swift spasm of Nature, no death
Of brightness and beauty, but soberer drawing of breath
That follows on rapture; no pall
Of sorrow, but splendid and bounteous fall,
Whose veil is soft silver, who heralds a festival
Of harvests and hopes and desires,
Around whose fires
Dance satyrs and nymphs and young Bacchus the jocund, whose shapes
Are purply with time-mists and grapes.

Then I knew
How September's most opulent blue
Must merge in October's calm gold,
As ever of old;
A month thorough-thrilled with the prescience of ultimate pain;
That again
Would follow November wind-writhen and sere,
Then winter, a wild-mannered fere.
So I said: "I will hasten from here,
I will win to what climes are more winsome and warm,
Where skyey beatitudes are, and no storm
May startle them out of their passionless norm
Of peace;
Where release
From weathers shall last through each day of the seven,
So long as below is the earth and above is the heaven."

So when the season came of hooded skies,
Of wailing voices and of cheerless ways,
I ventured forth upon this sole emprise,
Nor saw my motherland for many days.

II

Soft slumbrous breathings of the enchanted noon
That drift and sift across the lapsed lagoon;
The hush of heat, and for a constant tune
The languid silver swash of southern seas.

The cocoa-palms seem tranced upon the air
With cassia odorous; all bright and bare
Of sails the sea; the coral reefs gleam fair
Along the beach, and boom the big swart bees.

Here in this island-haunt a soul may rest
Like to a child upon his mother's breast,
Dreaming no dream that is not smooth and blest,
Nor waking save to solaces as dear.

Night follows noon, and then each star above
Looms like a moon and pulses life and love;
The waters moan as moans a rapt white dove,
And whilom water-fowls make clamor clear.

How long have I been here? Ah, who can tell?
The hours are but estrays of Time -- no bell
Tinkles to warn the islanders; but well
They know the day-dawn: It was yesteryear,

Perchance, or yesterday; it matters not,
There are no hounding cares to make a blot
Upon life's face, to rouse the tranced spot
Into unease and bodings fraught with fear.

How can I ever be sad, so bathed in bliss?
Here is unceasing summer; here, I wis,
One need but lie and watch the sky-line kiss
The waves, and pluck the poppy in the sand.

Unceasing summer, aye . . . and far from home!
How many countless leagues across the foam
The sail-sick mariner must rock and roam
Before he sight the long-withholden land!

And there are icy wind and barren snow,
And here all tropic splendors bloom and blow;
Then who would leave it, nor be loath to go
From pleasance such to breast a wintry clime?

Lo, for the asking, lemons, mangoes, milk,
And berries, shedding fragrance; soft as silk
The bed whereon I lie, the breezes ilk
That fan my face, the bath at morning-time.

Below, a myriad colors on the earth,
Around, a shifting miracle, a birth
Of beauty new, and ever wonder-worth;
Above, the great deep sapphire of the sky.

It were a marvel did a man regret
Within this June eternal: ah, but yet
I feel mine eyes north-gazing, sometimes wet,
Mayhap it is mere surfeit of delight.

Or is it love and longing for the lost
Keen raptures of a country tempest-tossed,
By all the savageries of nature crossed
And crowned with cold, as kings with circlets bright?

Nay, ask me not; but I must now away,
Seeking my native land, as wanderers may,
Homesick, and taught by every flawless day
How better than all else the old-time things.

I must away -- so fetch my lithe canoe
To dare the foam and tread the sea-halls blue.
A swift farewell, O Isle of Dreams, to you,
O Southern Cross, see where in heaven it swings.

III

I came with the winds and the weather
To the well-beloved place,
And I recked not a rose-worth whether
Sere winter had showed his face
On the sea and the land
In the icy air,
Or whether the year was bland and fair;
All weather was seemly weather,
Because it was homelike there.

In those sunshine isles of the southern sea
The old keen joyance had slipt from me,
I sated soon of the ceaseless boon
Of drowsy days by the still lagoon.

But now my thoughts were interblent with birds
And blandishments of morning; all the land
Was lovely past the putting it in words,
Yet changeful as a maid who gives her hand,
But will not do it wantonly, for fear
It make her seem less dear.

So the secret was won for ever,
And I hugged it tight to my breast:
How the life all-summered, never
Knows passion nor joy's behest.

How the spring change wakes to rapture
The spirit so long asleep,
And the May month seems to capture
A bliss that is twofold deep,

When it follows hard on a sullen time
Of cheerless fields and of limping rhyme,
With a lyric thrill and a burst sublime.

So my quest of summer was over;
The time of corn and of clover,
Of robin and rose and radiant hours,
Came to my door as a welcome guest,
Welcome with birds and flowers,
And I feasted fine in the warmth and scent;
But when 'twas over, I was content,
Facing the sober fall with zest;
Nor winter frore
Could evermore
Be aught but a rough-wayed friend to me, --
A friend who had preached high-heartedly
Courage, faith in the good-to-be.

For the sweetest of all seasons
Is that which follows pain,
And the best of winter's reasons
Is the summer here again.





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