Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SAINT-GAUDENS, by ROBERT UNDERWOOD JOHNSON



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SAINT-GAUDENS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Uplands of cornish! Ye, that yesterday
Last Line: Apostles of rejoicing to mankind?
Subject(s): Saint-gaudens, Augustus (1848-1907)


I

UPLANDS of Cornish! Ye, that yesterday
Were only beauteous, now are consecrate.
Exalted are your humble slopes, to mate
Proud Settignano and Fiesole,
For her new-born is Italy's new birth of Art.
In your beloved precincts of repose
Now is the laurel lovelier than the rose.
Henceforth there shall be seen
An unaccustomed glory in the sheen
Of yonder lingering river, overleant with green,
Whose fountains hither happily shall start,
Like eager Umbrian rills, that kiss and part,
For that their course will run
One to the Tiber, to the Arno one.
O hills of Cornish! chalice of our spilled wine,
Ye shall become a shrine,
For now our Donatello is no more!
He who could pour
His spirit into clay, has lost the clay he wore,
And Death, again, at last,
Has robbed the Future to enrich the Past.
He, who so often stood
At joyous worship in your Sacred Wood,
He shall be missed
As autumn meadows miss the lark,
Where Summer and Song were wont to keep melodious tryst.
His fellows of the triple guild shall hark
For his least whisper in the starry dark.
Here, in his memory, Youth shall dedicate
Laborious years to that unfolding which is Fate.
By Beauty's faintest gleams
She shall be followed over glades and streams.
And all that is shall be forgot
For what is not;
And every common path shall lead to dreams.

II

POET of Cornish; comrade of his days:
When late we met,
With his remembrance how thine eyes were wet!
Thy faltering voice his praise
More eloquently did rehearse
Than on his festal day thy liquid verse.
Since once to love is never to forget,
Let us defer our plaint of private sorrow
Till some less unethereal to-morrow.
To-day is not the poet's shame
But the dull world's; not yet
Shall it be kindled at the living flame
Whose treasured embers
Ever the world remembers.
Not so the sculptor -- his immediate bays
No hostile climate withers or delays.
Let us forego the debt of friendly duty;
A nation newly is bereft of beauty.
Sing with me now his undeferred fame, --
For Time impatient is to set
This jewel in his country's coronet.
When all men with new accent speak his name,
And all are blended in a vast regret,
There is no place for grief of thee or me:
One reckons not the rivers in the sea.
Sing not to-day the hearth despoiled of fire:
Ours be the trumpet, not the lyre.
Death makes the great
The treasure and the sorrow of the State.
Nor is it less bereaved
By what is unachieved.
Oh, what a miracle is Fame!
We carve some lately unfamiliar name
Upon an outer wall, as challenge to the sun;
And half its claim
Is deathless work undone.
Although the story of our art is brief,
Thrice in the record, at a fadeless leaf,
Falls an unfinished chapter; thrice the flower
Closed ere the noonday glory drank its dew;
Thrice have we lost of promise and of power --
The torch extinguished at its brightest hour --
His comrades all, for whom he twined the rue.
But though they stand authentic and apart
This is in our new land the first great grief of Art.

III

YET, sound for him the trumpet, not the lyre --
Him of the ardent, not the smouldering, fire:
Whose boyhood knew full streets of martial song
When the slow purpose of the throng
Flamed to a new religion, and a soul.
He knew the lure of flags; caught first the far drums' roll;
Thrilled with the flash that runs
Along the slanted guns;
Kept time to the determined feet
That ominously beat
Upon the city's floor
The firm, mad rhythm of war.
With envious enterprise
He saw the serried eyes
That, level to the hour's demand,
Looked straight toward Duty's promised land.
That to be boy was to be prisoned fast
With the great world of battle sweeping past,
While every hill and hollow
Heard the heart-melting music, calling "Follow!"
The day o'er-brimmed with longing and the night
With beckoning dreams of many a dauntless fight,
As though doomed heroes summoned us to see
Thermopylaes and Marathons.
-- Ah, had he known who was to be
Their laureate in bronze!

But who can read To-morrow in To-day?
Fame makes no bargain with us, will not say
Do thus, and thou shalt gain, or thus and lose;
Nay, will not let us for another choose
The trodden and the lighted way.
She burns the accepted pattern, breaks the mould,
Prefers the novel to the old,
Revels in secrets and surprise;
And while the wise
Seek knowledge at the sages' gate
The schoolboy by a truant path keeps rendezvous with Fate.

IV

THIS is the honey in the lion's jaws:
That from the reverberant roar
And wrack of savage war
Art saves a sweet repose, by mystic laws
Not by long labor learned
But by keen love discerned;
For this it bears the palm:
To show the storms of life in terms of calm.
Not what he knew but what he felt,
Gave secret power to this Celt.
Master of harmony, his sense could find
A bond of likeness among things diverse,
And could their forms in beauty so immerse
That to the enchanted mind
Ideal and real seem a single kind.

Behold our gaunt Crusader, grimly brave,
The swooping eagle in his face,
The very genius of command,
And her not less, with her imperious hand, --
The herald Victory holding equal pace.
Not trulier in the blast
Moves prow with mast;
Line mates with flowing line, as wave with following wave --
Rider and homely horse
Intent upon their course
As though she went not with them. Near or far,
One is their import: she the dream, the star --
And he the prose, the iron thrust -- of War.

V

So, on the traveled verge
Of storied Boston's green acropolis
That sculptured music, that immortal dirge
That better than towering shaft
Has fitly epitaphed
The hated ranks men did not dare to hiss!
When Duty makes her clarion call to Ease
Let her repair and point to this:
Why seek another clime?
Why seek another place?
We have no Parthenon, but a nobler frieze, --
Since sacrifice than worship nobler is.
It sings -- the anthem of a rescued race;
It moves -- the epic of a patriot time,
And each heroic figure makes a martial rhyme.
How like ten thousand treads that little band,
Fit for the van of armies! What command
Sits in that saddle! What renouncing will!
What portent grave of firm-confronted ill!
And as a cloud doth hover over sea,
Born from its waters and returning there,
Fame, sprung from thoughts of mortals, swims the air
And gives them back her memories, deathlessly.

VI

I WEPT by Lincoln's pall when children's tears,
That saddest of the nation's years,
Were reckoned in the census of her grief;
And flooding every eye,
Of low estate or high,
The crystal sign of sorrow made men peers.
The raindrop on the April leaf
Was not more unashamed. Hand spoke to hand
A universal language; and whene'er
The hopeful met 't was but to mingle their despair.
Our yesterday's war-widowed land
To-day was orphaned. Its victorious voice
Lost memory of the power to rejoice.
For he whom all had learned to love was prone.
The weak had slain the mighty; by a whim
The ordered edifice was overthrown
And lay in futile ruin, mute and dim.

O Death, thou sculptor without art,
What didst thou to the Lincoln of our heart?
Where was the manly eye
That conquered enmity?
Where was the gentle smile
So innocent of guile --
The message of good-will
To all men, whether good or ill?
Where shall we trace
Those treasured lines, half humor and half pain,
That made him doubly brother to the race?
For these, O Death, we search thy mask in vain!

Yet shall the Future be not all bereft:
Not without witness shall its eyes be left.
The soul, again, is visible through Art,
Servant of God and Man. The immortal part
Lives in the miracle of a kindred mind,
That found itself in seeking for its kind.
The humble by the humble is discerned;
And he whose melancholy broke in sunny wit
Could be no stranger unto him who turned
From sad to gay, as though in jest he learned
Some mystery of sorrow. It was writ:
The hand that shapes us Lincoln must be strong
As his that righted our bequeathed wrong;
The heart that shows us Lincoln must be brave,
An equal comrade unto king or slave;
The mind that gives us Lincoln must be clear
As that of seer
To fathom deeps of faith abiding under tides of fear.
What wonder Fame, impatient, will not wait
To call her sculptor great
Who keeps for us in bronze the soul that saved the State!

VII

MOST fair his dreams and visions when he dwelt
His spirit's comrade. Meager was his speech
Of things celestial, save in line and mould;
But sudden cloud-rift may reveal a star
As surely as the unimpeded sky.
The deer has its deep forest of retreat:
Shall the shy spirit have none? Be, then,
The covert unprofaned wherein withdrew
The soul that 'neath his pensive ardor lay?
Find the last frontier -- Man is still unknown ground.

Things true and beautiful made a heaven for him.
Childhood, the sunrise of the spirit world,
Yielded its limpid secrets to his eye.
He was in Friendship what he was in Art --
Wax to receive and metal to endure.
Looking upon his warriors facing death,
Heroes seem human, such as all might be
Yet not without the consecrating will!
Age is serener by his honoring;
And when he sought the temple's inmost fane
The angels of his Adoration lent
Old hopes new glory, and his reverent hand
Wrought like Beato at the face of Christ.

But what is this that, neither Hope nor Doom,
Waits with eternal patience at a tomb?
A brooding spirit without name or date,
Or race, or nation, or belief;
Beyond the reach of joy or grief,
Above the plane of wrong or right;
A riddle only to the sorrowless; the mate
Of all the elements in calm -- still winter night,
Sea after tempest, time-scarred mountain height;
Passive as Buddha, single as the Sphinx, --
Yet neither that sweet god that seems to smile
On mortal good and guile,
Nor wide-eyed monster that into Egypt sinks
And Beast and Nature links;
But something human, with an inward sense
Profound, but nevermore intense;
And though it doth not stoop to teach,
It will with each
Attuned to beauty hold a muted speech;
In its Madonna-lidded meditation
Not more a mystery than a revelation;
Listen! It doth to Man the Universe relate.
O Sentinel before the Future's Gate!
If thou be Fate, art thou still our Fate?

For those who fain would live, but must breathe on
Prisoners of this prosaic age --
Ah, who for them shall read that page
Since winged Shelley and wise Emerson are gone?

VIII

How shall we honor him and in his place
His comrades of the Old and Happy Race
Whose Art is refuge Sorrow comes not nigh,
Though Art be twin to Sorrow? They reply
From all the centuries they outsoar,
From every shore
Of that three-continented sea
To which the streams of our antiquity
Fell swift and joyously:
"How, but to live with Beauty?"

Across our Western world without surcease
How many a column sounds the name of Greece!
The sun, loth-lingering on the crest of Rome,
Finds here how many an imitative dome!
O classic quarries of our modern thought,
What blasphemies in stone from you are wrought!
For though to Law, Religion, or the State,
These stones to Beauty first are dedicate,
Yet to what purpose, if we but revere
The temple, not the goddess? -- if whene'er
The magic of her deep obsession seem
To master any soul, we call it dream?
Come, let us live with Beauty!
Her name is ever on our lips; but who
Holds Beauty as the fairest bride to woo?
The gods oft wedded mortals: now alone
May man the Chief Immortal make his own.
To Time each day adds increment of age
But Beauty ne'er grows old. There is no gauge
To count the glories of the counted hours.
Flowers die, but not the ecstasy of flowers.
Come, let us live with Beauty!
What infinite treasure hers! and what small need
Of our cramped natures, whose misguided greed,
Hound-like, pursues false trails of Luxury
Or sodden Comfort! Who shall call us free --
Content if but some casual wafture come
From fields Elysian, where the valleys bloom
With life delectable? Such happy air
Should be the light we live in; unaware
It should be breathed, till man retrieves the joy
Philosophy has wrested from the boy.
Come, let us live with Beauty!

Who shall put limit to her sovereignty?
Who shall her loveliness define?
Think you the Graces only three? --
The Muses only nine?
Beyond our star-sown deep of space
Where, as for solace, huddles world with world
(A human instinct in the primal wrack),
Mayhap there is a dark and desert place
Of deeper awe
With but one outer star, there hurled
By cataclysm and there held in leash by law:
If lonely be that star, 't is not for Beauty's lack.
She was ere there was any need of Truth,
She was ere there was any stir of Love;
And when Man came, and made her world uncouth
With sin, and cities, and the gash of hills
And forests, and a thousand brutish ills, --
Moved by eternal ruth
She hid her wounds and gave him, from above,
The magic all his happiness is fashioned of.

IX

KNIGHTS of the five arts that our sculptor prized:
How shall ye honor him and, in his place,
Those others of the Old and Happy Race
Who lived for beauty, and the golden lure despised?

Painter of music, Architect of song,
Sculptor in color, Poet in clay and bronze,
And thou whose unsubstantial fancy builds
Abiding symphonies from stone and space!
Mount ye to large horizons: ever be
As avid of other beauty as your own.
As nations greater are than all their states,
More than the sum of all the arts is Art.
High are their clear commands, but Art herself
Makes holier summons. Ever open stand
The doors of her free temple. At her shrine
In service of the world, whose hurt she heals,
Ye, too, physicians of the mind and heart --
Shall ye not take the Hippocratic oath?
Have ye not heard the voices of the night
Call you from kindred, comfort, sloth and praise,
To lead into the light the willing feet
That grope for order, harmony and joy? --
To reach full hands of bounty unto those
Who starve for beauty in our glut of gold?

How shall we honor him whom we revere --
Lover of all the arts and of his land?
How, but to cherish Beauty's every flower? --
How, but to live with Beauty, and so be
Apostles of Rejoicing to mankind?





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