Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, IMPROVISATIONS, by BAYARD TAYLOR



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IMPROVISATIONS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Through the lonely halls of the night
Last Line: And here's to the goddess show
Alternate Author Name(s): Taylor, James Bayard
Subject(s): Death; Flowers; Kisses; Love; Dead, The


I.

THROUGH the lonely halls of the night
My fancies fly to thee:
Through the lonely halls of the night,
Alone, I cry to thee.
For the stars bring presages
Of love, and of love's delight:
Let them bear my messages
Through the lonely halls of the night!

In the golden porch of the morn
Thou com'st anew to me:
In the golden porch of the morn,
Say, art thou true to me?
If dreams have shaken thee
With the call thou canst not scorn,
Let Love awaken thee
In the golden porch of the morn!

II.

The rose of your cheek is precious;
Your eyes are warmer than wine;
You catch men's souls in the meshes
Of curls that ripple and shine --
But, ah! not mine.

Your lips are a sweet persuasion;
Your bosom a sleeping sea;
Your voice, with its fond evasion,
Is a call and a charm to me;
But I am free!

As the white moon lifts the waters,
You lift the passions, and lead;
As a chieftainess proud with slaughters,
You smile on the hearts that bleed:
But I take heed!

III.

Come to me, Lalage!
Girl of the flying feet,
Girl of the tossing hair
And the red mouth, small and sweet
Less of the earth than air,
So witchingly fond and fair
Lalage!

Touch me, Lalage!
Girl of the soft white hand,
Girl of the low white brow
And the roseate bosom band;
Bloom from an orchard bough
Less downy-soft than thou,
Lalage!

Kiss me, Lalage!
Girl of the fragrant breath,
Girl of the sun of May;
As a bird that flutters in death,
My fluttering pulses say:
If thou be Death, yet stay,
Lalage!

IV.

What if I couch in the grass, or listlessly rock on the waters?
If in the market I stroll, sit by the beakers of wine?
Witched by the fold of a cloud, the flush of a meadow in blossom,
Soothed by the amorous airs, touched by the lips of the dew?
First must be color and odor, the simple, unmingled sensation,
Then, at the end of the year, apples and honey and grain.
You, reversing the order, your barren and withering branches
Vainly will shake in the winds, mine hanging heavy with gold!

V.

Though thy constant love I share,
Yet its gift is rarer;
In my youth I thought thee fair;
Thou art older and fairer!

Full of more than young delight
Now day and night are;
For the presence, then so bright,
Is closer, brighter.

In the haste of youth we miss
Its best of blisses:
Sweeter than the stolen kiss
Are the granted kisses.

Dearer than the words that hide
The love abiding,
Are the words that fondly chide,
When love needs chiding.

Higher than the perfect song
For which love longeth,
Is the tender fear of wrong,
That never wrongeth.

She whom youth alone makes dear
May awhile seem nearer:
Thou art mine so many a year,
The older, the dearer!

VI.

A grass-blade is my warlike lance,
A rose-leaf is my shield;
Beams of the sun are, every one,
My chargers for the field.

The morning gives me golden steeds,
The moon gives silver-white;
The stars drop down, my helm to crown,
When I go forth to fight.

Against me ride in iron mail
The squadrons of the foe;
The bucklers flash, the maces crash,
The haughty trumpets blow.

One touch, and all, with armor cleft,
Before me turn and yield.
Straight on I ride: the world is wide;
A rose-leaf is my shield!

Then dances o'er the waterfall
The rainbow, in its glee;
The daisy sings, the lily rings
Her bells of victory.

So am I armed where'er I go,
And mounted night or day:
Who shall oppose the conquering rose,
And who the sunbeam slay?

VII.

The star o' the morn is whitest,
The bosom of dawn is brightest;
The dew is sown,
And the blossom blown
Wherein thou, my Dear, delightest

Hark, I have risen before thee,
That the spell of the day be o'er thee;
That the flush of my love
May fall from above,
And, mixed with the morn, adore thee

Dark dreams must now forsake thee,
And the bliss of thy being take thee!
Let the beauty of morn
In thine eyes be born,
And the thought of me awake thee!

Come forth to hear thy praises,
Which the wakening world upraises;
Let thy hair be spun
With the gold o' the sun,
And thy feet be kissed by the daisies!

VIII.

Near in the forest
I know a glade;
Under the tree-tops
A secret shade!

Vines are the curtains,
Blossoms the floor;
Voices of waters
Sing evermore.

There, when the sunset s
Lances of gold
Pierce, or the moonlight
Is silvery cold,

Would that an angel
Led thee to me --
So, out of loneliness
Love should be!

Never the breezes
Should lisp what we say,
Never the waters
Our secret betray!

Silence and shadow,
After, might reign;
But the old life be ours
Never again!

IX.

What if we lose the seasons
That seem of our happiest choice,
That Life is fuller of reasons
To sorrow than rejoice,
That Time is richer in treasons,
And Hope has a faltering voice?

The dreams where with we were dowered
Were gifts of an ignorant brain;
The truth has at last overpowered
The visions we clung to in vain:
But who would resist, as a coward,
The knowledge that cometh from pain?

For the love, as a flower of the meadow,
The love that stands firm as a tree --
For the stars that have vanished in shadow,
The daylight, enduring and free --
For a dream of the dim El Dorado,
A world to inhabit have we!

X.

Heart, in my bosom beating
Fierce, as a power at bay!
Ever thy rote repeating
Louder, and then retreating,
Who shall thy being sway?

Over my will and under,
Equally king and slave,
Sometimes I hear thee thunder,
Sometimes falter and blunder
Close to the waiting grave!

Oft, in the beautiful season,
Restless thou art, and wild;
Oft, with never a reason,
Turnest and doest me treason,
Treating the man as a child!

Cold, when passion is burning,
Quick, when I sigh for rest,
Kindler of perished yearning,
Curb and government spurning,
Thou art lord of the breast!

XI.

Fill, for we drink to Labor!
And Labor, you know, is Prayer:
I'll be as grand as my neighbor
Abroad, and at home as bare!
Debt, and bother, and hurry!
Others are burdened so:
Here's to the goddess Worry,
And here's to the goddess Show!

Reckless of what comes after,
Silent of whence we come:
Splendor and feast and laughter
Make the questioners dumb.
Debt, and bother, and hurry!
Nobody needs to know:
Here's to the goddess Worry,
And here's to the goddess Show

Fame is what you have taken,
Character's what you give:
When to this truth you waken,
Then you begin to live!
Debt, and bother, and hurry!
Others have risen so:
Here's to the goddess Worry,
And here's to the goddess Show

Honor's a thing for derision,
Knowledge a thing reviled;
Love is a vanishing vision,
Faith is the toy of a child!
Debt, and bother, and hurry!
Honesty's old and slow:
Here's to the goddess Worry,
And here's to the goddess Show





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