Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE POET'S JOURNAL: FIRST EVENING, by BAYARD TAYLOR



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THE POET'S JOURNAL: FIRST EVENING, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The day had come, the day of many years
Last Line: Which she as fondly answered, thus he read: --
Alternate Author Name(s): Taylor, James Bayard
Subject(s): Death; Life; Memory; Poetry & Poets; Dead, The


THE day had come, the day of many years.
My bud of hope, thorned round with guarding fears,
And sealed with frosts of oft-renewed delay,
Burst into sudden bloom -- it was the day!
"Ernest will come!" the early sunbeams cried;
"Will come!" was breathed through all the woodlands wide;
"Will come, will come!" said cloud, and brook, and bird
And when the hollow roll of wheels was heard
Across the bridge, it thundered, "He is near!"
And then my heart made answer, "He is here!"

Ernest was here, and now the day had gone
Like other days, yet wild and swift and sweet, --
And yet prolonged, as if with whirling feet
One troop of duplicated Hours sped on
And one trod out the moments lingeringly:
So distant seemed the lonely dawn from me.
But all was well. He paced the new-mown lawn,
With Edith at his side, and, while my firs
Stood bronzed with sunset, happy glances cast
On the familiar landmarks of the Past.
I heard a gentle laugh: the laugh was hers.
"Confess it," she exclaimed, "I recognize,
No less than you, the features of the place,
So often have I seen it with the eyes
Your memory gave me: yea, your very face,
With every movement of the theme, betrayed
That here the sunshine lay, and there the shade."
"A proof!" cried Ernest. "Let me be your guide,"
She said, "and speak not: Philip shall decide."
To them I went, at beckon of her hand.
A moment she the mellow landscape scanned
In seeming doubt, but only to prolong
A witching aspect of uncertainty,
And the soft smile in Ernest's watching eye:
"Yonder," she said, "(I see I am not wrong,
By Philip's face,) you built your hermit seat
Against the rock, among the scented fern,
Where summer lizards played about your feet;
And here, beside us, is the tottering urn
You cracked in fixing firmly on its base;
And here -- yes, yes! -- this is the very place --
I know the wild vine and the sassafras --
Where you and Philip, lying in the grass,
Disowned the world, renounced the race of men,
And you all love, except your own for him,
Until, through that, all love came back again."
Here Edith paused; but Ernest's eyes were dim.
He kissed her, gave a loving hand to me,
And spoke: "Ah, Philip, Philip, those were days
We dare remember now, when only blaze
Far-off, the storm's black edges brokenly.
Who thinks, at night, that morn will ever be?
Who knows, far out upon the central sea,
That anywhere is land? And yet, a shore
Has set behind us, and will rise before:
A past foretells a future." "Blessed be
That Past!" I answered, "on whose bosom lay
Peace, like a new-born child: and now, I see,
The child is man, begetting day by day
Some fresher joy, some other bliss, to make
Your life the fairer for his mother's sake."

Deeper beneath the oaks the shadows grew:
The twilight glimmer from their tops withdrew,
And purple gloomed the distant hills, and sweet
The sudden breath of evening rose, with balm
Of grassy meadows: in the upper calm
The pulses of the stars began to beat:
The fire-flies twinkled: through the lindens went
A rustle, as of happy leaves composed
To airy sleep, of drowsy petals closed,
And the dark land lay silent and content.
We, too, were silent. Ernest walked, I knew,
With me, beneath the stars of other eves:
He heard, with me, the tongues of perished leaves:
Departed suns their trails of splendor drew
Across departed summers: whispers came
From voices, long ago resolved again
Into the primal Silence, and we twain,
Ghosts of our present selves, yet still the same,
As in a spectral mirror wandered there.
Its pain outlived, the Past was only fair.
Ten years had passed since I had touched his hand,
And felt upon my lips the brother-kiss
That shames not manhood, -- years of quiet bliss
To me, fast-rooted on paternal land,
Mated, yet childless. He had journeyed far
Beyond the borders of my life, and whirled
Unresting round the vortex of the world,
The reckless child of some eccentric star,
Careless of fate, yet with a central strength
I knew would hold his life in equipoise,
And bent his wandering energies, at length,
To the smooth orbit of serener joys.
Few were the winds that wafted to my nest
A leaf from him: I learned that he was blest, --
The late fulfilment of my prophecy, --
And then I felt that he must come to me,
The old, unswerving sympathy to claim;
And set my house in order for a guest
Long ere the message of his coming came.

In gentle terraces my garden fell
Down to the rolling lawn. On one side rose,
Flanking the layers of bloom, a bolder swell
With laurels clad, and every shrub that grows
Upon our native hills, a bosky mound,
Whence the commingling valleys might be seen
Bluer and lovelier through the gaps of green.
The rustic arbor which the summit crowned
Was woven of shining smilax, trumpet-vine,
Clematis, and the wild white eglantine,
Whose tropical luxuriance overhung
The interspaces of the posts, and made
For each sweet picture frames of bloom and shade.
It was my favorite haunt when I was young,
To read my poets, watch my sunset fade
Behind my father's hills, and, when the moon
Shed warmer silver through the nights of June,
Dream, as 't were new, the universal dream.
This arbor, too, was Ernest's hermitage:
Here he had read to me his tear-stained page
Of sorrow, here renewed the pang supreme
Which burned his youth to ashes: here would try
To lay his burden in the hands of Song,
And make the Poet bear the Lover's wrong,
But still his heart impatiently would cry:
"In vain, in vain! You cannot teach to flow
In measured lines so measureless a woe.
First learn to slay this wild beast of despair,
Then from his harmless jaws your honey tear!"

Hither we came. Beloved hands had graced
The table with a flask of mellow juice,
Thereto the gentle herb that poets use
When Fancy droops, and in the corner placed
A lamp, that glimmered through its misty sphere
Like moonlit marble, on a pedestal
Of knotted roots, against the leafy wall.
The air was dry, the night was calm and clear,
And in the dying clover crickets chirped.
The Past, I felt, the Past alone usurped
Our thoughts, -- the hour of confidence had come,
Of sweet confession, tender interchange,
Which drew our hearts together, yet with strange
Half-dread repelled them. Seeing Ernest dumb
With memories of the spot, as if to me
Belonged the right his secrets to evoke,
And Edith's eyes on mine, consentingly,
Conscious of all I wished to know, I spoke:
"Dear Friend, one volume of your life I read
Beneath these vines: you placed it in my hand
And made it mine, -- but how the tale has sped
Since then, I know not, or can understand
From this fair ending only. Let me see
The intervening chapters, dark and bright,
In order, as you lived them. Give to-night
Unto the Past, dear Ernest, and to me!"
Thus I, with doubt and loving hesitance,
Lest I should touch a nerve he fain would hide;
But he, with calm and reassuring glance,
In which no troubled shadow lay, replied:
"That mingled light and darkness are no more
In this new life, than are the sun and shade
Of painted landscapes: distant lies the shore
Where last we parted, Philip: how I made
The journey, what adventures on the road,
What haps I met, what struggles, what success
Of fame, or gold, or place, concerns you less,
Dear friend, than how I lost that sorest load
I started with, and came to dwell at last
In the House Beautiful. There but remains
A fragment here and there, -- wild, broken strains
And scattered voices speaking from the Past."
"Let me those broken voices hear," I said,
"And I shall know the rest." "Well -- be it so.
You, who would write 'Resurgam' o'er my dead,
The resurrection of my heart shall know."

Then Edith rose, and up the terraces
Went swiftly to the house; but soon we spied
Her white dress gleam, returning through the trees,
And, softly flushed, she came to Ernest's side,
A volume in her hand. But he delayed
Awhile his task, revolving leaf by leaf
With tender interest, now that ancient grief
No more had power to make his heart afraid;
For pain, that only lives in memory,
Like battle-scars, it is no pain to show.
"Here, Philip, are the secrets you would know,"
He said: "Howe'er obscure the utterance be,
The lamp you lighted in the olden time
Will show my heart's-blood beating through the rhyme
A poet's journal, writ in fire and tears
At first, blind protestations, blinder rage,
(For you and Edith only, many a page!)
Then slow deliverance, with the gaps of years
Between, and final struggles into life,
Which the heart shrank from, as 't were death instead."
Then, with a loving glance towards his wife,
Which she as fondly answered, thus he read: --





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