Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE SUMMER CAMP, by BAYARD TAYLOR

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE SUMMER CAMP, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Here slacken rein; here let the dusty mules
Last Line: And gird our loins for action. Let us go!
Alternate Author Name(s): Taylor, James Bayard
Subject(s): Camping; Forests; Life; Past; Travel; Camps; Summer Camps; Woods; Journeys; Trips

HERE slacken rein; here let the dusty mules
Unsaddled graze! The shadows of the oaks
Are on our brows, and through their knotted boles
We see the blue round of the boundless plain
Vanish in glimmering heat: these aged oaks,
The island speck that beckoned us afar
Over the burning level, -- as we came,
Spreading to shore and cape, and bays that ran
To leafy headlands, balanced on the haze,
Faint and receding as a cloud in air.

The mules may roam unsaddled: we will lie
Beneath the mighty trees, whose shade like dew
Poured from the urns of Twilight, dries the sweat
Of sunburnt brows, and on the heavy lid
And heated eyeball sheds a balm, than sleep
Far sweeter. We have done with travel, -- we
Are weary now, who never dreamed of Rest,
For until now did never Rest unbar
Her palace-doors, nor until now our ears
The silence drink, beyond all melodies
Of all imagined sound, that wraps her realm.
Here, where the desolating centuries
Have left no mark; where noises never came
From the far world of battle and of toil;
Where God looks down and sends no thunderbolt
To smite a human wrong, for all is good,
She finds a refuge. We will dwell with her.

No more of travel, where the flaming sword
Of the great sun divides the heavens; no more
Of climbing over jutty steeps that swim
In driving sea-mist, where the stunted tree
Slants inland, mimicking the stress of winds
When wind is none; of plain and steaming marsh
Where the dry bulrush crackles in the heat;
Of camps by starlight in the columned vault
Of sycamores, and the red, dancing fires
That build a leafy arch, efface and build,
And sink at last, to let the stars peep through;
Of canons grown with pine and folded deep
In golden mountain-sides; of airy sweeps
Of mighty landscape, lying all alone
Like some deserted world. They tempt no more.
It is enough that such things were: too blest,
O comrades mine, to lie in Summer's arms,
Lodged in her Camp of Rest, we will not dream
That they may vex us more.

The sun goes down:
The dun mules wander idly: motionless
Beneath the stars, the heavy foliage lifts
Its rich, round masses, silent as a cloud
That sleeps at midday on a mountain peak.
All through the long, delicious night no stir
Is in the leaves; spangled with broken gleams.
Before the pining Moon, -- that fain would drop
Into the lap of this deep quiet, -- swerve
Eastward the shadows: Day comes on again.
Where is the life we led? Whither hath fled
The turbulent stream that brought us hither? How,
So full of sound, so lately dancing down
The mountains, turbid, fretted into foam, --
How has it slipped, with scarce a gurgling coil,
Into this calm transparence, noise or wind
Hath ruffled never? Ages past, perchance,
Such wild turmoil was ours, or did some Dream
Malign, that last night nestled in the oak,
Whisper our ears, when not a star could see?
Give o'er the fruitless doubt: we will not waste
One thought of rest, nor spill one radiant drop
From the full goblet of this summer balm.

Day after day the mellow sun slides o'er,
Night after night the mellow moon. The clouds
Are laid, enchanted: soft and bare, the heavens
Fold to their breast the dozing Earth, that lies
In languor of deep bliss. At times a breath,
Remnant of gales far off, forgotten now,
Rustles the never-fading leaves, then drops
Affrighted into silence. Near a slough
Of dark, still water, in the early morn
The shy coyotas prowl, or trooping elk
From the close covert of the bulrush fields
Their dewy antlers toss: nor other sight,
Save when the falcon, poised on wheeling wings,
His bright eye on the burrowing coney, cuts
His arrowy plunge. Along the distant trail,
Dim with the heat, sometimes the miners go,
Bearded and rough, the swart Sonorians drive
Their laden asses, or vaqueros whirl
The lasso's coil and carol many a song,
Native to Spanish hills. As when we lie
On the soft brink of Sleep, not pillowed quite
To blest forgetfulness, some dim array
Of masking forms in long procession comes,
A sweet disturbance to the poppied sense,
That will not cease, but gently holds it back
From slumber's haven, so their figures pass,
With such disturbance cloud the blessed calm,
And hold our beings, ready to slip forth
O'er unmolested seas, still rocking near
The coasts of Action.

Other dreams are ours,
Of shocks that were, or seemed; whereof our souls
Feel the subsiding lapse, as feels the sand
Of tropic island-shores the dying pulse
Of storms that racked the Northern sea. My Soul,
I do believe that thou hast toiled and striven,
And hoped and suffered wrong. I do believe
Great aims were thine, deep loves and fiery hates,
And though I may have lain a thousand years
Beneath these Oaks, the baffled trust of Youth,
Thy first keen sorrow, brings a gentle pang
To temper joy. Nor will the joy I drank
To wild intoxication, quit my heart:
It was no dream that still has power to droop
The soft-suffusing lid, and lift desire
Beyond this rapt repose. No dream, dear love!
For thou art with me in our Camp of Peace.

O Friend, whose history is writ in deeds
That make your life a marvel, come no gleams
Of past adventure, echoes of old storms,
And Battle's tingling hum of flying shot,
To touch your easy blood and tempt you o'er
The round of yon blue plain? Or have they lost,
Heroic days, the virtue which the heart
That did their hest rejoicing, proved so high?
Back through the long, long cycles of our rest
Your memory travels: through this hush you hear
The Gila's dashing, feel the yawning jaws
Of black volcanic gorges close you in
On waste and awful tracts of wilderness,
Which other than the eagle's cry, or bleat
Of mountain-goat, hear not: the scorching sand
Eddies around the tracks your fainting mules
Leave in the desert: thorn and cactus pierce
Your bleeding limbs, and stiff with raging thirst
Your tongue forgets its office. Leave untried
That cruel trail, and leave the wintry hills
And leave the tossing sea! The Summer here
Builds us a tent of everlasting calm.

How shall we wholly sink our lives in thee,
Thrice-blessed Deep? O many-natured Soul,
Chameleon-like, that, steeped in every phase
Of wide existence, tak'st the hue of each,
Here with the silent Oaks and azure Air
Incorporate grow! Here loosen one by one
Thy vexing memories, burdens of the Past,
Till all unrest be laid, and strong Desire
Sleeps on his nerveless arm. Content to find
In liberal Peace thy being's high result
And crown of aspiration, gather all
The dreams of sense, the reachings of the mind
For ampler issues and dominion vain,
To fold them on her bosom, happier there
Than in exultant action: as a child
Forgets his meadow butterflies and flowers,
Upon his mother's breast.

It may not be.
Not in this Camp, in these enchanted Trees,
But in ourselves, must lodge the calm we seek,
Ere we can fix it here. We cannot take
From outward nature power to snap the curse
Which clothed our birth; and though 't were easier
This hour to die than yield the blessed cup
Wherefrom our hearts divinest comfort draw,
It clothes us yet, and yet shall drive us forth
To breast the world. Then come: we will not bide
To tempt a ruin to this paradise,
Fulfilling Destiny. A mighty wind
Would gather on the plain, a cloud arise
To blot the sky, with thunder in its heart,
And the black column of the whirlwind spin
Out of the cloud, straight downward to this grove,
Take by their heads the shuddering trees, and wrench
With fearful clamor, limb from limb, till Rest
Should flee forever. Rather set at once
Our faces towards the noisy world again,
And gird our loins for action. Let us go!

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