Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > An American Anthology, 1787–1900
Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  An American Anthology, 1787–1900.  1900.
1476. From “To a Writer of the Day”
By Langdon Elwyn Mitchell (“John Philip Varley”)

          COULD but this be brought
Into your ken,—that the technique is thought!
Escape from “Style,” the notion men can use
Words without thoughts,—so wrench and so abuse
The innocent language to their ends that they        5
Will seem to be respectful, honest, gay,
Grave, or what else—and all the glorious while
The authors’ selves sit with the wise and smile:
“’T is but a trick, ’t is words, it is a style!”
Your technique, then, is thought, just as I say.        10
And if you ’ll write a poem, there ’s no way
But first to think it clearly; pin your mind
Upon your thought; fasten it there, and bind
The thought into your heart: when your veins burn and flow
With love or hate, the thoughts to music go,        15
Melt into music, and pour fully out
In a rich flood;—but to take thought about
The “music” of your words, ’t is matter quite
Beyond your conscious power! For rhymes, they ’re right
Or wrong according as they hear, not look        20
When printed by a printer in a book!
And their “correctness” may be measured best,
And indeed only, by a certain test:
That, namely, for rebellions,—which are so
Until they have succeeded, when they go        25
By quite another name. Forget not, too,
That every English poet known to you,
That is to say all of them, rhymed just as
The spirit took them and their pleasure was,
And, masters that they were, rhymed “falsely,” so        30
As now no poetaster dares to do!

So then, at last, let me awake this sleep
And languor of yourself: it is too deep,
And ’t is too long!
      Oh, I would have you look        35
With judgment on your life, and not to brook
The less in art, as not in truth;—forgive
Much in you now I can, never that you less live!
I may put by whatever choice of themes,
But not this air of being by rich dreams        40
Roofed over, and floored under, and walled in.
As Eastern princes in a palanquin
Luxuriously ride, by eunuchs round
Held and supported, lifted from the ground,
And softly borne,—so you, on the mild shoulders,        45
Effeminate, of dreams!—Your spirit moulders;
The freshness of your soul withers away
As roses do that cannot find the day.
Oh, free yourself!—take up your life and share
The splendor of this day, the world’s great air,        50
And this new land’s delight,—this land that we
Adore, this people, this great liberty
Of nations in new birth,—a happy shower
Of golden States,—a many-blossomed flower!—
Now grown a Commonwealth, whose strength and state        55
And health are dangerous to all that hate
Freedom, and fatal to all those who’d be
Sunk in the dark of Time’s abysmal sea,
Safe anchored in the past—safe dead!—that none
Might longer make them fear a change beneath the sun,        60
To fright them with new good.—But oh, to those
Whose blood within them leaps and laughs and flows;
To all who proudly hope; to all who fain
With their right hands and with their heart and brain
Would throne the right, and make the good to reign;        65
To all who’d lift man up, and who, heart-free,
Haste toward the light,—this Land and State should be
Dear as their life!—And to her sons should she
Be born again in love, since with her noblest blood
And her right hand of youth she smote the brood        70
Of her own loins, nested in servitude,
Shadowing the world’s detraction with fair peace.
Dear mother of her sons, whose wealth is these;
Her more than gold, their valor, mercy, truth;
Her mighty age, immortal in their youth:—        75
Dear light of hope, oh, needs she not to be
Forever saved into new liberty?
The fallen blood of martyrs is in vain
If ours be not as free to fall again!
But her salvation is a rigorous task,        80
Eternally accomplishing.—I ask
You, therefore, as one owing more than most
To her, who is your happiness and boast,
That you cast from you all that will not wake
Men’s hearts from sensual sleep:—for her great sake        85
Put by the velvet touch, the easy grace,
The fingers dreaming on the lyre, the face
Forgetful, listening to light melodies;
Cease thou thy toying with the hours, and cease
This riot of thy youth, this wantoning        90
With all the sap and spirit of thy Spring.
Not twice that vendure’s given thee; the Tree
Of Life not twice shall blossom; and to be
Young, ’t is to be in heaven, ’t is to be
Full of ambition, filled with hot desire,        95
Pregnant with life, and steeped in such a fire
AS sets a world in hope!—Oh, could I say
That which I would, you could not say me nay.
But let your country plead with you; give heed
To her dumb call; sow the eternal seed        100
Of Truth, and Righteousness, and Love;—though you
Shall be, as poets should, known to but few,
Yet your reward is great: it is to be
Sown in the hearts of men, to make men free;
And in your thoughts to be your land’s firm stay,        105
And her salvation in a falling day,
More than dread cannon, than bright thousands more:
For thoughts, like angels, wage eternal war.


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