Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. V. Nature
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume V. Nature.  1904.
 
V. Trees: Flowers: Plants
Sunrise: A Hymn of the Marshes
Sidney Lanier (1842–1881)
 
[See full text.]

IN my sleep I was fain of their fellowship, fain
Of the live-oak, the marsh and the main.
The little green leaves would not let me alone in my sleep.
Upbreathed from the marshes, a message of range and of sweep.
*        *        *        *        *
I have waked, I have come, my belovèd! I might not abide:        5
I have come ere the dawn, O belovèd! my live-oaks, to hide
    In your gospelling glooms—to be
As a lover in heaven, the marsh my marsh, and the sea my sea.
 
Tell me, sweet burly-barked man-bodied Tree
That mine arms in the dark are embracing, dost know        10
From what fount are these tears at thy feet which flow?
They rise not from reason, but deeper inconsequent deeps.
    Reason ’s not one that weeps.
    What logic of greeting lies
Betwixt dear over-beautiful trees and the rain of the eyes?        15
O cunning green leaves, little masters! like as ye gloss
All the dull-tissued dark with your luminous darks that emboss
The vague blackness of night with pattern and plan,
*        *        *        *        *
    Friendly, sisterly, sweetheart leaves,
Oh! rain me down from your darks that contain me        20
Wisdoms ye winnow from winds that pain me:
Soft down tremors of sweet-within-sweet,
That advise me of more than they bring; repeat
Me the woods-smell that swiftly but now brought health
From the heaven-side bank of the river of death;        25
Teach me the terms of silence, preach me
The passion of patience, sift me, impeach me;
    And there, oh! there,
As ye hang with your myriad palms upturned in the air,
    Pray me a myriad prayer.        30
 
    My gossip, the owl, is it thou
That out of the leaves of the low hanging bough,
As I pass to the beach, art stirred?
Dumb woods, have ye uttered a bird?
Reverend Marsh, low-couched along the sea,        35
Old Chemist, rapt in alchemy.
    Distilling silence, lo!
That which our father-age had died to know,
The menstruum that dissolves all matter—thou
Hast found it; for this silence, filling now        40
The globèd clarity of receiving space,
This solves us all: man, matter, doubt, disgrace,
Death, love, sin, sanity,
Must in your silence, clear solution lie.
Too clear! that crystal nothing who ’ll peruse?        45
The blackest night could bring us brighter news.
Yet precious qualities of silence haunt
Round these vast margins, ministrant.
Oh! if thy soul ’s at latter gasp for space,
With trying to breathe no bigger than thy race        50
Just to be fellowed, when that thou hast found
No man with room or grace enough of bound
To entertain that New thou tell’st, thou art—
’T is here, ’t is here thou canst unhand thy heart
And breathe it freely, and breathe it free        55
By rangy marsh, in lone sea-liberty.
 
The tide ’s at full; the marsh with flooded streams
Glimmers, a limpid labyrinth of dreams.
Each winding creek in grave entrancement lies,
A rhapsody of morning stars. The skies        60
Shine scant with one forked galaxy—
The marsh brags ten; looped on his breast they lie.
 
    Oh! what if a sound should be made!
    Oh! what if a bound should be laid
To this bow-and-string tension of beauty and silence a-spring,        65
To the bend of beauty the bow, or the hold of silence the string!
I fear me, I fear me yon dome of diaphanous gleam
Will break as a bubble o’erblown in a dream,
Yon dome of too tenuous tissues of space and of night,
Overweighted with stars, overfreighted with light,        70
Oversated with beauty and silence, will seem
But a bubble that broke in a dream,
If a bound of degree to this grace be said
    Or a sound or a motion made.
 
But no: it is made; list! somewhere—mystery! where?        75
In the leaves? in the air?
In my heart? is a motion made:
’T is a motion of dawn, like a flicker of shade on shade
In the leaves, ’t is palpable; low multitudinous stirring
Upwinds through the woods; the little ones, softly conferring,        80
Have settled, my lord ’s to be looked for; so; they are still;
But the air and my heart and the earth are a-thrill.
And look where the wild duck sails around the bend of the river;
And look where a passionate shiver
Expectant is bending the blades        85
Of the marsh-grass in serial shimmers and shades;
And invisible wings, fast fleeting, fast fleeting, are beating
The dark overhead as my heart beats; and steady and free
Is the ebb-tide flowing from marsh to sea.
    (Run home, little streams,        90
    With your lapful of stars and dreams),
And a sailor is hoisting a-peak;
For list! down the inshore curve of the creek
    How merrily flutters the sail,
And lo! in the East! Will the East unveil?        95
The East is unveiled, the East has confessed
A flush! ’t is dead! ’t is alive! ’t is dead ere the West
Was aware of it! nay, ’t is abiding, ’t is unwithdrawn!
Have a care, sweet Heaven! ’T is Dawn!
 
Now a dream of a flame through that dream of a flush is uprolled:        100
To the zenith ascending, a dome of undazzling gold
Is builded, in shape as a beehive, from out of the sea;
The hive is of gold undazzling; but oh! the Bee,
    The star-fed Bee, the build-fire Bee,
Of dazzling gold is the great Sun-Bee        105
That shall flash from the hive-hole over the sea.
 
Yet now the dew-drop, now the morning gray
Shall live their little lucid, sober day;
Ere with the Sun their souls exhale away.
Now in each pettiest, personal sphere of dew        110
The summed morn shines complete as in the blue,
Big dew-drop of all Heaven. With these lit shrines
O’er silvered to the furtherest sea-confines,
The sacramental marsh, one pious plain
Of worship lies. Peace to the ante-reign        115
Of Mary Morning, blissful mother mild,
Minded of naught but peace and of a Child.
 
Not slower than Majesty moves, for a mean and a measure
Of motion, not faster than dateless Olympian leisure
Might pace with unblown ample garments from pleasure to pleasure;        120
The wave-serrate sea-rim sinks unjarring, unreeling,
Forever revealing, revealing, revealing,
Edgewise, bladewise, halfwise, wholewise—’t is done!
    Good morrow, lord Sun!
With several voice, with ascription one,        125
The woods and the marsh and the sea and my soul
Unto thee, whence the glittering stream of all morrows doth roll,
Cry good, and past good, and most heavenly morrow, lord Sun!
*        *        *        *        *
 
 
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