Nonfiction > E.C. Stedman & E.M. Hutchinson, eds. > A Library of American Literature > 1861–1889
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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps.  A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes.  1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889
 
To a Comrade
By Harrison Smith Morris (1856–1948)
 
[Born in Philadelphia, Penn., 1856. Died there, 1948.]

J. A. H., Obiit 14 March, 1889.

I.
THE LEAVES have come—he comes not—he is dead.
  The bugle winds of April blow their note;
The little buds dance in with dewy head
And curtsy to their lover where they spread;
  The robin fills her throat,        5
  Making the customed answer to his oat,
But he—alas! his fingered airs are fled!
 
II.
He knew to gather lyrics from the leaves
  And breathe their sweetness through the quiet closes,
  And knew the rustled converse of the roses        10
About the edges of the country eaves;
  And where the dappled sunlight dozes,
And where the ditties wake the sheaves,
  The silence lulled him into long reposes
And happy world-reprieves.        15
 
III.
Born was he for the uplands where the sun
  And morning hill-tops meet,
Where breezes through the yellow barley run
  With dimpling feet;
  His heart went thither, though he trod the street.        20
He left his toil undone
  To listen to the runnel eddies fleet—
He better loved the reveries won
  In some old tree-retreat,
  The mid-bough twitter and the homeward bleat,        25
And twilight village fun.
 
IV.
But tyrant toil is harsh with what it owns,
  Nor lets the prodigal forget
  His penitential debt;
And, late, his merry music ebbed in moans.        30
  Who loved the noonday minuet
  Of sun and shadow forest-met,
  The freshened herbage bending in the wet
And birds in thicket-wones—
Who touched his pipe to a thousand tender tones—        35
  He passed us woe-beset!
 
V.
Song slept within him like the winter buds
  That wait the under whisper of the year,
  Then break the crumbling loam and reappear
And work a beauty in the naked woods.        40
He waited, oh, how long! for happier moods,
And walked the city’s peopled roods,
  With music at his ear:
  With murmur of the leaves he loved to hear
In day-long solitudes—        45
  But songs that should have made his presence dear,
And purchased love and long beatitudes,
  Like early blossoms drenched with many a tear
  Lay withered on his bier.
 
VI.
The memories are full, the years are few,
        50
  That bound us into comradeship complete.
  We came together in the rainy street
At night, nor either knew
How close the current of our being drew,
  How wide the circles rippling from our feet.        55
It was as if a pair of leaves that grew
Bough-neighbors ere the severing autumn blew
  Had come again to meet,
And, finding solace in each other, knew
  Remembrance of the far-off summer sweet.        60
 
VII.
We made a bond of song—we made us nights
Arustle with the buskined forest flights,
  And pipe-réveillés of the Doric days.
  We found our attic full of arching ways—
Or, bound afield, beheld the sights        65
Embalmed in old poetic rites,
  And saw the slender dances of the fays.
 
VIII.
For he was learnèd in all leafy books
  And knew the winding region of romance;
His fingers fitted to the olden reeds;        70
And, when the music eddied, in his looks
  Came vision of the wood, the circled dance,
And all the secret sweetness of the deeds
By forest brooks.
His riches were an idle dreamer’s meeds;        75
But yet he gave his best for others’ needs,
And nurtured with his love the seeds
Of worth grown up in sordid city nooks.
 
IX.
And, last, his music ebbed. He trod the street,
  Pursuing hopes of melancholy made:        80
  The lights that ever seem to fade
And leave the midnight darker by retreat.
  The quiet counsel of the trees
He heeded not, nor sought the country peace,
  But, like a quarry goaded—like a shade        85
Swept on in darkness, all his being beat
  In maddened seas
Headlong against the granite of defeat.
  He trusted not, but made
  Foemen of guardian laws that give us aid        90
  And lost his treasured music in the breeze.
 
X.
So like a sheaf, wherein young birds have learned
  Their matin music ere the grain be eared
And glancing sickles go abroad the field,
He lay storm-broken. Fame, that would have turned        95
With but a little wooing, could but yield
  A chaplet of her young leaves seared.
  And he who was to earth endeared
By tendril loves that clasped him like a vine;
Who held her soil as something sweet and fine;        100
  And loved her still, though severed from her long—
He lies, in union grown divine,
  Within her bosom, whence a flower-flight,
  Sole guerdon of his dreams of day and night,
  Springs from his seeds of song.

  The Literary World. 1889.
        105
 
 
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