Poetry February 1869

Proud Music of the Sea Storm

"Let us go forth in the bold day, and write."

Proud music of the sea-storm!
Blast that careers so free, whistling across the prairies!
Strong hum of forest tree-tops! wind of the mountains!
Personified dim shapes! you hidden orchestras!
You serenades of phantoms, with instruments alert,
Blending, with Nature's rhythmus, all the tongues of nations;
You chords left as by vast composers! you choruses!
You formless, free, religious dances! you from the Orient!
You undertone of rippling waters, rivers, pouring cataracts;
You sounds from distant guns, with galloping cavalry!
Echoes of camps, with all the different bugle-calls!
Trooping tumultuous, filling the midnight late, bending me powerless,
Entering my lonesome slumber-chamber—why have you seized me?


Come forward, O my Soul, and let the rest retire;
Listen—lose not—it is toward thee they tend;
Parting the midnight, entering my slumber-chamber,
For thee they sing and dance, O Soul.

A festival song!
The duet of the bridegroom and the bride—a marriage-march,
With joyous voices—lips of love, and hearts of lovers, fill'd to the brim with love;
The red flush'd cheeks, and perfumes—the cortege swarming, full of friendly faces, young and old,
To flutes' clear notes and sounding harps' cantabile.


Now loud approaching drums!
Victoria! See'st thou in powder-smoke the banners torn but flying? the rout of the baffled?
Hearest those shouts of a conquering army?

(Ah, Soul, the sobs of women—the wounded groaning in agony,
The hiss and crackle of flames—the blacken'd ruins—the embers of cities,
The dirge and desolation of mankind.)


Now the great organ sounds,
Tremulous—while underneath, (as the hid footholds of the earth,
On which arising, rest, and leaping forth, depend,
All shapes of beauty, grace and strength—all hues we know,
Green blades of grass, and warbling birds—children that gambol and play—the clouds of heaven above,)
The strong base stands, and its pulsations intermits not,
Bathing, supporting, merging all the rest—maternity of all the rest;

And with it every instrument in multitudes,
The players playing—all the world's musicians,
The solemn hymns and masses, rousing adoration,
All passionate love-chants, sorrowful appeals,
The measureless sweet vocalists of ages,
And for their solvent setting, Earth's own diapason,
Of winds and woods and mighty ocean waves;
A new composite orchestra—binder of years and climes—tenfold renewer,
As of the far-back days the poets tell—the Paradiso,
The straying thence, the separation long, but now the wandering done,
The journey done, the Journeyman come home,
And Man and Art, with Nature fused again.


Tutti! for Earth and Heaven!
The Almighty Leader now for me, for once, has signall'd with his wand.

The manly strophe of the husbands of the world,
And all the wives responding.

The tongues of violins!
(I think O tongues, ye tell this heart, that cannot tell itself;
This brooding, yearning heart, that cannot tell itself.)


Ah, from a little child,
Thou knowest, Soul, how to me all sounds became music;
My mother's voice, in lullaby or hymn;
(The voice—O tender voices—memory's loving voices!
Last miracle of all—O dearest mother's, sister's, voices;)
The rain, the growing corn, the breeze among the long-leav'd corn,
The measur'd sea-wave beating on the sand,
The twittering bird, the hawk's sharp scream,
The wild-fowl's notes at night, as flying low, migrating north or south,
The psalm in the country church, or mid the clustering trees,
The fiddler in the tavern—the glee, the long-strung sailor-song,
The lowing cattle, bleating sheep—the crowing cock at dawn.


Now airs antique and mediaeval fill me!
I see and hear old harpers with their harps, at. Welsh festivals;
I hear the minnesingers, and their lays of love,
I hear the minstrels, gleemen, troubadours, of the feudal ages.


Above, below, the songs of current lands;
The German airs of friendship, wine and love,
The plaintive Irish ballads, merry jigs and dances—English warbles,
Chansons of France, Scotch tunes—and over all,
Italia's peerless compositions.

Across the stage, with pallor on her face, yet lurid passion,
Stalks Norma, brandishing the dagger in her hand.

I see poor crazed Lucia's eyes' unnatural gleam;
Her hair down her back falls loose and dishevell'd.

I see where Ernani, walking the bridal garden,
Amid perfumes of night-roses, radiant, holding his bride by the hand,
Hears the infernal call, the death-pledge of the horn.

To crossing swords, and gray hairs bared to heaven,
The clear, electric base and baritone of the world,
The trombone duo—Libertad forever!

From Spanish chestnut-trees' dense shade,
By old and heavy convent walls, a wailing song,
Song of lost love—the torch of youth and life quench'd in despair,
Song of the dying swan—Fernando's heart is breaking.

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