The Poet to His Readers
Nay, blame me not; I might have spared
Your patience many a trivial verse,
Yet these my earlier welcome shared,
So let the better shield the worse.
And some might say, — “Those ruder songs
Had freshness which the new have lost:
To spring the opening leaf belongs,
The chestnut-burrs await the frost.”
When those I wrote, my locks were brown;
When these I write—ah, well-a-day!
The autumn thistle’s silvery down
Is not the purple bloom of May!
Go, little book, whose pages hold
Those garnered years in loving trust;
How long before your blue and gold
Shall fade and whiten in the dust?
O sexton of the alcoved tomb,
Where souls in leathern cerements lie,
Tell me each living poet’s doom!
How long before his book shall die?
It matters little, soon or late,
A day, a month, a year, an age, —
I read oblivion in its date,
And Finis on its title-page.
Before we sighed, our griefs were told;
Before we smiled, our joys were sung;
And all our passions shaped of old
In accents lost to mortal tongue.
In vain a fresher mould we seek:
Can all the varied phrases tell,
That Babel’s wandering children speak,
How thrushes sing or lilacs smell?
Caged in the poet’s lonely heart,
Love wastes unheard its tenderest tone;
The soul that sings must dwell apart,
Its inward melodies unknown.
Deal gently with us, ye who read!
Our largest hope is unfulfilled, —
The promise still outruns the deed, —
The tower, but not the spire, we build.
Our whitest pearl we never find;
Our ripest fruit we never reach;
The flowering moments of the mind
Drop half their petals in our speech.
These are my blossoms; if they wear
One streak of morn or evening’s glow,
Accept them; but to me more fair
The buds of song that never blow.