Verses From the Canticle of the Road

THE open road and the wind at heel
Who is keen of scent and yelping loud!
Stout heart and bounding blood we feel,
Who follow fancy till day has bowed
Her forehead pure to her evening prayer
And drawn the veil on her wind-blown hair;
Free with the hawk and wind we stride
The open road, for the world is wide
While daylight lasts, and the skies hung high,
And room between for the hawk to fly
With tingling wing and lust of the eye.
Broad morning, blue morning! Oh, jubilant wind!
Lord God, thou hast made our souls to be
Fluent and yearning long, as the sea
Yearns after the moon, and follows her
With boom of waves and sibilant purr,
Round this world and past and o’er
All waste sea-bottoms and curving shore,
Only once more and again to find
The same sea-bottoms and beaten beach,
The same sweet moon beyond his reach
And drawing him onward as before.
Hark, from his covert what a note
The wood-thrush whirls from his kingly throat!
And the bobolink strikes that silver wire
He stole from the archangelic choir,
From a psaltery played beneath the throne
By an amber-eyed angel all alone
He strikes it twice, and deep, deep, deep.
Where the soul of music lies asleep —
The rest of his song he learned, ah me !
From a gay little devil, loose and free,
Making trouble and love in Arcadie.
O Fons Bandusiæ, babbling spring,
From what deep wells come whispering !
What message bringest thou, what spells
From buried mountain oracles,
Thou limpid, lucid mystery ?
Nay, this one thing I read in thee,
That saint or sinner, wise or fool,
Who dips hot lips within thy pool,
Or last or first, or best or worst,
Thou askest only that he thirst,
And givest water pure and cool.
Ragged and dusty, one whose feet
Dragged eastward as my own went west!
What ages since were we addressed,
And the manner of our coming set,
To this event, that we might meet,
And glance, and pass, and then forget ?
Ah, sadder than its toil or strife
Are the winged, uncertain steps of life,
The wonders that mean nothing clear ;
Like sudden stars that glide and shine
A moment in your eyes and mine;
Then darkness there and silence here.
A draught of water from the spring,
An apple from the wayside tree,
A bit of bread for strengthening,
A pipe for grace and policy;
And so, by taking time, to find
A world that’s mainly to one’s mind ;
Some health, some wit in friends a few,
Some high behaviors in their kind,
Some dispositions to be true.
Arthur Colton.