Seven Sonnets


FOR seven years immersed in fires of sweetness
I lived beside his manhood in its prime,
And saw the immortal life at home in time,
And the bright beauty of our incompleteness.
O bright mortality, O free surrender!
The brave eternal friendly with the flesh;
A little bruised and tangled in the mesh,
But with a bearing toward it gay and tender.
Breath of that time is beauty of this morning,
The sun and color on these hills of home;
As if his thought, of living through the loam,
Had passed the finite, with a tranquil scorning,
And on these hills and mornings it is he,
Present in aspects of eternity.


When I am bowed with lifting up my loving,
One and another of the words he said,
Out of their transient sense, as out from shade,
Are drawn, as by a shaft of sunlight moving;
And for my use become a touch, a motion,
That bears upon this brimming life of death.
I hear them with his warm and human breath
Sounding the syllables; and yet that ocean,
The infinite, sends murmurs sounding through them,
Murmurs and meanings of a boundless kind,
That call and answer in the depths of mind,
As if, from the beginning, thus I knew them.
These, with their echoes widening, release
Time’s passive pain to infinite live peace.


In my first holidays, when I had known him
Three starry months, one snowy golden day
The doorbell rang where I had gone to stay,
And in the parlor where my host had shown him,
I, running down the stairs all bathed in gladness,
Received the package that had made him come,
And heard him say, ‘When are you coming home?'
No sorrow ever known can throw a sadness
On that bright sudden thrilling gush of pleasure;
His sweet, warm, careless camaraderie,
The loving-kindness of his courtesy.
I took it with me, as a bliss and treasure,
Up a bright hill, walking I knew not where.
I heard it all day in the golden air.


How words will deepen in a deepening season!
I am quite well, I always have been strong,
I shall not die soon, yet I am not young.
I used to think of death as a great treason;
And oh, how quaint that seems, in this strange summer.
When if I feel all day from death removed,
I fast turn homesick for the newly loved
Country where I am now a constant comer.
And yet when death begins to fold and cord me
For portage, I shall wince perhaps and fear?
Not very long, when from all sides I hear
Infinite tones of his voice sounding toward me,
’When are you coming home?’ When shall I come,
I, to whom that place where you are is home?


Fleeting mementoes, lost, the larger number,
To waking memory; not to waking life,
Beneath which, far beneath its tremor and strife,
Move the calm powers and swiftnesses of slumber.
Do these sustain, with deep-sea floods of being,
The topmost tossing of the busy mind —
The waves of sense that run before the wind
Till, sinking through themselves, and inward fleeing,
They leave the glittering height, the fluttering motion,
Precarious identity of wave,
And feel their life expanding in the grave
Toward the secure vast magnitudes of ocean?
I only know the intimations throng
Sometimes by day, and sometimes all night long.


Play on my life, now, dearest, with your fingers,
Since now I shoulder these familiar cares,
Enter the house, go up and down the stairs
Where now your step, my darling, no more lingers.
Touch with bright hands our life of crowded striving;
Bright beauty of your liberation, reach
Beyond us in the children whom we teach,
And light in them the loveliness of living.
What Dante knew when Beatrice found him,
When, though his mortal tumult blustered on,
Deep into Paradise they two had gone,
And all his earthly felt the unearthly round him —
Let such sweet wonder, little understood,
Be sweet within our flesh, beyond our blood.


O other love, O fond and yearning kindness,
My life turns closing toward more and more;
Sweetness of home, beloved so long before,
But always then with strange and careless blindness,
I know you now by dreams and intimations;
By wordless insight running past my thought,
The spirit of your form my own has sought
And found direct by instant penetrations.
In deeps of sleep I know how one, how only,
The forms of loving form a single bliss.
One vital breathing of the sense of this,
And life is fixed beyond where death makes lonely.
What sound, what light, is like the engulfing of
Identity and circumstance by love?
E. L.