And then a revelation came, In subtle, sudden, lovely guise, Like one of those soft mysteries Of Indian jugglers, who evoke A flower for you out of smoke.
I knew sheer beauty without soul Could never be perfection's goal, Nor satisfy the seeking mind With all it longs for and must find One day. The lovely things that haunt Our senses with an aching want, And move our souls, are like the fair Lost garments of a soul somewhere.
Nature is naught, if not the veil Of some great good that must prevail And break in joy, as woods of spring Break into song and blossoming.
But what makes that great goodness start Within ourselves? When leaps the heart With gladness, only then we know Why lovely Nature travails so,-- Why art must persevere and pray In her incomparable way.
In all the world the only worth Is human happiness; its dearth The darkest ill. Let joyance be, And there is G.o.d's sufficiency,-- Such joy as only can abound Where the heart's comrade has been found.
That was my thought. And then the sea Broke in upon my revery With clamorous beauty,--the superb Eternal noun that takes no verb But love. The heaven of dove-like blue Bent o'er the azure, round and true As magic sphere of crystal gla.s.s, Where faith sees plain the pageant pa.s.s Of things unseen. So I beheld The sheer sky-arches domed and belled, As if the sea were the very floor Of heaven where walked the G.o.ds of yore In Plato's imagery, and I Uplifted saw their pomps go by.
The House of s.p.a.ce and time grew tense As if with rapture's imminence, When truth should be at last made clear, And the great worth of life appear; While I, a worshipper at the shrine, For very longing grew divine, Borne upward on earth's ecstasy, And welcomed by the boundless sky.
A mighty prescience seemed to brood Over that tenuous solitude Yearning for form, till it became Vivid as dream and live as flame, Through magic art could never match, The vision I have tried to catch,-- All earth's delight and meaning grown A lyric presence loved and known.
How otherwise could time evolve Young courage, or the high resolve, Or gladness to a.s.suage and bless The soul's austere great loneliness, Than by providing her somehow With sympathy of hand and brow, And bidding her at last go free, Companioned through eternity?
So there appeared before my eyes, In a beloved, familiar guise, A vivid, questing human face In profile, scanning heaven for grace, Up-gazing there against the blue With eyes that heaven itself shone through; The lips soft-parted, half in prayer, Half confident of kindness there; A brow like Plato's made for dream In some immortal Academe, And tender as a happy girl's; A full dark head of cl.u.s.tered curls Round as an emperor's, where meet Repose and ardor, strong and sweet, Distilling from a mind unmarred The glory of her rapt regard.
So eager Mary might have stood, In love's adoring att.i.tude, And looked into the angel's eyes With faith and fearlessness, all wise In soul's unfaltering innocence, Sure in her woman's supersense Of things only the humble know.
My vision looks forever so.
In other years when men shall say, "What was the painter's meaning, pray?
Why all this vast of sea and s.p.a.ce, Just to enframe a woman's face?"
Here is the pertinent reply, "What better use for earth and sky?"
The great archangel pa.s.sed that way Illuming life with mystic ray.
Not Lippo's self nor Raphael Had lovelier, realer things to tell Than I, beholding far away How all the melting rose and gray Upon the purple sea-line leaned About that head that intervened.
How real was she? Ah, my friend, In art the fact and fancy blend Past telling. All the painter's task Is with the glory. Need we ask The tulips breaking through the mould To their untarnished age of gold, Whence their ideals were derived That have so gloriously survived?
Flowers and painters both must give The hint they have received, to live,-- Spend without stint the joy and power That lurk in each propitious hour,-- Yet leave the why untold--G.o.d's way.
My sketch is all I have to say.
The Winged Victory
Thou dear and most high Victory, Whose home is the unvanquished sea, Whose fluttering wind-blown garments keep The very freshness, fold, and sweep They wore upon the galley's prow, By what unwonted favor now Hast thou alighted in this place, Thou Victory of Samothrace?
O thou to whom in countless lands With eager hearts and striving hands Strong men in their last need have prayed, Greatly desiring, undismayed, And thou hast been across the fight Their consolation and their might, Withhold not now one dearer grace, Thou Victory of Samothrace!
Behold, we, too, must cry to thee, Who wage our strife with Destiny, And give for Beauty and for Truth Our love, our valor and our youth.
Are there no honors for these things To match the pageantries of kings?
Are we more laggard in the race Than those who fell at Samothrace?
Not only for the bow and sword, O Victory, be thy reward!
The hands that work with paint and clay In Beauty's service, shall not they Also with mighty faith prevail?
Let hope not die, nor courage fail, But joy come with thee pace for pace, As once long since in Samothrace.
Grant us the skill to shape the form And spread the color living-warm, (As they who wrought aforetime did), Where love and wisdom shall lie hid, In fair impa.s.sioned types, to sway The cohorts of the world to-day, In Truth's eternal cause, and trace Thy glory down from Samothrace.
With all the ease and splendid poise Of one who triumphs without noise, Wilt thou not teach us to attain Thy sense of power without strain, That we a little may possess Our souls with thy sure loveliness,-- That calm the years cannot deface, Thou Victory of Samothrace?
Then in the ancient, ceaseless war With infamy, go thou before!
Amid the shoutings and the drums Let it be learned that Beauty comes, Man's matchless Paladin to be, Whose rule shall make his spirit free As thine from all things mean or base, Thou Victory of Samothrace.
The Gate of Peace
Ah, who will build the city of our dream, Where beauty shall abound and truth avail, With patient love that is too wise for strife, Blending in power as gentle as the rain With the reviving earth on full spring days?
Who now will speed us to its gate of peace, And rea.s.sure us on our doubtful road?
Three centuries ago a fearless man, Yearning to set his people in the way, Threw all his royal might into a plan To found an ideal city that should give Freedom to every instinct for the best, From humblest impulse in his own domain To rumored wisdom from the world's far ends.
Strengthened with ardor from a high resolve, Beneath the patient smile of Indian skies This fair dream flourished for a score of years, Until the blight of evil touched its bloom With fading, and transformed its vivid life Into a ghost-flower of its fair design.
Now ruined nursery tower and gay boudoir, A sad custodian of sacred tombs, And scattered feathers from the purple wings Of doves who reign in undisputed calm Over this Eden of hope and fair essay, Recall the valor of this ancient quest.
Great Akbar,--grandfather of Shah Jehan, The artist Emperor of India Who built the Taj for love of one held dear Beyond all other women in the world, And left that loveliest memorial, The most supreme of wonders wrought by man, To move for very joy all hearts to tears Beholding how great beauty springs from love,-- Akbar the wisest ruler over Ind, Grandson of Babar in whose veins were mixed The blood of Tamerlane and Chinghiz Khan, Who beat the Afghans and the Rajputs down At Paniput and Buxar in Bengal, Making himself the lord of Hindustan, And with his restless Tartars founded there The Mogul empire with its Moslem faith, Its joyousness, enlightenment, and art,-- Akbar of all the sovereigns of the East Is still most deeply loved and gladly praised.
For he who conquered with so strong a hand Cabul, Kashmir, and Kandahar, and Sind, Oudh and Orissa, Chitor and Ajmir, With all their wealth to weld them into one, Upholding justice with his sovereignty Throughout his borders and imposing peace, Was first and last a seeker after truth.
No craven unlaborious truce he sought, But that great peace which only comes with light, Emerging after chaos has been quelled In some long struggle of enduring will, To be a proof of order and of law, Which cannot rest on falsehood nor on wrong, But spreads like generous sunshine on the earth When goodness has been gained and truth made clear, At whatsoe'er incalculable cost.
Returning once with his victorious arms And war-worn companies on the homeward march To Agra and his court's magnificence, From a campaign against some turbulent folk, He came at evening to a quiet place Near Sikri by the roadside through the woods, Where there were many doves among the trees.
There Salim Chisti a holy man had made His lonely dwelling in the wilderness, Seeking perfection. And the solitude Was sweet to Akbar, and he halted there And went to Salim in his lodge and said, "O man and brother, thy long days are spent In meditation, seeking for the path Through this great world's impediments to peace, Here in the twilight with the holy stars Or when the rose of morning breaks in gold; Tell me, I pray, whence comes the gift of peace With all its blessings for a people's need, And how may true tranquillity be found On which man's restless spirit longs to rest?"
And Salim answered, "Lord, most readily In Allah's out-of-doors, for there men live More truly, being free from false constraint, For learning wisdom with a calmer mind.
For they who would find peace must conquer fear And ignorance and greed,--the ravagers Of spirit, mind, and sense,--and learn to live Content beneath the shade of Allah's hand.
Who worships not his own will shall find peace."
Then Akbar answered, "I have set my heart On making beauty, truth, and justice shine As the ordered stars above the darkened earth.
Are not these also things to be desired, And striven for with no uncertain toil?
And save through them whence comes the gift of peace?"
Then Salim smiled, and with his finger drew In the soft dust before his door, and said, "O king, thy words are true, thy heart most wise.
Thou also shalt find peace, as Allah wills, Through following bravely what to thee seems best.
When any question, 'What is peace?' reply, 'The shelter of the Gate of Paradise, The shadow of the archway, not the arch, Within whose shade at need the poor may rest, The weary be refreshed, the weak secure, And all men pause to gladden as they go.'"
And Akbar pondered Salim Chisti's words.
Then turning to his ministers, he said, "Here will I build my capital, and here The world shall come unto a council hall, And in a place of peace pursue the quest Of wisdom and the finding out of truth, That there be no more discord upon earth, But only knowledge, beauty, and good will."
And it was done according to Akbar's word.
There in the wilderness as by magic rose Futtehpur Sikri, the victorious city, Of marble and red sandstone among the trees, A rose unfolding in the kindling dawn.
Palace and mosque and garden and serai, Bazaars and baths and s.p.a.cious pleasure grounds, By favor of Allah to perfection sprang.
Thus Akbar wrought to make his dream come true.
From the four corners of the world he brought His master workmen, from Iran and Ind, From wild Mongolia and the Arabian wastes; Masons from Bagdad, Delhi, and Multan; Dome builders from the North, from Samarkand; Cunning mosaic workers from Kanauj; And carvers of inscriptions from Shiraz; And they all labored with endearing skill, Each at his handicraft, to make beauty be.
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