Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Poetry of Rufus Griswold

Since posting my world famous poem, "Five Days", over two years ago now, requests for additional samples of my verse have been pouring in from all over the world.  It is for this reason that I have chosen, for the enlightenment and enjoyment of all, to post the remaining pieces of my extant poetry.

You are welcome.



The summer sun has sunk to rest
     Below the green-clad hills,
And through the skies, careering fast,
The storm-cloud rides upon the blast,
     And now, the rain distils.
The flash we see, the peal we hear
With winds blent in their wild career,
               Till pains the ear.
It is the voice of the Storm-King,
Riding upon the lightning’s wing,
Leading his bannered hosts across the darkened sky,
And drenching with his floods the sterile lands and dry.

The wild beasts to their caverns fly,
     The night-birds flee from heaven;
The dense, black clouds that veil the sky,
Darkening the vast expanse on high,
     By streaming fires are riven.
Again the tempest’s thunder-tone,
The sounds from forests overthrown,
               Like trumpet blown
Deep in the bosom of the storm,
Proclaim His presence, in its form,
Who doth the sceptre of the concave hold,
Who freed the winds, and the vast cloud unrolled.

The storms no more the skies invest,
     The winds are heard no more;
Low in the chambers of the west,
From whence they rose, they’ve sunk to rest—
     The sunset storm is o’er.
The clouds that were so wildly driven
Across the darkened brow of heaven,
               Are gone, and Even
Comes in her mild and sober guise,
Her perfumed air and trembling skies,
And Luna, with her star-gemmed, glorious crown,
From her high throne in heaven, upon the world looks down.



So here, beneath this old gray stone,
Lies hid the light that brightest shown
Upon our green clad mountains, when
Were “tried the souls” of patriot men.
Beneath this soil, from tyrants won,
Repose the ashes of her son,
     The hero of her day of gloom,
Who made the land, (a dreary waste
While under Slavery’s minions placed,)
     Like Eden’s garden bloom.

The mountains were our watch-towers then,
And guarded by right gallant men,
     Who flung their banner to the breeze,
And filled the welkin with their cry,
To win their freedom or to die.
     The sound went booming o’er the seas,
And vassals in the ancient world
     Beheld the broad flags of the free,
     O’er hill and valley, stream and sea,
Like sheets of living flame unfurled.
     They caught the spirit of our sires,
And men, like him who sleeps beneath,
Who knelt to but one victor, Death,
     On Europe’s plains lit Freedom’s fires:
The Switzer and the Tyrolese,
The bondmen of the isles of Greece,
     Woke from the sleep of centuries;
The turbaned Tyrant and the Czar
Saw in the rising of our star
     The fate of old idolatries;
And trembled when an ALLEN smote,
Were he a Pole or Suliote.

“Sir Guy” said tomb would never hold
A chief so restless and so bold
     As thou full oft dids’t prove thyself—
That thou would’st make its cerements start
By some infernal Yankee art,
     And spurn the bonds of Death himself.
But false the prophecy; inurned
Where thy bright share the greensward turned,
When Peace, with garlands crowned, her car
Rode o’er the fields made red by war;
Thy ashes rest in deep repose,
Unawakened by the tramp of foes__
The only reveille to start
Anew to life a soldier’s heart.
They soul, translated from its corse,
Thou sadist would find a mountain horse,
     A spirited and warlike steed
Of matchless form and giant frame,
Snow-white and with an eye of flame,
     A charger of the finest breed,
In which it might “a life” remain
To snuff the air and paw the plain,
Beneath the same clear skies that gave
Light to thy natal place and grave.
     For thou did’st love thy land,
And cared not, maybe, it to barter
For a doubtful title in that quarter,
     Where some think thou wert contraband!

Brave soldier! not a Spartan thou,
     Nor hero of the Roman mould—
We will not deign to deck thy brow
     With wreath worn by men of old.
With famed Thermopylae will vie
The Yankee patriot’s blow at “Ti,”
     And many a border battle-field
Gives challenge to the ancient tome
For deeds that will compare, in Rome.
     An honest heart, and firmly steeled
Against temptations that had moved,
Had life than country been less loved,
     Was thine; and thy own land
Sees in the green-clad hills that rise
In glory to her trembling skies,
     Memorials that will not stand
When thy less perishable name
Is blotted from the scroll of Fame.

New York, May, 1840.



Belshazzar was seated at night in his hall,
And thousands around him obeyed at his call;
In the midst streamed from fountains the ruby red wine,
For the throne of the King was the Bacchanal’s shrine;
When the sentence was written in letters of flame,
‘Thou art weighed and found wanting!’ and splendor and fame
In the balance of Justice were counted as naught—
He was false to himself and his ruin was wrought.

A ruler as strong, the Recluse of Ferney,*
O’er the Empire of Mind held a limitless sway,
And far as the light of Intelligence shone
Still the great and the noble his influence own;
But his soul was a sepulchre, dreary and dim,
And fearful their end all who trusted in him;
Against virtue and truth he unceasingly warred,
He was false to himself and himself he abhorred.

The young and the bold wander forth from their homes;
The student pores over the black-lettered tomes,
The mariner braves, to win silver and gold,
The fierce torrid sun and the terrible cold,
And the soldier, the statesmen, the poet, all pine
On their brows the perennial laurel to twine;
But when all is gained, when the strife is all past,
If false to themselves, oh what win they at last!

The poor man, the fettered, the slave in the mines,
Down deep in the earth where the sun never shines,
Yea, he whom the bigot has doomed to expire
In agony over the slow-mounting fire,
Feels upspringing within him a fountain of joy
Which no pain and no peril can ever destroy;
The world did not give and it cannot divest—
He is true to himself, and by Truth he is blest.

The base, craven-hearted, quail under the blow
The strong give the weak and the proud give the low,
But he who can back on a true spirit fall,
No wrong can excite and no danger appal;
The vision of others is bound by the sky,
But he far beyond it a home can descry,
And he knows that by Truth he its glories shall win—
He who’s false to himself can ne’er enter therein.

Hold fast on thyself! what though perils assail,
And thou standest alone in the pitiless gale,
Thou art lord of one soul, thou art king of one realm,
Which no strong arm can conquer, no wave overwhelm,
That shall last and grow brighter as nations decay,
That shall flourish, still young, when the stars fade away,
If true to thyself, thou thyself dost control—

New York, Oct. 1840.                       *Voltaire.



I SIT beside my window,
   And see the crowds go by,
With joy on every countenance,
   And hope in every eye,
And hear their blended voices,
   In many a shout and song,
Borne by the spring’s soft breezes
   Through all the streets along.

And peering through a lattice
   Of a humble cottage near,
I see a face of beauty,
   Adown which glides a tear,--
A rose amid her tresses
   Tells that she would be gay,
But a thought of some deep sorrow
   Drives every smile away.

She whom I see there weeping,
   Few save myself do know,--
A flower in blooming blighted
   By blasts of keenest wo.
She has a soul so gentle,
   That as a harp it seems,
Which the light airs wake to music
   Like that we hear in dreams.

A common fate is that poor girl’s,
   Which many yet must share,--
In the crowd how little know they
   What griefs its members bear!
One year ago a radiance
   Like sunlight round her played,
Heart felt, eyes spoke of gladness,--
   She was not then betrayed.

There was one of gentle manners,
   Who e’er met her with a smile,
And a voice so full of kindness,
   That she could not deem it guile,
And her trusting heart she gave him,--
   She could give him no more,--
Oh! daughter of the poor man,
   Soon thy dream of bliss was o’er!

‘T were vain to tell the story
   Of fear, hope, and joyous passion;
She forgot her father’s station,
   He forsook the halls of fashion;
She loved him well—he knew it,--
   ‘T was a pleasing interlude,
Fitting to enjoy more keenly
   Scenes the poor might ne’er intrude.

Hark! the sound of music swelling!—
   Now the crowd are rushing by,
Horses prancing, banners flying,
   Shouts ascending to the sky!—
There’s a sea of life beneath me,
   And his form is there,--
For his fearful sin who spurns him?
   On his brow what sign of care?

I see her now—she trembles—
   There is phrensy in her eye;
Her blanched lip is quivering;
   There is no good angel nigh;--
She falls,--the deep toned bugle
   Breaks on the quiet air;
Look to the calm blue heaven—
   That sound—her soul—are there!

In the cavalcade she saw him,
   In his plumes and armor drest,
And more closely to her bosom
   His treasured gifts she prest;
Her eye met his—‘t was finished—
   Not a word by tongue was spoken;
A cold glance—a look of passion—
   And her heart was broken!

How common are such histories,
   In the cottage and the hall;
From prison bars how many eyes
   Look on life’s carnival!
The joys we seek are phantoms
   That fade ere closed the hand
In the dark reached forth to grasp them,
   But the brain receives their brand.

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