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Ellery Channing

Selected Poems


A dropping show of spray,
   Filled with a beam of light,--
The breath of some soft day,--
   The groves by wan moonlight,--
      Some rivers flow,
      Some falling snow,
Some bird's swift flight.

A summer field o'erstrown
   With gay and laughing flowers,
And shepherd's clocks half blown,
   That tell the merry hours,--
      The waving grain,
      The spring soft rain,--
Are these things ours?
The Dial, III, 1

The Earth Spirit

Then spoke the Spirit of the Earth,
    Her gentle voice like a soft water's song--
None from my loins have ever birth,
    But what to joy and love belong;
Ifaithful am, and give to thee
Blessings great, and give them free.
I have woven shrouds of air
    In a loom of hurrying light,
For the trees which blossoms bear,
    And gilded them with sheets of bright;
I fall upon the grass like love's first kiss,
I make the golden flies and their fine bliss.
    I paint the hedge-rows in the lane,
And clover white and red the pathways bear,
    I laugh aloud in sudden gusts of rain,
To see the ocean lash himself in air;
I throw smooth shells and weeds along the beach,
And pour the curling waves far o'er the glassy reach;
Swing birds' nests in the elms, and shake cool moss
Along the aged beams and hide their loss.
The very broad rough stones I gladden too;
    Some willing seeds I drop along their sides,
Nourish the generous plant with freshening dew,
    Till there, where all was waste, true joy abides.
The peaks of aged mountains, with my care
    Smile in the red of glowing morn elate;
I bind the caverns of the sea with hair,
    Glossy, and long, and rich as king's estate;
I polish the green ice, and gleam the wall
With the white frost, and leaf the brown trees tall.

'T was so--t'was thine. Earth! thou waste true:
    I kneel, thy grateful child, I kneel,
Thy full forgiveness for my sins I sue,
    My mother! learn thy child can think and feel.
Mother dear! wilt pardon one
    Who loved not the generous sun,
Nor thy seasons loved to hear
Singing to the busy year--
Thee neglected--shut his heart
In thy being had no part?

Mother dear! I list thy song
In the autumn eve along;
Now thy chill airs round the day
And leave me my time to pray.
Mother dear! The day must come,
When I, thy child, shall make my home,
My long, last home amid the grass,
Over which thy warm hands pass.
Ah me! do let me lie
Gently on thy breast to die;
I know my prayers iwll reach thy ear,
    Thou art with me while I ask,
Nor a child refuse to hear,
    Who would learn his little task.
Let me take my part with thee
    In the gray clouds, or thy light,
Laugh with thee upon the sea
,     Or idle on the land by night.
In the trees I will with thee,
In the flowers, like any bee.

I feel it shall be so. We are not born
    To sink our finer feelings in the dust;
And better to the grave with feelings torn,
    So in our step strides truth and honest trust
In the great love of things, than to be slaves
    To forms, whose ringing sides each stroke we give
Stamps with a hollower want. Yes, to our graves
    Hurry, before we in the heavens' look live,
Strangers to our best thoughts, and fearing men,
And fearing death, and to be born again.
The Dial, III, 1

The River

There is an inward voice, that in the stream
Sends forth its spirit to the listening ear,
And in a calm content it floweth on,
Like wisdom, welcome with its own respect.
Clear in its breast lie all these beauteous thoughts.
It doth receive the green and graceful trees,
And the gray rocks smile in its peaceful arms,
And over all floats a serenest blue,
Which the mild heaven sheds down on it like rain.
O fair, sweet stream, thy undisturbed repose
Me beckons to thy front, and thou vexed world,
Thou other turbulent sphere where I have swelt,
Diminished into distance touch'st no more

My feelings here, than does the swaying soft,
(Made by the delicate wave parted in front,
As through the gentle element we move
Like shadows gliding through untroubled realms,)
Disturb these lily circles, these white bells.
And yet on thee shall wind come fiercely down,
Hail pelt thee with dull words, ice bind thee up;
And yet again when the fierce rage is o'er,
O smiling river, shalt thou smile once more,
And, as it were, even in thy depths revere
The sage security thy nature wears.
The Dial, III


We are centered deeper far
Than the eye of any star,
Nor can rays of long sunlight
Thread a ace of our delight.
In thy form I see the day
Burning, of a kingdom higher,
In thy seilver net-work play
Thoughts that to the Gods aspire;
In thy cheek I see the flame
Of the studious taper burn,
And thy Grecian eye might tame
Nature's ashes in antique urn;
Yet with this lofty element
Flows a pure stream of gentle kindness,
And thou to life thy strength hast lent,
And borne profoundest tenderness
In thy Promethean fearless arm,
With mercy's love that would all angels charm.

So trembling meek, so proudly strong,
Thou dost to higher worlds belong,
Than where I sing this empty song:
Yet I, a thing of mortal kind,
Can kneel before thy pathless mind,
And see in thee what my mates say
Sank o'er Judea's hills one crimson day.
Yet flames on high the keen Greek fire,
And later ages rarifies,
And even on my tuneless lyre
A faint, wan beam of radiance dies.
And might I saw what I have thought
Of thee, and those I love to-day,
Then had the world an echo caught
Of that intense, impassioned lay,
which sung in those thy being sings,
And from the deepest ages rings.

Hymn of the Earth

My highway is unfeatured air,
My consorts are the sleepless Stars,
And men, my giant arms upbear,
My arms unstained and free from scars.

I rest forever on my way,
Rolling around the happy Sun.
My children love the sunny day,
But noon and night to me are one.

My ehart has pulses like their own,
I am their Mother, and my veins
Though built of the enduring stone,
Thrill as do theirs with godlike pains.

The forests and the mountains high,
The foaming ocean and the springs,
The plains--O pleasant Company,
My voice through all your anthem rings.

Ye are so cheerful in yoru minds,
Content to smile, content to share,
My being in your Chorus finds,
The echo of the spheral air.

No leaf may fall, no pebble roll,
No drop of water lose the road,
The issues of the general Soul
Are mirrored in its round abode.


I love the universe--I love the joy
Of every living thing. Be mind the sure
Felicity, which ever shall endure;
While passion whirls the madmen, as they toy,
To hate, I would my simple being warm
In the calm pouring sun; and in that pure
And motionless silence, ever would employ
My best true powers, without a thought's annoy.
See and be glad! O high imperial race,
Dwarfing the common attitude of strength,
Learn that ye stand on an unshaken base;
Your powers iwll carry you to any length.
Up! earnestly feel the gentle sunset beams;
Be glad in woods, o'er sands; by marsh, or streams.


Within the unpainted cottage dwell
    The spirits of serene content,
As clear as from its moss-grown well
    Rises the crystal element.

Above, the elm, whose trunk is scarred
    With many a dint of stormy weather,
Rises, a sumptuous screen, debarred
    Of nothing that links life together.

Our common life may gratify
    More feelings than the rarest art,
For nothing can aspire so high
    As beatings of the human heart.

O! value then thy daily cheer,
    Poor pensioner on nature's store,
And clasp the least, and hold most dear
    What seemeth small, and add the more.

A Poet's Hope

Flying--flying beyond all lower regions,
Beyong the light called day, and night's repose,
Where the untrammelled soul, on her wind-pinions
Fearlessly sweeping, defies my earthly woes--
There--there, upon that infinitest sea,
Lady, thy hope--so fair a hope, summons me.

Fall off, ye garments of my misty weather,
Drop from my eyes, ye scales of time's applying;
Am I not godlike? meet not here together
A past and future infinite, defying,

The cold, still, callous moment of to-day? Am I not master of the calm alway?

Would I could summon from the deep, deep mine,
Glutted with shapely jewels, glittering bright,
One echo of that splendor, call it thine,
And weave it in the strands of living light;
For it is in me, and the sea smiles fair,
And thitherward I rage, on whirling air.

Unloose me, demons of dull care and wants,
I will not stand your slave, I am your king;
Think not within your meshes vile I pant
For the wild liberty of an unclipt wing;
My empire is myself, and I defy
The external; yes! I rule the whole, or die.

All music that the fullest breeze can play
In its melodious whisperings in the wood,
All modulations which entrance the day
And deify a sunlight solitude;
All anthems that the wves sing to the ocean
Are mind for song, and yield to myd evotion.

And mind the soft glaze of a loving eye,
And mine the pure shapes of the human form,
And mine the bitterest sorrow's witchery,
And spells enough to make a snow-king warm;
For an undying hope thou breathest me--
Hope which can ride th etossing, foaming sea.

Lady, there is a hope that all men have,
Some mercy for their faults, a grassy place
To rest in, and a flower-strown, gentle grave;
Another hope with purifies our race,
That when that fearful bourne forever past,
They may find rest--and rest so long to last.

I seek it not, I ask not rest for ever,
My path is onward to the farthest shores--
Upbear me in yoru arms, unceasing river,
That from the soul's clear fountain swiftly pours,
Motionless not, until the end is won,
Which now I feel hath scarcely felt the sun.

To feel, to know, to soar unlimited,
Mid throngs of light-winged angels sweeping far,
And pore upon the realms unvisited,
That tesselate the unseen unthought star,
To be the thing that now I feebly dream
Flashing within my faintest, deepest gleam.

Ah! caverns of my soul! how think your shade,
Where flows that life by which I faintly see--
Wave your bright torches, fo I need your aid,
Golden-eyed demonds of my ancestry!
Your son though blinded hath a light within,
A heavenly fire which ye from suns did win.

And, lady, in thy hope my lfie will rise
Like the air-voyager, till I upbear
These heavy curtains of my film eyes,
Into a lighter, more celestial air;
A mortal's hope shall bear me safely on,
Till I the higher region shall have won.

O Time! O death! I clasp you in my arms,
For I can soothe an infinite cold sorrow,
And gaze contented on your icy charms,
And that iwld snow-pile, which we call to-morrow;
Sweep on, O soft, and azure-lidded sky,
Earth's waters to your gentle gaze reply.

I am not earth-born, though I here delay;
Hope's child, I summon infiniter powers,
And laugh to see the mild and sunny day
Smile on the shrunk and thin autumnal hours;
I laugh, for hope hath happy place to me,
If my bark sinks, 'tis to another sea.

For a Wood Scene in Winter

Around this spot the trees have fallen,- the path
Leads its rude way o'er the decaying trunks
Of prostrate pines. Above, against the sky,
A massy wall of splintered rock soars up,
Once gay with those green plants that smile in shade,
The broad-leaved ferns. How still it is, - how lone.
You seem to hear the silence whispering - hush!
But in the spring I heard, as here I stood,
A loud and hissing stream, and in the fall
The wind plies its wild fingers, and plucks off
The sere and crimson foliage of the ash.
Life's winter, like the silent season, mute,
Crowned by a wreath of snow as white as this,
That hangs so loosely on the leafless trees,
Like this calm place still brightens in the sun;
And winter should be dear to man, as he
In his most venerable aspect, this
Does imitate.

The Restless Mind

        By the bleak wild hill,
        Or the deep lake still
,         In the silent grain
        On the upland plain,
I would that the unsparing Storm might rage,
And blot with gloom the fair day's sunny page.

        The lightning's gleam
        Should gentle seem,
        The thunder's blow
        Both soft and low,
For now the world hath fill of summer weather,
Ye shining days thy throng you thus together.

        I am possesst
        With strange Unrest,
        My feelings jar.
        My heart is war,
A spirit dances in my dreams to-day.
I am too cold, for its strange, sunny play.

        Then hurry down
        With angry frown,
        Thou sudden storm
        come fierce and warm,
And splinter trees and whistle o'er the moor,
For in thy Bravery I can life endure.

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