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Juvenilia, An Ode to Natural Beauty

Juvenilia, An Ode to Natural Beauty - Alan Seeger

 There is a power whose inspiration fills 
Nature's fair fabric, sun- and star-inwrought, 
Like airy dew ere any drop distils, 
Like perfume in the laden flower, like aught 
Unseen which interfused throughout the whole 
Becomes its quickening pulse and principle and soul. 
Now when, the drift of old desire renewing, 
Warm tides flow northward over valley and field, 
When half-forgotten sound and scent are wooing 
From their deep-chambered recesses long sealed 
Such memories as breathe once more 
Of childhood and the happy hues it wore, 
Now, with a fervor that has never been 
In years gone by, it stirs me to respond, -- 
Not as a force whose fountains are within 
The faculties of the percipient mind, 
Subject with them to darkness and decay, 
But something absolute, something beyond, 
Oft met like tender orbs that seem to peer 
From pale horizons, luminous behind 
Some fringe of tinted cloud at close of day; 
And in this flood of the reviving year, 
When to the loiterer by sylvan streams, 
Deep in those cares that make Youth loveliest, 
Nature in every common aspect seems 
To comment on the burden in his breast -- 
The joys he covets and the dreams he dreams -- 
One then with all beneath the radiant skies 
That laughs with him or sighs, 
It courses through the lilac-scented air, 
A blessing on the fields, a wonder everywhere. 

Spirit of Beauty, whose sweet impulses, 
Flung like the rose of dawn across the sea, 
Alone can flush the exalted consciousness 
With shafts of sensible divinity -- 
Light of the World, essential loveliness: 
Him whom the Muse hath made thy votary 
Not from her paths and gentle precepture 
Shall vulgar ends engage, nor break the spell 
That taught him first to feel thy secret charms 
And o'er the earth, obedient to their lure, 
Their sweet surprise and endless miracle, 
To follow ever with insatiate arms. 
On summer afternoons, 
When from the blue horizon to the shore, 
Casting faint silver pathways like the moon's 
Across the Ocean's glassy, mottled floor, 
Far clouds uprear their gleaming battlements 
Drawn to the crest of some bleak eminence, 
When autumn twilight fades on the sere hill 
And autumn winds are still; 
To watch the East for some emerging sign, 
Wintry Capella or the Pleiades 
Or that great huntsman with the golden gear; 
Ravished in hours like these 
Before thy universal shrine 
To feel the invoked presence hovering near, 
He stands enthusiastic. Star-lit hours 
Spent on the roads of wandering solitude 
Have set their sober impress on his brow, 
And he, with harmonies of wind and wood 
And torrent and the tread of mountain showers, 
Has mingled many a dedicative vow 
That holds him, till thy last delight be known, 
Bound in thy service and in thine alone. 

I, too, among the visionary throng 
Who choose to follow where thy pathway leads, 
Have sold my patrimony for a song, 
And donned the simple, lowly pilgrim's weeds. 
From that first image of beloved walls, 
Deep-bowered in umbrage of ancestral trees, 
Where earliest thy sweet enchantment falls, 
Tingeing a child's fantastic reveries 
With radiance so fair it seems to be 
Of heavens just lost the lingering evidence 
From that first dawn of roseate infancy, 
So long beneath thy tender influence 
My breast has thrilled. As oft for one brief second 
The veil through which those infinite offers beckoned 
Has seemed to tremble, letting through 
Some swift intolerable view 
Of vistas past the sense of mortal seeing, 
So oft, as one whose stricken eyes might see 
In ferny dells the rustic deity, 
I stood, like him, possessed, and all my being, 
Flooded an instant with unwonted light, 
Quivered with cosmic passion; whether then 
On woody pass or glistening mountain-height 
I walked in fellowship with winds and clouds, 
Whether in cities and the throngs of men, 
A curious saunterer through friendly crowds, 
Enamored of the glance in passing eyes, 
Unuttered salutations, mute replies, -- 
In every character where light of thine 
Has shed on earthly things the hue of things divine 
I sought eternal Loveliness, and seeking, 
If ever transport crossed my brow bespeaking 
Such fire as a prophetic heart might feel 
Where simple worship blends in fervent zeal, 
It was the faith that only love of thee 
Needed in human hearts for Earth to see 
Surpassed the vision poets have held dear 
Of joy diffused in most communion here; 
That whomsoe'er thy visitations warmed, 
Lover of thee in all thy rays informed, 
Needed no difficulter discipline 
To seek his right to happiness within 
Than, sensible of Nature's loveliness, 
To yield him to the generous impulses 
By such a sentiment evoked. The thought, 
Bright Spirit, whose illuminings I sought, 
That thou unto thy worshipper might be 
An all-sufficient law, abode with me, 
Importing something more than unsubstantial dreams 
To vigils by lone shores and walks by murmuring streams. 

Youth's flowers like childhood's fade and are forgot. 
Fame twines a tardy crown of yellowing leaves. 
How swift were disillusion, were it not 
That thou art steadfast where all else deceives! 
Solace and Inspiration, Power divine 
That by some mystic sympathy of thine, 
When least it waits and most hath need of thee, 
Can startle the dull spirit suddenly 
With grandeur welled from unsuspected springs, -- 
Long as the light of fulgent evenings, 
When from warm showers the pearly shades disband 
And sunset opens o'er the humid land, 
Shows thy veiled immanence in orient skies, -- 
Long as pale mist and opalescent dyes 
Hung on far isle or vanishing mountain-crest, 
Fields of remote enchantment can suggest 
So sweet to wander in it matters nought, 
They hold no place but in impassioned thought, 
Long as one draught from a clear sky may be 
A scented luxury; 
Be thou my worship, thou my sole desire, 
Thy paths my pilgrimage, my sense a lyre 
Aeolian for thine every breath to stir; 
Oft when her full-blown periods recur, 
To see the birth of day's transparent moon 
Far from cramped walls may fading afternoon 
Find me expectant on some rising lawn; 
Often depressed in dewy grass at dawn, 
Me, from sweet slumber underneath green boughs, 
Ere the stars flee may forest matins rouse, 
Afoot when the great sun in amber floods 
Pours horizontal through the steaming woods 
And windless fumes from early chimneys start 
And many a cock-crow cheers the traveller's heart 
Eager for aught the coming day afford 
In hills untopped and valleys unexplored. 
Give me the white road into the world's ends, 
Lover of roadside hazard, roadside friends, 
Loiterer oft by upland farms to gaze 
On ample prospects, lost in glimmering haze 
At noon, or where down odorous dales twilit, 
Filled with low thundering of the mountain stream, 
Over the plain where blue seas border it 
The torrid coast-towns gleam. 

I have fared too far to turn back now; my breast 
Burns with the lust for splendors unrevealed, 
Stars of midsummer, clouds out of the west, 
Pallid horizons, winds that valley and field 
Laden with joy, be ye my refuge still! 
What though distress and poverty assail! 
Though other voices chide, yours never will. 
The grace of a blue sky can never fail. 
Powers that my childhood with a spell so sweet, 
My youth with visions of such glory nursed, 
Ye have beheld, nor ever seen my feet 
On any venture set, but 'twas the thirst 
For Beauty willed them, yea, whatever be 
The faults I wanted wings to rise above; 
I am cheered yet to think how steadfastly 
I have been loyal to the love of Love!