the ears of my ears awake

 

i thank You GOD for most this amazing
by e. e. cummings (1894 – 1962)

i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginably You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)


Welcome to 2022!   I have been debating for some time what poet I was going to showcase in January and I finally settled on e. e. cummings.  Several things factored into my decision; few poets are more closely connected to the sonnet during their career and yet are known for pushing the boundaries of poetry forward.   Cummings best work still sounds fresh, yet it is the structure of the sonnet that kept Cummings  grounded. 

As we head into the month, I’ll explore Cummings’ life, friends, influences and demons. Before I start there is one thing I want to address that may sound trivial but which I have given much thought; how should I present his name?   If you are a fan of Cummings you know that capitalization and punctuation were something he eschewed from his very earliest published poems.  I have seen Cummings’ name presented as E. E. Cummings, e. e. cummings and e e cummings, in various articles, books and anthologies.  But in reference to the man, I am going to capitalize his last name and in giving credit to his poetry I am not.  

I have included Cummings’ poetry sparingly on Fourteenlines to this point in part because it would have been too easy, his poetry is playful, popular and accessible, something I applaud, but I also like to spread the spotlight around and so I work hard to not mine a too familiar vein too deep.  So why do it now?   To be honest, after two long years of the pandemic, I figured I needed a bit more light-hearted for the upcoming month, given the predictions of a difficult 60 days ahead of us with Omricron, and the vast majority of his best work are love poems, something we all need a bit more of in our lives. 

I will be using two primary books to inform the month ahead; the biography by Kennedy titled Dreams in the Mirror, and the recent new edition of Cummings collected work from 2015, edited by Firmage and published by Norton.   In an earlier blog entry I had counted the number of sonnets from his 1962 complete anthology, (which of course turned out to be not be complete, because there were unpublished poems that were included in the 2015 edition) and found that nearly one quarter of the total poems he shared with the world out of the more than 900 poems now in print are sonnets or sonnet influenced.  Not all of these sonnets look like a traditional sonnet on the page in the placement of the words and not all of them follow exactly the rhyming schemes of a classical sonnet but none the less they are unmistakably sonnets.   And its not that Cummings wrote sonnets only in the beginning of his career, by my count in reading through every published volume of poetry that Cummings published in his lifetime, at least one sonnet was included in every volume, which says something about the pull of the sonnet on Cummings creativity and literary soul.  It begs the question, why was the sonnet so influential on a poet for whom from the very earliest examples of his writing was desperate to escape the shackles of tradition?   Why keep coming back to 14 lines over and over again as the basic canvas on which to paint his words?   I have not found a definitive answer to that question in my reading, (yet), but in my opinion there may be two reasons, Cummmings had a short attention span for his own writing and two, despite wanting to be known as pushing poetry into new spaces, evolving the art, he also desperately wanted to be accepted, by his peers, by his father, as a legitimate “artist”.  And there is nothing like successfully mastering the sonnet to the point that your readers forget you are using it to accomplish both objectives. Robert Hillyer, who was a classmate at Harvard of Cummings, and who published his first poems alongside 8 poems of Cummings and several other classmates, including John Dos Passos, may have expressed it best in his first book of poetry in 1916, as all three men were heading off into the world;

reading those imperfect boyish rhymes,
I hear through the blown dust of many storms
The hymns of the advance-guard of my life.

 

XXIV.  (There was a boy in some forgotten spring)

by Robert Hillyer

There was a boy in some forgotten spring
Who fled from all his comrades at the school,
And in the hills beside a forest pool
Lay on the grass, watching, and listening.
And as he listened, melancholy delight
Stirred in his heart a pang he did not know,
And voices of new passion bade him write
Of the vague thoughts that shook his spirit so.

Now on the battlefield of later times,
I meet those dreams returning in the forms
Of mighty friends and foes amid the strife;
And reading those imperfect boyish rhymes,
I hear through the blown dust of many storms
The hymns of the advance-guard of my life

It Is The Singular Gift

Lisel Mueller (1924 – 2020)

Poetry, for me, is the answer to, ‘How does one stay sane when private lives are being ransacked by public events?’ It’s something that hangs over your head all the time.

Lisel Mueller

Hope

by Lisel Mueller

It hovers in dark corners
before the lights are turned on,
it shakes sleep from its eyes
and drops from mushroom gills,
it explodes in the starry heads
of dandelions turned sages,
it sticks to the wings of green angels
that sail from the tops of maples.

It sprouts in each occluded eye
of the many-eyed potato,
it lives in each earthworm segment
surviving cruelty,
it is the motion that runs
from the eyes to the tail of a dog,
it is the mouth that inflates the lungs
of the child that has just been born.

It is the singular gift
we cannot destroy in ourselves,
the argument that refutes death,
the genius that invents the future,
all we know of God.

It is the serum which makes us swear
not to betray one another;
it is in this poem, trying to speak.

Why We Tell Stories
(Excerpt)

2
 

by Lisel Mueller

We sat by the fire in our caves,
and because we were poor, we made up a tale
about a treasure mountain
that would open only for us

and because we were always defeated,
we invented impossible riddles
only we could solve,
monsters only we could kill,
women who could love no one else
and because we had survived
sisters and brothers, daughters and sons,
we discovered bones that rose
from the dark earth and sang
as white birds in the trees

 
3
 

Because the story of our life
becomes our life

Because each of us tells
the same story
but tells it differently

and none of us tells it
the same way twice

Because grandmothers looking like spiders
want to enchant the children
and grandfathers need to convince us
what happened happened because of them

and though we listen only
haphazardly, with one ear,
we will begin our story
with the word and

It Is Like A Memory Lost

Sonnet 97: How like a winter hath my absence been

By William Shakespeare
 
 
How like a winter hath my absence been
From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!
What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!
What old December’s bareness everywhere!
And yet this time remov’d was summer’s time,
The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,
Bearing the wanton burthen of the prime,
Like widow’d wombs after their lords’ decease:
Yet this abundant issue seem’d to me
But hope of orphans and unfather’d fruit;
For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,
And thou away, the very birds are mute;
Or if they sing, ’tis with so dull a cheer
That leaves look pale, dreading the winter’s near.
 
 

Winter Sunrise

by Robert Laurence Binyon

It is early morning within this room; without,
Dark and damp; without and within, stillness
Waiting for day: not a sound but a listening air.

Yellow jasmine, delicate on stiff branches
Stands in a Tuscan pot to delight the eye
In spare December’s patient nakedness.

Suddenly, softly, as if at a breath breathed
On the pale wall, a magical apparition,

The shadow of the jasmine, branch and blossom!

It was not there, it is there, in a perfect image;
And all is changed. It is like a memory lost
Returning without a reason into the mind.

Outside is Silence

First Snow at the farm in 2021

“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says, ‘go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”

Lewis Carroll

First Snow

by Ted Kooser (1939 – 

The old black dog comes in one evening
with the first few snowflakes on his back
and falls asleep, throwing his bad leg out
at our excitement. This is the night
when one of us gets to say, as if it were news,
that no two snowflakes are ever alike;
the night when each of us remembers something
snowier. The kitchen is a kindergarten
steamy with stories. The dog gets stiffly up
and limps away, seeking a quiet spot
at the heart of the house. Outside,
in silence, with diamonds in his fur,
the winter night curls round the legs of the trees,
sleepily blinking snowflakes from his lashe


Flying at Night

by Ted Kooser 

 

Above us, stars. Beneath us, constellations.
Five billion miles away, a galaxy dies
like a snowflake falling on water. Below us,
some farmer, feeling the chill of that distant death,
snaps on his yard light, drawing his sheds and barn
back into the little system of his care.
All night, the cities, like shimmering novas,
tug with bright streets at lonely lights like
his.

O Beautiful and Wise

T. S. Eliot (1888 – 1965)

As poetry is the highest speech of man, it can not only accept and contain, but in the end express best everything in the world, or in himself, that he discovers. It will absorb and transmute, as it always has done, and glorify, all that we can know. This has always been, and always will be, poetry’s office.

Conrad Aiken

Bread and Music

by Conrad Aiken  (1889 – 1973)

Music I heard with you was more than music,
And bread I broke with you was more than bread;
Now that I am without you, all is desolate;
All that was once so beautiful is dead.

Your hands once touched this table and this silver,
And I have seen your fingers hold this glass.
These things do not remember you, belovèd,
And yet your touch upon them will not pass.

For it was in my heart you moved among them,
And blessed them with your hands and with your eyes;
And in my heart they will remember always,—
They knew you once, O beautiful and wise.


I wonder what archivists and critics of the future will do with all the electronic communication a person creates over a life time compared to when people wrote physical letters?   Will people take the time to collect a famous artists Instagram posts, emails, Face-book musings, texts and blog posts or will the electronic clutter of one’s life simply fade into obscurity?   What happens when someone stops paying WordPress for the privilege of being on the web?   I suppose Fourteen Lines gets taken down and goes into the ether from which it came is the answer.   The reason I ponder this question is because for poets of the era of Aiken and Eliot, their personal correspondence became another subject matter for publication once they became established as literary icons.   I doubt the young Aiken and Eliot gave much thought to it when they wrote letters to each other.   Here’s a couple of examples from the book of published letters of Eliot’s on the occasion of his 100th birthday. The first quote is before Eliot’s success as a poet when his confidence was thin and the second a few year’s later.  Pound is already living in London, where both Eliot and Aiken would spend considerable time in their careers. In 1914, Eliot has just arrived in London. 

There is a possibility of dining at a Chinese restaurant Monday with Yeats, – and the Pounds. Pound has been on n’est pas plus aimable, and is going to print ”Prufrock” in Poetry and pay me for it. He wants me to bring out a Vol. after the War. The devil of it is that I have done nothing good since J. A [ lfred ] P [ rufrock ] and writhe in impotence. . . . I think now that all my good stuff was done before I had begun to worry – three years ago. . . .

T. S. Eliot to Conrad Aiken,  September 30, 1914

Money was always a challenge for Eliot and so he went to work as a banker for Loyd’s Bank in London a few years later.  The position offered financial stability, social status in dating, and an opportunity to remain somewhat aloof from the literary world or at least engage it when he chose to engage it. 

They are decided now. I am staying in the bank. . . . The work gives opportunity for initiative and is work for which they wish men of higher education. It will give much more responsibility, and therefore more freedom. . . .

As it is, I occupy rather a privileged position. I am out of the intrigues and personal hatreds of journalism, and everyone respects me for working in a bank. My social position is quite as good as it would be as editor of a paper. I only write what I want to – now – and everyone knows that anything I do write is good. I can influence London opinion and English literature in a better way. I am known to be disinterested. Even through the Egoist I am getting to be looked up to by people who are far better known to the general public than I. There is a small and select public which regards me as the best living critic, as well as the best living poet, in England. . . . I really think that I have far more influence on English letters than any other American has ever had, unless it be Henry James. I know a great many people, but there are many more who would like to know me, and I can remain isolated and detached.

T. S. Eliot to his Mother March 29, 1919

I wonder what Eliot, Aiken, cummings and Pound would make of the current world of poetry?   Would they flourish and push new boundaries or would they be adrift? As for the two poems today, they could not be more different, the contrast is stark.  I think Eliot’s bleak depiction and misogynist tendencies would not get him published in Poetry today and I share it just because it is so strikingly odd a poem.  Do you have favorite poets that you find there are poems you hate and poems you like?  What’s your favorite Eliot poem(s)?


The Love Song of St. Sebastian

 
by T. S. Eliot
 
I would come in a shirt of hair
I would come with a lamp in the night
And sit at the foot of your stair;
I would flog myself until I bled,
And after hour on hour of prayer
And torture and delight
Until my blood should ring the lamp
And glisten in the light;
I should arise your neophyte
And then put out the light
To follow where you lead,
To follow where your feet are white
In the darkness toward your bed
And where your gown is white
And against your gown your braided hair.
Then you would take me in
Because I was hideous in your sight
You would take me in without shame
Because I should be dead
And when the morning came
Between your breasts should lie my head.

 

I would come with a towel in my hand
And bend your head beneath my knees;
Your ears curl back in a certain way
Like no one’s else in all the world.
When all the world shall melt in the sun,
Melt or freeze,
I shall remember how your ears were curled.
I should for a moment linger
And follow the curve with my finger
And your head beneath my knees—
I think that at last you would understand.
There would be nothing more to say.
You would love me because I should have strangled you
And because of my infamy;
And I should love you the more because I had mangled you
And because you were no longer beautiful
To anyone but me

In The Forest Of The Mind

Conrad Aiken (1889 – 1973)

All lovely things will have an ending, all lovely things will fade and die; and youth, that’s now so bravely spending, Will beg a penny by and by.

Conrad Aiken

The Ego 

by Conrad Aiken

Ego! Ego! Burning Blind
in the forest of the mind
what immortal alchemy
or what immortal chemistry
dared shape they fearful symmetry
dared dream they fearful liberty
and in the eye
conceived the I
and in the “Aye”
a Me!


I am enough years into this project that I can no longer remember exactly what poems I have shared from each poet. My process has evolved and I tend to stockpile poems in drafts as I stumble across them in my regular reading of poetry and then depending on my whimsy, use an old draft to start a new post. If its a poet that I have shared before, I go back and re-read those posts and make sure I am not regurgitating the same poems or same thoughts. In going through that process on this post, I laughed, because there must be something in my sub-conscious that draws me to Conrad Aiken in December.

Conrad Aiken’s life was turned upside down when he was 11 and his Father and Mother died as a result of domestic violence, his father murdering his Mother and then dying by suicide. He went on to live with a great, great Aunt in Massachusetts, who would change his life by giving him access to elite private schools and entry into Harvard. He was classmates and friends with T. S. Elliot and e. e. cummings. After Harvard he spent equal time in London and the U.S. for the next 30 years working for various journals as a correspondent and writing poetry, short stories, novels and literary criticism. Aiken’s writing influenced the trajectory of theories of consciousness and psychoanalysis. His greatest contribution, beyond his own writing, was possibly his work to anthologize and promote Emily Dickinson’s poetry, particularly outside the United States, helping to introduce her to readers around the world.

Aiken wrote poetry in a myriad of styles, so to only present his lyric poetry is a bit misleading. He wrote early in his career a series of what he called “symphonies”, poetry that he felt could be appreciated at multiple levels, like a bass clef and treble clef on a sheet of music. Aiken is one of those poets I tend to forget about and then when I stumble across him again I am amazed how fresh and interesting I find his work. Wouldn’t it have been interesting to have been a fly on the wall at a Harvard dining hall listening to Elliot, cummings and Aiken forge their way into the world as brash young men talking smart? It suggests that genius often needs other great minds to find their voice in pursuit of unique ideas. Friendship and fellowship with other creative and disruptive forces gives artists confidence that as a creative spirit we are not on an island by ourselves, and that creativity is limitless in its acceptance of eccentric minds because that very eccentricity often mirrors the commonness of our human condition while the artist ventures off into new territory, making all of us marching to our own tune feel less alone.


Six Sonnets

by Conrad Aiken

III

Think, love, how when a starry night of frost
Is ended, and the small pale winter sun
Shines on the garden trellis, ice-embossed,
And the stiff frozen flower-stalks, every one;
And turns their fine embroideries of ice
Into a loosening silver, skein by skein,
Warming cold leaves and stones, till, in a trice,
The garden smiles, and breathes, and lives again;
And further think, how the poor frozen snail
Creeps out with trembling horns to feel that heat,
And thaws the snowy mildew from his mail,
And stretches with all his length from his retreat:
Will he not praise, with his whole heart, the sun?
Then think, at last, I too am such an one?

Our Very Lives Hovering As Well

 

“The snow doesn’t give a soft white damn whom it touches.” 

—E.E. Cummings

Hovering

by Joseph Stroud
for Tom Marshall

Tom and I are walking Last Chance Road
down from the mountain where we had been
hunting mushrooms under a stand of coast oaks,
walking down and looking out to the Pacific
shimmering in the late fall sun, the light
on the surface like glittering flakes of mica,
when we see a white-tailed kite hovering
in the air, hovering over a green pasture,
hovering over the day, over the two of us,
our very lives hovering as well, there
on the California coast, in the fall, in the sun,
on our way home, with a sack of chanterelles,
with our love for this world, with so much time,
and so little time—all of it—hovering—
and hovering still.

 

There was a time in Minnesota when first snowfall meant the beginning of continuous snow for the remainder of the winter.   Not anymore.  Now we have a series of “firsts.”  We have several first snows that melt away and we slowly build to frozen soil where sometime in late December or early January we get enough snow that even a January rain can’t wash it away.   Basically, Minneapolis has turned into what Kansas City was 80 years ago when my father was growing up.  We are right on the dividing line of where snow falls and stays and where it doesn’t in Minneapolis.   The irony is the tendency to get days above freezing that were incredibly unusual 20 years from Thanksgiving through March, are now common, yet the warmer days still doesn’t shield us from the severe arctic air that slides down once in while throughout the winter plunging us well below zero.   Our winters have become bi-polar, pun intended.   Minneapolis can range from highs like today in the single digits and lows below zero and three days later be 42 degrees.   It makes it hard to commit to a single jacket this time of year.   Regardless, we had a lovely “first” snowfall this week with close to 3 inches covering the ground.  It will all be melted by next.This time of year both ends of my commute are in the dark and it makes the days feel incredibly short.   But Tuesday night driving home the darkness was  a joy as the sliver moon was crowned by Venus glowing brightly directly above its point. 

 I enjoyed these two poems by Stroud and his take on winter.   He has a similar tendency as myself to find joy in snow and cold in equal measures to summer’s warmth.   What season(s) are you the happiest?  Why?


Manna

by Joseph Stroud

Everywhere, everywhere, snow sifting down,
a world becoming white, no more sounds,
no longer possible to find the heart of the day,
the sun is gone, the sky is nowhere, and of all
I wanted in life – so be it – whatever it is
that brought me here, chance, fortune, whatever
blessing each flake of snow is the hint of, I am
grateful, I bear witness, I hold out my arms,
palms up, I know it is impossible to hold
for long what we love of the world, but look
at me, is it foolish, shameful, arrogant to say this,
see how the snow drifts down, look how happy
I am.

As Swimmers Into Cleanliness Leaping

If you are depressed you are living in the past if you are anxious you are living in the future, if you are at peace, you are living in the present.” 

Lao Tzu

 On Peace

by John Keats

O PEACE! and dost thou with thy presence bless
The dwellings of this war-surrounded Isle;
Soothing with placid brow our late distress,
Making the triple kingdom brightly smile?
Joyful I hail thy presence; and I hail
The sweet companions that await on thee;
Complete my joy let not my first wish fail,
Let the sweet mountain nymph thy favourite be,
With England’s happiness proclaim Europa’s Liberty.
O Europe! let not sceptred tyrants see

That thou must shelter in thy former state;
Keep thy chains burst, and boldly say thou art free;
Give thy kings law leave not uncurbed the great ;
So with the horrors past thou’lt win thy happier fate!


Peace

by Rupert Brooke

Now, God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour,
And caught our youth, and wakened us from sleeping,
With hand made sure, clear eye, and sharpened power,
To turn, as swimmers into cleanness leaping,
Glad from a world grown old and cold and weary,
Leave the sick hearts that honour could not move,
And half-men, and their dirty songs and dreary,
And all the little emptiness of love!

Oh! we, who have known shame, we have found release there,
Where there’s no ill, no grief, but sleep has mending,
Naught broken save this body, lost but breath;
Nothing to shake the laughing heart’s long peace there
But only agony, and that has ending;
And the worst friend and enemy is but Death.

Peace On Earth, Good-will To Men

Harper’s Weekly Christmas 1863, Illustration by Thomas Nast

The best thing one can do when it’s raining is to let it rain.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

A Nameless Grave

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807- 1882)
 

“A Soldier of the Union mustered out,”
Is the inscription on an unknown grave
At Newport News, beside the salt-sea wave,
Nameless and dateless; sentinel or scout
Shot down in skirmish, or disastrous rout
Of battle, when the loud artillery drave
Its iron wedges through the ranks of brave
And doomed battalions, storming the redoubt.
Thou unknown hero sleeping by the sea
In thy forgotten grave! with secret shame
I feel my pulses beat, my forehead burn,
When I remember thou hast given for me
All that thou hadst, thy life, thy very name,
And I can give thee nothing in return.


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was the most popular American poet prior to and during the Civil War.  Longfellow was an avid abolitionist and wrote anti-slavery poems prior to the war and patriotic poems during and after.  One of his most famous poems that is still heard at the holidays is Christmas Bells.  The legend is that Wadsworth wrote it on Christmas day in 1863, but that it wasn’t published until after the war was over in a children’s magazine. 

Christmas Bells

by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

Duty, Something More Than Life

George Henry Booker (1823 – 1890)

Fold him in his country’s stars.
Roll the drum and fire the volley!
What to him are all our wars,
What but death bemocking folly?

George Henry Booker

[Sonnet]

By George Henry Boker
 
Brave comrade, answer! When you joined the war,
    What left you? “Wife and children, wealth and friends,
    A storied home whose ancient roof-tree bends
    Above such thoughts as love tells o’er and o’er.”
Had you no pang or struggle? “Yes; I bore
    Such pain on parting as at hell’s gate rends
    The entering soul, when from its grasp ascends
    The last faint virtue which on earth it wore.”
You loved your home, your kindred, children, wife;
    You loathed yet plunged into war’s bloody whirl!—
    What urged you? “Duty! Something more than life.
That which made Abraham bare the priestly knife,
    And Isaac kneel, or that young Hebrew girl
    Who sought her father coming from the strife.”
 

Another poet closely linked with the Union was George Henry Boker.   Boker was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania into a wealthy family.  His father Charles Boker was the president of several banks, and by whose intelligence and financial wisdom was able to successfully steer them through the troubled economic cycle of the late 1830’s.  His son took advantage of his privileged economic station by pursuing interests other than business, becoming an accomplished poet, playwright and dancer.
 
The Civil War focused Boker’s writing on the Union Cause, and changed him forever politically, from a Democrat to a Republican.  Boker published widely during the war in periodicals and magazines, including a volume in 1864 titled fittingly, “Poems of the War.”  Boker’s writing fit the times he lived.  He did not push any new boundaries in terms of style and form, but hidden among his words are some interesting phrases and ideas, the guilt of the Northern upper class caught in the maelstrom of the times, he himself, his father’s Abraham.  
 
 
 

In the Wilderness

By George Henry Boker
 
Mangled, uncared for, suffering thro’ the night
    With heavenly patience the poor boy had lain;
Under the dreary shadows, left and right,
    Groaned on the wounded, stiffened out the slain.
      What faith sustained his lone,
      Brave heart to make no moan,
To send no cry from that blood-sprinkled sod,
Is a close mystery with him and God.
 
But when the light came, and the morning dew
    Glittered around him, like a golden lake,
And every dripping flower with deepened hue
    Looked through its tears for very pity’s sake,
      He moved his aching head
      Upon his rugged bed,
And smiled as a blue violet, virgin-meek,
Laid her pure kiss upon his withered cheek.
 
At once there circled in his waking heart
    A thousand memories of distant home;
Of how those same blue violets would start
    Along his native fields, and some would roam
      Down his dear humming brooks,
      To hide in secret nooks,
And, shyly met, in nodding circles swing,
Like gossips murmuring at belated Spring.
 
And then he thought of the beloved hands
    That with his own had plucked the modest flower.
The blue-eyed maiden, crowned with golden bands,
    Who ruled as sovereign of that sunny hour.
      She at whose soft command
      He joined the mustering band,
She for whose sake he lay so firm and still,
Despite his pangs, not questioned then her will.
 
So, lost in thought, scarce conscious of the deed,
    Culling the violets, here and there he crept
Slowly—ah! slowly,—for his wound would bleed;
    And the sweet flowers themselves half smiled, half wept,
      To be thus gathered in
      By hands so pale and thin,
By fingers trembling as they neatly laid
Stem upon stem, and bound them in a braid.
 
The strangest posy ever fashioned yet
    Was clasped against the bosom of the lad,
As we, the seekers for the wounded, set
    His form upon our shoulders bowed and sad;
      Though he but seemed to think
      How violets nod and wink;
And as we cheered him, for the path was wild,
He only looked upon his flowers and smiled.