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One Who Loved Nature

He was not learned in any art;
But Nature led him by the hand;
And spoke her language to his heart
So he could hear and understand:
He loved her simply as a child;
And in his love forgot the heat
Of conflict, and sat reconciled
In patience of defeat.

II

Before me now I see him rise-
A face, that seventy years had snowed
With winter, where the kind blue eyes
Like hospitable fires glowed:
A small gray man whose heart was large,
And big with knowledge learned of need;
A heart, the hard world made its targe,
That never ceased to bleed.

III

He knew all Nature. Yea, he knew
What virtue lay within each flower,
What tonic in the dawn and dew,
And in each root what magic power:
What in the wild witch-hazel tree
Reversed its time of blossoming,
And clothed its branches goldenly
In fall instead of spring.

IV

He knew what made the firefly glow
And pulse with crystal gold and flame;
And whence the bloodroot got its snow,
And how the bramble’s perfume came:
He understood the water’s word
And grasshopper’s and cricket’s chirr;
And of the music of each bird
He was interpreter.

V

He kept no calendar of days,
But knew the seasons by the flowers;
And he could tell you by the rays
Of sun or stars the very hours.
He probed the inner mysteries
Of light, and knew the chemic change
That colors flowers, and what is
Their fragrance wild and strange.

VI

If some old oak had power of speech,
It could not speak more wildwood lore,
Nor in experience further reach,
Than he who was a tree at core.
Nature was all his heritage,
And seemed to fill his every need;
Her features were his book, whose page
He never tired to read.

VII

He read her secrets that no man
Has ever read and never will,
And put to scorn the charlatan
Who botanizes of her still.
He kept his knowledge sweet and clean,
And questioned not of why and what;
And never drew a line between
What’s known and what is not.

VIII

He was most gentle, good, and wise;
A simpler heart earth never saw:
His soul looked softly from his eyes,
And in his speech were love and awe.

Yet Nature in the end denied
The thing he had not asked for-fame!
Unknown, in poverty he died,
And men forget his name.

Love And The Sea

Love one day, in childish anger,
Tired of his divinity,
Sick of rapture, sick of languor,
Threw his arrows in the sea.
Since then Ocean, like a woman,
Variable of nature seems:
Smiling; cruel; kind; inhuman;
Gloomed with grief and drowned in dreams.

By The Summer Sea

Sunlight and shrill cicada and the low,
Slow, sleepy kissing of the sea and shore,
And rumor of the wind. The morning wore
A sullen face of fog that lifted slow,
Letting her eyes gleam through of grayest glow;
Wearing a look like that which once she wore
When, Gloucesterward from Dogtown there, they bore
Some old witchwife with many a gibe and blow.
But now the day has put off every care,
And sits at peace beside the smiling sea,
Dreaming bright dreams with lazy-lidded eyes:
One is a castle, precipiced in air,
And one a golden galleons can it be
‘Tis but the cloudworld of the sunset skies?

The Sea Faery

She was strange as the orchids that blossom
And glimmer and shower their balm
And bloom on the tropical ocean,
That crystals round islands of palm:
And she sang to and beckoned and bound me
With beauty immortal and calm.

She was wild as the spirits that banner,
Auroral, the ends of the Earth,
With polar processions, that battle
With Darkness; or, breathing, give birth
To Silence; and herd from the mountains
The icebergs, gigantic of girth.

She was silver as sylphids who blend with
The morning the pearl of their cheeks:
And rosy as spirits whose tresses
Trail golden the sunset with streaks:
An opaline presence that beckoned
And spake as the sea-rapture speaks:

‘Come with me! come down in the ocean!
Yea, leave this dark region with me!
Come! leave it! forget it in thunder
And roll of the infinite sea!
Come with me! No mortal bliss equals
The bliss I shall give unto thee.’ . . .

And so it was then that she bound me
With witchcraft no mortal divines,
While softly with kisses she drew me,
As the moon draws a dream from the pines,
Down, down to her cavern of coral,
Where ever the sea-serpent twines.

And ever the creatures, whose shadows
Bulk huge as an isle on the sight,
Swim cloud-like and vast, without number,
Around her who leans, like a light,
And smiles at me sleeping, pale-sleeping,
Wrapped deep in her mermaiden might.

Madison Julius Cawein