Edmund Clarence Stedman



Woods And Waters

by Edmund Clarence Stedman

O ye valleys! O ye mountains!
O ye groves and crystal fountains!
How I love at liberty,
By turns, to come and visit ye!

Come, let us burst the cerements and the shroud,
And with the livelong year renew our breath,
Far from the darkness of the city's cloud
Which hangs above us like the pall of Death
Haste, let us leave the shadow of his wings!
Off from our cares, a stolen, happy time!
Come where the skies are blue, the uplands green;
For hark! the robin sings
Even here, blithe herald, his auroral rhyme,
Foretelling joy, and June his sovereign queen.

See, in our paved courts her missal scroll
Is dropped astealth, and every verdant line,
Emblazoned round with Summer's aureole,
Pictures to eager eyes, like thine and mine,
Her trees new-leaved and hillsides far away.
Ransom has come: out from this vaulted town,
Poor prisoners of a giant old and blind,
Into the breezy day,
Fleeing the sights and sounds that wear us down,
And in the fields our ancient solace find!

Again I hunger for the living wood,
The laurelled crags, the hemlocks hanging wide,
The rushing stream that will not be withstood,
Bound forward to wed him with the river's tide
O what wild leaps through many a fettered pass,
Through knotted ambuscade of root and rock,
How white the plunge, how dark the cloven pool!
Then to rich meadow-grass,
And pastures fed by tinkling herd and flock,
Till the wide stream receives its waters cool.

Again I long for lakes that lie between
High mountains, fringed about with virgin firs,
Where hand of man has never rudely been,
Nor plashing wheel the limpid water stirs;
There let us twain begin the world again
Like those of old, -- while tree, and trout, and deer,
Unto their kindred beings draw our own,
Till more than haunts of men,
Than place and pelf, more welcome these appear,
And better worth sheer life than we had known.

Thither, ay, thither flee, O dearest friend,
From walls wherein we grow so wan and old!
The liberal Earth will still her lovers lend
Water of life and storied sands of gold;
Though of her perfect form thou hast secured
Thy will, some charm shall aye thine hold defy,
And day by day thy passion yet shall grow,
Even as a bridegroom, lured
By the unravished secret of her eye,
Reads the bide's soul, yet never all can know.

And when from her embrace again thou 'rt torn,
(Though well for her the world were thrown away!)
At thine old tasks thou 'lt not be quite forlorn,
Remembering where is peace; and thou shalt say,
I know where beauty has not felt the curse, --
Where, though I age, all round me is so young
That in its youth my soul's youth mirrored seems;
Yes, in their rippling verse,
For all our toil, they have not falsely sung
Who said there still was rest beyond our dreams.


The Blameless Prince, And Other Poems
Copyright 1869
Fields, Osgood, and Co., Boston