Portrait of Henry Timrod

Henry Timrod

Dec 8, 1828 - Oct 6, 1867


The Summer Bower

by Henry Timrod

It is a place whither I've often gone
For peace, and found it, secret, hushed and cool,
A beautiful recess in neighboring woods.
Trees of the soberest hues, thick-leaved and tall,
Arch it o'erhead, and girt it with their brown
Trunks, interspersed with plants of humbler growth,
A covert framing, natural and wild,
Domelike and dim; though nowhere so enclosed
But that the gentlest breezes reach the spot
Unwearied and unweakened. Other sounds
Than the low dreamy melodies of winds,
And the soft notes of birds, of that lone nook
Are transient and unfrequent visitors.
Yet if the day be calm, not often then,
Whilst the high pines in one another's arms
Sleep, you may sometimes with unstartled ear
Catch the far fall of voices, how remote
You know not, and you do not care to know.
Verdant and soft the turf, but not a flower
Lights the recess, save one, star-shaped and bright,
That sometimes gleams above or 'mid the grass,
A wild flower which I know by sight, not name.
A narrow opening in the branchéd roof,
A single one, is large enough to show,
With that half glimpse a dreamer loves so much,
The blue air and the blessing of the sky.
Thither, I say, I often bend my steps,
When griefs depress, or joys disturb my heart,
And find the calm I look for, or return
Strong with the quiet rapture in my soul.

But one day,
One of those July days when winds have fled
One knows not whither, I, most sick in mind
With thoughts that shall be nameless, yet, no doubt,
Wrong, or at least unhealthful, since though dark
With gloom, and touched with discontent, they had
No adequate excuse, nor cause, nor end,
I, with these thoughts, and on this summer day,
Entered the accustomed haunt, and found for once
No medicinal virtue.

Not a leaf
Stirred with the whispering welcome which I sought,
But in a close and humid atmosphere,
Every fair plant and implicated bough,
Hung lax and lifeless. Something in the place,
Its utter stillness, the unusual heat,
And some more secret influence, I thought,
Weighed on the sense like sin. Above I saw,
Though not a cloud was visible in heaven,
The pallid sky look through a glazéd mist
Like a blue eye in death.

The change perhaps
Was natural enough; my jaundiced sight,
The weather and the time explain it all:
Yet have I drawn a lesson from the spot,
And shrined it in these verses for my heart.
Thenceforth those tranquil precincts I have sought
Not less, and in all shades of various moods,
But always shun to desecrate the spot
By weak repinings, sickly sentiments,
Or inconclusive sorrows. Nature, though
Pure as she was in Eden when her breath
Kissed the white brow of Eve, doth not refuse,
In her own way and with a just reserve,
To sympathize with human suffering;
But for the pains, the fever, and the fret
Engendered of a vain and idle heart,
She hath no solace; and who seeks her when
These be the troubles over which he moans,
Reads in her unreplying lineaments
Rebukes, that, to the guilty consciousness,
Strike like contempt.


Copyright 1860
Ticknor And Fields, Boston