Alan Seeger

(22 June 1888 - 4 July 1916 / New York City, New York)

Juvenilia, An Ode to Natural Beauty


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!

Submitted: Thursday, January 01, 2004

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