The earliest flowers of spring
To thee, beloved, I bring:
Anemone and graceful adder's-tongue,
With golden cowslips, yellow as the sun
And fresh as brooks by which they sprung;
Like to a coin, passing from hand to hand,
Are common memories, and day by day
The sharpness of their impress wears away.
But love's remembrances unspoiled with-stand
The touch of time, as in an antique land
For , O America, our country!—land
Hid in the west through centuries, till men
Through countless tyrannies could understand
The priceless worth of freedom,—once again
'Mid the seal-silt and the sea-sand,
Sinuous and sinister, fold on fold,
Sliding and winding tortuously,
Slips the sea-snake, weird and old;
Longing, with gleams of slumberous fire
Let gleeful muses sing their roundelays!
So might my muse have sung;
But in the jocund days
When she was young,
She chanced upon a grave
New-made, and since, there strays
A mournful cadence through her lightest stave.
Under my keel another boat
Sails as I sail, floats as I float;
Silent and dim and mystic still,
It steals through that weird nether-world,
Mocking my power, though at my will
The foam before its prow is curled,
Or calm it lies, with canvas furled.
Over the plains where Persian hosts
Laid down their lives for glory
Flutter the cyclamens, like ghosts
That witness to their story.
Oh, fair! Oh, white! Oh, pure as snow!
On countless graves how sweet they grow!
Pale beryl sky, with clouds
Hued like dove's wing,
The dying day,
And whose edge half enshrouds
We must be nobler for our dead, be sure,
Than for the quick. We might their living eyes
Deceive with gloss of seeming; but all lies
Were vain to cheat a prescience spirit-pure.